The Search for Life in the Universe (Fact vs. Fiction)

On January 4th, 2015, The Center for Planetary Science and Aerial Phenomena will host a “live” Google Hangout regarding The Search for Life in the Universe (Fiction vs. Fact). This live Google forum will address the misconceptions about SETI, in particular, claptrap from the UFO and science fiction community that has blurred the line between science fact and science fiction. Topics will include the astrophysical properties of alleged extraterrestrial star systems; the physiological aspects of interstellar travel; the speed of light and why it matters; and the limits of interstellar travel, to name a few. Collectively called “space science”, these … Continue reading

NASA Completes Rodent Research-1 Operations on the International Space Station

With the successful completion of mission operations for Rodent Research-1, NASA has brought an important new biological research capability into space. NASA’s rodent research hardware system enables researchers to study the long-term effects of microgravity—or weightlessness—on mammalian physiology. The system will support ongoing research into how microgravity affects rodents, providing information relevant to human spaceflight, discoveries in basic biology and knowledge that may have direct impacts on human health on Earth. The maiden voyage of the system launched aboard SpaceX’s fourth commercial cargo resupply flight to the International Space Station on Sept. 21. Rodent Research-1 was the first mission to … Continue reading

Will the Universe end?

By Alexander Yosifov Although ancient cosmological models about an ever-existing universe have long been ruled out, an even bigger question is on the horizon. Discoveries we have made in recent decades allow us to change the direction we are heading in. We no longer use the auxiliary verb “Will”, but rather we ask questions like “When” and “How” is the universe going to come to an end. There are 3 leading scenarios that scientists are considering as a possible end of our universe, The Big Crunch, the Big Rip and the Big Chill. The Big Crunch is a hypothesis in … Continue reading

Rosetta’s ‘Philae’ Makes Historic First Landing on a Comet

After more than a decade traveling through space, a robotic lander built by the European Space Agency has made the first-ever soft landing of a spacecraft on a comet. Mission controllers at ESA’s mission operations center in Darmstadt, Germany, received a signal confirming that the Philae lander had touched down on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Wednesday, Nov. 12, just after 8 a.m. PST/11 a.m. EST. A statement about Rosetta from John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, is online at: The lander is expected to send images from its landing site, named Agilkia. These will be … Continue reading

Rosetta Races Toward Comet Touchdown

After sailing through space for more than 10 years, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft is now less than a week shy of landing a robotic probe on a comet. The mission’s Philae (fee-LAY) lander is scheduled to touch down on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Wednesday, Nov. 12 at 7:35 a.m PST/10:35 a.m. EST.  A signal confirming the landing is expected about 8:02 a.m. PST/11:02 a.m. EST. If all goes as planned with this complex engineering feat, it will be the first-ever soft landing of a spacecraft on a comet. The landing site, formerly known simply as Site J, now has … Continue reading

CPS Team to Witness Orion Launch

The Center for Planetary Science is proud to announce that we have been selected by NASA to attend the NASA Orion Social Event at Kennedy Space Center 3-4 December. The NASA event will include a two day tour of Kennedy Space Center and VIP media access to the Orion spacecraft test launch. About Orion: NASA’s new Orion spacecraft received finishing touches Thursday, marking the conclusion of construction on the first spacecraft designed to send humans into deep space beyond the moon, including a journey to Mars that begins with its first test flight Dec. 4. The assembled Orion crew module, … Continue reading

NASA Webb’s Heart Survives Deep Freeze Test

After 116 days of being subjected to extremely frigid temperatures like that in space, the heart of the James Webb Space Telescope, the Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM) and its sensitive instruments, emerged unscathed from the thermal vacuum chamber at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Teams of engineers and technicians have been on heart-monitoring duty around the clock since this complicated assembly was lowered into the chamber for its summer-long test. Engineer Mike Drury, the ISIM Lead Integration and Test Engineer, is one of the test directors making sure that Webb will thrive in the frigid conditions … Continue reading

Hubble Catches a Dusty Spiral in Virgo

This magnificent new image taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows the edge-on spiral galaxy NGC 4206, located about 70 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation of Virgo. Captured here are vast streaks of dust, some of which are obscuring the central bulge, which can just be made out in the center of the galaxy. Towards the edges of the galaxy, the scattered clumps, which appear blue in this image, mark areas where stars are being born. The bulge, on the other hand, is composed mostly of much older, redder stars, and very little star formation takes … Continue reading

Second Lunar Eclipse of 2014

The second lunar eclipse of 2014 is also total and is best seen from the Pacific Ocean and bordering regions. The eclipse occurs at the Moon’s descending node in southern Pisces, two days after perigee (October 06 at 09:41 UT). This means that the Moon will appear 5.3% larger than it did during the April 15 eclipse (32.7 vs. 31.3 arc-minutes). At the instant of greatest eclipse (10:54:36 UT) the Moon lies near the zenith from a location in the Pacific Ocean about 2000 km southwest of Hawaii. At this time, the umbral magnitude peaks at 1.1659 as the Moon’s … Continue reading