Archive for the ‘Extrasolar planets’ Category
Down to Earth
Virgin Galactic has hired two new pilots, including former Space Shuttle Commander and Navy TOPGUN pilot, Frederick “CJ” Sturckow. Awesome!
At the Kennedy Space Center’s new visitor center, the payload bay doors were opened on Space Shuttle Atlantis, which is slated to go on display this summer.
In honor of the new Star Trek movie, here’s something that has nothing to do with space at all. But it’s funny.
A lot has happened at the space station in the past week and a half! Apart from Soyuz TMA-07M returning to Earth on Monday, May 13…
…on Thursday, May 9, in the morning, (while I was working in the Flight Control Room) the astronauts noticed some mysterious debris floating outside the space station…
…which led to an emergency spacewalk to fix a leaky coolant pump only two days later.
For more information, check out my friend and colleague, Anthony, talking about the space station quick fix.
Chris Hadfield’s return to Earth marks the end of a very successful mission that was more than just a typical ISS expedition. Commander Hadfield reached out to people through social media more than any astronaut before. Here is a small “greatest hits” list of some of his photography. But for me, even better than all the pictures from his mission, was the way Hadfield seamlessly connected his love of music to space. Check out this music video he released just hours before coming home last week.
In less successful orbital news, the Kepler Space Telescope – NASA’s planet-finding spacecraft – seems to be in trouble. On May 15, NASA announced that a second of Kepler’s four reaction wheels may be failed. Kepler needs 3 reaction wheels to accurately point the telescope for precision science measurements. If they cannot recover the lost reaction wheel, Kepler’s mission is effectively done. Kepler has been able to discover thousands of planets in our galaxy (most still being officially “confirmed”) but it easily has thousands more left to discover. Save Kepler!
Around the Solar System
In only one day last week, the sun emitted three X-class solar flares (X-class is the biggest class of solar flare, but just like the earthquake scale, an X10 is significantly bigger than an X2, so it’s all relative). Welcome to solar maximum! If you live somewhere where you can see it, there should be some good aurora to see this year.
Remember that rover on Mars? No, not the bigger shiny new one, that one on the other side of the planet – Opportunity. The plucky rover that could just hit a distance record for NASA set by the Apollo 17 moon rover in 1972. Back in 1972, Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmidt drove their lunar rover 35.74 km in just a few days. After almost 10 years on Mars, Opportunity just broke that record this week. Also, there’s still the Russian moon rover Lunokhod 2 which drove 37 km in 1973. Opportunity still has a ways to go. But it is amazing that she is still going at all!
Down to Earth
Earlier this month, the White House released their proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2014. Which includes an allocation of $17.7 billion for NASA. Much has been said about the budget already – but the focuses seem to be on the $200 million cut from planetary science and the proposal to start planning an asteroid retrieval mission. Yes, you read that right, the idea is that NASA will send a robotic mission to find a worthy asteroid to drag back to cislunar space (that’s fancy space talk for bringing it as close to Earth as the moon). This may be the direction, focus, and “mission” that many have been saying was lacking from NASA’s portfolio since the cancellation of Constellation and the Space Shuttle. It is far too early to know what will come of it, at least until the mission starts being paid for in 2014. Personally, I think the idea makes sense and is exciting… more thoughts on this in a later post.
In truly down to Earth news, the ambitious Thirty Meter Telescope project received a permit to begin construction atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii. They project plans to begin construction in early 2014. the Thirty Meter Telescope (or TMT) will have almost 10 times the light gathering area of the Keck telescopes, also on Mauna Kea. TMT is going to be an amazing tool for astronomers. It should be able to look “further back in time” and see aspects of the beginning of the universe as well as be an awesome exoplanet finding tool, among many other science applications.
The Navy has announced they will be naming a new research vessel after Sally Ride (first American woman in space).
Virgin Galactic has been busy doing glide flights of SpaceShipTwo, getting ready for their first powered flight this year. In their most recent flight last week, the engine had a “cold flow” test – they flowed some propellant through the engine but did not ignite it.
Boston.com’s “The Big Picture” blog has a nice photo essay of two different Mars analog missions going on here on Earth.
After a planned launch this past Tuesday was delayed, today Orbital Sciences is going to attempt the maiden flight of the Antares rocket, which is planned to take the Cygnus freighter on resupply flights to the ISS. The launch is planned for 5 PM Eastern today (Saturday, April 20). If you read this in time, you can follow along at Spaceflight Now’s mission status center.
