[VIDEO] If some celestial bodies were closer to us


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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:

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NASA’s Messenger Spacecraft Crashes into Mercury, Captures Stunning Shots Before Demise


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Artist rendering of Messenger above Mercury.

NASA confirmed Thursday afternoon that its Messenger spacecraft collided into Mercury’s surface at more than 8,000 mph, creating a new crater on the planet.

NOTE : MESSENGER (a backronym of MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) was a robotic NASA spacecraft which orbited the planet Mercury.MESSENGER became the second mission after Mariner 10’s 1975 flyby to reach Mercury when it made a flyby in January 2008, followed by a second flyby in October 2008, and a third flyby in September 2009, prior to entering Mercury’s orbit in March 2011. It was the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury.

“Going out with a bang as it impacts the surface of Mercury, we are celebrating Messenger as more than a successful mission,” John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate said. “The Messenger mission will continue to provide scientists with a bonanza of new results as we begin the next phase of this mission — analyzing the exciting data already in the archives, and unraveling the mysteries of Mercury.”

But before Messenger’s years-long mission came an end, NASA released several new photos of Mercury, as taken by the spacecraft. Some of these photos were composite imagery, combining years of data and photos collected by Messenger, according to CNET.

Here’s one of the incredible false-color images recently published by NASA. The different colors signify variations in mineral composition, topography and other factors on Mercury’s surface.

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Here are some images of Mercury,

Click Image to Start Slideshow

The mission ended, according to NASA, because the spacecraft’s thrusters have run out of fuel.

Source : Weather.com

Our star is five billion years younger than most in the Milky Way


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Our sun is nearly 4.5 billion years — which means it missed the charming initial years of the Milky Way galaxy. If you were standing on a planet nearly about 10 billion years ago, when the Milky Way was pretty young, the night sky would have appeared very different. The image below is an artist’s impression of the night sky on a planet in a relatively young Milky Way-type galaxy, the way our galaxy was 10 billion years ago. You can see “the sky are ablaze with star birth. Pink clouds of gas harbor newborn stars, and bluish-white, young star clusters litter the landscape,” as NASA explains.

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Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Z. Levay (STScI)

A recent study of young galaxies like our own demonstrates that as these galaxies slow down creating stars, they also stop developing as quickly in general. Which is quite logical. NASA explains:

“Astronomers don’t have baby pictures of our Milky Way’s formative years to trace the history of stellar growth so they studied galaxies similar in mass to our Milky Way, found in deep surveys of the universe. The farther into the universe astronomers look, the further back in time they are seeing, because starlight from long ago is just arriving at Earth now. From those surveys, stretching back in time more than 10 billion years, researchers assembled an album of images containing nearly 2,000 snapshots of Milky Way-like galaxies. The new census provides the most complete picture yet of how galaxies like the Milky Way grew over the past 10 billion years into today’s majestic spiral galaxies. The multi-wavelength study spans ultraviolet to far-infrared light, combining observations from NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory, and ground-based telescopes, including the Magellan Baade Telescope at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile.”

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Above is a selection of Hubble Space Telescope photos, displaying how galaxies similar to our own developed over time.

Source : Physics-astronomy

Hubble Space Telescope Views Globular Cluster Messier 22


The crammed centre of Messier 22

This newly released Hubble image shows Messier 22, the brightest globular cluster visible from the northern hemisphere.

A globular cluster is a spherical collection of stars that orbits a galactic core as a satellite. Globular clusters are very tightly bound by gravity, which gives them their spherical shapes and relatively high stellar densities toward their centers.

Messier 22 is located in the constellation Sagittarius, approximately 10,400 light-years away.

It was the first globular cluster to be discovered. German astronomer Johann Abraham Ihle found it on August 26, 1665, while observing Saturn.

The cluster, also known as M22 or NGC 6656, has a diameter of about 70 light-years and half a million solar masses.

According to astronomers, Messier 22 orbits the galactic center once every 200 million years.

The cluster is an easy object for the naked eye to see. Despite its relative proximity to us, the light from the cluster’s stars is not as bright as it should be as it is dimmed by dust and gas located between us and Messier 22.

As they are leftovers from the early Universe, globular clusters are popular study objects for astronomers.

Messier 22 has fascinating additional features: six planet-sized objects that are not orbiting a star have been detected in the cluster; it seems to host two black holes.

