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10 new stories for 2012/01/17

Planck Spacecraft Loses Its Cool(ant) But Keeps Going

Artist's impression of the Planck spacecraft. Credit: ESA

After two and a half years of observing the Cosmic Microwave Background, the ESA Planck spacecraft’s High Frequency Instrument ran out of its on-board coolant gases over this past weekend, reaching the end of its very successful mission. But that doesn’t mean the end for Planck observations. The Low Frequency Instrument, which does not need to be super-cold (but is still at a bone-chilling -255 C), will continue taking data.

“The Low Frequency Instrument will now continue operating for another year,” said Richard Davis, of the University of Manchester in the UK. “During that time it will provide unprecedented sensitivity at the lower frequencies.”
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Read the rest of Planck Spacecraft Loses Its Cool(ant) But Keeps Going (488 words)


© nancy for Universe Today, 2012. | Permalink | No comment | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: CMB, cosmic microwave background, Planck, Planck Satellite

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SpaceX Delays Upcoming 1st Dragon Launch to ISS

SpaceX Dragon approaches the ISS on 1st Test Flight and Station Docking in 2012
Astronauts will grapple it with the robotic arm and berth it at the Earth facing port of the Harmony node. Illustration: NASA /SpaceX

The first test launch of a commercially built spacecraft to the International Space Station has been delayed by its builder, Space Exploration Technologies or SpaceX, in order to carry out additional testing to ensure that the vehicle is fully ready for the high stakes Earth orbital mission.

SpaceX and NASA had been working towards a Feb. 7 launch date of the company’s Dragon spacecraft and announced the postponement in a statement today (Jan. 16).

A new target launch date has not been set and it is not known whether the delay amounts to a few days, weeks or(...)
Read the rest of SpaceX Delays Upcoming 1st Dragon Launch to ISS (559 words)


© Ken Kremer for Universe Today, 2012. | Permalink | No comment | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: Commercial Space. SpaceX, Dragon, Dragon capsule, NASA, SpaceX

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To The Extreme… NASA’s Fermi Gamma-Ray Telescope Gathers In High Energy

This all-sky Fermi view includes only sources with energies greater than 10 GeV. From some of these sources, Fermi's LAT detects only one gamma-ray photon every four months. Brighter colors indicate brighter gamma-ray sources. Credit: NASA/DOE/Fermi LAT Collaboration

It scans the entire visible sky every three hours. Its job is to gather light – but not just any light. What’s visible to our eyes averages about 2 and 3 electron volts, but NASA’s Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope is taking a deep look into a higher realm… the electromagnetic range. Here the energy doesn’t need a boost. It slams out gamma-rays with energies ranging from 20 million to more than 300 billion electron volts (GeV). After three years of space time, the Fermi Large Area Telescope (LAT) has produced its first census of these extreme energy sources. (...)
Read the rest of To The Extreme… NASA’s Fermi Gamma-Ray Telescope Gathers In High Energy (647 words)


© tammy for Universe Today, 2012. | Permalink | No comment | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: Black Holes, Fermi, Gamma Ray Sky, Gamma Ray Sources, GLAST, High Energy Gamma Rays, Radio Galaxies

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Astronomy Cast – Episode 248: Carina Constellation

Time for another detailed look at a constellation; one of the most fascinating in the sky, but hidden to most of the northern hemisphere: Carina. Home to one of the most likely supernova candidates we know of: Eta Carinae. Let’s talk just about this constellation, how to find it, and what you can discover in and around it.


© Fraser for Universe Today, 2012. | Permalink | One comment | Add to del.icio.us
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A Wrinkled Moon


Apollo 15 orbital metric camera, oblique image of the Sea of Rains Image

Apollo 15 orbital metric camera, oblique image of the Sea of Rains
Image credit: NASA

Wrinkle ridges have been seen on the surface of the Moon for over a century. Studies of these interesting features began as early as 1885, with telescopic photographs, and continued beyond the Apollo era, with satellite and lander observations. Scientist thought they understood them, but the latest images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbital Camera (LROC) suggest we may not know the whole story.
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© Irene Antonenko for Universe Today, 2012. | Permalink | No comment | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, Moon, Wrinkle Ridges

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Why Does Sirius Twinkle?

Orion and Sirius Credit Adrian West


At this time of year, after dark we in the northern hemisphere are able to see the mighty constellation of Orion rise high in the sky with a very bright companion in a nearby constellation: Sirius – The Dog Star.

