The movements of a newly discovered dwarf planet beyond Pluto’s orbit, dubbed 2012 VP113, suggest that a mysterious frontier of the solar system may include a planet much larger than Earth.
Experts say the discovery could lead scientists to rewrite our understanding of the fringes of our solar system.
Top images: The motion of 2012 VP113 clearly stands out compared with the steady state background stars and galaxies in these images, which were taken about two hours apart. Credit: Scott S. Sheppard / Carnegie Institution for Science. Bottom image: The three images combined into one to show the positions of 2012 VP113. Credit: Scott S. Sheppard / Carnegie Institution for Science.
What you’re looking at right now are some of the earliest galaxies ever observed by human eyes, dated to just 500 million years after the big bang.
Science reporter Amina Khan has the full story on these crazy astronomical spirals here.
The Last Launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour
Space Shuttle Endeavour has retired from service, and for the moment NASA is reliant on Russian rockets to keep the International Space Station stocked up and operating. NASA is developing a replacement for the Shuttle – the Orion CEV – but for the moment, lets take a look at the Shuttle and remember the many years of sterling service it has given us.
Image credit: Dan Winters
Some incredible photos, and another reminder of the Endeavour’s victory lap around Los Angeles before settling down in the California Science Center.
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Greetings from the new Space Race
So long, Russia vs. U.S. galactic rivalry: With NASA hobbled by budget cuts, the pool of nations vying for the top spot beyond the Earth has grown to dozens of countries, punctuated by China’s recent success on the moon.
It was a moment of national pride when images of the six-wheel rover, dubbed Jade Rabbit, were transmitted live back to Earth, showing the redand gold Chinese flag on the moon for the first time.
"Now as Jade Rabbit has made its touchdown on the moon surface," the state-run Xinhua news agency said, "the whole world again marvels at China’s remarkable space capabilities."
Find out who’s looking to challenge Russia and China in the new race to space here.
Photos: Xinhua / AFP
This amazing reentry fireworks was observed from the International Space Station on 2 November at 12:04 GMT. We can see European Space Agency’s fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle, Albert Einstein, disintegrating and burning up in the atmosphere over an uninhabited area of the Pacific Ocean, in the most spectacular way, after it left the International Space Station a week earlier with 1.6 tonnes of waste.
Source of gif: ESA/NASA
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Solar flare marathon may continue
Over the last week, 28 solar flares have exploded on the sun, a quick turn of events from the star, which has been relatively quiet during this period of the sun’s activity cycle.
But there’s little cause for concern, as reporter Deborah Netburn assures:
The good news is that none of the rapid-fire solar flares of the last week have had much effect on life on Earth. Our atmosphere protects us from the sun’s occasional powerful bursts of light and radiation, but solar flares do occasionally interact with our communications systems. The radiation can mess with an upper layer in our atmosphere called the ionosphere and cause radio signals to act funky.
But that doesn’t stop the flares from looking pretty awesome, as you can see above.
Space shuttle Endeavour’s final flight
A little more than a year ago, the Endeavour’s last mission was carried out: A 12-mile trek through the streets of Los Angeles before arriving at its new home at the Samuel Oschin Pavilion at the California Science Center. Thousands turned out to see the shuttle before it was transitioned into a record-setting attraction at the museum.
Photos: Gary Friedman, Al Seib, Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times, Jim Ross / NASA
Meet a lonely, drifting planet
An enigmatic planet has been discovered wandering the vast cosmos by University of Hawaii scientists, notable not just for its free-floating nature, but for being the first planet not in orbit of a star.
"This thing is floating in space like our sun floats in space," said Eugene Magnier of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, coauthor of a study about the lonely planet. "It is drifting around through the galaxy."
Astronomers are not yet sure how this rogue planet came to be out there in space, all by itself. One theory is that it formed from a clump of hydrogen gas that condensed. Another, less likely thought is that it started its life in the vicinity of a star and got bumped out of its orbit.
Just a few days after Voyager 1 left Earth in 1977, L.A. Times columnist Jack Smith wrote:
A new spacecraft called Voyager, we are told, is on its way to the stars with a two-hour phonograph of earth sounds and a video machine with 115 photographs.
Someday, if there are any…
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Voyager 1 has officially left the solar system
It may have taken 36 years of coasting through space, but the Voyager 1 spacecraft has entered interstellar space, becoming the first man-made probe to reach that far-off realm.
The scientific community has been debating whether Voyager had already left for some time now, but it wasn’t until today that NASA was confident enough to made the estimate official.
Lead author Don Gurnett, an Iowa State plasma physicist and a Voyager project scientist, said the data showed conclusively that Voyager 1 had exited the heliopause — the bubble of hot, energetic particles that surrounds our sun and planets — and entered into a region of cold, dark space called the interstellar medium.
NASA’s rocket frog
Your eyes aren’t deceiving you - that’s a frog flying off into the distance as the LADEE spacecraft launches at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Confirmed to be the real deal by the agency’s photo team, the frog’s current condition is unknown. But at the very least, it joins the pantheon of airborne amphibians: