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Archive for January, 2012

‘Cool’ Gas May Form & Strengthen Sunspots

January 31, 2012 Leave a comment

Hydrogen molecules may act as a kind of energy sink that strengthens the magnetic grip that causes sunspots, according to scientists from Hawaii and New Mexico using a new infrared instrument on an old telescope.

“We think that molecular hydrogen plays an important role in the formation and evolution of sunspots,” said Dr. Sarah Jaeggli, a recent University of Hawaii at Manoa graduate whose doctoral research formed a key element of the new findings. She conducted the research with Drs. Haosheng Lin, also from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and Han Uitenbroek of the National Solar Observatory in Sunspot, NM. Jaeggli now is a postdoctoral researcher in the solar group at Montana State University. Their work is published in the Feb. 1, 2012, issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

Full Story: http://www.nso.edu/press/FIRS/

NASA Releases First Multi-Player Facebook Game

January 30, 2012 1 comment

NASA has launched its first multi-player online game to test players’ knowledge of the space program. Who was the first American to walk in space? Who launched the first liquid-fueled rocket? These are only a few of the questions players can answer in Space Race Blastoff.

Available on Facebook, Space Race Blastoff tests players’ knowledge of NASA history, technology, science and pop culture. Players who correctly answer questions earn virtual badges depicting NASA astronauts, spacecraft and celestial objects. Players also earn points they can use to obtain additional badges to complete sets and earn premium badges.

“Space Race Blastoff opens NASA’s history and research to a wide new audience of people accustomed to using social media,” said David Weaver, NASA’s associate administrator for communications. “Space experts and novices will learn new things about how exploration continues to impact our world.”

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/jan/HQ_12-034_Space_Race_Blastoff_Facebook.html

Astrophysicist Chryssa Kouveliotou Wins 2012 Heineman Prize

January 30, 2012 Leave a comment

The American Institute of Physics (AIP) and the American Astronomical Society (AAS) are pleased to announce that renowned astrophysicist Chryssa Kouveliotou, Ph.D., has been selected as the 2012 recipient of the Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics, which is given annually to recognize outstanding work in the field.

Her citation reads: “For her extensive accomplishments and discoveries in the areas of gamma ray bursts and their afterglows, soft gamma repeaters, and magnetars. Particularly notable are Dr. Kouveliotou’s abilities to create collaborations and her effectiveness and insights in using multiwavelength observations.”

The award will be presented at the American Astronomical Society’s 221st Meeting, January 2013, in Long Beach, Calif., at which Kouveliotou will give a plenary lecture.

Full Story: http://aip.org/press_release/2012_heineman_astrophysics.html

New X2 Solar Flare & Asteroid Flyby

January 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Asteroid Flyby

Newly-discovered asteroid 2012 BX34 is flying past Earth today only 77,000 km (0.2 lunar distances) away. There is no danger of a collision with the 14-meter wide space rock.

 

X2 Solar Flare

Departing sunspot 1402 unleashed an X2-class solar flare today, Jan. 27th, at 18:37 UT. Sunspot 1402 is rotating onto the far side of the sun, so the blast site was not facing Earth. Nevertheless, energetic protons accelerated by the blast are now surrounding our planet, and an intensifying S1-class radiation storm is in progress.

 

Full Stories: http://spaceweather.com/archive.php?month=01&day=27&year=2012&view=view

Improved Forecasting to Coincide with Peak in Solar Activity

January 27, 2012 Leave a comment

After years of relative somnolence, the sun is beginning to stir. By the time it’s fully awake in about 20 months, the team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., charged with researching and tracking solar activity, will have at their disposal a greatly enhanced forecasting capability.

Goddard’s Space Weather Laboratory recently received support under NASA’s Space Technology Program Game Changing Program to implement “ensemble forecasting,” a computer technique already used by meteorologists to track potential paths and impacts of hurricanes and other severe weather events.

Instead of analyzing one set of solar-storm conditions, as is the case now, Goddard forecasters will be able to simultaneously produce as many as 100 computerized forecasts by calculating multiple possible conditions or, in the parlance of Heliophysicists, parameters. Just as important, they will be able to do this quickly and use the information to provide alerts of space weather storms that could potentially be harmful to astronauts and NASA spacecraft.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/ensemble-forecasting.html

MSL’s RAD Measures Radiation from Solar Storm

January 27, 2012 Leave a comment

The largest solar particle event since 2005 hit the Earth, Mars and the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft travelling in-between, allowing the onboard Radiation Assessment Detector to measure the radiation a human astronaut could be exposed to en route to the Red Planet.

