Space

NASA’s New Horizons sends back more Pluto pics

NASA’s New Horizons sends back more Pluto pics

NASA has released the latest batch of photos its New Horizons spacecraft has taken of the dwarf planet Pluto, and in them we see a larger and somewhat less fuzzy version of the two shots from last week. Those same mysterious dark spots are visible in them, as are other crevices and shadows. There are three images total, and they were taken from July 1 to July 3 before the spacecraft had its brief operational hiccup. We've all three after the jump!

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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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EPFL plans satellite that gobbles space junk like Pac-Man handles ghosts

EPFL plans satellite that gobbles space junk like Pac-Man handles ghosts

Swiss space agency EPFL has revealed its plans to help clean up space debris like old satellites with a new Pac-Man-like solution called "CleanSpace One." The mission will involve a new satellite that will capture small pieces of orbiting junk through the use of a net. The idea actually came about as a solution to EPFL's first satellites, the small SwissCubes launched five years ago, that need to be collected so they don't pose further threats to other satellites or astronauts.

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New Horizons back to work 7th July to prep for Pluto flyby

New Horizons back to work 7th July to prep for Pluto flyby

You can probably imagine the sighs of relief coming from NASA scientists after they have concluded that no hardware or software failure caused the unexpected July 4th loss of contact between Earth and the New Horizons probe bound for Pluto. Having counted their losses and re-calculated their schedule, the scientists have also determined, again much to their relief, that there will be no delay in its schedule for its date with Pluto, which, provided there are no more anomalies, will proceed as planned on July 14.

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NASA suffers New Horizons disconnect as Pluto nears

NASA suffers New Horizons disconnect as Pluto nears

The New Horizons probe set to arrive at Pluto in just ten days time gave NASA an unpleasant July 4th surprise, losing contact with Earth for more than an hour. The glitch, which began at 1:54pm EDT, saw radio communications between the mission operations center at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and the distant spacecraft cut for unknown reasons. While the link was reconnected at 3:15pm EDT, it leaves NASA scientists scrambling to get New Horizons back onto its original course.

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NASA finds more mystery spots, this time on Pluto

NASA finds more mystery spots, this time on Pluto

NASA has been increasingly gathering more detailed looks at the planets that are close to us. It found itself a little mystery with Ceres, where one of its spacecrafts found a couple clusters of bright spots. The space agency still hasn’t quite figured out what those are, but now it has itself another mystery — this time on Pluto, where the New Horizons spacecraft has taken an image that shows a line of big dark dots in an evenly-spaced single line.

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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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NASA begins prototyping first airplane to fly over Mars

NASA begins prototyping first airplane to fly over Mars

NASA has revealed a new prototype design for an aircraft that will eventually be the first to fly on Mars in the 2020's. Dubbed the Preliminary Research Aerodynamic Design to Land on Mars, or "Prandtl-m" for short, features a flying-wing design and is said to be ready for testing later this year via launching from a balloon at an altitude of 100,000 feet to simulate Mars' atmosphere.

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