NASA’s Orion Crew Capsule May Launch on a Commercial Rocket

By Korey Haynes | March 14, 2019 11:45 am
illustration of Orion crew capsule in orbit

NASA’s Orion crew capsule may launch on its first big test flight on a private rocket, instead of NASA’s planned SLS. (Credit: NASA)

For years, NASA has been working on their massive Space Launch System (SLS), a next-generation heavy lift rocket that could launch cargo and astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit for the first time since the Apollo Program. They’ve been developing it in tandem with Orion, a crew capsule that would carry those astronauts into Earth orbit and beyond.

Orion’s next big test flight, called EM-1, an uncrewed mission into lunar orbit, is currently scheduled for June 2020. But in a Senate committee hearing yesterday morning, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine acknowledged that SLS is “struggling” to meet its schedule, and that if they want to launch Orion on time, they should look to private spaceflight to provide the means.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: space exploration

Astronomers Spot a Speeding Star Being Ejected From Our Milky Way Galaxy

By Alison Klesman | March 14, 2019 9:00 am
hypervelocity star

Hypervelocity stars are massive stars speeding away fast enough to leave our galaxy’s gravitational pull. Astronomers have found less than 30 of these strange stars. (Credit:
Astronomy: Roen Kelly)

The Milky Way Galaxy contains billions of stars. Though the vast majority of these are bound to the galaxy by gravity, astronomers have found a few tens of stars that are not orbiting but instead fleeing our galaxy at extreme speeds. These hypervelocity stars have intrigued researchers for years, and now a new mysterious player has entered the game. LAMOST-HVS, the closest of these fast-moving stars to our sun, has an origin story markedly different from the way we believed these stars get their kick out of the Milky Way.

In a study led by researchers from the University of Michigan and published March 12 in the Astrophysical Journal, astronomers used data from the Magellan telescope in Chile and the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite to wind back the clock and trace the trajectory of LAMOST-HVS, an 8.3-solar-mass star zipping away from the galaxy at more than 350 miles per second (568 kilometers per second). LAMOST-HVS is the closest hypervelocity star to the sun, and researchers estimate it was sent on its way by an event that occurred 33 million years ago. But that event, it seems, was different from the single origin astronomers have developed for how hypervelocity stars are ejected from the galaxy, suggesting there may be more than one way to kick a star out of the Milky Way.
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: galaxies

NASA Just Released One Final Panorama From the Mars Opportunity Rover

By Jake Parks | March 14, 2019 8:00 am
opportunity rover

This small section of the Opportunity rover’s final panorama highlights the different types of rocks found on Mars. To the left are tabular rocks, which tend to be thin and flat, and to the right are pitted rocks, which have compositions unlike any rocks previously seen during the mission. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU)

Last June, space exploration enthusiasts from across the world collectively held their breath as a global dust storm enveloped Mars. They did so not because our view of the Red Planet’s surface was obscured, but instead because a go-kart-sized rover named Opportunity, which had been roaming the Red Planet for nearly 15 years, fell silent as the storm intensified. After eight months of fruitless attempts to resurrect “Oppy,” which was only slated for a mission lasting 90 days, on February 13, NASA scientists finally declared: “Mission complete.”

However, although Opportunity is now forever resting in peace, just before the massive martian storm struck, the tenacious rover managed to capture one final panorama of the Red Planet — and it’s glorious.
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: mars, solar system

Astronauts Set for 3:14 p.m. EDT Launch to the International Space Station

By Korey Haynes | March 14, 2019 7:15 am
three astronauts in flight suits

Three new crewmembers are launching to the International Space Station today, bringing ISS back to full capacity. (Credit: NASA)

Three new crewmembers will join the International Space Station this week, launching today in a Soyuz vessel from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:14 p.m. EDT. The two NASA astronauts, Nick Hague and Christina Koch, will fly with Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin on a Soyuz spacecraft and dock with ISS after a six-hour flight. They will join NASA’s Anne McClain, Roscosmos’ Oleg Kononenko, and the Canadian Space Agency’s David Saint-Jacques, who have been in space since December, to start Expedition 59. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: space exploration

Ancient People Came From All Across England to Party at Stonehenge

By Bill Andrews | March 13, 2019 1:00 pm
stonehenge

(Credit: Enea Kelo/Shuttestock)

Some things, it appears, never change. Death and taxes are certainties, the poor we will always have with us, and of course war… war never changes. But, according to a study today in the open-access journal Science Advances, similarly untouchable is the status of Stonehenge and its ilk as tourist destinations — and our love for partying it up with pork.

The study, by a team of British archaeologists and geologists, analyzed the chemical components of pig remains at sites near the famous stone circle and found that the animals came from all over Britain. It suggests not just that humans’ pork-loving nature, and Stonehenge’s branding, have remain unchanged for millennia, but also that the early Britons were a more interconnected and mobile society than previously thought.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: archaeology

Drugs’ Inactive Ingredients Aren’t Often Listed, Can Cause Harm, Study Says

By Nathaniel Scharping | March 13, 2019 1:00 pm
pills inactive ingredients

(Credit: ADragan/Shutterstock)

When your doctor prescribes a medication, they take care not to give you something that might cause harm. But, many drugs have a hidden danger for people with allergies or other sensitivities. The inactive ingredients, non-drug components of a medication, can contain compounds that cause harm. And, says a new study, many doctors don’t even know what those ingredients are.

It’s not really a doctor’s job to know the exact formulation of every medication they give out, of course, especially given that inactive ingredients can differ greatly in different versions of the same medication. But these additional ingredients often contain lactose, corns starch, sugars and other ingredients that can cause annoying or even painful reactions in some people. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
MORE ABOUT: Vaccines & drugs

Scientists Used IBM’s Quantum Computer to Reverse Time, Possibly Breaking a Law of Physics

By Korey Haynes | March 13, 2019 11:28 am
a sandtimer running backwards

Scientists say they may have managed to reverse time using a quantum computer program. (Credit: @tsarcyanide/MIPT Press Office)

The universe is getting messy. Like a glass shattering to pieces or a single wave crashing onto the shore, the universe’s messiness can only move in one direction – toward more chaos and disorder. But scientists think that, at least for a single electron or the simplest quantum computer, they may be able to turn back time, and restore order to chaos. This doesn’t mean we’ll be visiting with dinosaurs or Napoleon any time soon, but for physicists, the idea that time can run backward at all is still a pretty big deal.

Normally, the universe’s trend toward disorder is a fundamental law: the second law of thermodynamics. It says more formally that any system can only move from more to less ordered, and that the chaos or disorder of a system – its entropy – can never decrease. But an international team of scientists led by researchers at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology think they may have discovered a loophole. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: physics

Climate Change Is Driving Marine Species North, Changing California’s Coast

By Roni Dengler | March 12, 2019 5:47 pm
bodega bay marine heatwave

California’s Bodega Bay, as seen from the iconic Highway 1 in Sonoma County. Scientists studying the area watched as recent ocean heatwaves pushed marine life north as far as 250 miles. (Credit: yhelfman/shutterstock)

Just north of San Francisco, Bodega Bay cuts a crescent moon shoreline into the California coast. Toward the end of summer in 2014, the water temperature of the bay skyrocketed. In one of the most intense marine heatwaves on record, warm water persisted for nearly seven months. Now researchers say that the marine heatwaves that roasted Northern California’s coastline for two years also moved a record amount of marine life north. And these marine animal relocations forecast what California’s coast may look like in the future, the researchers say.

“Against the backdrop of climate change, we hope southern species will track northward because that’s necessary for their persistence and survival,” Eric Sanford, a marine ecologist at the University of California in Davis, who led the new research, said in a statement. “It’s perhaps a glimpse of what Northern California’s coast might look like in the future as ocean temperatures continue to warm.” Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts
MORE ABOUT: climate change

50 Years Later, NASA Just Handed Scientists Untouched Apollo Moon Rocks

By Korey Haynes | March 12, 2019 4:15 pm
astronaut on lunar surface

The most recent Moon samples collected came from Apollo 17 in 1972. (Credits: NASA/Eugene A. Cernan)

For nearly half a century, three small rocks have sat quietly, waiting for a world that could appreciate them. The astronauts who picked up these rocks on the moon’s surface didn’t know them to be any more special than the hundreds of pounds of other rocks they collected. But NASA, confident that science would advance, preserved them in their pristine state, hoping to discover new things not available with 1970s technology.

And now, the future has arrived. NASA has selected nine teams from seven research institutions to study the samples. The rocks in question came from the Apollo 15, 16 and 17 missions, and have never been exposed to the atmosphere on Earth. They’ve been stored in special chambers, frozen or kept in helium to best preserve them until researchers were ready to study the samples. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: the moon

Astronomers Spot Massive Twin Stars Nestled Close Together

By Korey Haynes | March 12, 2019 12:19 pm
illustration of two stars forming in a swirl of dust and gas

Binary stars often form in pairs from the same initial cloud of dust and gas. (Credit: B. Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF)

Researchers have found two massive young stars nestled closer together than anything astronomers have seen so far. By studying PDS 27 and its companion, located about 8,000 light-years from Earth, astronomers hope to learn more about how stars like this form and evolve. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: stars
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