NASA Engineers Test Prototype Robotic Asteroid Capture System 

In order to better understand intricate operations and detailed planning needed to capture multi-ton boulder from asteroid surface

A prototype of the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) robotic capture module system is tested with a mock asteroid boulder in its clutches at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The robotic portion of ARM is targeted for launch in 2021. Located in the center’s Robotic Operations Center, the mockup helps engineers understand the intricate operations required to collect a multi-ton boulder from an asteroid’s surface. The hardware involved here includes three space frame legs with foot pads, two seven degrees of freedom arms that have with microspine gripper “hands” to grasp onto the boulder. NASA and students from West Virginia University built the asteroid mockup from rock, styrofoam, plywood and an aluminum endoskeleton. The mock boulder arrived in four pieces and was assembled inside the ROC to help visualize the engagement between the prototype system and a potential capture target. Inside the ROC, engineers can use industrial robots, a motion-based platform, and customized algorithms to create simulations of space operations for robotic spacecraft. The ROC also allows engineers to simulate robotic satellite servicing operations, fine tuning systems and controllers and optimizing performance factors for future missions when a robotic spacecraft might be deployed to repair or refuel a satellite in orbit. Image Credit: NASA
A prototype of the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) robotic capture module system is tested with a mock asteroid boulder in its clutches at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The robotic portion of ARM is targeted for launch in 2021.
Located in the center’s Robotic Operations Center, the mockup helps engineers understand the intricate operations required to collect a multi-ton boulder from an asteroid’s surface. The hardware involved here includes three space frame legs with footpads, two seven degrees of freedom arms that have with microspine gripper “hands” to grasp onto the boulder.
NASA and students from West Virginia University built the asteroid mockup from rock, styrofoam, plywood and an aluminum endoskeleton. The mock boulder arrived in four pieces and was assembled inside the ROC to help visualize the engagement between the prototype system and a potential capture target.
Inside the ROC, engineers can use industrial robots, a motion-based platform, and customized algorithms to create simulations of space operations for robotic spacecraft. The ROC also allows engineers to simulate robotic satellite-servicing operations, fine-tuning systems and controllers and optimizing performance factors for future missions when a robotic spacecraft might be deployed to repair or refuel a satellite in orbit.
Image Credit: NASA

Space news (Asteroid Redirect Mission: testing of prototype of robotic capture module system) – The Robotic Operations Center of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA's Asteroid Redirect Missions. Credits: NASA/Goddard
A new report provides expert findings from a special action team on how elements of the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) can address decadal science objectives and help close Strategic Knowledge Gaps (SKGs) for future human missions in deep space. Credits: NASA/Goddard

Inside the Robotic Operations Center (ROC) of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center engineers are at work preparing the robotic section of the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). The most recent work involved testing a prototype of the asteroid capture system with a mock boulder built by NASA and students from West Virginia University. This work will help engineers learn more about the intricate operations needed to capture a multi-ton boulder from the surface of an asteroid. The robotic section of ARM is targeted for a 2021 launch window.

The capability built into the ROC allows engineers to create a simulation of the capture of a boulder from the surface of an asteroid. Here they can also simulate servicing of the satellite, fine tuning of systems and controllers, and even optimize all performance factors for future repairs and refueling. An important capability when building spacecraft worth hundreds of millions of dollars and even more. One that saves money and time.

The Asteroid Redirect Mission is expected to offer benefits that should teach us more about operating in space and enable future space missions. You can read a report here on some of the expected benefits.

The report reflects the findings of a two-month study conducted by members of the Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG). It explains many of ARM’s potential contributions to the future of the human journey to the beginning of space and time.

“This report is an important step in identifying ways that ARM will be more scientifically relevant as we continue mission formulation for the robotic and the crew segments,” said Gates. “We’re currently in the process of selecting hosted instruments and payloads for the robotic segment, and hope to receive an updated analysis from the SBAG after we announce those selections in spring 2017.”

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Learn more about NASA’s contributions to the human journey to the beginning of space and time here.

Read about NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission.

Discover NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Globular Cluster Terzan 1

100,000 stars bonded by gravity in a spherical shape hundreds of light-years across

Old, red stars inhabit globular cluster Terzan 1, which is a few hundred light-years across. The brighter, blue stars in this image are in fact foreground stars, and not part of the globular cluster. Image credit: NASA & ESA
Old, red stars inhabit globular cluster Terzan 1, which is a few hundred light-years across. The brighter, blue stars in this image are in fact foreground stars and not part of the globular cluster. Image credit: NASA & ESA

Space news (February 19, 2016) – 20,000 light-years away in the constellation of Scorpius (The Scorpion) –

Astronomers using the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 onboard NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope recently took this image of globular cluster Terzan 1. Just one of around 150 globular clusters that are part of the Milky Way, the red stars in this image are some of the oldest stars in our galaxy. 

Astrophysicists study globular clusters in order to learn more about the early stages of the formation and evolution of the Milky Way. It also allows them to understand more about the formation and evolution of galaxies around the cosmos in general.

