NASA identifies 219 new planet candidates – and 10 potential ‘Earths’

June 20, 2017 by  
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Our knowledge of the galaxy just expanded significantly, thanks to NASA’s Kepler space telescope. The exoplanet -finding machine allowed the agency to add 219 new planet candidates to their growing list. 10 of those planets are around the size of Earth and are around the range away from a star where water might pool on their surface. This new list of 219 candidate exoplanets is the most comprehensive and detailed from the first four years of Kepler data, according to NASA . It will also be the last catalog from Kepler’s view of a piece of sky in the Cygnus constellation. And it includes a planet National Geographic said could be the most like Earth we’ve found yet: KOI 7711.01. Related: 7 NASA discoveries that will blow your mind KOI 7711.01 is only about 30 percent bigger than Earth. It orbits a star 1,700 light-years away that’s quite like our sun, and receives the correct amount of solar warmth necessary for liquid water. Kepler research scientist Susan Thompson of the SETI Institute told National Geographic, “It gets approximately the same amount of heat that we get from our own star.” But there are still a lot of questions surrounding KOI 7711.01. Thompson said, “It’s hard to say whether it’s really an Earth twin – we need to know more about its atmosphere , whether there’s water on the planet.” After the release this week of the catalog, Kepler has identified 4,034 planet candidates total, according to NASA. 2,335 of those have been verified as exoplanets. The space telescope has also identified around 50 potentially habitable candidates around the size of Earth, with over 30 having been verified. Thompson said they’re now able to shift the focus away from simply finding new individual systems, and onto learning more about the worlds we think may be like Earth. This research has also allowed scientists to better classify planets. According to NASA, Kepler data has allowed scientists to discover a division between the sizes of rocky planets around the size of Earth and gaseous planets that are smaller than Neptune. They didn’t find many planets between those two groups. Scientist Benjamin Fulton of the University of Hawaii in Manoa said in a statement, “We like to think of this study as classifying planets in the same way that biologists identify new species of animals. Finding two distinct groups of exoplanets is like discovering mammals and lizards make up distinct branches of a family tree.” Via National Geographic and NASA Images via NASA/JPL-Caltech and NASA/Ames Research Center/Wendy Stenzel

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NASA identifies 219 new planet candidates – and 10 potential ‘Earths’

IKEA teams up with NASA to design out-of-this-world space saving furniture

June 9, 2017 by  
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IKEA is teaming up with NASA for the coolest collaboration this side of the moon. The Swedish furniture giant wants to figure out how to make a Mars habitat feel like a real home, so they spent a few days at the MDRS Habitat in Utah. Their goal is to look for ways to tackle the problems of urban living (cramped spaces – check, toxic air – check) to find solutions to make life better here on Earth… or Mars. Real astronauts train at the MDRS Habitat in Mars-like desert conditions to prepare for space. This summer, a team of IKEA designers took up the residence in the space for a few days in a mini-training session. The scientists were isolated for 3 days in a confined space isolated in the alkali desert in order to do a little design brainstorming. The design team described it as camping – but better. IKEA wants to figure out how to make small living quarters with tainted air and water more livable. If they can make it work in a small Mars simulation, what is to stop them from making it work across the world? Related: IKEA unveils plan to lift 200,000 people out of poverty “I think that the essence of this collection will be about appreciating what we have on Earth: human beings, plants clean water and air. But also diversity and a sense of belonging – things that we take for granted on a daily basis. After this journey, it’ll probably feel pretty awesome to come home to my own bed,” said IKEA Creative Leader, Michael Nikolic. + IKEA

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IKEA teams up with NASA to design out-of-this-world space saving furniture

