February 19, 2019

19.01.11: A Valentine’s Day Flyby.

One down, and one to go… next month, NASA intends to perform another first; the first follow up flyby of a cometary nucleus. The spacecraft is Stardust, and the comet is Tempel 1. Today’s mission briefing gave a glimpse of the action that is in store. Launched in February, 1999 Stardust has performed an array of firsts, including the first sample return from Comet Wild 2 in 2004, and one of the highest re-entry velocities ever attempted during its successful sample return in 2006.

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2010: The Year in Science

 

2010 has been a tumultuous year in space and astronomical science. We’ve seen the beginning of a huge transition for manned space flight, as well as a look ahead at what astronomers would wish for if they had their say. What follows are a baker’s dozen of the biggest, weirdest, and most controversial science articles that made our astro-radar in 2010;

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25.9.9: Water Confirmed on the Moon!

In a stunning press conference on Thursday, NASA revealed conclusive proof for what has been suspected for decades; evidence for water-ice mixed into the lunar surface! The evidence comes from multiple sources over the past decade;

  • Lunar Prospector, which measured a “flux drop” with its neutron spectrometer during its operational phase of 1998-9.

  • The “M-cubed” instrument NASA sent aboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 measured tell tale infrared signatures during its recent lunar mission;

  • Cassini (yes, that Cassini!) and Deep Impact both measured signatures highly suggestive of water during their respective outbound passes. Cassini with the VIMS (the Visible Mapping Infrared Spectrometer) and Deep Impact in its extended EPOXY (Extrasolar Planet Observation and Deep Impact Extended Investigation) role.

  • Clementine, which operated in 1994 produced data that also backed up these findings.

Perhaps what was most astounding was the fact that water signatures were found not only at the poles, which has been long suspected, but in the lunar equatorial regions as well! Apparently, water exists in some degree at all latitudes… quantities quoted were of the magnitude of one quart per ton near the poles to a tablespoon per ton of lunar material at the equator. Keep in mind, much of this is mixed in as hydroxyl compound as well as lunar ice. Think a clay-like material. Scientists also pointed out that this is still “drier than the driest terrestrial desert…” clearly, future settlers will have to move tons of lunar regolith to exact a useable amount of H2O… another stunning mechanism discussed for the existence of equatorial water was the possibility of a pseudo “hydrological cycle” on the Moon! This would be driven by gravity, heating, and hydrogen ions from the solar winds bombarding the surface throughout the lunar day. The layer is perhaps a few millimeters thick. Three separate papers were published formalizing these findings yesterday. This will undoubtedly spur on lunar exploration, as well as put all eyes on the Moon for the LCROSS impact on October 9th!

October 2008: News & Notes.

(Newsflash- NASA announced recently that STS-125, the final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, will be delayed indefinitely due to a failure of the telescopes’ main control unit. Engineers are looking at options to restart a backup unit. That also scrubs Astroguyz’s mission to cover the launch live! click here for more info!)

First Image of an Exo-Planet: Astronomers utilizing the Gemini North telescope have produced what may be the first image ever of an exo-planet. The three person team from the University of Toronto used the adaptive optics of the enormous telescope to image the object in the glare of 1RXS J160929.1-210524, about 500 light years distant. [Read more...]