Courtesy Bill Hartenstein/United Launch AllianceNASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Maria, CA yesterday morning. WISE will scan the sky in infrared light, picking up the glow of hundreds of millions of objects and producing 1.5 million images, one every 11 seconds. The 10 month mission will create images of 99% of the sky with infrared image detectors that are significantly more sensitive to infrared sky features than the sky surveys of previous major infrared space survey telescopes. WISE Deputy Project Scientist Amy Mainzer says the mission will provide what she calls a "Google map to the universe."
Courtesy Public domainIf you’re like me, you’re fretting about what to buy your significant other this coming holiday season. Let it go. We have bigger problems. There’s a humongous star in the constellation Canis Major that’s in its final death throes and could go supernova at any time. VY Canis Majoris, as it is referenced, is the largest star known to science, and is so huge, if it were placed in the center of our Solar System, it would encompass all the space between our Sun and the orbit of the planet Saturn (see diagram). But don’t worry, the unstable red hypergiant is nearly 5000 light-years away, and is being monitored closely (in far-infrared and submillimeter portions of the light spectrum) by the European Space Agency's new space telescope Herschel. Read more here about what's actually going on.
Watch this cool animation by NASA showing how the International Space Station has come together over the past 11 years.
An 11-pound contraption built by LaserMotive of Kent, Wash., successfully climbed up a kilometer high cable suspended from a helicopter in 4 minutes 2 seconds. This qualified them for $900,000. If they had done it in 3 minutes the prize would have been 1.1 million dollars. In four years of the power-beaming competition, LaserMotive is the only competitor to qualify for a cash prize.
Million dollar prizes are motivating research and development in areas that probably wouldn’t be done otherwise, said Andrew Petro, manager of NASA’s Centennial Challenges program. Many of these challenges have just finished.
Winner in Contest Involving Space Elevator New York Times
Courtesy NASA/JPL-CaltechThe European Southern Observatory just announced that its High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) has detected several new exoplanets orbiting distant star systems. Learn more here, and look for a rise in Name-Your-Own-Planet scams this coming holiday season.
Courtesy NASA/JPL/Infrared Telescope FacilityAn amateur astronomer in Australia has discovered a scar on the planet Jupiter indicating a recent collision between the planet and a comet or asteroid. Anthony Wesley noticed the new scar had appeared on the planet’s surface sometime between the hours of 5 a.m and 11 a.m (CDT) on the morning of July 20, 2009. NASA scientists used the agency’s Infrared Telescope Facility on Mauna Kea, Hawaii to confirm the impact. This new collision comes practically fifteen years to the day since the spectacular Levy-Shoemaker comet collided with Jupiter in 1994.
"We were extremely lucky to be seeing Jupiter at exactly the right time, the right hour, the right side of Jupiter to witness the event,” said Glenn Orton, a JPL scientist.
“We couldn't have planned it better."
Go here to read more about it.
UPDATE 7-24-09: I've added this new Hubble photo of Jupiter impact site via Space.com
Courtesy NASA, ESA, H. Hamel (Space Science Institute, and the Jupiter Impact Team.
The Mythbusters are taking on moon landing conspiracy theorists. And, y'know, if the Mythbusters say it's all true, that's good enough for me.
I was in college when humankind first stepped on the moon. We bought large glossy photos of the event and hung them on our dorm room wall. Monday, July 20, 2009 is going to be a day to celebrate the 40 year anniversary of stepping on the moon.
NASA has a web page of Apollo 40th Anniversary Events and Activities. Newseum.org has a great video showing Apollo 11 events. If your computer and internet are state of the art, here is a cool 360 interactive view of being on the moon.. Wired.com has links to photos, videos, and audios, and TV broadcasts celebrating the Apollo 11 moon landing.
I know a lot of you were not even born when this happened but don't worry. We are going to figure out how to do it again, soon!
Courtesy NASAToday's the 40th anniversary of the launch of NASA's Apollo 11 mission to the moon. On July 16, 1969 at 13:32 UTC (9:32 a.m. local time), a Saturn V rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral on mankind's first mission to walk on the lunar surface. Thousands of spectators watched the launch in Florida. It took 12 minutes for the rocket to place the three Apollo 11 astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Arldrin, and Michael Collins into orbit around the Earth, after which they would head across more than 225,000 miles of empty space to the Moon.
Courtesy NASA/Wikimedia CommonsNew research presented this week at the Cheltenham Science Festival in England will finally put to rest the long-running Apollo 11 controversy of whether astronaut Neil Armstrong botched his historic quote when he first stepped onto the lunar surface. Go here for the full story. Hopefully, they'll clear up the "Good luck, Mr. Gorsky" mystery, too.