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NASA

18 Sep

NASA Finds 'Big Surprise In Teeny Tiny Galaxy' (PHOTO)

The Hubble Space Telescope has discovered a supermassive black hole inside a "teeny tiny" galaxy, which "crams 140 million stars within a diameter of about 300 light-years, which is only 1/500th of our galaxy’s diameter."

"It’s very much like a pinprick in the sky," astronomer Anil Seth said, while NASA's press release revealed that this ultra-compact galaxy has an incredibly dense and dazzling night sky:

"If you lived inside this dwarf galaxy, the night sky would dazzle with at least 1 million stars visible to the naked eye. Our nighttime sky as seen from Earth’s surface shows 4,000 stars."

An artist's rendering of the M60-UCD1 Black Hole -- captioned "Our Hubble Space Telescope finds big surprise in teeny tiny galaxy" -- shows the astounding scale:

Did A Black Hole Create The Milky Way?

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10 Sep

Jupiter Moon Europa Could Have Plate Tectonics Like Earth

New research reveals Jupiter moon Europa may have plate tectonics similar to those on Earth, giving new hope to the search for extraterrestrial life.

Our friends at DNews report:

"During studies of photographs taken by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft that orbited the gas giant from 1995 to 2003, planetary geologists have found it hard to explain why most of the crust was relatively new ice (on average, the icy surface is 40-90 million years old) and yet there was little evidence of old ice that had been crushed up on the surface to make way for the new material.

...

Their conclusion is that, like Earth’s rocky crust, there must be subduction zones where old material is pushed against plate boundaries, making the ice sink into the subsurface ocean, where it melts and gets cycled."

"Europa may be more Earth-like than we imagined, if it has a global plate tectonic system," planetary geologists Simon Kattenhorn said in a statement. "Not only does this discovery make it one of the most geologically interesting bodies in the solar system, it also implies two-way communication between the exterior and interior -- a way to move material from the surface into the ocean -- a process which has significant implications for Europa's potential as a habitable world."

Earlier in 2014, NASA put out a call for proposals to hunt for alien life on Europa, which is believed to have a deep underground ocean that could be capable of sustaining life.

Want to learn more? Get to know Europa:

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5 Sep

Our Planet Is Beautiful From Space

Because it's Friday, sit back and enjoy an out-of-this-world view of Earth, courtesy of the International Space Station:

Looking for more stunning space videos?

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3 Sep

Late Summer Solar Flares Erupt In Stunning New NASA Video

New video from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory shows an M5 solar flare bursting from the sun in stunning color:

NASA notes that "radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground," but flares could disrupt communications systems.

Tonight on "How the Universe Works," learn how Earth's magnetic field protects us from the sun's deadly radiation:

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20 Aug

Cosmonauts Complete Spacewalk But Most Dangerous EVA Ever Could Lie Ahead

Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev completed a 5-hour, 11-minute spacewalk Monday, launching a Peruvian nanosatellite and installing and retrieving various science experiments from the International Space Station's exterior.

Artemyev shared photos from his second spacewalk on Twitter, including a stunning shot of sunset from outside the ISS:

The tiny Chasqui-1 satellite measures just 4 inches by 4 inches by 4 inches and weighs only 2.2 pounds. According to NASA,

"Shortly after the spacewalk began at 10:02 a.m., Artemyev manually deployed Chasqui 1, a Peruvian nanosatellite designed to take pictures of the Earth with a pair of cameras and transmit the images to a ground station. The project is part of an effort by the National University of Engineering in Peru to gain experience in satellite technology and emerging information and communication technologies."

While spacewalks may seem routine these days, an extra-vehicular activity is still the most dangerous activity an astronaut can do in space... and spacewalks of the future could get even more menacing. Tonight on "Man vs. the Universe" (10/9c), learn about scientists' efforts to stop an asteroid from crashing into Earth. One method calls for catching an impending asteroid in a giant bag, then sending astronauts on the most dangerous spacewalk ever.

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18 Aug

This Is For Everyone Who Asks, "Why Aren't There Stars When Astronauts Take Photos From Space?"

We get this question a lot when we share astronauts' pictures on social media: "Why can't you see any stars in the photos astronauts take from space?"

The fact that there are no visible stars in photos and videos from the moon landing has also fueled some conspiracy theorists' suspicions, though NASA scientists explain that "the camera was unable to capture the light emitted from the stars because the bright sunlight hitting the moon's surface washes out the light from the stars."

