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Archive for May, 2012

Subaru Telescope Pioneers The Use Of Adaptive Optics For Optical Observations


A research team from the University of Tokyo/Kavli IPMU, Ehime University, and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) has succeeded in conducting the first, full-scale scientific observationswith an adaptive optics (AO) system at optical wavelengths. The team connected the Kyoto Tridimensional Spectrograph II with the Subaru Telescope’s Adaptive Optics system and improved the spatial resolution of images by a factor of 2.5 over images taken without AO. Observations using Kyoto3DII coupled with AO 188 are likely to reveal the detailed structures and the formation processes of galaxies.

Unlike space telescopes, ground-based telescopes must deal with observational distortions from atmospheric turbulence that degrades the spatial resolution of images. Adaptive optics systems (Note 2) correct for the distortion of light in real time and facilitate the production of high-resolution images. However, the AO systems of large, ground-based telescopes have only been used with infrared instruments. The turbulence of Earth’s atmosphere distorts optical light more rapidly and significantly than infrared light. Therefore, the technical challenge of an AO system operating in optical wavelengths is to make faster and finer corrections of light distortion to obtain higher resolution images. Given the huge light-gathering capacity of the Subaru Telescope’s 8.2 m primary mirror and the high performance of its AO 188 system in the infrared, the research team hypothesized that this system could also yield high-resolution images at optical wavelengths.

Full Story:  http://www.naoj.org/Topics/2012/05/14/index.html

SETI Institute’s Jill Tarter Takes Issue With Stephen Hawking, MIB3, Prometheus And Battleship


Mountain View, California –The creative minds who fill movies and TV shows with angry aliens will soon be defending their vision of these extraterrestrial antagonists at SETIcon, a public event sponsored by the SETI Institute. The Institute is known for its science-based search for radio signals that would betray the existence of intelligent beings on distant worlds. SETIcon will take place June 22 through 24 in the heart of the Silicon Valley, and will feature a celebrity banquet honoring Jill Tarter who, for the last 35 years, has led the search for extraterrestrial intelligence at the SETI Institute.

Full Story: http://seticon.com/2012/seti-institute%e2%80%99s-jill-tarter-takes-issue-with-stephen-hawking-mib3-prometheus-and-battleship/

NASA Commercial Crew Partner Boeing Meets Software Milestone


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The Boeing Company has successfully completed a new milestone in the development of software that will operate its Crew Space Transportation (CST) spacecraft. The company is one of NASA’s partners developing commercial crew transportation capabilities to ferry U.S. astronauts to and from low Earth orbit and the International Space Station.

With the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) of its software on May 18, the company now has completed more than 40 milestones under partnerships supporting NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP).

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/may/HQ_12-170_Boeing_CCP_Software_Milestone.html

NASA Receives Widespread Concepts For Future Mars Missions


WASHINGTON — NASA’s call to scientists and engineers to help plan a new strategy to explore Mars has resulted in almost double the amount of expected submissions with unique and bold ideas.

About 400 concepts or abstracts were submitted to the Concepts and Approaches for Mars Exploration Workshop in Houston, which was organized to gather input for the reformulation of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. Submissions came from individuals and teams that included professional researchers, undergraduate and graduate students, NASA centers, federal laboratories, industry, and international partner organizations.

NASA is reformulating the Mars Exploration Program to be responsive to high-priority science goals and President Obama’s challenge of sending humans to Mars orbit in the 2030s

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/may/HQ_12-169_Mars_Concept_Group.html

Lowell Observatory Launches New Pro/Am Research Initiative

May 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Lowell Observatory is proud to announce the Lowell Amateur Research Initiative (LARI). This program seeks to pair the ever-growing and technically sophisticated amateur astronomy community in exciting research projects with Lowell astronomers.

A passionate researcher, Percival Lowell always sought to communicate new ideas and the joy of astronomy research to the public. In that same spirit, LARI brings together professional and amateur astronomers in a way that affords interested amateurs an opportunity to participate in cutting-edge research and potentially make significant contributions to science. Amateurs can help Lowell astronomers in their work and help create dedicated research teams. LARI will expand Lowell Observatory’s education and public outreach missions, and promote greater awareness of astronomy and related sciences.

Full Story: http://www.lowell.edu/news/2012/05/lowell-observatory-launches-new-professionalamateur-initiative/

NASA Offers Guidelines To Protect Historic Sites On The Moon

May 24, 2012 Leave a comment

NASA and the X Prize Foundation of Playa Vista, Calif., announced Thursday the Google Lunar X Prize is recognizing guidelines established by NASA to protect lunar historic sites and preserve ongoing and future science on the moon. The foundation will take the guidelines into account as it judges mobility plans submitted by 26 teams vying to be the first privately-funded entity to visit the moon.
NASA recognizes that many spacefaring nations and commercial entities are on the verge of landing spacecraft on the moon. The agency engaged in a cooperative dialogue with the X Prize Foundation and the Google Lunar X Prize teams to develop the recommendations. NASA and the next generation of lunar explorers share a common interest in preserving humanity’s first steps on another celestial body and protecting ongoing science from the potentially damaging effects of nearby landers.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/may/HQ_12-168_Lunar_Protection_Guidelines.html

Get Ready for the Transit of Venus!

May 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Scientists and amateur astronomers around the world are preparing to observe the rare occurrence of Venus crossing the face of the Sun on 5-6 June, an event that will not be seen again for over a hundred years. The occasion also celebrates the first transit while there is a spacecraft orbiting the planet – ESA’s Venus Express.

ESA will be reporting live from the Arctic island of Spitsbergen, where the Venus Express science team will be discussing the latest scientific results from the mission while enjoying a unique view of the 2012 transit under the ’midnight Sun’.

A transit of Venus occurs only when Venus passes directly between the Sun and Earth. Since the orbital plane of Venus is not exactly aligned with that of Earth, transits occur very rarely, in pairs eight years apart but separated by more than a century. The last transit was enjoyed in June 2004 but the next will not be seen until 2117. Venus transits are of great historical significance because they gave astronomers a way to measure the size of the Solar System.

Full Story: http://www.esa.int/export/esaSC/SEMLSGZWD2H_index_0.html