Astronomers also detect X-ray sources in Terzan 1, they believe emanate from binary star systems containing a dense neutron star and a normal star. They are currently studying these sources to understand and learn more about X-ray emissions and binary star systems.

Take the amazing journey of the Hubble Space Telescope here

Learn more about the Milky Way, the galaxy you live in, here.

Learn more about globular clusters here.

Read about the things astronomers have discovered about binary star systems here.

Read about the youngest, nearest black hole discovered.

Read about mysterious ripples detected traveling through the planet-forming region of a nearby star.

Read about a magnetar detected very close to the Monster of the Milky Way.

Hubble Uncovers Clues to the Formation and Evolution of the Milky Way

In the embers of once vibrant white dwarf stars in the central bulge of the galaxy

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has detected for the first time a population of white dwarfs embedded in the hub of our Milky Way galaxy. The Hubble images are the deepest, most detailed study of the galaxy's central bulge of stars. The smoldering remnants of once-vibrant stars can yield clues to our galaxy's early construction stages that happened long before Earth and our sun formed. [Left] — This is a ground-based view of the Milky Way’s central bulge, seen in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius. Giant dust clouds block most of the starlight coming from the galactic center. Hubble, however, peered through a region (marked by the arrow) called the Sagittarius Window, which offers a keyhole view into the galaxy's hub. [Upper right] — This is a small section of Hubble's view of the dense collection of stars crammed together in the galactic bulge. The region surveyed is part of the Sagittarius Window Eclipsing Extrasolar Planet Search (SWEEPS) field and is located 26,000 light-years away. [Lower right] — Hubble uncovered extremely faint and hot white dwarfs. This is a sample of 4 out of the 70 brightest white dwarfs spied by Hubble in the Milky Way's bulge. Astronomers picked them out based on their faintness, blue-white color, and motion relative to our sun. The numbers in the inset images correspond to the white dwarfs' location in the larger Hubble view. Image: NASA/ESA
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has detected for the first time a population of white dwarfs embedded in the hub of our Milky Way galaxy. The Hubble images are the deepest, most detailed study of the galaxy’s central bulge of stars. The smoldering remnants of once-vibrant stars can yield clues to our galaxy’s early construction stages that happened long before Earth and our sun formed.
[Left] — This is a ground-based view of the Milky Way’s central bulge, seen in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius. Giant dust clouds block most of the starlight coming from the galactic center. Hubble, however, peered through a region (marked by the arrow) called the Sagittarius Window, which offers a keyhole view into the galaxy’s hub.
[Upper right] — This is a small section of Hubble’s view of the dense collection of stars crammed together in the galactic bulge. The region surveyed is part of the Sagittarius Window Eclipsing Extrasolar Planet Search (SWEEPS) field and is located 26,000 light-years away.
[Lower right] — Hubble uncovered extremely faint and hot white dwarfs. This is a sample of 4 out of the 70 brightest white dwarfs spied by Hubble in the Milky Way’s bulge. Astronomers picked them out based on their faintness, blue-white color, and motion relative to our sun. The numbers in the inset images correspond to the white dwarfs’ location in the larger Hubble view.
Image: NASA/ESA

Space news (December 08, 2015) – Looking through a cosmic keyhole 26,000 light-years away in Sagittarius

Astronomers trying to understand the formation and evolution of the Milky Way by studying the first stars to be born in the galaxy have a problem. The stars within the central bulge of the galaxy formed first according to stellar theory. Unfortunately, the light from these suns is blocked by massive clouds of gas and dust, which makes studying their role in the formation and evolution of the Milky Way difficult. 

In order to view the central bulge of the galaxy, astronomers looked through a small keyhole in the sky, called the Sagittarius Window. Making it possible to study the formation and evolution of the Milky Way and galaxies as a whole by comparison. A view giving us a look into the very heart of the galaxy and the blueprints nature uses to construct these island universes.

Current astronomical theory believes the central bulge of the Milky Way grew first, followed by the relatively quick birth of the stars making up the rest of the galaxy. Peering deep into the heart of the central bulge, astronomers have discovered a family of 70 ancient white dwarf stars, they believe are the smoldering remnants of once-vibrant suns that inhabited the core long ago. Ancient stars scientists are studying to uncover clues to the processes that formed the Milky Way and by relation the family of galaxies in the cosmos. Marking the deepest, most detailed archeological study of the central bulge of the Milky Way and by extension its formation and evolution.

These ancient white dwarf stars hold the keys to opening the door to better understanding the history of the Milky Way. To gaining knowledge and facts concerning 12 billion-year-old suns that existed when the galaxy was young. Knowledge and facts giving astronomers clues to the early years and evolution of the Milky Way and the billions of island universes in the cosmos.

