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Cassini to Perform Its Final Flyby of Hyperion

Enhanced-color image of Hyperion from Sept. 26, 2005. (NASA/JPL/SSI)

Enhanced-color image mosaic of Hyperion from Sept. 26, 2005. (NASA/JPL/SSI)

On Sunday, May 31, the Cassini spacecraft will perform its last close pass of Hyperion, Saturn’s curiously spongelike moon. At approximately 9:36 a.m. EDT (13:36 UTC) it will zip past Hyperion at a distance of about 21,000 miles (34,000 km) – not its closest approach ever but considerably closer (by 17,500 miles/28,160 km) than it was when the image above was acquired.*

This will be Cassini’s last visit of Hyperion. It will make several flybys of other moons within Saturn’s equatorial plane over the course of 2015 before shifting to a more inclined orbit in preparation of the end phase of its mission and its operating life in 2017.

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Host: Fraser Cain (@fcain)
Special Guest: This week we welcome Dr. Bradley M. Peterson, whose research is directed towards determination of the physical nature of active galactic nuclei.
Guests:
Jolene Creighton (@jolene723 / fromquarkstoquasars.com)
Charles Black (@charlesblack / sen.com/charles-black)
Brian Koberlein (@briankoberlein / briankoberlein.com)
Dave Dickinson (@astroguyz / www.astroguyz.com)
Morgan Rehnberg (cosmicchatter.org / @MorganRehnberg )
Alessondra Springmann (@sondy)
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Earth’s First Space Station: The NASA Skylab

Skylab, America’s First manned Space Station. Photo taken by departing Skylab 4 crew in Feb. 1974. Credit: NASA

Skylab, America’s First manned Space Station. Photo taken by departing Skylab 4 crew in Feb. 1974. Credit: NASA

Before their was the International Space Station, before there was Mir, there was Skylab. Established in 1973, and remaining in orbit until 1979, this orbital space station was American’s (and humanity’s) first long-duration orbital workshop, and the ancestor of all those that have followed.

Originally conceived of in 1969, the plans for the station were part of a general winding down that took place during the last years of the Space Race – which officially ran from 1955 to 1972. Having sent astronauts into orbit and achieved the dream of manned missions to the Moon, the purpose of Skylab was to achieve a lasting presence in space. Rather than simply “getting there first”, NASA was now concerned with staying there.

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A view of Pluto Safari on an iPhone. Image via Simulation Curriculum.

A view of Pluto Safari on an iPhone. Image via Simulation Curriculum.

If you’re like us, you’ve been following the news closely as the New Horizons mission speeds towards Pluto. Want to follow it even closer? Check out the free Pluto Safari app now available from the developers that brought us the award winning astronomy app ‘SkySafari 4.’ It is available in both iOS and Android.

The fully interactive Pluto Safari provides a countdown in time and distance for when New Horizons will reach Pluto on July 14, 2015. It will also give you the latest position of New Horizons and Pluto, providing 3-D views of the Solar System and the Pluto system, as well as 3-D models of the spacecraft. By using the Time Controls, you can run through the mission, backwards or forwards, to see the mission step-by-step. Just so you don’t get lost in time and space, the status bar always displays the current date, time and location.
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First Looks at The Martian Revealed

image credit:

Image credit: 20th Century Fox/Entertainment Weekly

Alert: mild spoilers lie ahead, as we’ll be discussing minor plot points of the book The Martian. What, you haven’t read it yet? Have you been stranded on Mars? Don’t make us pull your geek card…

Never mind The Avengers or the seventh installment of the Star Wars franchise… some early stills from the big screen adaptation of Andy Weir’s The Martian have been circulating around ye ole web as of late, and we like what we see. [click to continue…]

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Boeing was awarded the first service flight of the CST-100 crew capsule to the International Space Station as part of the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability agreement with NASA in this artists concept.  Credit: Boeing

Boeing was awarded the first service flight of the CST-100 crew capsule to the International Space Station as part of the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability agreement with NASA in this artists concept. Credit: Boeing

The restoration of America’s ability to launch American astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) from American soil in 2017 took a major step forward when NASA ordered the first ever commercial human spaceflight mission from Boeing.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) office gave the first commercial crew rotation mission award to the Boeing Company to launch its CST-100 astronaut crew capsule to the ISS by late 2017, so long as the company satisfactorily meets all of [click to continue…]

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Activity within the jet from NGC 3852 imaged by Hubble. Credit: NASA, ESA, and E. Meyer (STScI).

Activity within a jet from NGC 3862 observed with Hubble over 20 years. Credit: NASA, ESA, and E. Meyer (STScI).

Even the Empire’s planet-blasting battle station has nothing compared to the immense energy being fired from the heart of NGC 3862, a supermassive black hole-harboring elliptical galaxy located 300 million light-years away.

And while jets of high-energy plasma coming from active galactic nuclei have been imaged before, for the first time activity within a jet has been observed in optical wavelengths, revealing a quite “forceful” collision of ejected material at near light speeds.

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What is Lunar Regolith?

A boot print on the lunar regolith. Credit: NASA.

The famous Apollo 11 boot print on the lunar surface, which left a deep indentation in the regolith. Credit: NASA.

When you’re walking around on soft ground, do you notice how your feet leave impressions? Perhaps you’ve tracked some of the looser earth in your yard into the house on occasion? If you were to pick up some of these traces – what we refer to as dirt or soil – and examine them beneath a microscope, what would you see?

Essentially, you would be seeing the components of what is known as regolith, which is a collection of particles of dust, soil, broken rock, and other materials found here on Earth. But interestingly enough, this same basic material can be found in other terrestrial environments as well – including the Moon, Mars, other planets, and even asteroids.

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What Was Here Before the Solar System?


The Solar System is 4.5 billion years old, but the Universe is much older. What was here before our Solar System formed?
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These images show Pluto in the latest series of New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) photos, taken May 8-12, 2015. Hints of possible complex surface geology and the polar cap first seen in April are visible. Credit: NASA

These images show Pluto in the latest series of New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) photos, taken May 8-12, 2015. Hints of possible complex surface geology and the polar cap first seen in April are visible. Credit: NASA

Hey Pluto, it’s great to see your face! Since sending its last batch of images in April, NASA’s New Horizons probe lopped off another 20 million miles in its journey to the mysterious world.  Among the latest revelations: the dwarf planet displays a much more varied surface and the bright polar cap discovered earlier this spring appears even bigger.
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