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Space

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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19 Aug

America, The Beautiful Revealed In Breathtaking Timelapse of Milky Way, Northern Lights

When you live in a city, it can be hard to remember that the brightest lights aren't downtown -- they're right above you.

Photographer Randy Halverson breathtaking timelapse video, shot in some of the most remote parts of America, reveal the incredible astral show happening in the sky, from the glorious Milky Way to the rumbling of thunderstorms.

Wednesday night on How the Universe Works, dive deep inside the Milky Way for a closer look at the galaxy we call home. Here's a sneak peek at tomorrow night's episode: "Did a black hole create the Milky Way?"

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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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13 Aug

Commercial Spacecraft Prepare to Mine the Moon

"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."

-President John F. Kennedy, September 12, 1962

More than 50 years after President Kennedy's famous moon speech, his words continue to inspire. Now a new generation prepares to heed the president's call and aim for the lunar surface, not for human exploration but to mine the moon for its precious minerals.

Among the rare earth elements found on the moon are titanium, magnesium and iron; there's also helium-3, which "could provide safer nuclear energy in a fusion reactor, since it is not radioactive and would not produce dangerous waste products."

Silicon Valley titans like Google are looking toward the lunar surface and offering scientists prizes "designed to inspire pioneers to do robotic space transport on a budget."

Is this the start of a new space race?

Tonight at 10/9c, Science Channel's three-part special Man vs. The Universe looks at commercial spacecraft preparing to mine the moon and the benefits these groups hope to reap. Here's a sneak peek:

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11 Aug

This Is What The Supermoon's 'Moonset' Looks Like From Space

Amid all the photos of this weekend's supermoon -- the biggest and brightest of 2014 -- one set of snapshots stands out: images of the supermoon setting behind the Earth taken from the International Space Station by Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev.

Artemyev shared the jaw-dropping photos on Twitter and in a blog post with the understated title, "Full moon. Lunar orbit sunset (photo)."

Sunday night's massive moon was 14 percent closer to Earth and 30 percent brighter than other full moons of the year, NASA tweeted.

Lunar lovers, here's a Moon 101 primer:

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6 Aug

After 10 Years And 4 Billion Miles, Rosetta Space Probe Reaches Comet 67P

"We're in orbit!"

"Hello, Comet!"

With those words, the European Space Agency confirmed that Rosetta had reached its destination after a 10-year, four-billion-mile journey.

The Rosetta space probe arrived at comet 67P at 09:02:29 UTC Wednesday morning, becoming the first spacecraft to orbit a comet.

"After ten years, five months and four days travelling towards our destination, looping around the Sun five times and clocking up 6.4 billion kilometres, we are delighted to announce finally 'we are here,'" ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain said in a statement.

"Europe’s Rosetta is now the first spacecraft in history to rendezvous with a comet, a major highlight in exploring our origins. Discoveries can start."

Now that Rosetta is in orbit, it could help scientists on Earth collect vital information about the source of life itself:

"Comets are believed by astrophysicists to be ancient ice and dust left from the building of the Solar System around 4.6 billion years ago. This cosmic rubble is the oldest, least touched material in our stellar neighborhood.

Understanding its chemical ID and physical composition will give insights into how the planets coalesced after the Sun flared into light, it is hoped.

It could also determine the fate of a theory called "pan-spermia," which suggests comets, by smashing into the infant Earth, sowed our home with water and precious organic molecules, providing us with a kickstart for life."

On November 11, 2014, Rosetta's Philae lander is scheduled to touch down on comet 67P.

Love learning about outer space? Tune in for a new episode of How the Universe Works TONIGHT at 10/9c on Science Channel. Here's a sneak peek at tonight's episode:

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