Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Exoplanet tally soars above 1,000

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The number of observed exoplanets - worlds circling distant stars - has passed 1,000.

Of these, 12 could be habitable - orbiting at a distance where it is neither “too hot” nor “too cold” for water to be liquid on the surface.

The planets are given away by tiny dips in light as they pass in front of their stars or through gravitational “tugs” on the star from an orbiting world.

These new worlds are listed in the Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia.

The tally now stands at 1,010 new exoplanets, bolstered by 11 new finds from the UK’s Wide Angle Search for Planets (Wasp).

Abel Mendez of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico, said that although the number has rapidly increased in recent years, due to a lack of funding this figure is much lower than it could be.

“We have more techniques and proven technology to detect more exoplanets, but the limit has been telescopes, especially space telescopes.

[Read More…]

Monday, September 30, 2013

Orbital’s Cygnus freighter reaches International Space Station

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The new Cygnus freighter has arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) carrying about 700kg (1,500lb) of food and other supplies.

Astronauts on the platform reached out with a robotic arm and grabbed the vessel at 11:00 GMT.

Cygnus is on a demonstration mission to prove its technology.

It is one of two commercial ventures seeded by Nasa to pick up America’s ISS re-supply requirements following the retirement of the space shuttles.

The new vehicle, developed by the Orbital Sciences Corporation (OSC), made its approach using a mix of GPS, inertial navigation and lidar.

It parked itself a little over 10m under the station, within reach of the Canadarm2.

Operated by astronauts Italian Luca Parmitano and American Karen Nyberg, the robotic limb then grappled the freighter, pulling it into the ISS’s Harmony module.

Capture - the securing of bolts mating Cygnus to Harmony - occurred at 1244 GMT, when the ISS was moving over the Indian Ocean.

[Read More…]

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