Archive for the ‘NASA’ Tag

June’s Nighttime Sky   Leave a comment

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Credit: earth sky.org

Look up, folks!

This month proves to be a bonanza for Mars and Saturn fans! Take a look in the southeast and you’ll notice the giant fishhook that is Scorpio. You can’t miss it and if you glance at the top three stars, they form a crooked line. Here’s a better example of the constellation:

scorpio

Credit: H.A. Rey, “The Stars”

Mars slips across the southern sky, so incredibly bright, you can’t miss it. If you’ve been keeping your eye on it, you’ll notice every night it’s in a different spot, competing with Scorpio’s Antares (magnitude: 1.22). Mars is a fair distance ahead of Antares, so you can’t get them confused.

Saturn isn’t in as much of a hurry as Mars, but still commands attention. During June, the ringed planet is its closest to the Earth, and, as an added bonus, has its rings nicely tipped at a 26 degree angle, showing them off nicely for you. It, too, is in Scorpio, just above it.

Scorpio also happens to be one of my favorite constellations, glimmering all summer long. When I see it rise, in earnest, in May, I know summer isn’t far behind. It glimmers and shimmers. It never rises that high, but you can’t miss it when it’s here.

In the early morning sky, you can also see Comet Pan-STARRS near the constellation Capricorn low in the souther sky. It comes into view around 4:00 am.

If you happen to have a telescope, all of these are worth seeking out. Even a strong pair of binoculars make a difference, especially with the comet.

Here’s a brief video from NASA JPL with more details regarding Mars, Saturn and Comet Pan-STARRS. Take a moment this weekend and look south – nature will reward you with its charming beauty!

 

 

Back in Time   Leave a comment

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Hooray!  Today, the Hubble Telescope celebrates its 25 anniversary!  And what a celebration it should be, and is.  The New York times posted an article today that features astronomers and others involved in Hubble’s history what their favorite photo is.

Here’s one of my favorite images:

Monster Galaxy

This photo is from 2012, and a brief description taken from NASA’s HubbleSite.org follows:

The giant elliptical galaxy in the center of this image, taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, is the most massive and brightest member of the galaxy cluster Abell 2261.

Spanning a little more than one million light-years, the galaxy is about 10 times the diameter of our Milky Way galaxy. The bloated galaxy is a member of an unusual class of galaxies with a diffuse core filled with a fog of starlight. Normally, astronomers would expect to see a concentrated peak of light around a central black hole. The Hubble observations revealed that the galaxy’s puffy core, measuring about 10,000 light-years, is the largest yet seen.

The observations present a mystery, and studies of this galaxy may provide insight into how black hole behavior may shape the cores of galaxies.

Astronomers used Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys and Wide Field Camera 3 to measure the amount of starlight across the galaxy, dubbed A2261-BCG. Abell 2261 is located three billion light-years away.

The observations were taken March to May 2011. The Abell 2261 cluster is part of a multi-wavelength survey called the Cluster Lensing And Supernova survey with Hubble (CLASH).

Object Names: Abell 2261, A2261-BCG

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: NASAESA, M. Postman (STScI), T. Lauer (NOAO), and the CLASH team

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But what do I find so fascinating about it?

Click on the above link for larger files of the above photo.  Take a look.  It’s an amazing assortment of galaxies – tons of them!  And they’re beautiful, so beautiful, gems each and every one.  This literally took my breath away.  Not only are those galaxies millions of light years away, their light comes to us from millions of years ago.  What we see no longer is, and who knows what’s taken its place, if anything at all.

Within each of those galaxies floating in the universe are worlds utterly unknown to us.  We can fantasize and dream about life on another planet in another galaxy, but the truth is a bit elusive at the moment.  Still, we can regard them for what the Hubble brings to us – a beautiful perspective of the universe and its imagery.

If you find yourself a bit bored, sad or otherwise challenged by the rigors of this world, click on the Hubble Telescope site.  Explore its pages.  Allow yourself to dream and be awed at this portal on the magnificence of nature.

The Moon at Its Best   Leave a comment

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For those of you who weren’t awake, aware or available, there was a full eclipse of the moon last night.  Now, I’m also one of those who, for various reasons, wasn’t able to cast my eyes skyward and catch the moon at its best.  Sometimes the moon just doesn’t seem to take into consideration that many of us are located on the wrong side of the globe (or clock) to be able to glimpse at the glowing red orb up in the nighttime sky.

Thank goodness for Slooh.

