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7 February 2020
Surfing space dust bunnies spawn interplanetary magnetic fields
New research finds that fine dust from pulverized space rocks is riding the solar wind past multiple spacecrafts, which are detecting the clouds of fine debris as a temporary changes in the local magnetic field.
16 December 2015
Problematic asteroids could be pushed off course by gentle thrusts
When faced with the threat of large Earth-bound asteroids, some have suggested deflecting the rocky bodies by striking them with large objects. Others prefer to nuke them. But planetary astronomer Michael Busch takes a less violent approach: he suggests we deflect dangerous asteroids without ever touching them.
Busch, an astronomer at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute in Mountain View, California, studies gravity tractors: special spacecraft designed to pull problem asteroids away from destructive trajectories and onto benign paths. He said the technology could come alive within the next decade through NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission. Busch presented his team’s research on gravity tractors at the 2015 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco.
22 December 2014
Veteran geophysical tool preps for new horizons at Europa
Jupiter’s moon Europa has tantalized scientists with its potential for harboring life ever since Galileo first spotted the icy satellite in 1610. If living matter is bubbling anywhere in our solar system, they suspect, it would be below the moon’s icy shell, where a presumed ocean of salty water meets a mineral-rich interior. But because scientists can’t peer beneath the ice, they must rely on data beamed back by passing spacecraft. A proposed NASA mission called Europa Clipper could be sent to the moon in the next decade—and researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and NASA want their instrument to be onboard.