When it comes to planetary formation, water is often one of the trickiest questions scientists find themselves trying to answer. Where is space did it come from, and how on earth did it end up on... well, Earth? It seems we might have the glimmering of a solution, after scientists observed a nascent solar system surrounded by a cloud of water vapour – enough to populate several thousand Earths.
Robert Bigelow is not a small name in the space world. His company Bigelow Aerospace is a pioneer of inflatable spacecraft, and the company has made waves with its plans for an inflatable, orbiting space hotel (not coincidentally, Bigelow's fortunes come from his ownership of the Budget Suites motel chain). So when he says something about the future of space travel, we listen. On the other hand, when he says that China is planning to take over the moon circa 2025, we listen, but with scepticism.
If you're feeling lucky after NASA's UARS satellite fell safely from orbit into the middle of the Pacific--rather than into the middle of Sydney--let's hope your luck doesn't run out. The German Aerospace Center says the retired ROSAT satellite's orbit is rapidly decaying, and pieces of it could start falling from the sky as early as Friday and up until Monday. That should make for an exciting weekend.
The European Southern Observatory's VISTA survey telescope has turned its eyes inward to the centre of our galaxy, and for the first time has looked straight through it. VISTA's latest batch of infrared images have discovered two new globular clusters here in the Milky Way that had never been seen before, but more importantly they are the first star clusters that we've been able to image beyond the dusty and gaseous core of our galaxy.
NASA and its partners at Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) have released an improved and updated version of the most complete topographical map of Earth ever compiled. Produced from data beamed down from NASA's Terra spacecraft, the map data represents the most complete and highest-resolution topographical data available today, covering 99 percent of Earth's landmass.