For 25 years now, the Hubble Space Telescope (and many other satellites) has stimulated us with numerous jaw dropping images of space—stretching from the Great Nebula of Orion, to the Whirlpool Galaxy. They all look so huge and comprehensive, you can nearly imagine yourself moving through space, looking directly at them from up close—yet even the closest among them are unfathomably far away (the closest planet is nearly 162 million miles/261 million kilometers from sun, while the closest star is over 4 light-years distant). In a recent video, the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos, to be exact) visualizes how our sky may look if some of these marvels were in nearer proximity to Earth. Watch the video below:
It was a big year for space exploration, from rodeo-riding a comet to getting more familiar with Mars, distant planets and the beginning of it all.
1. Rosetta and Philae meet a comet
Photo by: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/ROLIS/DLR (Click Image to Image)
The first successful soft landing on a comet wasn’t just the biggest space story of the year. It was probably also the biggest science story of 2014.
The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft traveled 10 years to drop the Philae lander onto a comet. The landing was bumpy, but scientists were able to conduct a few days worth of experiments on the comet’s surface that first week.
But neither Rosetta nor Philae may be finished yet.
Look for more great science from both in 2015.
2. Orion lifts off
Orion lift Off (Click Image to download)
A new era in space exploration began in December with the successful test flight of the Orion spacecraft, thanks to a big assist from some massive, heavy rockets.
Orion is scheduled to make an unmanned trip to the moon, but it is later expected to carry manned missions to an asteroid and Mars.
3. New Horizons awakens
Artist ‘s Impression of New Horizons near Pluto and its moon Charon (Click Image to Download)
Rosetta wasn’t the only spacecraft to wake up after a long journey in 2014. In December, NASA’s New Horizons probe switched itself back “on” after a 1,873 day-long hibernation.
Originally launched in 2006, the craft is on track for its mission to survey Pluto and its moons in 2015.
4. India’s Mars Orbiter Mission
Mars Picture taken by ISRO’s MOM (Click Image to Download)
The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also called Mangalyaan is a spacecraft orbiting Mars since 24 September 2014. It was launched on 5 November 2013 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It is India’s first interplanetary mission and ISRO has become the fourth space agency to reach Mars, after the Soviet space program, NASA, and the European Space Agency. It is also the first nation to reach Mars orbit on its first attempt, and the first Asian nation to do so.
5. Comet buzzes Mars
In October, we got a rare close look at a comet on a once-in-a-million-years journey. The comet came so close to Mars that humanity’s orbiters circling the Red Planet actually had to hide on the other side to avoid the comet’s debris cloud.
The orbiters and rovers on the surface were still able to capture images of the comet as it whizzed by.
6. Exoplanets everywhere
In 2014, not only did our knowledge of distant exoplanets grow by leaps and bounds, but so did the evidence that many of them might host the elements to support life as we know it.
As of December 15, 2014, we know of 22 planets beyond our solar system where there is reason to believe they could be habitable.
7. Space is still hard
2014 was not a year without tragedy in space and near-space exploration. In October, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo crashed, killing one pilot.
This came within days of an explosion that happened after the liftoff of an unmanned Antares rocket carrying a payload to the International Space Station. Also, in August a SpaceX rocket exploded over Texas during a test flight.
In a year when science began to make amazing feats look easy, these were three reminders of the old adage that “space is hard.”
8. ALMA’s Image of Another Solar System
The best image ever of planet formation around an infant star.
It’s a real image of a planet-forming disk around the infant star, in this case a sunlike star approximately 450 light-years from Earth, known to astronomers as HL Tau.
It is impressive. It reveals in great detail what astronomers just a few decades ago were only theorizing about, and that is that all stars are believed to form within slow-spinning clouds of gas and dust. As the clouds spin, they flatten out into these disks. Over time, the dust particles in the cloud begin to stick together by a process known as acretion, and that process is what ultimately forms the planets like our Earth, and moons like our moon, plus the asteroids, all of which mostly still move (as they did in the original cloud) in this flat space – this disk-like space – encircling the parent star.