New NASA probe will get closer to the sun than any spacecraft in history

June 1, 2017 by  
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Humanity has never before touched the sun , but that’s about to change. NASA is sending the Parker Solar Probe to the sun in 2018, and will get closer to the star’s surface than any other spacecraft in history. They say the landmark mission “will revolutionize our understanding of the sun.” The Parker Solar Probe mission – which NASA describes as humanity’s first visit to a star – will take us closer to the sun than ever before. The probe will need to endure extreme radiation and heat as it ventures into the outer part of the sun’s atmosphere, the corona. NASA says the Parker Solar Probe will gather information on the corona and on the evolution and origin of solar wind . Related: Teen creates world’s lightest satellite and NASA is sending it to space A 4.5-inch-thick carbon-composite shield will protect the instruments inside the spacecraft from crazy temperatures of around 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. The various instruments will be able to image solar wind, and study plasma and energetic particles and magnetic fields. Even though we’re around 93 million miles away from the sun on average, solar wind disturbances can affect us here on Earth. They impact what NASA calls space weather, which can interfere with our satellites . NASA says much like the seafarers of old had to learn about the ocean, now we must learn more about the space environment. The mission holds claim to another first: the first time NASA has named a spacecraft after a living person. Once called the Solar Probe Plus, NASA this week renamed the probe for astrophysicist Eugene Parker, a professor emeritus at the University of Chicago. His work decades ago provided a foundation for much of our knowledge about stars’ interaction with worlds orbiting them. Parker, who will turn 90 this month, said in a statement, “The solar probe is going to a region of space that has never been explored before. It’s very exciting that we’ll finally get a look. One would like to have some more detailed measurements of what’s going on in the solar wind. I’m sure that there will be some surprises. There always are.” Via NASA ( 1 , 2 ) Images via John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and JHU/APL

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New NASA probe will get closer to the sun than any spacecraft in history

Rare bag of moon dust to be auctioned for millions of dollars

May 23, 2017 by  
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Souvenirs from humankind’s missions to the Moon are extremely rare; NASA usually holds on to moon rocks or moon dust instead of allowing private owners to keep them. But they couldn’t hold on to one bag of moon dust. The artifact – supposedly collected by astronaut Neil Armstrong – is the property of a Chicago lawyer, and now she plans to auction it off. After Armstrong took that historic leap for mankind on the Apollo 11 mission, he did what many of us would do – grabbed a space souvenir in the form of a handful of moon rocks placed in a bag, which he put into a second bag. That second outer bag then embarked on a journey of its own. When the bag was accidentally put up for auction, lawyer Nancy Lee Carlson obtained the bag in February 2015 for $995 on a federal auction website. Related: ESA 3D prints extraterrestrial bricks with concentrated sunlight and moondust Carlson kept the bag for a while and then decided to send it to NASA to see if it was really authentic. NASA said the bag did indeed have traces of the moon’s dark gray powder. But then the agency tried to confiscate the bag as the property of the government . Carlson fought the move and this year in February a judge decided she’d acquired the bag legally and could keep it. NASA put out a statement after the ruling: “This artifact, we believe, belongs to the American people and should be on display for the public, which is where it was before all of these unfortunate events occurred.” Before going up for auction the bag belonged to Max Ary of the Kansas Cosmosphere museum; he was convicted of stealing such interstellar objects and putting them up for sale, and when several of his possessions were seized by the government, the moon bag was among them but was mixed up with another bag lacking the treasured dust. Now Carlson plans to auction the bag off once again on July 20, send some money to charity , and set up a scholarship at her alma mater, Northern Michigan University. Auctioneers think the bag could be sold for between two to four million dollars. Sotheby’s auction house curators think the bag of moon dust could be the only privately held object of this nature on Earth. Via the Chicago Tribune Images via Wikimedia Commons and screenshot

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Rare bag of moon dust to be auctioned for millions of dollars

Giant sinkhole opens up in front of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort

