[Updated!] First Product from NASA Fanboy: Ast…

[Updated!] First Product from NASA Fanboy: Astro art prints!:

Updated: I’ve struck a better deal for the printing process and am thrilled to offer a drastically reduced price on this 24"x36" print! I’ve been wanting to do this for quite some time, and am thrilled to finally introduce the first canvas print from Keep Looking Up. I’m working with some incredible craftsmen to create this limited edition run of 24"x36" canvas prints of the iconic Earthrise image from the Apollo 8 mission. I’m looking forward to offering more images in the future and having a full site dedicated to the prints. Check it out, and Keep Looking Up!

SpaceX Dragon breathes Astronomical Amounts of…

SpaceX is helping the crew members aboard the International Space Station get down and nerdy as they launch their Dragon cargo spacecraft into orbit for the 13th commercial resupply mission, targeted for Dec. 15 from our Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

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This super science-heavy flight will deliver experiments and equipment that will study phenomena on the Sun, materials in microgravity, space junk and more. 

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Here are some highlights of research that will be delivered to the station:

ZBLAN Fiber Optics Tested in Space!

The Optical Fiber Production in Microgravity (Made in Space Fiber Optics) experiment demonstrates the benefits of manufacturing fiber optic filaments in a microgravity environment. This investigation will attempt to pull fiber optic wire from ZBLAN, a heavy metal fluoride glass commonly used to make fiber optic glass.

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When ZBLAN is solidified on Earth, its atomic structure tends to form into crystals. Research indicates that ZBLAN fiber pulled in microgravity may not crystalize as much, giving it better optical qualities than the silica used in most fiber optic wire. 

Total and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor is Totally Teaching us About Earth’s Climate

The Total and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor, or TSIS, monitors both total solar irradiance and solar spectral irradiance, measurements that represent one of the longest space-observed climate records. Solar irradiance is the output of light energy from the entire disk of the Sun, measured at the Earth. This means looking at the Sun in ways very similar to how we observe stars rather than as an image with details that our eye can resolve.

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Understanding the variability and magnitude of solar irradiance is essential to understanding Earth’s climate.  

Sensor Monitors Space Station Environment for Space Junk

The Space Debris Sensor (SDS) will directly measure the orbital debris environment around the space station for two to three years.

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Above, see documentation of a Micro Meteor Orbital Debris strike on one of the window’s within the space station’s Cupola. 

Research from this investigation could help lower the risk to human life and critical hardware by orbital debris.

Self-Assembling and Self-Replicating Materials in Space!

Future space exploration may utilize self-assembly and self-replication to make materials and devices that can repair themselves on long duration missions. 

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The Advanced Colloids Experiment- Temperature-7 (ACE-T-7) investigation involves the design and assembly of 3D structures from small particles suspended in a fluid medium. 

Melting Plastics in Microgravity

The Transparent Alloys project seeks to improve the understanding of the melting and solidification processes in plastics in microgravity. Five investigations will be conducted as a part of the Transparent Alloys project.

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These European Space Agency (ESA) investigations will allow researchers to study this phenomena in the microgravity environment, where natural convection will not impact the results.  

Studying Slime (or…Algae, at Least) on the Space Station

Arthrospira B, an ESA investigation, will examine the form, structure and physiology of the Arthrospira sp. algae in order to determine the reliability of the organism for future spacecraft biological life support systems.

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The development of these kinds of regenerative life support systems for spaceflight could also be applied to remote locations on Earth where sustainability of materials is important. 

Follow @ISS_Research on Twitter for more space science and watch the launch live on Dec. 15 at 10:36 a.m. EDT HERE!

For a regular dose of space-nerdy-goodness, follow us on Tumblr: https://nasa.tumblr.com/.

