7 NASA discoveries that will blow your mind

June 29, 2016 by  
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1. A second mini moon circling Earth The moon has figured prominently in our culture, popping up in songs, poems, and literature throughout the centuries. So NASA’s confirmation that there’s a second moon piqued the curiosity of the masses. Asteroid 2016 HO3 is between 120 to 300 feet in diameter, and really needs a better name so the poets can start composing. While the tiny asteroid likely didn’t enter the scene until about 100 years ago, NASA scientists anticipate it will continue to orbit Earth for several more centuries. 2. 1,284 new planets discovered by Kepler 4.302 exoplanets. That’s the staggering number delivered recently by the Kepler space telescope, and NASA determined 1,284 of those could likely be classified as planets . Past that, 1,327 might be planets too, but the agency needs to research them a little further to officially slap a label on them. On top of all that, the same study confirmed 984 other space objects are also planets. Sifting through these large numbers produces more exciting numbers: out of all of these planets, about nine could potentially support life. It’s the ” largest number of exoplanets ever identified at one time .” The universe we know just got a whole lot broader. 3. Six Earth-like planets that might be able to accommodate life Are we the only sentient beings in the universe? It’s a question typically asked by conspiracy theorists and science fiction authors; NASA’s not known for chasing aliens and UFOs. But the Kepler mission aims to discover terrestrial planets , especially those that might have water and might be able to support life. Before the massive amount of exoplanets were discovered, the Kepler mission identified six other planets in the ” habitable zone ” of their suns . Two are rocky like Earth, and three could contain liquid water. Science Mission Directorate associate administrator John Grunsfeld said, “Each result from the planet-hunting Kepler mission’s treasure trove of data takes us another step closer to answering the question of whether we are alone in the Universe.” Sounds like maybe they could be searching for aliens after all. 4. Flowing water on Mars When we think of weather on Mars , we usually imagine freezing cold temperatures. Usually we’re right; the red planet’s temperature hovers around -80 degrees Fahrenheit most days. That’s one reason why NASA’s discovery of water on Mars was so riveting. Apparently during the summer time, temperatures can swing up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, which is plenty warm enough to thaw ice . The agency said they now think ‘rivers’ of water flow intermittently on Mars. Water is one of the keys to supporting life, and while Mars may not have enough water now, it’s an exciting sign that maybe, just maybe, the planet could someday support a colony of humans. 5. Astronaut pee recycled into sugary drink NASA’s discoveries come not only in the form of second moons and habitable planets, but also in advances to help astronauts thrive in space. The agency developed ” forward osmosis ” technology to transform pee into a sugary drink. Old urine filters required tons of electricity to function, but the new product relies on a semi-permeable bag, performing marvelous feats without needing much energy. In space, every inch matters, and the forward osmosis technology would not only save room, but allow astronauts to reuse even their own pee. Talk about a win for long space journeys – like a mission to Mars. 6. Monkey-like robot designed for rescue missions NASA’s also tackling robotics . Researchers at their Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) designed a robot that’s reminiscent of a monkey , called RoboSimian, for search and rescue missions in environments dangerous for humans. JPL entered the monkey-like robot in DARPA’s Robotics Challenge, where robots entered had to drive a vehicle, open a door, open a valve, use a power drill to cut a hole, navigate difficult terrain, and walk up stairs. Maybe real monkeys typically don’t use power drills or drive vehicles, but RoboSimian was up for most of the tasks . While the robot ultimately stumbled over a few of the jobs, like moving a plug between sockets, in a competition with 22 entrants it still placed fifth. 7. Ice volcanoes on Pluto One mind-blowing discovery isn’t so much a discovery as it is a confession: we know so little about Pluto . We’ve known for many years the planet is extremely cold, but the New Horizons mission has provided loads new information about the dwarf planet that reveals there’s still much to learn. Here’s that thought summed up in two words: ice volcanoes . There are two mountains near Pluto’s south pole that appear to have depressions at the peak, kind of like a volcano. NASA thinks they might have formed when ice, ammonia, methane, or nitrogen erupted, so the agency has started referring to them as “cryovolcanoes.” We’re still not quite sure if they are indeed ice volcanoes, but NASA’s working on answers to the mysteries of Pluto, so stay tuned for future mind-blowing discoveries. Images via NASA/JPL-Caltech , NASA/W. Stenzel , NASA , NASA , NASA , NASA/JPL , and NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

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7 NASA discoveries that will blow your mind

Monarch butterfly populations are multiplying

June 29, 2016 by  
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Monarch butterflies are finally on the rebound. With the colorful pollinators threatened by everything from pesticides to habitat destruction, the U.S. government pledged $3.2 million to the cause last year. Back in March, a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Mexico survey found reason for hope, showing a substantial population increase in migration numbers. But the butterflies aren’t in the clear just yet. According to University of Chicago professor Marcus Kronforst, in 1996 around one billion monarchs migrated, but in 2013 there were just 35 million. The March WWF Mexico survey revealed the insects were rebounding, with numbers rising to roughly 150 million. More milkweed planted has played a part in the rebound, as has weather that suits the butterflies. Related: 8 Ways that you can help save monarch butterflies Natural Resources Defense Council scientist Sylvia Fallon recently told Reuters they are hopeful about curbing butterfly losses. But, she warned,”we must be careful not to declare victory too soon.” She was all too right. Researchers from the United States and Mexico utilized drones and satellite images to uncover evidence of illegal logging in Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site . They published a paper in American Entomologist , in which they report around 25 acres of trees have been chopped down in the last year, destroying important habitat. Mexico environmental officials arrested 35 loggers in early to mid 2015, but landowners claim logging has been ongoing despite the arrests. The researchers began to grasp the scope of the illegal activity through imagery. Sweet Briar College professor Lincoln Brower, lead author on the paper, told TakePart, “You can’t have huge trucks removing all of this wood without knowledge of what’s going on. It really questions the governance of the reserve.” Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation Endangered Species Program Director Sarina Jepsen said that monarch conservation efforts have centered around the problems of pesticides and planting milkweed, but that we shouldn’t forget butterflies also battle deforestation . Via TakePart and Reuters Images via Wikimedia Commons and Luna sin estrellas on Flickr

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Monarch butterfly populations are multiplying

NASA’s New Valkyrie Robot Looks Like a Futuristic Superhero

December 12, 2013 by  
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NASA’s new Valkyrie robot looks like a space-age superhero! Created for the DARPA Robotics Challenge by the Johnson Space Center , the six-foot-tall robot is packed with cameras, sensors and sonar to help it maneuver with grace. The flexible Valkyrie can also be repaired on the spot with modular pieces, making it adaptable for different working conditions. Read the rest of NASA’s New Valkyrie Robot Looks Like a Futuristic Superhero Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: DARPA Robotics challenge , eco design , green design , modular robot , NASA Robot , sustainable design , Valkyrie        

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NASA’s New Valkyrie Robot Looks Like a Futuristic Superhero

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