9.Aiming for Manned Missions to Mars
In a year when Mars rovers continued to expand our understanding of the Red Planet, momentum continued to build for a manned mission to our distant neighbor.
NASA is looking seriously at “deep sleep” methods to easily get humans to Mars, likely in the 2030s. Elon Musk started talking about getting mankind to Mars in half that time, and Mars One is already looking for astronauts to blast off in less than a decade’s time, despite potential problems.
10. Racing back to the moon
Mars is cool, but isn’t there more to do on the moon?
Lunar Mission One is just one of the teams that thinks so — it raised about a million dollars for its plan to drill the moon’s south pole.
Meanwhile, teams competing in the Google Lunar XPrize continued working toward returning to our lone natural satellite.
The moon, Mars, comets, asteroids and beyond — stay tuned to @crave to see where we go in 2015.
An artist’s impression of what ancient Mars may have looked like, based on geological data (Click Image to Download)
Data collected by the Curiosity Rover suggests Mars once featured a moderate climate capable of fostering lakes of liquid water and even a vast sea, and that this climate could have extended to many parts of the Red Planet.
NASA’s Curiosity Rover is currently investigating the lowest sedimentary layers of Mount Sharp, a section of rock 500 feet (150 meters) high known as the Murray formation. Observations taken by the robotic probe suggests the mountain was produced by sediments deposited in a large lake bed over tens of millions of years. The observation strongly suggests that ancient Mars maintained a long-lasting water-friendly climate.
According to NASA scientists, it’s an hypothesis that’s challenging the notion that warm and wet conditions were transient, local, or only underground. It now appears that Mars’ ancient, thicker atmosphere raised temperatures above freezing globally, but NASA scientists aren’t entirely sure how the atmosphere produced the required effects.
A Mountain in a Crater
Scientists have struggled to explain why the mountain sits inside a crater. Last year, a study suggested that the 3.5-mile-tall Mount Sharp formed as strong winds carried dust and sand into the crater in which it rests. It was actually bad news at the time because it suggested that the Gale Crater probably never contained a lake, which was one of the primary reasons why NASA sent Curiosity there in the first place.
But this new analysis has revived an older theory which suggests that Mount Sharp is the eroded remnant of sedimentary layers that once filled the crater — layers of silt that were originally deposited on a massive lakebed.
Cross-bedding seen in the layers of this Martian rock is evidence of movement of water recorded by waves or ripples of loose sediment the water passed over. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.
Thanks to on-the-ground observations made by Curiosity, NASA scientists have now caught a glimpse of Mount Sharp’s lower flanks, which feature hundreds of rock layers. These layers, which alternate between lake, river, and wind deposits, bear witness to the repeated filling and evaporation of a Martian lake. Rivers carried sand and silt to the lake, depositing the sediments at the mouth of the river to form deltas. It was a cycle that repeated over and over again.
Cross-bedding seen in the layers of this Martian rock is evidence of movement of water recorded by waves or ripples of loose sediment the water passed over. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.
“The great thing about a lake that occurs repeatedly, over and over, is that each time it comes back it is another experiment to tell you how the environment works,” noted Curiosity Project Scientist John Grotzinger in a NASA report. “As Curiosity climbs higher on Mount Sharp, we will have a series of experiments to show patterns in how the atmosphere and the water and the sediments interact. We may see how the chemistry changed in the lakes over time. This is a hypothesis supported by what we have observed so far, providing a framework for testing in the coming year.”
After the sediments hardened to rock, the resulting layers of sediment were sculpted over time into a mountainous shape by wind erosion that carved away the material between the crater perimeter and what’s now the edge of the mountain.
Greater Potential for Life?