If ever anyone wanted to be an astronomer and didn’t have the time, patience or ability to go to school for astrophysics, yet wanted to partake of the universe in an engaging and useful way, then Slooh is for you.  It’s a membership organization and it isn’t cheap, but anyone will have access to high-powered telescopes in the Canary Island and Chile, plus get in on a myriad of missions.  The universe is literally at your desktop.

As a participant, one also joins a community of like-minded individuals who cast their eyes skyward share what they observe.  Also, one gets in on all kinds of neat stuff that NASA offers, too.  In fact, Slooh engages NASA and a community of citizen astronomers to help with its near Earth asteroid project.  So if you see something, you can say something!

I’ve included the below link for those how want to experience the eclipse and/or get a taste of what Slooh can do for you.  Enjoy!

http://live.slooh.com/stadium/live/slooh-covers-the-total-lunar-eclipse-of-october-2014-as-it-slides-across-the-pacific-ocean

Elevate Me to the Moon…   Leave a comment

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Credit: Obayashi Corporation

For years, there’s been all sorts of conjecture about creating an elevator to space.  Why bother with rockets when space comes to you at the press of a button?  It’s relatively cheap, efficient and kind of cool.  NASA’s been tinkering with this idea for some time now, even offering a competition to intrepid folks willing to come up with a winning design.

In the meantime, a Japanese construction company, Obayashi, plans to have one functioning by 2050.  Thanks to the use of carbon nanotechnology, it plans to begin construction somewhere around 2030.  Extending 96,000 kilometers in space, it will provide an economical alternative to traditional launch-based technologies (otherwise known as rockets).

Considering what rockets cost to build and launch, it’s expected to be quite a savings in both time and resources.  It is expected to transport up to 30 people to a space station and will take seven days to reach it.

From there, getting to the moon with the sky taxi should be a piece of cake.  So when you next hear Frank Sinatra croon, “Fly Me to the Moon,” perhaps you’ll know what he was talking about.  Who knew that man was such a predictor of the future of space?

Here’s a video thanks to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that’ll give you an idea of what to expect.  Watch for yourself!

 

Need a Ride?   2 comments

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Check this out: Boeing, who introduced many of us to the friendly skies, will be giving astronauts a lift in space.  Though there are several suppliers of this rising industry, it seems as if Boeing’s got their toes in NASA.

Read more about it here.

Posted September 16, 2014 by seleneymoon in Sci-Fi, Space Missions

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Left in the Dust   Leave a comment

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Opportunity.  Credit: NASA

 

There’s a really hard worker out there, a senior citizen by many standards, who labors daily to investigate new discoveries and justify employment.  It’s a familiar circumstance, as anyone who’s been to McDonald’s lately and notices the grey-haired workers slinging burgers behind the counter.

Except this time, we’re talking about a enterprising, determined robot named Opportunity.

NASA’s ten-year-old scrappy little fella keeps plugging away, searching through the red dust looking for, well, new opportunities.  And like many senior citizens out there, he’s survived wretched conditions: blazing heat, frigid winters, uncertain circumstances, life out in the open without so much as a complaint.  Somehow, someway it’s continued to plug away at the only job it has ever known, and that’s reporting its findings back to the scientists who record its reports and disseminate whatever they contain in the name of research.

Those days might end a whole lot sooner than anyone thinks.  The 2015 NASA budget has been slashed, with zero funds for our Earthern expatriate.

What’s becoming of America and its intrepidness?  I mean, really?

I’m not really a political person, but when I see opportunities lost (and this isn’t a pun) such as the one on Mars, I feel a bit more of our prestige going down the toilet.  We should be proud that a robot as resilient as Opportunity still continues to operate. as we almost certainly are with Voyagers 1 and 2.  And yes, there are plenty other missions slated for Mars, including manned ones.  But why quit an Opportunity now, when there’s still so much to be gained?

Our nation once threw itself into the space race full tilt.  Those days have ebbed, but the drive to encourage and educate young scientists isn’t fostered as diligently as it once was, or should still be.  I find this ironic, since we seem to be heading into second golden age of Sci-Fi.  With all the interest in what’s going to unfold in the future, shouldn’t we take a little hunk of our past and keep it going?

Though we’re gaining ground of what sort of planet Mars truly is, it’s become a group effort among nations.  Everybody who’s industrialized seems to have their eyes set squarely on Mars, for science and the inevitable drive for profit.

Which leaves me to wonder: is America up to the challenge anymore?  Does America really care about its space legacy?  Has it lost its imagination about how far we can go?

I sure hope not.  I’m still betting Star Trek is a chronicle of the future, sent back to us here in the past, just like ST IV: The Journey Home.

Posted April 10, 2014 by seleneymoon in Space Missions, Star Trek

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