The cluster is one of only three ever found to host a planetary nebula – a short-lived gaseous shells ejected by massive stars at the ends of their lives.

Source : Sci-news

NASA is working with Russia on a new space station


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Astronauts Repairing Space Module

Russia is teaming up with the USA to build ISS 2.0 once the current one’s funding runs out in 2024 — at least according to Russia Today and state news agency TASS. The country’s space agency, Roscosmos threatened in February to use the Russian ISS modules as a platform for a new base of its own after 2024, but now it looks like there will be a followup collaboration.

This time around, both parties are looking for participation from other countries, as well as private industry, and are apparently even eyeing a team-up for potential missions to Mars. Russian news outlets report the announcement came during a news conference Saturday following the launch of a year-long mission (video of the launch and subsequent ISS docking is embedded after the break) to the current International Space Station.

NASA Statement –

We are pleased Roscomos wants to continue full use of the International Space Station through 2024 — a priority of ours — and expressed interest in continuing international cooperation for human space exploration beyond that. The United States is planning to lead a human mission to Mars in the 2030s, and we have advanced that effort farther than at any point in NASA’s history. We welcome international support for this ambitious undertaking. Today we remain focused on full use of our current science laboratory in orbit and research from the exciting one-year mission astronaut Scott Kelly just began, which will help prepare us for longer duration spaceflight.

Chief Komarov, who was there for the US-Russia year-long ISS mission launch, reportedly said: “We have agreed that Roscosmos and NASA will be working together on the program of a future space station.” In addition to building a new ISS, sources say the agency’s partnership also entail working on a joint Mars mission. In the same event, NASA chief Charles Bolden is quoted saying: “Our area of cooperation will be Mars. We are discussing how best to use the resources, the finance, we are setting time frames and distributing efforts in order to avoid duplication.”

So far NASA hasn’t announced or confirmed anything through its official channels. We’ve contacted the agency for comment and will update this post if we hear anything.

Source : engadget.com

The icy eyes of Mars


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One thing all solid bodies in the Solar System share in common is craters. Some worlds, like Mercury or the Moon, are covered in them, having no atmosphere to erode them away. Earth has relatively few; our dynamic atmosphere and water circulation wipes them out after a few millennia. And some icy bodies like Saturn’s moon Enceladus or Jupiter’s Europa only have a few because their surfaces are also constantly changing… on a geologic timescale.

Source : Sen Blog

Black Hole 12 Billion Times Bigger Than the Sun Discovered


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Scientists say they have discovered a black hole so big that it challenges the theory about how they grow.

The scientists were initially reluctant to classify it as a black hole because it was too bright, its luminosity equal to the brightness of 420 trillion suns. Most of the people do not believe black holes to be bright, though they can be. This is particularly so because black holes suck everything inside them but just before that there is tremendous friction which produces a lot of light.

Scientists said this black hole was formed about 900 million years after the Big Bang.

But with measurements indicating it is 12 billion times the size of the Sun, the black hole challenges a widely accepted hypothesis of growth rates.

“Based on previous research, this is the largest black hole found for that period of time,” Dr Fuyan Bian, Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Australian National University (ANU).

“Current theory is for a limit to how fast a black hole can grow, but this black hole is too large for that theory.”

The creation of supermassive black holes remains an open topic of research. However, many scientists have long believed the growth rate of black holes was limited.

Black holes grow, scientific theory suggests, as they absorb mass. However, as mass is absorbed, it will be heated creating radiation pressure, which pushes the mass away from the black hole.

“Basically, you have two forces balanced together which sets up a limit for growth, which is much smaller than what we found,” said Bian.

The black hole was discovered a team of global scientists led by Xue-Bing Wu at Peking University, China, as part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which provided imagery data of 35 percent of the northern hemisphere sky.

The ANU is leading a comparable project, known as SkyMapper, to carry out observations of the Southern Hemisphere sky.

Bian expects more black holes to be observed as the project advances.

Source : Reuters , ScienceTimes

Russia to create joint orbital station with India, China


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Russia is exploring the possibility of a joint manned orbital station with India and China as part of a common strategy to create technological alliances and may take up the matter with the two Asian space giants in July.

“Moscow could propose to China and India to create a joint manned orbital station at the summit of the BRICS emerging economies in Russia’s Ufa in July,” a document drafted by the expert council at Russia’s military and industrial commission said.

The experts recommend “working out the possibilities of an international manned project with BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) countries as part of a common strategy of creating technological alliances”, Itar Tass reported.

The proposal comes after months of speculation that the crisis in Ukraine would doom U.S.-Russia space cooperation. For two decades this effort has largely been focused on the International Space Station project (ISS), which is due to end in 2020. NASA has proposed extending it to 2024, but Russia has suggested it might duck out and instead build its own space station — possibly with the participation of China.

The BRICS project would be roughly analogous to the ISS, a $150 billion project involving 15 nations. Anchored by the United States and Russia, the world’s leading spacefaring powers, the ISS allows countries with less advanced spaceflight capabilities to either join onto the station’s Russian and American segments or contribute smaller segments.

A BRICS space station would likely emerge from a similar two-nation partnership, again with Russia in a driver’s seat. The Military-Industrial Commission recommended approaching either China or India — both countries that have well-developed and increasingly ambitious space programs. The proposal would then allow other BRICS members to join.

India has yet to put a man in space without hitching rides on other nations’ rockets. Last year, it demonstrated its rising capabilities after launching an unmanned satellite to Mars on a shoestring budget.

China is perhaps the best partner for such a project. China already launches its own astronauts into space, and is designing its own medium-sized space station. The placement of Russia’s new Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East also makes close cooperation with China far easier.

Source : Times Of India , TheMoscowTimes

U.S. and Russian Astronauts to Spend One Year on the ISS


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In another U.S. and Russian joint mission, American Astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will spend 12 months on the International Space Station starting this March, confirms NASA.

During their one year stay in the ISS, Kelly and Kornienko will perform seven research experiments to aid scientists gather significant knowledge on the biomedical, psychological and medical challenges faced by astronauts in long-term space flight.

Among other things, scientists will study differences in vision, functionality, mental health, metabolic processes and physical performance separately from behavioral changes and motor performance.

Another set of tests will be conducted on Kelly and Astronaut Mark Kelly, Scott Kelly’s twin brother and also an astronaut who will stay on Earth.

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“These investigations will provide broader insight into the subtle effects and changes that may occur in spaceflight as compared to Earth by studying two individuals who have the same genetics, but are in different environments for one year,” NASA said in a statement.

Mark Kelly’s experience includes piloting Space Transportation System 108 (Endeavour), STS-124 (Discovery Commander) and STS-134 (Endeavour Commander).

Scott Kelly was a crewman of STS-103 in 1999; STS-118 in 2007 and a 159-day stay on the ISS starting on October 7, 2010.
It’s going to be a strangely extensive space mission since a typical NASA mission to the ISS lasts no more than six months.

Source : full-timewhistle.com

8 new planets found in ‘Goldilocks zone’, NASA may find Earth’s ‘twin’ very soon


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(Click Image To download)

NASA is closer than ever to finding a twin for the Earth, astronomers said today, announcing the discovery of eight new planets that circle in the habitable zones of their stars.

Two of the eight are the most Earth-like of any known planets found so far outside our solar system, astronomers told the 225th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, Washington.

The pair are likely to have hard, rocky surfaces in addition to being an orbiting distance from their stars that is neither too hot nor too cold for water and possibly life to exist, astronomers said. The discovery doubles the number of known planets that are close in size to the Earth and believed to be in the so-called “Goldilocks zone” of the stars they orbit.

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Representational image. AFP

“We are now closer than we have ever been to finding a twin for the Earth around another star,” said Fergal Mullally of the Kepler Science Office. “These candidates represent the closest analogs to the Earth’s own system found to date.”

The worlds were found with the help of NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler mission, a space telescope which has scoured more than 150,000 stars for planets beyond our solar system since its launch in 2009. The latest trove of candidate planets found by Kepler and announced today was 554, bringing the total potential planets to 4,175.

Scientists have recently verified the existence of the 1,000th planet found by Kepler.

“Three of the newly validated planets are located in their distant suns’ habitable zone, the range of distances from the host star where liquid water might exist on the surface of an orbiting planet,” NASA said in a statement. “Of the three, two are likely made of rock, like Earth.”

While it is intriguing to consider the possibility of life existing on another planet like ours, the two best candidates are so far away that learning more about them presents a big challenge.

Source : firstpost