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Date: Monday, 28 Jul 2014 09:50
The orbit of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring up to the close pass of Mars on 19 Oct 2014. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The orbit of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring up to the close pass of Mars on 19 Oct 2014. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

I was looking all over for a graphic on the Mars encounter last Thursday and NASA published this on Friday. Great timing! So now I need to figure out if the comet might be visible with a telescope. Could be, the moon won’t be a factor and Mars should be visible for a time after sunset. I just need to upload the ephemeris for Siding Spring into Stellarium.

One thing I will be able to see (and so will you) on that night is Venus and Spica very close together — easy to see too. More about that later on.

NASA on the visit:

NASA is taking steps to protect its Mars orbiters, while preserving opportunities to gather valuable scientific data, as Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring heads toward a close flyby of Mars on Oct. 19.

 

The comet’s nucleus will miss Mars by about 82,000 miles (132,000 kilometers), shedding material hurtling at about 35 miles (56 kilometers) per second, relative to Mars and Mars-orbiting spacecraft. At that velocity, even the smallest particle — estimated to be about one-fiftieth of an inch (half a millimeter) across — could cause significant damage to a spacecraft.

Read the rest at NASA.

Author: "Tom" Tags: "General"
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Date: Sunday, 27 Jul 2014 14:30

ESA is getting ready to launch the Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle or IXV. This will test technologies and critical systems for Europe’s autonomous reentry for return missions from low Earth orbit. The IXV is said to be about the size of a car being 5 m long, 1.5 m high, 2.2 m wide and weighs almost 2 tons.

The IXV is to be launched atop a Vega rocket from the Europe’s Spaceport (French Guiana) in November. The flight will collect an immense amount of data during the 1 hour and 40 minute flight to the Pacific Ocean.

The flight will be short in duration and will have HUGE implications for ESA’s ambition of autonomous reentry and the possibilities that will present not to mention a U.K. Spaceport.

ESA’s IXV web page.

Author: "Tom" Tags: "ESA"
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Date: Saturday, 26 Jul 2014 14:52

A mysterious X-ray signal might be a clue to Dark Matter.

 

Author: "Tom" Tags: "General"
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Date: Friday, 25 Jul 2014 09:57
U.K Spaceport concept.  Image: U.K. Space Agency via Spaceref

U.K Spaceport concept. Image: U.K. Space Agency via Spaceref

The UK is considering to open a spaceport and do it by 2018. The idea is for the UK to become a leader in the growing space market.

Business Secretary Vince Cable:

“Space is big business for the UK. It already contributes £11.3 billion to the economy each year, supporting nearly 35,000 jobs. That’s why it’s important for us to prepare the UK for new launcher technology and take steps towards meeting our ambition of establishing the first British spaceport by 2018.”

Exploring the opportunities that commercial spaceflight presents, and potentially making strategic investments in this area, will support the growth of this thriving industry and underpin the economy of tomorrow, making the UK the place for space

He and the government are very likely correct, a spaceport will provide a focal point for investment, provided they can get established early on and now is the time.

So how do they plan on getting a spaceport up and running by 2018? It won’t be as difficult as you might expect because existing facilities can be adapted. A recent civil Aviation Authority report named eight existing airfields that might be able to host an spaceport and not just any place will do because in addition to meteorological, environmental and economic criteria a few physical factors come into play:

- an existing runway which is, or is capable of being extended to, over 3000 metres in length
- the ability to accommodate dedicated segregated airspace to manage spaceflights safely
- a reasonable distance from densely populated areas in order to minimise impact on the uninvolved general public

The eight possibilities:

- Campbeltown Airport (Scotland)
- Glasgow Prestwick Airport (Scotland)
- Llanbedr Airport (Wales)
- Newquay Cornwall Airport (England)
- Kinloss Barracks (Scotland)
- RAF Leuchars (Scotland)
- RAF Lossiemouth (Scotland)
- Stornorway Airport (Scotland)

Will the UK become “The Place for Space”? I wouldn’t bet against it.

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Cool Stuff"
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Date: Thursday, 24 Jul 2014 09:59
Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) shows us NGC 121.  Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgment: Stefano Campani

Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) shows us NGC 121. Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgment: Stefano Campani

This is one of those “southern gems” I cannot see. Not far away is NGC 104 and the bright NGC 292 among a host of others in an around the Small Magellanic Cloud.

