Kepler is the gift that keeps on giving. After suffering a major malfunction five years ago, the rejiggered space-based telescope continues to churn away, scanning the heavens for signs of distant worlds. An international team of astronomers has now released the results of its latest survey, confirming the existence of nearly 100 new exoplanets.
If the US government plans to stop funding the International Space Stationat the end of 2024, there’s a big question: what happens next? Hand the keys over to the private sector, apparently. The Washington Post has obtained a NASA document outlining a plan to privatize the ISS as part of a Trump administration budge request. The plan would request funding (starting with $150 million in fiscal 2019) to foster “commercial entities and capabilities” that could fill the ISS’ role, potentially including “certain elements or capabilities” of the station itself.
Powerful, influential figures exert a irresistible pull, gathering an entourage around them. It’s a pattern that repeats on celestial levels. Our planet has the moon, but also a host of other artificial satellites that we’ve used to boost Earth’s follower count. The sun has planets, moons, asteroids, and comets. But neither can compare to galaxies like our Milky Way, which not only hosts hundreds of billions of stars but also has additional satellites, entire dwarf galaxies that chill in our galaxy’s neighborhood.
You may remember that, as a publicity stunt, SpaceX propelled a red Tesla, driven by a dummy in a spacesuit named Starman with the words “DON’T PANIC” written on the control panel, into space using its Falcon Heavy rocket. That car is now a permanent advertisement on the NASA HORIZONS directory of solar system bodies.
HALF A CENTURY ago, astronomers observed their first pulsar: a dead, distant, ludicrously dense star that emitted pulses of radiation with remarkable regularity. So consistent was the object’s signal that astronomers jokingly nicknamed it LGM-1, short for “little green men.”
The James Webb Space Telescope took decades to build. It won’t launch until 2019 at the earliest, it’s slowly but surely making its way toward that distant date, after which it will finally get a chance to capture those first glimpses of galaxies forming in the early universe.
HAPPY NEW YEAR from the depths of outer space! While you were getting ready for your holiday vacation, NASA’s space probes were hard at work gathering awesome photos for you. Like Juno, the little spacecraft capturing the Earth-sized tempests while orbiting Jupiter.