An Ariane 44L rocket lifted off from Kourou, French Guiana on Saturday at 0659 GMT (1:59am EST), carrying an Intelsat 904 communications satellite into orbit. The Intelsat satellite will provide video and data services for Asia, Africa and Europe. This was the second launch for Arianespace this year; an Ariane 5 is scheduled to launch on February 28.
NASA began the countdown on Monday for the upcoming launch the space shuttle Columbia on a mission to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope. If all goes well, Columbia will lift off from the Kennedy Space Center on February 28 at 1148 GMT (6:48am EST). Over the course of the 11-day mission, astronauts will carry out five scheduled spacewalks to install new hardware, including a new camera, solar wings, a power-control unit, and steering mechanism. Forecasters are expecting a 70% chance that the weather will be good enough for launch.
A new image taken by the Chandra X-Ray observatory reveals a bow-shaped shock wave towards one side of an extremely hot galactic cluster. Astronomers believe that the shock wave is caused by 70 million degree Celsius gas is ploughed through the cluster at a speed of 10 million kph. This cluster is of great interest to astronomers because it’s one of the hottest clusters ever found – astronomers think that the galaxy might have gotten so hot because it absorbed many smaller clusters in the past.
The second flight of the Atlas 3B rocket lifted off from Florida today, carrying an EchoStar 7 direct broadcasting satellite into orbit. This is an important launch for Lockheed Martin, as many of the parts of the upcoming Atlas 5, due for liftoff in May, were tested on this flight, including the upper stage booster. The flight was delayed twice, for a total of 30 minutes due to minor technical problems, but the rest of the launch seems to have gone flawless.
Scientists from the University of Arizona believe that water may have erupted onto the surface of Mars as recently as 10 million years ago. As much as 600 cubic kilometres of water (four times the water in Lake Erie) may have poured out of fissures in the Cerberus Plains just north of the Martian equator. The scientists formed their theory after studying images taken of the region by the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft.
After months of orbital manoeuvres, the Mars Odyssey spacecraft is ready to get to work searching for water on the surface of Mars. NASA flight controllers instructed the spacecraft to turn its scientific equipment towards the Red Planet on Monday. Operators expect it will take a few days to fully calibrate the equipment, and hope to release the first images to the public on March 1.
According to John Moore, a University of Florida anthropologist, families might have the right social dynamic to take on long duration space voyages – such as the colonization of another star, which could take 200 years to reach. By organizing the crew along family lines, Moore believes a crew would be better protected from problems that could occur over a multigenerational journey. In fact, in order to have enough genetic diversity to seed a new plant, Moore believes you only need a starting population of 150-180 people.
Scientists believe they have spotted the first evidence of a radiation afterglow from short gamma-ray bursts. The afterglow from the bursts was discovered by an international team of astronomers while poring through data gathered by NASA’s Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory. It’s believed longer gamma-ray bursts are caused by the collapse of massive stars, while shorter bursts might be from colliding neutron stars or black holes. By studying the afterglow, astronomers might have another tool to uncover the size, distance, and cause of the bursts.
Astronomers will have a treat on Wednesday when the planet Saturn sneaks behind a quarter moon and then return approximately an hour or so later. This planetary eclipse is called an occultation, and it will be best viewed from North-eastern part of North America. The exact time of the occultation depends on your location, so follow the links to find the various times in different cities.
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.