It’s little wonder I like globulars. I found some of the images I took in the back yard, I’ll post some, nothing like this Hubble image though.

Here is a nice tutorial on Globular Clusters from SEDS.

The NASA caption:

This image shows NGC 121, a globular cluster in the constellation of Tucana (The Toucan). Globular clusters are big balls of old stars that orbit the centers of their galaxies like satellites — the Milky Way, for example, has around 150.

NGC 121 belongs to one of our neighboring galaxies, the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC). It was discovered in 1835 by English astronomer John Herschel, and in recent years it has been studied in detail by astronomers wishing to learn more about how stars form and evolve.

Stars do not live forever — they develop differently depending on their original mass. In many clusters, all the stars seem to have formed at the same time, although in others we see distinct populations of stars that are different ages. By studying old stellar populations in globular clusters, astronomers can effectively use them as tracers for the stellar population of their host galaxies. With an object like NGC 121, which lies close to the Milky Way, Hubble is able to resolve individual stars and get a very detailed insight.

NGC 121 is around 10 billion years old, making it the oldest cluster in its galaxy; all of the SMC’s other globular clusters are 8 billion years old or younger. However, NGC 121 is still several billions of years younger than its counterparts in the Milky Way and in other nearby galaxies like the Large Magellanic Cloud. The reason for this age gap is not completely clear, but it could indicate that cluster formation was initially delayed for some reason in the SMC, or that NGC 121 is the sole survivor of an older group of star clusters.

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Space Telescope"
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Date: Wednesday, 23 Jul 2014 10:46
Cassini sees a crescent on Saturn from 2 million km.  Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Cassini sees a crescent on Saturn from 2 million km. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Cassini treats us to a view we would otherwise not get, a crescent Saturn. The view is from the unilluminated side of the rings and was taken in green light.

The angle us just right at 43 degrees below the ringplane so the rings don’t appear to interrupt the crescent. You may notice the “dark” area outside the crescent is faintly illuminated and that is from “ringshine”.

Get a full res version here at JPL’s Cassini site.

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Cassini"
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Date: Tuesday, 22 Jul 2014 09:52
Moon eclipses Saturn. Copyright: Carlo Di Nallo

Moon eclipses Saturn. Copyright: Carlo Di Nallo

This photo taken from Buenos Aires, presumably by Carlo Di Nallo – my hat is off to him. Bravo!

Here’s the caption from ESA:

What happened to half of Saturn? Nothing other than Earth’s Moon getting in the way. As pictured above on the far right, Saturn is partly eclipsed by a dark edge of a Moon itself only partly illuminated by the Sun. This year the orbits of the Moon and Saturn have led to an unusually high number of alignments of the ringed giant behind Earth’s largest satellite. Technically termed an occultation, the above image captured one such photogenic juxtaposition from Buenos Aires, Argentina that occurred early last week. Visible to the unaided eye but best viewed with binoculars, there are still four more eclipses of Saturn by our Moon left in 2014. The next one will be on August 4 and visible from Australia, while the one after will occur on August 31 and be visible from western Africa at night but simultaneously from much of eastern North America during the day.

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Cool Stuff"
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Tire Wear   New window
Date: Monday, 21 Jul 2014 10:16
The wheel wear on the rover Curiosity.  Credit: JPL / NASA

The wheel wear on the rover Curiosity. Credit: JPL / NASA

Driving around on Mars is tough. I’ve been watching the wheel wear since I noticed what I thought was unusual wear back in November 2013. I know NASA is watching also, they are taking regular images of the wheels and possibly watching the substrate under the rover too (I think I read that at some point but I could be wrong too).

So just to keep you updated, this particular image was taken a couple of days ago on 17 July (Sol 691) and you can plainly see the wear. Hard to say if things are getting worse or not, I’m going with not.  The treads look good and the in-between parts would be less of a concern if the inner and outer parts of the wheel were tied into the treads somehow and they could be.  So, I’ll stay optimistic, but I’m still surprised at the extent of the wear.

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Mars Rovers"
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Date: Sunday, 20 Jul 2014 10:28

20 July 1969. This is part 1 of 15.

If you have some time, you can read  Mission Transcript: Apollo 11.

Spoiler alert: The Eagle has Landed – page 178 of the AS_11 CM.PDF link.

