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More success for Herschel July 11, 2009

Posted by Sarah in new astronomy, pics, science, space.
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After the early sneak preview from the PACS instrument on board the recently launched Herschel infrared space telescope, more images have now been released from its other instruments, SPIRE and HIFI. The above image shows images taken with the IR imager and spectrometer SPIRE of nearby galaxy M74 at 250 micron. The amount of detail visible in the images is really great, particularly as all the image reconstruction software hasn’t even been optimised yet. We may be very used to seeing spectacularly detailed images from Hubble, but achieving these resolutions at Herschel’s far-infrared wavelengths is very new. (more…)

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… and you can watch the ISS! June 27, 2009

Posted by Sarah in astro 2.0.
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twisst

Don’t freak out that the ISS is watching you – just wave back! A new service called Twisst has just been launched on Twitter to send users alerts of ISS passes at their location, based on the location information they have listed on their profile*. ISS twitter feeds already existed of course, from the OverTwitter project, which has twitter feeds for satellite passes over many world cities. An aside to OverTwitter is OverRSS, which allows users to sign up to an RSS feed of satellite passes for any location of your choice. Twisst combines the two by converting the location registered to the Twitter profile to co-ordinates, and automatically sends the alert at the right time for the right place. All you need to do is follow @twisst. (more…)

Big Picture homage to MESSENGER June 12, 2009

Posted by Sarah in pics, science, space.
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MESSENGER launches

The wonderful Big Picture series at the Boston Globe devoted a photo series this week to the MESSENGER probe and the fantastic images it has sent us from the tiny enigmatic planet Mercury.

Hop on over there and take a look!

Image: NASA

Hugs for Hubble May 16, 2009

Posted by Sarah in science, space.
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Astronaut Andrew Feustel trying to find hole F and bolt C. I wonder what it feels like to have your feet strapped in for 8 hours?

Astronaut Andrew Feustel trying to find hole F and bolt C. I wonder what it feels like to have your feet strapped in for 8 hours?

The Hubble Space Telescope has been receiving some astronaut love this week as part of its 4th servicing mission, NASA’s final upgrade for the 19-year old observatory. The Atlantis crew have already carried out some crucial repairs in two lengthy space walks on Thursday and Friday: the famed WFPC2 camera was decommissioned and replaced by the shiny new wide field camera, WFC3, and new batteries and gyros have been installed to power up the telescope for a further 5 years of operations.

Following the demise of Columbia in 2003 the future of the servicing mission was thrown into serious doubt. Many considered the cost and risk of sending astronauts to Hubble too high in view of the safety concerns surrounding the Shuttle, and suggested NASA design a robotic servicing mission to Hubble. But the astronauts have well proven their worth this week, with several problems cropping up during the space walk that perhaps a robot would not have been able to deal with so easily. Julianne discusses the same point on Cosmic Variance.

The spacewalks can be followed live on the internet and, while the spacewalks last many hours, the coverage makes for fascinating viewing (at NASA TV). Spaceflight Now has excellent coverage on the whole mission, follow them on twitter to stay up to date.

A full schedule of the mission is here. The NY Times have a really cool interactive feature on Hubble and the repairs. Some amazing pictures have appared online, like today’s APOD (also on Bad Astronomy, here).

Image: NASA

Herschel and Planck ready to go! May 13, 2009

Posted by Sarah in science, space.
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herschelplanck

Continuing the astro-goodness of the week, Thursday will see the launch of two major European-led astronomy space missions from ESA‘s space port in French Guiana. Hitching a ride on the same Ariane 5 rocket, space telescopes Herschel and Planck will be launched towards the L2 point on 14 May. (more…)