NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter just hit an absolutely crazy milestone
Of all the pieces of hardware that NASA has sent to Mars, we don't hear about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter nearly as much as we'd like.
Comet 46P/Wirtanen may have revealed how the early Earth was seeded with water.
Our search for E.T. in the great, dark forest of the universe has us searching for signs of water. We know how important the stuff is for life to thrive. But closer to home there's a more pressing question: Where did Earth's water come from?
A team of international astronomers have taken a few small steps to answering that question by studying the water found within a near-Earth comet, 46P/Wirtanen.
"We have identified a vast reservoir of Earth-like water in the outer reaches of the solar system," said Darek Lis, lead author of the study, in a statement.
NASA Is Launching Yeast Into Deep Space
Some people use it to make bread. These scientists are using it to study radiation.
The study, published in Astronomy and Astrophysics Letters on May 20, used NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) to investigate the so-called Christmas comet, as it made a close approach to Earth in December 2018. The instrument operates out of a specially-designed Boeing 747 up above the clouds, enabling it to see cosmic phenomena with a pair of clearer eyes than some of our ground-based methods.
Related Slideshow: Out of the world: Milestones in space (Provided by Photo Services)
Out of the world: Milestones in space
European Space Agency's probe Philae created history by touching down on Comet 67P serving as a climax to a decade-long space odyssey. Let’s take a look at some other key milestones in space exploration.
NASA wants your help bringing back pieces of a potentially hazardous asteroid
The Osiris-Rex mission to asteroid Bennu needs extra eyes to scope out the right spot for grabbing a sample of the rock.
Sputnik-1 was the first artificial satellite put in the Earth's orbit. Launched in October 1957 by the USSR, it also set off a 'Space Race' between the Soviet Union and the USA.
First living beings in space
The United States sent fruit flies into space aboard its V-2 rocket on February 20, 1947 to check if life could survive in an artificial setup in space. Later, Albert II, a rhesus monkey, became the first mammal in space on June 14, 1949, although it died on landing. However, Laika, the dog became the first animal to orbit the Earth aboard Sputnik-2 and return home safely on November 3, 1957.
First human in space
Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin (left), a Russian-Soviet pilot and cosmonaut, was the first human to make the premiere journey to outer space on April 12, 1961. He orbited Earth aboard his Vostok spacecraft.
NASA’s Kepler just spotted 18 new Earth-sized planets, but only one is worth dreaming about
NASA's Kepler Space Telescope may be dead, but that doesn't mean that the wealth of data it gathered doesn't still hold some untold surprises. A new research paper from scientists at the Max Planck Institute, Georg August University, and the Sonneberg Observatory is a great reminder of that, and it reveals the existence of 18 (!) completely new exoplanets that were previously unknown to astronomers.
Touching down on Venus
The Venera 7 probe, a Soviet spacecraft, made a soft landing on Venus on August 17, 1970. Unfortunately, it was put out of operation within an hour of landing by the planet's extreme temperatures. (In picture) The landing capsule of Venera 7 on display before its launch.
Extra-vehicular activity (EVA)
Russian cosmonaut Alexey Arkhipovich Leonov became the first person to conduct extra-vehicular activity (EVA), exiting his capsule for a 12-minute spacewalk during the Voskhod 2 mission on March 18, 1965. This milestone would later allow astronauts to repair damaged parts of spacecrafts or deploy scientific equipment on them.
Man reaches Moon
American space shuttle Apollo XI landed the first humans on the Moon — Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, on July 20, 1969. (In pictures) Neil Armstrong places American flag on the lunar surface.
Maneuvering a spacecraft under its own propulsion to connect to another spacecraft was an important advancement in space technology. It allowed for scientists and astronauts to be transported to and fro from space stations. The first docking was achieved in March 1966 when Gemini VIII, under the command of Neil Armstrong, came face to face with an unmanned Agena Target Vehicle.