[Updated!] First Product from NASA Fanboy: Ast…

[Updated!] First Product from NASA Fanboy: Astro art prints!:

Updated: I’ve struck a better deal for the printing process and am thrilled to offer a drastically reduced price on this 24"x36" print! I’ve been wanting to do this for quite some time, and am thrilled to finally introduce the first canvas print from Keep Looking Up. I’m working with some incredible craftsmen to create this limited edition run of 24"x36" canvas prints of the iconic Earthrise image from the Apollo 8 mission. I’m looking forward to offering more images in the future and having a full site dedicated to the prints. Check it out, and Keep Looking Up!

Researchers Just Found (For The First Time) An…

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Our Milky Way galaxy is full of hundreds of billions of
worlds just waiting to be found. In 2014, scientists using data from our planet-hunting
Kepler space telescope discovered seven planets orbiting Kepler-90, a Sun-like star
located 2,500 light-years away. Now, an eighth planet has been identified in this
planetary system, making it tied with our own solar system in having the highest
number of known planets. Here’s what you need to know:

The new planet is called Kepler-90i.

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Kepler-90i is a sizzling hot, rocky planet. It’s the smallest of eight planets in the Kepler-90 system. It orbits so close to its star that a “year” passes in just 14 days.

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Average surface temperatures on Kepler-90i are estimated to hover around 800 degrees Fahrenheit, making it an unlikely place for life as we know it.

Its planetary system is like a scrunched up version of our solar system.

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The Kepler-90 system is set up like our solar system, with the small planets located close to their star and the big planets farther away. This pattern is evidence that the system’s outer gas planets—which are about the size of Saturn and Jupiter—formed in a way similar to our own.

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But the orbits are much more compact. The orbits of all eight
planets could fit within the distance of Earth’s orbit around our Sun! Sounds
crowded, but think of it this way: It would make for some great planet-hopping.

Kepler-90i was discovered using machine learning.

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Most planets beyond our solar system are too far away to be imaged directly. The Kepler space telescope searches for these exoplanets—those planets orbiting stars beyond our solar system—by measuring how the brightness of a star changes when a planet transits, or crosses in front of its disk. Generally speaking, for a given star, the greater the dip in brightness, the bigger the planet!

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Researchers trained a computer to learn how to identify the faint signal of transiting exoplanets in Kepler’s vast archive of deep-space data. A search for new worlds around 670 known multiple-planet systems using this machine-learning technique yielded not one, but two discoveries: Kepler-90i and Kepler-80g. The latter is part of a six-planet star system located 1,000 light-years away.

This
is just the beginning of a new way of planet hunting.

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Kepler-90 is the first known star system besides our own that has eight planets, but scientists say it won’t be the last. Other planets may lurk around stars surveyed by Kepler. Next, researchers are using machine learning with sophisticated computer algorithms to search for more planets around 150,000 stars in the Kepler database.

In
the meantime, we’ll be doing more searching with telescopes.

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Kepler is the most successful planet-hunting spacecraft to date, with more than 2,500 confirmed exoplanets and many more awaiting verification. Future space missions, like the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), the James Webb Space Telescope and Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) will continue the search for new worlds and even tell us which ones might offer promising homes for extraterrestrial life.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com

*All images of exoplanets
are artist illustrations.

What in the Universe is an Exoplanet?

Simply put, an exoplanet is a planet that orbits another star. 

All of the planets in our solar system orbit around the Sun. Planets that orbit around other stars outside our solar system are called exoplanets.

Just because a planet orbits a star (like Earth) does not mean that it is automatically stable for life. The planet must be within the habitable zone, which is the area around a star in which water has the potential to be liquid…aka not so close that all the water would evaporate, and not too far away where all the water would freeze.

Exoplanets are very hard to see directly with telescopes. They are hidden by the bright glare of the stars they orbit. So, astronomers use other ways to detect and study these distant planets by looking at the effects these planets have on the stars they orbit.

One way to search for exoplanets is to look for “wobbly” stars. A star that has planets doesn’t orbit perfectly around its center. From far away, this off-center orbit makes the star look like it’s wobbling. Hundreds of planets have been discovered using this method. However, only big planets—like Jupiter, or even larger—can be seen this way. Smaller Earth-like planets are much harder to find because they create only small wobbles that are hard to detect.

