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Posts Tagged ‘Mars’

Lost in Space: A Starless Planet Floats Alone

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on November 15, 2012


SSPL / GETTY IMAGES This artist's concept shows a brown dwarf surrounded by a swirling disk of planet-building dust. NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope spotted such a disk around a surprisingly low-mass brown dwarf, or "failed star."

SSPL / GETTY IMAGES This artist’s concept shows a brown dwarf surrounded by a swirling disk of planet-building dust. NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope spotted such a disk around a surprisingly low-mass brown dwarf, or “failed star.”

Just 20 years ago, astronomers imagined that planets beyond the Solar System would be more or less like the ones we know: small, rocky worlds like Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars orbiting relatively close to their stars, and big, gassy ones like Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, farther away. (Even then, Pluto was recognized as an oddball, though it hadn’t been demoted yet.) Then the first actual exoplanet was discovered, and it turned out to be a big, gaseous world orbiting ridiculously close to its star. Dozens of others very much like it soon turned up, and the astronomers’ preconceptions were abruptly laid to rest.

(PhotosWindow on Infinity: Pictures from Space)

But at least these so-called “hot Jupiters” actually orbited a star. Not so for a new planet just reported in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics. The object, known only as CFBDSIR2149, appears to be a planet from four to seven times as massive as Jupiter, floating along with a cluster of stars known as the AB Doradus Moving Group — but tethered to no one star in particular.

That’s the only reason the planet was spotted at all, in fact. If it were orbiting a star, the parent sun’s bright glare would make even a huge planet tough to discern. It would be like trying to see a candle sitting next to a  searchlight. The team of French and Canadian astronomers who made the discovery weren’t looking for planets in any case. They were looking for brown dwarfs, objects too big to be classified as planets, but too small to ignite the nuclear reactions that would qualify them as full-blown stars.

(MoreThe Very First Stars)

But when CFBDSIR2149 showed up in the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope on Mauna Kea, says co-discoverer Etienne Artigau, of the University of Montreal, “we saw that it was very red compared with the typical brown dwarf.” That meant it was relatively cool. It could still be a brown dwarf, but it would have to be billions of years old to have lost so much of its internal heat. If the object were very young, its temperature ruled it out as a brown dwarf at all. In general, says Artigau, “it would not be a trivial thing to distinguish an old, massive object from a young, small one.” Read the rest of this entry »

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What’s Next for NASA? 10 Wild, Newly Funded Projects

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on August 14, 2012

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program

NASA / JPL-Caltech


What’s next for NASA now that Curiosity has touched down on Mars? For a sneak peek into what the space agency has in store, take a look at the 28 proposals for the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program, which gives out awards of $100,000 and $500,000 for concepts that have the potential to “transform future aerospace missions.” Here are 10 of the most fantastic projects that NASA hopes will be inspiring people long after Curiosity has finished exploring Mars.

NIAC 2012 Phase I & Phase II Awards Announcement

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program is proud to announce its 2012 awards. NIAC has selected eighteen new NIAC Phase I awards, and ten new Phase II awards based on earlier Phase I studies. These proposals have been selected based on the potential of their concepts to transform future aerospace missions, enable new capabilities, or significantly alter and improve current approaches.

Each Phase I study will receive approximately $100,000 for one year, and each Phase II study will receive approximately $500,000 for two years. These studies will advance numerous innovative aerospace concepts, and help NASA achieve future goals.

NASA Press Release

2012 Phase I Fellows Read the rest of this entry »

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NASA seeing red: $2.5 billion Mars rover to dig for proof of life

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on August 8, 2012

An artist's conception of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover. (AFP Photo / NASA)

An artist’s conception of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover. (AFP Photo / NASA)

NASA’s make-or-break Mars mission has entered its landing phase on Monday morning. While the Curiosity rover attempts to land using a never-attempted sky crane, engineers back on Earth have no control over the pre-programmed sequence.

The touchdown is scheduled for 5:31 GMT.

