Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Neil Armstrong: 1930-2012

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Source – NASA:

Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon during the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, has died, following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures. He was 82.

Armstrong’s words “That is one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind,” spoken on July 20, 1969, as he became the first person ever to step onto another planetary body, instantly became a part of history.

Those few words from the Sea of Tranquillity were the climactic fulfillment of the efforts and hopes of millions of people and the expenditure of billions of dollars. A plaque on one of the lander’s legs that concluded “We came in peace for all mankind,” further emphasized that Armstrong and fellow astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin were there as representatives of all humans.

Armstrong is survived by his wife, two sons, a stepson, a stepdaughter, 10 grandchildren, and a brother and sister.

“Neil Armstrong was a hero not just of his time, but of all time,” said President Barack Obama. “Thank you, Neil, for showing us the power of one small step.”

Armstrong’s family released the following statement on Saturday:

“Neil Armstrong was also a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job. He served his Nation proudly, as a navy fighter pilot, test pilot, and astronaut. He also found success back home in his native Ohio in business and academia, and became a community leader in Cincinnati.

While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.

The family will be providing further updates at .

Video Shows Rover Heat Shield Hit Mars, Create Dust Cloud

Saturday, August 18th, 2012

Source – NASA/JPL:

Heat Shield, Meet Mars
This sequence of images shows the heat shield from NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory hitting the ground on Mars and raising a cloud of dust

Embedded video from

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory California Institute of Technology

Curiosity Sends High-Resolution Color Images from Gale Crater

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

Source – NASA/JPL Mars Science Laboratory:

NASA’s Curiosity rover has shipped back to Earth high-resolution color images of its surroundings on Mars, sharpening our views of an intriguing channel, layered buttes and a layer of cobbles and pebbles embedded in a finer matrix of material. The images show a landscape closely resembling portions of the southwestern United States, adding to the impression gained from the lower-resolution thumbnail images released earlier this week.

The 79 images that went into the large mosaics were taken on Aug. 8, 2012 PDT (Aug. 9, EDT) by Curiosity’s 34-millimeter Mastcam. The black areas indicate high-resolution images not yet returned by the rover.

The full-resolution images are available at: “ and

Curiosity sent lower-resolution versions of these images earlier in the week. The latest versions, sent while Curiosity was undergoing a software “brain transplant” and pausing in its acquisition of new science data, are 1,200 by 1,200 pixels.

In one version of the large mosaic, the colors portrayed are unmodified from those returned by the camera. The view is what a cell phone or camcorder would record, since the Mastcam takes color pictures in the exact same manner that consumer cameras acquire color images. The second version shows the colors modified as if the scene were transported to Earth and illuminated by terrestrial sunlight. This processing, called “white balancing,” is useful for scientists to be able to recognize and distinguish rocks by their color in more familiar lighting.

Smaller mosaics of some of the areas most interesting to science team members are also available. One shows a section on the crater wall north of the landing site, where a network of valleys believed to have formed by water erosion enters Gale Crater from the outside. This is the first view scientists have had of a fluvial system – one relating to a river or stream – from the surface of Mars.

A second section of the mosaic looks south of the landing site, towards Mount Sharp, a peak that is about 3.4 miles (5.5 kilometers) high and taller than Mt. Whitney in California. This provides an overview of the eventual geologic targets Curiosity will explore in the next two years. Close by is a rock-strewn, gravelly surface. Farther away is a dark dune field, and beyond that lie the layered buttes and mesas of the sedimentary rock of Mount Sharp.

Another section of the mosaic shows an area excavated by the blast of the Mars Science Laboratory’s descent stage rockets. With the loose debris blasted away by the rockets, details of the underlying materials are clearly seen. Of particular note is a well-defined, topmost layer that contains fragments of rock embedded in a matrix of finer material.

Curiosity continues to be very healthy, with all instruments and engineering subsystems operating as planned. There are no science or instrument activities planned on Sol 5. Last night, the new flight software, which is optimized for surface operations, was tested for the first time and successfully executed all planned Sol 5 rover activities. The test demonstrated that the new software is ready to support the upcoming surface operations mission phase. After an afternoon nap, Curiosity then returned to operating on its previous flight software, as planned. The rover’s primary main computer will be permanently transitioned to the new flight software on Aug. 13.


Veronica McGregor/Guy Webster
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. /

NASA a live video/audio feed of the Perseid shower

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

Source – NASA Chat: Stay ‘Up All Night’ to Watch the Perseids:

A live video/audio feed of the Perseid shower is embedded below. The camera is mounted at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. During daylight, you’ll see a dark gray box — the camera is light-activated and will turn on at dusk. At night you’ll see white points, or stars, on a black background.

