APOD: Shuttle magic May 13, 2009Posted by Sarah in pics, space.
Tags: apod, hubble, nasa, shuttle, sm4, space
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In keeping with this week’s Launchtastic theme, today’s APOD is a beatiful picture of Space Shuttle Atlantis on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral. Atlantis is currently under way to rendez-vous with the Hubble Space Telescope to carry out essential repairs to ready the telescope for 5 more years of science operation.
Click to enlarge.
The reinvention of Hubble May 11, 2009Posted by Sarah in science, space.
Tags: astronomy, hubble, nasa, sm4, space, twitter
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If you’re into space and astronomy, then I can’t imagine you don’t already know that the 4th Space Shuttle mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope, aka Pimp my Space Telescope, is launching today. Yes, TODAY! How long have we been waiting for this? It seems so long. So what’s happening? In their 11 days in space, mission astronauts will undertake 5 spacewalks to make some crucial fixes and replacements to Hubble. Two brand new instruments, the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph and the Wide Field Camera 3 will be installed, setting the telescope up for 5 more years of Hubble goodness.
Mike Massimino, one of the astronauts on the Space Shuttle crew, has been twittering about his preparations for the mission. It’s been amazing to follow first-hand how astronauts prepare for these things and how they feel – particularly for this mission that is so long-awaited. Brilliant job Mike, thanks to you and all the crew, and safe travels tonight!
The launch is planned to take place at 2:01 EDT (check here what that is in your timezone) from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Watch it live over on NASA TV, and follow updates on twitter. NASA’s official page for the mission is here. Blogs with more mission information over at astropixie and Cosmic Variance.
Update, 11/05: Wired Science have a useful guide to following the Shuttle launch live, here.
Kepler sees the light April 20, 2009Posted by Sarah in science, space.
Tags: astronomy, exoplanet, kepler, nasa, space
First light images from NASA’s Kepler space telescope were released last week following the satellite’s sucecssful launch on March 7. The picture shown here shows an (inversted) image of the starfield Kepler will be studying over the course of its exoplanet-finding mission, in the Cygnus-Lyra region of the Galaxy. It may not look like much, but for the Kepler team it’s pretty special to see that their satellite is alive and well, and performing as it should. Congrats!
Go here for the full set of first light images.
Image credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech
Big Picture: Ballooning into space March 21, 2009Posted by Sarah in pics, science, space.
Tags: DIY, space
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The second even featured in the Big Picture was the brilliant story of the Spanish high school kids who built their own high-altitude weather station attached to a large helium balloon. The balloon floated up 30 km into the atmosphere and a cheap off-the-shelf digital camera took pictures on the way up and down. They are fantastic! Quickly, someone give these guys a job before they become bankers or lawyers.
Image credit: Meteotek08 team
A sad but cautionary tale February 24, 2009Posted by Sarah in science.
Tags: accident, climate change, nasa, space
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NASA‘s Orbiting Carbon Observatory, an Earth-observation satellite designed to measure in detail the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and study sinks and sources of the gas, crashed into the Antarctic following a failed launch attempt this morning. This is a blow to NASA and climate scientists worldwide, who were looking forward to the data from OCO to help understand how natural and human processes affect climate change processes. NASA blogged the launch live, and the minimal text I’m sure belies the anxiety the scientists and engineers must have been feeling. The cause of the crash was the failure of the payload protective cover to separate from the satellite. The satellite couldn’t reach its orbit and fell back down to Earth.
OCO’s loss is a stark reminder that launching stuff into space is still a pretty risky undertaking, With several high-profile astronomy launches coming up in the next 2 months (Kepler, Herschel and Planck), astronomers will be anxious for the safety of our own spacecraft. Fingers crossed!