This is a close up of ancient white dwarfs inhabiting the bulge of the Milky Way.
This is a close up of ancient white dwarfs inhabiting the bulge of the Milky Way. Image NASA/ESA

It is important to observe the Milky Way’s bulge because it is the only bulge we can study in detail,” explained Annalisa Calamida of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, the science paper’s lead author. “You can see bulges in distant galaxies, but you cannot resolve the very faint stars, such as the white dwarfs. The Milky Way’s bulge includes almost a quarter of the galaxy’s stellar mass. Characterizing the properties of the bulge stars can then provide important information to understanding the formation of the entire Milky Way galaxy and that of similar, more distant galaxies.”

The Hubble survey also found slightly more low-mass stars in the bulge, compared to those in the galaxy’s disk population. This result suggests that the environment in the bulge may have been different than the one in the disk, resulting in a different star-formation mechanism,” Calamida said.

Astronomers have only looked at about 70 of the hottest white dwarfs Hubble can pick out of at least 70 thousand stars in the small area of the bulge of the Milky Way they looked at. White dwarf stars detected by making extremely precise measurements of the motion of over 240,000 stars they detected over a decade of viewing as part of the Sagittarius Window Eclipsing Extrasolar Planet Search (SWEEPS). Precise measurements astronomers used to determine which stars are disk stars or suns inhabiting the bulge of our galaxy. Stars that inhabit the bulge move at a different rate than suns in the disk of the galaxy as compared to our Sun. Extremely hot white dwarfs are also slightly bluer relative to stars like our own sun and they become fainter and cooler as they age. Facts that allowed Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys to pick out 70 of the brightest white dwarf stars inhabiting the bulge of the Milky Way.

Comparing the positions of the stars from now and 10 years ago we were able to measure accurate motions of the stars,” said Kailash Sahu of STScI, and the study’s leader. “The motions allowed us to tell if they were disk stars, bulge stars, or halo stars.”

These 70 white dwarfs represent the peak of the iceberg,” Sahu said. “We estimate that the total number of white dwarfs is about 100,000 in this tiny Hubble view of the bulge. Future telescopes such as NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will allow us to count almost all of the stars in the bulge down to the faintest ones, which today’s telescopes, even Hubble, cannot see.”

The team’s going back to work

This team of intrepid astronomers and scientists now plan to increase the sample size of the white dwarfs currently being studied. This will be done by analyzing additional parts of the SWEEPS field of study, which they hope to use to get more precise measurements of the exact age of the bulge of the Milky Way. They’ll also take a look at the possibility the star formation processes used to create the bulge billions of years ago, could be slightly different than current star formation processes at work in the younger disk of the galaxy.

You can learn more about the Hubble Space Telescope here.

Read and learn about white dwarf stars here.

Read about the discoveries of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) here.

Learn more about the formation and evolution of the Milky Way here.

Read about the discoveries of the Sagittarius Window Eclipsing Extrasolar Planet Search (SWEEPS) here.

Read about five Explorer Program missions recently selected by NASA.

Learn more about galactic nurseries where stars are born.

Read about the first Earth-sized exoplanet found orbiting in the habitable zone of its home star.

U.S. Congress Recognizes Right of U.S. Citizens to Own Asteroid Resources

By passing historic legislation H.R. 2262 into law

A complex asteroid mining module is required to build possible future space settlements. This mining module is fully automated and can mine and process materials ranging from metal to fiberglass to volatiles
A complex asteroid mining module is required to build possible future space settlements. This mining module is fully automated and can mine and process materials ranging from metal to fiberglass to volatiles

Space news (November 17, 2015) – U.S. House of Congress –

When President Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act into law on May 20, 1862, this spurred growth in the search for gold and timber to fuel the expanding economy of the nation and opened up new frontiers for continued growth and prosperity for all. 

Now, all Americans can take part in the future asteroid bonanza on the space frontier in the decades ahead. 

On November 10, 2015, U.S. Congress passed into law bill H.R. 2262, legislation recognizing the right of Americans to own the resources contained within asteroids they claim as property. 

One 300 meter asteroid can contain more minerals than have been mined on Earth, so far.
One 300 meter asteroid can contain more minerals than have been mined on Earth, so far.

We are proud to have the support of Congress. Throughout history, governments have spurred growth in new frontiers by instituting sensible legislation. Long ago, The Homestead Act of 1862 advocated for the search for gold and timber, and today, H.R. 2262 fuels a new economy that will open many avenues for the continual growth and prosperity of humanity. This off-planet economy will forever change our lives for the better here on Earth,” said Chris Lewicki, President, and Chief Engineer, Planetary Resources, Inc.

Planetary Resources is grateful for the leadership shown by Congress in crafting this legislation and looks forward to President Obama signing the language into law. We applaud the members of Congress who have led this effort and actively sought stakeholder input to ensure a vibrant economy and prosperous way of life now and for centuries to come. Patty Murray (D-WA), Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Lamar Smith (R-TX), Bill Posey (R-FL) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA) have been unwavering in their support and leadership for the growth of the U.S. economy into the Solar System. Their forward-looking stance and active role in enabling the development of an economically and strategically valuable new marketplace will ensure our country’s continued leadership in space,” said Peter Marquez, Vice President of Global Engagement, Planetary Resources, Inc.

