Category Archives: News

Einstein’s Greatest Blunder

Excerpt from “Mysteries of a Dark Universe.” Albert Einstein sought to explain why the gravity of all the stars and gas out there didnt simply cause the universe to collapse into a heap. Following the discovery of the expanding universe, he admitted to the “greatest blunder” of his career.

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The Great Solar Mag Flip

From NASA Heliophysics. The number of sunspots increases and decreases over time in a regular, approximately 11-year cycle, called the sunspot cycle. The exact length of the cycle can vary. It has been as short as eight years and as long as fourteen, but the number of sunspots always increases over time, and then returns to low again.

More sunspots mean increased solar activity, when great blooms of radiation known as solar flares or bursts of solar material known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs) shoot off the sun’s surface. The highest number of sun spots in any given cycle is designated “solar maximum,” while the lowest number is designated “solar minimum.” Each cycle, varies dramatically in intensity, with some solar maxima being so low as to be almost indistinguishable from the preceding minimum.

Sunspots are a magnetic phenomenon and the entire sun is magnetized with a north and a south magnetic pole just like a bar magnet. The comparison to a simple bar magnet ends there, however, as the sun’s interior is constantly on the move.

By tracking sound waves that course through the center of the sun, an area of research known as helioseismology, scientists can gain an understanding of what’s deep Continue reading The Great Solar Mag Flip

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Re-Launching the First Science Rocket to Space

From NASA/JPL. A NASA scientist, physics professor, and model rocket hobbyist recreates an historic rocket launched by aeronautics pioneer Frank Malina. The first WAC Corporal dummy round was launched on September 16, 1945 from White Sands Missile Range near Las Cruces, New Mexico. After a White Sands V-2 rocket had reached 69 miles on May 10, a White Sands WAC Corporal reached 80 km (49 mi) on May 22, 1946 — the first U.S.-designed rocket to reach the edge of space (under the U.S. definition of space at the time). On February 24, 1949, a Bumper (a German V-2 rocket acting as first stage) bearing a WAC Corporal at White Sands accelerated to 5,150 mph to become the first flight of more than five times the speed of sound.

Scientists were later surprised when almost a year after the launch, tail fragments of the WAC Corporal rocket that reached 5,150 mph and an altitude of over 250 miles, were found and identified in the New Mexico desert near the launch site.

A few WAC Corporals survive in museums, including one at the National Air and Space Museum and another in the White Sands Missile Range Museum. Here are its specs:

Diameter: 1 ft Continue reading Re-Launching the First Science Rocket to Space

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Ghost Lights from Earth Orbit

A “Ghost Light” is an unexplained luminescent phenomena. That’s how aliens might see Earth if they arrived with no awareness of its civilizations, atmosphere and climate, and magnetic field. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station are all too familiar with the city lights, the thunderstorms, and the aurorae that turn Earth into a planet of soft glows and flickering beams. This video has been made up of timelapse sequences captured aboard the ISS. Enjoy in 1080p!

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Tour of the Moon

A beautiful 1080p tour of our moon. It’s so clear and beautiful you’ll want to go there yourself. This virtual tour is based on data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Enjoy this “new” Moon and its noteworthy destinations.

Ancient peoples looked at the moon and saw in its patterns of shadow and light the figures of deities or animals.

The Italian scientist, Galileo Galilei, trained his telescope on our celestial companion and saw mountains and valleys much like those on Earth.

Scientists today, operating a fleet of spacecraft, are seeing evidence of past events that shaped the lunar landscape, and traces of water and minerals that may one day support a human presence.

Here’s the Mare Orientale, an impact crater nearly 4 billion years old. The color, coded for elevation, highlights a bulls-eye pattern of concentric rings.

Now, let’s go down under to the South Pole.

The pole sits within the wide rim of the famed Shackleton Crater. Direct sunlight never reaches the crater floor.

The Lunar Prospector spacecraft detected higher than normal amounts of hydrogen within the crater, which may indicate the presence of water ice.

