Archive by category | Space and astronomy

NASA launches carbon-monitoring satellite

NASA launches carbon-monitoring satellite

NASA has launched its first probe dedicated to mapping the distribution of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the agency has announced today. The US$465-million Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 lifted off just before 3 a.m. local time (11 am London time) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, after a one-day delay caused by technical issues with the launchpad.  Read more

NASA finds asteroids to visit but may lose an important tool for studying them

An artist's representation of asteroid 2011 MD suggest that it could be a pile of small rocks (left) or a single rock surrounded by dust particles (right).

NASA’s controversial plan to capture an asteroid and study it is facing a challenge beyond the obvious technical feat: the potential shuttering of the Spitzer Space Telescope, whose observations can help calculate an asteroid’s size.  Read more

Germany pulls back from international mega-telescope project

Germany pulls back from international mega-telescope project

Germany’s science funding may look healthy to outsiders, but its research ministry seems to have stretched its cash too thinly. Last week, it decided that helping to fund the world’s biggest radio-telescope – to be built in South Africa and Australia by 2024 at a cost of more than €1.5 billion – was one international mega-project too many. On 5 June, it said it would pull out of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), to the dismay of German astronomers, who say they were not consulted and are hoping to reverse the move.  Read more

Moon dust probe crashes

Moon dust probe crashes

A NASA spacecraft that studied lunar dust vapourized into its own cloud of dust when it hit the far side of the Moon, as planned, in a mission-ending impact on 17 April. Launched last September, the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) finished its primary mission in March. In early April, on an extended mission, it made close passes as low as 2 kilometres above the surface, gathering science data on more than 100 low-elevation orbits. Mission controllers deliberately crashed it to avoid the chance that, left alone, it might crash and contaminate historic locations such as the Apollo landing sites.  Read more

Lunar dust mission still chasing mystery of ‘horizon glow’

Lunar dust mission still chasing mystery of 'horizon glow'

NASA is preparing one last blast for its expired Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft — a controlled crash into the Moon’s surface, probably on 21 April. But before it goes, LADEE will take a final shot at unraveling one of the top mysteries it went to the Moon to uncover.  Read more