July appears like a truly occupied month for NASA. After the late Pluto flyby of the New Horizons, todayNASA is going to declare the discovery of “another Earth” i.e. another Earth-like planet. This possible discovery has been made with the help of NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope. Today, at a press conference, NASA will be sharing the recent discoveries made by Kepler Space Telescope.
Finding it hard to believe? Read what NASA had to say in the official statement: Click here
Today, and thousands of discoveries later, astronomers are on the cusp of finding something people have dreamed about for thousands of years — another Earth.
The very first exoplanet that was discovered orbiting another Sun-like star was found 20-years ago in 1995. Today, as NASA hints, we could be greeted by another Earth.
NASA is holding a live teleconference to announce the new Kepler Telescope discoveries from 9:00 am PDT / 12:00 pm EDT on July 23.
Kepler Telescope was launched in 2009 to search the planets in Goldilocks zone i.e. a safe distance from a star for a planet to hold liquid water. It is expected that NASA announcement will feature the most Earth-like planet to date, or another Earth.
Just 21 years ago, these Earth-size planets were science fiction. Thanks to its launch, the Kepler Telescope has made a disocvery of more than 1,000 planets, and 3,000 bodies that fall under the “planet candidates.” It was earlier this year, when NASA found eight new planets in the Goldilocks zone.
Last week’s Pluto flyby turned Pluto into a meme. If you missed the best Pluto memes from the internet, take a look at them here.
Rocket blast from the past: Voyager 1 fires thrusters last used in 1980
While some spacecraft get the chance to go out in a blaze of glory, others are in it for the long haul – Voyager 1 more so than any other. The mission celebrated its 40th anniversary this year, but it’s not just a lump of metal floating through interstellar space: that baby still runs. Thrusts, rather.
Of course, many parts of the Voyager craft still work despite their age — they’ve been sending reliable telemetry back since launch, including the memorable data in 2012 indicating that Voyager 1 had entered interstellar space. But the crafts’ power sources are estimated to run dry around 2025, at which point they will no longer be reachable.
In anticipation of that moment, perhaps, a group of engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have been kicking the tires on Voyager 1. They noticed that the craft’s attitude control thrusters, which it uses to keep itself pointed the right direction, have been falling in efficiency for years.
Fortunately, the Voyagers are equipped with backup thrusters included with this eventuality in mind. Only one problem: the last time they were used was 37 years ago, in 1980.
To reawaken these dormant thrusters the team had to go back to the original Voyager documentation.
“The Voyager flight team dug up decades-old data and examined the software that was coded in an outdated assembler language, to make sure we could safely test the thrusters,” said JPL’s Chris Jones, who led the effort, in a JPL news release.
That’s because for all the team now knows, not being the original software engineers, there could be some bug or strange feature in the code that might interrupt normal operations or (heaven forbid). And the thrusters had never been tested for the 10-millisecond “puffs” needed for reorientation.
On November 28, the team sent the signal to warm up the thruster and fire off a few puffs. The radio waves traveled for 19 hours and 35 minutes before reaching Voyager 1 13 billion miles away; 19 hours and 35 minutes after that, they got the results of their little experiment.
“The mood was one of relief, joy and incredulity after witnessing these well-rested thrusters pick up the baton as if no time had passed at all,” said Todd Barber.
The test went so well that not only will Voyager 1 be switching over to the backup thrusters until there’s no longer enough power to keep them warm, but they’re looking into to doing the same thing for its twin, Voyager 2 — after proper testing, of course.
Lego’s official ‘Women of NASA’ set goes on sale November 1
Lego has a new set that originated by a member of its Lego Ideas fan-sourced creation platform: The Women of NASA, a package that includes NASA pioneers Nancy Grace Roman, Margeret Hamilton, Sally Ride and Mae Jamison, as well as a space shuttle model, the Hubble telescope and display stands for all.
The Lego set was originally proposed by MIT News deputy editor Maia Weinstock on the Ideas platform last year, and quickly made its way to the 10,000 mark needed for official project approval by Lego.
Weinstock had suggested that the set include computer scientist Margaret Hamilton, who developed onboard software for the Apollo missions while working at NASA during the 60s; Katherine Johnson, who calculated and verified launch and landing trajectories for Mercury and Apollo programs (and who was depicted in the film Hidden Figures); Sally Ride, the first American woman in space; Nancy Grace Roman, who helped plan and create the Hubble Space Telescope and NASA’s astronomy research program; and Mae Jamison, the first African-American woman in space.
The final kit includes all but Katherine Johnson, which Lego says is only because it requires approval from all involved, and apparently there was some hiccup in gaining approval from Johnson and her family at this time.
The set was designed by Lego’s Gemma Anderson and Marie Sertillanges, and sticks close to Weinstein’s original vision. Anderson and Sertillanges went to great lengths to capture specific details in the Lego recreations of these space icons, including how Sally Ride’s name tag says just “Sally,” which is in keeping with a request she actually made in real life.
Again, the Women of NASA set is on sale starting November 1, and will retail for $24.99.
Rogue Chinese space station is on a collision course with Earth
Sometime in the next couple of months, the Tiangong-1 space station is going to fall to Earth — and we’ll have no idea where it’s going to land until a couple of hours before it does.
The space laboratory was being controlled by the Chinese government until an amateur space tracker noticed in June 2016 that it had apparently gone rogue. A few months later, Chinese officials told the UN they no longer had control and they had no idea when it was going to land.
As Jonathan McDowell, Harvard astrophysicist, told The Guardian, “Not knowing when it’s going to come down translates as not knowing where it’s going to come down.” And if no one has control, that means there’s no way to stop it from landing on a populated area. It’s not likely that it’ll happen, but it’s still a possibility.
Tiangong-1 was China’s first space station, launched in 2011. It weighs 8.5 tons and has completed almost 35,000 orbits. It’s expected to make landfall sometime between now and March or April next year.
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