This Week in Space Special Update: Van Gogh's Starry Night, a collage of Hubble deep space photos

This is just awesome! Had to share it.



It is one of the most famous paintings in the history of art - and here it is with our most famous photographs of space.

Alex Parker, a PHD astronomy student took Van Gogh's 1889 painting, and built it back up from arguably humanity's other most famous space portraits - those taken by the Hubble telescope over the last 20 years.

Read more HERE


Manned Mission to Mars


So today I learned about Mars One ( ), it's a private company with plans to send a communication satellite to the planet by 2016 and after several stages, finally land humans on Mars for permanent settlement in 2023 with a population of 20 settlers by 2033. So out of curiosity I wondered just how many manned missions to Mars have been planned...

Um, it's been planned a LOT ( ). One of them ( Space Exploration Initiative ) would have happened but it would have cost 500 billion over 20-30 years and also put a permanent colony on the lunar surface... congress said no, so it was proposed as a world project and everyone said no... we should do it, hell we've already spent it and then some in Iraq/Afghanistan... for example the website Cost of War has the U.S. already having spent 1.36 TRILLION on the War on Terror efforts.

Figure 500 billion now (if not less, because of private industry now) so 25 billion a year for 20 years... shared by say the U.S. and China so 12.5 billion a year... that's nothing compared to what we spend on war! Get other countries to chip in, get corporate sponsorship... we could do it in 10-15 years!


 If only the space industry had as deep pockets for lobbyists as the war industry...

This week in space: special post, Curiosity rover

First let me apologize for not having done a This week in space in sometime, I've just been lazy.


November 26th, 2011 Mars Science Laboratory left the confines of Earth and began it's journey to Mars. The Mars Science Laboratory successfully landed Curiosity, a Mars rover, in Gale Crater on August 6, 2012 at 05:14:39 UTC.

In the above photo The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) team in the MSL Mission Support Area react after learning the the Curiosity rove has landed safely on Mars and images start coming in at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Early Monday morning, August 5th EDT, first image taken by NASA's Curiosity rover, it was taken through a "fisheye" wide-angle lens on one of the rover's front left Hazard-Avoidance cameras at one-quarter of full resolution. The clear dust cover on the camera is still on in this view, and dust can be seen around its edge, along with three cover fasteners. The rover's shadow is visible in the foreground.

Interestingly NASA's Curiosity rover and its parachute were spotted by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as Curiosity descended to the surface on Aug. 5 PDT (Aug. 6 EDT). The High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera captured this image of Curiosity while the orbiter was listening to transmissions from the rover.


Check out the official mission project here and follow it on Twitter here. In the days to come color images should begin being taken as well as scientific data being reported as instrumentation turns on and gets to work. I've been awaiting Curiosity's landing on Mars since learning of it's proposal in late 2004. I slept very little last night too excited and worried that there would be some error causing the mission to fail. Now to be patient and await images and information in the coming months and even years.

This week in space

Sorry for not doing one of these in a while folks.


SpaceX private rocket blasts off for space station

I've been waiting for this launch for quite some time. I'm glad it finally launched, once it reaches the ISS in a few days new history will be made, private space exploration (well ok not exploring anything but it is a step in the right direction).

The SpaceX company made history as its Falcon 9 rocket rose from its seaside launch pad and pierced the pre-dawn sky, aiming for a rendezvous later this week with the space station. The rocket carried into orbit a capsule named Dragon that is packed with 1,000 pounds of space station provisions.

It is the first time a private company has launched a vessel to the space station. That's something only major governments have done - until the present test flight. Launch controllers applauded when the Dragon reached orbit 9 minutes into the flight.

Read more HERE


Three-telescope interferometry allows astrophysicists to observe how black holes are fueled

I don't really see any practical use for this, understanding black holes isn't really something we need to know right now but something cool might be discovered with this instrument.

By combining the light of three powerful infrared telescopes, an international research team has observed the active accretion phase of a supermassive black hole in the center of a galaxy tens of millions of light years away, a method that has yielded an unprecedented amount of data for such observations. The resolution at which they were able to observe this highly luminescent active galactic nucleus (AGN) has given them direct confirmation of how mass accretes onto black holes in centers of galaxies.

Read more HERE


Kepler satellite telescope reveals hundreds of superflares on distant stars

A BILLION times as powerful as those are sun produces... wow.

