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.
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.
The space shuttle Columbia rolled out to the launch pad on Monday to prepare for the launch of STS-109; the fourth mission to retrieve and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope. If everything goes smoothly, Columbia will lift off on February 28th, and rendezvous with the telescope in space. Over the course of the mission, shuttle astronauts will perform five spacewalks to install a new camera system, solar arrays, and power controller onto the aging space observatory.
Scientists know that approximately 250 million years something wiped out almost all the life on Earth; however, what exactly happened has remained a mystery – was it a volcano, asteroid strike, or something else? New evidence has been found in pockets of gas deep inside rocks that were formed during the time of the event. The gas contains higher than normal levels of a specific type of helium and argon which is more common in space, so something must have brought the material to Earth, probably an asteroid.
NASA?s Mars Odyssey spacecraft has reached its final mapping orbit after three months of aerobraking manoeuvres around the Red Planet. At 2014 GMT (5:14pm EST) Odyssey fired its thrusters for 25 seconds and decreased its velocity to maintain an orbit which varies between 387km and 450km above the surface of Mars. Two scientific instruments on the spacecraft have already begun collecting data about the composition of the planet?s surface.
The Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer (EUVE) spacecraft is expected to re-enter the Earth?s atmosphere sometime on Thursday morning. Although they don?t know where or when it will crash – as far South as Brisbane, Australia, and as far North as Orlando, Florida – NASA believes that most of the spacecraft will be destroyed on re-entry with some pieces crashing into the ocean. Unlike many large spacecraft, the EUVE wasn?t built with a propulsion system to control its crash location. During its eight years in orbit, the EUVE observed over 1,000 objects in the extreme ultraviolet spectrum.
A new, high-resolution image has been taken of one of the most famous astronomical objects in the night sky ? the Horsehead Nebula, which is located in the constellation of Orion. This beautiful photograph is a composite image made from three separate images taken in February 2000 by the 8.2 metre VLT KUEYEN telescope on Paranal in Chile.
Scientists believe they’ve found an additional five meteorites that originated from the planet Mars. The new rocks were discovered during recent expeditions to Antarctica and the deserts of the Middle East and Africa ? the best places for discovering the precious objects from space. This brings the total number of known Martian rocks to 24, and will provide researchers with additional specimens to analyze for evidence of past (or current) life on Mars.
Deep Space 1 Missed Photo Opportunity with Asteroid
NASA’s advanced Deep Space 1 probe missed its chance to catch pictures of Asteroid Braille when it passed only 10 miles away. The spacecraft’s auto-navigation system lost track of the asteroid’s target at the last minute, and it only caught photos of open space.
Titan Covered by Oily Oceans
Recent photographs from the Keck observatory at Hawaii have revealed oceans of liquid hydrocarbons on Saturn’s moon Titan – including many found on Earth before life developed. When it reaches Saturn in 2004, the Cassini spacecraft will drop a probe onto the surface of Titan to accurately determine the composition of its oceans.
Kazakhstan-Russian Commission Meets to Discuss Launch Problems
A joint commission of Russian and Kazakhstan officials met today to try and iron out their recent problems. After its recent ban of all launches from the Baikonur cosmodrome, the Kazakhstan government has wanted more control and a larger revenue share of Russian space launches.
Lunar Eclipse Doesn’t Damage Prospector
Although it was a serious concern to NASA engineers, Lunar Prospector didn’t suffer any damage when it passed into a partial lunar eclipse – away from the Sun’s power to recharge its batteries. Prospector will crash onto the moon’s surface on Saturday in the hope of discovering ice.
Moon Crash Will Also Help Fulfill Geologist’s Last Wish
Killed in a car crash in Australia in 1997, Gene Shoemaker – co-discoverer of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet – will have his ashes scattered on the moon when the Lunar Prospector crashes in search of water later this week.
Cosmonauts Perform Final Mir Spacewalk
Mir cosmonauts spent nearly 6 hours outside the battered spacestation installing equipment, and unfolding an antenna. The cosmonauts tested the potential of the antenna, and then disposed of it in space. They’ll return on August 28th, after which the station will probably remain vacant until it crashes back to Earth in early 2000.
NASA Confirms Columbia’s Fuel Leak
With the Space Shuttle Columbia safely on the ground, NASA engineers have had the opportunity to examine the fuel leak. After an inspection, they’ve confirmed three tiny holes in one of the shuttle’s engine nozzles. Although it didn’t cause any damage, NASA engineers confirmed that it was a little too close for comfort.
New Extrasolar Planet Discovered Around Iota Horologii
Astronomers have discovered the newest extrasolar planet orbiting a sunlike star in Iota Horologii. Twice the size of Jupiter, but with a similar orbit to the Earth, the planet was discovered by the European Southern Observatory in Chile.