Around the Solar System
The Mars rover Curiosity went into hibernation starting on April 4 for the “solar conjunction”. This is the period when Mars is behind the sun as seen from Earth, making it difficult to communicate with probes at the red planet.
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter was able to spot the fresh craters left by the GRAIL missions two probes that crashed into the moon last year (on purpose).
Some Mars enthusiasts from Russia have been scouring Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter images to look for the lost Mars 3 lander that the USSR sent to Mars in 1971. They seem to have found it!
NASA has announced two new missions in the agencies Astrophysics Explorer Program. Two space telescopes, TESS and NICER, are being developed for launch later this decade. TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Sattelite) is somewhat of a successor to Kepler, and will be an Earth-orbiting satellite that hunts for exoplanets. NICER (Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer) will be attached to the International Space Station and will look at x-ray wavelengths from neutron stars.
Wow, it’s been a busy week and a half! Ten days is the longest I’ve gone without posting some links since I started my blog over a year ago. Not only has space news been busy, with asteroids galore, but I have been busy too, with a weekend getaway last weekend and then 3 nights of ISS mission ops this week. Hopefully the news I share below will get us all back up to speed!
Down to Earth
The first thing I have to talk about is the asteroid impact in the Chelyabinsk area of Russia in the Ural mountains. The short story is that just hours before the much anticipated fly-by of large asteroid 2012 DA14 last Friday, February 15, an asteroid about 15 meters across entered the Earth’s atmosphere above Russia and exploded without warning over a relatively large city in Russia. The airburst was the equivalent of may kilotons of TNT and it managed to cause widespread injury and property damage (no reports of deaths that I am aware of).
Here is a pretty good video of the meteor.
And this one has the sound of the meteor exploding. Scary.
Experts are sure, based on tracing the Chelyabinsk meteor’s orbit back the way it came, that 2012 DA14 and Chelyabinsk are unrelated. It is what you might call a “cosmic coincidince”. Phil Plait talks about the chances of such a coincidence and also the sober reality that we need to take asteroid threats more seriously.
The more interesting coincidence to me is that asteroid impacts of this size are only expected to happen about once a century. The last large impact (that is known) happened in 1908, also in Russia.
Maybe not surprisingly, a weather satellite got some brief images of the smoke trail from the Chelyabinsk meteor. I don’t want to leave poor 2012 DA14 out to dry, so here’s a timelapse of its flyby of Earth.
In some non-asteroid news, the new Space Shuttle display at KSC in Florida is officially opening on June 29. This date was announced at an unveiling of the facility’s new logo.
The test firing of Orbital Science’s Antares rocket was completed successfully earlier this evening. This is good news for their program, which needs to catch up with SpaceX. SpaceX is getting ready for their third cargo flight to ISS next week.
The mayor of Brownsville, Texas met with Elon Musk of SpaceX last week to discuss further the possibility of SpaceX building their next launch site on Boca Chica Beach in South Texas.
NASA astronauts aboard ISS had their first public Google+ hangout. Cool!
There was a bit of excitement in ISS mission ops earlier this week when the first day of ISS computer software upgrades did not go as planned. A computer restart did not execute properly and it resulted in a temporary loss of communications between ISS and mission control. You may have heard about it, since it was all over the news when it happened on Tuesday. Fortunately, flight controllers, with the help of the crew, were able to resolve the problem and the software upgrades were completed. All is well in space!
Around the Solar System
Mercury had its longest “Eastern elongation” last week – meaning it was at its highest point above the horizon at sunset, as seen from Eearth.
The new company “Inspiration Mars Foundation” – founded by space tourist Dennis Tito – claims to be planning a 500 day Mars trip to be launched in 2018. I wish them luck.
This week it was announced that the smallest exoplanet ever discovered was found 200 light years away. The planet is Kepler-37b (meaning it was found by the Kepler mission) and is only 2,400 miles in diameter, which makes it smaller than Mercury. As usual, the planet is far too close to its parent star to be habitable in any way.
Down to Earth
Monday night had a stunning Moon and Jupiter conjunction in the sky that I hope you saw if you had clear skies! I was able to view the Moon and Jupiter together on a clear night here in Texas through my binoculars. In case you missed it, here is a collection of images from the conjunction.
Another company that claims it will make billions mining asteroids in a few short years? Yes. Enter, Deep Space Industries.
The ten year anniversary of the loss of Space Shuttle Columbia is coming up. On January 31, a documentary about Israeli Columbia astronaut Ilan Ramon will air on PBS.
