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NASA’s biggest problem is well-known. It was the first international space operation to get a man on the moon. Its critics say it has not done enough since to maintain that supremacy and now it faces competition abroad from China and at home from the likes of Elon Musk’s space company Space X.


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Astronaut Chris Hadfield’s <a href=”http://spaceexp.tumblr.com/tagged/2013”>2013</a> Memoir To Become a Television Sitcom: Report

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield may soon keep company with a whole new type of star as his 2013 memoir An Astronaut’s Guide To Life on Earth is reportedly being adapted into a sitcom for ABC.


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Hubble Telescope Finds Potential Kuiper Belt Targets for New Horizons <a href=”http://spaceexp.tumblr.com/tagged/pluto”>Pluto</a> Mission












NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

October 15, 2014


Image above: This is an artist’s impression of a Kuiper Belt object (KBO), located on the outer rim of our solar system at a staggering distance of 4 billion miles from the Sun. A HST survey uncovered three KBOs that are potentially reachable by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft after it passes by Pluto in mid-2015. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI).

Peering out to the dim, outer reaches of our solar system, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered three Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) the agency’s New Horizons spacecraft could potentially visit after it flies by Pluto in July 2015.

The KBOs were detected through a dedicated Hubble observing program by a New Horizons search team that was awarded telescope time for this purpose.

“This has been a very challenging search and it’s great that in the end Hubble could accomplish a detection – one NASA mission helping another,” said Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado, principal investigator of the New Horizons mission.

The Kuiper Belt is a vast rim of primordial debris encircling our solar system. KBOs belong to a unique class of solar system objects that has never been visited by spacecraft and which contain clues to the origin of our solar system.

The KBOs Hubble found are each about 10 times larger than typical comets, but only about 1-2 percent of the size of Pluto. Unlike asteroids, KBOs have not been heated by the sun and are thought to represent a pristine, well preserved deep-freeze sample of what the outer solar system was like following its birth 4.6 billion years ago. The KBOs found in the Hubble data are thought to be the building blocks of dwarf planets such as Pluto.

The New Horizons team started to look for suitable KBOs in 2011 using some of the largest ground-based telescopes on Earth. They found several dozen KBOs, but none was reachable within the fuel supply available aboard the New Horizons spacecraft.

“We started to get worried that we could not find anything suitable, even with Hubble, but in the end the space telescope came to the rescue,” said New Horizons science team member John Spencer of SwRI. “There was a huge sigh of relief when we found suitable KBOs; we are ‘over the moon’ about this detection.”

Following an initial proof of concept of the Hubble pilot observing program in June, the New Horizons Team was awarded telescope time by the Space Telescope Science Institute for a wider survey in July. When the search was completed in early September, the team identified one KBO that is considered “definitely reachable,” and two other potentially accessible KBOs that will require more tracking over several months to know whether they too are accessible by the New Horizons spacecraft.


Image above: Artist’s concept of the New Horizons spacecraft as it approaches Pluto and its three moons. Image Credit: NASA.

This was a needle-in-haystack search for the New Horizons team because the elusive KBOs are extremely small, faint, and difficult to pick out against a myriad background of stars in the constellation Sagittarius, which is in the present direction of Pluto. The three KBOs identified each are a whopping 1 billion miles beyond Pluto. Two of the KBOs are estimated to be as large as 34 miles (55 kilometers) across, and the third is perhaps as small as 15 miles (25 kilometers).

The New Horizons spacecraft, launched in 2006 from Florida, is the first mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. Once a NASA mission completes its prime mission, the agency conducts an extensive science and technical review to determine whether extended operations are warranted.

The New Horizons team expects to submit such a proposal to NASA in late 2016 for an extended mission to fly by one of the newly identified KBOs. Hurtling across the solar system, the New Horizons spacecraft would reach the distance of 4 billion miles from the sun at its farthest point roughly three to four years after its July 2015 Pluto encounter. Accomplishing such a KBO flyby would substantially increase the science return from the New Horizons mission as laid out by the 2003 Planetary Science Decadal Survey.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington.

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, manages the New Horizons mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. APL also built and operates the New Horizons spacecraft.

For images of the KBOs and more information about Hubble, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/hubble

ESA Hubble website:  http://sci.esa.int/hubble/

For information about the New Horizons mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/newhorizons

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA / Dwayne Brown / Space Telescope Science Institute / Ray Villard.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch
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NASA&#8217;s Messenger captures first photos of ice on Mercury

NASA’s Messenger captures first photos of ice on Mercury

South polar mesas and buttes Source: ASUMarsSpaceFlight

South polar mesas and buttes

Source: ASUMarsSpaceFlight

Astronomers Spot Faraway Uranus-Like Planet

Columbus OH (SPX) Oct 16, 2014
Our view of other solar systems just got a little more familiar, with the discovery of a planet 25,000 light-years away that resembles our own Uranus. Astronomers have discovered hundreds of planets around the Milky Way, including rocky planets similar to Earth and gas planets similar to Jupiter. But there is a third type of planet in our solar system-part gas, part ice-and this is the fir
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Slow-Growing Galaxies Offer Window to Early Universe













NASA - Spitzer Space Telescope patch / ESA - Herschel Mission patch / NASA - GALEX Mission patch.

