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Is Phobos Doomed?

What fate awaits Phobos, one of the moons of Mars?
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Orbital Sciences Antares rocket explodes violently and is consumed in a gigantic aerial fireball seconds after blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014 at 6:22 p.m.  Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

Orbital Sciences Antares rocket explodes violently and is consumed in a gigantic aerial fireball seconds after blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014, at 6:22 p.m. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

The various companies that had stuff sitting on the failed Orbital Sciences Antares rocket launch last month are busy looking for alternatives. One example is Planet Labs, which is best known for deploying dozens of tiny satellites from the International Space Station this year.

The company lost 26 satellites in the explosion. But within nine days of the Oct. 28 event, Planet Labs had a partial backup plan — send two replacements last-minute on an upcoming SpaceX Falcon 9 launch.

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Astronomical observations have been obtained from the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL), which is located in Northern Canada (image credit: left, Steinbring et al., right, Dan Weaver).

Astronomical observations were obtained from the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL), which is located in northern Canada (image credit: left, Steinbring et al., right, Dan Weaver).

The quest for optimal sites to carry out astronomical observations has taken scientists to the frigid Arctic.  Eric Steinbring, who led a team of National Research Council Canada experts, noted that a high Arctic site can, “offer excellent image quality that is maintained during many clear, calm, dark periods that can last 100 hours or more.”  The new article by Steinbring and colleagues conveys recent progress made to obtain precise observations from a 600 m high ridge near the Eureka research base on Ellesmere Island, which is located in northern Canada.

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Flash! Iridium Flares Captured in Real Time by Thierry Legault

There are so many fun sights to see in the sky that are pure astronomical magic. And then there are the spectacular human-created sights. One of those sights is watching satellites from the Iridium constellation that — because of their odd shape — produce spectacular flares that can be brighter than the planet Venus.

Because most of these satellites are still under control by their parent company, their flare timings are easy to predict. And now astrophotographer Thierry Legualt has caught them in action on a video.

“Usually they are photographed in long exposures,” Legault told Universe Today via email. “But last summer I filmed three of them in the Big Dipper and Orion, and they were so bright a pond reflected the flare. In video you can see the real speed of the event.”

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Watch Three Humans Take A Flawless Ride To Space Yesterday

And now we have six people in space again — including the first-ever Italian woman to reach orbit. Samantha Cristoforetti has been delighting people worldwide with her behind-the-scenes training posts as she prepares for her “Futura” mission, which will see her spend 5.5 months on the International Space Station with her crewmates. We have the NASA video from the big day above, and some photos from the launch below.

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