Category: space

On this day in 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Ale…

On this day in 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin became the first human being to travel into space.

From the TED-Ed Lesson Could we survive prolonged space travel? – Lisa Nip

Animation by Bassam Kurdali

It happens, life is life…

It happens, life is life…

Via

Falcon Heavy

Falcon Heavy

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Congrats!

The Apollo Guidance Computer display keyboard,…

The Apollo Guidance Computer display keyboard, or DSKY. Actual device (inside the Apollo 16 lunar module “Orion,” pre-flight), and (Open Source Arduino based) replicas below.

Kickstarter: OPEN DSKY Apollo 50th Anniversary

h-t Space.com: DIY DSKY: Apollo Astronaut Keypad Being Rebooted as Open Source Replica

In 2026, an unmanned NASA spacecraft is schedu…

In 2026, an unmanned NASA spacecraft is scheduled to arrive at 16 Psyche, a massive, metallic asteroid floating somewhere between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Why is NASA so interested in this heavy metal asteroid? Are we going to mine all that metal, or build a giant space magnet?

Actually, the real reason is right under our feet. The core of the Earth is thought to consist of a solid nickel-iron center with a molten outer layer. But we’re prevented from studying it up close by 2,800 kilometers of solid rock. The deepest we’ve been able to drill is 12 kilometers. Even if we could go further, the pressure at the core is three million times higher than at the surface, with a temperature of 5,000 degrees Celsius. Simply put, a journey to the center of the Earth is out of the question for now.

What makes Psyche so special is that it appears to have been a planetesimal well on its way to becoming a planet, with a rocky exterior surrounding a metal core. But its progress was cut short by a series of hit-and-run collisions with other planetesimals that knocked off the rocky crust until only the core remained. Experiencing that many destructive collisions with no additive ones in between is statistically very unlikely, making Psyche an amazingly rare opportunity to study an exposed metallic core.

Visiting a whole new kind of world is exciting enough on its own. But the mission to Psyche gives us a unique chance to discover our own planet’s innermost secrets in an orbit far, far away.

From the TED-Ed Lesson Why is NASA sending a spacecraft to a metal world? – Linda T. Elkins-Tanton

Animation by Eoin Duffy

A variation of Dyson sphere.

A variation of Dyson sphere.

This and other futuristic ideas by cosmologist Max Tegmark (known for his Mathematical universe hypothesisOur Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality) in this interesting Discover article (extracted from his book Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence) that I just stumbled upon:

Thirteen point eight billion years after its birth, our universe has awoken and become aware of itself.

From a small blue planet, tiny conscious parts of our universe have begun gazing out into the cosmos with telescopes, repeatedly discovering that everything they thought existed is merely a small part of something grander: a solar system, a galaxy and a universe with over a hundred billion other galaxies arranged into an elaborate pattern of groups, clusters and superclusters. Although these self-aware stargazers disagree on many things, they tend to agree that these galaxies are beautiful and awe-inspiring.

But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, not in the laws of physics. So before our universe awoke, there was no beauty. This makes our cosmic awakening all the more wonderful and worthy of celebrating: It transformed our universe from a mindless zombie with no self-awareness into a living ecosystem harboring self-reflection, beauty and hope — and the pursuit of goals, meaning and purpose. Had our universe never awoken, then it would have been completely pointless — merely a gigantic waste of space. Should our universe permanently go back to sleep due to some cosmic calamity or self-inflicted mishap, it will become meaningless.

The Oracle

The Oracle

Seen in The Oatmeal Facebook page, written by James Miller of A Small Fiction, a collection of flash fiction posted daily, little stories meander from the mundane to the fantastic (Twitter, Instagram).

Hunting for Asteroids

Since the early 1800s, astronomers have been mapping the night sky in a furious hunt for asteroids.

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Today, we’ve discovered hundreds of thousands of asteroids. Many, including Ceres (the first ever discovered asteroid), orbit the Sun between Mars and Jupiter, while near-Earth asteroids orbit the Sun relatively close to Earth.

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When we created this lesson, astronomers had discovered 16,407 near-Earth asteroids, but since we find new asteroids all the time, that number will have grown by hundreds or thousands by the time you watch this.

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Today, asteroid hunters use modern telescopes, including one in space. Computers analyze the images, and humans check the output before reporting the asteroid observations to an archiving center. Each discovered asteroid has its unique orbit measured. An orbit lets astronomers predict where asteroids are going to be at any given time. Most asteroid trajectories can be predicted for about 80 years though we can calculate where the best studied asteroids will be every day between now and 800 years into the future. 

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We must keep searching for asteroids in case there’s one out there on a collision course with Earth. Astronomers don’t only search for asteroids, though. They also study them to learn how they formed, what they’re made of, and what they can tell us about our solar system.

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The author of this lesson is a TED Speaker and a full-time asteroid hunter (yes, that’s a job). Check out her book on asteroid hunting!

From the TED-Ed Lesson The first asteroid ever discovered – Carrie Nugent

Animation by TED-Ed / Reza Riahi

The First Asteroid Ever Discovered

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On the night of January 1, 1801, Giuseppe Piazzi, a priest in Palermo, Italy, was mapping the stars in the sky. Over three nights, he’d look at and draw the same set of stars, carefully measuring their relative positions. That night, he measured the stars. The next night, he measured them again. To his surprise, one had moved. The third night, the peculiar star had moved again. This meant it couldn’t be a star at all.

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It was something new, the first asteroid ever discovered, which Piazzi eventually named Ceres. Asteroids are bits of rock and metal that orbit the Sun. At over 900 kilometers across, Ceres is a very large asteroid. But through a telescope, like Piazzi’s, Ceres looked like a pinpoint of light similar to a star. In fact, the word asteroid means star-like. You can tell the difference between stars and asteroids by the way they move across the sky. Of course, Piazzi knew none of that at the time, just that he had discovered something new. To learn about Ceres, Piazzi needed to track its motion across the sky and then calculate its orbit around the Sun. 

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So each clear night, Piazzi trained his telescope to the heavens. Night after night, he made careful measurements, but from his observations he learned that Ceres was only visible in the sky during the day. It would take another year and a lot of astronomers to nail down Ceres’ path, but we haven’t lost track of it since.

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Today, we can do something that Piazzi could only dream of: send spacecraft to study asteroids up close. One spacecraft called Dawn journeyed billions of kilometers over four years to the main asteroid belt. There, it visited Ceres and another asteroid, Vesta. Dawn’s stunning images transformed Piazzi’s dot of light into a spectacular landscape of craters, landslides, and mountains.

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From the TED-Ed Lesson The first asteroid ever discovered – Carrie Nugent

Animation by TED-Ed / Reza Riahi

Today is Red Planet Day! Red Planet Day is cel…

Today is Red Planet Day! Red Planet Day is celebrated on November 28th of each year to commemorate the first launch of Mariner 4, the first spacecraft to obtain and transmit close range images of Mars. Here’s a fun Mars fact for you to celebrate:

Valles Marineris is the largest canyon in the Solar System. It’s so wide that from one side, the opposite rim would be below the curve of the horizon. From here, you’ll catch some spectacular blue sunsets in the normally red sky, which gets its color from the dust absorbing most of the blue light and the way sunlight is scattered by the atmosphere.

From the TED-Ed Lesson Could we actually live on Mars? – Mari Foroutan

Animation by Nick Hilditch