Space exploration has its hazards, so take care out there

Wednesday, 18 May, 2016

Cardiff based illustrator and animator Thomas Lucas outlines the grizzly ways in which you could meet your death, while exploring the cosmos. Take care out there.

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2016 has been a bumper year for exoplanets and it’s only May

Thursday, 12 May, 2016

1284 exoplanets, found by by the Kepler Space Telescope, have been validated as being the real deal so far this year. I’m not sure if they were all discovered in 2016 though, but you have wonder what the tally might be by the end of the year. There sure are a lot of planets out there.

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That time we attached a camera to a rocket we launched into space

Friday, 6 May, 2016

A GoPro camera is attached to a SL-10 rocket, and reaches and altitude of about one hundred and twenty kilometers. Needless to say, the resulting video footage is incredible.

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The glorious blue-white disk that is Earth seen from the ISS

Wednesday, 27 April, 2016

Spectacular footage of our planet, as recorded by the crew of the International Space Station.

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Wanted, two comets transmitting would-be signals from aliens

Tuesday, 19 April, 2016

In 1977, US astronomer Jerry Ehman, while listening into the cosmos by way of the Ohio State University’s Big Ear radio telescope, detected a short radio signal that some scientists felt could only have been transmitted by an extraterrestrial intelligence elsewhere in the galaxy.

Ehman’s find soon became known as the WOW! signal, but to the disappointment of those hoping to have found another civilisation within the Milky Way, no more transmissions were ever picked up in the vicinity of the Chi Sagittarii group of stars, the signal’s apparent source.

Now forty years later, Antonio Paris, a professor at Florida’s St Petersburg College, thinks he has found an explanation for the mysterious signal, it may have something to do with two comets that were in the same part of the sky, when the WOW! signal was detected.

Known as 266P/Christensen and 335P/Gibbs, they have never been investigated before because they were only discovered in 2006 and 2008 respectively. Paris found that they were both in the vicinity of Chi Sagittarii on the day that the ‘Wow!’ signal was detected. This could be significant because comets are surrounded by clouds of hydrogen gas that are millions of kilometres in diameter. The ‘Wow!’ signal itself was detected by Ehman at 1420MHz, which is a radio frequency that hydrogen naturally emits.

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Forget Planet X, let’s go to Alpha Centauri instead

Thursday, 14 April, 2016

Russian entrepreneur and physicist Yuri Milner has ambitious plans to send a probe to the star system nearest to Earth, Alpha Centauri. What’s really interesting about the idea, is the travel time… Milner believes he has found a way to get the craft to the binary star in just twenty years.

There are no official specs yet, but Milner said the probe would have a two-megapixel camera, along with star-finders to help it get its bearings, after it boots up on the approach to Alpha Centauri. The probe will target one of the system’s two sunlike stars. It will be aimed at a planet (or planets) in the star’s habitable zone, the temperate region where oceans don’t boil or freeze, but instead flow, nurturing the kind of complex chemistry that is thought to give rise to life. I asked Milner what the images would look like. “The engineers tell me that we might be able to make out continents,” he said.

Allowing another four and a bit years for data collected by the probe to return to Earth, we could know a whole lot more about some of the nearest stars to us in about twenty five years.

In theory, and all going well, that is.

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Will a space elevator be our first stop on the way to the stars?

Tuesday, 12 April, 2016

Space elevators will make moving objects, such as satellites, components for space stations, and anything else we want to place in space, a whole lot cheaper than using rockets. They could solve a number of space travel related problems as well, but they are not without their dangers.

Sorry, did I not explain what a space elevator was? You should find this helpful then.

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A description of the outer reaches of the solar system

Monday, 11 April, 2016

A guide to the outer reaches of the solar system, that takes in the likes of Pluto, dwarf planets, the Kuiper belt, and the Oort cloud.

The boundaries of the Solar System are still poorly understood but it is already known that beyond the Neptune’s orbit there are trillions of comets and asteroids left from the formation of the Solar System. The area where they are located is called the Oort cloud. It has supposedly a spherical shape and is a source of long-period comets. The existence of the cloud is not yet confirmed but many factors indirectly indicate its existence. Observations of similar Solar Systems could be an example.

It seems to me it will take many lifetimes of research just to understand this region of space, to say nothing of interstellar, and then intergalactic, space.

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Here’s what happens just before a star explodes as a supernova

Friday, 1 April, 2016

NASA’s Kepler space telescope has glimpsed a supernova shockwave, the precursor of a supernova explosion, just before a distant red giant star, KSN 2011d, blew up.

While this video clip is an animated illustration of the event, rather than actual footage, it is nonetheless a sight to behold.

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An illustrated guide to humanity’s exploits in the cosmos

Monday, 14 March, 2016

The Chart of Cosmic Exploration

The Chart of Cosmic Exploration documents every spacecraft and probe that has been dispatched to another planet, moon, or other object in the solar system. I think it’s fair to say, that when it comes to exploring the space around us, humanity has been quite busy.

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