May 23, 2017 by  
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One of President Donald Trump’s claims on the campaign trail was that he’d “drain the swamp” if elected. Whether he kept that promise is up for debate; sure, he selected business tycoons like Rex Tillerson to fill top government positions but also chose people like the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Elaine Chao. But now the swamp may be encroaching on another part of America: Mar-a-Lago , Trump’s Florida golf club, where a sinkhole just opened up. Obviously, the Internet didn’t pass up on the opportunity to dish out puns. Yesterday the town of Palm Beach, Florida – where Mar-a-Lago is located – posted a traffic alert about the sinkhole on their website. “A four feet by four feet sinkhole has formed on Southern Boulevard directly in front of Mar-a-Lago,” the notice reads. “It appears to be in the vicinity of the newly installed water main. West Palm Beach utilities distribution crews have secured the area and will most likely need to do some exploratory excavation today. One lane is closed but the road remains open. Please pay attention to signs.” Related: Trump saved a toxic pesticide – and then it poisoned a bunch of farmworkers Naturally this was just too easy for Twitter . Some saw the sinkhole as a sign from God – whether Republicans would listen was another matter. Sinkhole opens next to Mar-a-Lago in obvious sign from increasingly irritated God https://t.co/IBicOjX698 pic.twitter.com/IhlzTpTU8K — Jezebel (@Jezebel) May 22, 2017 "Give us a sign, God."[sinkhole appears in front of Mar-A-Lago]"Hm, can't be sure that's anything." https://t.co/oTrfQkYBxR — Full Frontal (@FullFrontalSamB) May 22, 2017 Some people wondered if the sinkhole had anything to do with the illuminated orb Trump was pictured touching in Saudi Arabia. Actions have consequences, people. pic.twitter.com/r0LOrGBldy — Slade Sohmer (@Slade) May 22, 2017 The #sinkhole at Mar-a-Lago is absolutely NOT an ancient evil escaping its glided cage after being released by The Orb. No siree. — Rogue Illuminati (@RogueIlluminati) May 23, 2017 Others thought perhaps the sinkhole had been mistakenly termed… My working theory: It’s a hellmouth, not a sinkhole. — Jeff LaMarche (@jeff_lamarche) May 22, 2017 Sean Spicer wants to make it very clear there is NOT a sinkhole in front of Mar-A-Lago… It is a Florida Swamp Center. — Tony Posnanski (@tonyposnanski) May 22, 2017 Some Twitter users actually began to cheer for the sinkhole. rare heroic sinkhole ? https://t.co/i2i1I287vv — AS ? (@Alschapel) May 22, 2017 @townpalmbeach @Fahrenthold Has anyone ever rooted for a sinkhole before? — chuckyou2 (@chuckyoutwo) May 22, 2017 And as the metaphors left everyone’s heads spinning about the mysterious origins of the clearly supernatural sinkhole, former The Onion writer Dennis DiClaudio stepped in to make one thing clear: Hate to be pedantic, but the Mar-a-lago sinkhole isn't *technically* a metaphor, because metaphors aren't *that* obvious. — Dennis DiClaudio (@dennisdiclaudio) May 22, 2017 After Palm Beach has dealt with the sinkhole, we think Washington, D.C. could use a little “exploratory excavation” as well. Via The Washington Post Images via screenshot and screenshot

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Giant sinkhole opens up in front of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort

Bio-friendly energy storage device draws electrical power from the human body

May 23, 2017 by  
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Humans are constantly on the go, so doesn’t it make sense to harness some of that kinetic energy ? Scientists from UCLA and the University of Connecticut asked themselves that question, which eventually led to them developing an energy-storing device that can draw electrical power from the human body. The biological supercapacitor is a protein-based battery-like device capable of extracting energy from the human body. A supercapacitor is a term used to describe a high-performance electrochemical capacitor (ECs), which is similar to batteries but has a much higher power density. Supercapacitors have faster char-discharge rates, lower internal resistance, higher power density and better cycling ability than batteries. Once energy is obtained by the newly-developed energy storage device, it is then released inside an electrical circuit which looks similar to an implantable medical device. According to the paper Ultrathin Graphene – Protein Supercapacitors for Miniaturized Bioelectronics , which was published earlier this month, the supercapacitor utilizes a “harvester” that operates by using the body’s heat and movements to capture electrical charges from ions, which are found in human body fluids including blood and urine. Bleeping Computer reports , “As electrodes, the harvester uses a carbon nanomaterial called graphene, layered with modified human proteins. The electrodes collect energy from the human body , relay it to the harvester, which then stores it for later use.” Graphene sheets can be drawn as thin as a few atoms, which means the incredibly thin supercapacitors could potentially serve as alternatives to batteries. Related: Researchers close in on world’s first 100% self-charging lithium-ion battery Most importantly, the supercapacitors are bio-friendly , as they are made with natural materials. Graphene is composed of carbon, whereas current implantable medical devices are powered by classic batteries that contain toxic materials. Because the new device is thinner than a human hair, it is more flexible than traditional batteries, as well. This technology could have far-reaching implications for the medical industry. Researchers believe that an implantable medical device using a supercapacitor could last a lifetime. In result, patients wouldn’t need to go through operations at regular intervals to replace batteries – one of the main complications with implantable medical devices. In addition to being used with pacemakers, the new energy device could be paired with devices that stimulate other organs, such as the brain, stomach and/or bladder. + UCLA Via Bleeping Computer Images via Islam Mosa/University of Connecticut and Maher El-Kady/UCLA , Pixabay

