Leaked from today's 404 episode:
NASA is looking for citizen scientists to help save planet Earth.
The space agency announced Monday that it is launching an "Asteroid Data Hunter" contest series to reach out to people to help create algorithms to identify asteroids zooming around outer space. NASA will give away $35,000 in awards to competition winners.
Millions of asteroids are thought to be currently orbiting the sun and scientists want to be sure to identify as many of them as possible. Why? So humans don't go the way of the dinosaurs.
It's a junkyard out there. Researchers estimate that at least several hundred thousand pieces of space debris are stuck out in orbit around the planet, creating hazards for satellites and spacecraft. These pieces include everything from stray bolts to entire derelict satellites. If only we could blast them with lasers and take care of the problem. Oh wait, maybe we can.
The Australian government announced a $20 million Cooperative Research Centre that will investigate using lasers to locate, track, and remove space debris. The group will bring together partners from the government, academia, and aerospace industries. A total estimated investment of around $90 million is needed to bring the project to fruition. NASA's Ames Research Center and Lockheed Martin are already on board.… Read more
Remember the old Atari Asteroids game and how the space rocks would split into smaller and smaller pieces as your little arrowhead-shaped ship shot tiny balls of light at them? Well, astronomers at UCLA have just seen, for the first time ever they say, that asteroids really do break up that way.
The discovery was made possible by data derived from a team of telescopes. It began when a fuzzy, strange-looking shape was spotted in the skies by the Catalina telescope array, located both outside of Tucson, Ariz., and in Australia, and a Pan-Starrs telescope atop Mount Haleakala on Hawaii's island of Maui. Astronomers then used the Keck telescopes on the Hawaii Mauna Kea volcano, where they believed they saw three bodies moving together in a cloud of dust that measured roughly the same diameter as that of of Earth. … Read more
If you want to get in some snowboarding on Mars, you had better hurry up and get over there. The planet is already busy thawing out for springtime. NASA released an image taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in mid-January showing sand dunes from the northernmost reaches of Mars as they begin to shed their winter coats.
Instead of snow, the dunes are covered with carbon dioxide ice, better known on Earth as "dry ice," the stuff you throw in a punch bowl for a Halloween party.… Read more
NASA and the White House are asking Congress to bankroll a new intrastellar road trip to a destination that's sort of like the extraterrestrial Atlantis of our solar system -- Jupiter's intriguing moon, Europa.
On its surface, Europa appears to be an iced-over rock orbiting the biggest planet in our neighborhood and often getting nuked by Jupiter's radiation belt. However, it's believed that a subsurface ocean exists beneath the ice, kept liquid by a phenomenon called tidal flexing. Just last month, Hubble spotted evidence of a plume of water vapor at the moon's south pole.… Read more
This is the best thing. The best. Imagine if GLaDOS from Portal had amnesia and went to work for NASA with a pair of...well, idiots, and this is what you might get.
A three-satellite storm-tracking system run by the U.S. government is getting some updates that will support a complete technological refresh.
Raytheon said today that it has booked $185 million in new business for the Joint Polar Satellite System's Common Ground System. The JPSS, a collaborative system between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA, is a polar-orbiting environmental system designed to both track storms and other weather events and take and send back to Earth imagery showing changes in the planet's environment over time.
Currently, the contract for the JPSS ground control system is worth $1.… Read more
While solar flares are a common occurrence on the sun, it's not everyday that we get an X-class flare.
However, sun watchers were given a treat this week when the star let off a huge solar flare, according to NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. The flare peaked around 5 p.m. PT on Monday and NASA published a video (see below) of the event on Tuesday.
Solar flares are bursts of radiation propelled off the sun. This latest flare was classified as X4.9, which means it was an incredibly significant burst of light and one of the largest … Read more
NASA has announced a whole new world of whole new worlds revealed in data from the now crippled planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft. In a press conference on Wednesday, the Kepler team said it has verified the existence of 715 previously unconfirmed planets circling 305 other stars.
This is the biggest single haul of verified planets ever culled from Kepler data, bringing the total number of confirmed planets beyond our solar system to just under 1,700.… Read more