Here on Earth we are occasionally concerned about solar flares due to the impact they can have on our electrical systems. But our solar flares are puny when compared to so-called superflares that occur with other stars. A new research study by a team from Japan’s Kyoto University has found after studying one patch of sky over a 120 day period in 1990 using data from the Kepler telescope, that superflares are rather common, and as they describe in their paper published in the journal Nature, some are a billion times as powerful as those that occur with our own sun.

Read more HERE


Hubble spies edge-on beauty

Here is your beautiful image of the week!

Visible in the constellation of Andromeda, NGC 891 is located approximately 30 million light-years away from Earth. The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope turned its powerful wide field Advanced Camera for Surveys towards this spiral galaxy and took this close-up of its northern half. The galaxy's central bulge is just out of the image on the bottom left.

Read more HERE

This Week in Space

Sorry for the much overdue This Week in Space. I just haven't felt like doing one lately, and haven't even followed space news for a month or so.


Satellite proposed to send solar power to Earth

The first time I saw this idea was in Sim City '2000' back in 1993 or 1994 where you could build microwave power stations that would beam solar energy down from space via mirowaves.It's a good idea, just not really been worth it due to cost of solar cells, they are however getting cheaper and electricity is getting more expensive as demand for it increases.

Artemis Innovation Management Solutions has been given some seed money by NASA to look deeper into a project the company first proposed last summer; namely, building a satellite that could collect energy from the sun and beam it back down to Earth to add to the electrical grid. Building such a satellite has been bantered about for several decades by various groups and scientists, but until now, no one had come up with a design that would work given all the constraints of the time. But now, an idea proposed by longtime NASA engineer John Mankins, now with Artemis, has clearly created enough interest within NASA that some money to investigate the idea is being offered.

Read more HERE


New look at HD 10180 shows it might have nine planets

I like how when I was born we knew of a whopping 0 planets outside of our star system, we now know of over 2,000 and confirm more weekly. HD 10180 has as many as we used to (before Pluto lost planethood) and may even have more. The chance that we are the only sentient life in the universe is absurdly low, hell we likely aren't alone in our neighborhood in our galaxy.

Astronomer Mikko Tuomi of the University of Hertfordshire, has found after looking at data regarding the solar system surrounding the star HD 10180, that it likely has nine planets making it the most highly populated solar system known to man (ours has just eight after the demotion of Pluto). He details his findings in a paper pre-published on arXiv (and set for publication in Astronomy and Astrophysics) describing how after studying slight wobbles by the star as it’s tugged by planetary gravitation, he found what he believes is confirmation of a seventh planet, and evidence for two more.

Read more HERE

Newfangled space-propulsion technology could help clean up Earth orbit

I love it! I want to see this used on a small sattelite inside of 5 years. Get to it!

Some of the most valuable “real estate” for humans isn’t on Earth at all but rather above the planet’s atmosphere, where all manner of human-made objects orbit. The problem is that those orbits are too crowded with dead satellites and debris, making new launches riskier. Robert Winglee has spent years developing a magnetized ion plasma system to propel a spacecraft at ultra-high speeds, making it possible to travel to Mars and return to Earth in as little time as 90 days. The problem is that cost and other issues have dampened the desire to send astronauts to Mars or any other planet.

Read more HERE


Will Russia rescue ExoMars?

I hope this mission gets salvaged, although we have a nice one on it's way... Curiosity which is set to land between August 6 and August 20, 2012.

After NASA was forced to back out the joint ExoMars mission with the European Space Agency due to budget constraints, ESA went looking for help with the planned multi-vehicle Mars mission. Now, reportedly the Head of Roscosmos Vladimir Popovkin met with Director General of the ESA, Jean-Jacques Dordain last week, and the two signed a memorandum of understanding to work together to make ExoMars a reality.

Read more HERE


Hubble spies a spiral galaxy edge-on

There is your beautiful image for this installment of This Week in Space.

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has spotted the "UFO Galaxy." NGC 2683 is a spiral galaxy seen almost edge-on, giving it the shape of a classic science fiction spaceship. This is why the astronomers at the Astronaut Memorial Planetarium and Observatory, Cocoa, Fla., gave it this attention-grabbing nickname.

Read more HERE

This week in space: special post

Distant 'water-world' confirmed

This is just cool, so many exciting things about this.