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Bio-friendly energy storage device draws electrical power from the human body

Teen creates world’s lightest satellite and NASA is sending it to space

May 19, 2017 by  
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An 18-year-old from Tamil Nadu in India has built what experts are hailing as the “world’s lightest satellite.” Bonus: NASA’s going to send it into space. Rifath Shaarook’s 1.5-inch cube weighs a mite 2.2 ounces—lighter than many smartphones. “We built it completely from scratch,” Shaarook told India’s Business Standard . “It will have a new kind of on-board computer and eight indigenous built-in sensors to measure acceleration, rotation and the magnetosphere of the Earth.” The satellite beat more than 86,000 entries from 57 countries to win Cubes in Space , a design competition organized by education nonprofit iDoodle with the support of NASA and the Colorado Space Grant Consortium . Shaarook named his design KalamSat after A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, India’s former president and a famous aerospace scientist in his own right. Related: Egyptian teenager creates next-generation quantum space propulsion system Come June 22, NASA will send the cube on a four-hour suborbital spaceflight, where it’ll operate for 12 minutes under microgravity conditions. Shaarook currently works as lead scientist at Space Kidz India , an organization in Chennai that promotes science and education for the country’s youth. Via BBC News

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Stephen Hawking: Humans must leave Earth within 100 years to survive

May 8, 2017 by  
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Would you like to travel to Mars? Get in line. According to Stephen Hawking , humans need to leave planet Earth within 100 years or perish due to overpopulation, climate change , disease and artificial intelligence. In the past, Hawking claimed that humans had about 1,000 years left on the planet. In BBC’s Expedition New Earth documentary, however, he states that humans must colonize Mars within the next century if they have any hope of survival. Throughout the program, Hawking reveals the technological and scientific advances that will enable life to exist on other planets . According to BBC , the documentary will show “Hawking’s ambition isn’t as fantastical as it sounds—that science fact is closer to science fiction than we ever thought.” Related: Stephen Hawking announces plan to explore Alpha Centauri for alien life The goal to transport billions of people to colonies on Mars may not be as outlandish as it seems. After all, Elon Musk of SpaceX is already planning to send humans (on a one-way trip) to Mars within the next decade, reports The Telegraph. Some, such as columnist Eric Mack, are shaking their heads at the notion, however. In an article published on Forbes , Mack expressed that a reality check is needed for anyone who believes Mars, the moon, or other nearby planets are more hospital than Earth after countless disasters. “Just cleaning up our own mess and starting over by rising from the rubble seems more practical” and more affordable than learning new methods of growing food or surviving radiation poisoning on Mars, he wrote . The columnist also added that “somehow, the grass is always greener for some people, even when it’s on a dead Red Planet.” + Expedition New Earth Via Telegraph

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Stephen Hawking: Humans must leave Earth within 100 years to survive