Sirius is the brightest star in the sky and can easily be found in the faint constellation of Canis Major to the left and below Orion. Its name comes from ancient Greek meaning “glowing” or “scorcher.”

Sirius (α CMa) is the alpha star in this trusty hound and is roughly 8.5 light years away from Earth, making it one of the closest stars to us. It has a tiny companion star making it a binary system composed of “Sirius A” the main component (which is a white main sequence star) and “Sirius B,” a white dwarf star. As seen with the naked eye, Sirius can be seen to twinkle many different colours low in the winter evening sky.(...)
Read the rest of Why Does Sirius Twinkle? (372 words)


© Adrian West for Universe Today, 2012. | Permalink | 12 comments | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: Sirius, stars, Twinkle

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Astrophoto: Venus Above Kendal Castle

Venus Above Kendal Castle in the UK. Credit: Stuart Atkinson


Thanks to our pal Stu Atkinson for braving the elements and risking life and limb to capture this image: “I trekked up to Kendal Castle to try and get some pictures of Venus blazing in the dusk sky above the castle ruins…,” Stu wrote on his blog, Cumbrian Sky. “On the way I fell, really went down, slipping on some mud and landing flat on my back, limbs everywhere, but when I got home and saw how the images turned out, well, it was worth the tumble!”

We agree — this is a beautiful image! Click on the image for larger version, where you can see all the gorgeous detail.

Stu took this image during the BBC Stargazing Live activities, which are currently taking place.

Want to get your astrophoto featured on Universe Today? Join our Flickr group, post in our Forum or send us your images by email (this means you’re giving us permission to post them). Please explain what’s in the picture, when you took it, the equipment you used, etc.


© nancy for Universe Today, 2012. | Permalink | No comment | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: Astrophotos, Stuart Atkinson

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Citizen Scientist Project Finds Thousands of ‘Star Bubbles’

A prominent star bubble. Credit: NASA / The Milky Way Project / Zooniverse

Remember when you were a kid and blowing bubbles was such great fun? Well, stars kind of do that too. The “bubbles” are partial or complete rings of dust and gas that occur around young stars in active star-forming regions, known as stellar nurseries. So far, over 5,000 bubbles have been found, but there are many more out there awaiting discovery. Now there is a project that you can take part in yourself, to help find more of these intriguing objects.

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Read the rest of Citizen Scientist Project Finds Thousands of ‘Star Bubbles’ (299 words)


© Paul Scott Anderson for Universe Today, 2012. | Permalink | One comment | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: Astronomy, Spitzer, star formation, The Milky Way Project, Zooniverse

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A Space Moonrise (and the PromISSe of a New Future)

One of 16 daily moonrises photographed by ESA astronaut André Kuipers aboard the ISS. (ESA/NASA)

“The moon looks the same from the ISS as it does on Earth. Only we see it rise and set again and again.”

ESA astronaut André Kuipers tweeted this message earlier today, accompanied by the wonderful photo above showing a distant Moon resting along Earth’s limb. The solar panels of the docked Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft are seen in the foreground.

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Read the rest of A Space Moonrise (and the PromISSe of a New Future) (144 words)


© Jason Major for Universe Today, 2012. | Permalink | 4 comments | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: Andre Kuipers, dutch astronaut, Earth, esa, ISS, Moon, orbit, PromISSe, Space Station

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Does Starburst Activity Starve Galaxies of Gas?

The Southern Cross, the Milky Way, and the Large Magellanic Cloud shine above the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) as it observes on a clear night sky during its Early Science phase. Image credit: C. Padilla, NRAO/AUI/NSF

Using the partially constructed ALMA observatory, a group of astronomers have found new evidence that helps explain how young, star-forming galaxies end up as ‘red and dead’ elliptical galaxies.

According to current galactic evolution theories, mergers of spiral galaxies are thought to explain why nearby elliptical galaxies have few young stars. Merging galaxies direct gas and dust into starburts, which are regions of rapid star formation, as well as into the central supermassive black hole at the core of the merging galaxies. As matter is piled onto a black hole, powerful jets erupt, and the region becomes a brightly shining quasar. Eventually the powerful jets emanating from the central black hole push away any potentially star-forming gas, which causes the starbursts to cease.

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Read the rest of Does Starburst Activity Starve Galaxies of Gas? (639 words)


© Ray Sanders for Universe Today, 2012. | Permalink | No comment | Add to del.icio.us
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