NASA engineers will have to wait at least 14 minutes before learning the fate of Curiosity. That is if the Odyssey orbiter circling Mars is at the right spot in the sky to catch the rover’s signal. If not, it could take up to eight hours to get the final answer on the rover’s fate.

The $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory “could arguably be the most important event in the history of planetary exploration,” said Doug McCuistion, director of Mars exploration at NASA’s headquarters in Washington, DC.

The trickiest part of the mission, currently on its 8 months since launching in 2011, is the landing. Not only does it involve delivering the NASA’s largest-ever one-ton payload safely to the Martian surface, it will also attempt a new kind of landing sequence involving a guided entry, a supersonic 16-meter parachute, firing eight rocket thrusters during the descent and, finally, the sky crane.

Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Lead Flight Director David Oh speaks to members of the media in the Mission Control room ahead of the landing of the Mars rover Curiosity. (AFP Photo / Robyn Beck)
Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Lead Flight Director David Oh speaks to members of the media in the Mission Control room ahead of the landing of the Mars rover Curiosity. (AFP Photo / Robyn Beck)

A crane hovering some seven meters in the sky after touchdown will lower Curiosity to the surface of Mars. The approach was chosen over a traditional lander or inflatable cushioning due to the size of the rover. The sky crane trick avoids risks like tilting the platform, or mechanical damage from the clouds of dust and debris kicked up by rocket engines. But the sky crane technology couldn’t be fully field-tested on Earth, since it was designed for the atmosphere and gravity of Mars. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mars Rover Landing: Curiosity Lands Early Monday Morning (RECAP)

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on August 7, 2012

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has touched down on the surface of the Red Planet, completing a 354-million-mile journey, and marking the beginning of a new era in planetary exploration.

President Obama released the following statement immediately after the landing: Read the rest of this entry »

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Nasa Release Stunning Image Of Mars (PICTURE)

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on July 9, 2012


Is this the clearest image of Mars yet?

This panoramic photo of the red planet combines 817 images taken by NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, taken over the months between December 2011 and May 2012.

According to Pancam’s lead scientist Jim Bell of Arizona State University the image provides “geologic context” for the team’s exploration of Mars.


A close up of the panoramic photo

Read the rest of this entry »

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Mars: ‘Life On The Red Planet Is 99% Certain’ As 1976 Samples Taken By Nasa’s Twin Viking Landers Are Revisted

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on April 13, 2012


New analysis of soil samples taken on a Mars mission in 1976 have revealed evidence of life, a report claims.

The samples, collected by Nasa’s twin Viking Mars landers, were initially thought to show proof of geological activity, but not biological evidence.

But new analysis by researchers at the University of Siena and California’s Keck Institute believe the original experiments may have been flawed and that there was proof of microbial life.

“On the basis of what we’ve done so far, I’d say I’m 99 per cent sure there’s life there,” said Joseph D Miller, associated professor of cell and neurobiology at the University of Southern California’s Keck School. Read the rest of this entry »

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Man on Moon & Mars landing: Russia space plans unveiled

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on March 13, 2012

Russian probes will visit Mars, Jupiter and Venus, while Russian cosmonauts will set foot on the surface of the Moon – all by 2030. At least according to the plans of the country’s space agency.

Space Development Strategies up to 2030, the official blueprint that for the country’s space industry in the coming years, was submitted to the government by the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) last week, Kommersant reports.

And it makes for a breathtaking – some might say fantastical – read.

By 2020, the long-gestating and as yet untested Angara rocket will become the chief means of launching Russian loads, replacing the trusted Soyuz and Proton, which have been in use since the mid-1960s. The new rocket will be headed by a new piloted spaceship carrying six astronauts, instead of the current three. No concrete project for such a spaceship currently exists.

The launches will be made from the brand-new Vostochny cosmodrome in the east of Russia, decreasing dependence on the outdated Baikonur facility, which is located outside of country’s borders in Kazakhstan and has to be rented. Construction on the $20 billion facility began last year, and is scheduled to wrap up in 2018. Read the rest of this entry »

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‘Marsquake’, How Earthquakes On Mars Could Sustain Alien Life (PICTURES)

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on February 25, 2012


Recent earthquakes on Mars point at the existence of active volcanoes and liquid reservoirs that could sustain life on the Red Planet.

