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New Webb Telescope Video Takes Viewers ‘Beyond The Visible Light’

September 12, 2012 Leave a comment

There are a lot of things that are hidden from our sight, and NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is going to open up another world in the way we look at the cosmos. The Webb telescope is going to do that by looking beyond visible light at infrared light, and that’s the focus of a new light-hearted, educational animated video.

Viewers will learn about the discovery of infrared radiation, and the electromagnetic spectrum, using simple examples to show objects that may be hidden from visible sight, but apparent in infrared light. Infrared vision enables us to see through gas and dust to warmer objects, like stars. Viewers will also learn what “redshifting” means and what questions can be answered using the amazing new detectors of infrared light being developed on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.

“We found that one of the main questions that gets asked about Webb is, ‘Will it be able to see the same things Hubble sees,’ or ‘Why doesn’t it see visible light?’,” said Tracy Vogel, scriptwriter at the Space Science Telescope Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Md. “This video was an attempt to answer that question — which is a pretty complicated question — in a fast, uncomplicated way. You can explain that using calculations and charts, or you can explain it using rubber duckies and sneezing planets. We like rubber duckies, and we think other people prefer them as well, so that’s what we went with.”

Full Story and Video: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/technology/features/webb-beyond-vis.html

Mars Rover Curiosity Arm Tests Nearly Complete

September 12, 2012 Leave a comment

NASA’s Mars Curiosity team has almost finished robotic arm tests in preparation for the rover to touch and examine its first Martian rock.

Tests with the 7-foot (2.1-meter) arm have allowed the mission team to gain confidence in the arm’s precise maneuvering in Martian temperature and gravity conditions. During these activities, Curiosity has remained at a site it reached by its most recent drive on Sept. 5. The team will resume driving the rover this week and use its cameras to seek the first rock to touch with instruments on the arm.

“We’re about to drive some more and try to find the right rock to begin doing contact science with the arm,” said Jennifer Trosper, Curiosity mission manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2012-288

Hyper Suprime-Cam Ushers In A New Era Of Observational Astronomy

September 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Credit: NAOJ

The installation of Hyper Suprime-Cam (HSC) onto the Subaru Telescope took place on August 16-17, 2012. The availability of this extraordinary new instrument marks the beginning of a new era in observational astronomy and is a testament to the fruits of international collaboration. The 3-ton, 3-meter (9 feet) high instrument mounted at prime focus contains 116 innovative, highly sensitive CCDs. HSC’s 1.5 degree wide field of view (FOV) substantially increases the Subaru Telescope’s FOV beyond that available with the present instrument (the Subaru Prime Focus Camera, Suprime-Cam) by seven times.

Its development has been a science-driven and technologically innovative process targeting the need to address current scientific questions: What are the parameters and properties of dark energy and dark matter? What is the cause of the accelerating expansion of the Universe? HSC can conduct surveys that will provide fundamental data sets for cosmology-related research.

Full Story: http://www.naoj.org/Topics/2012/09/12/index.html

Dark Energy Is Real, Say Portsmouth Astronomers

September 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Dark energy, a mysterious substance thought to be speeding up the expansion of the Universe is really there, according to a team of astronomers at the University of Portsmouth and LMU University Munich.

After a two-year study led by Tommaso Giannantonio and Robert Crittenden, the scientists conclude that the likelihood of its existence stands at 99.996 per cent. Their findings are published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Over a decade ago, astronomers observing the brightness of distant supernovae realised that the expansion of the Universe appeared to be accelerating. The acceleration is attributed to the repulsive force associated with dark energy now thought to make up 73 per cent of the content of the cosmos. The researchers who made this discovery received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2011, but the existence of dark energy remains a topic of hot debate.

Full Story: http://www.ras.org.uk/news-and-press/219-news-2012/2167-dark-energy-is-real-say-portsmouth-astronomers

A Celestial Witch’s Broom? A New View Of The Pencil Nebula

September 12, 2012 Leave a comment

The Pencil Nebula is pictured in a new image from ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. This peculiar cloud of glowing gas is part of a huge ring of wreckage left over after a supernova explosion that took place about 11 000 years ago. This detailed view was produced by the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope.

Despite the tranquil and apparently unchanging beauty of a starry night, the Universe is far from being a quiet place. Stars are being born and dying in an endless cycle, and sometimes the death of a star can create a vista of unequalled beauty as material is blasted out into space to form strange structures in the sky.

This new image shows large, wispy filamentary structures, smaller bright knots of gas and patches of diffuse gas. The nebula’s luminous appearance comes from dense gas regions that have been struck by the supernova shock wave. As the shock wave travels through space, it rams into the interstellar material. At first, the gas was heated to millions of degrees, but it then subsequently cooled down and is still giving off the faint glow that was captured in the new image.

Full Story: http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1236/

SLOOH Space Camera To Track Newly Discovered Potentially Hazardous Asteroid 2012 QG42 On Its Close Approach To Earth

September 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona on August 26, 2012, PHA (potentially hazardous asteroid) 2012 QG42, an asteroid the size of a 14-story building, will make its close approach to Earth Thursday evening (September 13) — just months after newly discovered asteroid 2012 LZ1 paid an unexpected visit to Earth on June 16th. Slooh Space Camera will cover its near-approach on Sept. 13, live on Slooh.com, free to the public, starting at 4:00 p.m. PDT / 7:00 p.m. EDT / 23:00 UTC — accompanied by real-time discussions with Slooh President Patrick Paolucci, Slooh Engineer Paul Cox, and Astronomy Magazine columnist Bob Berman. Viewers can watch live on their PC or favorite iOS/Android mobile device.

The asteroid is estimated to be 190-430 meters (625-1,400 ft) across and will pass within 7.5 times the Moon’s distance from our planet.

Due to its proximity to Earth and size, 2012 QG42 qualifies as a “potentially hazardous asteroid”, which means that it could collide with Earth in the distant future.

Full PDF Text: http://goo.gl/IB5KG

JPL To Stream Mars Curiosity Telecon And Lecture

September 12, 2012 Leave a comment

NASA will host a media teleconference at 11 a.m. PDT (2 p.m. EDT) tomorrow (Wednesday, Sept. 12), to provide a status update on the Curiosity rover’s mission to Mars’ Gale Crater.

The Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft is more than one month into a two-year mission to investigate whether conditions have been favorable for microbial life and preserving clues in the rocks about possible past life.

Also this week, Mars Science Laboratory Project Manager Richard Cook will speak Thursday, Sept. 13 in JPL’s von Karman Auditorium. The lecture, which begins at 7 p.m. PDT (10 p.m. EDT), is open to the public and will be broadcast live with moderated chat, on JPL’s Ustream channel.

Full Story and Links: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2012-287