‘Super Earth’ ‘most likely’ candidate to host life – but there’s a HUGE problem

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE SUN’ NEWS)

 

GREAT SPACE 

Mysterious ‘Super Earth’ planet ‘most likely’ candidate to host life – but there’s a HUGE problem

Kepler 452b is described as Earth’s bigger, older cousin and lies in the sweet spot outside our solar system that hosts the right conditions to spawn life

A “SUPER-EARTH” planet that’s one-and-half-times the size of our own has emerged as the most likely candidate to support alien life.

There’s just one problem: Kepler 452b, as it’s known, lies beyond the confines of our solar system – a whopping 1,400 light years away from us.

 This artistic concept depicts one possible appearance of the planet Kepler-452b, the first near-Earth-size world to be found in the habitable zone of star that is similar to our sun

NASA
3
This artistic concept depicts one possible appearance of the planet Kepler-452b, the first near-Earth-size world to be found in the habitable zone of star that is similar to our sun

Discovered in 2015, the planet is located slap bang in the middle of a newly spotted “abiogenesis zone” that holds the right conditions for life to be created, according to researchers from the University of Cambridge and the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology.

This region of the solar system contains the ideal mix of ultraviolet light and chemical reactions to usher in early life.

It’s also in a habitable ring of space dubbed the “Goldilocks zone” due to its distance from its host star so that it’s neither too hot nor too cold.

All this astro-magic combined equals temperatures that are just right to permit liquid surface water.

 On May 12, 2009, NASA's Kepler spacecraft began hunting for planets outside the solar system. This Nasa graphic tells its story by the numbers

NASA
3
On May 12, 2009, NASA’s Kepler spacecraft began hunting for planets outside the solar system. This Nasa graphic tells its story by the numbers

In fact, the Kepler 452b’s positions within the zones are so similar to our own planet’s that it’s earned the title of “Earth’s cousin”.

It’s also been described as a “super-Earth” because its mass is 1.5-times larger than Earth’s, but much less than the solar systems other titans, including Jupiter and Saturn, known as gas giants.

The planet was spotted by the powerful telescope aboard Nasa‘s Kepler spacecraft, hence its name, which has pinpointed thousands of so-called exoplanets (planets beyond our solar systems that orbit around other stars) since its 2009 launch.

However, out of all these candidates only Kepler 452b sits in the sweet spot between its stars habitable zone and the abiogenisis zone.

The star which it orbits in the constellation of Cygnus is about 20 percent brighter than the sun and some two billion years older.

 Earth, left, and its bigger cousin Kepler 452b, right, which is 1.5 times larger than our home planet

NASA
3
Earth, left, and its bigger cousin Kepler 452b, right, which is 1.5 times larger than our home planet

Lead scientist Dr Paul Rimmer, from Cambridge University’s Cavendish Laboratory, said: “This work allows us to narrow down the best places to search for life.

“It brings us just a little bit closer to addressing the question of whether we are alone in the universe.”

Rimmer’s team say that though Kepler 452b is too far away to probe with current tech, the next-generation of telescopes (like Nasa’s Tess and the long-gestating James Webb Telescopes) should be able to identify more Earth-style planets within an abiogenesis zone.

But they add that if there is life on these exoplanets, it may look radically different to that on Earth.

The new study is published in the journal Science Advances.

Mysterious ‘Oumuamua’ space object has finally been identified

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS AND ‘MARCH’)

 

Mysterious ‘Oumuamua’ space object has finally been identified

Astronomers say the cigar-shaped interstellar visitor isn’t an asteroid, but a comet.
by David Freeman / 
Image: Oumuamua

Observations show that the interstellar visitor “Oumuamua” was traveling through space for millions of years before its chance encounter with our star system.M. Kornmesser/European Southern Observatory / NASA

When astronomers first spied a weird cigar-shaped object speeding past the sun last October, they could tell from its path that it had come from another star system — but they didn’t know exactly what it was.

Now they know. A study published Wednesday in the journal Nature indicates that the interstellar visitor, dubbed Oumuamua, is neither an asteroid nor an alien spacecraft (as some wags had suggested) but a small interstellar comet.

