November 2011

New Probe En Route to Mars

Curiosity to investigate mineral-rich area


While we may have thoroughly conquered the moon in the last century, this century is going to be all about the red planet as far as space exploration goes. We know a good deal about our neighbor planet--enough to have mapped it plenty--but there are still plenty of mysteries within that red soil. We've seen traces of water--does that mean there must have been some kind of tiny life on Mars once? Are we really Martians, brought over as microbes to Earth via wayward rocks? We're not sure, but NASA's latest exploratory bot is on its way to find out.

Carl Sagan's Cosmos - A Space Educational Tool to Start with

I felt that Carl Sagan’s Cosmos would be a great way to start familiarizing yourself with astronomy if you are a space enthusiast. This thirteen-part television series is really an enjoyable way to learn about space although it is three decades old. However, all of the episodes have an update at the end which shows developments that occurred in the early 1990s.

Unmanned Rover Headed to Mars

Once it reaches Mars, "Curiosity" will spend two years exploring red planet

An unmanned Atlas V rocket launched towards Mars from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Saturday, carrying the Mars Science Laboratory rover. The rover, dubbed Curiosity, will explore Mars's Gale Crater, looking for organic materials that might suggest life forms once existed on the planet.

It will take 8 1/2 months before Curiosity reaches the surface of Mars, more than 350 million miles away. It is scheduled to land on the planet's surface in August 2012.

The Technology Behind A Manned Mission To Mars

Present technology won't support a manned mission, but NASA plans on possessing it by the scheduled launch in 2032.

After Stephen Hawkings rather alarmist announcement last night about colonizing space as being a “human imperative”, I began to wonder how close we actually are to being able to accomplish it. The answer, at least for now, is “not very”. Although NASA’s goal is to send a manned mission to Mars by 2032, most of the physicists that are associated with the present Mars rover missions say that they’ve very nearly maxed out the technology for delivering payload to the Martian surface. In other words, the rovers, which are in the neighborhood of a single ton, are the pinnacle of interplanetary delivery at the moment. A manned mission, that would need to be somewhere between 40 and 80 tons, is pretty unrealistic at this point. That’s not to say that it’s not in development.

Hawking Says "Colonizing Space" Is a Human Imperative

...because aliens are gonna get medieval on our asses.

Last year, physicist-extraordinaire Stephen Hawking warned the world that the arrival of an alien species might be more akin to Independence Day than Close Encounters of the Third Kind. He likened it to the European invasion of the New World. After all, when Europeans arrived to find a less-advanced group of people with comparably little technology or means of protecting their land standing between them an untapped wilderness full of resources, they started killing and displacing. Why would our situation be any different if a space-faring civilization came to our world? Last weekend, Hawking went a step further, making colonization in space a mandate for human survival.

Discovery of Subterranean Lakes Hints At Life On Jupiter's Moon

Europa, Jupiter's sixth moon, contains liquid water oceans and lakes beneath a thick crust of ice.

Astronomers have long believes that Jupiter’s moons may be humanity’s best opportunity for colonization outside of the terrestrial planets. This belief was formed in the 1990’s, when NASA space probe Galileo (the original discoverer of Jupiter’s moons) arrived to take closer observations. What scientists found was a satellite, the moon Europa, possessing enormous oceans beneath huge sheets of ice. The young surface of the satellite is cracked and scored innumerably, which scientists say is evidence of the liquid water beneath it; water, they say, that may provide an ecosystem with its own life.

Supernova Probably Formed Our Solar System

New research suggests elements in asteroids could be explained by nearby explosion


The question of how the universe came to be has always been a hot topic for clerics and scientists alike. It's pretty much the biggest unanswered 'why?' out there, yet there are loads of smaller mysteries about the origins of our more local astronomical surroundings. We think all things began as gas and space dust, but how did solar systems form out of the amorphous chaos? How did our revolving planet and its gravitational dance with its neighbors come about? 

Happy Veteran's Day from the Space Station

Space station commander sends Veteran's Day greeting

 The commander of the International Space Station sent a video greeting to honor American veterans on 11/11/11, Veteran's Day in the United States. The commander, American astronaut Mike Fossum, leads a three-man crew on the Space Station. The Expedition 29 crew includes Fossom, a Japanese astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut. A new crew takes over for them later this month.

Fossum compared the crew of the space station to military personnel, stating that the two groups have many things in common. Both are away from home, working in a hostile environment for the good of their fellow human beings.

