Construction is well under way on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) – the space agency's next generation installation, scheduled to launch in 2018. The instrument is really starting to take shape, with engineers successfully installing the first of 18 mirrors.
KIC 8462852 recently attracted a lot of attention owing to speculation that dramatic dips in the star's light that were detected in 2011 and 2013 by NASA's Kepler spacecraft were due to the presence of vast superstructures created by an advanced alien race. But a new study centering around analysis of data collected by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope suggests that the mysterious objects occulting the star KIC 8462852 aren't the creations of little green men, but in fact a family of comets.
Scientists believe that Mars once played host to a much warmer and wetter climate, but for that to be the case it must have once had a thicker atmosphere. There's a big problem with that theory, though, with detected levels of carbon not playing nice with atmospheric loss theories. Now, a joint team from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) believes it may have solved the problem, with a new theory that explains the issue by means of two simultaneous mechanisms.
Through observations of one of the largest stars known to exist in the Milky Way, a red hypergiant known as VY Canis Majoris, astronomers have been able to unravel the mystery as to how enormous stars shed vast quantities of mass prior to meeting their end in a cataclysmic supernova explosion.
According to NASA, the larger Martian moon, Phobos, is spiraling in toward the Red Planet and will eventually be destroyed in tens of millions of years, but it turns out that it may have a second career after its death. University of California, Berkeley Department of Earth and Planetary Science postdoctoral fellow Benjamin Black and graduate student Tushar Mittal have calculated that the doomed satellite will be so torn by tidal forces that its fragments will form a ring like those that encircle Saturn and the other gas giants of the outer Solar System.
Asteroid mining is a potential trillion-dollar industry, but before any prospectors start fitting their mules of spacesuits, surveying is going to be more important than extraction. To help find out if its worth going to a particular asteroid, scientists from Vanderbilt and Fisk Universities, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, and the Planetary Science Institute are developing a new gamma-ray spectroscope that's capable of scanning asteroids, moons, and other airless bodies for gold, platinum, rare earths, and other valuable minerals.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have announced that the Telesat Telstar 12 VANTAGE satellite today made a successful launch from the Yoshinobu launch pad at the Tanegashima Space Center. The broadcast and telecommunication satellite lifted off at 3:50 pm JST atop the upgraded H-IIA Launch vehicle No. 29 (H-IIA F29). The launch was the first using the H-IIA upgraded second stage and the first commercial launch for the platform.
NASA has released two images showcasing a full rotation of the dwarf planet Pluto and its unusually large moon Charon. The observations combined to create the mosaics were captured as the spacecraft made its high velocity pass of the dwarf planet using the probe's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) and Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera.
In April, Blue Origin, the aerospace company established by Jeff Bezos, successfully conducted the first test flight of its New Shepard space vehicle. While the launch was a success, the propulsion module was unable to be recovered as planned due to a loss of pressure in the hydraulic system on descent. But sticking to the old adage of, if you don't first succeed, try, try again, Blue Origin has now successfully launched and landed a re-usable rocket designed to take paying customers on a suborbital flight to the edge of space.
A new theory from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, suggests that dark matter may interact with planets, forming long filaments or "hairs" of invisible particles. Studying these hairs could be scientifically fruitful, deepening our knowledge of the elusive matter, and even using them to analyze distant planetary bodies.