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Montana Students Submit Winning Names for NASA Lunar Spacecraft

January 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Twin NASA spacecraft that achieved orbit around the moon New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day have new names thanks to elementary students in Bozeman, Montana. Their winning entry, “Ebb and Flow,” was selected as part of a nation-wide school contest that began in October 2011.

The names were submitted by fourth graders from the Emily Dickinson Elementary School. Nearly 900 classrooms with more than 11,000 students from 45 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, participated in the contest. Previously named Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory, or GRAIL A and B, the washing machine-sized spacecraft begin science operations in March.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/jan/HQ_12-019_GRAIL_Name.html

Scientists Prepare to Take First-Ever Picture of a Black Hole

January 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Astronomers, physicists and scientists from related fields across the world will convene in Tucson, Ariz. on Jan. 18 to discuss an endeavor that only a few years ago would have been regarded as nothing less than outrageous.

The conference is organized by Dimitrios Psaltis, an associate professor of astrophysics at the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory, and Dan Marrone, an assistant professor of astronomy at Steward Observatory.

“Nobody has ever taken a picture of a black hole,” Psaltis said. “We are going to do just that.”

“Even five years ago, such a proposal would not have seemed credible,” added Sheperd Doeleman, assistant director of the Haystack Observatory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, who is the principal investigator of theEvent Horizon Telescope, as the project is dubbed. “Now we have the technological means to take a stab at it.”

Full Story: http://uanews.org/node/44218

A New View of an Icon

January 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Credits: far-infrared: ESA/Herschel/PACS/SPIRE/Hill, Motte, HOBYS Key Programme Consortium; X-ray: ESA/XMM-Newton/EPIC/XMM-Newton-SOC/Boulanger

Credits: far-infrared: ESA/Herschel/PACS/SPIRE/Hill, Motte, HOBYS Key Programme Consortium; X-ray: ESA/XMM-Newton/EPIC/XMM-Newton-SOC/Boulanger

The Eagle Nebula as never seen before. In 1995, the Hubble Space Telescope’s ‘Pillars of Creation’ image of the Eagle Nebula became one of the most iconic images of the 20th century. Now, two of ESA’s orbiting observatories have shed new light on this enigmatic star-forming region.

The Eagle Nebula is 6500 light-years away in the constellation of Serpens. It contains a young hot star cluster, NGC6611, visible with modest back-garden telescopes, that is sculpting and illuminating the surrounding gas and dust, resulting in a huge hollowed-out cavity and pillars, each several light-years long.

The Hubble image hinted at new stars being born within the pillars, deeply inside small clumps known as ‘evaporating gaseous globules’ or EGGs. Owing to obscuring dust, Hubble’s visible light picture was unable to see inside and prove that young stars were indeed forming.

Full Story: http://www.esa.int/export/esaSC/SEMG4NMXDXG_index_0.html

Planck’s HFI Completes Survey of Early Universe

January 17, 2012 Leave a comment

The High Frequency Instrument on ESA’s Planck mission has completed its survey of the remnant light from the Big Bang. The sensor ran out of coolant on Saturday as expected, ending its ability to detect this faint energy.

“Planck has been a wonderful mission; spacecraft and instruments have been performing outstandingly well, creating a treasure trove of scientific data for us to work with,” said Jan Tauber, ESA’s Planck Project Scientist.

Less than half a million years after the Universe was created in the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago, the fireball cooled to temperatures of about 4000ºC, filling the sky with bright, visible light.

As the Universe has expanded, that light has faded and moved to microwave wavelengths.

By studying patterns imprinted in that light today, scientists hope to understand the Big Bang and the very early Universe, long before galaxies and stars first formed.

Full Story: http://www.esa.int/export/esaSC/SEMXWNMXDXG_index_0.html

Keeping an Eye on the Universe

January 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Astronomers from the California Institute of Technology and the University of Arizona have released the largest data set ever collected that documents the brightening and dimming of stars and other celestial objects – 200 million in total.

The night sky is filled with objects such as asteroids that dash across the sky and others – such as exploding stars and variable stars – that flash, dim, and brighten. Studying such phenomena can help astronomers better understand the evolution of stars, massive black holes in the centers of galaxies, and the structure of the Milky Way.

