Saturday, March 5, 2011

Caturday Round-Up

I haven't posted much astronomy news this past week, so I figured it would be good to give a round up. And then cat pictures, because its fricken Caturday, which is serious business.

Lets start with this story. NASA's Glory satellite failed to reach orbit on March 4th, 2011. The protective shell on top of the rocket that housed the satellite failed to separate as expected. The satellite's goal was to study interactions between the Sun and aerosol particles in the atmosphere. The rocket and satellite fell into the Pacific Ocean.

More News>
The Europa Mission may be canceled due to budget cuts. NASA is always one of the first on Congress's chopping block. A really sad thing when they can give so much with proper funding. This mission would further study the ice covered moon of Jupiter, providing details on the nature of the ocean locked under the ice, and pave the way for future robotic missions to possible probe that ocean.

At the same time, NASA's Head is defending the space budget proposal to Congress. Congress criticizes NASA for not adhering closely enough to the details of the previously approved plans. The biggest problem with that is that Congress critters tend to reach their hand into NASA projects and fiddle with them to bring work to their districts, often at a loss the NASA. There is also criticism of how much NASA should shift to commercial space flight. I particularly agree with Phil Plait's view, that NASA should be paving the way with new technologies and exploration, while 'space trucks' can be picked up by private industry.

The Sun is continuing to be very active. There are now two large sunspots, 1164 and 1166 on the face of the Sun. There are expectations for an X-class flare, which are huge and can cause radio blackouts. A Coronal Mass Ejection is also due to hit the Earth tomorrow. Expect pretty auroras at high latitudes, and radio problems. There might also be GPS disruption.

Speaking of the Sun, A new study of the Sun's deep physics explains sunspot free days. Not to long ago, the Sun seemed blank for several days on end. This also happened while I was doing solar observing, which was boring to see, but a fascinating problem for the usually active Sun. It's good to see some answers finally.

An amateur astronomy took this amazing picture. It's of astronaut Steve Bowen during a spacewalk mission, it was taken from a ground-based telescope.

China is building the world largest rocket production base. While NASA seems to be fighting for its existence, the Chinese are quickly rising in the space science community.

New images of the giant planet orbiting Beta Pictoris. These aren't the first image of the Super-Jupiter planet known as Beta Pictoris b (great name, I know). It orbits Beta Pic at about the distance that Saturn orbits our Sun. These new images tell us more about the formation and development of stellar systems. More at Bad Astronomy.

A NASA scientist claims to have found evidence of alien life in a meteorite. The skepticism of this article is huge. This is only a claim, one that is a long way off from being validated. More study and research of this meteorite will need to be done. It certainly is intriguing though, and if true, would be amazing. Bad Astronomy has a great rebuttal.

I think that covers pretty much all the major news of the past few days. There's always lots of interesting things going on. I know two things I didn't specifically link to were NASA's extending the shuttle's stay in space for two extra days, and the ESA is moving forward with its own GPS and GLONASS equivalent satellite navigation program. Now, CAT PICTURES!

Me holding Bella

Reyn being fat


29 comments:

kgp318 said...

It's sad that The Europa Mission may be canceled. I would like to know more about frozen ice and oceans in space..I'll have to read more about it. Are there lots of planets and moons who have these types of oceans?

Astronomy Pirate said...

Earth is the only planet known to have a liquid ocean of water. On moons, the ones with water oceans are thought to be Jupiter's Europa and Ganymede, and Saturn's Enceladus. These oceans would all be under layers of thick ice. Other oceans are thought to be seas of diamond in the gas giants and Saturn's moon Titan, which has a complex hydrological cycle like the Earths, but made up of complex hydrocarbons. Think seas of methane and ethane.

AnthropoSeptic said...

I think another problem with congress is they have no clue what the hell NASA is doing. I don't know how many times I've heard an incredulous Congressman say something asinine like
"We're spending millions of taxpayer dollars to play with dirt from Mars? Hurr durr." They seem to be completely ignorant of not only the missions' goals, but how the technology developed for these missions applies to other areas.

ankmanpro said...

I love cats!!

Grafted said...

I love the pic of Steve Bowen, and the fact that it was taken from the ground is amazing

Raw said...

The pic of Steve Bowen is incredible.
Lots of cool news, excellent post!

tearinox said...

cats are awesome following :)

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Electric Addict Set #3

PekkaK said...

Reyn's been home at dinner time :D What do you think of Chinese space program? Will they be next ones going to moon?

Araita said...

Alien life in a meteorite!? Oh boy, this is scary, but it makes me feel good at the same time!

sildude said...

Too bad about NASA. They have it pretty difficult with all those budget cuts.

Also, nice cats!

Tony Storm said...

REYN! stop copying me! stop being fat like that, i dont like it

mac-and-me said...

so china starts a new spacerace?

Naturalscienceblog said...

Cute cats you got. ^_^
Followed.

Anonymous. said...

Cute!

Every Day said...

is that a space cat? :]

Chris said...

From hence on, every saturdays will be known as Caturdays!

Alphabeta said...

That cat needs to go on a diet.

Rachel Neilson said...

Nice. I read in the paper this morning that a NASA scientist did some studies and said life on earth came from outer space.

Space Marine said...

Chinese space program, brilliant. sweatshop rockets and fake gucci spacesuits

Epicycle said...

I've always wanted NASA to go take a closer look at Europa, sad to hear about the budget cuts :(

Salman A said...

China is definitely sprucing up both its defense and its space program. It's interesting to see that NASA still has to deal with many shortfalls in order to advance their technology--it's always like that. We learn from our mistakes.

Great post by the way.

rndmg123 said...

cute kitties

G said...

Gutted that they're going to cancel the Europa mission - I think we need to explore and develop those places we know have water...

Chuck said...

Another good read, thanks! Was wondering, how do astronomers obtain images of the sun? Is there different types of lense used to dim down the light levels?

Astronomy Pirate said...

Well Chuck, they actually do use filters, and there are a whole bunch of them out there. There are two fairly common filters. One does just as you say, it dims the level of light, usually they only allow about 1% of the suns light through, on the visual wavelength, allowing you to see sunspots and such. The other is the hydrogen-alpha filter, which lets you see just the hydrogen-alpha wavelength of light, this is where magnetic activity like flares are seen.

Aaron M. Gipson said...

I saw an article just today about NASA confirming evidence of life on a meteorite. I think that pretty much says that all bets are off... Disclosure here we come!

Astronomy Pirate said...

Aaron, just because an article says it, doesn't mean it's true. It's probably the same article that has been going around, just more distorted. Just because it says a researcher at NASA thinks something, doesn't confirm that the entire organization is in agreement.

rinns said...

fat cats fat cats :D

Adventure Person said...

Caturday in full effect!

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