In the realm of space law (yes, I know, exciting!) a compromise has been reached regarding liability for space tourism flights out of New Mexico. The new law is intended to appease Virgin Galactic so that they don’t consider leaving the New Mexico spaceport as their home base.
Kazakhstan has not approved all of Russia’s launches from their Baikonaur spaceport for this year (if you need a history refresher – Kazakhstan used to be part of the USSR and that is where the Soviets built their launch facility. Russia continues to use the existing infrastructure in Kazakhstan even now, long after the fall of the USSR). This is unfortunate for the Russian program and a good reason not to have such an important facility in a foreign country. Fortunately for Russia, they are already building a new native facility in the far Eastern reaches of the nation. NASA should pay attention and make sure Texas and Florida don’t secede!
As I wrote about last week, the European planet hunting space telescope CoRoT may be a lost mission. Well, it seems luck is not with astronomers this month; NASA’s Kepler space telescope has had an issue with one of its momentum wheels (excess friction) and is spending a week or so in safe mode, suspending all science, in hopes the situation will improve. Kepler is already down one of 4 reaction wheels, which failed in July. It needs at least 3 to be able to control attitude precisely to do science.
To lighten the mood, here’s a quick NASA bit from The Onion (you have to watch a commercial for their fake Joe Biden book first).
Here is an official statement from NASA about the new Bigelow inflatable module that will be tested on ISS. It seems the module will be scheduled to launch on a SpaceX cargo mission in 2015.
More on future NASA plans: here’s an update on the four companies that are developing vehicles for NASA’s commercial crew program.
And here’s a quick update on Orbital Sciences’ launch schedule for ISS commercial cargo resupply missions.
The Robotic Refueling Mission has continued in earnest this week. I have had the pleasure of working the day shifts in ISS mission control this week, being tangentially involved in these operations by disabling thruster firings to protect the robotics hardware.
Down to Earth
Whether you think the White House’s online petition system a flop or not, you have to appreciate this tongue-in-cheek response to the petition to have NASA build a Death Star.
Although a bit out of the ordinary, I thought that this article about the firearms launched about Soyuz spacecraft (yes, guns) an interesting read.
NASA has officially contracted with private venture Bigelow Aerospace to provide an “inflatable” additional module to the ISS. There is an official press conference out of Las Vegas (where Bigelow is based) tomorrow – none of the early press releases seem to indicate when the module would arrive on orbit.
This week, robotics flight controllers are putting the Robotic Refueling Mission through its paces on the ISS. You can read about the project here or just watch the video below.
It seems the French planet-hunting spacecraft, CoRoT, may truly be lost – and just shortly after receiving a mission extension as well.
Around the Solar System
Check out this video of low altitude imagery from the GRAIL missions shortly before impact on the moon last month.
The scary asteroid Apophis will definitely not hit us for at least 20 years, according to observations during the latest close-ish pass to Earth (still a long way away). Check out this nice simple web tool to see the real-time position of Apophis relative to Earth.
Even more observations of the star Fomalhaut reveal that it may in fact have a planet after all. The new observations clearly show something moving in the orbit that was thought to belong to the planet. These observations are new since the last time I linked to Phil Plait discussing Fomalhaut, back in October.
Speaking of exoplanets, I recently registered at www.planethunters.org after reading about the 15 new planet candidates they have found. This is the first “citizen science” project I have tried that has held my attention.
Because it’s cool
A pretty shot of a C-17 parked in Samoa.
Not much new over the past few days. Here are the few interesting tidbids I’ve compiled.
Down to Earth
Due to a recent BBC documentary about Neil Armstrong, there has been a story circulating in the media that Neil Armstrong did not come up with his famous “one small step” quote spontaneously as he had led us to believe. The true story is, of course, more subtle than the news would like to portray – and it does not involve Neil Armstrong lying for 40 years. Andrew Chaikin (author of the pre-eminent book “A Man On The Moon”) has a good sober analysis of the situation.
Phil Plait has compiled all 360-ish astronomy facts from 2012 that he tweeted over the year.
In a fun internet event that had people excited last week, ISS astronaut (and soon to be Commander) Chris Hadfield exchanged tweets with fictional starship commander William Shatner.
A NASA-funded study has shown (using mice) that the cosmic radiation experienced during interplanetary flight may be a significant risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
A recent study at Caltech, based on Kepler data, suggests that there is at least 100 billion planets in our galaxy.
Because, why not?
Entering the realm of the truly geeky, here is a mashup of nearly every film in cinema that featured a space helmet… yes really (via Universe Today).
