ESA launches world’s first mission to explore the "atmospheres of hundreds of planets"

March 23, 2018 by  
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Behold a brand new era of space exploration. The European Space Agency (ESA) just selected the Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey (ARIEL) mission from three candidates to launch what Nature describes as the “world’s first space telescope dedicated to studying the atmospheres of exoplanets.” The four-year, $552 million will launch on the Ariane 6 rocket in 2028. The agency said we’ve found thousands of exoplanets with a massive range of sizes, masses, and orbits, but we haven’t uncovered a pattern connecting such characteristics to the parent star’s nature. “In particular, there is a gap in our knowledge of how the planet’s chemistry is linked to the environment where it formed, or whether the type of host star drives the physics and chemistry of the planet’s evolution,” according to ESA. Related: Kepler data reveals 20 potential habitable worlds ESA plans to zero in on hot and warm planets, “ranging from super-Earths to gas giants orbiting close to their parent stars.” Nature said a spectograph will scrutinize light filtering through an exoplanet’s atmosphere while it passes by its host star, “revealing chemical fingerprints of gases that shroud the body.” ARIEL could detect signs of water vapor, methane, and carbon dioxide, and also measure exotic metallic compounds. ESA says such findings could help place an exoplanet in context of a host star’s chemical environment. ESA Director of Science Günther Hasinger said in the statement, “ARIEL is a logical next step in exoplanet science, allowing us to progress on key science questions regarding their formation and evolution, while also helping us to understand Earth’s place in the universe .” + ESA’s Next Space Mission to Focus on Nature of Exoplanets Via Nature Images via ESA/ATG medialab, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO and NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech

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ESA launches world’s first mission to explore the "atmospheres of hundreds of planets"

ESA launches world’s first mission to explore the "atmospheres of hundreds of planets"

March 23, 2018 by  
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Behold a brand new era of space exploration. The European Space Agency (ESA) just selected the Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey (ARIEL) mission from three candidates to launch what Nature describes as the “world’s first space telescope dedicated to studying the atmospheres of exoplanets.” The four-year, $552 million will launch on the Ariane 6 rocket in 2028. The agency said we’ve found thousands of exoplanets with a massive range of sizes, masses, and orbits, but we haven’t uncovered a pattern connecting such characteristics to the parent star’s nature. “In particular, there is a gap in our knowledge of how the planet’s chemistry is linked to the environment where it formed, or whether the type of host star drives the physics and chemistry of the planet’s evolution,” according to ESA. Related: Kepler data reveals 20 potential habitable worlds ESA plans to zero in on hot and warm planets, “ranging from super-Earths to gas giants orbiting close to their parent stars.” Nature said a spectograph will scrutinize light filtering through an exoplanet’s atmosphere while it passes by its host star, “revealing chemical fingerprints of gases that shroud the body.” ARIEL could detect signs of water vapor, methane, and carbon dioxide, and also measure exotic metallic compounds. ESA says such findings could help place an exoplanet in context of a host star’s chemical environment. ESA Director of Science Günther Hasinger said in the statement, “ARIEL is a logical next step in exoplanet science, allowing us to progress on key science questions regarding their formation and evolution, while also helping us to understand Earth’s place in the universe .” + ESA’s Next Space Mission to Focus on Nature of Exoplanets Via Nature Images via ESA/ATG medialab, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO and NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech

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ESA launches world’s first mission to explore the "atmospheres of hundreds of planets"