Live stream by Ustream

About the Perseids

The Perseids have been observed for at least 2,000 years and are associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the sun once every 133 years. Each year in August, the Earth passes through a cloud of the comet’s debris. These bits of ice and dust — most over 1,000 years old — burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere to create one of the best meteor showers of the year. The Perseids can be seen all over the sky, but the best viewing opportunities will be across the northern hemisphere. Those with sharp eyes will see that the meteors radiate from the direction of the constellation Perseus.

More About the Chat Experts

Bill Cooke
Danielle Moser
Rhiannon Blaauw

Janet Anderson, 256-544-0034
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.

What it took to get curiosity to the surface of Mars…

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Newly Discovered Large Asteroid Passes by Earth

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Source – Slooh Space Camera:

During its closest approach at 8 p.m. ET Thursday Slooh will attempt to track newly discovered near-Earth Asteroid 2012 LZ1 as it makes its close approach to Earth. 2012 LZ1 is over 1,600 feet (500-meter) wide about the size of a city block and about 14 Moon (3.3 million miles or 5.3 million kilometers) distances from Earth. The asteroid was never close enough to threaten Earth

NASA Science – Solar Eclipse in the USA (May 20, 2012)

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Source – Science@NASA:

See Older post for google maps that show the path of the Eclipse.

A “ring of fire” solar eclipse is coming to the USA this spring. It’s the first annular eclipse visible from the contiguous United States in almost 18 years.

Annular Solar eclipse of May 20, 2012

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Source – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

An annular solar eclipse will take place on May 20, 2012 (May 21, 2012 for local time in Eastern Hemisphere), with a magnitude of 0.9439. A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between Earth and the Sun, thereby totally or partially obscuring the image of the Sun for a viewer on Earth. An annular solar eclipse occurs when the Moon’s apparent diameter is smaller than the Sun, causing the Sun to look like an annulus (ring), blocking most of the Sun’s light. An annular eclipse appears as a partial eclipse over a region thousands of kilometres wide.

The annular phase will be visible from the Chinese coast, the south of Japan, and the western part of the United States and Canada. Guangzhou, Tokyo and Albuquerque will be on the central path. Kanarraville, Utah will be a perfect place to view the annular phase. Its maximum will occur in the North Pacific, south of the Aleutian islands for 5 min and 46.3 s, and finish in the western United States.

It will be the first central eclipse of the 21st century in the continental USA, and also the first annular eclipse there since the solar eclipse of May 10, 1994 which was also the previous eclipse of this series Solar Saros 128.

Google Map of Annular Solar Eclipse

NASA Discovers First Earth-size Planets Beyond Our Solar System

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Source – NASA /JPL Kepler:

MOFFET FIELD, Calif. — NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered the first Earth-size planets orbiting a sun-like star outside our solar system. The planets, called Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f, are too close to their star to be in the so-called habitable zone where liquid water could exist on a planet’s surface, but they are the smallest exoplanets ever confirmed around a star like our sun.

The discovery marks the next important milestone in the ultimate search for planets like Earth. The new planets are thought to be rocky. Kepler-20e is slightly smaller than Venus, measuring 0.87 times the radius of Earth. Kepler-20f is a bit larger than Earth, measuring 1.03 times its radius. Both planets reside in a five-planet system called Kepler-20, approximately 1,000 light-years away in the constellation Lyra.

Kepler-20e orbits its parent star every 6.1 days and Kepler-20f every 19.6 days. These short orbital periods mean very hot, inhospitable worlds. Kepler-20f, at 800 degrees Fahrenheit, is similar to an average day on the planet Mercury. The surface temperature of Kepler-20e, at more than 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit, would melt glass.

“The primary goal of the Kepler mission is to find Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone,” said Francois Fressin of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., lead author of a new study published in the journal Nature. “This discovery demonstrates for the first time that Earth-size planets exist around other stars, and that we are able to detect them.”

The Kepler-20 system includes three other planets that are larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune. Kepler-20b, the closest planet, Kepler-20c, the third planet, and Kepler-20d, the fifth planet, orbit their star every 3.7, 10.9 and 77.6 days. All five planets have orbits lying roughly within Mercury’s orbit in our solar system. The host star belongs to the same G-type class as our sun, although it is slightly smaller and cooler.

The system has an unexpected arrangement. In our solar system, small, rocky worlds orbit close to the sun and large, gaseous worlds orbit farther out. In comparison, the planets of Kepler-20 are organized in alternating size: large, small, large, small and large.

