space

NASA, ESA, P. Oesch and I. Momcheva (Yale University), and the 3D-HST and HUDF09/XDF teams

The most distant galaxy ever measured is 13.1 billion light years away, according to a new study out of Yale University. 

After 4,104 orbits of Mercury and billions of miles of space travel, NASA's Messenger orbiter ended its mission with a quiet bang on Thursday. Messenger crashed into the planet it has been orbiting for four years.

NASA says the orbiter began the process of lithobraking at 3:26 p.m. ET — meaning that Messenger essentially scraped to a stop after hitting the planet's surface traveling at thousands of miles an hour. The Oxford English Dictionary reminds us that litho is the combining form for the Greek word for "stone."

NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), A. Nota (ESA/STScI), and the Westerlund 2 Science Team

The Hubble Space telescope shot into orbit 25 years ago on Friday. I spoke with a Connecticut engineer who worked on the project, which forever changed humanity's view of its place in the cosmos. 

Mike Massimino is one of the last people to ever see the Hubble Space Telescope in person.

From inside his orbiting space shuttle, the telescope first appeared on the horizon as a star, says Massimino, who was an astronaut on the final mission to service the space telescope in 2009.

In space, all they have is instant.

"For an instant coffee, it's an excellent instant coffee," says Vickie Kloeris, who manages the space station's food supply for NASA. Astronauts are allotted up to three freeze-dried cups (pouches, actually) a day, and Kloeris says it's "extremely popular."

But, she adds, "Can it compete with brewed espresso? No."

Scientists in California are hoping to use your smart phone to solve a cosmic mystery. They're developing an app to turn your phone into a cosmic ray detector. If enough people install the app, the scientists think they'll be able to figure out once and for all what's producing the very energetic cosmic rays that occasionally hit the Earth.

Updated at 4 p.m. ET

A Russian rocket has carried a Russian cosmonaut and an American astronaut to the International Space Station, where they will live for a full year, twice as long as people usually stay.

No American has remained in space longer than 215 days. Only a few people have ever gone on space trips lasting a year or more — the longest was 437 days — and they're all Russian cosmonauts. The last year-plus stay in space occurred nearly two decades ago.

Updated at 12:50 p.m. ET

SpaceX has put all of its images in the public domain — as the result of a tweet.

CEO Elon Musk tweeted Saturday:

Among the responses was this one:

Musk's reply:

SpaceX posted new images on its website and on Flickr. The decision puts SpaceX in the company of NASA, which also has its images in the public domain.

With recent news headlines proclaiming that dozens of people have been selected as finalists for a Martian astronaut corps, it might seem like a trip to this alien world might finally be close at hand.

But let's have a little reality check. What are the chances that we really will see people on the Red Planet in the next couple of decades?

The Connecticut Gological Survey

Following a series of small earthquakes in the eastern part of Connecticut, WNPR’s Patrick Skahill set out on a mission to find out what was causing so many to occur over such a short period of time. Turns out, to fully understand, you have to go back hundreds of millions of years to a time when our state was being rocked by a massive continental collision. 

Olivia Drake / Wesleyan University

You may not think there are a lot of stellar wonders visible from Middletown, but astronomer and professor Wesleyan Univeresity Meredith Hughes disagrees.

"It's actually pretty amazing that in the middle of a city, we can see a ton of beautiful things in the night sky," Hughes said. Her observatory, located on a hill at Wesleyan, is now opening its telescope to the public every Wednesday night.

Space, you may have heard, can be a cold and lonely place. But the NASA/ESA Hubble telescope has identified a particularly well-adjusted corner of space — or at least that's what a recent image suggests, with the help of an effect called an Einstein Ring.

In the Hubble image of galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849, two bright galaxies resemble eyes, NASA says, "and the misleading smile lines are actually arcs caused by an effect known as strong gravitational lensing."

By the time you read this post, asteroid 2004 BL86 will already have come as close to us as it's going to get as it flies by Earth. At about 11:19 a.m. ET today, it was nearly 745,000 miles away from our planet. That's only about three times the distance from the Earth to the moon.

But don't worry, you may still be able to catch a glimpse of the huge hunk of rock tonight.

When and how can I see the asteroid?

Chion Wolf / WNPR

When it comes to space, there’s a lot to be excited about. Telescopes are scanning the farthest reaches of our galaxy and we’re learning more than ever before about the origins of planets.

