Painted by Pat Rawlings for NASA, this image depicts the ascent stage of the Boeing-designed piloted Mars lander shown at the top of this post. Though Geoffrey Landis expected that Americans would support only two or three piloted Mars landing missions before they lost interest, this optimistic Space Exploration Initiative-era painting hints at an on-going piloted Mars program: shown on the surface are habitats, solar arrays, a tethered research balloon, and a nuclear plant.
from: “Footsteps to Mars: An Incremental Approach to Mars Exploration,” Geoffrey Landis, Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, Vol. 48, September 1995, pp. 367-372; paper presented at The Case for Mars V conference in Boulder, Colorado, 26-29 May 1993.
This infographic shows you the insane scale of our solar system
by Ria Misra
You may have seen graphics comparing the objects in our solar system by size, but this visualization offers a slightly different spin on the theme, by comparing objects by their total mass. Plus, it also features 460 tiny versions of former planet Pluto bouncing off of Earth like a game of interstellar marbles.
The visualization is the work of astronomer Rhys Taylor, who also previously made a similar visualization comparing the size of the gas giants in our solar system by mass.
Water vapor has been detected in the atmosphere of one of the first alien planets ever identified by astronomers.
Advances in the technique used to scan the atmosphere of this “hot Jupiter” could help scientists determine how many of the billions of planets in the Milky Way contain water like Earth, researchers said.
The exoplanet Tau Boötis b was discovered in 1996, when the search for worlds outside our solar system was just kicking off. At about 51 light-years away, Tau Boötis b is one of the nearest known exoplanets to Earth. The planet is considered a “hot Jupiter” because it is a massive gas giant that orbits close to its parent star…
A nice neighborhood doesn’t necessarily guarantee that your house is livable. Likewise, even if a planet orbits within the so-called Goldilocks zone surrounding its parent star where conditions are neither too hot nor too cold, its atmosphere may be hostile to life, a new study suggests.
Even “super-Earths,” orbs with masses that fall between one and 10 times that of our planet (depicted at right in the artist’s concept above) and therefore offer some semblance of similarity to Earth, might be uninhabitable. Using computer simulations, researchers modeled the growth and evolution of a variety of planets as they and their sunlike parent star coalesced from a cloud of whirling gas and dust.
NASA’s Kepler Mission Announces a Planet Bonanza, 715 New Worlds
NASA news release
NASA’s Kepler mission announced Wednesday the discovery of 715 new planets. These newly-verified worlds orbit 305 stars, revealing multiple-planet systems much like our own solar system.
Nearly 95 percent of these planets are smaller than Neptune, which is almost four times the size of Earth. This discovery marks a significant increase in the number of known small-sized planets more akin to Earth than previously identified exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system.
Since the discovery of the first planets outside our solar system roughly two decades ago, verification has been a laborious planet-by-planet process. Now, scientists have a statistical technique that can be applied to many planets at once when they are found in systems that harbor more than one planet around the same star…
Behold the first geological map of Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon
by Lauren Davis
Four hundred years ago, Galileo Galilei observed Ganymede in orbit around Jupiter. This week, a team of planetary scientists unveiled the first global geological map of our solar system’s largest moon.
Using images obtained by NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft and the Galileo orbiter, a team led by Geoffrey Collins of Wheaton College pieced together a mosaic image of the planet, giving us our first complete image of the geological features of the satellite. Above, you can see the moon centered at 200 west longitude. The darker areas represent the very old and heavily cratered region of Ganymede, while the lighter areas are somewhat younger regions marked with grooves and ridges…
An enhanced-color view of Mercury, assembled from images taken at various wavelengths by the cameras on board the MESSENGER spacecraft. The circular, orange area near the center-top of the disc is Caloris Basin. Apollodorus and Pantheon Fossae can be seen at the center-left of the basin…
Scientists directly image brown dwarf for the first time at Keck Observatory
(Phys.org) — A team of researchers led by Justin R. Crepp, the Freimann Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of Notre Dame, has directly imaged a very rare type of brown dwarf that can serve as a benchmark for studying objects with masses that lie between stars and planets. Their paper on the discovery was published recently in Astrophysical Journal…
When it comes to habitability, Earth may not provide the best example. Indeed, astrobiologists are saying we should look for planets that are more hospitable to life than ours, a new class of objects they’re calling superhabitable worlds. They even know where we should look…
After a decade of exploring the Martian surface, the scientists overseeing veteran rover Opportunity thought they’d seen it all. That was until a rock mysteriously “appeared” a few feet in front of the six wheeled rover a few days ago. Read more
Before you say “ALIENS!” the random rock probably hasn’t been placed there by Martians… probably.
These three illustrations were made by an artist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1975 and reflect then-current ideas about our neighboring planet. Mars orbits the sun at a greater distance than Earth and is much colder. It has a thin atmosphere with a lot of carbon dioxide and is very dry. Not a good place for Earthly life.
These images may have been influenced by scientists who thought Martian life might have been silicon-based, rather than carbon-based as on Earth. The stumpy life-forms are all fairly simple, and look a bit like 1970s-era home furnishings.
Thanks to new technology like this… Last week, a team of astronomers at the Gemini Planet Imager in Chile released the mysterious blue image above. That small bright dot in the lower right of the image is a planet—not a planet in our solar system like Mars or Neptune, but one 63 light-years away…