These types of objects also were essential for the recent discovery of dark energy – the mysterious energy that dominates the expansion of the universe – that earned last year’s Nobel Prize.

http://uanews.org/node/43845

LRO’s LAMP Reveals Lunar Surface Features

January 17, 2012 Leave a comment

New maps produced by the Lyman Alpha Mapping Project aboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter reveal features at the Moon’s northern and southern poles in regions that lie in perpetual darkness. LAMP, developed by Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®), uses a novel method to peer into these so-called permanently shadowed regions (PSRs), making visible the invisible. LAMP’s principal investigator is Dr. Alan Stern, associate vice president of the SwRI Space Science and Engineering Division.

The LAMP maps show that many PSRs are darker at far-ultraviolet wavelengths and redder than nearby surface areas that receive sunlight. The darker regions are consistent with large surface porosities — indicating “fluffy” soils — while the reddening is consistent with the presence of water frost on the surface.

Full Story: http://www.swri.org/9what/releases/2012/lamp.htm

Cassini Significant Events 1/4/12 – 1/10/12

January 17, 2012 Leave a comment

The most recent spacecraft telemetry was acquired on Jan. 9 from the Deep Space Network tracking complex at Goldstone, California. The Cassini spacecraft is in an excellent state of health and with the exception of the CAPS instrument being powered off, all subsystems are operating normally. 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/.

Full Story: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/news/significantevents/significantevents20120112/

NASA’S Orion Spacecraft to Land in Oklahoma, Texas and Alabama

January 17, 2012 Leave a comment

A test version of NASA’s Orion spacecraft soon will make a cross-country journey, giving residents in three states the chance to see a full scale test version of the vehicle that will take humans into deep space.

The crew module will make stops during a trip from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The planned stops include Jan. 23-25 at Science Museum Oklahoma in Oklahoma City; Jan. 27-29 at Victory Park and the American Airlines Center in Dallas; and, Jan. 31-Feb. 2 at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. Engineers, program officials, astronauts and NASA spokespeople will be available to speak with the media and the public.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/jan/HQ_M12-006_Orion_Tour.html

NASA Moves Shuttle Engines From Kennedy To Stennis

January 17, 2012 Leave a comment

The relocation of the RS-25D space shuttle main engine inventory from Kennedy Space Center’s Engine Shop in Cape Canaveral, Fla., is underway. The RS-25D flight engines, repurposed for NASA’s Space Launch System, are being moved to NASA’s Stennis Space Center in south Mississippi.

The Space Launch System (SLS) is a new heavy-lift launch vehicle that will expand human presence beyond low-Earth orbit and enable new missions of exploration across the solar system. The Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., is leading the design and development of the SLS for NASA, including the engine testing program. SLS will carry the Orion spacecraft, its crew, cargo, equipment and science experiments to destinations in deep space.

“The relocation of RS-25D engine assets represents a significant cost savings to the SLS Program by consolidating SLS engine assembly and test operations at a single facility,” said William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/jan/HQ_12-018_Shuttle_Engines_Move.html

NASA’s Fermi Space Telescope Explores New Energy Extremes

January 17, 2012 Leave a comment

After more than three years in space, NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is extending its view of the high-energy sky into a largely unexplored electromagnetic range. Today, the Fermi team announced its first census of energy sources in this new realm.

Fermi’s Large Area Telescope (LAT) scans the entire sky every three hours, continually deepening its portrait of the sky in gamma rays, the most energetic form of light. While the energy of visible light falls between about 2 and 3 electron volts, the LAT detects gamma rays with energies ranging from 20 million to more than 300 billion electron volts (GeV).

At higher energies, gamma rays are rare. Above 10 GeV, even Fermi’s LAT detects only one gamma ray every four months.

“Before Fermi, we knew of only four discrete sources above 10 GeV, all of them pulsars,” said David Thompson, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “With the LAT, we’ve found hundreds, and we’re showing for the first time just how diverse the sky is at these high energies.”

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/GLAST/news/energy-extremes.html