space travel

The best Pluto photos from New Horizons so far

The best Pluto photos from New Horizons so far

New Horizons successfully reaches and passes Pluto, taking photos during a 22-hour period of observation. What we're doing here is collecting the best of the best - which, incidentally, may end up being the whole collection. Straight from NASA to your eyeballs, these are the first images of Pluto from within several thousand miles of the dwarf planet. You can also have a peek at a large set of images captured over the past few weeks by New Horizons by hitting up our New Horizons tag portal.

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We’ve passed Pluto – where are the photos?

We’ve passed Pluto – where are the photos?

Now that we've passed Pluto, you might be wondering why we're not looking at brand new up-close photos of all sorts. NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has an antenna that must remain stationary at all times - it's not attached to a robotic arm or anything. Because of this, and because the craft was only passing extremely close to Pluto for a short period of time, the team wisely decided to utilize the time collecting data from our spacey cousin rather than sending back data as fast as they could. In short - photos and data are coming inside this week, just not right this minute.

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As New Horizons passes Pluto, 22-hours of silence

As New Horizons passes Pluto, 22-hours of silence

NASA won't see any images or get any data from Pluto flyby mission New Horizons for 22 hours after it begins its closest flyby of the dwarf planet. There are two reasons for what's effectively a radio silence. The first reason is the applicable power. Every single resource the craft passing Pluto is capable of using will be going toward capturing imagery and data on and around Pluto. That should be obvious. We've waited years - we can wait a few more hours.

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Pluto approaching: New Horizons’ scientist answers 4 questions

Pluto approaching: New Horizons’ scientist answers 4 questions

New Horizons' Ralph Instrument Scientist Dennis Reuter speaks up today about th eminent approach of the mission to Pluto. Also speaking on his position with the Goddard Space observatory, Reuter tapped into Pluto and the exploration of the Kuiper Belt - our solar system's "last frontier." Reuter spoke up about the data collection this mission will execute, seeking out information on Pluto's chemical and atmospheric makeup using the Ralph spectrometer. This mission's apex will be reached tomorrow at 11:50 UTC - that's 4:50 AM Pacific Time, 7:50 AM Eastern Time.

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New Horizon’s weirdest cargo will warm your heart

New Horizon’s weirdest cargo will warm your heart

Aboard the New Horizons craft as it edges closer to Pluto than we've ever been before is carried the ashes of its discoverer. Astronomer Clyde Tombaugh was the man that discovered our celestial neighbor Pluto. Now - thanks to some thoughtful NASA engineers - Tombaugh's mortal remains will be the closest that have ever traveled to our most distant Solar System cousin. This week NASA spoke with Tombaugh's children. "My Dad always said if he ever had the chance," said Tombaugh's son "he’d love to visit the planets in the solar system and around other stars." Now he will.

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We can now watch Pluto rotate in space

We can now watch Pluto rotate in space

As New Horizons begins its final approach toward Pluto, NASA presents a Google Earth-mapped surface of the spinning space body. The final approach toward the planet has begun - this NASA-led mission will get within a few thousand miles of Pluto on the 14th of this month. Today we get our first spherical map of the planet as placed with Google Earth onto our own planet. Strange as that may sound, it provides as accurate a visual for the planet as we've ever seen. You've seen the flat images before - now watch Pluto spin in space.

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New Horizons Pluto mission blinks out just days from goal

New Horizons Pluto mission blinks out just days from goal

Before you start having a heart attack at the idea that we won't get any closer to Pluto, take heed - New Horizons is now back online. For just a short period of time - right around an hour - the craft blinked offline. This was a radio communications glitch that seemed to fix itself - somehow or another - by 3:15pm EDT on the 4th of July, when everyone was out at the beach sipping on brewskies. Except NASA engineers, of course, who were on the task at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, making certain this wasn't an error that'd have the craft offline just days before it reaches its closest point to Pluto.

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Another trip to the USSR’s space rocket graveyard

Another trip to the USSR’s space rocket graveyard

Photographer Ralph Mirebs once again enters off-limits Russian space launch facility ground in Kazakstan at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. This time he's not at Site 112A with the USSR's versions of the space shuttle. Instead, he's just a hop, skip, and a jump away at the launch silo for Энергия-М, aka "Energy-M". In the image you see below, the tower we're entering here stands in front of the building we entered late last month with Mirebs at Site 112A with shuttles aplenty.

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Rosetta comet unlikely to carry life, despite scientist claims

Rosetta comet unlikely to carry life, despite scientist claims

One set of scientists suggest this week that Rosetta's comet could have micro-organic life - another says no. Nearing the end of its ten-year journey to catch up with comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, Rosetta's met with some controversy this week. Several astrophysicists from Cardiff and Buckingham Universities have spoken up at the National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno, suggesting that 67P appears to have frozen lakes embedded within. This, they say, could mean that the comet could have organic debris on it. Not all scientists agree with this hypothesis.

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Rosetta finds sinkholes that could swallow a pyramid

Rosetta finds sinkholes that could swallow a pyramid

Rosetta continues its extended mission in capturing information on its nearby comet this week, finding massive sinkholes in the process. A number of these massive "cavities" have shown themselves in comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. These holes appear as deep as 590 feet (180 meters) and as wide as 656 feet (200 meters) in diameter. While scientists are not certain why these pits are appearing, lead researcher Jean-Baptiste Vincent suggested that it could be because of the heat of the sun, this heat creating jets of surface-collapsing dust.

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Rare space event: catch Venus and Jupiter crossing tonight

Rare space event: catch Venus and Jupiter crossing tonight

Throughout the month of June, Venus and Jupiter have been moving closer and closer to one another. Or at least they've been appearing to move closer to one another. They've been moving in directions that'll eventually have them within one degrees of one another in our night sky, making it appear as those they're very nearly aligned with one another. Starting at the beginning of June at around 21 degrees from one another, these two planets will reach 0.33 degrees, or 20 arc minutes from one another.

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ESA decides between Thor, Ariel, and Xipe for next medium mission

ESA decides between Thor, Ariel, and Xipe for next medium mission

It's a battle of the space-gods as the ESA's Concurrent Design Facility (CDF) study at ESTEC decides between Xipe, Ariel, and Thor. Each of these names corresponds with a craft, and each craft corresponds with a proposed area of study. Up for grabs are exoplanets, plasma physics and the X-ray Universe, one each to possibly be studied by the the Atmospheric Remote-Sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey (Ariel), the Turbulence Heating ObserveR (Thor) and the X-ray Imaging Polarimetry Explorer (Xipe). These are the final three missions that'll eventually be cut down to one this upcoming analytical session.

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