From here, we travel to the far side of the moon. The South Pole-Aitken Basin is one Continue reading Tour of the Moon

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EARTH Masterpieces of Stone and Ice

Revel in Earth as Art. Make sure you watch in glorious 1080p. Landsat missions were launched for scientific purposes, but they make up one of the most awe-inspiring collections of beautiful images of our home planet.

For the last few centuries, artists have been exploring Earth’s untamed and awe-inspiring vistas, often as an antidote to life in the modern world. They evoked the grandeur of the Hudson River, the peace of Scandinavian fiords, or the omnipotent power of the ocean. This romantic ideal today has gained a new vantage point, from space, and a new set of brushes for capturing the beauty of our planet.

Landsat images feature colors tuned to record geological or even human forces at work. More than that, though, this great gallery of Earth explores its timeless beauty, its uncertain path forward.

So take this tour of Earth’s great landforms as seen from space. We travel to Africa and the Sahara and Namib deserts, to Argentina and Bolivia, the American heartland, and the great Canadian land and ice forms. Then it’s on to Greenland, Iceland, Russia, India, China, and finally the continent down under.

We wrap our journey in a small corner of the vast Great Sandy Desert. The satellite Continue reading EARTH Masterpieces of Stone and Ice

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Birth of the Moon

Scientists have been reconstructing the history of the moon by scouring its surface, mapping its mountains and craters, and probing its interior. What are they learning about our own planet’s beginnings?

Decades ago, we sent astronauts to the moon as a symbol of confidence in the face of the great cold war struggle. Landing on the moon was a giant leap for mankind. But it’s what the astronauts picked up from the lunar surface that may turn out to be Apollo’s greatest legacy.

When the astronauts of Apollo stepped out of their landing craft, they entered a world draped in fine sticky dust, strewn with rocks, and pocked with craters. They walked and rambled about, picking up rocks that they packed for the return flight.

Back in earth-bound labs, scientists went to work probing the rocks for clues to one of the most vexing questions in all of science. Where did the moon come from? The answer promised to shed light on an even grander question. Where did Earth come from? And how did it evolve into the planet we know today?

The nature of the moon began to come into focus four centuries ago. Galileo Galilei had heard Continue reading Birth of the Moon

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Birth of the Moon – PREVIEW

Coming soon to “Cosmic Journeys.” Earth, over its 4.5 billion year history, has been pummeled by asteroids, eroded by wind and rain, covered over with flowing lava, wrinkled and gouged by shifts in its crust.

Most traces of its distant past have long since been destroyed. But there is a place where clues to the early history of our planet are still largely intact.

The moon…

Scientists have been reconstructing its history by scouring its surface, mapping its mountains and craters, and probing its interior regions.

What are they learning about our own planet’s beginnings, by going back in time, to the mysterious “Birth of the Moon.”

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Mars Opportunity Discoveries at Eight Years

The Mars rover Opportunity was supposed to last three months. It’s now going on Nine Years. It’s proved so durable that in 2011 it was essentially sent on a whole new mission.

Opportunity reached a multi-year driving destination, Endeavour Crater, in August 2011. At Endeavour’s rim, it has gained access to geological deposits from an earlier period of Martian history than anything it examined during its first seven years. It also has begun an investigation of the planet’s deep interior that takes advantage of staying in one place for the Martian winter.

Opportunity landed in Eagle Crater on Mars on Jan. 25, 2004, Universal Time and EST (Jan. 24, PST), three weeks after its rover twin, Spirit, landed halfway around the planet. In backyard-size Eagle Crater, Opportunity found evidence of an ancient wet environment. The mission met all its goals within the originally planned span of three months. During most of the next four years, it explored successively larger and deeper craters, adding evidence about wet and dry periods from the same era as the Eagle Crater deposits.

In mid-2008, researchers drove Opportunity out of Victoria Crater, half a mile (800 meters) in diameter, and set course for Endeavour Crater, 14 miles (22 Continue reading Mars Opportunity Discoveries at Eight Years

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The Spectacle of Star Death

Take a breathtaking journey into the future, five billion years from now, to see the ultimate fate of the Solar System. This gem from HubbleCast showcases stunning Hubble imagery of the death throes of Sun-like stars. The wreckage of these dying stars form the building blocks of new generations of stars.

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