Categories
GeekWire

Ceres’ pyramid gets its close-up

Image: Ceres' pyramid
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft spotted this tall, conical mountain on Ceres from a distance of 915 miles (1,470 kilometers). The mountain, located in the southern hemisphere, stands 4 miles (6 kilometers) high. (Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / UCLA / MPS / DLR / IDA)

NASA’s mission to that other dwarf planet, Ceres, has delivered a fresh bird’s-eye view of one of the asteroid’s most mysterious features: a cone-shaped, 4-mile-high “pyramid” mountain whose sides are covered with bright material.

The Dawn mission’s principal investigator says those shiny sides may be connected to Ceres’ other big mystery: the bright spots that shine out from the mini-world’s dark surface.

“The bright material on the mountain and in the bright spots are probably the same material,” UCLA’s Christopher Russell told GeekWire in an email. “How the material got on the sides of the mountain and also in the bottom of the craters is unknown.”

Which begs the question: What is that stuff?

Read the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Jeff Bezos will unveil Florida launch plans

Image: Jeff Bezos
Amazon’s billionaire founder, Jeff Bezos, inspects Blue Origin’s launch facility in West Texas before a test flight in April. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is heading to Cape Canaveral next month to make a “significant announcement regarding the emerging commercial launch industry” — most likely about plans for his Blue Origin space venture to build and launch rockets on Florida’s Space Coast.

The media invitation went out this week for the Sept. 15 event at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. No further details were provided about the subject of the announcement, but Blue Origin has been working for years to secure a Florida facility.

Bezos’ privately financed venture aims to send tourists and researchers to the edge of space in a vertical-launch-and-landing suborbital vehicle called New Shepard. An uncrewed prototype blasted off for its first developmental test flight in April at Blue Origin’s West Texas rocket range. The company is also working on an orbital launch system, with the aim of winning NASA contracts to ferry crew and cargo to the International Space Station. Developing that system is expected to be the focus in Florida.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

6 small steps toward cooler spaceships

Image: Magbeam station
An artist’s conception shows a Magbeam station emitting a plasma beam to propel a target spacecraft beyond Jupiter. (Credit: UW Advanced Propulsion Lab)

SPOKANE, Wash. — Is there a better way to power a spaceship? The basic tools of the rocket trade have been refined over the course of nearly nine decades, but there’s only so far the physics will take us. If we ever want to send anything to another star system, as described in Kim Stanley Robinson’s newly published book“Aurora,” we’ll have to come up with new technologies.

Some of those technologies were laid out at Sasquan, the world science-fiction convention playing out this week in Spokane, during a session on the art and science of spaceships. And it turns out many of those technologies have a Seattle spin. Get a quick rundown on six research areas, with links to the local connections.

Read the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Will HBO finish ‘Game of Thrones’ first?

Image: George R.R. Martin
“Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin sets the scene for a reading at the Sasquan science-fiction convention in Spokane. (Credit: Alan Boyle)

SPOKANE, Wash. — “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin acknowledges that HBO could air the final episode of the show based on his books even before the last book in the series comes out — and he’s OK with that.

“Anything is possible,” he told GeekWire during Thursday’s Q&A at the Sasquan science-fiction convention in Spokane. Martin took questions after reading a chapter from “The Winds of Winter,” which will be the sixth book in what’s expected to be at least a seven-volume series.

Read the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

The moon photobombs Earth!

Moon and Earth
The moon passes across Earth’s disk in a July 16 image captured by the DSCOVR satellite from its observation point, a million miles out in space. The Americas and the Pacific Ocean are visible beneath Earth’s cloud cover. Because the moon was moving while DSCOVR acquired the data for this three-filter image, there appears to be a thin green offset on the right side of the moon’s disk, and red and blue offsets on the left. (Credit: NASA / NOAA)

The Deep Space Climate Observatory, better known as DSCOVR, is designed to provide full-disk, sunlit views of our home planet from a vantage point a million miles away. But every so often, the moon crosses through the frame. Today, NASA released the first amazing photobomb sequence.

The perspective from DSCOVR’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (a.k.a. EPIC), captured on July 16, provides a topsy-turvy view: Here we’re seeing the moon’s far side, which earthbound skywatchers can never observe. And although it looks like a full moon, on Earth the moon was in its totally dark, “new” phase.

This isn’t the first lunar photobombing: NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft caught the moon crossing Earth’s half-lit disk back in 2008. But when DSCOVR goes into full operation next month and starts sending back near-real-time images, we can expect to see a new-moon photobomb roughly twice a year.

Launched in February, DSCOVR is a joint mission of NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with the twin objectives of making climate observations and keeping watch for incoming solar storms.

The Earth-watching part of the mission follows through on an idea put forward by Vice President Al Gore back in the 1990s – and the former veep was obviously tickled to see the latest pictures released from NASA’s lockbox:

A version of this item was published August 5, 2015, on GeekWire. For more from Alan Boyle, check out the Cosmic Log Google+ archive.