Geekwire 14 Dec 2017, 17:34 UTC Three spacefliers landed safely in the frigid steppes of Kazakhstan today after riding their Russian Soyuz spacecraft down from the International Space Station. Temperatures were around 10 degrees Fahrenheit, with winds that made it feel like 5 degrees below zero. NASA’s Randy Bresnik, Russia’s Sergey Ryazanskiy and Italy’s Paolo Nespoli spent four and a half months on the orbital outpost, conducting science experiments, doing spacewalks and dealing with four cargo shipments. Three of their crewmates are still in orbit, and three new crew members are due to arrive on Tuesday.
Space News 14 Dec 2017, 11:00 UTC NEW ORLEANS — NASA’s Dawn mission to the main asteroid belt, granted a second extended mission earlier this year, will end later next year after a final set of close-up observations of the dwarf planet Ceres. NASA approved a second extended mission for Dawn Oct. 19, electing to keep the spacecraft in orbit around Ceres versus proposals to send the spacecraft out of orbit to flyby another asteroid. Dawn, in this new extended mission, will shift into an elliptical orbit in 2018 to provide much closer views of the surface than possible earlier in the mission. “We’re going to be using an elliptical orbit to dive closer to the surface than we have before, down to 30 kilometers altitude,” said Carol Raymond, deputy principal investigator for Dawn during an Dec. 12 briefing about the mission at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union here. That altitude is significantly lower than what NASA stated when the agency announced the new extended mission. Those close approaches will provide higher resolution and more accurate measurements of the chemistry of Ceres’ surface, as well as “unprecedented” high-resolution images of selected features. “We’re aiming to test our ideas about the origin and evolution of ...
Space Fellowship 13 Dec 2017, 23:06 UTC The OmegaCAM camera on ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope has captured this glittering view of the stellar nursery called Sharpless 29. Many astronomical phenomena can be seen in this giant image, including cosmic dust and gas clouds that reflect, absorb, and re-emit the light of hot young stars within the nebula.
Universe Today 13 Dec 2017, 22:50 UTC When the Opportunity rover landed on Mars on January 25th, 2004, its mission was only meant to last for about 90 Earth days. But the little rover that could has exceeded all expectations by remaining in operation (as of the writing of this article) for a total of 13 years and 231 days and traveled a total of about 50 km (28 mi). Basically, Opportunity has continued to remain mobile and gather scientific data 50 times longer than its designated lifespan. And according to a recent announcement from NASA’s Mars Exploration Program (MEP), the rover managed to survive yet another winter on Mars. Having endured the its eight Martian winter in a row, and with its solar panels in encouragingly clean condition, the rover will be in good shape for the coming dust-storm season. It also means the rover will live to see its 14th anniversary, which will take place on January 25th, 2018.
Universe Today 13 Dec 2017, 19:20 UTC Earth is no stranger to meteors. In fact, meteor showers are a regular occurrence, where small objects (meteoroids) enter the Earth’s atmosphere and radiate in the night sky. Since most of these objects are smaller than a grain of sand, they never reach the surface and simply burn up in the atmosphere. But very so often, a meteor of sufficient size will make it through and explode above the surface, where it can cause considerable damage. A good example of this is the Chelyabinsk meteoroid, which exploded in the skies over Russia in February of 2013. This incident demonstrated just how much damage an air burst meteorite can do and highlighted the need for preparedness. Fortunately, a new study from Purdue University indicates that Earth’s atmosphere is actually a better shield against meteors than we gave it credit for.
io9 Space 13 Dec 2017, 18:12 UTC Oh, that Van Allen Belt—online crackpots love to use Earth’s belt of radiation to bolster their Moon landing conspiracies, suggesting it could be too strong for an astronaut to travel through (not true). But the truth is, scientists do think about the Van Allen Belt and its mysteries. They’ve launched probes to study the region since they weren’t sure where some of that radiation came from.
Astrobiology Magazine 13 Dec 2017, 17:00 UTC Somewhere in our galaxy, an exoplanet is probably orbiting a star that’s colder than our sun, but instead of freezing solid, the planet might be cozy warm thanks to a greenhouse effect caused by methane in its atmosphere. NASA astrobiologists from the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a comprehensive new model that shows how planetary chemistry could make that happen. The model, published in a new study in the journal Nature Geoscience, was based on a likely scenario on Earth three billion years ago, and was actually built around its possible geological and biological chemistry.