Planetary Resources is one of a new breed of private space adventures planning on mining an asteroid close to Earth in the next decade.
Planetary Resources is one of a new breed of private space adventures planning on mining an asteroid close to Earth in the next decade.

In the words of Senator Murray, “I am glad that we’ve taken this important step forward to update our federal policies to make sure they work for innovative businesses creating jobs in Washington state. Washington state leads in so many ways, and I’m proud that local businesses are once again at the forefront of new industries that will help our economy continue to grow.”

Congressman Posey said, “This bipartisan, bicameral legislation is a landmark for American leadership in space exploration. Recognizing basic legal protections in space will help pave the way for exciting future commercial space endeavors. Asteroids and other objects in space are excellent potential sources of rare minerals and other resources that can be used to manufacture a wide range of products here on Earth and to support future space exploration missions. Americans willing to invest in space mining operations need legal certainty that they can keep the fruits of their labor, and this bill provides that certainty.”

Congressman Kilmer said, “The commercial space industry in Washington state is leading the way in developing the cutting edge technology necessary to support human space exploration. The U. S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act will give these ventures the framework they need to continue to innovate and to keep the United States at the head of this growing, global industry. I congratulate the Senate for taking this step, and I look forward to the House quickly sending this bill to President Obama’s desk.”

Eric Anderson, Co-Founder, and Co-Chairman, Planetary Resources, Inc., said, “Many years from now, we will view this pivotal moment in time as a major step toward humanity becoming a multi-planetary species. This legislation establishes the same supportive framework that created the great economies of history, and it will foster the sustained development of space.”

Time to cash in those old stocks and bonds from the bygone era of Earth exploitation. The future is asteroids! 

Private firms around the United States and the world are currently making plans to take part in the future space bonanza. Can you afford to sit idly on the sidelines, while the future and opportunity pass you by? 

Take action! Join Planetary Resources or one of the few private firms planning on mining an asteroid in the decades ahead. 

Get your little piece of the future, in the form of a portion of the resources and monetary rewards of being part of the coming space bonanza.

People are currently getting in on the ground floor of this adventure and opportunity to take part in the future of mankind. 

The future is before us! Waiting to greet us into a sustainable way of living among the stars.  

Join the human journey to the beginning of space and time by investing in the future of mankind.

Read about NASA’s Explorer Program, which allows for relatively low-cost exploration of the solar system and cosmos.

Learn more about private firm Planetary Resources Inc. and their plans to mine an asteroid in the future.

Read about the search for the missing link in black hole evolution.

Learn more about mining as asteroid here.

Check out and join private firm Planetary Resources Inc. in their plans to cash in on the asteroid mining bonanza here.

Learn more about historic legislation H.R. 2262 here.

Planetary Nebula Menzel 2 in Final Stages of Life Cycle

Two white dwarfs shed outer layers of mass to form winding blue clouds of hot gas

This planetary nebula is called PK 329-02.2 and is located in the constellation of Norma in the southern sky. It is also sometimes referred to as Menzel 2, or Mz 2, named after the astronomer Donald Menzel who discovered the nebula in 1922. When stars that are around the mass of the Sun reach their final stages of life, they shed their outer layers into space, which appear as glowing clouds of gas called planetary nebulae. The ejection of mass in stellar burnout is irregular and not symmetrical, so that planetary nebulae can have very complex shapes. In the case of Menzel 2 the nebula forms a winding blue cloud that perfectly aligns with two stars at its centre. In 1999 astronomers discovered that the star at the upper right is in fact the central star of the nebula, and the star to the lower left is probably a true physical companion of the central star. For tens of thousands of years the stellar core will be cocooned in spectacular clouds of gas and then, over a period of a few thousand years, the gas will fade away into the depths of the Universe. The curving structure of Menzel 2 resembles a last goodbye before the star reaches its final stage of retirement as a white dwarf. A version of this image was entered into the Hubble's Hidden Treasures image processing competition by contestant Serge Meunier.
This planetary nebula is called PK 329-02.2 and is located in the constellation of Norma in the southern sky.

Space news (October 16, 2015) – light-years away in the southern constellation Norma –

First discovered during modern times by noted astronomer Donald Menzel in 1922, planetary nebula PK 329-02.2 or Menzel 2 (Mz 2), is composed of a central star and companion sun cocooned in stunning, hot clouds of glowing gas ejected in complex shapes that will fade into the cosmos over the next few thousands of years.

Astrophysicists believe the star at the upper right of the two central stars shining brightly in this Hubble image is the main star of planetary nebula PK 329-02.2. The star just to the lower left of this central star astronomers believe is the companion sun, which is gravitationally tied to the main star.

Over tens of thousands of years, this pair of stars is expected to be cocooned in stunning clouds of hot, glowing gas. Swirling clouds forming a goodbye wave as the main star enters the final stages of its life cycle and starts to enjoy retirement as a white dwarf star

You can discover more about the journey of the Hubble Space Telescope here.

