This Week in Space: Stars fell on San Francisco

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Imagine the week following our first installment of This Week in Space, a meteorite strikes the Earth as another space rock skirts by less than 20,000 miles away. I think it’s pretty clear that the universe is telling you to start reading This Week in Space! Onto this week’s space news!

Meteor over California lights up the sky [KTVU]

This past week might have been the best on record for conspiracy theorists. An asteroid passed by our planet, a meteorite struck a Russian city, and another meteor flashed across the sky in San Francisco. It might be time to invest in tin foil.

The latest space rock was reportedly seen by dozens of stargazers all across the San Francico Bay Area on Friday night at around 8:00 pm PST. According to Jonathan Braidman, an astronomer in Oakland, the “sporadic meteor” that caught Californians’ eyes on Friday is a common occurrence, but they usually fly over the ocean as opposed to a populated region.

Like the Russian meteor, the San Francisco meteor was traveling on an entirely different trajectory than the 2012 DA14 asteroid, which implies that all three astronomical events were unrelated. That doesn’t make it any less terrifying, though.

Q&A from the International Space Station [Reddit]

I’ll admit, I had not planned on including Commander Chris Hadfield in the space roundup two weeks in a row, but his “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit yesterday is worth combing through.

As of this morning, the post has received nearly 4000 upvotes and over 7500 comments. Having poured over the seemingly endless wall of text, here are just a few of the highlights from the Reddit AMA session:

Q: What do you think the next step for space exploration should be? Do you think sending a manned mission back to the moon to establish a moon base is feasible at this point?

A: As a species, we have always taken the very best of our technology and used it to take us to the furthest reaches of our knowledge - the horse, the wheel, the sailing ship, steamship, propellor, jet, rocket, Space Station. Yes, we will establish a permanent base on the Moon and beyond, but when depends on inventions not yet made.

My guess is that power generation is the primary obstacle, and fossil fuels and even solar power won't be enough. Meanwhile, the Space Station is the crucible where space exploration technology is designed and tested. When we go further out, it will be heavily indebted to the pedigree of space hardware proven on ISS.


Q: Quit throwing rocks at Russia. Assuming that wasn't actually you did you notice any activity from your vantage point?

A: We didn't see the meteorite that did all the damage in Russia, as we were on the other side of the Earth. But I see small ones burn up between ISS and the earth every day.


Q: There's been tons of pictures of Earth from ISS and of distance galaxies from Hubble. I find all those pictures fascinating, but what the space looks like to you still eludes me. Can you, or your colleagues, correct that short coming for me?

A: It looks like a carpet of countless tiny perfect unblinking lights in endless velvet, with the Milky Way as a glowing area of paler texture.

Be sure to scroll through the AMA yourself for more insight from a man currently circling our planet.

[via The Verge]

ESA’s Mars Express has nearly mapped Mars [ESA]

The European Space Agency launched the Mars Express to map the red planet 10 years ago as of this June, and this month they are celebrating by releasing an 87.8-percent-complete image of the surface of Mars.

This map represents over 10,000 orbits around Mars and includes 2702 “individual swathes of the martian surface.” Dust storms and atmospheric interference are responsible for the missing sections of the map, but it is still incredible just how much of Mars you can now view in high definition.

Best of all, several of the most notable geological landmarks on Mars are more clear than ever before, such as Olympus Mons, Tharsis Montes, and the Valles Marineris canyon. At this rate, it shouldn’t be long until the map is complete, and we can finally explore Mars without leaving our homes.

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