Author: "Tom" Tags: "History"
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Date: Saturday, 19 Jul 2014 13:00

Only a year before we arrive at Pluto.

Only? Don’t worry there is so much going on in space science the time will pass quickly I think. Next up Rosetta and if you have not seen the new animation of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko do check it out. Weird shape, kind of like a boot, we will see a clear image shortly. Is it one chunk or two stuck together?

Source

Author: "Tom" Tags: "New Horizons"
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Date: Friday, 18 Jul 2014 09:46
Rosetta uses the OSIRIS imaging system to get a look at its destination. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Rosetta uses the OSIRIS imaging system to get a look at its destination. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Rosetta is getting close and Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko looks to be a very good choice. The since the previous image release on 4 July, Rosetta as reduced its distance to the comet by 25,000 km (to 12,000 km from 35,000 km).

BE SURE to check out the link in the description below – Great site!

Description from ESA:

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was imaged on 14 July 2014 by OSIRIS, Rosetta’s scientific imaging system, from a distance of approximately 12 000 km. This image has been processed using ‘sub-sampling by interpolation’, a technique that removes the pixelisation and makes a smoother image. It does not, however, reveal hidden detail and it is therefore important to note that the comet’s surface is not very likely to be as smooth as the processing implies. The image suggests that the comet may consist of two parts: one segment seems to be rather elongated, while the other appears more bulbous.

Read more via the blog: The dual personality of comet 67P/C-G

Author: "Tom" Tags: "ESA, Rosetta"
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Date: Thursday, 17 Jul 2014 09:51
NGC 1433 from Hubble.  Click for larger. Copyright ESA/Hubble & NASA

NGC 1433 from Hubble. Click for larger. Copyright ESA/Hubble & NASA

If you venture over to the ESA site you can see a Hi-res version of this beauty.

This view, captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows a nearby spiral galaxy known as NGC 1433. At about 32 million light-years from Earth, it is a type of very active galaxy known as a Seyfert galaxy — a classification that accounts for 10% of all galaxies. They have very bright, luminous centres comparable to that of our galaxy, the Milky Way.

Here is a bit more data on NGC 1433 including a “more normal” image to compare this incredible Hubble image too.

Author: "Tom" Tags: "ESA, Space Telescope"
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Date: Wednesday, 16 Jul 2014 09:41

sl9impact

20 years? Already? Hard to believe but true.

Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 impacted the planet Jupiter 16 July 1994. The comet broke up under the influence of the gravitational pull of the planet during a close pass in July 1992 (was within the Roche limit) and impacted two years later.

The image above is one of many images you can find at our Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 page. Be sure to visit the links for the legendary Eugene Shoemaker too.

Image credit: NASA et.al

Author: "Tom" Tags: "History"
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Date: Tuesday, 15 Jul 2014 09:39

Two launches in two days!.

It is pretty hard to do a launch video much better than SpaceX, here’s the look of the Space X Launch.

The Falcon 9 Rocket left the SpaceX Launch complex 40 at Cape Canaveral in Florida. The payload is SIX ORBCOMM OG2 satellites.

The launch went off without a hitch at 11:15 EDT 15:15 UTC.

Check out the stills at the SpaceX site.

Video souce

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Launch / Landing"
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Date: Monday, 14 Jul 2014 09:50
Antares rocket and a supermoon on Saturday.  Image Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

Antares rocket and a supermoon on Saturday. Image Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

Nice picture from NASA of the Super Moon setting over the Orbital Science Antares rocket with the Cygnus cargo ship ready for flight. See the original here (suitable for a nice desktop).

The Antares did launch successfully today. Nice launch too, although I admit to doing the same thing as the last launch: as the Antares first leaves the pad, I’m saying ” come on, come on – get up there you can do it”. There is a (short) time where it looks like the rocket is just able to lift itself, a short time, yes but long enough to get me wondering! Here’s a replay if you missed it. So far everything looks great with Cygnus.

Now hopefully you got a look at the nice full moon we had. It was really quite spectacular. This full moon was just one of three in a row. Yes! August and September will also have the perigee “Supermoons”.

Here is a NASA ScienceCast video explaining the Supermoons.

