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A Hubble Space Telescope picture of the Crab Nebula, a cloud of dust and gas left over from a supernova. The discovery not only gives us a glimpse of what exists in the so-called interstellar mediuma€”the matter between starsa€”but also offers clues to the anatomy of our local galactic neighborhood. Orbiting Earth some 200,000 miles (322,000 kilometers) away, the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) spacecraft was able to snag samples of hydrogen, oxygen, and neon that came from interstellar space. Since its launch in October 2008, the IBEX probe has been mapping the boundary of the solar system, called the heliosphere. This bubble in the Milky Way galaxy is created by solar wind, which is the stream of charged particles that's constantly blowing out from the sun in all directions.
The edge of the heliosphere lies about a hundred times farther from us than Earth does from the sun, and it shields the inner solar system from deadly cosmic radiation. That's because the heliosphere and its associated magnetic field push away damaging charged particles. But half of the particles in the interstellar wind are neutral, and these uncharged atoms can make it into our solar system. A few of these neutral hydrogen, oxygen, and neon particles then made it all the way to Earth, where IBEX was able to detect them, McComas said during the conference.
An analysis of the new IBEX data compared the ratios of oxygen to neon from interstellar space with the ratios of these atoms native to our solar system. The results show that our solar system appears to contain more oxygen than surrounding interstellar space.
This may mean that our solar system migrated to its current location from a more oxygen-rich environment. IBEX also measured the speed of the interstellar wind, revealing that the wind is moving about 7,000 miles (11,000 kilometers) an hour slower than previously recorded. Combined with previous data on nearby interstellar cloudsa€”gossamer blobs of gas and dust many light-years acrossa€”the team was able to more precisely pinpoint our location in the local galactic neighborhood. Our solar system appears to sit at the edge of one of many low-density interstellar clouds that move through this region of the galaxya€”and we may actually exit the cloud in the next few thousand years, the data show. The new IBEX results appear in a series of papers in the February edition of Astrophysical Journal Supplements. The farthest a man made object has travelled away from earth is a little outside our solar system, a feat accomplished by NASA on the 25th of August 2012, when the Voyager 1 space probe crossed the sphere dominated by the sun. Voyager 2, the next probe in the Voyager program by NASA,  is expected to enter interstellar space within a few years of 2016, making it the second man made object to break this barrier.
There are a lot of obstacles in the way that need to be conquered before we finally send a man outside the heliosphere of the sun, which simply put, is the region dominated by the sun. One simple yet futuristic solutions which comes to mind borrows the age old concept of recycling.
About Latest Posts Karan Atree Latest posts by Karan Atree (see all)The Summer of Cinema - April 24, 2015Ten activities every child should be exposed to. Passing comets kick up the dust, new data suggest, deepening a mystery posed by the first lunar astronauts. Apollo astronauts attempting to observe a faint glow produced by interstellar dust (shown above, in an image from the Clementine spacecraft) also saw mysterious streamers of light on the moona€™s horizon.
A persistent, lopsided cloud of dust is hanging around our moon, scientists have discovered. As they zoom through our solar system, comets shed small particles that eventually smash into the moon, temporarily catapulting dust from the lunar surface into space, the researchers report Wednesday in Nature. The new observations suggest that on average, 120 kilograms of dust hover above the moon at any given time.
To collect those data, the LDEX instrument aboard NASAa€™s LADEE spacecraft acted as a dust-catcher while it flew between altitudes of 20 and 100 kilometers for six months. LDEX detected an average of a single, 0.3-micrometer moondust particle each minutea€”until the Geminid, Quadrantid, Northern Taurid, and Omicron Centaurid meteor showers swept by. The cloud is lopsided, thicker near the boundary between the moona€™s dayside and its nightside. The observations both resolve and deepen a half-century-long moony mystery: In the 1960s, TV cameras aboard several of NASAa€™s moon-landing Surveyor spacecraft recorded a glow just above the moona€™s horizon, just before sunrise. Lunar dust particles can be launched from the moona€™s surface by colliding cometary debris.
At the time, astronauts thought they might be seeing sunlight scattering off dust in the moona€™s sky, but it wasna€™t clear how the dust could be suspended so high above an airless body.
So, when the last set of humans pressed their boots into lunar dust in 1972, they also pressed a dust analyzer into the moona€™s surface. Back on Earth, scientists have spent the past four decades trying to figure out what those measurements mean. Instead, LADEE did find evidence for a high-altitude dust cloud, and other spacecraft have observed similar phenomena at the large moons of Jupiter. In the dust collector of a NASA probe, citizen scientists helped find particles that probably came from interstellar spacea€”the first that could be studied on Earth. Specks of space dust, like the white wisp above, left hair-size tracks in the aerogel as they plunged into it at more than 13,000 miles an hour.