The new discovery has major implications for our understanding of the Red Planet. It suggests Mars was far warmer and wetter in its first two billion years than previous assumed. It also suggests that Mars experienced a vigorous and dynamic global hydrological cycle that involved rains or snows to maintain such moderate conditions.
A pic depicting a lake of water partially filling Mars’ Gale Crater, receiving runoff from snow melting on the crater’s northern rim. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.
Source : io9.com
ALL CREDIT GOES TO NASA
Bennu’s Journey is a 6-minute animated movie about NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, Asteroid Bennu, and the formation of our solar system. Born from the rubble of a violent collision, hurled through space for millions of years, Asteroid Bennu has had a tough life in a rough neighborhood – the early solar system. Bennu’s Journey shows what is known and what remains mysterious about the evolution of Bennu and the planets. By retrieving a sample of Bennu, OSIRIS-REx will teach us more about the raw ingredients of the solar system and our own origins.
Using two supercomputers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Swiss National Supercomputing Center, a group of researchers headed by Dr Simon Portegies Zwart of Leiden Observatory has simulated the long term evolution of the Milky Way Galaxy over a period of six billion years – from 10 to 4 billion years ago.
(Click Image to Download)
If you took a photo of our Milky Way Galaxy today from a distance, it would show a spiral galaxy with a bright, central bar of dense star populations.
The Sun would be located outside this bar near one of the spiral arms composed of stars and interstellar dust; beyond the visible galaxy would be a dark matter halo.
Now, if you wanted to go back in time and take a video of our Milky Way Galaxy forming, you could go back 10 billion years, but many of the galaxy’s prominent features would not be recognizable.
You would have to wait about 5 billion years to witness the formation of our Solar System. By this point, 4.6 billion years ago, the galaxy looks almost like it does today.
This is the timeline Dr Portegies Zwart and his colleagues are seeing emerge when they use supercomputers to simulate the Milky Way’s evolution.
This image shows what the Milky Way Galaxy looked like ten billion years ago. Image credit: SURFsara / J. Bédorf / NVIDIA.
“We don’t really know how the structure of the galaxy came about. What we realized is we can use the positions, velocities, and masses of stars in three-dimensional space to allow the structure to emerge out of the self-gravity of the system,” Dr Portegies Zwart said.
The challenge of computing galactic structure on a star-by-star basis is, as you might imagine, the sheer number of stars in the Milky Way – at least 100 billion. Therefore, the team needed at least a 100 billion-particle simulation to connect all the dots.
Before the development of the team’s code, known as Bonsai, the largest galaxy simulation topped out around 100 million particles.
The team tested an early version of Bonsai on the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility’s Titan – the second-most-powerful supercomputer in the world – to improve scalability in the code.
After scaling Bonsai, the scientists ran Bonsai on the Piz Daint supercomputer at the Swiss National Supercomputing Center and simulated galaxy formation over 6 billion years with 51 million particles representing the forces of stars and dark matter.
After a successful Piz Daint run, the team returned to Titan to maximize the code’s parallelism. Bonsai achieved nearly 25 petaflops of sustained single-precision, floating point performance on the Titan.
The team aims to compare simulation results to new observations coming from ESA’s Gaia satellite launched in 2013.
“One percent of the particles, or stars, in our simulated galaxy should match Gaia data,” Dr Portegies Zwart said.
Source : sci-news
World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking told the BBC he believes future developments in artificial intelligence (AI) have the potential to eradicate mankind.
The Cambridge professor, who relies on a form of artificial intelligence to communicate, said if technology could match human capabilities “it would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate.”
He also said that due to biological limitations, there would be no way humans could match the speed of development of technology.
“Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded,” he said.
“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”
Hawking suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a form of motor neuron disease, and uses AI technology as part of a system which senses how he thinks and predicts which words he will use next.
His bleak forecast came in response to questions about updates to his AI communication systems.
His latest upgrade, developed by Intel Corporation over the past three years, will allow the professor to write up to 10 times faster and communicate more effectively with friends, family and students.