“It’s the only such object discovered so far,” Marco Micheli, an astronomer with the European Space Agency and the lead author of the new study, told NBC News MACH in an email.

Image: Oumuamua
This artist’s illustration shows ‘Oumuamua racing toward the outskirts of our solar system, and is annotated with the locations of the planetary orbits. As the complex rotation of the object makes it difficult to determine the exact shape, there are many models of what it could look like.JPL / NASA

Comets — icy, dusty objects that have been likened to “dirty snowballs” — typically form long tails when they come close to the sun. No such tail was visible in earlier observations of Oumuamua (which means “scout” in Hawaiian), a fact that helped lead other astronomers to conclude that it was an asteroid.

But an analysis of new observations made by ground-based telescopes and the Hubble Space Telescope yielded a surprise: Oumuamua’s trajectory couldn’t be explained solely by the gravitational forces exerted on it by the sun and the planets — as would be the case if it were an asteroid, or space rock.

“Unexpectedly, we found that Oumuamua was not slowing down as fast as it should have under gravitational forces alone,” Micheli said in a statement.

His team concluded that the unexpected motion of Oumuamua had to be caused by the spewing out of small quantities of gaseous materials from its surface. This “outgassing” — commonly seen in comets — was too small to be visible but significant enough to affect Oumuamua’s trajectory.

But not everyone is buying that explanation — at least not completely.

Alan Jackson, an astronomer at the University of Toronto Scarborough, told MACH in an email that if Oumuamua is a comet, it must be one that lost much of its ice before leaving its home star system.

“A comet that has lost enough of its ice is essentially the same as an asteroid,” he said. “Oumuamua thus seems to be in that ambiguous region between the two.”

Recommended

Jackson conducted previous research on Oumuamua but was not involved in the new study.

Whatever its precise identity, Oumuamua might be just the first of many such interstellar visitors we’ll encounter. Jackson said new telescopes should help astronomers find “a lot more objects like Oumuamua and we will then be able to put together a more complete picture of what the building blocks of planets look like in other planetary systems, which will also help us to understand how planets form.”

Oumaumau is now headed to the outer solar system at a speed of about 70,000 miles per hour. Astronomers expect it to pass Neptune’s orbit in four years.

“The object is now too faint to observe, so no new data will be acquired,” Micheli said in the email. “But I expect scientists will keep working on their data for quite some time.”

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Asteroid on Course to Earth Was Spotted Just Hours Before It Hit The Atmosphere

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

Asteroid on Course to Earth Was Spotted Just Hours Before It Hit The Atmosphere

Surprise!

ALEX HORTON, THE WASHINGTON POST
5 JUN 2018

Witnesses reported a fireball streaking across the sky above Botswana on Saturday night.

The asteroid hurtling toward Earth at 10 miles (16 km) a second looked like it could be the harbinger of catastrophe. A webcam in a rural area west of Johannesburg captured it, showing a luminous orb igniting the sky in a bright flash.

NASA had only discovered the asteroid on Saturday and determined it was on a collision course for the planet, charted for entry in a vast expanse from Southern Africa and across the Indian Ocean to New Guinea and given the name 2018 LA.

The reality of the asteroid’s fiery end was less dramatic than the video shows. The asteroid was estimated at just six feet (1.8 metres) across, otherwise known as boulder-sized, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement.

It burned up “several miles” above the Earth’s surface.

NASA and space enthusiasts do not get many opportunities like this. Asteroid 2018 LA was only the third asteroid discovered on an impact trajectory, the agency said, and just the second time a high probability of impact was determined ahead of time.

The last predicted impact was asteroid 2014 AA, and it too was discovered only hours before it entered the atmosphere over the Atlantic Ocean on New Year’s Day in 2014, NASA said.

“[T]his real-world event allows us to exercise our capabilities and gives some confidence our impact prediction models are adequate to respond to the potential impact of a larger object,” said Lindley Johnson, an official at NASA’s Planetary Defense team, which tracks and warns of asteroids that may pose a threat to the planet.

KFDLE7J3A4ZMJHHOSXVO67EJUAThe discovery observations of Asteroid 2018 LA. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/CSS-Univ. of Arizona)

Asteroids are small remnants of violent collisions in the solar system’s history and formed around 4.5 billion years ago.

