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APOD: Pillars and Jets in the Pelican Nebula (2015 Mar 04) Image Credit & Copyright: Larry Van Vleet (LVVASTRO) http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap150304.html Explanation: What dark structures arise from the Pelican Nebula? Visible as a bird-shaped nebula toward the constellation of a bird (Cygnus, the Swan), the Pelican Nebula is a place dotted with newly formed stars but fouled with dark dust. These smoke-sized dust grains formed in the cool atmospheres of young stars and were dispersed by stellar winds and explosions. Impressive Herbig-Haro jets are seen emitted by a star on the right that is helping to destroy the light year-long dust pillar that contains it. The featured image was scientifically-colored to emphasize light emitted by small amounts of ionized nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur in the nebula made predominantly of hydrogen and helium. The Pelican Nebula (IC 5067 and IC 5070) is about 2,000 light-years away and can be found with a small telescope to the northeast of the bright star Deneb. http://lvvastro.com/ Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page http://asterisk.apod.com/discuss_apod.php?date=150304 #APOD

British government approves the first spaceport in Europe

The British government has backed plans to build a spaceport in the United Kingdom. The facility, scheduled to be operational by 2018, is set to become to be the first spaceport in Europe, and is expected to offer both commercial travel into space and ultra-fast international flights. In agreeing …

APOD: Crescent Rhea Occults Crescent Saturn (2015 Jan 04) Image Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, SSI, JPL, ESA, NASA http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap150104.html Explanation: Soft hues, partially lit orbs, a thin trace of the ring, and slight shadows highlight this understated view of the majestic surroundings of the giant planet Saturn. Looking nearly back toward the Sun, the robot Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn captured crescent phases of Saturn and its moon Rhea in color a few years ago. As striking as the above image is, it is but a single frame from a 60-frame silent movie where Rhea can be seen gliding in front of its parent world. Since Cassini was nearly in the plane of Saturn's rings, the normally impressive rings are visible here only as a thin line across the image center. http://ciclops.org/ http://www.spacescience.org/ http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/ http://www.esa.int/ http://www.nasa.gov/ Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page http://asterisk.apod.com/discuss_apod.php?date=150104 #APOD

The Large Hadron Collider sets its sights on dark matter

After finding the Higgs boson, the LHC has had a refit to enable it to operate at even greater extremes – and to solve more questions about the beginnings of the universe<p>There is no shortage of superlatives that can be applied to the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, though many are strange and …

2014: An amazing year in space exploration

The last 12 months saw some out-of-this-world achievements and incredible firsts – from explorations on Mars to landing on a comet. But there was tragedy too.<p>More amazing image galleries of the year:<p>The year in aviation<br>Weird and wonderful images seen in 2014<p>... and more of our favourite space …

Dwarf Galaxy, Long Overlooked, Discovered In Our 'Hood

The newest galaxy to be discovered is actually very old – and very small. And it's right in our neighborhood of the universe.<p>Although Kks3 is only 7 million light years away (about 2.5 times farther than our nearest large galaxy, Andromeda) at just 1/10,000 the stellar mass of our the Milky Way, it …

Quantum Physics Just Got A Tiny Bit Easier To Understand, As Two Oddities Merge Into One

No one is about to claim that quantum physics is now easy to understand, but maybe it's not quite as devilishly complicated as we thought.<p>New research suggests that two of the quantum world's most mysterious features--the uncertainty principle and wave-particle duality--are simply two sides of a …

Your Diamond Ring Might Explain the Origin of Life on Earth

A geochemist re-examines the deep carbon cycle<p>In 1958, the Smithsonian Institution received a plain paper package in the mail. The only hint of its contents was the insurance on the brown carton, registered for one million dollars. Nestled inside the box sat the largest known blue diamond in the …

9 Space Pictures That Look Like Christmas

All through the universe, not a star complex was stirring, not even Cygnus X! Merry Christmas from Popular Science.<p>Is that the face of jolly old St. Nick, or a million-mile-wide nebula? The gas and dust of the cosmos often align into very familiar scenes from Earth. We've gathered nine space …

Starwatch: The January night sky

With some of the best starry skies of the year, a meteor shower, all the planets and a surprising comet, January should be a fascinating month in astronomy.<p>Orion climbs from the E horizon at nightfall to rule our S sky for much of the night. Jupiter rises in the ENE 90 minutes before our chart …

This New Spacecraft Is Earth's Best Defense Against a Catastrophic Solar Storm

The DSCOVR satellite will give our planet up to an hours warning<p>For years, sci-fi stories and real scientists have warned about the possibility of a catastrophic solar storm frying Earth's power grid, GPS satellites, and aircraft radios. But today, humanity is set to get its most advanced warning …

US, Russian space travellers: 'There is no borders in space between us'

A US astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut gearing up for the longest-ever flight on the International Space Station (ISS) said Thursday they were unfazed by any turbulence in their countries’ political ties.<p>Nasa spacefarer Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko of the Russian space agency Roscosmos are to …

We did it! We 3D printed in space

Stuck in space without a part you desperately need? That’s not such a big deal anymore, thanks to a 3D printer that arrived at the International …

APOD: Geminid Fireball over Mount Balang (2014 Dec 17) Image Credit: Alvin Wu http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap141217.html Explanation: This was a sky to remember. While viewing the Geminids meteor shower a few days ago, a bright fireball was captured over Mt. Balang, China with particularly picturesque surroundings. In the foreground, a sea of light clouds slowly floated between dark mountain peaks. In the background, the constellation of Orion shone brightly, with the familiar three stars of Orion's belt visible near the image top right. Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, is visible near the image center. The bright fireball flashed for only a fraction of second on the lower right. The source of the fireball was a pebble that intersected the protective atmosphere of Earth, originally expelled by the Sun-orbiting asteroid-like object 3200 Phaethon. Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page http://asterisk.apod.com/discuss_apod.php?date=141217 #APOD

