Space Exploration

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

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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.

Planet_X_Undeniable_Evidence

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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Space_X_commercial_launch

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.

earthrise

"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.

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Scientists think they can now tie dark streaks seen on the surface of Mars to periodic flows of liquid water. Data from a Nasa satellite shows the features, which appear on slopes, to be associated with salt deposits.

Liquid-Water-on-Mars_Mountains

Liquid Water - Mars 

Crucially, such salts could alter the freezing and vaporisation points of water in Mars's sparse air, keeping it in a fluid state long enough to move. There are implications for the existence of life on the planet today, because any liquid water raises the possibility that microbes could also be present. And for future astronauts on Mars, the identification of water supplies near the surface would make it easier for them to "live off the land".