Learn more about planetary nebula here.

Take part in NASA’s mission to the stars here.

Learn why planetary scientists think they have found absolute evidence for the presence of water on Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

Read about the Twin Jet Nebula and its cosmic wings.

Learn more about the plans of private firm Planetary Resources Inc to mine as asteroid in the near future and how to take part in the journey.

Hubble Telescope Views Young Globular Cluster NGC 1783

One of the largest globular clusters in the Large Magellanic Cloud

 This new Hubble image of NGC 1783, taken with the Advanced Camera for Survey (ACS), shows the typical shape of young globular clusters viewed during the human journey to the beginning of space and time. Image credit NASA.

This new Hubble image of NGC 1783, taken with the Advanced Camera for Survey (ACS), shows the typical shape of young globular clusters viewed during the human journey to the beginning of space and time. Image credit NASA.

Space news (September 20, 2015) – 160,000 light-years from Earth toward the constellation Dorado –

Held in the grip of its own gravity, globular cluster NGC 1783 orbits the Milky Way as part of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a region of space filled with star-forming regions like the Tarantula Nebula and LHA 120-N 11.

Lying in the southern hemisphere constellation Dorado, the typical symmetrical form and dense collection of suns near the center of NGC 1783 was first recorded by John Herschel around 1835.

Astrophysicists studied the color and brightness of individual suns within globular cluster NGC 1783 to estimate its age and history of star formation. Measurements indicate that despite its typical distribution of stars and shape this larger star cluster is only about 1.5 billion years old and during its lifespan has undergone at least two-star forming periods separated by 50 to 100 million years. Typically globular clusters viewed are several billion years of age.

The highs and lows of star formation in a globular cluster gives astrophysicists an indication of the density of gas available for new stars to form during its life span. During periods when dense gas is available for star formation, the most massive stars explode as supernovae, blowing away the gas needed for new stars to form. The reservoir of gas for new star formation is then replenished by less massive stars which live longer and die less violently.  Once the reservoir of gas flows to denser, central regions of a star cluster, the second phase of star formation takes place, and a massive star with a short life spans once again blow off the gas. Astrophysicists think this cycle continues until the gas leftover can no longer sustain the formation of new stars.

Learn more about the formation of new stars here.

Discover NASA’s space mission here.

Journey to the beginning of space and time using the Hubble Space Telescope here.

Read more about galactic nurseries found during our journey.

Learn about New Horizons Visit to Pluto and its moon Charon.

Learn more about the star systems discovered during our trip through the cosmos.

Crucible of the Building Blocks of Life

Just add water, gasses, and simple organic molecules 

Space news (July 27, 2015) – the search for life beyond Earth – a simple recipe for extraterrestrial life –

The simple building blocks of life could have traveled to Earth on icy grains of dust carried on asteroids and meteorites during the early moments of the Solar System.
The simple building blocks of life could have traveled to Earth on icy grains of dust carried on asteroids and meteorites during the early moments of the Solar System.

NASA scientists studying the origins of organic compounds important to the development of life on Earth think they’re on the trail of a cosmic “Crucible of the Building Blocks of Life”. Recent experiments conducted by astrobiologists working at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland indicate asteroids and meteorites could have been the source of complex organic compounds essential to the evolution of life on Earth. Essential organic compounds they have been able to reproduce in laboratory experiments from simpler organic compounds, water, and gasses in simulations of the space environments of meteorites and asteroids. 

“We found that the types of organic compounds in our laboratory-produced ices match very well to what is found in meteorites,” said Karen Smith of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This result suggests that these important organic compounds in meteorites may have originated from simple molecular ices in space. This type of chemistry may also be relevant for comets, which contain large amounts of water and carbon dioxide ices. These experiments show that vitamin B3 and other complex organic compounds could be made in space and it is plausible that meteorite and comet impacts could have added an extraterrestrial component to the supply of vitamin B3 on ancient Earth.”

“This work is part of a broad research program in the field of Astrobiology at NASA Goddard. We are working to understand the origins of biologically important molecules and how they came to exist throughout the Solar System and on Earth. The experiments performed in our laboratory demonstrate an important possible connection between the complex organic molecules formed in cold interstellar space and those we find in meteorites.”

The Crucible of the Building Blocks of Life

Deep within immense clouds of gas and dust created by exploding stars (supernovae) and the winds of red giant stars coming to the end of their days are countless dust grains. Many of these dust grains will end up part of asteroids and meteorites like the millions of bodies in the Main Asteroid Belt, Kuiper Belt, and Oort Cloud. Asteroids and meteorites that bombarded the Earth from space during the formation of the planets and Solar System.

Cosmic dust grains carried on asteroids and meteorites that struck the Earth during the first moments of the birth of the Solar System could have carried complex organic compounds that contributed to the birth and evolution of life on Earth.
Cosmic dust grains carried on asteroids and meteorites that struck the Earth during the first moments of the birth of the Solar System could have carried complex organic compounds that contributed to the birth and evolution of life on Earth.

