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NASA Receives Second Highest Number Of Astronaut Applications

February 6, 2012 Leave a comment

More than 6,300 individuals applied to become a NASA astronaut between Nov. 15, 2011 and Jan. 27, the second highest number of applications ever received by the agency. After a thorough selection process, which includes interviews and medical examinations, nine to 15 people will be selected to become part of the 21st astronaut class.

“This is a great time to join the NASA family,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “Our newest astronauts could launch aboard the first commercial rockets to the space station the next generation of scientists and engineers who will help us reach higher and create an American economy that is built to last.”

The Astronaut Selection Office staff will review the applications to identify those meeting the minimum requirements. Next, an expanded team, comprised mostly of active astronauts, will review those applications to determine which ones are highly qualified. Those individuals will be invited to Johnson Space Center for in-person interviews and medical evaluations.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/feb/HQ_12-041_ASCAN.html

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Scientists Chart High-Precision Map of Milky Way’s Magnetic Fields

February 6, 2012 Leave a comment

Scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory are part of an international team that has pooled their radio observations into a database, producing the highest precision map to date of the magnetic field within our own Milky Way galaxy.

The team, led by the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA), used the database they created and were able to apply information theory techniques to produce the map, explains NRL’s Dr. Tracy Clarke, a member of the research team. “The key to applying these new techniques is that this project brings together over 30 researchers with 26 different projects and more than 41,000 measurements across the sky. The resulting database is equivalent to peppering the entire sky with sources separated by an angular distance of two full moons.” This incredible volume of data results in a new, unique all-sky map that gives scientists the ability to measure the magnetic field structure of the Milky Way in unparalleled detail.

Full Story: http://www.nrl.navy.mil/media/news-releases/2012/scientists-chart-high-precision-map-of-milky-ways-magnetic-fields

Cassini Significant Events 01/25/2012 – 01/31/2012

February 6, 2012 Leave a comment

The most recent spacecraft tracking and telemetry data in this reporting period were acquired on Feb. 1 from the Deep Space Network 34 meter Station 26 at Goldstone, California. The Cassini spacecraft is in an excellent state of health with all subsystems operating normally except for the known issues with the Cassini Plasma Spectrometer and the Ultrastable Oscillator. 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/.

This week, command sequence S72 started its science observations with a Titan Meteorological Campaign, in which the Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS) looked for cloud events. The Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS) then executed slow scans in the extreme- and far-ultraviolet across Saturn’s illuminated hemisphere. The Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) concentrated on the remains of the storm in Saturn’s northern hemisphere, which has been raging since December 2010. Scientists think the String of Pearls (http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/news/newsreleases/newsrelease20061011/) may be hidden beneath the storm, and after the storm wanes will try to discover whether the feature may have been destroyed by the tempest. ISS then acquired images over a range of latitudes at low, medium, and high emission angles as the planet rotated. (Emission angle is the angle between the camera boresight and a line normal to the surface point being imaged; straight down is zero degrees.)

The Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) mapped Saturn’s prime meridian from the north pole to the equator to determine the upper troposphere and tropopause temperatures with spatial resolutions of about two degrees of latitude and longitude. Following this, VIMS acquired a high spatial resolution map of the dynamics of Saturn’s deep atmosphere. VIMS imaged the same area twice, measuring winds via motions of the clouds. Since these observations were made while the spacecraft was near periapsis, clouds as small as 300 kilometers wide were detectable.

RADAR mapped the same deep region at and around periapsis, obtaining radiometry data at microwave wavelengths much longer than those seen by VIMS. These RADAR maps looked for ammonia gas to reveal the variability of this condensable constituent over the same area where VIMS mapped clouds (formed either via chemical reaction with hydrogen sulfide, thus forming ammonia hydrosulfide clouds, or via direct condensation into ammonia clouds). Unfortunately, this carefully collected RADAR data set and most of the corresponding VIMS data were lost when heavy Australian summer rainstorms drowned out Cassini’s signal while it was arriving at Earth on Sunday, January 29.

