Thursday, July 28, 2011

Wow, so much cosmic news

First, astronomers report (see title link) that Earth has a little advance scout. The WISE space telescope saw an asteroid, boringly named 2010 TK7, actually orbiting ahead of us in a Lagrange point, where gravitational forces keep it from coming withing 25 million kilometers of us. More such finds are expected. One expert said, "We think that there are others which will be very close to the Earth and have motions that make them relatively easy to reach. So, they could be potential targets to go to with spacecraft."

Next, this sounds like science fiction: a planet getting constantly showered with water from a nearby moon. But the planet is Saturn, the moon is the large ice-covered blob known as Enceladus, and this is actually happening. One researcher, Paul Hartogh, says, "There is no analogy to this behavior on Earth. No significant quantities of water enter our atmosphere from space. This is unique to Saturn."

Finally, what do you do with a $100B space station when it reaches the end of its planned life in 2020? Proposals abound, but for now the mulitnational coordinating board for the ISS is planning to take the safest course and deorbit it into the Pacific. Still, a lot can happen between now and then. It might yet be put to further use. We don't even know exactly what shape the most complex space habitat ever built will be in by then. It could hold up very well, or it could be uninhabitable. We'll find out.

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