Startling New Discovery on Mars' Surface

Opportunity rover discovers strange linear stones embedded in the Martian soil.

NASA’s Opportunity rover has been cruising the surface of Mars for almost eight years now, capturing images of a stark and often startling surface and logging new information about the Red Planet, which has never seen a human footprint. Eight years after first landing, the rover is still relevant, and to illustrate that fact it has recently found something completely new. The NASA astronomers are calling it “Homestake” or “The Vein”, and say it’s unlike anything they’ve ever seen.

Asteroid 2005 YU55 and Implications

With all the attention on Asteroid 2005 YU55, I wanted to talk more about the likelihood of an impact event taking out human beings and other forms of life on Planet Earth. The last asteroid to hit Earth was the one that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs 60 million years ago called the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event. This is pretty bad news because it means that another asteroid is due soon. What needs to be pointed about Asteroid 2005 YU55 is that it travels on an elliptical path and regularly passes the terrestrial planets. This is concerning because we have just started identifying it and it could be getting closer and closer to the Earth every time it travels on its orbit. But astronomers say that it is not a collision threat for the next 100 years even though they have placed it on the potentially hazardous list.

Enormous Iceberg Forming In the Antarctica Will Have Sea Level Consequences

NASA doesn't just study outer space. It also uses its high tech aircraft to monitor large scale events here on Earth as well. Recently, there was a good example of this in the news.


Using their DC-8 research plane, NASA officials were able to report an enormous iceberg the size of New York City forming in the Antarctica region. The iceberg is expected to be approximately 300 square miles in size! It is breaking off the Pine Island Glacier and will contribute significantly to rising sea water.


The polar regions are much more sensitive to global warming than are the temperate and tropical regions of the Earth and the rise in average global temperature has caused an accelerated melting of the Pine Island Glacier. Even if we stopped emitting carbon dioxide tomorrow, there is enough built up in the system to affect the melting rate of the Antarctica Ice for more than 2000 years.


This is alarming to think about but also difficult for a human who only has an average lifespan of 70-100 years to really fully understand or fully appreciate. Worrying about what is going to happen several generations from now is just too difficult for the average human being to deal with.


The detection of this iceberg forming is part of a NASA mission called Operation IceBridge. They will continue to monitor the situation and will make periodic reports to the public. NASA is also conducting similar missions over Greenland with the DC-8 research plane. Both polar regions have been greatly affected by global warming.

The chances of extraterrestrial life in the Solar System and possible locations

There have been lots of places in the Solar System that have been proposed as being habitable for organic life. There are 8 places that are frequently suggested and five of these are moons. Large bodies of underground liquid oceans are widely thought as conceivable. Any forms of life there may have developed in the same way as species found around deep sea vents here on Earth.

Looking closer to home at the other terrestrial planets has revealed that there may be chances of smaller forms of life. Venus, for instance, may have microbes in the unwavering cloud layers 50 kilometers beyond the surface according to scientists. This speculation is backed by the observation of hospitable climates and chemical disequilibrium.  Life on Mars has been a subject of discussion for a long time. Liquid water is believed to have been present on the Red Planet earlier in its history. A breakthrough happened when methane was found in the Martian atmosphere and NASA scientists are attempting to determine its biological or abiotic cause. Another important discovery occurred in July 2008 when laboratory tests on a soil sample by NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander had found water. The Mars Global Surveyor’s images display an indication of liquid flows on the cold surface of Mars that could have even been in the last decade.

UFO Visits Arizona High School Football Game

Strange lights in the sky appear over a Scottsdale, Arizona high school football game

Friday Night Lights took on an entirely new meaning on Friday, Oct. 28. Apparently, humans are not the only ones interested in football. It seems the aliens are too.

During a conference football game between Scottsdale high school rivals the Horizon Huskies and the Notre Dame Prep Saints, at least four bright lights appeared in the sky southeast of Horizon High School's football field.

China Accused of Cyberattacks on U.S. Enviro Satellites

With new cybersecurity initiative, U.S. may consider cyber attacks as "opening salvo" in a theater of war.

The U.S. government’s new Cybersecurity Initiative, which has included a sea change in the military’s scope, includes cyberspace as a military theater, just like air, land, and sea. What this means is that any cyber attack by another nation is equivalent to an “opening salvo” on a battlefield. A recent development then, in which the U.S. accused China of attempting to hack American environmental monitoring satellites, has potentially serious implications for U.S. – China relations.