Scuba diving trumps surfing on Saturn's Titan moon

There was a lot of hubbub this week among space geeks about the first spotting of waves on the freaky methane lakes that cover much of Titan, perhaps the most Earth-like spot outside of the real deal in our solar system. But it's still waaay premature to pack up your space wetsuit and start nagging NASA or Elon Musk to hitch a ride beyond the asteroid belt.

Saturn's spooky moon has a planet-like atmosphere and liquid covering much of its surface, making it one of the most likely nearby places to harbor (probably very weird) alien life. But while Titan shares a number of Earth-like characteristics such as its craggy peaks, running rivers, and even thunderstorms, it doesn't appear to have strong enough winds to whip up methane waves on its large lakes. … Read more

Our doom will come sci-fi-style, NASA-funded study says

We've all seen movies depicting a dystopian future. Usually they envision a small group of elites living in sleekly designed homes wearing clean gray clothes, sipping pure water, and enjoying generally dust-free living while the rest of us schlubs reside in cardboard boxes beneath bridges. Now, a NASA-funded study is saying the collapse of civilization as we know it might not be all that different from what happens in movies like "Blade Runner," "Elysium," and "The Hunger Games."

The study, sponsored by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and first reported on in The Guardian, examined five key factors that led to the collapse of civilizations such the Roman Empire and Han Dynasty: population, climate, water, agriculture, and energy. It found that civilizations collapse when these factors coalesce in such a way that natural resources are stretched at the same time the gap between the rich (termed "Elites" in the study) and the poor (dubbed "Commoners") increases. Sound familiar? … Read more

Stunning star factory captured by Hubble telescope

Stars are being mined in our backyard.

That may be a bit of a stretch for something that's 6,400 light years away, but given the infinite reaches of outer space, the star factory that NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captured in action is relatively nearby.

To celebrate Hubble's 24th anniversary, the space agency today released a series of stunning images of the "churning" star factory, known as NGC 2174, which was found inside the Monkey Head Nebula. And while these pictures are awe-inspiring, NASA said they are just a taste of what it expects to … Read more

The 404 1,444: Where we're trapped in a phone booth (podcast)

Leaked from today's 404 episode:

- Amazon Prime fee jumps to $99 a year.

- The most legendary phone booth in the country is back, with conferencing.

- Here's a map of said phone booth and one of the first transcribed conversations that took place there.

- The best theater in the galaxy: now you can watch "Gravity" in zero gravity.… Read more

NASA asks citizen scientists to become 'asteroid hunters'

NASA is looking for citizen scientists to help save planet Earth.

The space agency announced Monday that it is launching an "Asteroid Data Hunter" contest series to reach out to people to help create algorithms to identify asteroids zooming around outer space. NASA will give away $35,000 in awards to competition winners.

Millions of asteroids are thought to be currently orbiting the sun and scientists want to be sure to identify as many of them as possible. Why? So humans don't go the way of the dinosaurs.

While NASA deemed Earth safe last year from a … Read more

Pew pew! Scientists hatch plan to laser-blast space junk

It's a junkyard out there. Researchers estimate that at least several hundred thousand pieces of space debris are stuck out in orbit around the planet, creating hazards for satellites and spacecraft. These pieces include everything from stray bolts to entire derelict satellites. If only we could blast them with lasers and take care of the problem. Oh wait, maybe we can.

The Australian government announced a $20 million Cooperative Research Centre that will investigate using lasers to locate, track, and remove space debris. The group will bring together partners from the government, academia, and aerospace industries. A total estimated investment of around $90 million is needed to bring the project to fruition. NASA's Ames Research Center and Lockheed Martin are already on board.… Read more

Asteroid breaks up just like in Atari game

Remember the old Atari Asteroids game and how the space rocks would split into smaller and smaller pieces as your little arrowhead-shaped ship shot tiny balls of light at them? Well, astronomers at UCLA have just seen, for the first time ever they say, that asteroids really do break up that way.

The discovery was made possible by data derived from a team of telescopes. It began when a fuzzy, strange-looking shape was spotted in the skies by the Catalina telescope array, located both outside of Tucson, Ariz., and in Australia, and a Pan-Starrs telescope atop Mount Haleakala on Hawaii's island of Maui. Astronomers then used the Keck telescopes on the Hawaii Mauna Kea volcano, where they believed they saw three bodies moving together in a cloud of dust that measured roughly the same diameter as that of of Earth. … Read more

Here's what Mars looks like during its spring thaw

If you want to get in some snowboarding on Mars, you had better hurry up and get over there. The planet is already busy thawing out for springtime. NASA released an image taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in mid-January showing sand dunes from the northernmost reaches of Mars as they begin to shed their winter coats.

Instead of snow, the dunes are covered with carbon dioxide ice, better known on Earth as "dry ice," the stuff you throw in a punch bowl for a Halloween party.… Read more

NASA says it wants to go to Jupiter's crazy moon, Europa

NASA and the White House are asking Congress to bankroll a new intrastellar road trip to a destination that's sort of like the extraterrestrial Atlantis of our solar system -- Jupiter's intriguing moon, Europa.

On its surface, Europa appears to be an iced-over rock orbiting the biggest planet in our neighborhood and often getting nuked by Jupiter's radiation belt. However, it's believed that a subsurface ocean exists beneath the ice, kept liquid by a phenomenon called tidal flexing. Just last month, Hubble spotted evidence of a plume of water vapor at the moon's south pole.… Read more

GLaDOS from Portal explains nuclear fusion for NASA

This is the best thing. The best. Imagine if GLaDOS from Portal had amnesia and went to work for NASA with a pair of...well, idiots, and this is what you might get.

The video was created as part of NASA's educational outreach program at the Spitzer Space Telescope, which focuses on STEM education.… Read more