Airbus wants to harpoon a satellite and bring it back to Earth

March 19, 2018 by  
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The aeronautics company Airbus is currently testing a three-foot harpoon they hope will catch the nonfunctional satellite Envisat and pull it back to Earth. This particular proposal may also address the rising problem of space debris. “If we can design a harpoon that can cope with Envisat, then it should be able to cope with all other types of spacecraft including the many rocket upper-stages that remain in orbit,” project engineer Alastair Wayman told the BBC . Prior to launch, the harpoons are being tested by being shot at high speeds into various materials that are used to build satellites. “The harpoon goes through these panels like a hot knife through butter ,” said Wayman. “Once the tip is inside, it has a set of barbs that open up and stop the harpoon from coming back out. We’d then de-tumble the satellite with a tether on the other end.” In the end, the ancient technology of the harpoon may prove more effective than robotic arms in space. “Many of these targets will be tumbling and if you were to use a robotic arm, say, that involves a lot of quite complex motions to follow your target,” explained Wayman.”Whereas, with the harpoon, all you have to do is sit a distance away, wait for the target to rotate underneath you, and at the right moment fire your harpoon. And because it’s a really quick event, it takes out a lot of the complexity.” Related: Space Scientists Develop Harpoon System to Capture Rogue Satellites and Clean up Space Junk Prior to its sudden death in 2012, Envisat, operated by the European Space Agency (ESA), was the world’s largest civilian Earth observation satellite. The ESA hopes to bring it back home, starting with a scaled-down harpoon expedition known as the RemoveDEBRIS Mission. The RemoveDEBRIS demo satellite will bring its own debris into space, then attempt to catch it. This experiment will also test a net-based system. Via BBC Images via European Space Agency and  RemoveDEBRIS Mission

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Airbus wants to harpoon a satellite and bring it back to Earth

ESA 3D prints extraterrestrial bricks with concentrated sunlight and moondust

May 4, 2017 by  
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The European Space Agency (ESA) is getting in on the 3D-printing fun with extraterrestrial materials. They used simulated lunar material and the sun’s heat to print bricks that are as strong as gypsum . Their project demonstrates how lunar explorers could one day use a similar method to construct Moon colonies. Future travelers to both the Moon and Mars could use locally-sourced materials to build habitats. Recently University of California, San Diego engineers funded by NASA were able to create super-strong bricks with simulated Mars dirt, and now ESA scientists have been able to use dust with similar composition and grain size as the material on the moon to 3D print bricks. Related: Scientists create super-strong bricks from Mars-like soil Materials engineer Advenit Makaya said they cooked successive layers of moondust 0.1 millimeters thick in a solar furnace at temperatures of 1,000 degrees Celsius – or 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit. The team can finish a 7.9 by 3.9 by 1.1 inch brick in about five hours. The solar furnace is located at the DLR German Aerospace Center , a place you may be familiar with because they recently built the world’s largest artificial sun . The bricks will now go through extensive mechanical testing. They’re not perfect yet; for example, some have warped at their edges because the center cools slower than the edges. Advenit said they’re looking into ways to manage the warping, “but for now this project is a proof of concept, showing that such a lunar construction method is indeed feasible.” The European Union’s Horizon 2020 program will back a follow-up project, RegoLight , which aims to develop 3D printing technology to shape lunar regolith, or the “loose layer of dust, soil, and broken rocks on the Moon surface.” Advenit said the recent ESA project occurred in normal atmospheric conditions, but RegoLight will attempt to 3D print with moondust in the high temperature extremes and vacuum conditions you’d find on the Moon. Via the European Space Agency Images via ESA – G. Porter and ESA/Foster + Partners

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ESA 3D prints extraterrestrial bricks with concentrated sunlight and moondust

Earth’s atmosphere is leaking 90 tons of material every day

July 11, 2016 by  
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Earth has sprung a leak. Every day, 90 metric tons of matter leaks from Earth’s upper atmosphere into space. This sounds scary, but in total the atmosphere weighs about five quadrillion metric tons, so we have a lot of atmosphere to work with. Still, scientists are paying attention to the leak, because it could help us understand what makes a planet habitable.