A recent quake with a magnitude of 7 is thought to have occurred after scientists analysed tracks made by boulders that toppled from a Martian cliff.

The paths of the rocks, which ranged from 6.5 to 65 feet in diameter, were captured by Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and were analysed by a University of London team. Read the rest of this entry »

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Russian scientists reach lake under Antarctica

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on February 8, 2012

Gigantic freshwater reservoir may harbor life from Earth’s distant past

By Vladimir Isachenkov

MOSCOW — After more than two decades of drilling in Antarctica, Russian scientists have reached the surface of a

Russian researchers at the Vostok station in Antarctica pose for a picture after reaching subglacial lake Vostok. Scientists hold the sign reading "05.02.12, Vostok station, boreshaft 5gr, lake at depth 3769.3 metres."

gigantic freshwater lake hidden under miles of ice for some 20 million years — a lake that may hold life from the distant past and clues to the search for life on other planets.

Reaching Lake Vostok is a major discovery avidly anticipated by scientists around the world hoping that it may allow a glimpse into microbial life forms, not visible to the naked eye, that existed before the Ice Age. It may also provide precious material that would help look for life on the ice-crusted moons of Jupiter and Saturn or under Mars’ polar ice caps where conditions could be similar.

“It’s like exploring another planet, except this one is ours,” Columbia University glaciologist Robin Bell told The Associated Press by email.

Valery Lukin, the head of Russia’s Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, which is in charge of the mission, said in Wednesday’s statement that his team reached the lake’s surface on Sunday.

Lukin has previously compared the Lake Vostok effort to the moon race that the Soviet Union lost to the United States,

In this Jan. 9, 2007, photo provided by the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute of St. Petersburg, showing the Russian drilling machine 5-G works in Antarctica.

telling the Russian media he was proud that Russia will be the first this time. Although far from being the world’s deepest lake, the severe weather of Antarctica and the location’s remoteness made the project challenging.

“There is no other place on Earth that has been in isolation for more than 20 million years,” said Lev Savatyugin, a researcher with the AARI. “It’s a meeting with the unknown.”

Savatyugin said scientists hope to find primeval bacteria that could expand the human knowledge of the origins of life.

“We need to see what we have here before we send missions to ice-crusted moons, like Jupiter’s moon Europa,” he said.

Lake Vostok is 160 miles (250 kilometers) long and 30 miles (50 kilometers) across at its widest point, similar in area to Lake Ontario. It lies about 3.8 kilometers (2.4 miles) beneath the surface and is the largest in a web of nearly 400 known subglacial lakes in Antarctica. The lake is warmed underneath by geothermal energy.

The project, however, has drawn strong fears that 60 metric tons (66 tons) of lubricants and antifreeze used in the drilling may contaminate the pristine lake. The Russian researchers have insisted the bore would only slightly touch the lake’s surface and that a surge in pressure will send the water rushing up the shaft where it will freeze, immediately sealing out the toxic chemicals.

Lukin said about 1.5 cubic meters (50 cubic feet) of kerosene and freon poured up to the surface from the boreshaft, proof that the lake water streamed up from beneath, froze, and blocked the hole.

The scientists will later remove the frozen sample for analysis in December when the next Antarctic summer comes. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mars Rocks Fall In Morocco, Scientists Confirm

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on January 18, 2012

Rocks from a meteorite shower which fell on Morocco are from Mars, scientists have confirmed.


The 15 pounds of rock fell to Earth last July, but were only discovered at the end of December.


It marks the fifth time in history that scientists have chemically confirmed Martian meteorites that people have witnessed falling to Earth.


The discovery is significant because so far no Nasaor Russian spacecraft has returned bits of Mars, so the only samples examined have been brought to Earth through meteor showers, AP reported.


The rocks are rarer than gold, and as a result are worth ten times as much.


Former Nasa sciences chief Alan Stern said: “It’s Christmas in January. It’s nice to have Mars sending samples to Earth, particularly when our pockets are too empty to go get them ourselves.”


