• Sending humans on a mission to Mars is hard, dangerous and expensive. No one doubts that, but the folks running the Mars One project believe it’s not an insurmountable venture.

    Considered by many to be the most audacious and complex space mission of its kind, the aim is to select astronaut candidates from the general public, send them on a one-way journey to establish a permanent human settlement on the Red Planet and have the entire adventure broadcast and paid for as a TV reality show.

    In order to pave the way for the first humans to Mars, the Dutch-based Mars One foundation plans on placing communication satellites, rovers and supplies on Mars.

    The space exploration community at large has been skeptical about the Mars One mission and its ability to turn plans into reality, considering the many technical, financial and logistic hurdles.  

    And this week Canadian ex-astronaut Julie Payette poured cold water over the much-hyped plans by saying she believes “no one is going anywhere in ten

    Read More »from Mars One mission may not be possible without advancement in technology, methods
  • Space buffs are getting ready for a cosmic triple play this Friday as a rare total solar eclipse takes place during a ‘supermoon’ on the Spring equinox.

    Starting at 4:30 am EDT on the morning of Mar. 20 the moon will go between the Earth and the sun, creating a total solar eclipse.  A lucky few people on remote islands in the northern Atlantic and Arctic Oceans will get a chance to witness the eerie black hole effect in the sky as the moon completely blocks out the sun for a fleeting few minutes. Optimum visibility will be from Norway’s Faroe Islands, however most of Europe, north-east Asia and north-west Africa will be able to see at least a partial eclipse where the Sun will appear to have a bite taken out of it to varying degrees, depending on one’s location.

    Here in Canada unfortunately the show will be over by our sunrise, expect perhaps for those in Newfoundland, southeastern Baffin Island or northeastern Ellesmere Island where keen onlookers may be able to (theoretically at

    Read More »from Spring kicks off with a super total eclipse of the sun on Friday
  • This past Sunday the Sun’s surface threw off the largest explosion seen in two year and it had Earth in its cross-hairs. By early morning Tuesday the energetic and fast moving blast wave slammed into our planet’s protective magnetic field, causing intense Northern Lights shows across the entire Northern Hemisphere — including Canada — last night.

    Skywatchers in parts of Canada and as far south as Kansas and Virginia reported on social media distinct, colourful glows, but if forecasters have it right, a cosmic second act may be in the works for tonight.

    It turns out that two of these titanic bubbles of charged particles known as coronal mass ejections were belched by the sun over the weekend, but on their trip over to Earth, they merged into one gargantuan cloud measuring many times the size of our planet.  

    Once these fast moving particles hit Earth’s magnetosphere, they get naturally funneled down by the magnetic field towards the north and south poles. There they enter the

    Read More »from Prepare for another dazzling Northern Lights show in Canada Wednesday night
  • When we forget things we often chalk it up to our memory failing us, but new research suggests that this brain process is just a way for us to wipe out irrelevant information that is cluttering our minds.

    “It’s an active mechanism to get rid of memories that distract us from remembering the truly relevant things,” lead author Maria Wimber from the University of Birmingham said in an interview with Yahoo Canada News.

    “And in our study we have been able to even watch individual memories while they are being ‘wiped out’ in the brain."

    A team of British researchers who published their findings this week in the journal of Nature Neuroscience, developed a method that allows them to identify the “neural fingerprints” of individual memories as they return to the brains of human volunteers who were monitored using an MRI scanner.

    Each participant’s brain images were divided into tiny three-dimensional pixels. Researchers could then observe detailed patterns of brain activity that pictures like

    Read More »from Remembering the past can wipe out irrelevant memories, new study suggests
  • In July last year, a Baltic Sea shipwreck-dated between 1800 to 1830-yielded many bottles of what is thought to be the world's oldest champagne.In July last year, a Baltic Sea shipwreck-dated between 1800 to 1830-yielded many bottles of what is thought to be the world's oldest champagne.
    Five years ago, divers exploring a shipwreck off the coast of Finland discovered a treasure trove of lager beer lying hidden at the bottom of the ocean for 170 years. Scientists have tasted the 19th century brew and like any good forensic detectives, they’ve chemically tested them to better understand what the original flavours would have been.

    The spirits were discovered in July 2010 after being uncovered in the wreckage of a schooner that sank in 50 meters of water in the Baltic Sea sometime in the 1840s. Divers managed to recover 150 intact bottles of champagne and five bottles of beer—one of which happened to break on the deck of their ship, and started to foam—a good indication that it still had active yeast. A few daring souls on board had the courage to taste the historical brew and were surprised to find that it had a taste that wasn’t so unfamiliar.

    But seawater seeping into the bottles and bacterial activity running rampant inside for a better part of two centuries, wreaked

    Read More »from Sunken booty: 200-year-old beer and champagne found at bottom of sea tested for original flavours
  • Mosaics composed with data from the Cassini spacecraft taken during three separate Titan flybys.Mosaics composed with data from the Cassini spacecraft taken during three separate Titan flybys.

