Stories tagged orbit

Neptune Anniversary Images
Neptune Anniversary ImagesCourtesy NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Neptune arrived today at the same location in space where it was discovered nearly 165 years ago. To commemorate the event, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope took these "anniversary pictures" of the blue-green giant planet.

Neptune is the most distant major planet in our solar system (alas, poor Pluto). German astronomer Johann Galle discovered the planet on September 23, 1846. The planet is 2.8 billion miles (4.5 billion kilometers) from the Sun. Under the Sun's weak pull at that distance, Neptune plods along in its huge orbit, slowly completing one revolution approximately every 165 years. Due to this slow orbit, each of Neptune's "seasons" lasts for about 40 years.

The four Hubble images of Neptune were taken with the Wide Field Camera 3 on June 25-26, during the planet's 16-hour rotation. The snapshots were taken at roughly four-hour intervals, offering a full view of the planet. The images reveal high-altitude clouds in the northern and southern hemispheres. The clouds are composed of methane ice crystals.

Each week, CNN posts a collection of space images. This week, you can see the green comet Lulin, thousands of satellites orbiting Earth, and some photos from the Hubble Space Telescope.


Sputnik 1 starts space race 50 years ago

Sputnik 1: Oct. 4, 1957
The "Sputnik crisis" was a turning point of the Cold War that began on October 4, 1957 when the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik 1 satellite. With its intercontinental ballistic missile, the R-7 Semyorka, Russia was first out of the starting blocks in the space race.

The "simplest satellite"

Called PS-1, for "Prosteishiy Sputnik" — the Simplest Satellite, Sputnik 1 weighing just 184 pounds, was built in less than three months. Soviet designers built a pressurized sphere of polished aluminum alloy with two radio transmitters and four antennas.

Sergey Korolyov

Sergey Korolyov, both visionary scientist and iron-willed manager, pressed the Kremlin to let him launch a satellite. The reaction of the world so impressed Khrushchev that he pressed Korolyov to do it again. Working round-the-clock, Korolyov and his team built another spacecraft in less than a month. On Nov. 3, they launched Sputnik 2, which weighed 1,118 pounds. It carried the world's first living payload, a mongrel dog named Laika, in its tiny pressurized cabin.

Sputnik creates initiatives in science and math

The Sputnik crisis spurred a whole chain of U.S. initiatives, including NASA, NSF, DARPA, and even the "New Math".

The finish line - stepping on the Moon

Russia continued its lead in the space race with a moon probe, a photo of the far side of the Moon, a human in orbit, a woman in orbit, extra-vehicular activity, landing a probe on another planet (Venus), and the first space station. The United States captured the biggest prize, though, putting a human on the Moon (July 20, 1969).