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Shining Some Light on Sunspots
May 11, 2012
Right now, if you look at the sky at sunrise or sunset when the sun's light is dim, you might be able to see Sunspot AR1476, which is now wending its way across the face of Sol, with your naked eye. The sunspot measures 160,000 km across, or about a dozen times Earth's diameter. Eyeballing the sun might hurt your eyes, of course, so it's better to avoid looking directly at it.
Asteroid Miners May Set the Stage for Space Colonization
April 24, 2012
On Tuesday, the founders of Planetary Resources held a press conference at the Museum of Flight in Seattle to announce a new megamillion-dollar plan to use commercially built robotic ships to travel to the asteroid belt to mine for valuable minerals including platinum and gold. "As we move beyond the bounds of Earth to a universe that is full of resources, we can finally bring those materials back to Earth," said speaker Peter Diamandis, cofounder of Planetary Resources.
IBM Plans Massive Computer System to Digest Big Telescope Data
April 02, 2012
IBM is teaming up with The Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, otherwise known as "Astron," on a five-year project to look into very fast, low-power exascale computer systems for the world's largest and most sensitive radio telescope. The project, to be called "DOME," will cost about $44 million.
Solar Belch Could Stink Up Energy and Communications Networks
March 08, 2012
Solar flares -- clouds of charged particles and plasma from the sun -- have hit Earth, according to the National Weather Service. The solar flares have been making their way toward the planet since Sunday. The storms can seriously disrupt GPS signals, radio communications and the power grid.
Protecting NASA From Hackers Is Not Rocket Science, Say Analysts
March 05, 2012
NASA has become a popular target of hackers. The space agency's computer network was breached 13 times in 2011 -- to the point where suspected Chinese hackers gained "full functional control" of computers used by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory," a government inspector general told congressional investigators.
NASA Dreams of Floating Space Station Twixt Earth and Moon
February 14, 2012
The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration is looking into setting up a base near the moon to further space exploration. As it's envisioned, the base will go into a halo orbit of the Earth-moon libration point 2, known as "EM L-2," above the far side of the moon. Essentially, a spacecraft in a halo orbit goes around and around near a libration, or Lagrangian, point -- in this case E-M L2.
Intel Explores New Modes of Communication for Stephen Hawking
January 10, 2012
World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking's physical condition is further deteriorating, and Intel wants to help the famous scientist continue to share his ideas with the world. Hawking, who at 21 was diagnosed with a motor neurone disease, has been able to communicate with others through adaptive speech and computing technologies.
Paul Allen Shoots for Low Orbit
December 20, 2011
Billionaire Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen has launched a new company that will launch payloads into space from a monster aircraft. Allen's set up a new company, Stratolaunch Systems, for this project. He has revived his relationship with aerospace pioneer Burt Rutan to further his plans.
NASA Spots Possible Earth 'Twin' 600 Light-Years Away
December 05, 2011
NASA's Kepler mission on Monday confirmed the discovery of a small planet 600 light-years away from Earth in the "habitable zone" of a star not unlike our own sun. About 2.4 times the size of Earth, the newly confirmed planet -- called "Kepler-22b" -- is the smallest yet found to orbit in the middle of the habitable zone, or the region where liquid water could exist on a planet's surface.
Fully Loaded Curiosity Rover Readies for Trek to Red Planet
November 21, 2011
Following a one-day delay, NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission featuring its new Curiosity rover is now scheduled for launch on Saturday, Nov. 26, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Representing the largest and most advanced rover ever sent to the Red Planet, the automobile-sized Curiosity vehicle will look for evidence of water, carbon and other key elements in the Martian soil and atmosphere.
Google Dabbles in Dream Tech in Hush-Hush X Lab
November 14, 2011
Google scientists are laboring away on futuristic projects in a top-secret lab somewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area, The New York Times claims. This lab, which is apparently so hush-hush that few Googlers even knew it existed prior to the report, is allegedly called "Google X." More than 100 futuristic projects are said to be under way there.
NASA Researchers Aim to Reel In Tractor Beam Tech
November 03, 2011
Any science fiction fan or Trekkie knows what tractor beams are -- those beams that pull objects toward the device that generates them, sort of like an invisible fishing line and reel. NASA believes enough in the possibility of creating real tractor beams that it's provided a $100,000 grant to researchers at its Goddard Space Flight Center to look into the phenomenon.