Astronomers have claimed the existence of a new class of planet: a "water-world" with a thick, steamy atmosphere.

Read more HERE

"GJ 1214b is like no planet we know of," Berta said. "A huge fraction of its mass is made up of water."

The ground-based MEarth Project, led by CfA's David Charbonneau, discovered GJ 1214b in 2009. This super-Earth is about 2.7 times Earth's diameter and weighs almost seven times as much. It orbits a red-dwarf star every 38 hours at a distance of 2 million kilometres, giving it an estimated temperature of 230 degrees Celsius.

In 2010, CfA scientist Jacob Bean and colleagues reported that they had measured the atmosphere of GJ 1214b, finding it likely that it was composed mainly of water. However, their observations could also be explained by the presence of a planet-enshrouding haze in GJ 1214b's atmosphere.

Also, read more HERE



This week in space

New super-earth detected within the habitable zone of a nearby star

Too bad it's 22 light years away and not say 3 or 4. Project Orion could get us there well within an acceptable amount of time if it was 3-4, but nooo no one wants to do it.

An international team of scientists has discovered a potentially habitable super-Earth orbiting a nearby star. With an orbital period of about 28 days and a minimum mass 4.5 times that of the Earth, the planet orbits within the star’s “habitable zone,” where temperatures are neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist on the planet’s surface. The researchers found evidence of at least one and possibly two or three additional planets orbiting the star, which is about 22 light-years from Earth.

Read more HERE


Russia sets its sights on the moon for 2020

Good, now lets start a cold war with them again so we go back too! I swear, war is the only way we will achieve more space exploration via governments, fortunately private space industry is growing ever day.

Looks like Republican Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich might have some competition if he wants to be the first to build a base on the Moon. Last week, the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos announced plans to put a man on the Moon by the end of the decade with a lunar base as its next step.  

Read more HERE


Classic portrait of a barred spiral galaxy

Here is your beautiful photo for the week.

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has taken a picture of the barred spiral galaxy NGC 1073, which is found in the constellation of Cetus (The Sea Monster). Our own galaxy, the Milky Way, is a similar barred spiral, and the study of galaxies such as NGC 1073 helps astronomers learn more about our celestial home.

Read more HERE

This week in space

New map of the universe reveals its history for the past six-billion years


Just thought this was a neat bit of information.

The scientists of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), including astronomers at Penn State, have produced a new map of the universe that is in full color, covers more than one quarter of the entire sky, and is full of so much detail that you would need five-hundred-thousand high-definition TVs to view it all. The map consists of more than one-trillion pixels measured by meticulously scanning the sky with a special-purpose telescope located in New Mexico. This week, at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Austin, Texas, the SDSS scientists announced results of four separate studies of this new map that, taken together, provide a history of the universe over the last six-billion years.

Read more HERE


Earthly machine recreates star's sizzling-hot surface

That's just incredible.

Since we can't go to the stars yet, let's bring the stars to us. In a giant X-ray-producing facility, astronomers and plasma physicists have heated a cigar-sized sample of gas to over 17,000 degrees Fahrenheit in order to replicate the surface of stars called white dwarfs.

Read more HERE


Loss of planetary tilt could doom alien life

That earthquake a few Decembers back actually changed the tilt of Earth. Big earthquakes often do, so not only is this a threat to life on other planets, but on our own.

Although winter now grips much of the Northern Hemisphere, those who dislike the cold weather can rest assured that warmer months shall return. This familiar pattern of spring, summer, fall and winter does more than merely provide variety, however. The fact that life can exist at all on Earth is closely tied to seasonality, which is a sign of global temperature moderation.

Read more HERE


The Milky Way contains at least 100 billion planets according to survey

Oh wait, what was it they said just a few decades ago... oh right, that only our system had planets. Idiots.

Our Milky Way galaxy contains a minimum of 100 billion planets according to a detailed statistical study based on the detection of three extrasolar planets by an observational technique called microlensing.