NASA space scientists were able to reproduce a “Crucible of the Building Blocks of Life” using an aluminum plate cooled to minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 253 Celsius) as the cold surface of an interstellar dust grain carried by an asteroid or meteorite heading to Earth 4.5 billion years ago. The experiments were conducted in a vacuum chamber used to replicate conditions in space to which they added gasses containing water, carbon dioxide, and the simple organic compound pyridine. Bombarding the cold surface with high energy protons from a particle accelerator to simulate cosmic radiation and other radiation found in space produced more complex organic compounds like vitamin B3.  

Data collected by the European Space Agency's Rosetta Mission during the months and years ahead could shine more light on this subject. Rosetta's lander, Philae, is currently sitting on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko awaiting its closest approach to the Sun in August 2015. Presently, the surface of the comet is warming and gases we can test to validate the results of these experiments are expected to be released as it nears Sol. 
Data collected by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta Mission during the months and years ahead could shine more light on this subject. Rosetta’s lander, Philae, is currently sitting on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko awaiting its closest approach to the Sun in August 2015. Presently, the surface of the comet is warming and gasses we can test to validate the results of these experiments are expected to be released as it nears Sol.

To learn more about the European Space Agency and its work with the Rosetta mission go here.

To learn more about NASA’s space mission and the search for life beyond Earth visit here.

Learn more about the Goddard Space Flight Center here.

Learn more about plans to visit Jupiter’s moon Europa to have a look for the ingredients that make life possible.

Read about the search for the missing link in black hole evolution.

Learn about the planets space scientists are finding orbiting four star systems.

Pulsar in Double Star System PSR B1259-63/LS 2883 Punches Opening in Gas Disk Surrounding Companion Star

Launching an accelerating fragment of the thin disk at 7 percent of the speed of light 

This trio of images contains evidence from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory that a clump of stellar material has been jettisoned away from a double star system at incredibly high speeds. This system, known as PSR B1259-63/LS 2883 – or B1259 for short – is comprised of two objects in orbit around one another. The first is a star about 30 times as massive as the Sun that has a disk of material swirling around it. The other is a pulsar, an ultra-dense neutron star left behind when an even more massive star underwent a supernova explosion. Credits: NASA/CXC/PSU/G.Pavlov et al
This trio of images contains evidence from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory that a clump of stellar material has been jettisoned away from a double star system at incredibly high speeds. This system, known as PSR B1259-63/LS 2883 – or B1259 for short – is comprised of two objects in orbit around one another. The first is a star about 30 times as massive as the Sun that has a disk of material swirling around it. The other is a pulsar, an ultra-dense neutron star left behind when an even more massive star underwent a supernova explosion.
Credits: NASA/CXC/PSU/G.Pavlov et al

Space news (July 25, 2015) – 7,500 light-years away in the constellation Centaurus

The majority of lights in the night sky above are double star systems composed of two suns orbiting each other. NASA space scientists using the Chandra X-ray Observatory observed the unusual double star system PSR B1259-63/LS 2883 (B1259 is the short version) three times between December 2011 and February 2014 looking for clues to its nature.

These two objects are in an unusual cosmic arrangement and have given us a chance to witness something special,” said George Pavlov of Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania, lead author of a paper describing these results. “As the pulsar moved through the disk, it appears that it punched a clump of material out and flung it away into space.” 

Composed of a pulsar and companion star 30 times the mass of the Sun, B1259 is in a weird looking cosmic arrangement that has been kicking up a little dust lately. Recent data indicates the high-energy particle winds created by the combination of rapid rotation and intense magnetic field of the pulsar appears to have punched a hole in the disk of gas surrounding the companion star. A hole composed of gas that has been ejected from the disk at 4 million miles per hour and accelerated from 7 percent of the speed of light to 15 percent between the second and third observation periods. 

“After this clump of stellar material was knocked out, the pulsar’s wind appears to have accelerated it, almost as if it had a rocket attached,” said co-author Oleg Kargaltsev of George Washington University (GWU) in Washington, DC.

The pulsar is an ultra-dense neutron star orbiting its companion star in a highly elliptical orbit that makes its closest approach every 41 months. The companion star is rotating at a speed resulting in a disk of material spinning off, creating the thin disk of gas surrounding the massive sun. The pulsar is expected to pass through the disk of material as it makes its next approach to B1259. NASA scientists expect to view the event and collect data on the unusual nature of this double star system.  

41 months is enough time for NASA scientists to plan their next move and get other telescopes and spacecraft in place to view the event. NASA scientists will collect data on the effects of the stellar winds of the pulsar on the gas disk surrounding the companion star as it passes through. There could be another ejection of gas material as it passes close to B1259, next time, which is an opportunity to learn more about double star systems and the cosmos.

“This just shows how powerful the wind blasting off a pulsar can be,” said co-author Jeremy Hare, also of GWU. “The pulsar’s wind is so strong that it could ultimately eviscerate the entire disk around its companion star over time.”

