Happy New Year! NASA may not launch any people into space in 2012, but a successful robotic mission just as the new year dawned sets the stage for the space agency's near-term future. The twin Grail probes arrived at the moon on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, and are preparing to study our only natural satellite's past.
NASA is going back to the moon once again, sending a pair of spacecraft on a quest to learn the origins of our closest companion by studying its interior and its gravitational field. But beyond new lunar science, the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory, GRAIL, will also help cement NASA’s legacy of lunar exploration in the public imagination.
Did you feel that? Gravity just got a little weaker. The National Institute of Standards and Technology has just posted the latest internationally recommended adjustments to the values for the fundamental constants of nature. The results: Gravity is a bit weaker, the electromagnetic force a smidgeon stronger, and the whole of physics a little less uncertain.
After a five-year study of 200,000 galaxies, scientists are more certain than ever that dark energy acts as a repulsive force, tearing the universe apart at an accelerating rate. The research confirms the idea that dark energy dominates gravity throughout the cosmos. But no one has any idea what dark energy actually is or how it works.
Like a beach chair sagging under a sunbather’s weight, the fabric of spacetime does indeed warp around the mass of the Earth — just as Albert Einstein predicted. And like a swimmer moving through the water, the rotation of the Earth affects the movement of spacetime itself. A gravity probe whose origins date to the era before human spaceflight has finally proved general relativity right, according to NASA.
A gigantic laser experiment intended to study the nature of gravity and an x-ray telescope designed to look at black holes are being swept into the dustbin of history, too big and too expensive to survive the federal budget ax. NASA is skipping out on LISA, the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna, and the International X-Ray Observatory.
Since 2009 the European Space Agency’s Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) has been mapping the Earth’s gravitational field, and today the agency released its most detailed model of the geoid to date.
The story of Roger Babson, gravity's sworn enemy, and his Gravity Research Foundation
By Natalie Wolchover
Posted 03.15.2011 at 12:11 pm 23 Comments
Beside the path leading from the library to the academic quad at Tufts University is what appears to be a misplaced gravestone, pictured here.
As an undergraduate physics student at Tufts, needless to say, I found this monolith intriguing. Who was Roger W. Babson? What was the mysteriously austere Gravity Research Foundation? And above all, what blessings would come forth upon the discovery of a gravity semi-insulator – and what does that even mean?
Just getting to the center of the Earth and surviving is impossible. The Earth’s core is about 9,000°F—as hot as the sun’s surface—and would instantly roast anyone who found himself there. Then there’s the pressure, which can reach roughly three million times that on the Earth’s surface and would crush you. But let’s not sweat the details. Once you arrive in the center of the Earth, the physics gets really interesting.
This tubular spacecraft could serve as a reusable vehicle for lunar and deep-space missions, holding a crew of six and enough supplies for a two-year expedition.
Dubbed Nautilus-X, for “Non-Atmospheric Universal Transport Intended for Lengthy United States eXploration,” this craft could be built in orbit and ready for space missions by 2020, according to a briefing by NASA’s Future In Space Operations group.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.