Thursday, August 22, 2013

NASA Spacecraft Reactivated to Hunt for Asteroids

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A NASA spacecraft that discovered and characterized tens of thousands of asteroids throughout the solar system before being placed in hibernation will return to service for three more years starting in September, assisting the agency in its effort to identify the population of potentially hazardous near-Earth objects, as well as those suitable for asteroid exploration missions.

The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) will be revived next month with the goal of discovering and characterizing near-Earth objects (NEOs), space rocks that can be found orbiting within 28 million miles (45 million kilometers) from Earth’s path around the sun. NASA anticipates WISE will use its 16-inch (40-centimeter) telescope and infrared cameras to discover about 150 previously unknown NEOs and characterize the size, albedo and thermal properties of about 2,000 others — including some which could be candidates for the agency’s recently announced asteroid initiative.

“The WISE mission achieved its mission’s goals and as NEOWISE extended the science even further in its survey of asteroids.

NASA is now extending that record of success, which will enhance our ability to find potentially hazardous asteroids, and support the new asteroid initiative,” said John Grunsfeld, NASA’s associate administrator for science in Washington.

“Reactivating WISE is an excellent example of how we are leveraging existing capabilities across the agency to achieve our goal.”

NASA’s asteroid initiative will be the first mission to identify, capture and relocate an asteroid. It represents an unprecedented technological feat that will lead to new scientific discoveries and technological capabilities that will help protect our home planet. The asteroid initiative brings together the best of NASA’s science, technology and human exploration efforts to achieve President Obama’s goal of sending humans to an asteroid by 2025.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Kepler: Nasa retires prolific telescope from planet-hunting duties

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The prolific Kepler space telescope has had to give up its prime planet-hunting mission after engineers failed to find a fix for its hobbled pointing system.

The observatory lost the second of its four reaction wheels in May, meaning it can no longer hold completely steady as it looks towards the stars.

Nasa engineers have worked through a number of possible solutions but have failed to find one that will work.

Kepler has so far confirmed 135 planets beyond our Solar System.

But it still has more than 3,500 “candidates” in its database that have yet to be fully investigated, and the vast majority of these are expected to be confirmed as planets in due course.

The $600m (£395m) observatory was launched in March 2009 to try to find Earth-sized worlds orbiting their host stars in the so-called habitable zone. This is the region around a star where, given the right atmospheric conditions, temperatures would permit water to persist on a rocky surface in a liquid state. In essence, Kepler has been attempting to locate planets that have the best chance of supporting life.

The observatory has already identified a number of “super-Earths” (worlds slightly bigger than Earth) in stars’ habitable zones, and mission scientists are confident they will soon be able to confirm the existence of further planets that enjoy even more Earth-like conditions.

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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Massive solar flare narrowly misses Earth, EMP disaster barely avoided

The earth barely missed taking a massive solar punch in the teeth two weeks ago, an “electromagnetic pulse” so big that it could have knocked out power, cars and iPhones throughout the United States.

Two EMP experts told Secrets that the EMP flashed through earth’s typical orbit around the sun about two weeks before the planet got there.

“The world escaped an EMP catastrophe,” said Henry Cooper, who led strategic arms negotiations with the Soviet Union under President Reagan, and who now heads High Frontier, a group pushing for missile defense.

“There had been a near miss about two weeks ago, a Carrington-class coronal mass ejection crossed the orbit of the Earth and basically just missed us,” said Peter Vincent Pry, who served on the Congressional EMP Threat Commission from 2001-2008. He was referring to the 1859 EMP named after astronomer Richard Carrington that melted telegraph lines in Europe and North America.

“Basically this is a Russian roulette thing,” added Pry. “We narrowly escape from a Carrington-class disaster.”

Pry, Cooper, and former CIA Director James Woolsey have been recently demanding that Washington prepare the nation’s electric grid for an EMP, either from the sun or an enemy’s nuclear bomb. They want the 2,000-3,000 transformers in the grid protected with a high-tech metal box and spares ready to rebuild the system. Woolsey said knocking out just 20 would shut down electricity to parts of the nation “for a long time.”

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