Study continues

NASA space scientists will next view double star system B1259, later in the year, and sometime in 2016. The next passing of the pulsar through the disk of gas surrounding its companion star could be even more spectacular and unusual in nature. 

You can learn more about the Chandra X-ray Observatory here.

To learn more about double star systems go here.

To learn more about NASA’s space mission visit here. 

Read about NASA’s plans to visit Europa to have a look at the habitability of any watery environments.

Learn more about what NASA space scientists think about the possibility of life during the early moments of the universe.

Learn more about possible plate tectonic forces operating on the surface of Europa.

Survey of Debris Fields Around Infant Suns Reveals Structures with Unexpected Diversity and Complexity

Structures created during cataclysmic collisions between objects left over from planet formation or something unknown?

This is a set of images from a NASA Hubble Space Telescope survey of the architecture of debris systems around young stars. Ten previously discovered circumstellar debris systems, plus MP Mus (a mature protoplanetary disk of age comparable to the youngest of the debris disks), were studied.
This is a set of images from a NASA Hubble Space Telescope survey of the architecture of debris systems around young stars. Ten previously discovered circumstellar debris systems, plus MP Mus (a mature protoplanetary disk of age comparable to the youngest of the debris disks), were studied.

Space news (July 13, 2015) – collisions indicating possible gravitational effects of unseen orbiting exoplanets or consequences of the star traveling through interstellar space –

Space scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope recently completed a visible-light imaging survey of the debris field systems around 10 young stars between the ages of 10 million to 1 billion years old. Debris fields they studied in order to better understand the early solar system and formation of the planets.

Explore 25 Years of the Hubble Space Telescope NASA will host a one-day-long event for 50 social media and media attendees at the Newseum and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center to mark the 25th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope. In 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope was launched into a low Earth orbit and began returning groundbreaking images and data that continue to revolutionize astronomy.
Explore 25 Years of the Hubble Space Telescope
NASA will host a one-day-long event for 50 social media and media attendees at the Newseum and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center to mark the 25th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope. In 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope was launched into a low-Earth orbit and began returning groundbreaking images and data that continue to revolutionize astronomy.

It’s like looking back in time to see the kinds of destructive events that once routinely happened in our solar system after the planets formed,” said survey leader Glenn Schneider of the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory.

eclipseguy with Glenn Schneider from The Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona. Glenn is the Project Lead – he makes the calculations for our Totality Run: the aircraft’s interception of the Moon’s umbra. He’s seen 32 Total Solar Eclipses
eclipseguy with Glenn Schneider from The Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona. Glenn is the Project Lead – he makes the calculations for our Totality Run: the aircraft’s interception of the Moon’s umbra. He’s seen 32 Total Solar Eclipses

What did the survey find?

Space scientists studying the evolution of stars and the formation of planets used to think debris fields surrounding young stars should be composed of simple pancake-like structures.

The complexity and diversity in debris fields studied in this recent survey strongly suggest this scenario is a little more involved than theories suggest. Facts indicate the possibility of gravitational effects of unseen exoplanets hidden within the dusty debris, the results of the young star traveling through interstellar space, or something unthought of as the reason for the deviation from theory.

We find that the systems are not simply flat with uniform surfaces,” Schneider said. “These are actually pretty complicated three-dimensional debris systems, often with embedded smaller structures. Some of the substructures could be signposts of unseen planets.” The astronomers used Hubble’s Space Telescope

Imaging Spectrograph to study 10 previously discovered circumstellar debris systems.

Star HD 181327 Shows Huge Debris Spray

Captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, this image shows the huge dusty debris discs around a star called HD 181327, showing a huge spray of debris possibly caused by the recent collision of two bodies into the outer part of the system. Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2826048/Hubble-spots-massive-eye-sky-reveal-massive-dust-clouds-left-planets-form-say-moon-formed.html#ixzz3gjPl6sI1 Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
Captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, this image shows the huge dusty debris discs around a star called HD 181327, showing a huge spray of debris possibly caused by the recent collision of two bodies into the outer part of the system. Image credit NASA

The ring-like debris system surrounding star HD 181327 has irregularities space scientists think could be due to a recent collision between two bodies on the outer part of the system.

This spray of material is fairly distant from its host star — roughly twice the distance that Pluto is from the sun,” said co-investigator Christopher Stark. “Catastrophically destroying an object that massive at such a large distance is difficult to explain, and it should be very rare. If we are in fact seeing the recent aftermath of a massive collision, the unseen planetary system may be quite chaotic.

Another interpretation for the irregularity is that the disk has been mysteriously warped by the star’s passage through interstellar space, directly interacting with the unseen interstellar material. “Either way, the answer is exciting,” Schneider said. “Our team is currently analyzing follow-up observations that will help reveal the true cause of the irregularity.