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Earth’s atmosphere is leaking 90 tons of material every day

New Hubble images finally reveal what the Crab Nebula hides in its core

July 8, 2016 by  
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Legions of scientists have studied and taken images of the Crab Nebula — in fact, it’s one of the most-studied object in space. But until now, astronomers have never been able to glimpse the object at the heart of the massive gas cloud. Until now. New Hubble images have revealed a fast-moving neutron star at the heart of the nebula. The Crab Nebula , which lies 6500 light years away from Earth, was created by a supernova long ago. A massive star in the Taurus constellation exploded at immense speeds, creating the expanding cloud of gas we see today, called a supernova remnant. Most images of the nebula focus on the intense colors and shapes of the nebula’s outer filaments, but what’s going on in the heart of the cloud may be even more interesting. It turns out that when the original star making up the nebula exploded, it left behind its inner core, a strange and exotic object known as a neutron star . While this star has roughly the same mass as our sun, it only measures a few tens of kilometers across — an incredible density made possible by the compression of the subatomic particles that make up the star. Until now, it’s been almost impossible to capture this star’s movement on camera due to its high speed: it rotates approximately 30 times per second. Related: NASA captures shockwave of a massive supernova for the first time ever To capture the neutron star, astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope to take three high-resolution images about 10 years apart each. Those images were combined together to create a sort of time-lapse showing bright “ripples” in the center of the nebula; bands of light are actually caused by the radiation of electrons spiraling through the star’s magnetic field at nearly the speed of light. This isn’t the first time the Crab Nebula has made history . The supernova explosion that created the cloud was one of the first such events in recorded human history.  In the year 1045, astronomers in Japan and China noticed a bright new star in the night sky said to be nearly as bright as the moon. That bright light was caused by the distant explosion, and over the next several years it gradually faded until it was invisible to the naked eye. Luckily, it’s still possible to see with the help of the Hubble . Via Gizmodo Images via ESA/Hubble  

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New Hubble images finally reveal what the Crab Nebula hides in its core

The ESA tests Kombucha resilience on an unprotected journey through space

August 10, 2015 by  
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Samples of kombucha are currently attached to the outside of the International Space Station, exposed to the harsh elements beyond our protective atmosphere. At face value, this may sound downright strange, yet The European Space Agency has its reasons for testing whether the yeast and bacteria in Kombucha can survive an unprotected journey through space. Read the rest of The ESA tests Kombucha resilience on an unprotected journey through space

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Lucy brings the sunshine into every corner of your home

August 10, 2015 by  
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Rome-based Solenica wants to bring the sunshine into your life – literally. For anyone who has dreamed of more sunlight in those dank, dark areas in the home, this brilliant little device – dubbed Lucy – is about to make that fantasy a reality. Lucy works by bouncing sunlight into your space using a solar-powered mirror that follows the sun, reflecting sunlight wherever you need it, all day long. Read the rest of Lucy brings the sunshine into every corner of your home

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Scientists just discovered the building blocks of life on a comet

August 5, 2015 by  
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Incoming data since last year’s landing on comet 67P has revealed the presence of organic compounds, which has the scientific community buzzing about the larger implications. Comets really could be carrying the “building blocks” of life. The European Space Agency landed the Philae probe back in November, 2014, and the information streaming back to Earth is proving to be quite interesting. Read the rest of Scientists just discovered the building blocks of life on a comet

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Mind-blowing Photographs of Earth Taken From Space

October 8, 2013 by  
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Updated weekly, ESA’s Observing the Earth archive consists of thousands of photographs that date back to 2005. These Earth Observation images capture wide-angle snapshots of various landscapes with a precision that could only be matched by an “army of ground-level observers.” With incredible accuracy, these satellite images can capture environmental changes to the landscape in real-time, from a creeping blanket of air pollution to the catastrophic damage wrought by an earthquake. This long-term monitoring provides an objective assessment of human activity’s global impact and even the effects of climate change . Although satellite acquisitions are often depicted as static images, they are actually comprised of layers of workable digital data. Over time, the images collected can reveal the unfolding scale of environmental destruction and weather mapping and help contribute to environmental activism and identification of at-risk areas to natural disasters. Via This Is Colossal + Observing the Earth        

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