Science

Kepler discovers our Solar System’s “ancient twin”

Kepler discovers our Solar System’s “ancient twin”

NASA's Kepler Space Telescope has been studying the system they've called Kepler-444 for about four years. This system, they say, was formed about 11.2 billion years ago, making it one of the most ancient star systems with terrestrial-sized planets discovered thus far. This star system is important not because of its age, on the other hand, but because of its resemblance to our own Solar System. Five planets surround this system's star, each of them rocky, none of them able to support life (as we know it, that is to say).

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Launch America: SpaceX, Boeing to taxi NASA astronauts to ISS

Launch America: SpaceX, Boeing to taxi NASA astronauts to ISS

This week the folks at NASA, SpaceX, and Boeing presented a new program for their combined efforts to continue sending astronauts to the International Space Station. This Commercial Crew Transportation system will be operating under the title Launch America. This system is working with both SpaceX and Boeing, both private organizations, to bring the cost of sending US-based astronauts down significantly. NASA has been using the same system since 2011 to send astronauts to the ISS, one based on Russian technology, one this Launch America system will replace.

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Exoplanet J1407b discovered with more rings than Saturn

Exoplanet J1407b discovered with more rings than Saturn

There's a planet out there in the universe that has rings of matter surrounding it so large, they eclipse its nearby sun. This is J1407b, near the star J1407. The image you see here comes from Ron Miller of the University of Rochester, and it shows the planet and its rings as they would have appeared in early 2007. The planet was discovered back in 2012, but just now its become clear how extraordinary this planetary body truly is. Rings so massive they make our nearby planet Saturn look miniature by comparison.

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Google Lunar XPRIZE awards $5.25m to moon mission hopefuls

Google Lunar XPRIZE awards $5.25m to moon mission hopefuls

The Google Lunar XPRIZE competition has handed out $5.25m to five companies for their contribution to taking a private spacecraft to the moon, with the so-called Milestone Prizes awarded in advance of final entries in 2016. XPRIZE aims to spur space exploration with a $30m prize pot from Google's wallet, challenging private industry and researchers help take a private craft to the lunar surface, have it travel at least 500 meters, and transmit high-definition video and imagery back to Earth. Although none of the Milestone winners have actually made it to the moon quite yet, they've been given an early bite of the award cash for their current progress.

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A huge asteroid is about to buzz Earth

A huge asteroid is about to buzz Earth

Try not to let it worry you, but a 550 meter wide chunk of space rock is going to hurtle past Earth at more than 33,000 mph very soon, another near-miss asteroid a celestially-slight 745,000 miles from our planet. While it may not sound all that close - the moon is on average 239k miles from us - asteroid 2004 BL86 is enough to have astronomers from NASA and other space agencies tracking its location closely, given the potential for destruction (or even species-level catastrophe like the "colossal bad luck" that saw the dinosaurs wiped out) the impact of such a rock would have.

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NASA eyes using small helicopters to help Mars rovers

NASA eyes using small helicopters to help Mars rovers

Mars might very soon have its own version of a drone to patrol its skies. NASA is considering creating a Mars Helicopter, an addon to future rovers that will become the advance party of these roaming laboratories. These vehicles will become the eyes of scientists on earth that will help them better determine where to direct rovers to, making each trip more efficient and focusing primarily on more "exciting" parts of Martian landscape, increasing the distance traveled up to three times.

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Flexible solar panels are both functional and decorative

Flexible solar panels are both functional and decorative

While scientists and engineers are still racing to make solar panels more efficient and feasible, some are trying to make the technology more attractive. Literally. Researchers from the VTT Technical Centre of Finland have developed a process that creates solar panels that are not only flexible but also organic and recyclable and can be used on things like windows, walls, machines, and other surfaces that can turn any structure, furniture, or even works of art into light-powered sources of energy for small devices and sensors.

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Opportunity abound: walking on Mars virtually with NASA

Opportunity abound: walking on Mars virtually with NASA

NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover has been rolling around the surface of the red planet for 11 years. To celebrate, the craft has sent back a panorama image viewable by you in full definition right this minute. To get up close and personal with the surface of Mars, NASA has also been collaborating with Microsoft over the past few weeks and months, having an early peek at their new Windows Holographic system with Microsoft HoloLens - making walking on the planet's surface much more of a "real" experience than ever before.

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Rosetta hunt for Philae weighed against science sacrifice

Rosetta hunt for Philae weighed against science sacrifice

The Rosetta comet probe mission may not have gone entirely to plan, but the science is still pouring out - not to mention water from the comet itself - as the ESA considers hunting down the stalled lander. Triumph at getting the Philae lander to the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in November 2014 turned to frustration when a less-than-perfect touchdown left the probe short on sunlight and prematurely powered-down. Now, the European Space Agency is considering using the orbiting Rosetta spacecraft to go on a Philae hunt, but there's a price to be paid in potential future research.

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We’re three minutes from Doomsday

We’re three minutes from Doomsday

Climate change and the unrelenting development and stockpiling of nuclear weapons have seen the Doomsday Clock pushed another minute closer to global disaster, with scientists warning that we're three metaphorical minutes from destruction. The clock, a symbolic representation of how close humanity is to teetering on the edge of effective annihilation by its own hand, is now just three minutes from midnight, with the team in charge of the hands - the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, counting seventeen Nobel Prize laureates among its members - ominously suggesting that "the probability of global catastrophe is very high."

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