As of 07/09/2015 space scientists have verified the existence of 1858 exoplanets, including 468 exosolar systems with multiple planets, and 92 Earth-size terrestrial-type planets. The structure and overall architecture of the systems discovered so far are more diverse than astrophysicists first proposed.

Habitable Worlds Image Credit & Licence: Planetary Habitability Laboratory (UPR Arecibo) Explanation: Is Earth the only known world that can support life? In an effort to find life-habitable worlds outside our Solar System, stars similar to our Sun are being monitored for slight light decreases that indicate eclipsing planets. Many previously-unknown planets are being found, including over 700 worlds recently uncovered by NASA's Kepler satellite. Depicted above in artist's illustrations are twelve extrasolar planets that orbit in the habitable zones of their parent stars. These exoplanets have the right temperature for water to be a liquid on their surfaces, and so water-based life on Earth might be able to survive on them. Although technology cannot yet detect resident life, finding habitable exoplanets is a step that helps humanity to better understand its place in the cosmos.
Habitable Worlds
Image Credit & Licence: Planetary Habitability Laboratory (UPR Arecibo)
Explanation: Is Earth the only known world that can support life? In an effort to find life-habitable worlds outside our Solar System, stars similar to our Sun are being monitored for slight light decreases that indicate eclipsing planets. Many previously unknown planets are being found, including over 700 worlds recently uncovered by NASA’s Kepler satellite. Depicted above in artist’s illustrations are twelve extrasolar planets that orbit in the habitable zones of their parent stars. These exoplanets have the right temperature for water to be a liquid on their surfaces, and so water-based life on Earth might be able to survive on them. Although technology cannot yet detect resident life, finding habitable exoplanets is a step that helps humanity to better understand its place in the cosmos.

During this time, space scientists have only viewed about two dozen light-scattering, circumstellar debris systems due to their comparative faintness and proximity to their parent stars. Despite the small sample size in exoplanetary debris systems astronomers view a surprising variety of architectures.

We are now seeing a similar diversity in the architecture of the accompanying debris systems,” Schneider said. “How are the planets affecting the disks, and how are the disks affecting the planets? There is some sort of interdependence between a planet and the accompanying debris that might affect the evolution of these exoplanetary debris systems.

What’s next?

Space scientists will now use the results obtained through this survey and the overall study of the debris system disks viewed to devise new theories and experiments to determine more about the evolution and growth of young stars in the cosmos.

They’ll also use the data and information gained to begin looking at how our solar system formed and evolved during the past 4.6 billion years. They want to study collisions between objects like HD 181327 and Earth-like planets to give more insight into the birth and evolution of our planet and the Moon during the first moments of the solar system.

You can learn more about and follow NASA’s space mission here.

Learn more about the Hubble Space Telescope here.

Learn about the NExSS Coalition’s Search for Habitable Planets and Life Beyond Earth.

Read about NASA telescopes detection of water vapor and clear skies on a Neptune-sized exoplanet.

Learn how to calculate the orbit of asteroids within the Main Asteroid Belt.

The Sun

NASA has just released five new videos called
NASA has just released five new videos called “Mysteries of the Sun“. The videos describe the science of the sun and its effects on the solar system and Earth. Scientists study the sun not only to better understand the orb that influences life, but also to study how it sends solar material out into space, filling up the bubble that defines the farthest reaches of the solar system. The sun can also impact Earth’s technology: solar storms can affect our communications satellites and cause surges in power lines. These movies cover the breadth of solar, heliospheric, and geospace science, a field known as heliophysics.

Space & Astronomy Wiki – the closest star to Earth –

Worshiped by every recorded human culture, the Sun – or Sol as the Romans called it – contains over 99.8 percent of the mass in the solar system, and is over a thousand times as massive.

Composed of 7.8 percent helium (He) and 92.1 percent hydrogen (H2) along with 0.1 percent oxygen and other elements, Sol looks solid in photographs, but its surface is a sea of hot 5,500 Celsius (10,000 degrees Fahrenheit) gas.

Called ‘Helios’ by the Greeks, the Sun is a stellar type G star called a main-sequence star but will change into a brighter, bigger and cooler red dwarf star around 5 billion years after its birth.

With a diameter over 100 times that of Earth at 1.4 million km (840,000 miles), the Sun is a common medium-sized yellow star you could fit over a million piles of earth inside.

Sitting at a distance of 149.6 million km (93 million miles) from our planet or 1 astronomical unit (AU), a distance which is used as a common measuring stick by astronomers viewing the solar system, the Sun transforms over 600 million tons of hydrogen into 596 tons of helium every second through nuclear fusion.

Dominating the gravity pool of the solar system, the mass of the Sun warps spacetime, which determines the orbits of the planets, and governs the movements of all mass bodies within the boundaries of the system.

For more information on the Sun go here.

Learn more about the connection between the Earth and Sun here.

To learn more about the Sun go here.

The Human Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time; Who are we?

Learn more about the search for habitable planets beyond Earth.

Learn more about the mysteries surrounding ultra-luminous X-ray sources.