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Showing blog posts tagged with Space Exploration

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Beyond Planet Earth: An Elevator to the Moon

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Below, astrophysicist Michael Shara, who curated the forthcoming exhibition Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration, explains how a lunar elevator would work—and why it might inspire a new sport.

We humans are barely toddlers when it comes to space exploration. Our first baby steps off our home planet 50 years ago took us to low Earth orbit. By 1973, 12 intrepid men had walked on the moon’s surface. Since then we have sent robots to every planet in our solar system. The Hubble Space Telescope has shown us that the ordinary matter we are made of comprises only 4 percent of the mass of the universe. The Kepler orbiting telescope has proved that billions of worlds orbit the stars of our Milky Way galaxy. What will we accomplish in space in the coming centuries, as our steps become surer and bolder?

Tags: Hayden Planetarium, Space Exploration

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Chipping Away at the Mystery of Mercury

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After only six months in orbit about Mercury, a NASA spacecraft has collected measurements that have discredited most theories about how our solar system’s innermost planet formed. Data gathered by instruments on MESSENGER reveal that Mercury’s surface has Earth-like levels of potassium and an even higher sulfur abundance, evidence that is at odds with most theories for how the super-dense planet came to be.

Launched in August 2004, MESSENGER stands for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging. It entered orbit about Mercury—the first spacecraft to do so—in March of this year.

Some of these new findings, published in a set of seven Sciencepapers available online today, were first predicted in 2003 by Denton Ebel, curator in the Museum’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and Conel Alexander, a researcher in the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. The two scientists recently published a separate paper highlighting their model in Planetary and Space Science.

Tags: Space Exploration

Carnegie Observatories’ Wendy Freedman On Hubble and Size of Universe

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This spring, Director of the Carnegie Observatories Wendy Freedman spoke at the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium about astronomer Edwin Hubble’s discovery of the galaxies and the expansion of the universe, how astronomers measure vast distances, and how the Hubble Space Telescope is used to measure the size and age of the universe. Mike Shara, curator in the Department of Astrophysics, sat down with Freedman for an interview in the Hayden Planetarium to discuss the expansion of the universe, dark matter, and building the 25-meter telescope.

Tags: Hayden Planetarium, Space Exploration

Follow MESSENGER's Mission to Mercury at the Museum on March 17

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After flying nearly 5 billion miles over six years, the MESSENGER spacecraft is scheduled to begin orbiting the innermost planet. On Thursday, March 17, join Denton Ebel, associate curator in the Museum’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and Joe Boesenberg, senior scientific assistant in the department to watch a live feed from MESSENGER operations center at Johns Hopkins University and hear about new information that has been gleaned from the mission so far, such as the importance of understanding the planet’s high-density composition.

To date, three flybys of Mercury have yielded insights into this least explored terrestrial planet, starting with a historic flyby in January 2008. The Museum’s Science Bulletins chronicled the MESSENGER science team’s reaction as the orbiter’s first images of Mercury rolled in. Click below to watch the Science Bulletins video feature. For more about the MESSENGER mission, check out the article, “First Planet Finishes Last.”


Tags: Space Exploration

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