That same bright light is the reason many astronauts' photos from the International Space Station appear to show space as pitch black and void of stars, write experts at PhysLink.com:

"The reason why no or very little stars can be seen is because of the Earth. The Earth, when lit by the Sun, is many thousands times brighter than the stars around it. As a result the Earth is so bright that it swamps out most if not all of the stars."

"The reason that the stars do not show up on the film is that the stars are so dim that the camera cannot gather enough of their light in a short exposure. Our eyes are a lot more sensitive to light than photographic film."

So American astronaut Reid Wiseman's latest space snapshot, taken with a longer exposure, shows that, yes, of course there are stars in space:

Question: Why aren't stars extinct?

Answer:

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5 Aug

Two Years Ago Today, NASA's Curiosity Rover Landed On Mars

Two years ago today, at 10:32 p.m. PDT, NASA successfully landed its Curiosity rover on Mars. At the time, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden heralded the landing as "an amazing achievement."

"Today, the wheels of Curiosity have begun to blaze the trail for human footprints on Mars. Curiosity, the most sophisticated rover ever built, is now on the surface of the Red Planet, where it will seek to answer age-old questions about whether life ever existed on Mars -- or if the planet can sustain life in the future."

WATCH:

After landing safely, Curiosity sent its first tweet (and photo!) back to Earth:

In just a few years, the Mars 2020 rover will take Red Planet exploration to the next level as it brings high-tech tools -- like the science fiction-esque ability to make oxygen in a carbon dioxide atmosphere -- to space.

Relive the drama of the Mars landing:

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4 Aug

Mars 2020 Rover Takes Red Planet Research To The Next Level

NASA's next generation Mars rover will feature some fancy new instruments to take Red Planet to greater heights.

The Mars 2020 Rover will carry seven new high-tech tools, it was announced Thursday; these instruments were selected from 58 proposals submitted to NASA.

Among the tools is MOXIE (Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment), a machine that will generate oxygen from the carbon dioxide found in Mars' atmosphere.

"It's extremely useful for future production of rocket fuel, or for when humans explore Mars," Mars Exploration Project lead scientist Michael Meyer told Gizmodo. "It's a real step forward in helping future human exploration of Mars, being able to produce oxygen on the surface of Mars."

Mars_2020_roverOther instruments include ground-penetrating radar and Mastcam-Z, "an advanced camera system with panoramic and stereoscopic imaging capability with the ability to zoom."

After sending a congratulatory tweet to the Mars 2020 team, NASA's current Mars rover, Curiosity, checked in Friday from Hidden Valley:

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Image Credit: NASA

23 Jul

NASA Seeks Proposals To Hunt For Alien Life On Jupiter Moon Europa

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 11.58.25 AMIf there's life out there, will we find it on Jupiter's icy moon Europa?

NASA recently put out a call for proposals for science instruments to "address fundamental questions about the icy moon and the search for life beyond Earth."

"The possibility of life on Europa is a motivating force for scientists and engineers around the world," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, in a statement. "This solicitation will select instruments which may provide a big leap in our search to answer the question: are we alone in the universe?"

It's believed that Europa has a deep underground ocean that could be capable of sustaining life; a mission to Europa is planned for the 2020s and could cost $1 billion.

About 20 proposals will be selected in April 2015 and $25 million divided among their creators for development.

Tonight, How the Universe Works delves deep into Jupiter's core and in one segment, examines Galileo and the first time NASA dropped a probe into Jupiter's atmosphere:

Watch How the Universe Works TONIGHT at 9/8c on Science Channel

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18 Jul

Where Were You During the Apollo 11 Moon Landing?

Forty-five years ago this weekend, Apollo 11 landed on the moon and humans entered a new era of exploration.

In a video commemorating the anniversary, celebrities, politicians and other prominent figures share their memories of that historic event.

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 11.47.43 AM

Years of work -- and a lot of trial and error -- went into creating spacesuits capable of withstanding a trip to the moon.

The final product, which was better than any that came before it, consisted of three separate garments: a water-cooled layer, a pressurized inner suit and a nylon outer layer that provided protection from extreme temperatures.

In this clip from "Moon Machines," step into the factory that developed this suit:

Should America go back to the moon?

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