SpaceX successfully launches rocket after Saturday setback

Found on BBC News on Sunday, 19 February 2017
Browse Astronomy

It was the first mission by the company since one of its vehicles exploded on the launch pad in September.

The company also has a long queue of customers all waiting for a ride to orbit - including America's civil space agency (Nasa), the US military and multiple outfits in the commercial sector.

It's somewhat depressing: decades ago men were sent to the moon (unless you believe it was faked in Hollywood). Today, with decades of advancing technology, it's not even certain if a rocket will launch without blowing up.

Computing glitch may have doomed Mars lander

Found on Nature on Sunday, 30 October 2016
Browse Astronomy

The lander’s heat shield and parachute ejected ahead of time, says Vago. Then thrusters, designed to decelerate the craft for 30 seconds until it was metres off the ground, engaged for only around 3 seconds before they were commanded to switch off, because the lander's computer thought it was on the ground.

The most likely culprit is a flaw in the craft’s software or a problem in merging the data coming from different sensors, which may have led the craft to believe it was lower in altitude than it really was, says Andrea Accomazzo, ESA’s head of solar and planetary missions.

That sure is one spectacular way to crash your program. Literally.

We Were Very Wrong About the Number of Galaxies in the Universe

Found on Gizmodo on Friday, 14 October 2016
Browse Astronomy

The observable universe—that is, the part of the universe that’s visible to us on Earth—contains 10 to 20 times as many galaxies than previous estimates. That raises the total to somewhere between one and two trillion galaxies, which is up from the previous best estimate of 100 billion galaxies. Consequently, this means we also have to update the number of stars in the observable universe, which now numbers around 700 sextillion (that’s a 7 with 23 zeros behind it, or 700 thousand billion billion).

With so many more galaxies and stars, the number of planets also went up dramatically. As a direct consequence, there are more planets in the habitable zone that could have developed life similar to ours. Based on this vast amount it is safe to assume that we are not the only one.

SpaceX rocket explodes at Cape Canaveral ahead of launch

Found on BBC News on Thursday, 01 September 2016
Browse Astronomy

SpaceX said "an anomaly" had occurred while the rocket was being loaded with fuel. No-one was injured, it said.

The rocket's payload, an Israeli-built communications satellite for Facebook due to launch on Saturday, was also destroyed, it added.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who is currently visiting Africa, said he was "deeply disappointed" to hear that the satellite had been destroyed.

Who said an explosion can't be good?

Was it a meteorite? Tests will determine what killed Indian man

Found on CNN News on Monday, 08 February 2016
Browse Astronomy

Indian scientists will examine remains from an object that fell from the sky Saturday, causing a large explosion which killed a man, to determine if it is a meteorite, police say.

Senthil Kumari said it was yet to be confirmed whether the object that caused the blast was a meteorite, as opposed to falling space junk or some other form of debris.

Coincidally, North Korea yesterday launched their newest rocket into space.

The Man Who Turned Night Into Day

Found on Motherboard on Wednesday, 20 January 2016
Browse Astronomy

Throughout the early 90s, a team of Russian astronomers and engineers were hellbent on literally turning night into day. By shining a giant mirror onto the earth from space, they figured they could bring sunlight to the depths of night, extending the workday, cutting back on lighting costs and allowing laborers to toil longer.

As planned, on February 4, Znamya left Mir. When it found its orbit a safe distance away, the mirror successfully deployed. And, sure enough, it sent a five kilometer-wide beam of light back down to Earth. The beam swept through Europe, moving from the south of France to western Russia at a reported speed of eight kilometers per second.

Quite impressive; nevertheless, it's better that there still is a real night and the project was cancelled in the end.

The Most Mysterious Star in Our Galaxy

Found on The Atlantic on Wednesday, 14 October 2015
Browse Astronomy

“We’d never seen anything like this star,” says Tabetha Boyajian, a postdoc at Yale. “It was really weird. We thought it might be bad data or movement on the spacecraft, but everything checked out.”

When I spoke to Boyajian on the phone, she explained that her recent paper only reviews “natural” scenarios. “But,” she said, there were “other scenarios” she was considering.

Wright and his co-authors say the unusual star’s light pattern is consistent with a “swarm of megastructures,” perhaps stellar-light collectors, technology designed to catch energy from the star.

Theoretically, it could be a Dyson sphere.

Russia's New Rocket Won't Fit in Its New Cosmodrome

Found on The Moscow Times on Sunday, 04 October 2015
Browse Astronomy

Work at Russia's new $ 3 billion spaceport in the Far East has ground to a halt after a critical piece of infrastructure was discovered to have been built to the wrong dimensions, and would not fit the latest version of the country's Soyuz rocket, a news report said.

The project has come under strict scrutiny from Russian officials such as President Vladimir Putin - who last year demanded the facility be ready for a first launch in December 2015 - and Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who has threatened to rip the heads off any contractors that slow up construction efforts.

Unlike in other nations, in Russia "ripping off heads" will probably really happen after such a blunder.

New Horizons: Images reveal ice mountains on Pluto

Found on BBC News on Thursday, 16 July 2015
Browse Astronomy

Pluto has mountains made of ice that are as high as those in the Rockies, images from the New Horizons probe reveal.

Mission scientist John Spencer told journalists that the first close-up image of Pluto's surface showed a terrain that had been resurfaced by some geological process - such as volcanism - within the last 100 million years.

A really impressive mission.

'Breathtaking' solar eclipse witnessed by millions

Found on BBC News on Friday, 20 March 2015
Browse Astronomy

Millions of people in the UK and northern Europe have glimpsed the best solar eclipse in years.

Scientific agencies had planes and even satellites gathering video to relay on the web and on television.

Actually it was pretty disappointing. It would have gone unnoticed, but the news were full of panic and warned of blackouts which never happened; like the year 2000 bug.