Posts Tagged ‘NASA’

Posted: January 5, 2013 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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How many planets are in our galaxy? Billions and billions of them at least. That’s the conclusion of a new study by astronomers at the California Institute of Technology, which provides yet more evidence that planetary systems are the cosmic norm. The team made their estimate while analyzing planets orbiting a star called Kepler-32 — planets that are representative, they say, of the vast majority of planets in our galaxy and thus serve as a perfect case study for understanding how most of these worlds form. “There are at least 100 billion planets in the galaxy, just our galaxy,” says John Johnson, assistant professor of planetary astronomy at Caltech and coauthor of the study, which was recently accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal. “That’s mind-boggling.” “It’s a staggering number, if you think about it,” adds Jonathan Swift, a postdoctoral student at Caltech and lead author of the paper. “Basically, there’s one of these planets per star.” M-dwarf study Like the Caltech group, other teams of astronomers have estimated that there is roughly one planet per star, but this is the first time researchers have made such an estimate by studying M-dwarf systems, the most numerous population of planets known. The planetary system in question, which was detected by NASA’s Kepler space telescope, contains five planets. Two of the planets orbiting Kepler-32 had previously been discovered by other astronomers. The Caltech team confirmed the remaining three, then analyzed the five-planet system and compared it to other systems found by Kepler. M-dwarf systems like Kepler-32′s are quite different from our own solar system. For one, M dwarfs are cooler and much smaller than the sun. Kepler-32, for example, has half the mass of the sun and half its radius. The radii of its five planets range from 0.8 to 2.7 times that of Earth, and those planets orbit extremely close to their star. The whole Kepler-32 system fits within just over a tenth of an astronomical unit (the average distance between Earth and the sun) — a distance that is about a third of the radius of Mercury’s orbit around the sun. The fact that M-dwarf systems vastly outnumber other kinds of systems carries a profound implication, according to Johnson, which is that our solar system is extremely rare. “It’s just a weirdo,” he says. (via Billions and billions of planets | KurzweilAI)


A study published in the journal PLOS ONE shows for the first time that exposure to radiation levels equivalent to a mission to Mars could produce cognitive problems and speed up changes in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

While space is full of radiation,…

FUTUREJAM: Space travel may be harmful to the brain

Posted: December 30, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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Happy New Year! December 26, 2012 Happy New Year from the Cassini mission! For a higher resolution version, click here. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ (via Cassini Solstice Mission: Happy New Year!)


After two decades of satellite observations, an international team of experts brought together by ESA and NASA has produced the most accurate assessment of ice losses from Antarctica and Greenland to date. This study finds that the combined rate of ice sheet melting…

FUTUREJAM: Melting ice – the proof. Sea levels rise by 20%.


NASA reports that a community of bacteria has been uncovered from some 65ft below the icy surface of Lake Vida, the largest of several unique lakes found in the McMurdo Dry Valleys. Why is this so exciting? Lake Vida contains no oxygen, is mostly frozen and possesses the…

FUTUREJAM: Why deep hidden bacteria may lead to alien life discovery

A few months ago, physicist Harold White stunned the aeronautics world when he announced that he and his team at NASA had begun work on the development of a faster-than-light warp drive. His proposed design, an ingenious re-imagining of an Alcubierre Drive, may eventually result in an engine that can transport a spacecraft to the nearest star in a matter of weeks — and all without violating Einstein’s law of relativity. We contacted White at NASA and asked him to explain how this real life warp drive could actually work. The above image of a Vulcan command ship features a warp engine similar to an Alcubierre Drive. Image courtesy CBS. The Alcubierre Drive The idea came to White while he was considering a rather remarkable equation formulated by physicist Miguel Alcubierre. In his 1994 paper titled, “The Warp Drive: Hyper-Fast Travel Within General Relativity,” Alcubierre suggested a mechanism by which space-time could be “warped” both in front of and behind a spacecraft.

How NASA might build its very first warp drive

Posted: November 16, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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Red dust swirls from the surface, blue sea salt is tossed within cyclones, green smoke rises from fires, and white sulphate particles stream from volcanoes and fossil fuel emissions. It’s just another day in the life of our planet, as pictured by NASA’s Discover supercomputer. This simulation shows the various types of aerosols – particles and liquid droplets – suspended in the Earth’s atmosphere. It was created using the Goddard Earth Observing System Model, a global atmospheric simulation designed at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The model aims to study the climate system. The Discover computer built this stunning high-res image at a 10-kilometre resolution, but it’s capable of even more detail – as fine as 3.5-kilometre resolution, the highest available for a global climate model. (via Short Sharp Science: Supercomputer portrait reveals Earth’s swirling veil)