Author: "Tom" Tags: "General"
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Date: Sunday, 13 Jul 2014 14:00

Part of the story from the YouTube site:

Between 1838 and 1845, Eta Carinae underwent a period of unusual variability during which it briefly outshone Canopus, normally the second-brightest star. As a part of this event, which astronomers call the Great Eruption, a gaseous shell containing at least 10 and perhaps as much as 40 times the sun’s mass was shot into space. This material forms a twin-lobed dust-filled cloud known as the Homunculus Nebula, which is now about a light-year long and continues to expand at more than 1.3 million mph (2.1 million km/h).

Reminder: Cygnus is ready to launch at 16:52 UTC (12:52 EDT). Check this post to see if you can see the Cygnus and Antares rocket as it goes into orbit.

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Cool Stuff"
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Date: Saturday, 12 Jul 2014 10:41

After eight years in orbit, ESA’s Venus Express has completed routine science observations and is preparing for a daring plunge into the planet’s hostile atmosphere.

Venus Express was launched on 9 November 2005, and arrived at Venus on 11 April 2006.

It has been orbiting Venus in an elliptical 24-hour loop that takes it from a distant 66 000 km over the south pole — affording incredible global views — to an altitude of around 250 km above the surface at the north pole, close to the top of the planet’s atmosphere.

With a suite of seven instruments, the spacecraft has provided a comprehensive study of the ionosphere, atmosphere and surface of Venus.

This video includes interviews in English with Håkan Svedhem, ESA mission scientist and Patrick Martin, ESA Venus Express mission manager

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Cool Stuff, ESA"
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Date: Friday, 11 Jul 2014 16:16

If you live along the US east coast you may get a look at the Antares rocket as shown in the map. Image: NASA / Orbital Sciences

launchview

 

Mission/Orbiter:Orbital Sciences Orbital-2 Cargo resupply / Cygnus spacecraft

Mission Highlights: This mission will deliver more than 1,360 kg (3000 lbs) of assorted supplies, hardware and tools. A group of nanosatellites are part of the scientific payloads. The nanosats will capture imagery of Earth, will aid in development of a way to return small samples from the ISS and student-designed experiments.

Current Status: Go

Launch Date UPDATED:  Sunday 13 July 2014 16:52 UTC (12:52 EDT)

Launch Facility:Wallops Flight Facility (Virginia)

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Launch / Landing"
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Date: Friday, 11 Jul 2014 09:12

rosettatarget

Here’s an animated version of images released by ESA, hopefully you get some sense of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko’s rotation.

Image Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/ SSO/INTA/UPM/ DASP/IDA

From ESA:

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, taken by the narrow angle camera of Rosetta’s scientific imaging system, OSIRIS, on 4 July 2014, at a distance of 37 000 km. The three images are separated by 4 hours, and are shown in order from left to right. The comet has a rotation period of about 12.4 hours. It covers an area of about 30 pixels, and although individual features are not yet resolved, the image is beginning to reveal the comet’s irregular shape.

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Rosetta"
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Date: Thursday, 10 Jul 2014 09:54
A color image of Europa. Click for larger. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

A color image of Europa. Click for larger. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

NASA gives us this newly released image of Europa created from images taken by the Galileo spacecraft in 1997 and 1998.

Click the image to get a good look at the amazing terrain!

The following caption from JPL/NASA:

This colorized image of Europa is a product of clear-filter grayscale data from one orbit of NASA’s Galileo spacecraft, combined with lower-resolution color data taken on a different orbit. The blue-white terrains indicate relatively pure water ice, whereas the reddish areas contain water ice mixed with hydrated salts, potentially magnesium sulfate or sulfuric acid. The reddish material is associated with the broad band in the center of the image, as well as some of the narrower bands, ridges, and disrupted chaos-type features. It is possible that these surface features may have communicated with a global subsurface ocean layer during or after their formation.

Part of the terrain in this previously unreleased color view is seen in the monochrome image, PIA01125.

The image area measures approximately 101 by 103 miles (163 km by 167 km). The grayscale images were obtained on November 6, 1997, during the Galileo spacecraft’s 11th orbit of Jupiter, when the spacecraft was approximately 13,237 miles (21,700 kilometers) from Europa. These images were then combined with lower-resolution color data obtained in 1998, during the spacecraft’s 14th orbit of Jupiter, when the spacecraft was 89,000 miles (143,000 km) from Europa.

 

For more information about Europa, visit: http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/europa/home.cfm .

JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

 

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Cool Stuff"
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