Known Martian meteorite falls happen only once every 50 years or so, the Daily Mail reported.

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

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Stephen Hawking: We Should Colonise Mars But Encountering Aliens ‘Will Not End Well’

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on January 8, 2012

Professor Stephen Hawking told listeners of BBC Today programme that he thought humans would almost definitely colonise Mars, but he warned against encouraging alien encounters.

As Stephen Hawking’s 70th birthday approaches, the scientist who was told he wouldn’t live past 40 answered some of the public’s questions focusing on humanity’s destiny to inhabit outer space.

A bit of a futurist, Hawking’s latest book, George’s Secret Key To The Universe is an explanation of the world aimed at children, a lesson for the next generation.

It’s not the first time Hawking has advised people to“reach out to the stars.” The physicist has long been outspoken on the subject of humanity’s intergalactic future.

He was the first quadriplegic to experience zero gravity, after a sub orbital space flight in 2009. At the time, he justified the £100,000 needed (and donated by Richard Branson) by saying:

“Many people have asked me why I am taking this flight. I am doing it for many reasons.

“First of all, I believe that life on Earth is at an ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster such as sudden nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus, or other dangers.

“I think the human race has no future if it doesn’t go into space. I therefore want to encourage public interest in space.”

This anxiety was picked up again in Hawking’s answer on the Today programme. He was asked “Do you think the human race will survive all potential disasters and eventually colonise the stars?”

His response reflects worries of biological and particularly nuclear warfare:

“It is possible that the human race could become extinct, but it is not inevitable.

“I think it is almost certain that a disaster such as nuclear war or global warming will befall the Earth within a thousand years.”

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

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Nasa Launches Giant Rover Into Space To Land On Mars

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on November 26, 2011


Nasa has launched a giant one-tonne rover nicknamed ‘Curiosity’ into space which is due to arrive on Mars in August next year.

The rover, which is tucked inside a capsule, departed from Florida at 10.02am (3.02pm GMT) on an Atlas 5 rocket. The machine will take eight-and-a-half months to reach its destination, touching down on 6 August 2012.

Once landed, the robot will travel Mars to scour soil and rocks for any signs of life. It will look for past or current environments on the Red Planet capable of supporting microbial life.

Nasa expected a communication from the spacecraft around an hour after the machine took off. Experts will then be able to tell if the the machine is still intact and survived the launch. The Atlas capsule flight, travelling at 10km/s, lasted around 45 minutes, after which it ejected the Curiosity rover towards the Martian planet.

The rover is estimated to land at a deep depression on Mars called Gale Crater, which according to the BBC, contains a central mountain rising 5km above the plain. The site was chosen due to previous pictures of sediments which would have been deposited by large volumes of water.

The rover, also known as Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), is part of a $2.5bn (£1.6bn) two-year mission to study rocks, soils and atmosphere in the crater.

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

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(PHOTOS) Mars Mission Cosmonauts Speak After 18 Months In Shed

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on November 9, 2011

Russia’s “astronauts” are back from their mission, not to Mars, but to a shed, in a carpark. The men who spent 18 months together simulating the long-distance trip to Mars, are still friends and returned with their sense of humour intact.

Wang Yue, one of the astronauts, told “We are very good friends, even family members now.”

He told their website that he kept busy by practicing Chinese calligraphy, learning to play guitar and reading books.

Sukhrov Kamolov, one of the Russian astronauts, told the Guardian.”There were no conflicts,”

“If people are together for a long time, this can happen, but we understood in space it can become serious.”

“We had a sign up that said: ‘a fly can grow into an elephant'” – a Russian saying akin to “don’t make a mountain out of a molehill”.

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

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NASA SLS: Space Launch System Will Take Humans To Mars (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on September 19, 2011

Before that we need another huge concrete step to keep the earth safe until then
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

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Nasa Find Potential Signs Of Flowing Water On Mars

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on August 5, 2011

We spoiled a lot to this wonderful earth and trying to migrate other planets. Now more possibilit­y to spoil mars as well like earth.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

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