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Curiosity extends robotic arm and conducts sample drilling at “Buckskin” rock target at bright toned “Lion” outcrop at the base of Mount Sharp on Mars, seen at right.   Gale Crater eroded rim seen in the distant background at left, in this composite multisol mosaic of navcam raw images taken to Sol 1059, July 30, 2015.  Navcam camera raw images stitched and colorized. Inset: MAHLI color camera up close image of full depth drill hole at “Buckskin” rock target on Sol 1060.  Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo

Curiosity extends robotic arm and conducts sample drilling at “Buckskin” rock target at bright toned “Lion” outcrop at the base of Mount Sharp on Mars, seen at right, during August 2015. Gale Crater eroded rim seen in the distant background at left, in this composite multisol mosaic of navcam raw images taken to Sol 1059, July 30, 2015. Navcam camera raw images stitched and colorized. Inset: MAHLI color camera up close image of full depth drill hole at “Buckskin” rock target on Sol 1060. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo

NASA’s Curiosity Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover has successfully drilled into the first high silica rock target on Mars after recently discovering this new type of rock that’s unlike any found before – as she is about to mark the 3rd anniversary since the hair-raising touchdown on the Red Planet.

The SUV-sized rover bored a full depth hole into a Mars outcrop at a target dubbed “Buckskin” as commanded by the mission team over the [click to continue…]

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The Dog Days and Sothic Cycles of August

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Looking east on the morning of August 5th from latitude 30 degrees north. Image credit: Stellarium

The month of August is upon us once again, bringing with it humid days and sultry nights for North American observers.

You’ll often hear the first few weeks of August referred to as the Dog Days of Summer. Certainly, the oppressive midday heat may make you feel like lounging around in the shade like our canine companions. But did you know there is an astronomical tie-in for the Dog Days as well? [click to continue…]

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Will SETI’s Unprecedented New Program Finally Find E.T.?

Image Credit: Breakthrough Initatives

Image Credit: Breakthrough Initatives

Stephen Hawking, Frank Drake and dozens of journalists gathered at the Royal Society in London last week to hear astronomers announce a ground-breaking new project to search for intelligent extraterrestrial life called “Breakthrough Listen.” They will be using two of the world’s largest radio telescopes (Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and the Parkes Radio Telescope in Australia) to listen for radio messages from intelligent alien species. Scientists have chosen to target the nearest million stars as well as the nearest 100 galaxies. This project will also monitor the Galactic plane for months at a time. This unprecedented effort is a collaboration between UC Berkeley and the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, and employs an international team of astronomers and data scientists, including Frank Drake – the father of SETI (Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence).
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This image contains the initial, informal names being used by the New Horizons team for the features on Pluto’s largest moon, Charon. Names were selected based on the input the team received from the Our Pluto naming campaign. Names have not yet been approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). Click for a pdf. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

This image contains the initial, informal names being used by the New Horizons team for the features on Pluto’s largest moon, Charon. Names were selected based on the input the team received from the Our Pluto naming campaign. Names have not yet been approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). Click for a large pdf file. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

A big smile. That was my reaction to seeing the names of Uhura, Spock, Kirk and Sulu on the latest map of Pluto’s jumbo moon Charon. The monikers are still only informal, but new maps of Charon and Pluto submitted to the IAU for approval feature some of our favorite real life and sci-fi characters. Come on — Vader Crater? How cool is that? [click to continue…]

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The Resplendent Inflexibility of the Rainbow

A colorful piece of rainbow begs the question - why Roy G. Biv? Credit: Bob King

A colorful section of rainbow begs the question – why Roy G. Biv? Credit: Bob King

Children often ask simple questions that make you wonder if you really understand your subject.  An young acquaintance of mine named Collin wondered why the colors of the rainbow were always in the same order — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. Why don’t they get mixed up?  [click to continue…]

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The Planet Saturn

This portrait looking down on Saturn and its rings was created from images obtained by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on Oct. 10, 2013. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/G. Ugarkovic

This portrait looking down on Saturn and its rings was created from images obtained by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on Oct. 10, 2013. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/G. Ugarkovic

The farthest planet from the Sun that be observed with the naked eye, the existence of Saturn has been known for thousands of years. And much like all celestial bodies that can be observed with the aid of instruments – i.e. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and the Moon – it has played an important role in the mythology and astrological systems of many cultures.

Saturn is one of the four gas giants in our Solar System, also known as the Jovian planets, and the sixth planet from the Sun. It’s ring system, which is it famous for, is also the most observable – consisting of nine continuous main rings and three discontinuous arcs.

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We've never seen a comet as close as this. Taken shortly before touchdown by the Philae lander on November 12, 2014, you're looking across a scene just 32 feet from side to side (9.7-meters) or about the size of a living room. Part of the lander is visible at upper right. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/ROLIS/DLR

We’ve never seen a comet as close as this. Taken shortly before touchdown by the Philae lander on November 12, 2014, you’re looking across a scene just 32 feet from side to side (9.7-meters) or about the size of a living room. Part of the lander is visible at upper right. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/ROLIS/DLR

With just 12 days before Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko reaches perihelion, we get a look at recent images and results released by the European Space Agency from the Philae lander along with spectacular 3D photos from Rosetta’s high resolution camera.  [click to continue…]

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Curiosity conducts test drill at “Buckskin” rock target at bright toned “Lion” outcrop on the lower region of Mount Sharp on Mars, seen at right.   Gale Crater eroded rim seen in the distant background at left, in this composite multisol mosaic of navcam raw images taken to Sol 1059, July 30, 2015.  Navcam camera raw images stitched and colorized. Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo

Curiosity extends robotic arm and conducts test drill at “Buckskin” rock target at bright toned “Lion” outcrop on the lower region of Mount Sharp on Mars, seen at right. Gale Crater eroded rim seen in the distant background at left, in this composite multisol mosaic of navcam raw images taken to Sol 1059, July 30, 2015. Navcam camera raw images stitched and colorized. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo

On the eve of the 3rd anniversary since her nail biting touchdown inside Gale Crater, NASA’s car sized Curiosity Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover has discovered a new type of Martian rock that’s surprisingly rich in silica – and unlike any other targets found before.

Excited by this new science finding on Mars, Curiosity’s handlers are now gearing the robot up for her next full drill campaign today, July 31 (Sol 1060) into a rock target called [click to continue…]

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Could We Make Artificial Gravity?

GuideToSpace201

Click on the photo above to go to our Patreon Page to view the video!

It’s a staple of scifi, and a requirement if we’re going to travel long-term in space. Will we ever develop artificial gravity?
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Enhanced-color image from Cassini showing red streaks on Tethys (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Enhanced-color image from Cassini showing red streaks on Saturn’s moon Tethys (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Resembling what the skin on my arms looks like after giving my cat a bath, the surface of Saturn’s moon Tethys is seen above in an extended-color composite from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft showing strange long red streaks. They stretch for long distances across the moon’s surface following the rugged terrain, continuing unbroken over hills and down into craters… and their cause isn’t yet known.

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