They are typically composed of rock-forming minerals like olivine and pyroxene but often contain iron and nickel, NASA said.

The Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter contains hundreds of thousands of asteroids more than half a mile in size or more, with millions of smaller objects tumbling in space.

Asteroid 2018 LA was first discovered by the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey operated by the University of Arizona, the agency said. NASA linked to the video in its statement, and the publisher said on YouTube the video is from his father’s South African farm.

NASA relies on a patchwork of observers to track what it calls near-Earth asteroids, the agency explained in a video.

Constantly scanning telescopes capture images of the sky and movement through photos over time triggers a comparison of known objects in a database.

If the object is unknown, the agency will review the object and expedite the analysis if experts determine it will streak close to the Earth. Astronomers from NASA, other space agencies and even amateur enthusiasts then join in to refine the trajectory.

2018 © The Washington Post

This article was originally published by The Washington Post.

New Earth Found?

New Earth Found?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SPACE.COM)

Habitable planet found outside solar system

SCIENTISTS on Wednesday announced the discovery of an Earth-sized planet orbiting the star nearest our Sun, opening up the glittering prospect of a habitable world that may one day be explored by robots.

Named Proxima b, the planet is in a “temperate” zone compatible with the presence of liquid water — a key ingredient for life.

The findings, based on data collected over 16 years, were reported in the peer-reviewed journal Nature.

“We have finally succeeded in showing that a small-mass planet, most likely rocky, is orbiting the star closest to our solar system,” said co-author Julien Morin, an astrophysicist at the University of Montpellier in southern France.

“Proxima b would probably be the first exoplanet visited by a probe made by humans,” he said.

An exoplanet is any planet outside our Solar System.

Lead author Guillem Anglada-Escude, an astronomer at Queen Mary University London, described the find as the “experience of a lifetime.”

Working with European Southern Observatory telescopes in the north Chilean desert, his team used the so-called Doppler method to detect Proxima b and describe its properties.

The professional star-gazers spent 60 consecutive days earlier this year looking for signs of gravitational pull on its host star, Proxima Centauri.

Regular shifts in the star’s light spectrum — repeating every 11.2 days — gave a tantalising clue.

They revealed that the star alternately moved towards and away from our Solar System at the pace of a leisurely stroll, about five kilometers per hour.

Goldilocks zone

After cross-checking an inconclusive 2000-2014 dataset and eliminating other possible causes, the researchers determined that the tug of an orbiting planet was responsible for this tiny to-and-fro.

“Statistically, there is no doubt,” Anglada-Escude told journalists in a briefing.

“We have found a planet around Proxima Centauri.”

Proxima b is a mere four light years from the Solar System, meaning that it is essentially in our back yard on the scale of our galaxy, the Milky Way.

It has a mass around 1.3 times that of Earth, and orbits about seven million kilometers from its star.

A planet so near to our Sun — 21 times closer than Earth — would be an unlivable white-hot ball of fire.

But Proxima Centauri is a so-called red dwarf, meaning a star that burns at a lower temperature.

As a result, the newly discovered planet is in a “Goldilocks” sweet spot: neither so hot that water evaporates, nor so cold that it freezes solid.

But liquid water is not the only essential ingredient for the emergence of life.

An atmosphere is also required, and on that score the researchers are still in the dark. It all depends, they say, on how Proxima b evolved as a planet.

“You can come up with formation scenarios that end up with and Earth-like atmosphere, a Venus-like atmosphere” — 96 percent carbon dioxide — “or no atmosphere at all,” said co-author Ansgar Reiners, an expert on “cold” stars at the University of Goettingen’s Institute of Astrophysics in Germany.

Computer models suggest the planet’s temperature, with an atmosphere, could be “in the range of minus 30 Celsius on the dark side, and 30C on the light side,” Reiners said.

Like the Moon in relation to Earth, Proxima b is “tidally locked,” with one face always exposed to its star and the other perpetually in shadow.

Emerging life forms would also have to cope with ultraviolet and X-rays bombarding Proxima b 100 times more intensely than on Earth.

Search for life

An atmosphere would help deflect these rays, as would a strong magnetic field.

