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Archive for September 14, 2011

Neutron Star Blows Away Models for Thermonuclear Explosions

September 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Amsterdam astronomers have discovered a neutron star that confounds existing models for thermonuclear explosions in such extreme objects. In the case of the accreting pulsar IGR J17480-2446, it seems to be a strong magnetic field that causes some parts of the star to burn more brightly than the rest. The results of the study, by Yuri Cavecchi et al. (2011), are to be published in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The neutron star concerned is part of the X-ray binary IGR J17480-2446 (hereafter J17480). X-ray binaries consist of a neutron star and a companion star in orbit around each other. Neutron stars, which are about 1.5 times as massive as the Sun, with a diameter of about 25 km, have a strong gravitational field that can pull gas from the companion star. This gas can build up on the neutron star surface and explode in a fast, high-energy thermonuclear reaction. Normally, the entire surface of the star explodes uniformly. However, in about 10 percent of cases, some parts of the star become much brighter than the rest. Why this occurs is not understood.

Full Story: http://astronews.us/2011-09-14-1553.html

NASA Announces Design For New Deep Space Exploration System

September 14, 2011 Leave a comment

NASA has selected the design of a new Space Launch System that will take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before, create high-quality jobs here at home, and provide the cornerstone for America’s future human space exploration efforts.

This new heavy-lift rocket-in combination with a crew capsule already under development, increased support for the commercialization of astronaut travel to low Earth orbit, an extension of activities on the International Space Station until at least 2020, and a fresh focus on new technologies-is key to implementing the plan laid out by President Obama and Congress in the bipartisan 2010 NASA Authorization Act, which the president signed last year. The booster will be America’s most powerful since the Saturn V rocket that carried Apollo astronauts to the moon and will launch humans to places no one has gone before.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/sep/HQ_11-301_SLS_Decision.html

NASA Announces Major Decisions For Future Human Spaceflight

September 14, 2011 Leave a comment

NASA leaders will participate in two media events Wednesday, Sept. 14, to discuss the new Space Launch System that will take American astronauts farther into space than ever before.

At 10 a.m. EDT, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will join members of Congress, including Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Bill Nelson, for a news conference in SDG-50 on the ground floor of the Senate Dirksen Building in Washington.

The event will be webcast live on the Senate Commerce Committee’s website at:

http://commerce.senate.gov

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/sep/HQ_M11-194_SLS_Decision.html

Last Look at Asteroid Planned Before OSIRIS-REx Launch

September 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Every six years, asteroid 1999 RQ36 nears the Earth — by cosmic standards — and researchers are launching a global observation campaign to learn as much as possible in preparation for the OSIRIS-REx, the first U.S.-led mission to bring back a sample of pristine asteroid material.

Astronomers working on the U.S.’ first asteroid-sample return mission – the NASA mission named OSIRIS-REx – have begun a months-long observing campaign that is the last chance to study their target asteroid from Earth before the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft launches in 2016.

OSIRIS-REx is a quest to bring back to Earth a good-sized sample of an asteroid unaltered since solar system formation – a sample that very well could contain molecules that seeded life.

Full Story: http://uanews.org/node/41796

Statement on Importance of Supporting Planetary Exploration

September 14, 2011 Leave a comment

The AAS Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS), the world’s largest organization of professional planetary scientists, today issued a statement highlighting the discoveries of highly successful planetary missions over the last decade and the importance of supporting ongoing and future missions in light of recent budgetary discussions within NASA including the James Webb Space Telescope.

The DPS leadership stressed the importance of following the priorities identified by the planetary sciences community in the decadal survey (“Vision and Voyages”) that laid out a prioritized plan for solar system exploration from 2013 to 2022.

Full Story: http://www.astronews.us/2011-09-14-1140.html