Lost Beagle 2 spacecraft found intact on surface of Mars after 11 years

16 January, 2015

I have a new piece published by the Guardian:


"British Beagle 2 probe had not been seen or heard from since December 2003 and had been presumed destroyed.


So near and yet so far. New images show that the UK’s Beagle 2 successfully landed on the surface of Mars in 2003 but failed to fully deploy its solar panels. Without these, it could not communicate with Earth and scientists lost contact.

The discovery images come from the HiRISE camera on Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. They show a bright shape that looks like the lander with some of its solar panels deployed. ..."


You can read the full story here.

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Kepler 438b isn’t Earth’s twin – there are more habitable planets out there

07 January, 2015

I have a new article published by The Guardian.


"The planet announced on Tuesday may be the most Earth-like to date, but there are better candidates for alien life waiting to be discovered.


The Kepler space telescope is the most successful planet-finding instrument ever built. On Tuesday, it chalked up its 1,000th confirmed planet discovery and one of those, Kepler 438b, was named the most Earth-like planet yet found.

It was crowned because it is only 12% larger than our world and orbits a star that gives it 40% more illumination, but it will not hold the title for long – and sooner or later Earth’s twin will be discovered. ..."


You can read the full article here.

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Second space race under way

05 January, 2015

I have a new article posted by The Guardian:


It is a piece of analysis posted under David Smith's article Africans urged to back continent’s first moon mission.


"Africa’s new crowd-sourced space initiative, Africa2Moon, underlines that a second space race is under way. This new wave of space exploration is less overtly ambitious than the US-Russian race to put a man on the moon in the 1960s but it is arguably even more important in the long run.

In recent years China, India and Japan have become ever more sophisticated in their space abilities. China has developed a successful manned programme, India has delivered a scientific satellite to Mars on its first attempt, and Japan has turned fiction into fact by testing a long-dreamt-of propulsion system called a solar sail. ..."


You can read both articles here.

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Rosetta's probe may land 500 metres from jets that produce comet's tail

15 September, 2014

I have a new posting on my Guardian blog, Across the Universe.


"The European Space Agency is playing a high-stakes game but the potential science return makes it worth taking the chance.


Initially, the European Space Agency thought that its chances of successfully landing on Rosetta’s target comet were about 70-75%. Now chances are lower – maybe much lower – but the agency won’t give a figure because it doesn’t have time to re-run the risk assessment exercise.


That in itself shows that Esa knows exactly where its priorities lie. Instead of re-running an academic exercise, it is concentrating on making the landing as safe as it can possibly be. ..."


Read the full story here.

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Northern lights may put on a show over the UK tonight

12 September, 2014

I have a new article published by The Guardian.


"The aurora borealis could be pushed further south than usual by a coronal mass ejection from the sun on Friday.


Skywatchers in northern England, Scotland and Northern Ireland could see a display of the colourful northern lights on Friday and Saturday nights. The aurora borealis will appear as a faint glow or as shifting veils of light in the sky.


“If the skies are clear it will be worth keeping an eye on the northern sky,” said Jim Wild, a space physicist from the University of Lancaster in the UK."


Read the full story here.

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Rosetta comet rendezvous is a triumph for the European Space Agency

06 August, 2014

I have a new article on my Guardian blog, Across the Universe:


"Rosetta has arrived at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. One of the most audacious space missions in decades, it is designed to reveal clues to the origins of the solar system, our home planet and life itself


This morning, a thruster burn brought Rosetta into “orbit” around its target comet, signalling the start of its main science phase. The spacecraft will now track comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for a year, following it through its closest approach to the sun to monitor how the extra heating affects the icy surface.


Nothing about this mission is ordinary, and these are no ordinary orbits. The weirdly shaped comet, which some have likened to the shape of a rubber duck, does not produce enough gravity to fully hold the spacecraft. Instead, the flight team will “drive” the spacecraft in triangular-shaped orbits, gradually lowering the altitude from today’s 100km to around 30km. ..."


Read the full article here.

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Tags: Comet Rosetta

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