But even high doses of radiation do not preclude life, especially if we think outside the box, scientists say.

“We have to be very open-minded as to what we call ‘life’,” Jean Schneider, an expert on exoplanets at the Observatoire de Paris, said.

Last year, NASA unveiled Kepler 452b, a planet about 60 percent larger than Earth that could have active volcanoes, oceans, sunshine like ours, and a year lasting 385 days.

But at a distance of 1,400 light-years, humankind would have little hope of reaching this Earth-twin any time soon.

By comparison, Proxima b is a stone’s throw away, though still too far away for humans to visit with present-generation chemical rockets.

“This is a dream for astronomers if we think about follow up observations,” said Reiners.

Uranus: Smells Like Rotten Eggs And Has Temperature Of Negative 328F

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SPACE.COM)

 

 SPACE

If the Rotten Egg Smell Doesn’t Kill You, the Negative 200°C Temperature of Uranus Will

New research suggests the atmosphere of Uranus is largely comprised of hydrogen sulfide, which gives rotten eggs their repulsive smell.

 

PUBLISHED ON 04/25/2018
7:04 AM EDT

Uranus: Smells Like Rotten Eggs And Has Temperature Of Negative 328F

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SPACE.COM)

 

 SPACE

If the Rotten Egg Smell Doesn’t Kill You, the Negative 200°C Temperature of Uranus Will

New research suggests the atmosphere of Uranus is largely comprised of hydrogen sulfide, which gives rotten eggs their repulsive smell.

 

PUBLISHED ON 04/25/2018
7:04 AM EDT

NASA found proof that water present on the moon is distributed widely across the lunar surface

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TECH TIMES)

 

NASA found proof that water present on the moon is distributed widely across the lunar surface, not just in a particular terrain or region.

NASA gathered new evidence from two lunar missions. The water, however, is not always easily accessible though it appears to be present day and night.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, could help scientists gain more insight into the origin of water on the moon and if it could be used easily as a resource. Subsequently, future explorers on the moon might be able to convert water into oxygen and hydrogen to fuel a rocket, or breathing oxygen, or even as drinking water.

“We find that it doesn’t matter what time of day or which latitude we look at, the signal indicating water always seems to be present,” said senior research scientist Joshua Bandfield, who is the lead study author.

Bandfield also added that the water present does not seem to be dependent on the surface composition and the water sticks around.

Widespread And Immobile Water On The Lunar Surface

The discovery of water, which is relatively immobile and widespread, indicates that it could be primarily present as OH or hydroxide. OH is water’s more reactive relative, which is made up of one atom of oxygen and one atom of hydrogen. Also referred to as hydroxyl, it does not stay on its own for a long duration, choosing to chemically attach itself to molecules or attacking them. Therefore, OH has to be taken out from minerals to be useful.

The research team associated with the study also found that water present on the moon is not attached loosely to the lunar surface.

Lunar Water

The researchers could gain more insight into the water sources and how it was stored for a long time on other rocky forms present in the solar system, once they sort out what happens on the moon.

At present, the scientists are still trying to figure out what the discovery tells about the moon water’s source. The results indicate that H2O or OH is being generated by the solar wind slamming the surface of the moon. The team, however, did not ignore the fact that H2O or OH could originate from the moon itself, which is released from the deep interiors of minerals. The water has been trapped here since the formation of the satellite.

 TAG

Thick Layers Of Ice Water Discovered Below Surface Of Mars

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TECH TIMES)

 

Thick Layers Of Ice Water Discovered Below Surface Of Mars

 By Maui Hermitanio Tech Times
Nasa building new rover for Mars 2020 mission
Underground ice found beneath Mars’ surface extending to its middle latitude. This discovery is a game changer in mankind’s exploration of the read planet.   ( Aynur Zakirov | Pixabay )

Geological features comprising 300 feet of thick ice was exposed in the surface of Mars.

Eroded slopes of pure water ice called scarps were scanned by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. At least eight scarps were found in both northern and southern hemisphere of Mars’ middle latitudes.

Pure Water Ice Discovered From Mars’ Surface

The pictures sent back to Earth by MRO showed a more detailed cross-section view of thick ice sheets below a layer of ice-cemented rock and dust on Mars’ surface. The 3D images were studied by scientists using the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera.

