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Release of SpaceX-6 Dragon on May 21, 2015 from the International Space Station for Pacific Ocean splashdown later in the day. Credit: NASA/Terry Virts

Release of SpaceX-6 Dragon on May 21, 2015 from the International Space Station for Pacific Ocean splashdown later in the day. Credit: NASA/Terry Virts

SpaceX Dragons seem to be flying nearly everywhere these days, coming and going at a record pace to the delight and relief of NASA, researchers and the space faring crews serving aboard the International Space Station (ISS). As one Dragon returned to Earth from space today, May 21, another Dragon prepares to soar to space soon.

The commercial SpaceX-6 cargo Dragon successfully splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 12:42 p.m. EDT (1642 GMT) today, Thursday, about 155 miles southwest of Long Beach, California, some five hours after it was released from the grip of the stations robotic arm this morning at 7:04 a.m. EDT by the Expedition 43 crew as [click to continue…]

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How Bad Can Solar Storms Get?


Our Sun regularly pelts the Earth with all kinds of radiation and charged particles. How bad can these solar storms get?
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Moon Myths: Looking at Lunar Tall Tales

A waxing crescent Moon+Earthshine setting over southwest London. Image credit and copyright: Roger Hutchinson

A waxing crescent Moon+Earthshine setting over southwest London. Image credit and copyright: Roger Hutchinson

Turns out it’s all a big cosmic blame game.

Over the centuries, humans have attempted to link the phases of the Moon—especially the onset of the Full Moon—with terrestrial affairs. Heck, terms such as lunacy have even entered into the common lexicon, citing a supposed connection between insanity brought on by the Moon. And we’ve long heard anecdotal tales from police and late shift delivery room workers, who swear that everything, from crime rates to delivery room admissions increase around a Full Moon. [click to continue…]

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Blastoff of the X-37B spaceplane on United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket with the OTV-4 AFSPC-5 satellite for the U.S. Air Force at 11:05 a.m. EDT, May 20, 2015 from Space Launch Complex-41. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Blastoff of the X-37B spaceplane on United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket with the OTV-4 AFSPC-5 satellite for the U.S. Air Force at 11:05 a.m. EDT, May 20, 2015 from Space Launch Complex-41. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Story updated with additional details and photos

The X-37B, a reusable Air Force space plane launched today, May 20, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on its fourth mission steeped in mystery as to its true goals for the U.S . military and was accompanied by ten tiny cubesat experiments for NASA and the NRO, including a solar sailing demonstration test for The Planetary Society.

The military space plan successfully blasted off for low Earth orbit atop a 20 story United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket on the clandestine Air Force Space Command 5 (AFSPC-5) satellite mission for the U.S. Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office at 11:05 a.m. EDT (1505 GMT) today, May 20, from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. [click to continue…]

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Watch Jupiter Get Blasted by an Iridium Flare

Cue the “Space Invaders” sound effects! We’ve shared previously how astrophotographer Thierry Legault will travel anywhere to get a unique shot. He took this impressive but fun video of an Iridium 72 satellite flaring and passing in front of Jupiter, traveling to Oostende Beach at the North Sea in Belgium to capture this transit. He took both a wide angle view as well as the telescopic close-up view of Jupiter, and from the vantage point of Earth, it appears as though Jupiter gets blasted by the flare. In the zoomed-in view, even Jupiter’s moons are part of the scene.

You can almost hear the “pew-pew.”
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Hunting LightSail in Orbit

Image credit:

An artist’s conception of LightSail in low Earth orbit. Image credit: The Planetary Society

The hunt is on in the satellite tracking community, as the U.S. Air Force’s super-secret X-37B space plane rocketed into orbit today atop an Atlas V rocket out of Cape Canaveral.  This marks the start of OTV-4, the X-37B’s fourth trip into low Earth orbit. And though NORAD won’t be publishing the orbital elements for the mission, it is sure to provide an interesting hunt for backyard satellite sleuths on the ground. [click to continue…]

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Fourth flight of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle is set for blastoff on May 20, 2015 from Cape Canaveral, Florida  Photo: Boeing

Fourth flight of the secretive U.S. Air Force X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle is set for blastoff on May 20, 2015 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Photo: Boeing
Story updated with further details and photos

All systems are currently “GO” for the fourth launch of the US Air Force’s secretive unmanned, X-37B military space plane this Wednesday, May 20, on a flight combining both US national security experimental payloads as well as civilian science experiments sponsored by NASA, US Universities, commercial companies, and the solar sailing LightSail test from the Planetary Society.

LightSail marks the first controlled, Earth orbit solar sail flight according to the non-profit Planetary Society. It will launch as a separate cubesat experiment. NASA also has an advanced materials science experiment flying aboard the robotically controlled X-37B. [click to continue…]

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At the end of the 19th century, physicists were finally beginning to understand the nature of matter itself, including the discovery of electrons – tiny particles of negative charge that surround the nucleus. Here’s how J.J. Thompson separated the electrons from their atoms and uncovered their nature.
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Sunset photographed from Gale Crater by the Mars Curiosity rover on April 15, 2015. The four images shown in sequence here were taken over a span of 6 minutes, 51 seconds using the left eye of the rover's Mastcam. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Sunset photographed from Gale Crater by the Mars Curiosity rover on April 15, 2015. The four images shown in sequence here were taken over a span of 6 minutes, 51 seconds using the left eye of the rover’s Mastcam. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Even robots can’t tear their eyes from a beautiful sunset. NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover pointed its high resolution mast camera at the setting Sun to capture this 4-image sequence on April 15 at the conclusion of the mission’s 956th Martian day. While it resembles an earthly sunset, closer inspection reveals alien oddities. [click to continue…]

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Russian Proton rocket blasts off at 11:47 a.m. local time (1:47 a.m. EDT) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan but ended in disaster about eight minutes later with destruction of the rocket and Mexican satellite payload heading to orbit Credit: Roscosmos

Russian Proton rocket blasts off at 11:47 a.m. local time (1:47 a.m. EDT) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan but ended in disaster about eight minutes later with destruction of the rocket and Mexican comsat satellite payload heading to orbit. Credit: Roscosmos
Story updated with additional details

For the second time in less than three weeks, a major disaster struck the Russian space program when the launch of a Proton-M rocket ended in catastrophic failure about eight minutes after today’s (May 16) liftoff from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, resulting in the complete destruction of the Mexican communications satellite payload.

The Proton-M rocket initially lifted off successfully at 11:47 a.m. local time (1:47 a.m. EDT, 547 GMT) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, but soon experienced an “emergency situation at 497 seconds into the flight,” according to a brief official statement released by Roscosmos, the Russian Federal Space Agency today, after the mishap. [click to continue…]

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