Space Exploration

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Thursday, November 23, 2017

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A team of scientists announced on Thursday, February 11, 2016 that they had heard and recorded the sound of two black holes colliding a billion light-years away, a fleeting chirp that fulfilled the last prediction of Einstein's general theory of relativity.

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That faint rising tone, physicists say, is the first direct evidence of gravitational waves, the ripples in the fabric of space-time that Einstein predicted a century ago. It completes his vision of a universe in which space and time are interwoven and dynamic, able to stretch, shrink and jiggle. And it is a ringing confirmation of the nature of black holes, the bottomless gravitational pits from which not even light can escape, which were the most foreboding part of his theory.

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Astronomers say a Neptune-sized planet lurks beyond Pluto.  Scientists announced evidence that a body nearly the size of Neptune—but as yet unseen—orbits the sun every 15,000 years. During the solar system's infancy 4.5 billion years ago, the giant planet was knocked out of the planet-forming region near the sun. Slowed down by gas, the planet settled into a distant elliptical orbit, where it still lurks today.

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The quest has been plagued by far-fetched claims and even outright quackery. But the new evidence comes from a pair of respected planetary scientists, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, who prepared for the inevitable skepticism with detailed analyses of the orbits of other distant objects and months of computer simulations.

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SpaceX May Take Humanity to Mars

Elon Musk says that SpaceX's successful landing of an orbital rocket stage boosts his confidence that the colonization of Mars is possible. Musk's company, SpaceX, successfully landed the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station during an orbital launch on December 21, 2015. The historic accomplishment brings SpaceX a big step closer to developing fully and rapidly reusable rockets — technology that Musk says is vital to the colonization of Mars.

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NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) recently captured a unique view of Earth from the spacecraft's vantage point in orbit around the moon.

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"The image is simply stunning," said Noah Petro, Deputy Project Scientist for LRO at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "The image of the Earth evokes the famous 'Blue Marble' image taken by Astronaut Harrison Schmitt during Apollo 17, 43 years ago, which also showed Africa prominently in the picture."

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On a remote hilltop 8,000 feet above sea level in Chile's Atacama Desert, scientists hope to answer one of the most fundamental questions facing humankind: Is there life elsewhere in the universe?

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That's one of various goals of the Giant Magellan Telescope, or GMT, now in the early stages of construction and scheduled to start scanning outer space in 2021. Once it does, it's expected to offer views of the farthest depths of the universe ever achieved.