We've landed the robots, puttered about on the planet's surface, and, at long last, found the water. Now, NASA is getting back to basics on Mars with a plan to once again search for signs of life on the Red Planet, a focus that's been on the back burner since the 1976 Viking missions. But this time, NASA doesn't want to analyze Mars from Mars. This time the space agency wants to bring samples back home, and has a cleverly orchestrated scheme to do it.
CERN's Large Hadron Collider is currently the biggest science experiment in operation, but it may have to pass that mantle on soon enough. A collaboration between NASA and the ESA plans to launch three spacecraft into orbit around the sun 3 million miles apart, then have them shoot lasers at each other, all in the name of proving the existence of gravitational waves, the last piece of Einstein's relativity theory that is as yet unproved.
The first two members of Russia's upcoming 18-month "Mars mission" have been selected by the European Space Agency; Frenchman Romain Charles and Colombian-Italian Diego Urbina will join 3 Russians and one Chinese national in the Mars500 spaceship, which will carry out a 520-day simulated mission to Mars beginning June 3.
Let's hope they all get along.
ESA's Herschel space observatory is about to celebrate its first anniversary in space, and in anticipation the European Space Agency has given all of us a little gift. This colorful image of a giant bubble of gas and dust named RCW 120 was spotted by Herschel's infrared sensors, but it's not just the aesthetic aspect that's exciting. The small white bright spot at the bottom fringe of the cloud is a young massive star still in formation, and it could provide us with unique insights into exactly how massive stars come to be. The image was presented this week at the Herschel First Results Symposium in the Netherlands.
Results from the largest and most ambitious survey of the cosmos ever undertaken by the Hubble Space Telescope are in, and the findings are commensurately big, suggesting dark energy is indeed real, and the general theory of relativity holds up even under larger intergalactic scrutiny.
The European Space Agency's Herschel telescope has reached deep into a previously invisible stellar incubator 1,000 light years away, capturing this image of 700 new stars forming from space dust and gas. Taken with Hershel's Photodetector Array Camera and Spectrometer (PACS) and its Photometric Imaging Receiver (SPIRE), the image covers an area 65 light years across that is so shrouded in cosmic dust that no previous infrared telescope could see inside.
NASA, ESA, G. Illingworth (UCO/Lick Observatory and the University of California, Santa Cruz), R. Bouwens (UCO/Lick Observatory and Leiden University) and the HUDF09 Team
After nearly two decades and five servicing missions to repair and update its precision observation equipment, the Hubble Space Telescope is still pushing the envelope of astronomical observation, most recently by snapping this image, the deepest image ever taken of the universe. Taken over four days in late August 2009, this newly released composite image allows researchers to see farther back toward the Big Bang than ever before.
Energy shields haven't arrived just yet, but this magnetic heat shield could do nicely in the meantime. European researchers have created a magnetic field technology that can protect spacecraft from fiery atmospheric temperatures during reentry, and perhaps cut back on the need for traditional heat shields.
After six months of testing and very careful calibration, the European Space Agency’s GOCE satellite is sending back its first data sets as it now begins precisely mapping tiny variations in Earth’s magnetic field. How does one go about mapping the Earth’s fundamental force? As it turns out, very, very carefully.