Posts Tagged ‘Solar System’

Seasons in the Sun

February 13, 2010
Hubble Space Telescope.  Source:  NASA

Hubble Space Telescope. Source: NASA

Astronomers may have downgraded Pluto to dwarf planet status – not that there is anything wrong with that – but this denizen of the distant fringe of our solar system never stops triggering our imaginations. Check out these images from the Hubble Space Telescope – 384 of them in all – shot between 2002 and 2003.¬† lead investigator Marc Buie, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, calls it his best guess at a true-color appearance” of the dwarf planet. The images also show evidence of ice melting a refreezing as the seasons change – it takes Pluto 248 earth years to make its way around the sun – and you think this winter has been long and cold?

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The Sky Is Falling! The Sky Is Falling!

January 30, 2010
WISE Spacecraft.  Source:  NASA/JPL

WISE Spacecraft. Source: NASA/JPL

The WISE guy has hit some pay celestial pay dirt.

NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, launched in December – took this shot of a near earth asteroid on January 12th. Designated 2010 AB78 – (comets have much more fun names…) this asteroid is 158 million kilometers (98 million miles) from Earth. Diameter is one kilometer or 6 tenths of a mile. Scientists say this space rock is not on a path to collide with earth in the foreseeable future.

But an expert panel has just concluded we are not being so wise about conducting a survey of big near earth asteroids that could clonk us and wreak havoc. The National Research Council says the goal to find 90% of the earth threatening asteroids 460 feet/ 140 meters or larger 2020 will not be met – for lack of funding. Scientists say an asteroid as small as a hundred feet – or 30 meters across – could take out a city. If you don’t think this is money well spent – go ask a dinosaur what he or she thinks.

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McMoon and the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project

January 15, 2010

Source:  Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project/NASA Ames

Source: Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project/NASA Ames

Whether they carry a badge signed by Charlie Bolden or Elon Musk, rocket scientists are genetically hardwired to obsess about the future.  In the course of turning their visions into reality, they sometimes forget the importance of history.

Such was the case when they lost those high quality tapes of the Apollo 11 moonwalk – how the heck did that happen?

There was another near historical tragedy involving yet another moon mission – but the day was saved by and unlikely team, working in an unlikely place.

OH A WISE Guy – eh?

December 21, 2009
WISE Spacecraft.  Source:  NASA/JPL

WISE Spacecraft. Source: NASA/JPL

Somewhere up there Curly Howard is nyuck nyuck nyucking over this one. NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer¬† – or WISE – spacecraft left the pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base – is now on its way to scan the heavens in unprecedented ways.

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NASA hopes WISE will orbit the earth from pole to pole for about ten months – snapping millions of infrared images – casting a wide net for cool things – and I mean that literally – things like brown dwarfs – an near earth asteroids and comets – which are hard for us to see otherwise.

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