Musician-astronauts Cady Coleman and Chris Hadfield play a tribute to Sally Ride.
I wouldn’t say that 2012 either came in or went out with a bang (unless the last minute federal budget politiking* strikes you as “a bang”). Nevertheless, 2012 was a busy year for space enthusiasts. The last twelve months held much to wonder, celebrate, contemplate, mourn, debate, and of course explore. Here I will try to sum up the space related events, deaths, discoveries, and anniversaries that I find interesting. If you are interested in a full recap of worldwide events in 2012, I’d suggest starting with the “Year in Pictures” at Boston.com’s “Big Picture” blog – Part I, Part II, and Part III.
In order to try to honor some fallen heroes, I will start out with the saddest part of my recap.
In 2012 we lost three American astronauts – Alan Poindexter, Sally Ride, and Neil Armstrong.
Captain Poindexter was 50 years old when he died in July 2012. He was a veteran of 2 space shuttle flights, having been selected in the 1998 group of astronauts. Coming from a Navy test pilot background, he was the pilot for STS-122 and then Commander of STS-131. 131 was the last night launch of the shuttle program and helped set the record for most women in space at one time – with 3 women on the crew of Discovery plus one on the space station. During his military career Poindexter flew F-14s on carriers – very cool.
Sally Ride needs no explanation. More important people than me provided lots of memories about Sally Ride after her death back in July. She certainly left us too soon – but she left a legacy. Sally Ride Science will continue to do great things, and you should consider supporting them if you can.
And of course, everyone heard when Neil Armstrong died in August at the age of 82. Like Sally Ride, I can provide no words here better than what has already been written. Armstrong was in many ways the model of a public hero and should not have left us so soon.
There would be no astronauts without first someone to inspire us to dream. Thus, we should also remember legendary author Ray Bradbury who died aged 91.
Lastly, engineer Roger Boisjoly died at the age of 73. Mr. Boisjoly is known for being the SRB (Solid Rocket Booster) project manager at Thiokol who warned not to launch mission STS-51L during a meeting the day before the flight. His warnings were ignored and the Space Shuttle Challenger was lost.
Major Events or Discoveries
Whether your interest lies more in planetary exploration, new technology, or manned spaceflight, there were many milestones and missions in 2012.
NASA achieved what I will subjectively dub their triumph of the decade (so far) when the Mars rover Curiosity touched down at Bradbury landing in Gale Crater on August 6th. You have got to love this video…
Curiosity could easily explore Mars for a decade, with its RTG that should keep it powered long enough that something else will wear out first. The vistas we have seen of Gale crater from MSL are stunning and I think she will be a huge source of inspiration – and of course science – for many years ahead.
Curiosity isn’t alone on Mars. Another huge milestone of 2012 is the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity continuing to quietly do its job at Endeavour Crater on the other side of the planet. In fact, Opportunity and Curiosity are now racing each other to find clay minerals known as “phylosillicates”.
SpaceX impressed the world with their first successful (test) flight to the International Space Station in May which was followed up by the first official contracted resupply mission in October.
The Chinese performed their first in orbital rendezvous of a manned spacecraft when Shenzhou 9 docked with the Tiangong 1 space station on June 18.
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft continued to explore asteroid Vesta (where it arrived in 2011) and finally departed in September 2012 to start the long interplanetary flight to larger asteroid Ceres, where it will arrive in 2015.
NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft found evidence of water ice in polar craters of Mercury.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft continued to to perform well at Saturn, more than 8 years after arriving (15 years since launch) and discovered a vast river system of methane and ethane on the moon Titan. Time to send the riverboat robots to explore.
Anniversaries: 50 years since Kennedy’s famous “Moon speech” in Texas, 50 years since John Glenn’s orbital flight, and 40 years since the last flight to the moon – Apollo 17.
Back in June many people around the world – including those who are not even space geeks – enjoyed the rare passing of Venus across the face of the sun. The next Venus transit will not be until 2117.
One of my absolute favorite events of 2012 was the discovery of a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri B, the nearest star system to Earth. And only a few weeks later, a “super earth” was found in the habitable zone of HD 40307 only 40 light years away. The discovery of exoplanets is turning into the science story of the 21st century…
Unless you are a physics geek. Then the science story of the 21st century will be the ongoing unlocking of secrets of the quantum world, which continued in 2012 with the announcement that the Large Hadron Collider in Europe has discovered the “Higgs Boson”.