October 15, 2014

What makes one rose bush blossom with flowers, while another remains barren? Astronomers ask a similar question of galaxies, wondering how some flourish with star formation and others barely bloom.

A new study published in the Oct. 16 issue of the journal Nature addresses this question by making some of the most accurate measurements yet of the meager rates at which small, sluggish galaxies create stars. The report uses data from the European Space Agency’s Herschel mission, in which NASA is a partner, and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX).

The findings are helping researchers figure out how the very first stars in our universe sprouted. Like the stars examined in the new study, the first-ever stars from billions of years ago took root in poor conditions. Growing stars in the early cosmos is like trying to germinate flower seeds in a bed of dry, poor soil. Back then, the universe hadn’t had time yet to make “heavy metals,” elements heavier than hydrogen and helium.


Image above: A small galaxy, called Sextans A. Image Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/NRAO.

"The metals in space help act in some ways like a fertilizer to help stars grow," said George Helou, an author of the new study and director of NASA’s Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC) at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. The lead author of the study is Yong Shi, who performed some of the research at IPAC before moving to Nanjing University in China.

The two slow-going galaxies in the study, called Sextans A and ESO 146-G14, lack in heavy metals, just like our young and remote cosmos, only they are a lot closer to us and easier to see.  Sextans A is located about 4.5 million light-years from Earth, and ESO 146-G14 is more than 70,000 light-years away.

These smaller galaxies are late bloomers. They managed to travel through history while remaining pristine, and never bulked up in heavy metals (heavy metals not only help stars to form, but are also created themselves by stars).

"The metal-poor galaxies are like islands left over from the early universe," said Helou. "Because they are relatively close to us, they are especially valuable windows to the past."

Studying star formation in poor growing environments such as these is tricky. The galaxies, though nearby, are still faint and hard to see. Shi and his international team wrangled the problem with a multi-wavelength approach. The Herschel data, captured at the longest infrared wavelengths of light, let the researchers see the cool dust in which stars are buried. The dust serves as a proxy for the total amount of gas in the region — the basic ingredient of stars. To other telescopes, this dust is cold and invisible. Herschel, on the other hand, can pick up its feeble glow.

Herschel Space Observatory. Image Credit: ESA

Supporting radio-wavelength measurements of some of the gas in the galaxies came from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Jansky Very Large Array observatory near Socorro, New Mexico, and the Australia Telescope Compact Array observatory, near Narrabri.

Meanwhile, archived data from Spitzer and GALEX were used to look at the rate of star formation. Spitzer sees shorter-wavelength infrared light, which comes from dust that is warmed by new stars. GALEX images capture ultraviolet light from the shining stars themselves.

GALEX spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA

Putting all these pieces together enabled the astronomers to determine that the galaxies are plodding along, creating stars at rates 10 times lower than their normal counterparts.

"Star formation is very inefficient in these environments," said Shi. "Extremely metal-poor nearby galaxies are the best way to know what went on billions of years ago."

The heavy metals in present-day galaxies help star formation to flourish through cooling effects. For a star to form, a ball of gas needs to fall in on itself with the help of its own gravity. Ultimately, the material has to become dense enough for atoms to fuse and ignite, creating starlight. But as this cloud collapses, it heats up and puffs back out again, counteracting the process. Heavy metals cool everything down by radiating away the heat, enabling the cloud to condense into a star.

Spitzer Space Telescope. Image Credit: NASA

How stars in the early universe were able to do this without the cooling benefits of heavy metals remains unknown.

Studies like this shine light on the very first stellar buds, giving us a glimpse into the roots of our cosmic history.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The GALEX mission, which ended in 2013, was also managed by JPL for NASA and led by Caltech. JPL served as the NASA Herschel Project Office for the European Space Agency’s Herschel mission, which also ended in 2013.

Data from Spitzer and Herschel are accessible through the Infrared Science Archive housed at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

For more information about Herschel mission, visit: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Herschel

For more information about Spitzer mission, visit: http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/

For more information about GALEX mission, visit: http://www.galex.caltech.edu/

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA / JPL / Whitney Clavin.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch
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Rocket failed, mission succeed.

Canyons of morning light Source: ASUMarsSpaceFlight

Canyons of morning light

Source: ASUMarsSpaceFlight