How can we find Earth-like planets in other solar systems?

In 2009, we launched a spacecraft called Kepler to look for exoplanets. Kepler looked for planets in a wide range of sizes and orbits. And these planets orbited around stars that varied in size and temperature.

Kepler detected exoplanets using something called the transit method. When a planet passes in front of its star, it’s called a transit. As the planet transits in front of the star, it blocks out a little bit of the star’s light. That means a star will look a little less bright when the planet passes in front of it. Astronomers can observe how the brightness of the star changes during a transit. This can help them figure out the size of the planet.

By studying the time between transits, astronomers can also find out how far away the planet is from its star. This tells us something about the planet’s temperature. If a planet is just the right temperature, it could contain liquid water—an important ingredient for life.

So far, thousands of planets have been discovered by the Kepler mission.

We now know that exoplanets are very common in the universe. And future missions have been planned to discover many more!

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com.

[Updated!] First Product from NASA Fanboy: Ast…

[Updated!] First Product from NASA Fanboy: Astro art prints!:

Updated: I’ve struck a better deal for the printing process and am thrilled to offer a drastically reduced price on this 24"x36" print! I’ve been wanting to do this for quite some time, and am thrilled to finally introduce the first canvas print from Keep Looking Up. I’m working with some incredible craftsmen to create this limited edition run of 24"x36" canvas prints of the iconic Earthrise image from the Apollo 8 mission. I’m looking forward to offering more images in the future and having a full site dedicated to the prints. Check it out, and Keep Looking Up!

The Geminids Are Now Playing in a Sky Near You

The Geminids, which peak during mid-December each year, are considered to be one of the best and most reliable annual meteor showers

This month, they’re active from Dec. 4-17, and peak the evening of Dec. 13-14 for a full 24 hours, meaning more worldwide meteor watchers will get to enjoy the show. 

Below are 10 things to know about this beautiful spectacle.

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1. The forecast. 

From our resident night sky expert, Jane Jones: If you can see Orion and Gemini in the sky, you’ll see some Geminids. Expect to see about 60 meteors per hour before midnight on Dec. 13 and from midnight-3:30 a.m. on Dec. 14 from a dark sky. You’ll see fewer meteors after moonrise at 3:30 a.m. local time. In the southern hemisphere, you won’t see as many, perhaps 10-20 per hour, because the radiant—the point in the sky where the meteor shower appears to originate—never rises above the horizon.

2. Viewing tips.

Kids can join in on the fun as early as 9 or 10 p.m. You’ll want to find an area well away from city or street lights. Come prepared for winter temperatures with a sleeping bag, blanket, or lawn chair. Lie flat on your back and look up, taking in as much of the sky as possible. After about 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes will adapt and you’ll begin to see meteors. Be patient—the show will last until dawn, so you have plenty of time to catch a glimpse.

3. Late bloomer.

The Geminids weren’t always such as a spectacular show. When they first began appearing in the mid-1800s, there were only 10-20 visible meteors per hour. Since then, the Geminids have grown to become one of the major showers of the year.

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4. Remind me—where do meteor showers come from?

Meteors come from leftover comet particles and bits from asteroids. When these objects come around the Sun, they leave a dusty trail behind them. Every year, the Earth passes through these debris trails, which allows the bits to collide with our atmosphere, where they disintegrate to create fiery and colorful streaks in the sky.

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5. That said…

While most meteor showers come from comets, the Geminids originate from an asteroid: 3200 Phaethon. Asteroid 3200 Phaethon takes 1.4 years to orbit the Sun once. It is possible that Phaethon is a “dead comet” or a new kind of object being discussed by astronomers called a “rock comet.” Phaethon’s comet-like, highly-elliptical orbit around the Sun supports this hypothesis. That said, scientists aren’t too sure how to define Phaethon. When it passes by the Sun, it doesn’t develop a cometary tail, and its spectra looks like a rocky asteroid. Also, the bits and pieces that break off to form the Geminid meteoroids are several times denser than cometary dust flakes.