But in any case, the idea of people living on a planet at Alpha Centauri is the inspiration for my blog’s name, so I have a bias for the planets.
This year was nostalgic for us Millenials – who grew up watching space shuttle launches – as the three remaining space shuttle orbiters reached their final homes in California, Virginia, and Florida.
NASA and the astronaut office finally caught on to 21st century communications and media in earnest. More astronauts than ever are actively interacting with the general public on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Reddit, and elsewhere on the ‘net. NASA astronauts have made this communication a part of their mission while on ISS, with many of them writing blogs or maintaining exciting Twitter and Flickr streams from space. This will certainly continue in 2013 as the “Net Generation” begins to come of age and will have real influence on the personality of America, and whether we stay committed to space exploration. My guess is that this video helped.
What will 2013 bring? Well, probably most importantly – but least excitingly – are the pending federal budget decisions in Washington, DC. Congress still needs to decide on a 2013 budget and then a 2014 budget. Some of their choices will shape the future of space exploration, especially for planetary science missions.
Here is my list of the more cheery things to look for in 2013:
- Finally the first powered flight tests of tourist space vehicles. Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo should be hopping into space this year.
- SpaceX should continue to demonstrate reliability of their rockets as they fly two more missions to the ISS as well as a fairly packed launch schedule for other customers.
- SpaceX’s competitor for ISS commercial flights, Orbital Sciences**, will attempt to make good on their contract with NASA.
- Russia will fly the 50th Progress resupply mission to ISS, this being the 15th year since the launch of the first ISS module.
- Late in 2013, the next Mars launch window will see two missions: NASA’s MAVEN orbiter and India’s first interplanetary mission.
- NASA will launch the LADEE lunar probe.
- Continued excellence in the field of extrasolar planet astronomy – smaller and more numerous rocky planets will be discovered further out from main sequence stars.
Round ups from other blogs
For some other summaries of 2012 in space and science see:
Houston Chronicle’s top 10 skywatching events of 2013 (one is the Quadrantic meteor shower tonight!)
Parabolic Arc’s “NewSpace” year in review (that one’s a quick read)
*yes, Congress did pass a bill to avert the “fiscal cliff” at the very last minute on Tuesday, January 1, 2013
**the author has a small shareholding in Orbital Sciences
Down to Earth
Before we proceed, let’s get one thing out of the way: please don’t expect anything to change this Friday.
In some less than cheery news that is actually based in reality, some estimates indicate that Johnson Space Center (where I work) would not do well if the pending “sequestration” of US federal spending were to occur.
Yet another lost moon rock display has been located – this one belonging to the State of Alaska. This CollectSpace account of the finding is rather long, but well worth a read if you like shady intrigue…
Early Wednesday morning, a Soyuz launched from Kazakhstan that will bring the Expedition 34 crew on ISS to its full complement of six. The latest flight includes Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, American Tom Marshburn, and first time Soyuz commander Roman Romanenko. The Soyuz mission is numbered TMA-07M, which I point out because their patch is so creative. See if you can spot the cleverness below.
The crew will dock to ISS on Friday.
In anticipation of the launch, Universe Today ran a feature about the legacy of the Soyuz launch vehicle, which has been flying since 1966. I found this discussion of the Soyuz from Chris Hadfield’s perspective more interesting still. Hadfield has done a great job sharing his pre-flight activity via social media and there are some videos worth watching in that last article.
Hadfield’s son, Evan, wrote an article about growing up as an astronaut’s son that is pretty sobering and worth a read. Surely he and his family are happy that Commander Hadfield made it to orbit, but I suspect their fear and stress does not end until he returns to Earth.
NASA is planning to test color-changing lights on ISS that should help with astronauts sleep cycles.
Even the mainstream news media was talking about this bit of space news: the North Korean rocket launch that supposedly put a satellite in orbit. According to Hyperbola Blog, independent experts claim to be tracking the object but it appears to be tumbling in its 100 km orbit and not operating. Unfortunately, Hyperbola does not often cite sources so I’m not sure about the veracity of their post…
Around the Solar System
As planned, China’s Chang’E 2 probe was able to make a close fly-by of NEA Toutatis. Very impressive.
Here’s a sequence of radar observations of Toutatis (via Universe Today).
Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society updated her nifty graphic showing all asteroids and comets visited by humanity’s spacecraft – it now included Toutatis. Toutatis is near the upper right. Emily does not included Vesta, which was visited by the Dawn spacecraft, because it is so much more massive than the others. You can buy a poster print of the graphic at the Planetary Society’s store.