A mile-wide asteroid is flying uncomfortably close to Earth tomorrow

April 18, 2017 by  
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A mile-wide asteroid is about to swing by the Earth in the closest shave we’ve had in over a decade. Nicknamed ‘The Rock’ because of its massive size, the asteroid is barreling towards us at 75,072 mph – and it’ll fly past Earth at 4.6 times the distance of the moon. Scientists don’t know much about The Rock – it was only spotted 3 years ago – but we do know that it is twice as reflective as the moon, so you might be able to see it fly past on its way through the galaxy. Object 2014 J025 will fly 1,097,590 miles away from the earth tomorrow – and it won’t be this close again for at least another 400 years. We’ll be safe here on the ground, but it is also a pretty close shave – scientists call it “among the strongest asteroid radar targets of the year.” A large ~2 km asteroid, 143404 (2003 BD44), will pass safely by the Earth today (22 Lunar Distance) pic.twitter.com/X4pWnQyjo1 — Ron Baalke (@RonBaalke) April 18, 2017 Related: Scientists capture first ever image of dark matter web that connects galaxies The Rock should pass by around 8:24 am (Eastern). This will be the closest asteroid this size to pass by Earth since September 2004, when 4179 Toutatis passed within 4 lunar distances. While there isn’t any chance it will hit Earth, it is a startling reminder of how close space debris comes to smacking into the planet all the time. Via the Daily Mail images via NASA and Kevin Gill

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A mile-wide asteroid is flying uncomfortably close to Earth tomorrow

NASA announces alien life could be thriving on one of Saturn’s moons

April 13, 2017 by  
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In a live broadcast today, NASA researchers announced the agency has uncovered the existence of key ingredients for life as we know it on Saturn’s icy moon, Enceladus . Scientists already knew that the moon had liquid water on the surface, due to the presence of geysers spewing water near the moon’s south pole. Now, hydrogen has been detected in those jets of water, which suggests the strong possibility that Enceladus’s oceans could support microbial life. It may seem strange that an ice-covered world like Enceladus is being looked at as a potential source of extraterrestrial life, but beneath the planet’s icy shell spans a worldwide ocean over a rocky core. The ice is thought to act as a protective outer layer for the sea, the same way that our atmosphere protects Earth and makes life possible on our own planet. In fact, NASA is closely observing many of these “ ocean worlds ” for signs of life. While Enceladus’s geysers have been known to scientists since 2005, this is the first time the Cassini probe has been able to detect any traces of possible life within them. It’s believed that the plumes originate in a hydrothermal system within the moon’s core, estimated to be 2 1/2 times more powerful than the one that drives Yellowstone’s geysers and hot springs. Despite the icy outer shell, the gravitational pull of Saturn provides heat for the water in the moon’s interior, another encouraging sign for the development of life. Related: Trump plans to strip NASA’s earth science division, promote mission to Mars This new information about the moon comes from October 2015, when the Cassini craft flew into the plumes themselves, a mere 30 miles above the moon’s surface. The probe was able to capture particles from the plume inside a piece of equipment called an Ion Neutral Mass Spectrometer, which can analyze the makeup of material encountered on its journey through space. The probe detected a number of interesting organic molecules, including molecular hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane. The level of hydrogen , in particular, was surprising to researchers . This volatile gas isn’t easily captured on small, icy worlds like Enceladus, so there must be some chemical process beneath the surface producing the molecules. It may be that hot water from the ocean is flowing into iron-rich cracks in the sea floor, causing a chemical reaction that is constantly replenishing the ocean’s supply of molecular hydrogen. This is the same process that happens in Earth’s own hydrothermal vents , which helps fuel the strange and diverse ecosystems of the deep oceans. Because we’re familiar with exactly how this process supports Earth life, there’s a strong possibility that life could thrive on Enceladus in the same way. Unfortunately, we don’t currently have the instruments necessary to detect life directly on these watery worlds – only to look for the chemical indications of an environment that could potentially support it. Related: NASA discovers 7 Earth-sized planets outside our solar system NASA also today announced that they had found evidence of similar water plumes on Jupiter’s moon Europa , though less is known about their makeup. Unlike the Saturn Cassini mission, scientists don’t currently have an up-close view of Europa. Instead, they had to rely on data from the Hubble Space Telescope , which has been monitoring the moon to try to learn more about the makeup of its oceans. We may not know for certain until the 2020s, when NASA’s Europa Clipper mission is scheduled to launch. Via NASA Images via NASA/JPL

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NASA announces alien life could be thriving on one of Saturn’s moons

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