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.
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.
Originally published on Tue December 9, 2014 12:41 pm
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.
Originally published on Fri December 5, 2014 1:00 pm
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.
Originally published on Thu December 4, 2014 2:38 pm
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.
Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 2:03 pm
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.
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.
Originally published on Mon November 17, 2014 7:41 pm
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.
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.
Originally published on Sat November 15, 2014 10:21 am
Everyone has days in which we wonder if much of anything works. Websites crash. Screens blink, go blank, or taunt: I'm sorry. Try later. We have an unusually high volume of calls. Download to update. Click here if you've forgotten your password.
But for a couple of hours on an afternoon this week, people got glimpses of excellence.
Originally published on Fri November 14, 2014 12:38 pm
Philae, the lander currently on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, may not be able to perform its extended mission — scientists at the European Space Agency worry that the probe may have landed in a spot too shadowy for solar panels to recharge its batteries. The ESA says it may not be able to contact the craft after Friday night.
Worries over the robotic lander's power supply prompted engineers to take the risky step of activating its drill, an operation that had been shelved out of fears that it would sap the remaining charge.
Originally published on Fri November 14, 2014 9:42 am
As you may be aware, there's a hot new space movie now in theaters — Interstellar. Here's the premise: It's just a little bit in the future, conditions have become pretty horrible on Earth and some astronauts head out in search of a new planet for humans to inhabit.
Originally published on Thu November 13, 2014 12:11 pm
The European Space Agency released a new photo Thursday of the Philae lander safely resting in its new home on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, as it hurtles through space. The agency's data also show the lander bounced twice before coming to rest.
Originally published on Tue November 11, 2014 10:12 am
Humans have never landed anything on a comet's surface. That may change tomorrow.
The European Space Agency's Rosetta mission is poised to send out a small probe to land on a comet known as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Rosetta spent 10 years chasing the comet before arriving in August.
Originally published on Fri October 31, 2014 5:28 pm
In what could be a major setback for commercial space tourism, a manned spaceship has crashed in California's Mojave Desert.
The Virgin Galactic Spaceship Two was on a test flight this morning, with two pilots aboard. Minutes after its rocket fired, the company announced on Twitter that spacecraft experienced an "anomaly."
Capt. Tom Ellison of Kern County Fire Department said that Spaceship Two had a malfunction shortly after it separated from White Knight Two, the rocket that gives Spaceship Two a lift up to 45,000 feet.
Originally published on Thu October 30, 2014 9:34 am
NPR's Geoff Brumfiel reports that as investigators examine what went wrong with the launch of an unmanned Antares rocket on Tuesday, they'll likely take a hard look at powerful engines originally destined to send cosmonauts to the moon, a project that was scrapped by the USSR more than four decades ago.
Originally published on Tue October 14, 2014 8:59 pm
This much we know: It's not a bird and it's not exactly a plane.
Beyond that, the U.S. Air Force holds all the answers. The mission of the unmanned X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, which is scheduled to touch down at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California Tuesday after 22 months in orbit, has been described only vaguely as "to gather more test data."
Originally published on Mon September 22, 2014 10:44 am
NASA's MAVEN spacecraft conducted a 33-minute burn of its six main engines to ease into an orbit around Mars after a nearly yearlong, 442 million-mile voyage from Earth. The probe's mission is to study the red planet's atmosphere.
Originally published on Sun September 21, 2014 10:41 pm
This Sunday night, we headed back to Mars: NASA's MAVEN spacecraft fired its six main engines, slowing down enough so it could be captured by the gravity of the red planet and go into orbit.
MAVEN, which stands for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, is a distinctly un-sexy name for a project as cool as a sojourn to Mars. But whatever it's called, the probe is on a mission that should be of interest to everyone who likes living on Earth.
Originally published on Fri September 19, 2014 10:24 pm
Earlier this week NASA announced that two private companies will build spaceships to take astronauts to the International Space Station. NASA hopes that both models will eventually be used by space tourists to get into orbit. Which got us wondering, which one would we rather fly in?
Originally published on Tue September 16, 2014 7:29 pm
NASA has chosen Boeing and SpaceX to build the vehicles that will transport its astronauts to the International Space Station, putting the two American companies on a course to take over a job that NASA has recently relied upon Russia to perform: carrying out manned space flights.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden says vehicles from the two companies are expected to be ready for service by 2017.
Announcing its decision Tuesday, the space agency included these details:
Originally published on Fri September 12, 2014 1:19 pm
Earth is in the line of fire of a powerful solar flare that has already begun hitting us, but most of the energy from the Coronal Mass Ejection, or CME, will skirt safely by, scientists say, with major disruptions to the electric grid, satellites and communications unlikely.
But if you're lucky — and far enough north — you might see a nice display of aurora borealis.
This hour, the final frontier comes closer to home. Waterbury native Richard Mastracchio is a NASA astronaut who just returned from six months on the International . He’s done nine space walks - leaving the space station, usually to do maintenance. He’ll talk about his experiences and his amazing twitter feed, full of photos from space.