“With the improvements made, I am now able to write much faster, and it means that I can continue to give lectures, write papers and books and, of course, speak with my family and friends more easily.”
“This new system is life changing for me, and I hope it will serve me well for the next 20 years,” he said.
Other technology specialists do not share Hawking’s grim outlook. Rollo Carpenter, creator of Cleverbot, said he believes mankind will maintain control over technology.
“I believe we will remain in charge of the technology for a decently long time and the potential of it to solve many of the world problems will be realized,” he said.
Carpenter’s software responds to stimulation from conversations with actual humans, and has the capability to learn from its previous interactions.
Cleverbot has scored highly in the ‘Turing test’, which is designed to examine how closely machines can replicate human behavior.
“We cannot quite know what will happen if a machine exceeds our own intelligence, so we can’t know if we’ll be infinitely helped by it, or ignored by it and sidelined, or conceivably destroyed by it,” Carpenter added.
Technology and a rise in the capabilities of AI are already affecting workplaces nationwide, as many employers opt to invest in a machine, rather than hiring people.
In November, a study from the University of Oxford suggested that a third of UK jobs could be replaced by machines over the next two decades.
Low-paid jobs featuring repetitive tasks are most likely to be superseded by technology, with clerical and support service jobs most at risk.
The study further found that jobs with a salary under £30,000 are almost five times more likely to be replaced than jobs over £100,000.
Source : RT
An artist’s illustration depicts the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) in its enclosure. It eventually will be the world’s largest “eye on the sky.” (Click Image to Download)
The world’s largest telescope has gotten its official construction go-ahead, keeping the enormous instrument on track to start observing the heavens in 2024.
The European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), which will feature a light-collecting surface 128 feet (39 meters) wide, has been greenlit for construction atop Cerro Armazones in Chile’s Atacama Desert, officials with the European Southern Observatory (ESO) announced Thursday (Dec. 4).
The current construction approval applies only to Phase 1; contracts for this work will be awarded in late 2015. The Phase 2 components will be approved as more funding becomes available, ESO officials said.
“The funds that are now committed will allow the construction of a fully working E-ELT that will be the most powerful of all the extremely large telescope projects currently planned, with superior light-collecting area and instrumentation,” de Zeeuw said. “It will allow the initial characterization of Earth-mass exoplanets, the study of the resolved stellar populations in nearby galaxies as well as ultra-sensitive observations of the deep universe.”
the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) — which, not surprisingly, will boast a light-collecting surface 30 m, or 98 feet, wide — is slated to start observing from Hawaii’s Mauna Kea in 2022. Like E-ELT, TMT’s primary mirror will be composed of hundreds of relatively small segments.
All three megascopes should help researchers tackle some of the biggest questions in astronomy, including the nature of the mysterious dark matter and dark energy that make up most of the universe.
Source : Discovery.com
Orion illustration (Click Image to Download)
NASA’s newest capsule, designed to take astronauts deeper into space than ever before, is ready to launch to space for the first time on Thursday (Dec. 4).
The space agency’s new Orion space capsule is scheduled to fly to orbit on an unmanned test flight at 7:05 a.m. EST (1205 GMT) from Space Launch Complex 37 here in Cape Canaveral, Florida Thursday before being recovered in the Pacific Ocean 4.5 hours later. Orion is currently positioned on top of the United Launch Alliance Delta 4 Heavy rocket that will deliver it into space on its ambitious test flight, and everything is looking good for launch day.
ORION FLIGHT TEST ANIMATED VIDEO BY NASA
Orion — which was built for NASA by Lockheed Martin — will orbit Earth twice during its test flight, called Exploration Test Flight-1 (EFT-1). On its second orbit, the spacecraft will climb about 3,600 miles (5,793 kilometers) above Earth’s surface, farther than any spacecraft made for humans has flown in more than 40 years.
