This Week in Space: Astronaut serenades Earth, Curiosity drills into Mars
After years of deliberation, scientists have confirmed what caused the mass extinction of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago: It was a giant asteroid after all. But for this week's space update, we plan to focus on the present. Read on for this week’s most fascinating interstellar revelations.
It wasn’t too long ago that we shared astronaut Chris Hadfield’s original recording from the International Space Station, but he wasn’t content just being the first man to ever record a song in space. As a follow-up, Commander Hadfield has teamed up with the Barenaked Ladies for an aptly named duet entitled “I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing).”
The song has been in the works for months. The announcement of the Earth-space collaborative performance came way back in April 2012, so after months “of composing and rehearsing that began before Hadfield blasted off to space in December for the third time,” his final product finally hit the Web.
Stick around until the end. Not only is the song pretty stellar, but it’s not very often that a music video can end with a genuine zero-G guitar flip. [via NPR]
Last month, NASA announced that the Curiosity rover would begin drilling into the surface of Mars once it reached the “John Klein” rock formation. After performing its preparatory tests earlier this week, Curiosity has finally put its drill to use and penetrated the Martian bedrock.
The hole is just 2.5 inches deep but it marks the first ever drilling on Mars. According to John Grunsfeld, an associate administrator at NASA, this is the “biggest milestone accomplishment for the Curiosity team since the sky-crane landing last August.”
The rover will spend the next several days processing the sample after cleaning its instruments with the rock powder collected during the drilling. Stay tuned for updates on the analysis in the coming days and weeks.
Almost exactly a month after the upcoming asteroid 2012 DA14 skims by planet Earth, the comet Pan-STARRS has a chance of emitting an “amazing stream of gas and dust into the night sky,” shining as brightly as the Big Dipper, meaning that it will be easily visible without the use of a microscope.
The best chance to catch a glimpse of the comet and its trail will be the evenings of March 12th and 13th, but there is also a chance that the gravitational pull of the sun will break up the comet before it gets close enough to have any effect.
In case you are concerned by all of the recent astronomical phenomena, don’t fret. At its closest, the comet will be about 100 million miles away. To put that into perspective, the asteroid flying by our planet next week will be just 17,000 miles from our surface.
It’s like being on an airplane—if the airline staff isn’t worried, you shouldn’t be, either. In this case, the astronomers aren’t worried, so just sit back and enjoy the pretty lights.