The two lunar gravity probes that make up NASA’s GRAIL mission were deliberately slammed into a mountain on the Moon this past Monday. The impact site was named for Sally Ride, who died this year. Sally Ride helped get the probes to carry the MoonKAMs which were designed only for educational outreach.
If you’re wondering why NASA would blow up a space mission that had only been in operation for about a year, there is a reason! Ebb and Flow orbited the moon at the extremely low 50 km. This required significant amounts of propellant to maintain, but allowed extremely detailed gravity mapping of the moon. This fall, the fuel had all but run out and the science was all but done. Thus, end of GRAIL. You can read more about it on the NASA mission page or on Wikipedia (which has many more source links).
An “international team of astronomers” (the A team?) announced this week (with a published paper and a press release) that they believe they have found a five-planet system around the Sun-like star Tau Ceti. Tau Ceti is only 12 light years from us and initial data indicates one or more of the planets is in the habitable zone of the star. All of the stars are between 2 and 6 Earth-mass. The discovery used new techniques looking at existing data. Thus, sober voices are saying that additional follow-up is needed before the planet(s) can be confirmed. Surely, that followup will come quickly for such an important discovery.
Down To Earth
The woman who drew the spacecraft names on to several of the Mercury capsules died last week.
NASA’s VAB at Kennedy Space Center is being renovated to support the next era of launch vehicles. Many scaffolds and platforms that were built for the Space Shuttle are being removed.
Up on ISS this past Saturday, Sunita Williams handed command over to fellow NASA astronaut Kevin Ford.
The Soyuz TMA-05M crew then undocked on Sunday evening and returned to a cold and snowy Earth (Jump to 05:40 to see crew exiting Soyuz).
The aerial photos of the rescue crew and capsule on the snowy ground are pretty cool.
The Kepler spacecraft is officially ending its primary mission of 3.5 years. Of course, it is still going strong and is being granted an extended mission. It feels like just yesterday we watched her launch and eagerly anticipated the discoveries to come. Now we have more than the 3 years needed to confirm the existence of planets in Earth-sized orbits around other stars… of which they have discovered several. You can see an interactive list of exoplanet stats at the Kepler website here.
Passing your “primary mission” is mostly just going through puberty for NASA spacecraft. After all, Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity passed her 3 month primary mission over 8 years ago. So, happy adulthood Kepler! Here’s to many more years.
Around the Solar System
The Mars Odyssey Orbiter is on its backup Inertial Measurement Unit. The mission has been at Mars for over 10 years, so failures are not surprising. This is of course another example of an exceptional NASA spacecraft long past “puberty”. Odyssey’s primary mission also ended in 2004. Keep it up Odyssey!
Speaking of Mars, the first data from Curiosity’s radiation detection equipment was publiclly released. Based on the data, the level of radiation on the Martian surface is actually reasonable – the real trick is managing radiation on humans on their trip through interplanetary space to get there.
Speaking of exoplanets, astronomers at the Subaru telescope in Hawaii have taken a new direct image of a planet orbiting a star only 170 light years away.
NASA announced a recent discovery – using orbital observatories Spitzer and Hubble – of the most distant/ancient galaxy ever found. Go to Phil Plait’s blog for the picture and a good discussion.
Down to Earth
A couple election results that impact the space world:
Former astronaut Jose Hernandez did not win his race in California to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
A significant number of the representatives on the House committee on Science, Space, and Technology lost their seats. Also, the former chairman, Ralph Hall, was term limited on the committee and many are seeking to take his chairmanship.
A NASA study of climate data shows that models that project more global warming tend to be more accurate on certain markers – the conclusion being that warmer is more likely.
The Seattle Museum of Flight opened their new space hall this weekend, which includes the Space Shuttle Full Fuselage Trainer. You can now visit full-sized space shuttles (real or mockup) in the following major cities: New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Houston, D.C., and eventually Florida.
Summer has arrived in Antarctica, bringing the first supply plane to the research base Concordia in months. Not much different than a space outpost, really.
Any IT geek readers out there might enjoy reading about this NASA test of their new “interplanetary internet”.
Around the Solar System
Check out this strange moon of Saturn – Methone.
Cool picture from LRO of a rock that bounced down a hill on the moon.
A happy crater on Mercury.
Mars rover Curiosity made it to 90 Martian days last week!
A new planet discovered about 40 light years away is at the right distance from its start to support liquid water.
Have to share this APOD just for its sheer beauty.