More than a decade after it went missing, British scientists say they have found a small spacecraft on the surface of Mars.

SpaceX has successfully launched another resupply mission to the International Space Station months after a competitor in the private space-launch business suffered a catastrophic lift-off that resulted in the unmanned rocket's destruction.

NASA is building a new space telescope with astounding capabilities. The James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for launch in 2018, will replace the aging Hubble Space Telescope and will provide unprecedented views of the first galaxies to form in the early universe. It might even offer the first clear glimpse of an Earth-like planet orbiting a distant star.

NASA's Earth Observatory/Jesse Allen

We know that technology and price can drive electricity demand, but what about culture?

A. Marinkovic / Creative Commons

A Wesleyan astronomer has just returned from a conference in Tokyo, Japan, where she discussed research from the ALMA space telescope -- a radio observatory partly funded by the National Science Foundation -- which is just finishing construction.

Joshua Frankel

A new installation at Hartford's Real Art Ways imagines New York City lifting off to Mars, building by building. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

When it comes to space, there’s a lot to be excited about. Telescopes are scanning the farthest reaches of our galaxy and we’re learning more than ever before about the origins of planets.

Geminid Meteor Showers Light Up Both Hemispheres

Dec 14, 2014

The annual Geminid meteor shower dazzled Earthlings around the world late Saturday and early Sunday.

Pieces of gravel and dust from a "rock comet" called 3200 Phaethon shot across the sky and lit up discussion boards from NASA.gov to Twitter — for those who could tear their eyes away long enough to type.

Signs of water currents and sediments are seen in the latest photos NASA's Curiosity rover sent home from Mars, the space agency said Monday. The images suggest "ancient Mars maintained a climate that could have produced long-lasting lakes," NASA says.

In the huge Gale Crater where Curiosity has been exploring, the water and sediment flow might have been massive enough to build a mountain — the 3-mile-high Mount Sharp — NASA researchers say. But they acknowledge that they're still working to solve the mystery of how the mountain formed in a crater.

NASA's unmanned Orion spacecraft has successfully splashed down about 400 miles west of La Paz, Mexico, in the Pacific Ocean after a liftoff, two orbits and re-entry that lasted just under 4 1/2 hours.

Orion, which could one day take astronauts to Mars, made a "bull's-eye splashdown" at 11:29 a.m. ET, mission control said, after the spacecraft endured a searing 4,000-degree Fahrenheit re-entry and was carried to the ocean surface under four giant red-and-white parachutes.

Update at 9:35 a.m. ET

NASA's Orion spacecraft, which could one day send astronauts to Mars, is stuck on terra firma for at least another day after the space agency's mission control was unable to satisfactorily resolve a number of issues before a 9:45 a.m. ET launch window closed.

The search for the massive star explosions called supernovae is about to get a big boost. Astronomers at Caltech in Pasadena are building a new camera that will let them survey the entire night sky in three nights.

The problem with looking for supernovae is you can't really be sure when and where to look for them. Most telescope cameras can only capture a small patch of sky at a time. But the new camera, to be mounted on a telescope at the Palomar Observatory, has a much larger field of view.

NASA is about to launch a new spaceship into orbit, and Mallory Loe has never heard of it.

"I mean, technically, NASA doesn't have another spaceship, do they?" she asks incredulously during a visit to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

She's hardly the only one who doesn't know about this new spacecraft. In fact, none of a half-dozen tourists NPR interviewed in the museum's lobby was aware of the Orion spaceship.

Carter Roberts / NASA

If you're looking for life elsewhere in the universe, there's a lot to look at, and computers are pretty good at it. At least, they're good at analyzing the stuff you tell them -- for example, the brightness of stars in our sky.

Updated at 3:45PM ET

It was the first ever landing on a comet, and it was perfect.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the end of the journey for the European Space Agency's unmanned Philae lander. After touching down on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, the lander bounced off the surface and flew a kilometer back up into space.

Iryna Yeroshko / Creative Commons

Let's play a game. I'm going to name five things and you tell me what they are - "An Unnecessary Woman," "All the Light We Cannot See," "Redeployment," "Station Eleven," "Lila." They are the five fiction finalists for this year's National Book Award which will be given out this week.  Don't feel bad if you didn't get the answer - I wouldn't have either. My  connection to the nominees begins and ends with having picked up one of the five books from a table at - of all places - Whole Foods.

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