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6. Tell me more. 

3200 Phaethon was discovered on Oct. 11, 1983 by the Infrared Astronomical Satellite. Because of its close approach to the Sun, Phaethon is named after the Greek mythological character who drove the Sun-god Helios’ chariot. Phaethon is a small asteroid: its diameter measures only 3.17 miles (5.10 kilometers) across. And we have astronomer Fred Whipple to thank—he realized that Phaethon is the source for the Geminids.

7. A tale of twins. 

The Geminids’ radiant is the constellation Gemini, a.k.a. the “Twins.” And, of course, the constellation of Gemini is also where we get the name for the shower: Geminids.

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8. In case you didn’t know. 

The constellation for which a meteor shower is named only helps stargazers determine which shower they’re viewing on a given night; the constellation is not the source of the meteors. Also, don’t just look to the constellation of Gemini to view the Geminids—they’re visible throughout the night sky.

9. And in case you miss the show. 

There’s a second meteor shower in December: the Ursids, radiating from Ursa Minor, the Little Dipper. If Dec. 22 and the morning of Dec. 23 are clear where you are, have a look at the Little Dipper’s bowl—you might see about 10 meteors per hour.

10. Endless opportunities. There are so many sights to see in the sky. Use the Night Sky Network, the Solar System Ambassadors, and the Museum Alliance to look up local astronomy clubs, and join them for stargazing events in town, and under dark skies.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com.

[Updated!] First Product from NASA Fanboy: Ast…

[Updated!] First Product from NASA Fanboy: Astro art prints!:

Updated: I’ve struck a better deal for the printing process and am thrilled to offer a drastically reduced price on this 24"x36" print! I’ve been wanting to do this for quite some time, and am thrilled to finally introduce the first canvas print from Keep Looking Up. I’m working with some incredible craftsmen to create this limited edition run of 24"x36" canvas prints of the iconic Earthrise image from the Apollo 8 mission. I’m looking forward to offering more images in the future and having a full site dedicated to the prints. Check it out, and Keep Looking Up!

[Updated!] First Product from NASA Fanboy: Ast…

[Updated!] First Product from NASA Fanboy: Astro art prints!:

Updated: I’ve struck a better deal for the printing process and am thrilled to offer a drastically reduced price on this 24"x36" print! I’ve been wanting to do this for quite some time, and am thrilled to finally introduce the first canvas print from Keep Looking Up. I’m working with some incredible craftsmen to create this limited edition run of 24"x36" canvas prints of the iconic Earthrise image from the Apollo 8 mission. I’m looking forward to offering more images in the future and having a full site dedicated to the prints. Check it out, and Keep Looking Up!

Human Expansion Across Solar System

On this day in 1972, two NASA astronauts landed on the Moon. Now, 45 years later, we have been instructed to return to the lunar surface.

Today at the White House, President Trump signed the Space Policy Directive 1, a change in national space policy that provides for a U.S.-led program with private sector partners for a human return to the Moon, followed by missions to Mars and beyond.

Among other dignitaries on hand for the signing, were NASA astronauts Sen. Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, Buzz Aldrin, Peggy Whitson and Christina Koch.

Schmitt landed on the moon 45 years to the minute that the policy directive was signed as part of our Apollo 17 mission, and is the most recent living person to have set foot on our lunar neighbor. 

Above, at the signing ceremony instructing us to send humans back to the lunar surface, Schmitt shows First Daughter Ivanka Trump the Moon sample he collected in 1972.

The effort signed today will more effectively organize government, private industry and international efforts toward returning humans on the Moon, and will lay the foundation that will eventually enable human exploration of Mars.

To learn more, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/new-space-policy-directive-calls-for-human-expansion-across-solar-system

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com.