October 22, 2017

Astro-Vid Of the Week: Happy 55th, NASA!

Astronaut Chris Cassidy snaps a pic during a recent spacewalk. (Credit: NASA).

‘Tis both the best of times & the worst of times for our noble national space agency. On this day way back in 1958, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) became known as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA. Over the past 55 years, NASA’s list of achievements have included landing men on the Moon, placing a permanent human presence in low Earth orbit, and sending probes to explore every planet from Mercury to Neptune. NASA is also a wonderful public resource, a reference for students of space to mine for a wealth of information about our universe. As a science-writer, I find myself searching NASA daily as a rich resource, all in the public domain. [Read more...]

April 2013: Life in the Astro-Blogosphere: Astronaut or Rockstar?

1st band in space? (Credit: NASA/STS-110).

What did you want to be when you grew up? Of course, this tired old saw of a question assumes that you’re already a mortgage-paying, car-pooling adult who has had those childhood dreams tempered by reality. Hey, we all know that one guy or gal in our home town that got exactly what they wished for. For example, I knew a friend in high school that spent every waking hour drawing, designing and talking about car stereo boxes… and guess what? That’s what he does to this day. (Hopefully, the whole Ipod thing didn’t ruin his grandiose business schemes). [Read more...]

Astro-Event: R Geminorum Rising.

Mira, a prototype variable similar to R Gem as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope.

(Credit: NASA/ESA).

Tired of observing M31 for the nth time and ready to do some backyard astrophysics? Eventually, we all go there; you may have even read a recent “how-to” post of our not-so-secret addiction: variable star observing. [Read more...]

19.05.11: “Incoming!” Meteorite Strikes House in Polish Town.

X Marks the Soltmany Fall. (Credit: CIA World Factbook).

Ahhhh… nothing makes the astro-news like a “House-strikes-space rock” story. Amid many dubious claims of low-flying rocks heard over the Chesapeake and striking lawns in New Jersey over the past few weeks, a quiet but amazing story of a meteorite strike came our way from “across the pond…” [Read more...]

17.05.11: A “Cosmic Hand.”

Pulsar PSR B1509-58. (Credit: NASA/Chandra/CXC/SAO/P. Slane et al.)

“Wow…” Of course, this word often applies itself to the jaw-dropping field of astronomy… but the picture above really merits it. The image was snapped by the Chandra X-ray observatory. It displays pulsar PSR B1509-58 within a hand-shaped nebula located about 17,000 light years distant. [Read more...]

26.04.11: New Horizons and the Hunt for KBO’s.

Artist’s Concept of New Horizons at a KBO. (Credit: Dan Durda SwRI/NASA/JPL).

A sky survey has begun this month for a very special mission. In July 2015, NASA’s New Horizons mission will whiz past the Pluto-Charon system on its way out of the solar system. Scientists will collect data on the pair for a frenzied few days…and then what? [Read more...]

27.04.11: MeerKAT & the Bid for SKA.

Artist’s impression of a SKA offset Gregorian dish. (Credit: Swinburne Astronomy Productions on a Creative Commons 3.0 license).

African radio astronomers are taking an innovative approach to a bid in hosting a unique proposal. The idea is known as the Square Kilometer Array, a radio observatory that will employ hundreds of dishes over a large area to scan and survey the radio sky in unprecedented detail. Much like the Allen Telescope Array being built in California, SKA’s strategy is to use the technique known as radio interferometry and go for many small dishes linked together rather than one large single antenna.

[Read more...]

AstroEvent: The Return of Saturn 2011.

Saturn as imaged March 19th, 2004 by the author.

 Two of unique planetary events are on our astro-radar this week. The first is an extremely close conjunction between brilliant Venus and faint Neptune on the morning of March 27th. At a mere 9’ minutes separation at 0100 UT, this will be one of the closest planetary conjunctions of the year. [Read more...]

12.03.11: Attack (on the) Cyanobacteria?

Our x1023 Grandparents? (Credit: Richard B. Hoover, MSFC, Journal of Cosmology). 

This sunny weekend, we’d like to give some thought to the news story that erupted last weekend. Unless you’ve been off world, you’ve no doubt heard that researcher Richard B. Hoover of NASA’s/Marshall Space Flight Center released a paper via the Journal of Cosmology indicating the possible presence of fossilized cyanobacteria in certain types of carbonaceous meteorites. [Read more...]

28.02.11: Pan-STARRS Sets a New Record.

While you were sleeping on the night of January 29th, 2011, astronomers both human and cyber atop Haleakala in Hawaii were on patrol. The telescope was the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS), and the quarry was Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs). In one marathon night, astronomers Richard Wainscoat, David Tholen and Marco Micheli of the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy bagged 19 confirmed NEAs, the most discovered in a single run.

[Read more...]

15.02.11: New Views of Comet Tempel 1 Courtesy of StardustNExT.

The re-designated StardustNExT spacecraft performed another first this Valentine’s Day, completing the first ever follow-up encounter of comet Tempel 1.

[Read more...]