1. TheSpacewriter presents an exoplanet with clouds. The Kepler space telescope (along with the Spitzer Space Telescope) have returned data about a distant exoplanet called Kepler-7b that show it has clouds in its atmosphere. The data allowed astronomers to create an atlas of cloud forms over this planet, ranging from high clouds and clear skies in the western to somewhat clearer regions elsewhere. This is the first time that a “reflective signature” (that is, data that indicate reflectivity of an object in space) has been seen.
Kepler-7b (left), which is 1.5 times the radius of Jupiter (right), is the first exoplanet to have its clouds mapped. The cloud map was produced using data from NASA’s Kepler and Spitzer space telescopes. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MIT
4. Chandra X-ray observatory blog – Less than 50 years after the first detection of an extrasolar X-ray source, the Chandra X-ray Observatory has achieved an increase in sensitivity comparable to going from naked-eye observations to the most powerful optical telescopes over the past 400 years.
7. Nextbigfuture – NASA Future in Space Operations had a presentation on 90-Day Single-Launch to Mars: A Case Study for The Fusion-Driven Rocket
John Slough and his team are working to experimentally prove out his direct fusion propulsion system. They hope to show about 1.6 times more power out than power in before 2015 while on their NASA NIAC grants. The plan is to scale up to 200 times gain by 2030.
8. Nextbigfuture – A successful flight test of the Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket on Sunday demonstrated booster-return capability on a flight to orbit. The technology could enable reusable orbital launch vehicles as early as February, 2014.
The Spacex Falcon Heavy will also use the Merlin 1D and will bring costs down below $1000 per pound to LEO.
Full success with reusable rockets would bring costs down by 100 times.
Saving the fuel to perform a controlled landing on water requires sacrificing 15 percent of the potential payload; returning to land will take a 30 percent cut. Musk said the boost stage is about three-quarters of the total cost of the rocket, so being able to reuse it would provide a substantial net gain.
The Falcon 9.1.1 will be able to launch 25.8% more payload to low earth orbit than the Falcon 9. The Falcon 9.1.1 will reduce the price to LEO to $4109 per kilogram ($1870 per pound). A launch with a reusable first stage could have a 25% reduction in cost. A reusable first stage Falcon 9.1.1 could reduce the price to LEO to $1500 per pound and reusable first stage Falcon Heavy v1.1 could have a cost of $800 per pound to LEO.
9. Nextbigfuture – SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says the Falcon 9 rocket accomplished all of its primary objectives on today’s launch, placing its payloads in an accurate orbit over Earth’s poles and successfully demonstrating the launcher’s upgraded engines, flight computer and stage separation system. But two secondary objectives on the flight were not met.
10. Nextbigfuture – Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) used a robotic arm to capture and attach a Cygnus cargo resupply spacecraft Sunday, marking several spaceflight firsts for NASA and its partner, Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va.
Over the past few years, the field of astrobiology has made great strides. With missions such as Kepler making exoplanet discoveries commonplace, the question no longer is “Are other planets out there?” but “When will we find a true twin of Earth?”
A new book, “Five Billion Years of Solitude,” takes the reader from the earliest efforts of astrobiology, along with information on how life took hold on Earth, to how we can use that information to help understand how life may flourish on other worlds – all while giving us a glimpse inside the minds of some of the field’s most notable scientists.