Targeted Titan encounter T-81 then executed perfectly on January 30, as detailed below.

Full Story: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/news/significantevents/significantevents20120203/

Stephen Colbert Advocates NASA Space Station Research

February 6, 2012 Leave a comment

Stephen Colbert, host of the nightly ‘The Colbert Report,’ said in a new NASA public service announcement released today that he’s always been a huge fan of space.

The talk show host tells his Colbert Nation — and the world — that he now likes space even more “because NASA is doing great things on the International Space Station (ISS).”

The completion of the ISS ushered in a new era of research and discovery in a near gravity-free environment. Research on the orbital laboratory is focused on four areas: human health and exploration; basic life and physical sciences; earth and space science; and technology development to enable future exploration.

Colbert specifically mentions the agency’s work aboard the space station to develop new vaccines to fight infectious and deadly diseases, such as salmonella and pneumonia. As resistance toward current antibiotics becomes more common, there is an increasing need for alternative treatments.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/feb/HQ_12-031_Colbert_PSA.html

The Art of Recycling Pulsars

February 6, 2012 Leave a comment

Image Credit: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center / Dana Berry

Image Credit: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center / Dana Berry

Millisecond pulsars are strongly magnetized, old neutron stars in binary systems which have been spun up to high rotational frequencies by accumulation of mass and angular momentum from a companion star. Today we know of about 200 such pulsars with spin periods between 1.4-10 milliseconds. These are located in both the Galactic Disk and in Globular Clusters.

Since the first millisecond pulsar was detected in 1982 is has remained a challenge for theorists to explain their spin periods, magnetic fields and ages. As an example, there is the “turn-off” problem, i.e. what happens to the spin of the pulsar when the donor star terminates its mass-transfer process?

“We have now, for the first time, combined detailed numerical stellar evolution models with calculations of the braking torque acting on the spinning pulsar”, says Thomas Tauris, the author of the present study. “The result is that the millisecond pulsars loose about half of their rotational energy in the so-called Roche-lobe decoupling phase.” This phase is describing the termination of the mass transfer in the binary system. Hence, radio-emitting millisecond pulsars should spin slightly slower than their progenitors, X-ray emitting millisecond pulsars which are still accreting material from their donor star. This is exactly what the observational data seem to suggest. Furthermore, these new findings can help explain why some millisecond pulsars appear to have characteristic ages exceeding the age of the Universe and perhaps why no sub-millisecond radio pulsars exist.

Full Story: http://www.mpifr-bonn.mpg.de/public/pr/pr-pulsar-ttauris-feb2012-en.html

Hubble Zooms in on a Magnified Galaxy

February 6, 2012 Leave a comment

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, J. Rigby (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), K. Sharon (Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, University of Chicago), and M. Gladders and E. Wuyts (University of Chicago)

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, J. Rigby (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), K. Sharon (Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, University of Chicago), and M. Gladders and E. Wuyts (University of Chicago)

Thanks to the presence of a natural “zoom lens” in space, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope got a uniquely close-up look at the brightest “magnified” galaxy yet discovered.

This observation provides a unique opportunity to study the physical properties of a galaxy vigorously forming stars when the universe was only one-third its present age.

A so-called gravitational lens is produced when space is warped by a massive foreground object, whether it is the Sun, a black hole, or an entire cluster of galaxies. The light from more-distant background objects is distorted, brightened, and magnified as it passes through this gravitationally disturbed region.

A team of astronomers led by Jane Rigby of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., aimed Hubble at one of the most striking examples of gravitational lensing, a nearly 90-degree arc of light in the galaxy cluster RCS2 032727-132623. Hubble’s view of the distant background galaxy is significantly more detailed than could ever be achieved without the help of the gravitational lens.

Full Story: http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2012/08/full/