Seven tiny grains of dust snagged by NASA's Stardust space probe and parachuted to Earth in 2006 may well have come from beyond the solar system, astronomers report in the latest issue of Science. The Stardust probe's main mission was actually to collect comet dusta€”which it did successfully in early 2004, catching particles from the halo surrounding comet Wild 2. But as the spacecraft was looping out toward a rendezvous between Mars and Jupiter with comet Wild 2, its handlers turned its dust collector to face the area where they expected particles would be streaming into our solar system from interstellar space. Scientists have long observed clouds of interstellar dust with telescopes; they've even collected a few grains of it with other spacecraft and done a rudimentary analysis on board. In a NASA clean room a scientist examines aerogel traps containing dust snared by the Stardust probe. By the end of the mission, when the dust collector had been folded up inside a hard capsule and parachuted safely into the Utah desert, Westphal and his colleagues had figured out a strategy. Since interstellar dust particles are known to be much smaller than comet dust particlesa€”just a few millionths of an inch, or less than one micrometer, acrossa€”the task of finding their tracks is especially laborious.


The key test of the particles' origin will be to measure the mix of isotopes, or chemical varieties, of oxygen within thema€”tests that won't be complete for another two to three years.
Meanwhile, Westphal and the Dusters will continue to look for more interstellar grain candidates in the aerogel. Today is International Guide Dog Day, so let’s honor and celebrate these incredibly hard working service dogs because of their long-standing dedication.
Fall season in the Arctic means crunch time for the final preparations for the brutal winter months ahead.
On week ten of the North Atlantic bluefin tuna season in Gloucester, Massachusetts, the competition is heating up, driving captains to push themselves and their crews to the brink with only six weeks of fishing left.
Science and film unite on tonight’s episode of StarTalk, when host Neil deGrasse Tyson sits down with director, screenwriter and producer, Christopher Nolan.
On tonight’s episode of Animals Gone Wild, the only way to survive in a world of kill or be killed – is to fight back!
Last night on Life Below Zero, winter preparations were in full swing as the changing seasons bring the tough transition from fall to winter. The space station gets a delayed delivery, a brilliant explosion lights up the early universe, and more in the week's best space pictures. Russia's Progress 45 spaceshipA approaches the International Space Station in a picture taken November 2.
A plume of white ash spreads from an active vent in a satellite picture of the erupting Puyehue-CordA?n Caulle volcano complex in Chile. The launch of a Delta II rocket creates a bright arc over the California sky in a picture taken October 28.
Fields, roads, and buildings sit submerged by sediment-clogged floodwater in a satellite picture of the Thai city of Ayutthaya taken October 23 by NASA's Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) spacecraft. If Saturn ever needs a sponge bath, the tiny moon Hyperion would likely be the tool of choice. These particlesa€”remnants from supernovae that are dispersed through interstellar spacea€”flow toward us at 50,000 miles (80,000 kilometers) an hour. Or it's possible a lot of oxygen is trapped within dust grains or ice in the interstellar medium. It really puts our sun in context for the first time," said Seth Redfield, an astronomer from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, who's involved with IBEX.
One such mystery, which all of us have wondered about sometime or the other is most definitely interstellar travel and colonization of planets in galaxies far far away. Once that is achieved, we need to propel the spacecraft into a trajectory towards the closest habitable planet and then only would we have achieved our dreams of landing onto a planet in another solar system.
An interesting phenomenon is observed in space that since it is made up of vacuum, once launched, a space probe only loses fuel till it exits the earth’s atmosphere.
A controlled nuclear reaction within the spacecraft could generate the required energy to propel the ship towards its destination. It is currently about 19,537,322,775 kilometers away from the Earth, which is around 0.00206514076 light years only. These irregularities in spacetime allow matter to transport from one place to another almost instantaneously, even if the distances are unimaginably vast.
Say we manage to cross the previous two hurdles and develop a form of travel which promises the trip to Proxima Centauri in 42.4 years, at a speed which is one tenth of that of light. Interstellar travel is absolutely impossible and one mustn’t indulge in such meaningless fantasies. While any sort of cloud hovering around an airless body is strange enough, the culprits creating that dusty moon-shroud are even more exotic: passing comets. Those particles are launched into the moona€™s sky and stay aloft for about 10 minutes, taking half that time to rise as much as 100 kilometers above the surface, and the rest to gently fall back down.
Dust particle counts peaked during these meteor showers, which happen when the Earth (and moon) pass through clouds of cometary debris. That suggests to Horanyi and his colleagues that comets are the predominant source of the cloud-creating impacts. Later, several Apollo crews reported bright rays and glowing streamers, high above the lunar horizona€”and also just before sunrise. That instrument detected a mighty increase in lunar dust particles whenevery time it straddled the moona€™s dayside and its night side (a dividing line called the terminator).
One popular hypothesis suggests that electrostatic forces on the moona€™s surface occasionally become strong enough to overwhelm gravity and loft dust particles into space. That would make them the first particles of interstellar dust every to be studied in a laboratory on Earth.
Its dust collector, shaped like a tennis racket, stuck out into space above the probe's solar panels. One face of the racket was reserved for netting comet dust; the other was supposed to try to catch a few of the far more elusive interstellar grains. They would identify tracks through the aerogel that marked the path of incoming dust grains, then carefully slice out each grain, track and all. All but three of the particles that made them were deemed to be debris smashed loose from the Stardust probe itself.
