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Probe to Land on Asteroid

Nasa’s mission to land on an asteroid could help save the Earth, the space agency has revealed.

The mission is expected to test an ‘enhanced gravity tractor’, that could be used to push away an asteroid on a collision course with Earth.

The technique would use a a robotic probe to fly alongside a space rock for months or years, gradually nudging it off course with slight gravitational changes caused by taking boulders from the surface.

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The gravity tractor technique would use a a robotic probe to fly alongside a space rock for months or years, gradually nudging it off course with slight gravitational changes caused by taking boulders from the surface.

The gravity tractor technique would use a a robotic probe to fly alongside a space rock for months or years, gradually nudging it off course with slight gravitational changes caused by taking boulders from the surface.

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Why Is Jupiter Spot Shrinking?

Jupiter’s most distinctive feature – a giant red spot bigger than Earth – is shrinking, images from the Hubble Space Telescope released today have revealed.

The so-called ‘Great Red Spot’ is a violent storm, which in the late 1800s was estimated to be about 25,000 miles (about 40,000 km) in diameter – wide enough for three Earths to fit side by side.

The storm, which is the biggest in the solar system, appears as a deep red orb surrounded by layers of pale yellow, orange and white. 

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Close Call for Asteroid

An asteroid the size of a bus came to within 186,000 miles of Earth – a close shave in cosmic terms – on Saturday morning.

The recently-detected asteroid HL129 was closer to Earth than the Moon – which is on average 238,855 miles away from our planet – on its closest approach at 4.13am.

The asteroid is about 7.6 metres wide, according to NASA’s Asteroid Watch project based at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Looming: This Nasa video shows HL129 on its approach to Earth. The bus-sized asteroid came closer to Earth than our own Moon

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What Happens When We Exceed The Universe’s Speed Limit?

What happens when we exceed the universe's speed limit?

As far as universal limits go, the speed of light gets all the glory. But did you know there is a different speed limit for particles? It’s called the GZK limit, and some people think it has already been exceeded. Which has some pretty weird implications for the laws of the universe.

We know that the ultimate speed limit of the universe, the limit that nothing can exceed, is the speed of light. Nothing gets around faster than a photon. But the universe is not exclusively made up of photons. It is also made up of physical particles. Of course, as Einstein proved, these particles can be equivalent to photons. The equation E = mc2 showed us that mass can change into energy and energy into mass the same way that water can be poured from one cup to another — although with considerably more difficulty. While energy is tough to get a hold on, mass is notoriously sluggish. No matter how little the quantity of mass we try to accelerate, we can never quite get it up to the speed of light. read more

Best View of Jupiter

British stargazers will be treated to their best view of Jupiter for many years to come next month as the largest planet in the solar system sweeps into prime position in the night sky.

From March 1, Jupiter and its four major moons should be clearly visible from anywhere in Britain high in the south as soon as it gets dark using just a pair of binoculars.

The planet, which is over 1100 times the size of Earth, will be some 435 million miles from Earth and won’t be at such a high point in the sky again until 2026.

Gas giant: Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, will be at its highest point in the sky for years to come from the start of next month
Gas giant: Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, will be at its highest point in the sky for years to come from the start of next month

 

To celebrate, a series of viewing events has been planned across the country as part of National Astronomy Week, which runs between March 1-8. read more

Jellyfish Galaxies

Cosmic jellyfish, with blobbed bodies and long tentacles made of stars, could unlock the secrets to how galaxies take their shape.

These mysterious objects are in fact spiral galaxies that are in the process of being ripped apart and remade as they move to join other galaxy clusters.

The process, which turns spirals into elliptical-shaped galaxies, has been captured by the Hubble Telescope in a number of recent images.

Jelly fish galaxies are created when spiral galaxies collide into galaxy clusters. Pictured here is Galaxy IC 3418 taking the form of a jellyfish as it collides with a neighbour

Jelly fish galaxies are created when spiral galaxies collide into galaxy clusters. Pictured here is Galaxy IC 3418 taking the form of a jellyfish as it collides with a neighbor read more

Mystery of Martian Rock Deepens

The mystery over a mysterious Martian rock that appeared in front of the Opportunity rover deepened today.

Last week researchers saw a rock mysteriously appear over the course of a few days in front of the rover.

They now say the initial tests show it is ‘like nothing we’ve ever seen before’.

An strange rock, seen here on the left image, mysteriously appeared in front of Opportunity rover in the beginning of the month. The rover, which landed on Mars in 2004, hasn't moved in over a month as it waits for better weather on the red planet

An strange rock, seen here on the left image, mysteriously appeared in front of Opportunity rover in the beginning of the month. The rover, which landed on Mars in 2004, hasn’t moved in over a month as it waits for better weather on the red planet read more

Mini Ice Age Coming?

The Sun’s activity is at its lowest for 100 years, scientists have warned.

They say the conditions are eerily similar to those before the Maunder Minimum, a time in 1645 when a mini ice age hit, Freezing London’s River Thames.

Researcher believe the solar lull could cause major changes, and say there is a 20% chance it could lead to ‘major changes’ in temperatures.

 

Sunspot numbers are well below their values from 2011, and strong solar flares have been infrequent, as this image shows - despite Nasa forecasting major solar storms

Sunspot numbers are well below their values from 2011, and strong solar flares have been infrequent, as this image shows – despite Nasa forecasting major solar storms

 

THE SOLAR CYCLE

Conventional wisdom holds that solar activity swings back and forth like a simple pendulum.

At one end of the cycle, there is a quiet time with few sunspots and flares.

At the other end, solar max brings high sunspot numbers and frequent solar storms.

It’s a regular rhythm that repeats every 11 years.

Reality is more complicated.

Astronomers have been counting sunspots for centuries, and they have seen that the solar cycle is not perfectly regular. read more

Earth Is a Happy Accident

by: the Common Constitutionalist 

The other evening, I watched a program about planet Earth and how it was formed and so on. Throughout the program the “scientists” were constantly telling the viewers of how lucky we are to be placed in the universe where we are, how everything just seemed to come together for planet Earth, or something like that.

 

At the time I thought nothing about the program. Then Saturday morning, I awoke early, got my coffee, sat in my chair and began to write. I wrote the title of my next article, and that’s as far as I got.

 

I gazed up from the page and stared at some plants in front of a large sliding glass door. For reasons unknown, I began to hypothesize how large I could get them to grow if I somehow pumped up the CO2 in the room. Makes sense right? No? Well I thought it anyway.

 

Of course, I thought, too much and I wouldn’t survive and how much is too much for the plants? The balance would have to be just right.

 

At this point I guess I was just daydreaming. My gaze went from the plants to out the slider where the sun was just up in the sky was becoming blue. Then it hit me. read more