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Archive for January 9, 2012

NASA Administrator Meets With Apollo Astronauts to Resolve Artifact Ownership Issues

January 9, 2012 Leave a comment

The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden regarding the ownership of early space exploration mementos and artifacts:

“Earlier today, I had a good meeting with former Apollo astronauts Jim Lovell, Gene Cernan, Charlie Duke, Rusty Schweickart and other representatives of former astronauts and agency personnel, where we discussed how to resolve the misunderstandings and ownership questions regarding flight mementos and other artifacts.

“These are American heroes, fellow astronauts, and personal friends who have acted in good faith, and we have committed to work together to find the right policy and legal paths forward to address outstanding ownership questions.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/jan/HQ_12-006_Astro_Artifacts.html

NASA’s Rossi X-Ray Timing Explorer Completes Mission Operations

January 9, 2012 Leave a comment

After 16 years in space, NASA’s Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) has made its last observation. The satellite provided unprecedented views into the extreme environments around white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes.

RXTE sent data from its last science observation to the ground early on Jan. 4. After performing engineering tests, controllers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., successfully decommissioned the satellite on Jan. 5.

RXTE far exceeded its original science goals and leaves astronomers with a scientific bounty for years to come. Data from the mission have resulted in more than 2,200 papers in refereed journals, 92 doctoral theses, and more than 1,000 rapid notifications alerting astronomers around the globe to new astronomical activity.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/jan/HQ_12-005_RXTE_Mission_Ends.html

Fifty-Seven Student Rocket Teams to Take NASA Launch Challenge

January 9, 2012 Leave a comment

More than 500 students from middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities in 29 states will show their rocketeering prowess in the 2011-12 NASA Student Launch Projects flight challenge. The teams will build and test large-scale rockets of their own design in April 2012.

NASA created the twin Student Launch Projects to spark students’ imaginations, challenge their problem-solving skills and give them real-world experience. The project aims to complement the science, mathematics and engineering lessons they study in the classroom.

“Just as NASA partners with innovative companies such as ATK to pursue the nation’s space exploration mission, these young rocketeers pool their talent and ingenuity to solve complex engineering problems and fly sophisticated machines,” said Tammy Rowan, manager of Marshall’s Academic Affairs Office.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/jan/HQ_12-002_Student_Rocketeers.html

New Frontiers of Dark Matter Reached

January 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Credit: Van Waerbeke, Heymans, and CFHTLens collaboration.

Credit: Van Waerbeke, Heymans, and CFHTLens collaboration.

For the first time, astronomers have mapped dark matter on the largest scale ever observed. The results, presented by Dr Catherine Heymans of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and Associate Professor Ludovic Van Waerbeke of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, are being presented today to the American Astronomical Society meeting in Austin, Texas. Their findings reveal a Universe comprised of an intricate cosmic web of dark matter and galaxies that spans more than one billion light years.

An international team of researchers lead by Van Waerbeke and Heymans achieved their results by analysing images of about 10 million galaxies in four different regions of the sky. They studied the distortion of the light emitted from these galaxies, which is bent as it passes massive clumps of dark matter during its journey to Earth.

Their project, known as the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Lensing Survey (CFHTLenS), uses data from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Legacy Survey. This accumulated images over five years using the wide field imaging camera MegaCam, a 1 degree by 1 degree field-of-view 340 Megapixel camera on the CFHTin Hawaii.

Galaxies included in the survey are typically six billion light years away. The light captured by the telescope images used in the study was emitted when the Universe was six billion years old – approximately half the age it is today.

The team’s result has been suspected for a long time from studies based on computer simulations, but was difficult to verify owing to the invisible nature of dark matter. This is the first direct glimpse at dark matter on large scales showing the cosmic web in all directions.

Full Story: http://www.cfht.hawaii.edu/en/news/CFHTLens/

New Telescope Will Look at Polarization of X-rays

January 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Henric Krawczynski, PhD, professor of physics in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, is a big-game hunter of the astrophysical variety — he hunts celestial beasts, not beasts of the forest. The more exotic and wilier the prey, the keener he becomes, and the more his eyes light up.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has just funded Krawczynski and his colleague, assistant research professor Matthias Beilicke, PhD, to chase some of the most exotic astronomical prey: black holes, those famously elusive quarry that cleverly swallow most of the evidence of their existence.

He will be doing it with an instrument Jules Verne would appreciate, a balloon-borne telescope sensitive to the polarization of light that will float at an altitude of 130,000 feet for a day. During that time, the balloon will stare fixedly at two black holes in our galaxy, an extragalactic black hole, an accreting neutron star, the Crab nebula, and other targets yet to be chosen.

Called X-Calibur, the instrument, which is sensitive to “hard” X-rays with energies between 20,000 and 60,000 electron volts, is scheduled to go up in the spring 2013 or fall 2014. It will be flown at roughly the same time as another mission, GEMS, a satellite-borne instrument sensitive to “soft” X-rays, with energies between 2,000 and 10,000 electron volts. For comparison, visible light has energies between 2 and 3 electrons volts.

Full Story: http://news.wustl.edu/news/Pages/23162.aspx