Sifting through muck trapped in roof gutters in Paris, Oslo and Berlin yielded 500 tiny particles from the birth of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago.
Cosmic dust raining down from space has been discovered on rooftops in three major cities.
“We’ve known since the 1940s that cosmic dust falls continuously through our atmosphere, but until now we’ve thought that it could not be detected among the millions of terrestrial dust particles, except in the most dust-free environments such as the Antarctic or deep oceans.”
The tiny particles date back to the birth of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago.
“The obvious advantage to this new approach is that it is much easier to source cosmic dust particles if they are in our backyards.”
— Matthew Genge, Imperial College London
Researchers sifted through 300 kilograms of muck trapped in roof gutters in Paris, Oslo and Berlin. Using magnets to pull out the particles, which contain magnetic minerals, they identified a total of 500 cosmic dust grains. Read the rest of this entry »
Charles Krauthammer writes: Fractured and divided as we are, on one thing we can agree: 2015 was a miserable year. The only cheer was provided by Lincoln Chafee and the Pluto flyby (two separate phenomena), as well as one seminal aeronautical breakthrough.
On Dec. 21, Elon Musk’s SpaceX, after launching 11 satellites into orbit, returned its 15-story booster rocket, upright and intact, to a landing pad at Cape Canaveral. That’s a $60 million mountain of machinery — recovered. (The traditional booster rocket either burns up or disappears into some ocean.)
The reusable rocket has arrived. Arguably, it arrived a month earlier when Blue Origin, a privately owned outfit created by Jeffrey P. Bezos (Amazon chief executive and owner of this newspaper) launched and landed its own booster rocket, albeit for a suborbital flight. But whether you attribute priority to Musk or Bezos, the two events together mark the inauguration of a new era in spaceflight.
Musk predicts that the reusable rocket will reduce the cost of accessing space a hundredfold. This depends, of course, on whether the wear and tear and stresses of the launch make the refurbishing prohibitively expensive. Assuming it’s not, and assuming Musk is even 10 percent right, reusability revolutionizes the economics of spaceflight.
Which both democratizes and commercializes it. Which means space travel has now slipped the surly bonds of government — presidents, Congress, NASA bureaucracies. Its future will now be driven far more by a competitive marketplace with its multiplicity of independent actors, including deeply motivated, financially savvy and visionary entrepreneurs. Read the rest of this entry »
Georgia McCafferty reports: The two finds, one planet at the edge of our solar system and one just beyond, have both been hailed as major scientific advances.
“One of the goals of astronomy and astrophysics and finding these planets is firstly to really find another Earth. And part of the reason of finding another Earth is that we ultimately do want to find life in the universe. It’s a question that weighs on everyone’s mind.”
Commenting on one of the planets, Brad Tucker, an astronomer from Mount Stromlo Observatory in Canberra, Australia who was not involved in the research, said it “probably gives us the best chance for life outside our solar system right now.”
“One of the goals of astronomy and astrophysics and finding these planets is firstly to really find another Earth,” he added. “And part of the reason of finding another Earth is that we ultimately do want to find life in the universe. It’s a question that weighs on everyone’s mind.”
Lying on the edge of our solar system, a new, rocky planet close to the size of Earth and named GJ 1132b, is the discovery that holds the most potential for finding new life to date, according to astronomers.
The scientists who discovered it it said its small size and proximity — it’s three times closer than any other similar object found orbiting a star — “bodes well for studies of the planet’s atmosphere,” according to their report in the journal, Nature.
“By being able to find evidence of these smaller, more inner planets, these rocky planets that we have in our solar system, we’re really realizing that the planets are probably in the trillions in our galaxy alone.”
“GJ 1132b (is) arguably the most important planet ever found outside the solar system,” Drake Deming, an astronomer at the University of Maryland said in an accompanying letter in the journal. He added that it’s proximity will “allow astronomers to study the planet with unprecedented fidelity.”
“It’s more habitable, it’s less harsh and this gives us a good strong chance of actually finding life or something as opposed to the other Earth-like planets found to date.”
Found moving across a “red dwarf” star that is only a fifth of the size of the world’s sun, the planet has a radius only 16% larger than Earth’s, and has surface temperatures that reach 260 degrees Celsius. Although that’s too hot to retain liquid water or sustain life as we know it, Tucker said it was cool enough to support some of the basic building blocks of life, and possibly support life forms like bacteria. Read the rest of this entry »
Where’s the Best Place to Watch The Movie ‘Gravity’?
IN OUTER SPACE
Today is the 45th anniversary of Earthrise. We take it for granted now but, along with Blue Marble, it’s the most important and famous photo ever taken. In a world saturated with fakery and cynicism, it’s easy to ignore the magnitude of its impact. But in 1968, this photo changed everything.
To commemorate its anniversary, NASA Goddard has produced this video explaining exactly how this seminal image was taken:
(They are also hosting a Google Hangout about it. Make sure to visit and ask questions.)
Nowadays people don’t stop to think twice about what they’re seeing—that precious blue jewel engulfed in the pitch black nothingness of space. However, this was a vision that deeply affected the view of ourselves as species and our place in the world and the universe. Earthrise truly made everyone realize that we’re all living in a fragile tiny ball that we needed to protect in order to survive. Humans are—for now—alone in the void.