    Intriguing new research shows that liquid water may not be a must-have ingredient for life in the universe, and that strange new lifeforms may be lurking in distant, much colder worlds at the edge of the solar system — and beyond.  

    A new study coming out of Cornell University published this past week in the  journal Science Advances gives us our first tantalizing hints that life may not need to be based on water-chemistry, but could be based on liquid methane instead. And it turns out that Saturn’s largest moon, the methane-sea covered  Titan, fits the bill perfectly (at least theoretically).

    A team of chemical engineers and astronomers looked at how the nitrogen-based chemistry on this distant world may be just right to form cell membranes that could, in theory, function in the minus 292 degrees temperatures found on the surface of this smoggy moon.

    “It is possible to construct structural analogs to terrestrial bio-membranes that may work in the Titan environment, and it also

    Read More »from Just add methane: Liquid water may not be required for strange new lifeforms
  • In this file image, Terry Virts points to his helmet as he sits inside the ISS on Feb. 25, 2015 (AP)In this file image, Terry Virts points to his helmet as he sits inside the ISS on Feb. 25, 2015 (AP)

    This week when an American astronaut returned back inside the safety of the International Space Station after having completed a nearly flawless near 7 hour spacewalk, NASA was confronted with a potentially life-threatening problem it thought it had solved two years prior.  

    As NASA astronaut Terry Virts was re-pressurizing within the Quest airlock on Wednesday after having just finished a cable routing job on the outside of the orbiting laboratory, he reported a water leak within his spacesuit helmet.

    While NASA says Virts was in no apparent danger, their engineers on the ground spent the better part of two days investigating what had happened.

    This is not the first time such a nightmare leak in a spacesuit helmet has occurred during a spacewalk in recent years. In fact, the last time it happened, the astronaut nearly drowned.  

    Back in July 2013 Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano had to abort his spacewalk when he reported his helmet was flooding, saying he had water around his ears and

    Read More »from NASA spacesuit cleared of water leaks ahead of weekend spacewalk
  • Folks waking up in Vernon, British Columbia, this past Sunday were treated to a rather unusual weather phenomenon that looked like something out of a science fiction movie.

    In what is a bizarre coincidence of two atmospheric events, an elongated cloud formation known as a "fall streak" or "hole-punch” cloud" appeared above the southern section of the province in the early morning hours. Photos of the rare appearance, along with speculations, have since gone viral. But in this case neither Hollywood nor aliens had a hand in this event. It was all mother nature’s doing.

    As the name suggests, the unusual sky formation is actually a hole in a cloud that has part of it falling out in the form of localized snowfall. Clouds are made of water droplets and, during wintertime, ice crystals and snowflakes are formed when the drops adhere to particles, otherwise known as cloud condensation nuclei. These particles can be anything from plain-old dust, flower pollen, or even particulate matter from

    Read More »from 'Hole-punch' cloud in B.C. was a bizarre coincidence of two atmospheric events
  • Mysterious Mars plumes stump scientists

    Right: Location of the plume is identified in the yellow circle. Left: Close-up views of the changing plume.Right: Location of the plume is identified in the yellow circle. Left: Close-up views of the changing plume.Mars may not be as dead a planet as we thought. There appears to be a new mystery brewing on Mars that has scientists both puzzled and excited.

    On two separate occasions back in 2012, backyard sky-watchers around the world reported seeing through their telescopes what look like gigantic plume-like features rising into space from the surface of the Red Planet. Our current understanding of the high atmosphere of Mars cannot account for this phenomenon. These unknown plumes could also pose a hazard for future low-orbit missions to Mars.

    The plumes or strange, blurry clouds were observed to rise to altitudes of more than 250 km above the same region of Mars on both occasions. Adding to the mystery, the features developed in less than 10 hours and could be seen for up to 10 days, changing shape over the course of that time.

    “At about 250 km, the division between the atmosphere and outer space is very thin, so the reported plumes are extremely unexpected,” said Agustin Sanchez-Lavega of the

    Read More »from Mysterious Mars plumes stump scientists
  • Artist's depiction of Mars One astronauts and their colony on the Red Planet. (SPACE.com)Artist's depiction of Mars One astronauts and their colony on the Red Planet. (SPACE.com)

    There’s no shortage of prospective astronauts willing to make the perilous journey to Mars on a one way trip.  

    The Denmark-based project called Mars One has whittled down its list of applicants to the final 100 candidates from its original pool of over 200,000 wannabe planetary colonists, who signed up back in April 2013.

    “The large cut in candidates is an important step towards finding out who has the right stuff to go to Mars,” said Bas Lansdorp, co-founder & CEO of Mars One. “These aspiring martians provide the world with a glimpse into who the modern day explorers will be.”

    Considered by many to be the most audacious and complex space mission of its kind, the aim is to establish a permanent human settlement on the Red Planet, starting with its first mission which will have a crew of four launching in 2024 with the entire adventure broadcast as a TV reality show.

    At this point, there are 100 round three candidates who remain after being personally interviewed by the foundation’s

    Read More »from Mars One mission narrowed to 100 candidates, but still light-years from liftoff


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