Proxima b

What it would take to reach the stars
A wild plan is taking shape to visit the nearest planet outside our Solar System. Here’s how we could get to Proxima b.
01 February 2017

Close Encounters Of The Radio Kind?

Close Encounters Of The Radio Kind? Mystery Bursts Baffle Astronomers
by Joe Palca
July 26, 2014

Astronomers have a mystery on their hands. Two large radio telescopes, on opposite sides of the planet, have detected very brief, very powerful bursts of radio waves.

Right now, astronomers have no idea what’s causing these bursts or where they’re coming from. And nothing has been ruled out at the moment … signatures from extraterrestrial civilizations

To Make A Spacecraft … Try Origami

To Make A Spacecraft That Folds And Unfolds, Try Origami
July 17, 2014

Scientists and engineers at NASA are using origami techniques to help solve a fundamental dilemma facing spacecraft designers: How do you take a big object, pack it into a small container for rocket launch, and then unpack it again once it arrives in space — making sure nothing breaks in the process.

Brian Trease, an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, says one way is to use something called the Miura fold, named for its inventor, Japanese astrophysicist Koryo Miura.

Nobody was afraid. Whatever it was, it was OK

Astronaut Who Walked On The Moon: ‘It Was Science Fiction To Us’
July 20, 2014

Still, Bean says, when they were making the trip back home, the risk of parachute failure didn’t bother them much.

“I’d have to say I didn’t think about it one time between heading to the moon and about an hour prior to entry,” Bean says. “And we’re going through all the checklist, getting in position to make the entry and all that … And I think either Pete, Dick or I said, ‘Well, I wonder how those parachutes are doing?’ And then someone else said … ‘Well, we’ll find out in about 55 minutes!’ ”

“And that was it. Nobody was afraid, nobody was anything.
It was just part of the way of life of being an astronaut.
If you couldn’t have that attitude you couldn’t do the job, so it was OK. Whatever it was, it was OK.”

If the moon were replaced …

What We Need Is A Moon With Rings
by Adam Frank
June 24, 2014

There is a “man” or a “rabbit” on it, depending on your state of mind. But, as viewed from the Earth, the moon really is kind of small (just 0.5 degrees out of the 180 degrees of “arc” extending from horizon to horizon).

If Jupiter were as close as our moon, the tidal forces (the difference in gravitational pull from one side of a body to the other) would be large enough to tear the Earth apart. (HT to my colleague Dan Watson for whipping together a calculation of the Roche Limit for Earth and Jupiter)