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Firefly Astronomy

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Image credit and copyright: Steed Yu & NightChina.net

Light makes life, and sometimes, life returns the favor. There’s nothing more magical than watching fireflies flit across a starlit field on a summer’s night. Growing up in Northern Maine, summer was an all-too swiftly passing season, and fireflies had to put on their displays in a brief profusion of frenzied activity around late July and early August before the weather turned once again towards another long harsh winter. [click to continue…]

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Infographic shows how SpaceX Falcon 9 will fly back to Earth after next launch on CRS-6 mission to ISS. Credit: SpaceX

Infographic shows how SpaceX Falcon 9 will fly back to Earth after next launch on CRS-6 mission to ISS. Credit: SpaceX

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – Now just a day away, all systems are “GO” for blastoff of the next SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon CRS-6 cargo capsule on Monday, April 13, on a mission to the International Space Station (ISS) and a near simultaneous historic attempt to soft land the boosters first stage on a barge in a remote area of the Atlantic Ocean, hundreds of miles offshore from the US eastern seaboard.

In advance of Mondays launch attempt, SpaceX engineers successfully completed the practice countdown dress rehearsal and required static fire engine test this afternoon, Saturday, April 11, to [click to continue…]

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This Mountain on Mars Is Leaking

Seasonal flows spotted by HiRISE on northwestern slopes in Hale Crater. (NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

Seasonal flows spotted by HiRISE on northwestern slopes in Hale Crater. (NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

As the midsummer Sun beats down on the southern mountains of Mars, bringing daytime temperatures soaring up to a balmy 25ºC (77ºF), some of their slopes become darkened with long, rusty stains that may be the result of water seeping out from just below the surface.

The image above, captured by the HiRISE camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Feb. 20, shows mountain peaks within the 150-km (93-mile) -wide Hale Crater. Made from data acquired in visible and near infrared wavelengths the long stains are very evident, running down steep slopes below the rocky cliffs.

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Host: Fraser Cain (@fcain)
Special Guest: Dr. Stephen Granade (@sargent)
Guests:
Dave Dickinson (@astroguyz / www.astroguyz.com)
Charles Black (@charlesblack / sen.com/charles-black)
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Apollo 13 images via NASA. Montage by Judy Schmidt.

Apollo 13 images via NASA. Montage by Judy Schmidt.

To celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission, Universe Today is featuring “13 MORE Things That Saved Apollo 13,” discussing different turning points of the mission with NASA engineer Jerry Woodfill.

Very quickly after the explosion of Oxygen Tank 2 in Apollo 13’s service module, it became apparent the Odyssey command module was dying. The fuel cells that created power for the Command Module were not working without the oxygen. But over in the Aquarius lunar lander, all the systems were working perfectly. It didn’t take long for Mission Control and the crew to realize the Lunar Module could be used as a lifeboat.

The crew quickly powered up the LM and transferred computer information from Odyssey to Aquarius. But as soon as they brought the LM communications system on line another problem developed.

The Apollo 13 crew couldn’t hear Mission Control.
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How Quickly Does a Supernova Happen?


When a massive star reaches the end of its life, it can explode as a supernova. How quickly does this process happen?
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Apollo 13 images via NASA. Montage by Judy Schmidt.

Apollo 13 images via NASA. Montage by Judy Schmidt.

To celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission, Universe Today is featuring “13 MORE Things That Saved Apollo 13,” discussing different turning points of the mission with NASA engineer Jerry Woodfill.

Understandably, it was chaotic in both Mission Control and in the spacecraft immediately after the oxygen tank exploded in Apollo 13’s Service Module on April 13, 1970.

No one knew what had happened.

“The Apollo 13 failure had occurred so suddenly, so completely with little warning, and affected so many spacecraft systems, that I was overwhelmed,” wrote Sy Liebergot in his book, Apollo EECOM: Journey of a Lifetime. “As I looked at my data and listened to the voice report, nothing seemed to make sense.”

But somehow, within 53 minutes of the explosion, the ship was stabilized an emergency plan began to evolve.
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Dragon approaches the ISS during CRS-5. Image credit: SpaceX.

Hunting for satellites from your backyard can be positively addicting. Sure, the Orion Nebula or the Andromeda Galaxy appear grand… and they’ll also look exactly the same throughout the short span of our fleeting human lifetimes. Since the launch of Sputnik in 1957, humans also have added their own ephemeral ‘stars’ to the sky. It’s fun to sleuth out just what these might be, as they photobomb the sky overhead.  In the coming week, we’d like to turn your attention towards a unique opportunity to watch a high profile space launch approach a well-known orbiting space laboratory. [click to continue…]

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Stunning views of the Milky Way, shimmering aurora, spectacular thunderstorms, flashing meteors, zipping satellies, stirring music, and spooky sprites and gravity waves …. they are all part of this wonderful new timelapse by night-sky guru Randy Halverson.

“Trails End is a compilation of some of my favorite timelapse shots from 2014, with a few aurora shots from early this year,” Halverson told us. “It was shot in Wyoming, Utah and South Dakota.”

A few moments to note in the video:

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Apollo 13 images via NASA. Montage by Judy Schmidt.

Apollo 13 images via NASA. Montage by Judy Schmidt.

In our original series 5 years ago on the “13 Things That Saved Apollo 13,” the first item we discussed was the timing of the explosion. As NASA engineer Jerry Woodfill told us, if the tank was going to rupture and the crew was going to survive the ordeal, the explosion couldn’t have happened at a better time.

An explosion earlier in the mission (assuming it would have occurred after Apollo 13 left Earth orbit) would have meant the distance and time to get back to Earth would have been so great that there wouldn’t have been sufficient power, water and oxygen for the crew to survive. An explosion later, perhaps after astronauts Jim Lovell and Fred Haise had already descended to the lunar surface, and all three crew members wouldn’t have been able to use the lunar lander as a lifeboat. Additionally, the two spacecraft likely couldn’t have docked back together, and without the descent stage’s consumables left on the Moon (batteries, oxygen, etc.) that would have been a fruitless endeavor.

Now, for our first article in our subsequent series “13 MORE Things That Saved Apollo 13,” we’re going to revisit that timing, but look more in detail as to WHY the explosion happened when it did, and how it affected the rescue of the crew. The answer lies with the failure of a pressure sensor in Oxygen Tank 2, an issue unrelated to the uninsulated wires in the tank that caused the explosion.
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