Jun 24, 2009 | 7
A pair of papers in this week's Nature look at evidence that Enceladus, a moon of Saturn, may have an ocean of liquid water beneath its icy surface. Such an ocean would bode well for Enceladus harboring some kind of extraterrestrial life, in a location close enough for robotic probes to visit.
At the moon's south pole, plumes of water vapor and ice spew into space from cracks in the surface, leading to speculation that an ocean feeds the eruptions. A team of European researchers provides evidence to support that theory in a Nature study published online today, in which they used the Cassini spacecraft to spot salty ice grains in Saturn's E ring. (Scientific American is part of the Nature Publishing Group.)
Jun 19, 2009 | 5
After failing to get the shuttle Endeavour off the launch pad this week, NASA had better luck with its mission to map the moon.
An Atlas V rocket lifted off from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS). The spacecraft are expected to reach lunar orbit Tuesday morning, and NASA has been tweeting about mission as it unfolds.
Within hours of blastoff, NASA established communication with the LRO to power up the systems needed to control the spacecraft, which will circle the moon at an orbit of 31 miles (50 kilometers) for at least one year to study the lunar surface and scope out potential landing sites for a possible manned moon mission in 2020.
Jan 10, 2009 | 5
If you're watching the snow come down in the northeastern U.S., like we are here at 60-Second Science, you probably can't see tonight's perigee moon, which we posted about earlier. Find out more about this phenonemon here.
But never fear: skygazers around the world have taken some great photos, and we've gathered some of them in these links. Comment on this post with links to your own pics—or send them to us at Twitter at http://twitter.com/sciam—and we'll update. (Thanks to Twitterer cosmos4u for sending some of these to us on Twitter.)
Jan 10, 2009 | 18
Well, it's back tonight. NASA says tonight's moon will be the biggest full moon of 2009, "almost identical" to the one on December 12.
Here's what's going on: The moon's orbit of Earth is an ellipse, with one end closer to Earth than the other. Tonight, the moon will be near the closer end of the ellipse, a spot known as the perigee. (Apogee is the more distant end.)
NASA is quite excited about the perigee moon, as you might expect: "You can read a newspaper, ride a bike, write a letter, and at the same time count the stars overhead." (With all due respect to NASA, we would suggest not doing all of those things at the same time.) And tonight's forecast for much of the Northeast is for snow, according to weather.com, so it may be too cloudy to see the moon there.
Nov 15, 2008 | 12
In the race to explore space, there may be a new moon on the rise. In the same week that NASA declared the Mars Phoenix mission over, India dropped an impactor, which crash-dived onto the moon's surface today, the Associated Press reports. The Moon Impactor Probe (MIP) was carried by India's moon satellite, Chandrayaan 1, which entered lunar orbit earlier this week.
The MIP, painted with the flag of India, was blown to smithereens after crashing into the moon at about 3,100 miles (5,000 kilometers) per hour. Before its planned crash, however, it sent photos and data that India will now use to plan a 2011 moon rover mission and a yet-unfunded manned mission. It was one of 11 instrument payloads on Chandrayaan 1, which means "moon craft" in Sanskrit.
Nov 10, 2008 | 16
The Indian space probe Chandrayaan 1 adjusted its orbit around the moon in one of its final maneuvers before releasing a lunar impactor.
Chandrayaan 1 entered into an elliptical orbit around the moon on Saturday, 17 days after blasting off from Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota. Yesterday, it fired up its engine to lower its orbit, which now ranges from a high point of about 4,660 miles (7,500 kilometers) to a low point above the lunar surface of 120 miles (200 kilometers). It is now orbiting the moon about every 10 and a half hours.
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), which leads the unmanned mission, says they plan to circularize Chandrayaan 1's polar orbit to about 60-mile (100-kilometer) altitude before dropping its Moon Impact Probe and booting up its scientific instruments.
Oct 22, 2008 | 1
India is on its way to the moon, the country’s first unmanned mission there ahead of a planned 2012 rover landing.
The Chandrayaan 1 probe blasted off atop a PSLV-C11 rocket at 6:22 local time this morning from Satish Dhawan Space Center in the southern Andrha Pradesh Province. The $79-million mission reflects an emerging, competitive Asian presence in space at a time when the U.S. shuttle fleet is nearing retirement.
“It is a historic moment,” said G. Madhavan Nair, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, according to Bloomberg News. “Our journey to the moon has started.”
Jul 22, 2008
NASA has coughed up $1.2 million for a navigation system that will help astronauts find their way around the lunar surface when they return in 2020. The Lunar Astronaut Spatial Orientation and Information System (LASOIS) is designed to function much the same way as a global positioning system (GPS). The major difference: the moon version will rely on signals from lunar beacons, stereo cameras, and orbital imaging sensors instead of from satellites (there are none drifting around the moon) to map coordinates. These signals will be picked up by sensors onboard roving lunar vehicles, robots traversing the moon's surface and sensors mounted on astronaut space suits.
Jul 17, 2008 | 29
Former vice president Al Gore today challenged the U.S. to go from getting more than half its electrical power from greenhouse gas-spewing coal-fired power plants to getting all of it from 100 percent carbon neutral sources in a decade. In other words: eliminate fossil fuels for electricity, until the greenhouse gases can be captured and buried, in favor of nuclear, solar, wind and geothermal.
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