Read more HERE


New class of planetary systems: Astronomers find two new planets orbiting double suns

Star Wars. *snicker*

Kepler-35 planet system, in which a Saturn-size planet orbits a pair of stars. The larger star is similar to the size of the Sun, while the smaller star is 79 percent of the Sun's radius. The stars orbit and eclipse each other every 21 days, but the eclipses do not occur exactly periodically. This variation in the times of the eclipses motivated the search for the planet, which was discovered to transit the stars as it orbits the pair every 131 days. Analogous events led to the discovery of the planet Kepler-34. The discovery of these two new systems establishes a new class of 'circumbinary' planets, and suggests there are many millions of such giant planets in our Galaxy. Using data from NASA’s Kepler Mission, astronomers announced the discovery of two new transiting “circumbinary” planet systems -- planets that orbit two stars. This work establishes that such “two sun” planets are not rare exceptions, but are in fact common with many millions existing in our Galaxy. The work is published today in the journal Nature and presented at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Austin, TX.

Read more HERE


Spacecraft completes biggest maneuver

As I've said before I can't wait for this mission to arrive at Mars!

NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft successfully refined its flight path Wednesday with the biggest maneuver planned for the mission's journey between Earth and Mars.

Read more HERE


China, India to jump forward with Hawaii telescope

It'll be awesome to have a 30 meter optical telescope!!!

China and India are catapulting to the forefront of astronomy research with their decision to join as partners in a Hawaii telescope that will be the world's largest when it's built later this decade.

Read more HERE


Hubble zooms in on double nucleus in Andromeda galaxy

Here is the pretty picture of the week.

A new Hubble Space Telescope image centers on the 100-million-solar-mass black hole at the hub of the neighboring spiral galaxy M31, or the Andromeda galaxy, the only galaxy outside the Milky Way visible to the naked eye and the only other giant galaxy in the local group.

Read more HERE


Scientists gear up to take a picture of a black hole

Awesome. Awesome, awesome, awesome!!!

On Wednesday, Jan. 18, astronomers, physicists and scientists from related fields will convene in Tucson, Ariz. from across the world to discuss an endeavor that only a few years ago would have been regarded as nothing less than outrageous. The conference is organized by Dimitrios Psaltis, an associate professor of astrophysics at the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory, and Daniel Marrone, an assistant professor of astronomy at Steward Observatory.

Read more HERE



This week in space

AVIATR: An Airplane Mission for Titan

It upsets me greatly that we won't be sending a mission there in the next decade with a plane, the plane would likely be able to stay aloft for months and gather all kinds of data. Oh well, as long as we have idiots deciding what we do this will continue to happen

It has been said that the atmosphere on Titan is so dense that a person could strap a pair of wings on their back and soar through its skies.

Read more HERE


Should we terraform Mars?

Yes, we should. It would provide insurance in our own Solar System for the human race. We need a domed colony on the moon, we need a colony on Mars, and we need to escape the solar system if we want to ensure our future. Supernova, alien invasion, all sorts of things can end the existence of humans as long as we remain only on Earth.

As we continue to explore farther out into our solar system and beyond, the question of habitation or colonization inevitably comes up. Manned bases on the Moon or Mars for example, have long been a dream of many. There is a natural desire to explore as far as we can go, and also to extend humanity’s presence on a permanent or at least semi-permanent basis. In order to do this, however, it is necessary to adapt to different extreme environments. On the Moon for example, a colony must be self-sustaining and protect its inhabitants from the airless, harsh environment outside.

Read more HERE


Twin Grail spacecraft reunite in lunar orbit

I'm glad these two made it safely to their destination and are ready to start collecting what will be a fantastic amount of data! A couple more months and we will start getting all sorts of info from them!

The second of NASA's two Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft has successfully completed its planned main engine burn and is now in lunar orbit. Working together, GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B will study the moon as never before.

Read more HERE


Space Image: Fastest rotating star found in neighboring galaxy

Rotating a million times an hour... that just makes me dizzy!

The massive, bright young star, called VFTS 102, rotates at a million miles per hour, or 100 times faster than our sun does.

Read more HERE


Space Image: Ring of fire

I fell in to a burning ring of fire...

This composite image shows the central region of the spiral galaxy NGC 4151. X-rays (blue) from the Chandra X-ray Observatory are combined with optical data (yellow) showing positively charged hydrogen (H II) from observations with the 1-meter Jacobus Kapteyn Telescope on La Palma. The red ring shows neutral hydrogen detected by radio observations with the NSF's Very Large Array. This neutral hydrogen is part of a structure near the center of NGC 4151 that has been distorted by gravitational interactions with the rest of the galaxy, and includes material falling towards the center of the galaxy. The yellow blobs around the red ellipse are regions where star formation has recently occurred.

Read more HERE