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Monthly Archives: April 2016

From a news article in Nature, April 12, 2016:

After an unplanned 5-year detour, Japan’s Venus probe, Akatsuki, has come back to life and provided new images of Venus. These include a detailed shot of streaked, acidic clouds and a mysterious moving ‘bow’ shape in the planet’s atmosphere.

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Credit: ISAS/JAXA

Akatsuki, which means ‘dawn’ in Japanese, launched in 2010 and was supposed to enter into orbit around Venus later that year to study the planet’s thick atmosphere. The mission would include looking for signs of active volcanos and other geology. However, upon entry, a fault in a valve caused the probe’s main engine to blow, and the craft entered an orbit around the Sun. As Akatsuki passed near Venus in December, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) engineers managed to salvage the mission by instructing the craft’s much smaller, secondary thrusters to push it into a looping elliptical orbit around the planet. Its suite of five cameras capture light ranging from infrared to ultraviolet.

A highly detailed shot show dense layers within Venus’s sulfuric acid clouds. The highest-quality infrared image of this view of Venus, it suggests that the processes that underlie cloud formation might be more complicated than previously thought.

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From a press release of the SETI Institute, March 30, 2016:

The SETI Institute has inaugurated a greatly expanded hunt for deliberately produced radio signals that would indicate the presence of extraterrestrial intelligence. Over the course of the next two years, it will scrutinize the vicinities of 20,000 so-called red dwarf stars.

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Credit: SETI Institute

 

Red dwarfs are dimmer and cooler than the Sun, but they make up the bulk of stars in the Galaxy, increasing the odds of finding life there. They are also, on average, billions of years older than stars than Sun-like stars, so have had more time to potentially produce intelligent species.

The two-year search will be conducted at the Allen Telescope Array in the Cascade Mountains of northern California. This grouping of 42 antennas can currently observe three stars simultaneously.

Links: Full SETI Institute press release.