In 2001, the Mars Odyssey spacecraft discovered that a third of Mars’ surface is covered in shallow ice. Also, its poles are full of ice deposits through the detection of hydrogen using gamma rays.

In 2008, the Phoenix lander analyzed and confirmed the Odyssey findings as it discovered buried water ice at 68 degrees north latitude or about one-third into the planet’s pole. However, previous scans using the MRO’s Shallow Radar instrument were not enough to determine the extent and makeup of ice on the Red Planet.

Scientists were astonished to discover that Mars’ mid-latitudes contained pure water ice.

“It was surprising to find ice exposed at the surface at these places. In the mid-latitudes, it’s normally covered by a blanket of dust or regolith,” loose bits of rock atop a layer of bedrock, said Colin Dundas, research geologist of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona.

The ice sheets appear bluish in the high-resolution images and look like steep cliffs of glaciers, up to 100 meters tall. The discovery points to a vast area of underground ice buried only a meter or two below Martian ground surface. The location of the scarps was at 55 to 58 middle latitudes or the equivalent of Scotland or the tip of South America on Earth.

Shayne Byrne of the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson said the discovery was like looking at an ant farm from a glass on the side and seeing what’s hidden beneath the ground.

How Scarps Were Formed

No definitive information was provided on how the scarps were formed. Scientists said once the buried ice is exposed to Mars’ atmosphere, a scarp likely grows wider and taller as it retreats. It is also possible that layers of snow were compressed every climate cycle, resulting in the building deposits of ice over time.

The varying shades of light to a dark blue color of ice as shown on the images suggest that the thick slabs of ice are stacked. The ice could also be remnants of glaciers that existed millions of years ago.

Unlimited Source Of Water And Possible Life On Mars

The discovery is considered a game changer in mankind’s exploration of Mars. Scientists have raised the possibility that the thick ice sheets could become a potential accessible source of water for future scientific exploration and visit to Mars. Byrne suggested that would-be visitors to Mars can just use a bucket and shovel and collect water from the sources.

The latest research gave scientists a glimpse of Mars’ climate history and would be the basis for further study of its water sources. It will also help NASA and other agencies plan upcoming rover and human missions to Mars.

The study was published in the journal Science.

 TAG

Jupiter Looks Beautiful In These New NASA Photos

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

 

NASA has shared brand new photos of Jupiter taken by the Juno spacecraft, showing the gas giant’s blue-tinged skies.

The Juno spacecraft takes batches of photos about every 53 days as it orbits Jupiter. NASA researchers uploaded the raw images online last month, prompting several people to process the photos into colorful views of Jupiter, including self-described citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran.

Eichstädt and Doran’s enhanced images from Juno’s JunoCam show a beautiful planet of luminous colors, ranging from deep blues and purples to browns and reds — though people should not be fooled by how inviting the planet seems.

“As pretty as a planet can get, but get too close and Jupiter will END YOU,” Doran tweeted.

See the stunning images of Jupiter below.

NASA / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstädt / Seán Doran
NASA / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstädt / Seán Doran
NASA / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstädt / Seán Doran
NASA / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstädt / Seán Doran

 

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China’s out-of-control space station may crash to Earth in 2 months

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE BUSINESS INSIDER’)

 

China’s out-of-control space station may crash to Earth in 2 months

china tiangong 1 space station model reutersA scale model of China’s Tiangong-1 space station. Jason Lee/Reuters

  • In 2016, China lost control of its first space station, called Tiangong-1 or “Heavenly Palace.”
  • The Aerospace Corporation expects the spacecraft to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere in mid-March, give or take a couple of weeks.
  • Chunks of the 8.5-ton vessel should be durable enough to reach our planet’s surface.
  • Any surviving pieces of Tiangong-1 will most likely land in the ocean.

China’s first space station, called Tiangong-1 or “Heavenly Palace,” will soon explode over Earth into a rain of fiery debris.

Aerospace Corporation, a nonprofit research company, predicted last month that the derelict spacecraft would reenter Earth’s atmosphere in mid-March, give or take two weeks — so possibly as early as the end of February or as late as April.

