Category Archives: Solar System

What’s the Difference Between a Meteoroid, a Meteor, a Meteorite, an Asteroid, and a Comet?

Hint: they are all space rocks. But, there are some differences. The biggest difference between an asteroid and a comet, for example, is what they are made of.

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Virtual Reality Tour of 6 Real Exoplanets in 4K Ultra-HD, 360°

What would it be like to stand on the surface of another planet? “We The Curious” channel has teamed up with a group of astrophysicists to create a scientifically accurate virtual reality tour of six planets discovered outside our solar system. The fruit of this collaboration is the video below, in 4K Ultra-HD and 360-degree. Narrated and produced by Ross Exton.

Related: Exoplanet Travel Bureau by NASA

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Want to Become a Citizen Scientist for NASA?

You can help NASA on some projects: for instance, citizen scientists helped NASA identify an aurora-related celestial phenomenon, now called STEVE. Want to become a citizen scientist? You can find projects on the NASA website.

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We May Have Already Detected Signs of Alien Microbes on Saturn’s Moon Enceladus

According to a new study, microbes like those found in Earth’s deep ocean could potentially thrive in the underground ocean of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus. Both molecular hydrogen (H2) and methane (CH4) already have been detected in the plume. Researchers have shown that Methanothermococcus okinawensis, a methanogenic archaeon first isolated from a deep-sea hydrothermal vent on the western Pacific Ocean, can produce methane under conditions known to exist on Enceladus.

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Asteroid Mining: We Need Powerful Rockets like Falcon Heavy

On February 6, 2018, SpaceX successfully tested Falcon Heavy, the most powerful rocket that the American company ever built. When lifted off, it became also the most powerful operational rocket in the world. Powerful rockets like Falcon Heavy may one day carry humans to the Moon or Mars. But there might be an even more important use of powerful rockets like SpaceX’ Falcon Heavy and BFR, Blue Origin’s New Glenn or NASA’s SLS: asteroid mining.

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OSIRIS-REx Captures New Earth-Moon Image from 39.5 Million Miles

NASA’s asteroid-sampling OSIRIS-REx spacecraft captured a new Earth-Moon image on Jan. 17, 2018, from a distance of 39.5 million miles (63.6 million kilometers). Spacecraft used its NavCam1 imager to take this photo, as part of an engineering test. In the image, The Earth and the moon are just two bright dots against the vastness of black space – which reminds us of Carl Sagan’s famous speech“That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.”

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New Horizons beats Voyager 1’s Record for being farthest from Earth while capturing images

It took 27 years, but finally, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft beat Voyager 1’s record for being farthest from Earth while capturing images. Taken on December 5, 2017, New Horizons image of the open star cluster NGC 3532 (also commonly known as the Football Cluster or the Wishing Well Cluster) became the farthest image ever made by any spacecraft, breaking a 27-year record set by Voyager 1. But for a very short time! About 2 hours later, New Horizons broke its own record with images of two Kuiper Belt objects.

For a short time, the image below, New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) frame of the galactic open star cluster NGC 3532 (aka the Football Cluster or the Wishing Well Cluster), taken on December 5, 2017 (released on February 8, 2015), was the farthest image ever made by a spacecraft, breaking a 27-year record set by Voyager 1. New Horizons was 3.79 billion miles (6.12 billion kilometers or 40.9 astronomical units-AUNotes 1) from Earth when LORRI took the routine calibration image.

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Super Blue Blood Moon 2018

Today (January 31), with popular terms, there was a “super blue blood moon”. It will be the first full total moon eclipse since September 27/28, 2015. What’s more, it was the first Blue Moon / Blood Moon visible from the United States since 1866.

UPDATE: NASA is live now, saying “We’re live online with views of the #SuperBlueBloodMoon from @UHawaiiNews.” (Click here to watch the live stream)

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Why meteoroids explode before they reach Earth?

On 15 February 2013, an approximately 20-meter (66 feet) meteoroidNotes 1 entered Earth’s atmosphere over Russia, with a speed of 19.16 ± 0.15 kilometers per second (60,000-69,000 km/h or 40,000-42,900 mph). Its mass is estimated at 7,000 to 10,000 tons, one of the largest meteoroids entered Earth’s atmosphere in the recent history. Then, at 9:20 am local time (03:20 UTC), it exploded some 20 to 30 kilometers above the city of Chelyabinsk and created a gigantic fireball (known as a superbolideNotes 1) brighter than the Sun. An estimated 500 kilotons of energy was released by the explosion. For a comparison, the “Little Boy”, the atomic bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 exploded with an energy of approximately 15 kilotons of TNT. So, the Chelyabinsk meteor’s explosion was about 33 times stronger. The shock waves damaged several thousand buildings and injured approximately 1,500 people. No deaths were reported.

Scientists estimate such events occur on average once every 100 years. The most well-known was the Tunguska event, which occurred near the Stony Tunguska River in Yeniseysk Governorate (now Krasnoyarsk Krai), Russia, on the morning of 30 June 1908. It is also the largest impact event on Earth in recorded history. Studies have yielded different estimates of the meteoroid’s size, on the order of 60 to 190 meters (200 to 620 feet), depending on whether the body was a comet or a denser asteroid.

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Want faster data and a cleaner planet? Start mining asteroids

Mining asteroids might seem like the stuff of science fiction, but there are companies and a few governments already working hard to make it real. This should not be surprising: compared with the breathtaking bridges that engineers build on Earth, asteroid-mining is a simple, small-scale operation requiring only modest technological advances. If anything is lacking, it is the imagination to see how plausible it has become. I am afraid only that it might not arrive soon enough to address the urgent resource challenges that the world is facing right now.

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