Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Solar System

The Alpha Centauri system and hypothetical planet (Image: European Southern Observatory)

Since Earth is the only known inhabited planet and we happen to live here, it’s only natural to regard it as the ideal place for life to exist, and to assume that another life-bearing planet would be fairly similar. However, that is not the opinion of scientists René Heller and John Armstrong who contend that there might be a planet even more suitable for life than Earth 4.3 light years away orbiting the star Alpha Centauri B.  Read More

The dwarf planet Ceres emitting plumes of water vapor from its surface (Photo: ESA)

In mid-2015, the asteroid probe Dawn is scheduled to establish orbit around Ceres, the only dwarf planet in the inner Solar System, as well as the largest asteroid, to begin roughly six months of close-up observation. The level of interest in this mission has significantly increased with the detection by the ESA's Herschel space observatory of plumes of water vapor being exuded from Ceres' surface from a pair of local sources.  Read More

2013 YP139 showing up as a red dot traveling across the sky (Image: NASA)

NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) may have only come back online last September after a 31-month hibernation, but it’s already producing results. According to the space agency, the unmanned spacecraft discovered a never-before-seen asteroid on December 29 – the first discovery of its new mission to seek out potentially hazardous near-Earth objects (NEOs).  Read More

Path of asteroid (872) Holda, as seen by NEOWISE, shown as a dotted red line (Image: NASA)

NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) has sent back the first test images from its 16-in (40-cm) telescope and infrared cameras as it is prepared for its new mission. Intended to seek out potentially dangerous asteroids and help in selecting a near-Earth object as part of the space agency’s asteroid retrieval effort, NASA says NEOWISE will be a powerful tool for discovering, cataloging and understanding the asteroids in the inner Solar System.  Read More

P/2013 P5 is an asteroid with six comet-like tails (Image: NASA, ESA, and D. Jewitt)

In the old days, astronomy was simple – comets had tails and asteroids didn’t. Now, as if to not only disprove such established views, but drive the point home, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope took images in September of an asteroid called P/2013 P5 that has not one, but six comet-like tails.  Read More

Artist's impression of the GRAIL spacecraft, which has helped provide a better understandi...

Sometimes great mysteries hang right over our heads. We’re so used to looking up and seeing the “Man in the Moon” that we often don’t realize that those familiar dark areas on the face of our nearest neighbor are part of a centuries old question that has yet to be answered. Many hypotheses have been put forward and now data from NASA's twin Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) lunar orbiters has provided new insights into how the surface of the Moon formed and how its distinctive “seas” came to be.  Read More

Artist's impression of Voyager 1 leaving the Solar System with the plasma layer represente...

After a journey of 36 years, NASA has announced that the Voyager 1 space probe officially left the Solar System on August 25, 2012. Based on new analysis of data sent by by the unmanned spacecraft, the space agency has declared that it is now in the first man-made object to travel into interstellar space, 12 billion miles (19 billion km) from the Sun.  Read More

PhotoFlow is a two-in-one concept design that combines solar power generation with rainwat...

In many countries around the world the supply of electricity and clean water is often sporadic and of poor quality. Consulting and design company NOS is looking to address this problem with PhotoFlow, a two-in-one concept design that combines solar power generation with water collection and storage.  Read More

Artist's impression of Voyager 1, which is now 11 billion miles (18 billion km) from Earth

Sometimes it seems as though the Voyager 1 space probe is like a dog that can’t decide if it wants to be inside or out. A team of scientists led by the University of Maryland claim that the Voyager 1 space probe, which is now 11 billion miles (18 billion km) from Earth left the Solar System’s boundary last year and is not, as NASA claims, passing through a transition zone. The controversial theory is based on models of the solar magnetic field on the edge of the system and how it interacts with interstellar space.  Read More

NASA map of over 1,400 potential Earth-striking asteroids (Image: NASA)

There’s something comforting about a map with “You are here” marked on it, but not when the arrow points to a spot where giant asteroids are whizzing by like cannon balls in a pirate movie. NASA has released a map of the inner Solar System showing the orbits of the 1,400 Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHA) known as of early this year. According to the agency, the plots show the orbits of asteroids over 460 ft (140 m) in diameter that pass within 4.7 million miles (7.5 million km) of Earth.  Read More

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