Voyager 1 returns data of persisting 'tsunami wave' in interstellar space

Voyager 1 still continues to experience the bumpy effects of the "tsunami wave" it encountered in space this February.<p>This is the third shock wave it …

SpaceX is going to land a rocket on a 'spaceport' barge

SpaceX's next test flight hopes to land one of its Falcon 9 rockets on a platform -- in one piece. The company puts the odds of success at around 50 percent "at best" but it's apparently a major step towards reusable space rockets - and cheaper trips to space. While it's already been able to demo …

Watch: Why methane can mean life on Mars

With mysterious spikes of methane suggesting life on Mars, Dr Simon Foster, an Astrophysicist from Imperial College London, explains why this gas is a key indicator of life<p>As Nasa scientists disclose that they may have found evidence of life on Mars, the Telegraph talks to Imperial College …

APOD: W5: Pillars of Star Formation (2014 Dec 16) Image Credit: WISE, IRSA, NASA; Processing & Copyright : Francesco Antonucci http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap141216.html Explanation: How do stars form? Images of the star forming region W5 like those in the infrared by NASA's Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite provide clear clues with indications that massive stars near the center of empty cavities are older than stars near the edges. A likely reason for this is that the older stars in the center are actually triggering the formation of the younger edge stars. The triggered star formation occurs when hot outflowing gas compresses cooler gas into knots dense enough to gravitationally contract into stars. In the featured scientifically-colored infrared image, spectacular pillars, left slowly evaporating from the hot outflowing gas, provide further visual clues. W5 is also known as IC 1848, and together with IC 1805 form a complex region of star formation popularly dubbed the Heart and Soul Nebulas. The above image highlights a part of W5 spanning about 2,000 light years that is rich in star forming pillars. W5 lies about 6,500 light years away toward the constellation of Cassiopeia. http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/WISE/main/ http://irsa.ipac.caltech.edu/Missions/wise.html http://www.astrobin.com/users/FrankAntonucci/ Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page http://asterisk.apod.com/discuss_apod.php?date=141216 #APOD

Plans for a secure quantum internet take a leap forward

The ability to ‘sculpt’ individual photons is a crucial step towards a secure network of powerful quantum computers<p>Scientists have created a device that can release a single, precisely shaped photon of light, opening the way to a secure “quantum internet” that is incredibly powerful and …

Magnetically Levitating Elevators Could Go Up, Down, And Sideways

Elevators: not just for elevating anymore<p>For more than a century, elevators have gone pretty much just up and down. Ever since the first elevator was introduced in 1854, a cable-based design has pulled the elevator car along a single shaft, using steel ropes connected to a counterweight.<p>But now, …

Some Exoplanets May Get Squashed By Gravity From Stars

The latest addition to the exoplanet freakshow<p>There are a lot of weird worlds out there. Astronomers have caught glimpses of planets that may be less dense than Styrofoam, some with two suns like Star Wars’ Tatooine, and others still that are believed to be made out of diamond. According to a new …

APOD: The Potsdam Gravity Potato (2014 Dec 15) Image Credit: CHAMP, GRACE, GFZ, NASA, DLR http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap141215.html Explanation: Why do some places on Earth have higher gravity than others? Sometimes the reason is unknown. To help better understand the Earth's surface, sensitive measurments by the orbiting satellites GRACE and CHAMP were used to create a map of Earth's gravitational field. Since a center for studying this data is in Potsdam, Germany, and since the result makes the Earth look somewhat like a potato, the resulting geoid has been referred to as the Potsdam Gravity Potato. High areas on this map, colored red, indicate areas where gravity is slightly stronger than usual, while in blue areas gravity is slightly weaker. Many bumps and valleys on the Potsdam Gravity Potato can be attributed to surface features, such as the North Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the Himalayan Mountains, but others cannot, and so might relate to unusually high or low sub-surface densities. Maps like this also help calibrate changes in the Earth's surface including variable ocean currents and the melting of glaciers. The above map was made in 2005, but more recent and more sensitive gravity maps of Earth was produced in 2011. http://science.nasa.gov/missions/champ/ http://science.nasa.gov/missions/grace/ http://www.gfz-potsdam.de/en/home/ http://www.nasa.gov/ http://www.dlr.de/ Now Available: APOD 2015 Wall Calendars http://friendsofapod.org/?page_id=42 http://www.facebook.com/FoAPoD Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page http://asterisk.apod.com/discuss_apod.php?date=141215 #APOD

Best Space Pictures of 2014: A Year's Delights Courtesy of Starry Nights

Of the 350 breathtaking space photos we published in 2014, here are our picks for the 12 best of the year.

Chris Hadfield on the future of manned space exploration - podcast

Presented by Ian Sample, produced by Iain Chambers

The Real Story Of Apollo 17... And Why We Never Went Back To The Moon

On December 11, 1972, Apollo 17 touched down on the Moon. This was not only our final Moon landing, but the last time we left low Earth orbit. With …

SpaceX Cargo Ship, Reusable Rocket Test Now Set to Launch on Dec. 19

SpaceX's next robotic cargo mission to the International Space Station — which will apparently feature a highly anticipated reusable-rocket test as …

Religion & Astronomy: From Galileo to Aliens

One of the most famous examples of the clash between religion and science is the trial of Galileo Galilei. Galileo supported Copernicus' view that …