“The Kepler data are showing us some planetary systems have arrangements of planets very different from that seen in our solar system,” said Jack Lissauer, planetary scientist and Kepler science team member at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. “The analysis of Kepler data continue to reveal new insights about the diversity of planets and planetary systems within our galaxy.”

Scientists are not certain how the system evolved but they do not think the planets formed in their existing locations. They theorize the planets formed farther from their star and then migrated inward, likely through interactions with the disk of material from which they originated. This allowed the worlds to maintain their regular spacing despite alternating sizes.

The Kepler space telescope detects planets and planet candidates by measuring dips in the brightness of more than 150,000 stars to search for planets crossing in front, or transiting, their stars. The Kepler science team requires at least three transits to verify a signal as a planet.

The Kepler science team uses ground-based telescopes and the Spitzer Space Telescope to review observations on planet candidates the spacecraft finds. The star field Kepler observes in the constellations Cygnus and Lyra can be seen only from ground-based observatories in spring through early fall. The data from these other observations help determine which candidates can be validated as planets.

To validate Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f, astronomers used a computer program called Blender, which runs simulations to help rule out other astrophysical phenomena masquerading as a planet.

On Dec. 5 the team announced the discovery of Kepler-22b in the habitable zone of its parent star. It is likely to be too large to have a rocky surface. While Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f are Earth-size, they are too close to their parent star to have liquid water on the surface.

“In the cosmic game of hide and seek, finding planets with just the right size and just the right temperature seems only a matter of time,” said Natalie Batalha, Kepler deputy science team lead and professor of astronomy and physics at San Jose State University. “We are on the edge of our seats knowing that Kepler’s most anticipated discoveries are still to come.”

NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., manages Kepler’s ground system development, mission operations and science data analysis. JPL managed the Kepler mission’s development.

Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo., developed the Kepler flight system and supports mission operations with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore archives, hosts and distributes Kepler science data. Kepler is NASA’s 10th Discovery Mission and is funded by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.

For more information about the Kepler mission and to view the digital press kit, visit:

Discovery of Earth-size planets in or near the “habitable zone,”

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Source – National Optical Astronomy Observatory:

NOAO: New Planet Kepler-21b discovery a partnership of both space and ground-based observations

The NASA Kepler Mission is designed to survey a portion of our region of the Milky Way Galaxy to discover Earth-size planets in or near the “habitable zone,” the region in a planetary system where liquid water can exist, and determine how many of the billions of stars in our galaxy have such planets. It now has another planet to add to its growing list. A research team led by Steve Howell, NASA Ames Research Center, has shown that one of the brightest stars in the Kepler star field has a planet with a radius only 1.6 that of the earth’s radius and a mass no greater that 10 earth masses, circling its parent star with a 2.8 day period. With such a short period, and such a bright star, the team of over 65 astronomers (that included David Silva, Ken Mighell and Mark Everett of NOAO) needed multiple telescopes on the ground to support and confirm their Kepler observations. These included the 4 meter Mayall telescope and the WIYN telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory. The accompanying figure shows the size of the Kepler field, seen over Kitt Peak.

With a period of only 2.8 days, this planet, designated Kepler-21b, is only about 6 million km away from its parent star. By comparison Mercury, the closest planet to the sun, has a period of 88 days and a distance from the sun almost ten times greater, or 57 million km. So Kepler 21b is far hotter than any place humans could venture. The team calculates that the temperature at the surface of the planet is about 1900 K, or 2960 F. While this temperature is nowhere near the habitable zone in which liquid water might be found, the planet’s size is approaching that of the earth.

The parent star, HD 179070, is quite similar to our sun: its mass is 1.3 solar masses, its radius is 1.9 solar radii, and its age, based on stellar models, is 2.84 billion years (or a bit younger than the sun’s 4.6 billion years). HD 179070 is spectral type F6 IV, a little hotter and brighter than the sun. By astronomical standards, HD 179070 is fairly close, at a distance from the sun of 352 light years. While it cannot be seen by the unaided eye, a small telescope can easily pick it out.

Part of the difficulty in detecting this planet is the realization, from the Kepler mission, that many stars show short period brightness oscillations. The effect of these must be removed from the stellar light in order to uncover the regular, but very small, dimming caused by the planet passing in front of the star. The Kepler mission observed this field for over 15 months, and the team combined the observations to enable them to detect this tiny, periodic signal. They also relied on spectroscopic and imaging data from a number of ground based telescopes. The attached figure 2 shows a light curve: a plot of the brightness of HD 179070 over time as the planet passes in front of it. This curve was built up over the many months of observing.

The results of this work have been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal.

NOAO is operated by Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy Inc. (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation.