In the October 1952 issue of Popular Science, we wrote about the fascinating, but strange, project spearheaded by 20 MIT students. They were tasked with designing new products to export to the Methanians. Before you go looking up what tiny country Methanians might call home, know that you aren't that geographically ignorant. The Methanians were a breed of aliens thought up by John E. Arnold, a mechanical engineering professor at MIT. Supposedly, they live on the fictional fourth planet of the real star Arcturus, where gravity is such that everyone weighs 11 times more than they would on earth. Instead of water there's ammonia, and the atmosphere is made of methane.
Despite what Kurt Vonnegut says, Saturn's largest moon Titan wouldn't be a very fun place to visit. The natural satellite boasts temperatures of -290 degrees Fahrenheit, as well as vast seas filled not with Earth's life-sustaining water, but with liquid methane. It's also possible that numerous active volcanoes on Titan burp out methane into the atmosphere, creating clouds that precipitate the chemical compound as rain or snow.
You can't trick us, Ceres. Out there in the asteroid belt, in the dark space between Mars and Jupiter, you've been keeping secrets. Scientists thought your shiny white spot was probably some kind of ice or a glassy deposit from a volcanic eruption. Others said Death Star. Now it turns out your one spot is actually two, and that's supposed to convince us Ceres is harmless? Riiight, nice try. We know the truth -- that you've only just begun to fire up your planet-destroying multi-beam superlaser.
At the center of any massive galaxy, you'll most likely find one daunting portion of space-time: a supermassive black hole. These gigantic gravity wells are so gigantic, they have a mass that's equal to millions or even billions of times the mass of our Sun. While extremely powerful, black holes can be relatively hard to study. But now researchers have accurately measured a substantial byproduct of supermassive black holes: winds that travel at more than 62,000 miles per second.
The International Space Station is getting a makeover starting this week. On Friday, astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Terry Virts will conduct the first of a series of spacewalks to reconfigure the outside of the station to create two new docking ports, Discovery News reports. The new ports will provide parking spots for spacecraft that will be visiting in the near future—namely, the commercial space taxis being developed by SpaceX and Boeing.
There are places beyond the reach of NASA's current army of robot space explorers. Impressive and capable as Curiosity and other land rovers are, they'd be pretty useless in the liquid hydrocarbon lakes of Saturn's moon Titan. That's a shame, because Titan is one of the likelier candidates for housing life in our solar system. A new NASA concept wants to dive into the seas of Titan: it's a nuclear powered space submarine that would look for signs of alien life.