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Posts Tagged ‘NASA’

Photo Favorites: Greatest Photos of Earth

February 23rd, 2011 Comments off

"Blue Marble" by Apollo 17 crew. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. December 7, 1972

Sometimes after a rough week, a round night or seeing your beloved Commodores choke against the Volunteers, you need a little reminder to keep things in perspective. One easy way to do so is by revisiting the mastery of photography that reveals the wonders of the universe. While the Hubble images are often the most powerfully beautiful and the images of Jovian moons from Galileo or Saturnial satellites (particularly Enceladus) by Cassini are awe inspiring, there’s nothing quite like a few images of this world we call home to keep one grounded.

After the jump, I’ve linked three of my favorites and one which I wasn’t previously aware of, posted in chronological order. You’ll likely want to click on at least the first three images to get a bigger view, otherwise you might just miss out on spotting Earth altogether.

Click on through to keep reading. Read more…

Five Reasons Why Cassini is the Greatest Space Probe

December 30th, 2010 Comments off

A rendering of Cassini's six-plus year voyage from Earth to Saturn.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory based out of Cal Tech has been one of the most successful of NASA’s divisions, particularly the team that has handled the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn.  Although perhaps the most prominent scientist to emerge from the mission is imaging team leader Carolyn Porco (on Twitter), the Cassini probe itself is a huge star.

Cassini is a space probe in orbit around Saturn and was joined in its launch by the Huygens probe, which landed on the moon Titan.  Huygens is named for Christiaan Huygens, the Dutch scientist who first proposed that Saturn had a ring system and who also was the first to observe Titan, its largest moon.  Cassini is named for Giovanni Domenico Cassini, who discovered several other moons of Saturn.

Cassini has been in orbit and operation around Saturn since July 2004, while Huygens’ mission ended with its insertion on Titan in January of 2005.  They have provided discoveries of immeasurable importance, such as the observation of guysers and tiger stripes on Enceladus, the direct observation of methane lakes on Titans and the finer understanding of Saturn’s ring system and the impact of the gravity from moons on such rings.

After the jump, I’m posted images of the five “latest news items” from the JPL mission site.  Each of the items, individually, would be huge news.  That the Cassini team can roll those out as a matter of course is truly remarkable and reflective of the mission’s successes.

Even in the same time period when Voyager 1 reached the Termination Point and the Heliosheath, preparing to enter interstellar space in a first for human missions, Cassini proves itself as number one.

Read more…

Tonight’s the Night: Lunar Eclipse Time

December 20th, 2010 Comments off

That rare event is doubly special tonight, as the Winter Solstice joins with a Lunar Eclipse starting at about 1 a.m. tonight on the East Coast.  I’ll be staying up to watch and suggest you do as well.

For more info, click on over to NASA’s webpage discussing tonight’s event.

Click through for some apprehensions. Read more…

This Week in Space – August 27, 2010

August 27th, 2010 2 comments

I was a bit busy last week and wasn’t able to do one of the things I really wanted to: write about space and a few extraordinary developments that have been announced or released lately.  Namely, there’s been more fun with exo-planetary systems, Europa and asteroids.

F-Yeah Exo-Planetary Systems

A few months ago I wrote about the discovery of a hot “near-Earth” named GJ 1214b.  The rocky planet measuring about six times the mass of the Earth was discovered at about 40 light years distance using the Radial Velocity method of exo-planetary detection (measuring red-shift of a star to determine slight wobbles caused by a star — in this case, GJ 1214 — orbiting along with exo-planet(s) around their common center of gravity).

Scientists at a conference in France announced this week the discovery of two new exciting sets of exo-planetary systems, each distinguishing in its own way.  The first, which has been observed primarily using Radial Velocity is the discovery of the stellar system with the most known planets outside of our own solar system.  HD 10180, a Sun-like M-Class star sitting about 128 light years away hosts a whopping seven planets.

NASA released the above animation of the planetary system around HD 10180.

Click through for more discussion and discovery. Read more…

NASA, the Mars Rover and a Comic Tribute

January 29th, 2010 Comments off

That would be NASA and not Pixar.

There has been science in the news this week.  It hasn’t been great, but even the worst news sometimes has a silver lining.  And I think that’s the case here with both stories.

President Obama’s budget proposals in his first year have been science heavy.  His 2009 budget gave bumps to several science-focused departments and additional programs, granted NASA stimulus money and tried to find room for a return to the moon by 2020.

Not withstanding my belief that Obama cares more about science than the recently departed government CEO, he’s pretty much been forced to end his support of it this year.  Particularly with NASA, the spending freeze he’s instituting is gutting science.  On Monday, he’s expected to announce that he’s killed the Moon 2020 plan and it looks to move to commercialize and privatize space flight [There’s a joke to be made here that he’s finally found one industry sector he doesn’t want to socialize].

This is not, however, to say that the President has killed NASA.  Quite to the contrary, I think he’s merely made an amputation of the fully government-controlled space flight program in an effort to save the corpus as a whole.  He’s proposing to grant the ISS several more years of life and I’m confident he might try to find a way to extend the Hub and other observational satellites, which are the stuff of scientific magic.  Nevertheless, it’s a bit of a dark day when you realize that manned flight (that which contributes the most to a child’s imagination) is taking the brunt of the hit.

All this comes just two days after the true-life Wall-E story of the robot that just wouldn’t quit.  The Mars rover Spirit is almost 1900 days past its scheduled run of 90 days of operation.  Unfortunately, much as with me golf courses, you don’t want to get stuck in a sand trap on Mars.  That’s exactly what Spirit did this past week.  Spirit is now permanently in said trap but remains scientifically operational.  There’s a long winter ahead for it, but it’s done its service to America and humanity at large, and it appears it will continue to do so, at least for the time being.

XKCD put together a great tribute cartoon for Spirit which I’ve linked after the jump. Read more…

Scientists Say Jupiter’s Moon Europa Might Be Teeming With Fish

November 19th, 2009 Comments off

Article on Europa water discoveries linked here.

(via unknownskywalker; via brynlutes)

New evidence has come to light that the vast, ice-encrusted oceans of Europa may be harboring Earth-like life that lives on the oxygen-rich waters. Time to plan your extraterrestrial fishing trip? Maybe. Apparently, the oceans of Europa are fed with more than 100 times more oxygen than previous models suggested.

Read more »

This may be one of the coolest things ever. I was reading the National Geographic article on this last nightand was really amazed. Life on a gas giant’s satellite using hydrothermal energy and tidal energy would greatly expand the habitable zone to include exo-solar planets that actually have been found (potentially) — so far, I believe no exo-solar planet with a standard (non-eccentric) orbit has been found that could support conventionally conceived life. The ability to have life on a moon like the Jovian ones greatly pushes out the cold side of habitable zones. So perhaps there is an Endor or Hoth out there somewhere.

But what piqued my interest the most was the question of how one goes about exploring a world with 100 mile-deep oceans. How do you develop a craft that you can launch and send on a three year voyage and then plop into an ocean. The corrosive powers of H2O would almost certainly require a probe of greater than normal sturdiness and hulls… thereby making the probe more difficult to send. And, since Europa is certainly like Waterworld, you also have to consider defensive measures against the animal-life you’re likely to encounter there.

However they do it, I do hope we get started on a mission to some of the Jovian moons soon. Europa, Io and Ganymede are all intriguing for their own reasons. Particularly the volcanism of Io, the waters of Europa, the pure mass of Ganymede (which is the next largest object after Mercury), and Callisto provides some interest in that it is a Jovian moon which is relatively unaffected by tidal energy and heat (thus providing a contrast to the other three).