Comet ISON is already a celebrity in the cosmos. The huge chunk of rock and primordial ice is on course to make a journey around the sun, and it's lighting up the heavens along the way. NASA released a short movie showing the comet's trajectory over the course of five days as it aims for the blazing beast that keeps us all warm down here on Earth.
Most of us will never have the chance to float about in the International Space Station and look down on the blue globe and swirling clouds of the Earth below. We mostly settle for stunning photographs. Soon, we'll be able to settle for near-real-time streaming video online.
Canadian company UrtheCast is installing two cameras on the ISS today. Once in operation, they will live-stream high-def footage of the Earth through UrtheCast's Web platform. Basic accounts for taking a peek at the views will be free. Users will also be able to access time-lapse compilations.… Read more
As always, this Thanksgiving (and Hanukkah) holiday week will be all about food, friends, family, Black Friday shopping -- and one large space snowball's existential journey around the sun that will either annihilate the comet or turn it into a majestic and luminous celestial body for a brief period of time.
On second thought, I don't recall one of those things from last year. That's because Comet ISON is on target to make a once-in-a-lifetime trip around the sun on Thanksgiving afternoon. Basically a rock from deep space covered with tons of ice and snow, Comet ISON has been winging its way past Earth and our neighboring planets in recent weeks on a "sungrazing" course with our nearest star.
It will reach its point of "perihelion," where it comes closest to the surface of the sun (within only 730,000 miles) on Thanksgiving afternoon and then whip around the other side of the star and head back in our direction. If ISON survives this closest encounter with the sun, it could become one of the brightest comets seen in recent decades or longer as it passes by on its way back out of the solar system in December.… Read more
While most of the US are roasting turkeys and splooshing cranberry sauce out of cans, the astronauts aboard the International Space Station will be floating high above the Earth, enjoying a Thanksgiving meal of their very own out of bags.
The menu isn't so different at first glance. There will be turkey, yams, green beans, dressing, potatoes, and cobbler. It's the details that make it all sound a little less appetizing than a meal cooked with gravity. The smoked turkey is irradiated, the yams are thermostabilized, and the green beans are freeze-dried.… Read more
Earlier this year, billionaire Dennis Tito -- best known as the first "space tourist" who paid his way onto the International Space Station in 2001 -- laid out his audacious plan for a manned fly-by of Mars.
There was just one catch: the mission would need to launch in late 2017 to take advantage of a rare alignment of the planets that would greatly shorten the trip, or maybe in 2021, the second best option.
Then on Wednesday Tito went before the House Science Subcommittee on Space during a hearing on commercial space to share the findings of a study into the proposed mission and reveal another catch: Tito needs to borrow NASA's new Space Launch System (SLS), which is currently still under development, and have the federal government foot part of the bill. … Read more
On November 20, 1998, a relatively small man-made satellite was launched from Kazakhstan to begin an orbit that's still taking place today. Over the 15 years that followed, that first module was added on to and expanded like the most expensive set of tinker toys mankind has ever created to become the International Space Station. … Read more
A new NASA Mars probe began a 10-month voyage to the Red Planet Monday, blasting off on a $671 million mission to study the thin martian atmosphere in a bid to find out what triggered a dramatic case of climate change that turned a once-hospitable environment into a cold, presumably barren desert.
"Something clearly happened," said Principal Investigator Bruce Jakosky. "Water was abundant on early Mars, the environment was something that was capable of supporting liquid water yet today we see a cold, dry planet that is not able to support water. What we want to do … Read more
Last February, a fireball streaked past the Russian town of Chelyabinsk, releasing 500 kilotons of energy as it ran up against some serious resistance from Earth's atmosphere and exploded, blowing out windows all over town in the process. The biggest resulting chunk of space rock finally ended its journey by crashing into a frozen lake a few dozen miles away.
Remarkably, the moment of impact was captured by a security camera located at what looks like some sort of maintenance shop near the edge of the lake. Even more remarkable is the fact that an object that had essentially caused an explosion of A-bomb proportions in the sky just moments earlier was whittled down to the size of a small boulder that created little more than a whispy puff of snow and dust upon hitting the surface of the lake. … Read more
The late astrobiologist Carl Sagan eloquently referred to Earth, in the view from Saturn, as a "Pale Blue Dot."
"Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us," he wrote in his 1994 "Pale Blue Dot" book. "On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives."
Sagan is known for making the complexities of space and the universe accessible to ordinary people. As a consultant to NASA, he helped lead the US space … Read more
Four billion years ago, Mars would have been a pretty nice place for a spring-break trip. At least that's the way it appears in a new animation published to the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's YouTube channel on Wednesday.
The animated artist's rendition of ancient Mars begins with a flyover of a lake that bears a slight resemblance to, say, Utah's Lake Powell. Then we see time progress and a transition from a warm, wetter climate to a dry, colder one (like, say, 10 miles north of Lake Powell in January). … Read more