Yet the angles of the trails left by the seven incoming particles point back toward the interstellar dust stream.
In Eagle, Andy set off to find elusive moose, as he and Kate need to replenish their red meat supply for the coming winter. For now the star is heating itself via gravitational collapsea€”as stellar material falls in on itself, the core becomes denser and builds up immense pressure.Eventually the star's core will get dense enough for fusion to begin, and IRAS 10082-5647 will enter what's called the main sequence phase of its life. The rocket carried NASA's NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) satellite successfully into orbit.The latest addition to the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS), NPP is a next-generation Earth-observing probe that will collect data on long-term climate change and short-term weather conditions. Seen in a recently released portrait by NASA's Cassini orbiter, sunlight showcases the icy satellite's unusual texture, likely due to its low density, which astronomer think makes the moon relatively porous.Cassini snapped this shot of Hyperion during a close flyby in September, when the probe passed about 55,000 miles (88,000 kilometers) from the small moon.
After that, it only loses fuel to correct its trajectory, since the gravitational pull of other planets constantly affect its path.


However playing with radioactive substances is not the most advisable idea, especially in missions of such critical nature. Could matter maintain its structure at such high speeds, now that’s a whole different problem.
However if that were possible, problems nearer to home, such as malnutrition and easily accessible clean drinking water would be easily alleviated. Since space travel involves highly specific routes, we absolutely need precise data if we wish to plan an expedition to an alien solar system. We must realize that a lot of scientific laws are yet to be discovered, and the exponential growth of our understanding of physics could possibly transform childish fantasy into actual reality one day.
The gray circles represent impactor particle trajectories and the LADEE spacecrafta€™s orbit. While asteroids traveling through the solar system also shed dust, that dust tends to be on circular orbits that dona€™t produce as much oomph upon impact. The head of the racket, a bit over a square foot in area, had an aluminum frame and a grid of aluminum cells filled with aerogel, a silica-based foam so light it has the density of air.
But, Westphal says, four more particles were found lodged in the aluminum foil surrounding the aerogel. But beware – underneath their seemingly gentle exterior lives the heart and ferocity of a lion. From trimming hooves, fixing broken wings, and stitching up paws, Scott is used to a busy schedule. The almost five months of activity has coated nearby lakes as well as the neighboring high plains of Argentina in gray ash.
Who, we all have dreamt about visiting these far flung planets and hopefully discovering other life forms.
But a hundred years ago landing a man on the moon was also considered well beyond present capabilities, and hence one must never lose hope. Back to the original problem, where do we get the necessary fuel to guide our rocket towards the remote planet. An added problem lies in storing the nuclear fuel for the long years it will take to leave the solar system and enter the new one. Now one can observe the ridiculous distances which needed to be travelled to reach an alien solar system. An electron in the Hydrogen atom travels at less than twenty thousandth the speed of light. However research on wormholes goes on and one day we shall most definitely solve the mysteries behind these unknown aberrations in space. Since we’re nowhere near solving these problems, we know providing food for interstellar travel is going to be especially tricky.
One solution could be to keep observing the surroundings of our spacecraft as it penetrates through the endless sea of dark and constantly updating the path of the craft as needed.
Venturing into the unknown is never an easy task, and sometimes success seems nigh impossible, but one must remember never to give up and continue on the quest of scientific innovation.
Comets, on the other hand, zing through the solar system haphazardly, providing particles that really pack a punch.
However as we grow up, we realize a lot of research still needs to be done to turn these dreams into reality, and the probability of achieving interstellar travel in our lifetime is bleak at best. Following are few of the obstacles scientists need to combat before such an idea is even considered possible. We really need to develop spacecrafts which can travel hundreds of thousands of times faster than current standards. Hence if we can achieve velocities of twenty thousand times that of an electron, it would still take us 4.24 years to reach Proxima Centauri. Where do we get the required food, water and oxygen to sustain life of two to three astronauts for over forty years?
A better solution would be to cryogenically freeze our astronauts for the entire duration of the journey, and return them to healthy life only when they reach their final destination. Even if they contain advanced civilizations of aliens, we would still get data which is millions of years old. This would again require immense volumes of fuel, which brings us back to problem number one. The fun, the abstract, or the absurd–now’s your chance to ask Neil deGrasse Tyson anything you want! But remember, since we’re moving far far away from the sun, the energy we receive from it continues to decrease. We know for a fact matter disintegrates at speeds near that of light, and probably undergoes unidentified phenomena at speeds near those of a electron.
Once cryogenics evolves into acceptable science, this alternative would be widely popular among interstellar travel theorists. Imagine the aliens on planets of those stars trying to capture our dear old Earth on their telescopes.
Hence while it is the best source of fuel for the odd trip to Mars, solar energy fails in missions of such large scale. Even at such magnificent speeds, it would take upwards of 4.24 * 20000 years, which is longer than the time modern man has existed on Earth. Mankind’s indomitable thirst for discovery can never be quenched, and every single new researcher helps achieve the goal a little sooner than before. Science needs young men and women with fresh new ideas who shall spearhead its future into the third millennium.



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