Dust Disks Could Indicate Planets

A newly detected dust ring, just outside the orbit of Saturn could help astronomers have come up with a new strategy to shortlist star systems that might contain planets. Astronomers from the European Space Agency believe that this dusty ring is being maintained and replenished through collisions of objects in the solar system, like comets and asteroids. These distant dust clouds should be detectible, as well as swaths cleared out by planets.

New Evidence Supports Formation Theory for Rapidly Spinning Pulsars

Combining images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as data from radio observatories, astronomers from the European Space Agency have new understanding of a very unusual star system – a fast spinning pulsar and a giant red star. Although 90 of these “millisecond” pulsars have been discovered by astronomers, they haven’t figured out what gets them spinning so quickly. Perhaps through absorbing matter from another star, the pulsar is spun up by the transfer of energy that occurs when material is consumed.

Moon Could Still Have Molten Interior

Astronomers have calculated that the Moon, pulled by the gravity of the Earth and the Sun, may bulge as much as 10 centimetres over the course of its 27 day journey around our planet. The bulging could be caused by a molten slush surrounding the Moon’s core. The measurements were gathered by firing a laser pulse from the Earth to the Moon, and it measures the round-trip distance to an accuracy of 2 centimetres.

New Images from Mars Global Surveyor Released

NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor began its second year of extended operations at the beginning of February, and recently delivered a whole new batch of images of the Red Planet. These images were taken over course of the spacecraft’s first year of extended operations.

Delta Rocket Increases Iridium Constellation

A Boeing Delta II rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California today carrying a cargo of five spare satellites for the Iridium communications network. These additional five satellites join the 66 operational satellites and seven spares already in low-earth orbit. The US government is the primary customer for Iridium, and its 2-year, $72 million contract staved off bankruptcy for the troubled company.

Odyssey Deploys Communications Antenna

NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft deployed its high-gain antenna on Tuesday night, establishing a high-speed connection between the spacecraft and controllers back on Earth. Flight controllers tested the boom to ensure it can communicate with different locations on Earth and then pronounced the deployment “successful”. Science instruments on the spacecraft are expected to begin collecting data later this month.

Hubble Reveals Backwards Galaxy

The latest image released from the Hubble Space Telescope shows a spiral galaxy that seems to be rotating in the wrong direction. Astronomers expected that galaxy NGC 4622, located 111 million light-years away in the constellation Centaurus, should rotate counter-clockwise but it actually goes clockwise. It’s believed that the galaxy consumed a smaller companion galaxy recently which helped reverse its spin.

Entire Earth Imaged

NASA has released a new set of photographs which form the most detailed true-colour image of the entire Earth ever created. The photographs are taken at a resolution of 1km and include the land, seas and even clouds and sea ice. Much of the data for this image was gathered by NASA’s Terra satellite, from an altitude of 700km. An additional image shows actual city lights superimposed over a darkened version of the photograph.

ESO Releases New Images of Saturn and Io

The European Southern Observatory released stunning new images of the planet Saturn and Jupiter’s moon Io on Friday – the sharpest ever taken by a ground observatory. The photographs were taken using the ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile, which rivals the Hubble Space Telescope in image clarity. This is an almost perfect view of Saturn, taken when the planet’s rings were tilted towards the Earth.

Spacecraft Image Volcano Disaster From Orbit

Three NASA spacecraft chronicled the devastation that occurred when the Nyiragongo volcano in Congo erupted on January 17th. The eruption killed more than 100 people and forced hundreds of thousands to evacuate the area. These newly released images were created using data taken from a space shuttle radar mapping mission, Landsat photographs, and the Terra spacecraft.