You can watch the historic Orion flight live on Space.com via NASA TV Thursday at 4:30 a.m. EST (0930 GMT).
NASA plans to use the Orion capsule as part of a system that could bring humans to Mars or an asteroid towed into orbit around the moon for the first time.
Source : Space.com
Source : universetoday.com
Video Caption: Animation details NASA’s Orion Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) mission launching on Dec. 4. 2014. Credit: NASA
It’s not Science Fiction! It’s Not Star Trek!
No. It’s a really, really big NASA Mission! It’s Orion!
In fact, it’s the biggest and most important development in US Human Spaceflight since the end of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011.
Orion is launching soon on its first flight, the pathfinding Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) mission and sets NASA on the path to send humans to Mars in the 2030s.
Watch this cool NASA animation beautifully detailing every key step of Orion’s First Launch!
Orion is designed to take humans farther than they’ve ever gone before. Even farther into deep space than NASA’s Apollo moon landing which ended more than four decades ago!
Orion atop Delta 4 Heavy Booster. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett (Click Image to Download)
We are T-MINUS 4 Days and Counting to the inaugural blastoff of Orion as of today, Sunday, November 30, 2014.
Every aspect of the final processing steps now in progress by engineers and technicians from NASA, rocket provider United Launch Alliance, and Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin is proceeding smoothly and marching towards launch.
Orion will lift off on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket on its inaugural test flight to space on the uncrewed Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) mission at 7:05 a.m. EST on December 4, 2014, from Space Launch Complex 37 (SLC-37) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The two-orbit, four and a half hour Orion EFT-1 flight around Earth will lift the Orion spacecraft and its attached second stage to an orbital altitude of 3,600 miles, about 15 times higher than the International Space Station (ISS) – and farther than any human spacecraft has journeyed in 40 years.
Orion is NASA’s next generation human rated vehicle that will carry America’s astronauts beyond Earth on voyages venturing farther into deep space than ever before – beyond the Moon to Asteroids, Mars, and other destinations in our Solar System.
(Click Image to Download)
NASA’s newest deep space capsule Orion, is getting ready for its first uncrewed test flight, launching next week.
The space agency and Lockheed Martin – the company that manufactured Orion for NASA – have given the “go” to proceed with the capsule’s robotic test on Dec. 4. The company and agency finished their “Flight Readiness Review” on Nov. 20, clearing the way for Orion’s first test flight.
“The FRR is a rigorous assessment of the spacecraft, its systems, mission operations and support functions needed to successfully complete Orion’s first voyage to space,” NASA officials said in a statement.
Orion Spacecraft illustration (Click Image to Download)
NASA officials hope that Orion will eventually be able to take humans to deep space destinations like Mars, but first, the capsule’s systems need to get through a series of flight tests starting with the first one next week.
Orion is scheduled to launch to space atop a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 Heavy rocket from Florida. The spacecraft is outfitted with more than 1,000 sensors to gather data about how the capsule performs under the harsh conditions in space and during re-entry.
In total, the test flight should last about 4.5 hours. Orion will make two orbits of Earth with one of them taking it as high as 3,600 miles from the planet. The spacecraft will gain speed as it comes back down from its position in orbit, before re-entering the atmosphere. Orion’s heat shield is the largest of its kind ever manufactured, and the test will help scientists see if it can efficiently protect the capsule during re-entry.
The test — called Exploration Flight Test-1 — will also help officials check out Orion’s parachute system, designed to slow down the spacecraft before its expected splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. Officials will be on hand to fish Orion out of the ocean after it returns to Earth.
NASA, U.S. Navy and Lockheed Martin officials have started to prepare for activities after splashdown.
“At Naval Base San Diego, two Navy ships, the USS Anchorage and the USNS Salvor, have been outfitted with the necessary tools and equipment needed to return Orion to land after the flight test,” NASA officials said in the same statement.
Source : Foxnews