NASA's Kepler Mission Finds 26 New Planets in 11 Different Solar Systems

NASA Ames / Dan Fabrycky
NASA announced on Thursday that it has discovered 26 new planets in 11 different solar systems. This brings the total number of confirmed planets to 729, with about 2,300 additional possibilities.

These particular planets were discovered as part of the Kepler mission, a $600 million program which was launched in 2009, for the purpose of finding other life-supporting planets like Earth.

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Watch a Meteor Shower Wednesday Morning, You've Got Nothing Better to Do

via NASA
For a couple of hours after 3 a.m. Wednesday morning, the Quadrantids meteor shower will be putting on a show for anyone willing to get up (or stay up) for it. According to NASA, "the Quadrantids have a maximum rate of about 100 per hour," which, weather permitting, should make for a pretty cool sight. If your New Year's resolution was to sit outside in the cold while craning your neck, you're in luck. Video of the Quadrantids meteor shower from two years ago after the jump.

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Here's What $388,375 Worth of Equations Look Like

via Heritage Auctions
We may finally have the answer to the eternal question posed by struggling algebra students everywhere: "When will I use this in real life?" The above image is from Heritage Auctions, and what appears to be a scribbled-in math quiz is actually the work of Apollo 13 Mission Commander James Lovell. After an oxygen tank explosion left him and his crew up space creek without a paddle, Lovell wrote a series of numbers onto the checklist to chart a course toward the moon's gravitational pull and, eventually, back to Earth.

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Huge Asteroid to Narrowly Miss Earth (In Space Terms)

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This won't happen. Or will it? (It won't).
The elegantly named asteroid 2005 YU55 is scheduled to give Earth a flyby on Tuesday, passing by us at a distance closer than the moon's orbit. The asteroid is about four football fields long, in case you plan on playing football on it. At its closest point to Earth, 2005 YU55 will be 201,700 miles overhead. For reference, the closest the moon gets to us during its own orbit is 225,700 miles. So, are we all going to die?

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Satellite Probably Crashed Into Southeast Asia, Scientists Shrug

ROSAT, the decommissioned German satellite that fell to Earth yesterday, broke up upon entering the atmosphere and probably scattered debris over Southeast Asia. We say, "probably," because no one really knows where the dang thing is. The Washington Post reports ROSAT entered the atmosphere between 9:45 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. EST last night and calculations indicate it "must have crashed somewhere east of Sri Lanka over the Indian Ocean." No need to get up, but if you could just do a quick scan around your seat for German satellite parts, that'd be really helpful.

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Watch a Space Capsule Undock and Begin Its Descent to Earth [Video]

The above video shows a Russian-built Soyuz space capsule detaching from the International Space Station late Thursday night. The capsule contained two cosmonauts, Andrey Borisenko and Alexander Samokutyaev, and one American astronaut, Ron Garan. Since canceling the Space Shuttle program, this kind of cooperation is currently the only method NASA has for sending astronauts to and from the ISS.

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Andrei Finkelstein, Russian Astronomer, Says We'll Encounter Aliens Within Twenty Years

Andrei Finkelstein, director of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Applied Astronomy Institute, is pretty sure we're not alone in the universe. Reuters reports that Finkelstein told attendees at a forum dedicated to the search for extraterrestrials, "Life exists on other planets and we will find it within 20 years." While he can be accused of playing to his audience, Finkelstein has been sending radio signals into space since the sixties in an attempt to make contact with otherworldly beings. He predicts extraterrestrials will live on water-abundant, Earth-like planets and look similar to humans. "They may have different color skin, but even we have that," he said. [Reuters]

Cracker-Sized Satellites Are Perfect for Modern Space Travel, Mini-Pizzas

Tomorrow's Endeavour launch signals the end of the space shuttle program, but it may usher in a new era in satellite technology. Three tiny orbiters roughly the size of saltines will be released by the shuttle, reports. They are rudimentary prototypes, but how they react in space and transmit information will be key in further developing this new mode of orbital technology. Suck on that, Soviets, we won the (tiny) space race!

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Jethro Tull in Space Will Rock Uranus Off

Astronaut Cady Coleman and Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson performed the first ever space-earth musical duet earlier this month. Their rendition of Jethro Tull's "Bourée" celebrated the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin becoming the first astronaut in space. People laughed at Cady when she said she wanted to bring her flute onto the International Space Station, but who's laughing now? More Tull after the jump because you freaks need something to jam to on 4/20.

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Virgin Galactic is Accepting Applications for Astronauts; We Applied

Space Camp poster.jpg
On the Virgin careers website, Virgin Galactic has posted a want ad for Astronauts. They have three positions to fill, and we have sent in our application for consideration. They informed us via auto-reply email that if they feel we are an appropriate candidate, we will be asked to interview. We have drafted an open letter to Sir Richard Branson because, in the words of Neil Armstrong, "you need three things to be an astronaut: persistence, persistence and persistence." (Neil Armstrong never said that).

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