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10 new stories for 2012/02/01

“Cool” Gas May Be At The Root Of Sunspots

During the initial stage of sunspot emergence and cooling, the formation of H2 may trigger a temporary "runaway" magnetic field intensification. The magnetic field prevents the flow of energy from inside the sun to the outside, and the sunspot cools as the energy shines into space. They form hydrogen molecules that take half the volume of the atoms, thus dropping pressure and concentrating the magnetic field, and so on. (adapted from Jaeggli, 2011; sunspot image by F. Woeger et al

Although well over 40 years old, the Dunn Solar Telescope at Sunspot, New Mexico isn’t going to be looking at a early retirement. On the contrary, it has been outfitted with the new Facility Infrared Spectropolarimeter (FIRS) and is already making news on its solar findings. FIRS provides simultaneous spectral coverage at visible and infrared wavelengths through the use of a unique dual-armed spectrograph. By utilizing adaptive optics to overcome atmospheric “seeing” conditions, the team took on seven active regions on the Sun – one in 2001 and six during December 2010 to December 2011 – as Sunspot Cycle 23 faded away. The full sunspot sample has 56 observations of 23 different active regions… and showed that hydrogen might act as a type of energy dissipation device which helps the Sun get a magnetic grip on its spots. (...)
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© tammy for Universe Today, 2012. | Permalink | 3 comments | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: convection, Dunn Solar Telescope, Hydrogen, magnetism, solar cycle, Solar Spectra, Spectropolarimeter, sunspots

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Test Your Knowledge and Skills with NASA’s New Online Games

Space Race Blastoff. Image credit: NASA

This week, NASA has launched its first multi-player online game on Facebook to test players’ knowledge of the space program, as well as an interactive air traffic control mobile game for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch.

The first game, Space Race Blastoff asks players questions such as “Who was the first American to walk in space?” and “Who launched the first liquid-fueled rocket?”

Sector 33 is the second game, which puts the player in the role of a lead air traffic controller. The players task is to guide air traffic safely through “Sector 33″ as quickly as possible. To achieve their goal, players must choose the most efficient route and make strategic speed changes.

Are you up for the challenges NASA has put forth in Space Race Blastoff and Sector 33 ?

(...)
Read the rest of Test Your Knowledge and Skills with NASA’s New Online Games (376 words)


© Ray Sanders for Universe Today, 2012. | Permalink | No comment | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: facebook, ios, online gaming

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Newsreel Footage of Explorer 1

Here’s a blast from the past: 54 years ago on January 31, 1958, Explorer 1 was the first satellite sent into space by the United States. The U.S. Army Ballistic Missile Agency was directed to launch a satellite following the Soviet Union’s successful Sputnik 1 launch on October 4, 1957. The 13-kg (30-pound) Explorerer satellite was launched by 3-stage Redstone missile. This newsreel footage also includes a famous scene where Werner von Braun and scientist James Van Allen lift a model of the satellite triumphantly above their heads.
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© nancy for Universe Today, 2012. | Permalink | No comment | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: Explorer 1, history, Van Allen Belts, Videos

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The Van Allen Belts and the Great Electron Escape

Artist concept of the twin Radiation Belt Storm Probes spacecraft, scheduled for launch in August 2012. Credit: NASA

During the 1950s and just before the great “Space Race” began, scientists like Kristian Birkeland, Carl Stormer, and Nicholas Christofilos had been paying close attention to a theory – one that involved trapped, charged particles in a ring around the Earth. This plasma donut held in place by our planet’s magnetic field was later confirmed by the first three Explorer missions under the direction of Dr. James Van Allen. Fueled by perhaps solar winds, or cosmic rays, the knowledge of their existence was the stuff of nightmares for an uniformed public. While the “radiation” can affect objects passing through it, it doesn’t reach Earth, and this realization quickly caused fears to die. However, there are still many unanswered questions about the Van Allen Radiation Belts that mystify modern science. (...)
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© tammy for Universe Today, 2012. | Permalink | One comment | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: Energetically Charged Particles, GOES, plasma, POES, radiation belts, Radiation Storms, Radiation Zones, Sun-Earth Connection, THEMIS, Van Allen Belts

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Hayabusa 2 Mission Approved by Japanese Government

Artist's conception of Hayabusa 2 approaching the asteroid 1999 JU3. Credit: Akihiro Ikeshita/JAXA

In 2010, the Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa completed an exciting although nail-biting mission to the asteroid Itokawa, successfully returning samples to Earth after first reaching the asteroid in 2005; the mission almost failed, with the spacecraft plagued by technical problems. The canister containing the microscopic rock samples made a soft landing in Australia, the first time that samples from an asteroid had been brought back to Earth for study.

Now, the Japanese government has approved a follow-up mission, Hayabusa 2. This time the probe is scheduled to be launched in 2014 and rendezvous with the asteroid known as 1999 JU3 in mid-2018. Samples would again be taken and returned to Earth in late 2020.