When it does, extreme heat and pressure caused by plowing through the air at more than 15,000 mph will destroy the 8.5-ton vessel.

Not everything may vanish, though.

There’s a good chance that gear and hardware left on board could survive intact all the way to the ground, according to Bill Ailor, an aerospace engineer who specializes in atmospheric reentry. That durability is thanks to Tiangong-1’s onion-like layers of protective material.

“The thing about a space station is that it’s typically got things on the inside,” Ailor, who works for Aerospace Corporation, previously told Business Insider. “So basically, the heating will just strip these various layers off. If you’ve got enough layers, a lot of the energy is gone before a particular object falls out, it doesn’t get hot, and it lands on the ground.”

For example, he said, after NASA’s Columbia space shuttle broke up over the US in 2003, investigators recovered a working flight computer — an artifact that ultimately helped explain how the deadly incident happened.

Predicting Tiangong-1’s crash to Earth

Tiangong-1 is a two-room space station for two taikonauts, or Chinese astronauts. It has a volume of 15 cubic meters, about 1/60th of the football-field-size International Space Station.

Though China superseded Tiangong-1 in 2016 with Tiangong-2, space experts hailed it as a major achievement for the nation’s space program, since it helped pioneer a permanent Chinese presence in orbit.

“It conducted six successive rendezvous and dockings with spacecraft Shenzhou-8, Shenzhou-9, and Shenzhou-10 and completed all assigned missions, making important contributions to China’s manned space exploration activities,” said a memo China submitted in May to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

tiangong 1 chinese space station cmsaAn illustration of Tiangong-1, China’s first space station, orbiting Earth. China Manned Space Agency

In the memo, China said it lost contact with the spacecraft on March 16, 2016, after it “fully fulfilled its historic mission.”

By May 2017, Tiangong-1 was coasting about 218 miles above Earth and dropping by about 525 feet a day, the memo said. Its altitude has since plummeted to less than 175 miles, according to Aerospace Corporation data.

“For any vehicle like this, the thing that brings them down is atmospheric drag,” Ailor said. “Why there’s a lot of uncertainty in the predictions is that it depends on what the sun’s doing, to a large measure.”

The sun can unleash solar storms and solar flares — bursts of X-rays and ultraviolet light — that heat Earth’s outer atmosphere, causing the air to expand and rise. That forces low-flying objects like Tiangong-1 to plow through denser gases.

“This puts just a little bit of a higher force on these objects that causes them to come down,” Ailor said.

An analysis of the combined effects of solar activity and Tiangong-1’s orbital speed, direction, and altitude, as well as other factors, helped the Aerospace Corporation provide its most recent estimate of a mid-March de-orbit. Before the big moment, however, the company may refine its estimate as conditions change.

What will happen when China’s space station is destroyed

atv spacecraft atmospheric reentry burning up fireball esa d ducrosAn illustration of Europe’s ATV spacecraft breaking apart and burning up as it reenters Earth’s atmosphere.ESA/D. Ducros

Tiangong-1 is likely to crash over the ocean, as water covers about 71% of Earth’s surface. But there’s a decent chance some pieces may strike land as it breaks up over a long and thin oval footprint.

“The whole footprint length for something like this could be 1,000 miles or so,” Ailor said, with heavier pieces at the front and lighter debris toward the back.

If anyone is lucky enough to witness Tiangong-1’s atmospheric breakup from an airplane, it may look similar to the destruction of the European Space Agency’s 14-ton Automated Transfer Vehicle — an expendable spacecraft that was once used to resupply the ISS.

When asked for comment on Tiangong-1’s threat to ongoing NASA missions, the space agency told Business Insider it “actually doesn’t track any debris.”

Ailor says pieces of China’s space station are “really unlikely” to hit anyone or anything on Earth.

“It’s not impossible, but since the beginning of the space age … a woman who was brushed on the shoulder in Oklahoma is the only one we’re aware of who’s been touched by a piece of space debris,” he said.

Should a hunk of titanium, a computer, or another piece smash through a roof or windshield, however, international space law covers compensation for victims.

“It’s China’s responsibility if someone gets hurt or property gets damaged by this,” NASA’s representative said.

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