Tiny Changes in Earth's Gravity Can Help Predict Floods Months Away

When the Missouri River spilled over its banks in a catastrophic 2011 flood, we could have seen it coming—from space, that is. There's more to the story than meets the eye: the satellites don't take photos of snowpacks or rivers, but rather, they detect tiny changes in gravity over the Earth's surface to track water. » 7/08/14 3:00pm Tuesday 3:00pm

Satellites Are Now Cleared to Take Photos at Mailbox-Level Detail

The Department of Commerce just lifted a ban on satellite images that showed features smaller than 20 inches. The nation's largest satellite imaging firm, Digital Globe, asked the government to lift the restrictions and can now sell images showing details as small as a foot. A few inches may seem slight, but this is… » 6/16/14 11:20am 6/16/14 11:20am

Stadium-Sized "Beast" Asteroid Will Nearly* Smash Into Earth Tomorrow

Asteroid 2014 HQ 124, a.k.a. The Beast, is a football stadium-sized behemoth, estimated at nearly a quarter of a mile wide. And on Sunday, it's gonna come perilously close to our beloved home planet. How close? Just a mere 777,000 miles away. In space terms, that's about as close as it gets. » 6/07/14 3:00pm 6/07/14 3:00pm

NASA's Lost Satellite Just Made Its First Contact With Earth in 17 Years

It's official: ISEE-3, the 36-year-old satellite that NASA left for dead over a decade ago, is back in touch with humankind. This afternoon, a group of citizen scientists who raised almost $160,000 to fund the process of taking control of ISEE-3 announced that two-way contact has been established with the little… » 5/29/14 6:14pm 5/29/14 6:14pm

NASA Is Letting Citizens Commandeer a Long-Lost Satellite

Yesterday evening, NASA officially granted permission to a group of scientists and enthusiasts who want to do what NASA can't afford: Make contact with a 36-year-old satellite called ISEE-3 that's still capable of taking directions for a new mission. It's the first agreement of its kind—and it could hint at where the… » 5/22/14 3:20pm 5/22/14 3:20pm

NASA's New Orbiter Will Watch Plants Photosynthesize from Space

For the last 25 years, scientists have been able to monitor the "greenness" of trees from space and use that as a tool for evaluating plant health. The problem is that greenness isn't a good indicator for stresses—such as drought—because some trees (think pines) continue to be a lovely green until they're dead.… » 5/06/14 9:23am 5/06/14 9:23am

Views of a Dark World: Illuminating Unseen Infrastructure

For a global society highly dependent on complex technical, economic, and political systems, we manage to carry on our daily routines largely unaware of the hard and soft infrastructure—from pipes to policies—on which these systems rest. That is, until unexpected events, so-called black swans, illuminate the… » 4/10/14 3:00pm 4/10/14 3:00pm

Listen to John Frusciante's Latest Album Right Now via Satellite

With the traditional music industry floundering, some acts have embraced the rapidly changing musical landscape more than others. While the Wu-Tang Clan is hawking just a single copy of its upcoming double album, John Frusciante is letting anyone on Earth listen to his for free—at least for as long as the satellite… » 3/31/14 12:40pm 3/31/14 12:40pm

Why It's Taking Satellites So Long to Find Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

Today, we're hearing yet another report about a satellite that has spotted "potential objects," which might be floating wreckage from the vanished Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Today, those images come from France. Yesterday, the images came from China. Last week it was an Australian bird making discoveries. » 3/23/14 1:38pm 3/23/14 1:38pm

The Experimental Satellite that Gave Us Live International Television

Throughout the 1950s, broadcast television was limited to domestic transmissions simply because we didn't have a means to relay signals far enough to span the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. It wasn't until NASA shot Telstar, an unproven, newfangled "active" communications satellite into orbit in 1963, that mass… » 3/19/14 11:40am 3/19/14 11:40am

A New Defense Department Satellite Shoots Out Smaller Sats

The unfolding drama between Russia and the Ukraine along the Crimean peninsula is developing, rapidly and unpredictably—certainly not in-sync with the orbits of our overhead surveillance assets. But if we could somehow get a few purpose-built (and presumably rapidly-prototyped) cube sats up there, the US Air Force… » 3/07/14 11:40am 3/07/14 11:40am

The Ultimate Whale Watching Vessel Isn’t a Boat—It’s a Satellite

Whale watching: you're out there on the water with salt spray in your face and wind in your hair, waiting for a gigantic sea mammal to surface and do something splashy. It seems like a touristy thing to do, but scientists actually track whale populations from that very same vantage point. Sea level's cool and all, but… » 2/13/14 2:20pm 2/13/14 2:20pm

This Insanely Loud Sound System Can Actually Kill You

Being shot into space puts spacecraft under extreme stress—but did you know that the sound of the rocket launch can damage a craft? Inside the Large European Acoustic Facility, engineers recreate the incredible noise of a launch to make sure satellites can survive it. According to the ESA, "no human could survive" the… » 1/29/14 1:00pm 1/29/14 1:00pm

This Gravity-Sensing Satellite Peeks Beneath the Earth's Surface

The European Space Agency's GOCE satellite has been on a quest to study the Earth's interior, from space. Now the results are in, and a pioneering effort to map the Earth's gravitational field in high detail, has just been published in the journal Nature Geoscience. It's giving researchers an unprecedented look at our… » 1/27/14 6:00pm 1/27/14 6:00pm