Virgin Galactic Spacecraft Triumphs in Hair-Raising Test Flight
October 18, 2011
A recent test flight of Virgin Galactic's private SpaceShipTwo spacecraft caused some tense moments for those participating and observing, but ultimately a new safety feature on the suborbital craft allowed its three-person crew to regain control and bring it safely back down to Earth.
Storm of Controversy Bedevils NASA's New Deep Space Program
September 19, 2011
Struggling through a welter of controversy, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration this week announced plans for a new deep space exploration program. At the heart of the Space Launch System is development of an advanced heavy-lift launch vehicle that will enable human exploration in space.
DARPA's Long-Term Long Shot to the Stars
August 22, 2011
In a few short weeks, the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, will award a $500,000 grant for a 100-year starship project. The grant will be awarded at the 100 Year Starship Study Symposium, which will be held in Orlando, Fla., Sept. 30 through Oct. 2. The symposium will deal with the practical issues humanity needs to address to achieve interstellar flight 100 years from now.
NASA: From Kennedy to the Ming Dynasty
July 20, 2011
The final voyage of NASA's space shuttle program represents the biggest collapse of a national exploration program since China turned inward after the remarkable 15th century voyages of Chinese Admiral Zheng He. The space shuttle descended from the original Kennedy-era response to the Soviet investment in technology development.
Final Shuttle Voyage Closes Chapter in Human Spacefaring Saga
July 08, 2011
With the weather barely permitting, the U.S. space exploration program reached another milestone on Friday: Atlantis blasted off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center on what will be the final space shuttle mission. The flight caps 30 years of achievements including the construction of the International Space Station. Atlantis will dock with the station on Sunday.
The Holographic Universe: Is Our 3D World Just an Illusion?
July 06, 2011
It's difficult enough for most humans to grasp the idea that our planet is just one of countless others in our galaxy -- and a pretty small one, at that. Then, of course, there's the concept that our galaxy is just one of billions of others in the universe -- sure to compound any confusion considerably. But neither of those notions can compete on the mind-bending scale with an idea that's currently being investigated at Fermilab.
Heavens on Earth: 3 Planetariums on the Cutting Edge
June 03, 2011
Planetariums may date back to the far reaches of recorded time, but the first widely known example -- an ancient cast-metal globe made by Archimedes to predict the movements of the planets -- now seems to have little in common with the technological marvels that have become widespread today. Rather than focusing on planets and predictions, today's planetariums are experiential wonders.
Beyond the Point of No Return: Is There Life in Black Holes?
May 25, 2011
Few ideas convey the mystery and awe-inspiring nature of space better than the black hole. Dark, vast and little understood, black holes in many ways represent all that we still don't know about the universe. With their seemingly infinite emptiness and general unexplorability, they're also more than a little terrifying. Imagine what it would be like, then, to learn that life exists in these expansive regions of no escape.
Lone Wanderers: No Warmth of the Sun for Some Planets
May 19, 2011
Roaming planets, untied to a solar system or stellar orbit, were recently found by a team of astronomers, according to a report in Nature. The team of researchers led by David Bennett from Notre Dame University and Takahiro Sumi of Osaka University used gravitational microlensing observing programs to spot the planets.
Endeavour's Last Mission Could Help Unravel Dark Matter Mystery
May 16, 2011
At 8:56 a.m. EDT Monday morning, 19 years after its first launch on May 7, 1992, the space shuttle Endeavour left NASA's Kennedy Space Center for its 25th and final flight. This is also the second-to-last shuttle mission for NASA, which is sunsetting the program due to budget cuts. The very last shuttle flight for the 30-year program is scheduled for this summer.
Cosmic Fireworks Erupt When Black Hole in Dragon's Belly Swallows Star
April 09, 2011
A mysterious cosmic blast in the constellation Draco has astronomers scrambling to try to understand its cause, so unlike is it to anything ever observed before. Rather than the short-lived gamma-ray bursts typically associated with the death of a massive star -- most last no more than a few hours -- this explosion continues more than a week later.
Historic Photos Reveal a Mercury Never Seen Before
March 30, 2011
NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft on Tuesday and Wednesday captured and delivered to Earth the first photographs of Mercury ever taken from within the planet's orbit. Taken at 5:20 am EDT Tuesday, the historic first photo was soon joined by 364 more of the solar system's innermost planet, and several of them were released on Wednesday. Photos were taken by MESSENGER's Mercury Dual Imaging System as the spacecraft sailed high above the planet's south pole.

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