Archive

Archive for May, 2012

NASA Lunar Spacecraft Complete Prime Mission Ahead Of Schedule


PASADENA, Calif. — A NASA mission to study the moon from crust to core has completed its prime mission earlier than expected. The team of NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, with twin probes named Ebb and Flow, is now preparing for extended science operations starting Aug. 30 and continuing through Dec. 3, 2012.

The GRAIL mission has gathered unprecedented detail about the internal structure and evolution of the moon. This information will increase our knowledge of how Earth and its rocky neighbors in the inner solar system developed into the diverse worlds we see today.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-146

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NSO To Use Venus Transit To Fine-Tune Search For Other Worlds


A century ago, scientists chased transits of Mercury and Venus in an effort to size up our solar system. In a couple of weeks, they will use the last transit for a century to learn how to size up other solar systems as we search for life in the universe.

“Astronomers in the 18th and 19th centuries observed transits of Mercury and Venus to help measure the distance from Earth to Sun,” said Dr. Frank Hill, director of the National Solar Observatory’s Integrated Synoptic Program. “We have that number nailed down now, but transits are still useful. This one will help us calibrate in several different instruments, and hunt for extrasolar planets with atmospheres.”

Full Story: http://www.nso.edu/press/VenusTransit2012

Ghostly Gamma-Ray Beams Blast From Milky Way’s Center


Cambridge, MA – As galaxies go, our Milky Way is pretty quiet. Active galaxies have cores that glow brightly, powered by supermassive black holes swallowing material, and often spit twin jets in opposite directions. In contrast, the Milky Way’s center shows little activity. But it wasn’t always so peaceful. New evidence of ghostly gamma-ray beams suggests that the Milky Way’s central black hole was much more active in the past.

“These faint jets are a ghost or after-image of what existed a million years ago,” said Meng Su, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), and lead author of a new paper in the Astrophysical Journal.

“They strengthen the case for an active galactic nucleus in the Milky Way’s relatively recent past,” he added.

Full Story: http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/news/2012/pr201216.html

Your Complete Go-To Guide For June’s Transit Of Venus


On June 5th in North and Central America, and June 6th in Asia, Australia, and most of Europe, the planet Venus will cross in front of the Sun. This will be only the eighth such transit of Venus since the invention of the telescope, and the last one until December 10-11, 2117. Visit the URL above for a wide range of images and illustrations to help prepare your coverage of this historic sky event.

“This is it, folks,” says Robert Naeye, Editor in Chief of Sky & Telescope magazine. “Unless modern medicine comes up with a miracle to extend human lifespans, this transit of Venus will be your final opportunity to watch our sister planet cross the Sun’s fiery disk as seen from Earth.”

Full Story: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/about/pressreleases/Your-Complete-Go-To-Guide-for-Junes-Transit-of-Venus-155350785.html

Transit of Venus: Live Webcast June 5, 2012


On June 5, 2012, the Exploratorium presents a live webcast for the viewing of the transit of Venus, an astronomical phenomenon that will not occur again until the years 2117 and 2125.

An Exploratorium crew is webcasting this special 6.5-hour event live from the Mauna Loa Observatory on the big island of Hawaii. A telescope feed will be accompanied by audio commentary every 30 minutes. Visitors to the Exploratorium can view the phenomenon on large screens during museum hours and others worldwide can watch it via the Internet.

Full Story: http://press.exploratorium.edu/transit-of-venus/

NASA Scientist Figures Way To Weigh Space Rock


A scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., has accurately determined the mass of a nearby asteroid from millions of miles away. The celestial equivalent of “guess your weight” was achieved by Steve Chesley of JPL’s Near-Earth Object Program Office by utilizing data from three NASA assets – the Goldstone Solar System Radar in the California desert, the orbiting Spitzer Space telescope, and the NASA-sponsored Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

Incorporating extraordinarily precise observations collected by astronomer Michael Nolan at Arecibo Observatory in September 2011, Arecibo and Goldstone radar observations made in 1999 and 2005, and the gravitational effects of the sun, moon, planets and other asteroids, Chesley was able to calculate how far the asteroid deviated from its anticipated orbit. He found that 1999 RQ36 had deviated from the mathematical model by about 100 miles (160 kilometers)in the past 12 years. The only logical explanation for this orbital change was that the space rock itself was generating a minute propulsive force known in space rock circles as the Yarkovsky effect.

The Yarkovsky effect is named for the 19th-century Russian engineer who first proposed the idea that a small, rocky space object would, over long periods of time, be noticeably nudged in its orbit by the slight push created when it absorbs sunlight and then re-emits that energy as heat. The effect is hard to measure because it’s so infinitesimally small.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-145

OSIRIS-REx Scientists Measure Yarkovsky Effect


Scientists with the University of Arizona-led asteroid sample return mission OSIRIS-REx have measured the orbit of their destination asteroid, 1999 RQ36, with such accuracy they were able to directly determine the drift resulting from a subtle but important force called the Yarkovsky effect – the slight push created when the asteroid absorbs sunlight and re-emits that energy as heat.

The new orbit for the half-kilometer (one-third mile) diameter 1999 RQ36 is the most precise asteroid orbit ever obtained, OSIRIS-REx team member Steven Chesley of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory said. He presented the findings May 19 at the Asteroids, Comets and Meteors 2012 meeting in Niigata, Japan.

Full Story: http://uanews.org/node/47370