(...)
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© Paul Scott Anderson for Universe Today, 2012. | Permalink | 3 comments | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: 1999 JU3, Asteroids, Hayabusa, Hayabusa 2, Itokawa, JAXA

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End of an Era: Shannon Lucid Retires from NASA

Astronaut Shannon W. Lucid made history in 1996 on the Russian Mir Space Station, her home for six months, as the first American woman to do so. Here, she is photographed on board the space shuttle Atlantis as she leaves Mir. Credit: NASA

It’s the end of an era for NASA and for those who have looked up to this iconic astronaut as a role model. After working as an astronaut for more the three decades, Shannon Lucid has retired from NASA. Lucid’s career at NASA was legendary, as she was a member of the US’s first astronaut class to include women. She was a veteran of five spaceflights, logging more than 223 days in space. Lucid is the only American woman to serve aboard the Russian Mir space station. She lived and worked there for more than 188 days, the longest stay of any American on that vehicle. Her time on Mir also set the single flight endurance record by a woman until Suni Williams broke it in 2006.
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© nancy for Universe Today, 2012. | Permalink | One comment | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: NASA Astronauts, Shannon Lucid

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Phobos-Grunt Failure Due to Computer Problems, Cosmic Rays

Phobos-Grunt Model. This is a full-scale mockup of Russia's Phobos-Grunt. The spacecraft was supposed to collect samples of soil on Mars' moon Phobos and return them to Earth for study. Credit: CNES

Roscosmos said today that a computer malfunction caused by cosmic rays was the reason for the failure of the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft. Additionally, ‘counterfeit’ chips in the computer may have played a role, said Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) head Vladimir Popovkin. The original mission was to do a sample return from Mars’ largest moon, but the spacecraft crashed back to Earth on January 15 after the rocket failed to send it out of Earth orbit shortly after the launch in November. This determination comes from a study done by a commission led by Yuri Koptev, former head of the Russian Space Agency.

“There was a restart of the two sets of on-board computer system so [it] moved to the highest energy saving mode and the standby command,” said Popovkin, quoted by the Russian RIA Novosti news agency. “The most likely reason is the impact of heavy charged space particles.”
(...)
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© nancy for Universe Today, 2012. | Permalink | 2 comments | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: Missions, Phobos-Grunt, Roscosmos

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Russia To Try Again For Phobos-Grunt?

Poster art for the Russian Phobos-Grunt mission. (Russian Federal Space Agency/IKI)

Russia says “eish odin ras”* for its Mars moon lander mission, according to Roscomos chief Vladimir Popovkin.

If the European Space Agency does not include Russia in its ExoMars program, a two-mission plan to explore Mars via orbiter and lander and then with twin rovers (slated to launch in 2016 and 2018, respectively), Roscosmos will try for a “take-two” on their failed Phobos-Grunt mission.

(...)
Read the rest of Russia To Try Again For Phobos-Grunt? (190 words)


© Jason Major for Universe Today, 2012. | Permalink | 9 comments | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: esa, Mars, Phobos-Grunt, Roscosmos, Russia, Solar System, Space Exploration

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Russia Confirms Delay for Next Soyuz Launches to ISS

Expedition 27 Soyuz rollout. Credit (NASA/Carla Cioffi

The next two launches of crews to the International Space Station will each be postponed by about 45 days, due to an air leak found during testing of the descent module of the Soyuz spacecraft. An official from the Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos, said they will need to build a reserve capsule, and they will confer with NASA ISS program managers on Thursday to clarify the exact launch dates.

The current mission on the ISS will also likely be extended, with the crew’s departure also about 30-45 days later than the previously scheduled date of March 16. Alexei Krasnov from Roscosmos said the delays should not be a problem because the crew currently on the ISS had initially been assigned an “unusually short expedition” of 120 days.
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Read the rest of Russia Confirms Delay for Next Soyuz Launches to ISS (249 words)


© nancy for Universe Today, 2012. | Permalink | No comment | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: ISS, Roscosmos, Soyuz, Space Flight, Space Station

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Canada Looks to the Future in Space

The Canadarm2 on the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

When it comes to space, the first thing most people think of is NASA. Or Russia and the European Space Agency, or even more recently, countries like China and Japan. In the public eye, Canada has tended to be a bit farther down on the list. There is the Canadian Space Agency, but it is better known for developing space and satellite technologies, not awe-inspiring launches to the Moon or other planets, which naturally tend to get the most attention.

Canada has its own astronauts, too, but they go into orbit on the Space Shuttle or Russian rockets. Canada’s role in space should not, however, be underestimated. It was, for example, the first country to have a domestic communications satellite in geostationary orbit, Anik A1, in 1972. There is also the well-known Canadarm used on the Space Shuttle and Canadarm2 on the International Space Station, as well as the space robot Dextre on the ISS. Canada has also contributed technology to various robotic planetary missions as well.

But even in these times of budget constraints, new ventures are being planned, including a mission to place two video cameras on the International Space Station late next year, via a Russian mission.

(...)
Read the rest of Canada Looks to the Future in Space (356 words)


© Paul Scott Anderson for Universe Today, 2012. | Permalink | 12 comments | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: Canada, Commercial Space, Technology

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