Beauty of the Universe II - Colors
Spaceflight finale: To some this may look like a sunset. But it’s a new dawn.
Space News of the Day
Future is in the making! The asteroid mining firm Deep Space Industries, Inc. launched today with an ambitious plan to build an entire fleet of spacecraft by 2015 and deploy them to harvest resources from asteroids near the Earth.
Is this for real? I’m like, geeking out like WOAH right now. KESSEL RUN.
A map of our galaxy the Milky Way, showing pulsars (red), planetary nebulae (blue), globular clusters (yellow), and the orbits of several stars.
Where does the Kessel Run start? Oh, right, wrong galaxy…
Get eclipsed by Saturn in this mind-blowing image from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Now THIS is a Christmas gift for all mankind!
Porco announced the image release via Twitter, saying that it’s images like these that “remind you we are capable of the magnificent.”
I couldn’t agree more.
When NASA’s Kepler space telescope started finding planets at odd angles to their parent stars, scientists wondered if our solar system’s tidy geometry, with the planets neatly orbiting around the sun’s equator, was an exception to the rule.
That idea can be laid to rest thanks to an innovative use of the Kepler data which aligned three planets circling the sun-like star Kepler-30 with a giant spot on the star’s surface.
The study showed the trio of planets orbiting within one degree, relative to each other and relative to the star’s equator. That finding is an indication that Kepler-30, like our own solar system, formed from a rotating disk of gas.
Image:Sanchis-Ojeda et al
Sally K. Ride, the first American woman to orbit Earth, died Monday after a 17-month bout with pancreatic cancer. She was 61.
Selected as an astronaut in 1978, Ride blasted off with four male colleagues on June 18, 1983, on space shuttle Challenger, the seventh flight of the program.
“The whole nation was with her when she launched, lifting her up on a chorus of ‘Ride, Sally, Ride,’” recalled U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, who flew as a guest aboard the shuttle two years later.
Image: Sally Ride, mission specialist on STS-7, monitors control panels from the pilot’s chair on the Space Shuttle’s Flight Deck in 1983. NASA
With the discovery of a fifth moon orbiting Pluto came the inevitable protests about the little world’s planetary status: Can it be called a planet yet?
Sorry Pluto fans, this latest revelation can’t supersize Pluto’s standing in the Planetary Rotary Club, but it does provide a fascinating glimpse at the dwarf planet’s history.
1. RINGS FROM AFAR
Measuring 175,000 miles wide but as little as 30 feet thick, Saturn’s rings contain debris of varying ages and composition, all revolving at different speeds.
2. THREE MOONS
Titan and Dione, along with speck-sized Prometheus appear in rare alignment. Tiny so-called shepherd moons help shape the rings and prevent them from dispersing.
Concentric rings wind in front of Satrun’s biggest moon, Titan, with tiny Janus in teh foreground. The rings are so massive that they have their own atmosphere, separate from Saturn’s. Cassini found evidence of oxygen all around the icy rings.
4. RINGS CLOSE UP
Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11, launched in 1972 and 1973, respectively, were the first spacecraft to visit the solar system’s most photogenic gas giants, Jupiter and Saturn. Pioneer 10 was the first probe to travel through the solar system’s asteroid belt, a field of orbiting rocks between Mars and Jupiter.
Shortly after the Pioneers made their flybys, the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes followed. They made many important discoveries about Jupiter and Saturn, including rings around Jupiter and the presence of volcanism on Jupiter’s moon, Io. Voyager went on to make the first flybys of Uranus, where it discovered 10 new moons, and Neptune, where it found that Neptune actually weighs less than astronomers thought.
The Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), launched in 2001, may not be as well-known, but it measures with unprecedented accuracy the temperature of the radiation left over from the Big Bang.
Another spacecraft with a profound effect on cosmology and astrophysics is the Spitzer Space Telescope, which observed the heavens through infrared light. This light, which has a longer wavelength than visual light, is mostly blocked by Earth’s atmosphere.
6.Spirit & OpportunityIntended for just a 90-day mission, these workhorse Mars rovers have far outdone themselves, and are still chugging away on the red planet more than five years after landing. Spirit and Opportunity, the twin Mars Exploration Rovers, landed on opposite sides of the planet in January 2004.
5. Cassini-HuygensThis joint NASA/ESA spacecraft, launched in 1997, reached its destination, Saturn, in 2004. Since then it has been in orbit around the ringed world, taking one stunning snapshot after another of the planets rings, moons and weather.
4. ChandraSince 1999, the Chandra X-ray Observatory has been scanning the skies in X-ray light, looking at some of the most distant and bizarre astronomical events. Because Earth’s pesky atmosphere blocks out most X-rays, astronomers couldn’t view the universe in this high-energy, short-wavelength light until they sent Chandra up to space.
3. VikingWhen NASA’s Viking 1 probe touched-down on Mars in July 1976, it was the first time a man-made object had soft-landed on the red planet. (Though the Soviet Mars 2 and 3 probes did land on the surface, they failed upon landing). The Viking 1 lander also holds the title of longest-running Mars surface mission, with a total duration of 6 years and 116 days. The spacecraft also sent the first color pictures back from the Martian surface, showing us what that mysterious red dot looks like from the ground for the first time.
2. HubbleThe most-loved of all NASA spacecraft, the Hubble Space Telescope has name recognition around the world. Its photos have changed the way everyday people figure themselves into the cosmos. The observatory has also radically changed science, making breakthroughs on astronomical issues too numerous to count.
1. ApolloNASA’s best space science mission? The one humans got to tag along on, of course! Not only was sending a man to the moon monumental for human history, but the Apollo trips were the first to bring celestial stuff back to Earth and greatly advanced our scientific understanding of the moon.
Astronomer Mark Thompson gives some quick advice on how and where you can see next week’s historic Venus transit.
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