On Sunday, a huge coronal mass ejection erupted from the surface of the sun, spewing a cloud of charged particles in our direction, causing a strong “S3” solar storm. A NASA Goddard Space Weather Lab animation of the CME illustrates how the disturbance impacts Earth, Mars and several spacecraft. Solar storms can affect the Earth’s aurorae, satellites, air travel and GPS systems; no harmful effects to the Mars Science Laboratory have been detected from this solar event.

 

Full Story: http://www.swri.org/9what/releases/2012/rad-solarstorm.htm

Texas Students to Speak Live With Space Station Crew

January 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Fifth- through eighth-grade students at Asa Low Intermediate School in Mansfield, Texas, will speak with NASA’s Expedition 30 Commander Dan Burbank and Flight Engineer Don Pettit aboard the International Space Station at 11:50 a.m. EST on Tuesday, Jan. 31. Media representatives are invited to attend. The event will be broadcast live on NASA Television.

On Jan. 27, the students will take part in a series of activities focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The school also will host a space night to share lessons about space with students. Administrators temporarily have renamed the school “N”Asa Low in honor of the event.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/jan/HQ_M12-014_ISS_Mansfield_Event.html

Astronaut Jerry Ross, First Seven-Time Flier, Retires

January 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Jerry Ross, the first person to launch into space seven times, has retired from NASA. In a career that spanned more than three decades, Ross spent almost 1,400 hours in space and conducted nine spacewalks to rank third on the list of most extravehicular activity time in space.

“Jerry has been instrumental in the success of many of NASA’s human spaceflight missions and numerous spacewalks,” said Peggy Whitson, chief of the Astronaut Office. “Not only were his skills and operational excellence key in major spaceflight activities but his expertise and vigilance also helped all those who followed in his footsteps. We are the better for his years of dedication to the corps and NASA.”

Ross joined NASA in 1979 as a payload officer and flight controller. In 1980, he was selected as an astronaut. He and Franklin Chang-Diaz are the only two astronauts to have flown into space seven times. In addition to Ross’ spaceflight mission accomplishments, he went on to serve NASA in the critical role of managing the Vehicle Integration Test Office.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/jan/HQ_12-033_Ross_Retires.html

NASA’s Kepler Announces 11 Planetary Systems Hosting 26 Planets

January 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Image credit: NASA Ames/Dan Fabrycky, University of California, Santa Cruz

Image credit: NASA Ames/Dan Fabrycky, University of California, Santa Cruz

NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered 11 new planetary systems hosting 26 confirmed planets. These discoveries nearly double the number of verified Kepler planets and triple the number of stars known to have more than one planet that transits, or passes in front of, its host star. Such systems will help astronomers better understand how planets form.

The planets orbit close to their host stars and range in size from 1.5 times the radius of Earth to larger than Jupiter. Fifteen of them are between Earth and Neptune in size, and further observations will be required to determine which are rocky like Earth and which have thick gaseous atmospheres like Neptune. The planets orbit their host star once every six to 143 days. All are closer to their host star than Venus is to our sun.

“Prior to the Kepler mission, we knew of perhaps 500 exoplanets across the whole sky,” said Doug Hudgins, Kepler program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Now, in just two years staring at a patch of sky not much bigger than your fist, Kepler has discovered more than 60 planets and more than 2,300 planet candidates. This tells us that our galaxy is positively loaded with planets of all sizes and orbits.”

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/kepler/news/new-multi-systems.html

Cassini Significant Events 01/18/2012 – 01/24/2012

January 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Capture of the telemetry data that is carried on Cassini’s 1-way downlink signal, whose frequency is based on the Auxiliary Oscillator in the absence of an operable Ultrastable Oscillator (USO), continues to be normal. The most recent spacecraft tracking and telemetry data were acquired on Jan. 24 from the Deep Space Network 70 meter Deep Space Station 43 at Canberra, Australia. The Cassini spacecraft is in an excellent state of health with all subsystems operating normally except for the Cassini Plasma Spectrometer remaining powered off and the anomalous USO. Information on the present position and speed of the Cassini spacecraft may be found on the “Present Position” page at:http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/presentposition/.

While the spacecraft started inward from apoapsis, Saturn and Titan were again observed with the Optical Remote Sensing (ORS) instruments. The Cassini Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) measured oxygen compounds (H2O, CO2) in Saturn’s stratosphere as a function of latitude, and the Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS) measured winds. The Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph imaged Titan and Saturn in the extreme- and far-ultraviolet parts of the spectrum, and ISS led a joint-ORS photometric measurement of Saturn known as an emission-angle scan. CIRS acquired a Saturn mid-infrared map to determine upper troposphere and tropopause temperatures. On Tuesday, ISS observed the small, irregular moon Siarnaq from approximately 26 million kilometers away. Preparations were made for the 56th Project Science Group meeting to be held next week at JPL.

Full Story: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/news/significantevents/significantevents20120126/