The sunshield test unit on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is unfurled for the first time.  Credit: NASA

The sunshield test unit on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is unfurled for the first time. Credit: NASA

GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER, MD – The huge Sunshield test unit for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has been successfully unfurled for the first time in a key milestone ahead of the launch scheduled for October 2018.

Engineers stacked and expanded the tennis-court sized Sunshield test unit last week inside the cleanroom at a Northrop Grumman facility in Redondo Beach, California.

NASA reports that the operation proceeded [click to continue…]

NASA preps for Nail-biting Comet Flyby of Mars

by Bob King on July 26, 2014

This graphic depicts the orbit of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring as it swings around the sun in 2014. On Oct. 19, the comet will have a very close pass at Mars. Its nucleus will miss Mars by about 82,000 miles (132,000 kilometers). The comet's trail of dust particles shed by the nucleus might be wide enough to reach Mars or might also miss it. Credit: NASA/JPL

Simulation depicts comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring during its close Mars flyby on Oct. 19. Its nucleus will miss Mars by about 82,000 miles (132,000 kilometers). The comet’s trail of dust particles shed by the nucleus might be wide enough to reach the planet. Click to see the interactive, animated view. Credit: Solarsystemscope.com

As Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring inches closer to the Red Planet, NASA’s taking steps to protect its fleet of orbiting Mars spacecraft. On October 19, the comet’s icy nucleus will miss the planet by just 82,000 miles (132,000 km). That’s 17 times closer than the closest recorded Earth-approaching comet, Lexell’s Comet in 1770.  [click to continue…]

Having Fun with the Equation of Time

by David Dickinson on July 25, 2014

An analemma of the Sun, taken from Budapest, Hungary over a one year span. (Courtesy of György Soponyai, used with permission).

An analemma of the Sun, taken from Budapest, Hungary over a one year span. (Courtesy of György Soponyai, used with permission).

If you’re like us, you might’ve looked at a globe of the Earth in elementary school long before the days of Google Earth and wondered just what that strange looking figure eight thing on its side was.

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If you spent 120 days cooped up in a small habitat with six people, what’s the first thing you’d want to do upon emerging? Celebration would likely be one of them, and you can watch the festivities as the HI-SEAS crew leaves their Mars simulation later today.

The broadcast takes place between 2 p.m. EDT and 4 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. and 8 p.m. UTC) and you can watch everything above. As with all live events, the schedule can always change at the last minute.

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Expedition 40 astronaut Alexander Gerst took this photo of the Israel and Gaza regions in July 2014 while explosions took place below (which are not visible in the photo). Credit: Alexander Gerst/Twitter

Expedition 40 astronaut Alexander Gerst took this photo of the Israel and Gaza regions in July 2014 while explosions took place below (which are not visible in the photo). Credit: Alexander Gerst/Twitter

From his perch aboard the International Space Station, Alexander Gerst took this photo this week and said he could spot explosions and rockets in the blackness below. The location made him realize things were grim: it was over the Gaza and Israel region.

After the photo went viral on Twitter (it’s been shared nearly 40,000 times to date), Gerst wrote a blog post reflecting on what he saw. He acknowledged the violence wasn’t visible in the photo, but said he could still see it.

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