NASA scientists find Earth-like water in passing comet
Now that's what I call high-quality H2O.
Galileo, an unmanned NASA spacecraft, was launched by the US in 1989, and entered Jupiter’s orbit in 1995. It’s purpose was to study the planet and its moons.
Mars 3, launched by then Soviet Union, was the first human probe to touch the surface of the red planet as early as December 1971. In Picture: NASA's Opportunity Mars rover.
Salyut-1 by Russia was the first working space station (built in 1971) to serve as a base for humans, who were living and working in space. It was about 15 meters long and held three main compartments that housed dining and recreation areas, food and water storage, a toilet, control stations, exercise equipment and scientific equipment. (In picture) Astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
Although Hubble is not the first telescope in outer space, it is one of the largest and most versatile man-made object in space that has led to breakthroughs in astrophysics, such as accurately determining the rate of expansion of the universe by giving vivid pictures of stars. It was launched in 1990 and still remains in operation.
'Potentially Hazardous' Asteroid Nearly a Mile Wide to Skim Earth Saturday
The object will come within about 3 million miles of our planet.
Landing on asteroid
The NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft was the first probe to touchdown and operate on the surface of an asteroid. It landed on February 12, 2001.
(In Picture) A mosaic image of asteroid Eros taken by NEAR Shoemaker in 2000, immediately after its insertion into the asteroid's orbit.
India’s Mars Orbiter mission- the Mangalyaan is the cheapest Mars mission ever built. The satellite was successfully launched on November 5, 2013 at a record cost of just $67 million.
A long-standing theory posits the Earth's water was delivered by icy comets originating from the outer reaches of the solar system. Comets zip through space full of dust, ice and other chemicals and occasionally, collide with planets. The formation of the Earth likely occurred when small rocky bodies collided with each other -- but these were very water-poor. Thus, the theory suggests that comets may have delivered some
of the water that makes up 70% of the planet when they collided with the early Earth.
However, evidence that comets contained the same kind of water found on Earth, good ol' H2O , has been limited. To determine the comet was carrying "Earth-like" water, SOFIA eyed 46P/Wirtanen and examined the ratio between two different types of water.
The water we know and love, H2O, is made of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. Those hydrogen atoms contain one proton and zero neutrons. That form of water makes up most of the water found on Earth. A less common form of water, "heavy water", is made up of the same atomic structure, but the hydrogen atom contains one proton and one neutron. This form of water is known as deuterium. Studying the ratio of deuterium to hydrogen (D/H ratio) can teach us a little more about its origin.
The D/H ratio in comets usually varies between 1 to 3 times more than the ratio of Earth's oceans, but the astronomers found the ratio in 46P/Wirtanen was basically the same as we see down here on Earth.
Two previous comets have exhibited similar ratios: 103P/Hartley 2 and 45P/H-M-P. Notably, all three are classified as "hyperactive comets", which release water from ice on their surface and in their atmosphere as they heat up on approach to the sun. The team discovered the D/H ratios in all three were related to the water present in their atmosphere. As a result, they believe that all comets might contain Earth-like water locked within their rocky bodies.
Such a finding again opens up the debate regarding the origins of Earth's water. Other comets, originating in the Oort cloud at the edges of the solar system, don't exhibit similar D/H ratios.
Asteroids, which differ to comets in that they are more metallic and rocky, have also been suggested as a source. Of note is the number of asteroids found with Earth-like water in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
NASA astronaut captures breathtaking time-lapse of Earth from space.
Here on Earth, we see the Sun rise and set once in any given 24-hour period. If you want to see the sunrise or sunset you need to set your watch so you don't miss it, or you'll be left waiting another day for the opportunity. Things are a whole lot different on the International Space Station. Travelers spending time aboard the orbiting laboratory don’t just have to deal with the lack of gravity and somewhat cramped quarters, they also have to wrestle with the fact that normal “days” don’t really exist when you’re speeding around the Earth over a dozen times per day.