Saturday, May 21, 2011

Saturday Space News!

Another Saturday with a couple more news stories! I hope you all are having a great weekend. We're having our 'horse party' for the Preakness race here in Maryland today. So it's a good day to relax, sip on something cool, and enjoy the Universe. And once again, it appears the Rapture has disappointed.

So in astronomy news this past week, there are a couple of stories of interest:

First up, NASA set the launch date for the final space shuttle flight. Space Shuttle Atlantis is targeted to lift off on July 8 around 11:40 AM EDT from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The shuttle will take four veteran astronauts to deliver supplies and spare parts to the International Space Station. It will also deliver experimental equipment to test robotically refuel and service satellites in space. Given the shuttles recent history, this launch date can be expected to be delayed.

Illustration showing that dark energy (represented by purple grid) is a smooth, uniform force that now dominates over the effects of gravity (green grid). (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Next, Astronomers now have a better understanding of Dark Energy and Gravity. A survey of 200,000 galaxies confirms that dark energy is driving the Universe apart at accelerating speeds. The survey, GALEX, used data from NASA’s space-based Galaxy Evolution Explorer and the Anglo-Australian Telescope on Siding Spring Mountain in Australia. The force is seen to be constant and uniform across the Universe. Dark energy is thought to dominate the Universe, making up about 74 percent of it, though what drives and the actual nature of dark energy is still poorly understood. (Additional source)

Astronomers have discovered a new class of planet. The 10 discovered planets are all free-floating, not orbiting a star, and about the size of Jupiter. These 'orphan planets' are about 10,000 to 20,000 light-years from Earth and indicate that a wide-range of these planets exist, perhaps more common than stars. There are expected to be hundreds of billions in the Milky Way, ranging across all sizes, including Earth-sized ones. The ones detected are at the limit of current technology, the smallest possible objects they could detect, using gravitational lensing techniques. The planets initially form around stars, and become orphaned due to gravitational interactions with other planets that force them out of the system. Smaller planets would be easier to influence, making it likely that small planets are more numerous in interstellar space then these large ones. It is even possible that our solar system has lost a planet or two due to this process. A lost brother out in space, as it were.

Voyager 2 (Credit: NASA)

Not really news, but still pretty awesome. You can follow the Voyager 2 space probe on Twitter. It provides real time updates of the probe and its sister, Voyager 1, of their distance from the Earth, chronicling their journey into interstellar space. (As of their last update, Voyager 2 is 13 hrs 08 mins 50 secs of light-travel time from Earth and Voyager 1 is 16 hrs 06 mins 58 secs)

And this one isn't even really astronomy related, but my friend Leroy, who I've mentioned before, is going on a cross country adventure. He is chronicling his adventure in blog format, and although he hasn't posted anything yet, it should be work checking out: The Life and Times of a Modern Day Gypsy.

Bella, wishing her the best.
In a bit of sad personal news, our cat Bella is in the animal hospital. She's been having a rough last couple of days. She's about 14 years old, don't really remember for sure, so shes lived a pretty long life. It's just pretty sad that we might be losing my favorite cat in the next day or two. Maybe she will pull through, but the amount of health complications she's having doesn't make me optimistic. At least I got her to purr for me before they took her to the vet, if that was the last time I get to see her.


25 comments:

Zombie said...

Every day is a good day to enjoy the universe! :D

The Angry Lurker said...

Good post, sorry about the cat, I hate the loss of pets.

Rob said...

It's always sad when you lose a pet :( I hope the cat gets better! I wish the feline luck!

Quetopia said...

Awww, I am so sorry to hear about your cat. I have a 10 yr. old and I would be devastated. Like you said at least you got a little purr out of her.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

I hope everything is ok with Bella.

Go Animal Kingdom!

Admin said...

You should do dirty space news. Like ze frank.

Dejch said...

i know how you feel m8, i had a 17 years old dog that we had to put to sleep after a week of strugling with cancer :<

Alan said...

I hope we can shed some light on this dark energy.

phthalo. said...

The final shuttle flight will be a memorable occasion, I'm sure.

phthalo. said...

And also; sorry to hear about your cat! I, for one, hope for her to pull through with a speedy recovery.

meandmythinkingcap said...

So, world is not ending today?!

Nom de Plume said...

That sucks about your cat :(

Dave said...

Its losing a part of your family, thats what it amounts to.

bruno said...

Rogue planets, cool

G said...

sorry to here about Bella - hope it all works out ok

Xenototh said...

I can't wait until we understand dark energy enough to take advantage of it's existence. Here's to hoping!

Melanie said...

great post...as usual...thinking of bella!!

VenomForMasses said...

totally following Voyager 2 on Twitter. thx m8

Zealot said...

Sad to hear about your cat. Really interesting points on dark matter. Thanks for posting.

BTN Hip Hop said...

sorry about your loss :(


followed

Shutterbug said...

I hope that your cat feels better and that you will get to see her again! :)

ScottD said...

sad news about your cat, hopefully she will get well.

MRanthrope said...

all this epic astronomy stuff, then sad cat news =/ Hope your cat recovers well.

Kicking Rocks said...

The rapture will always disappoint.

Jay said...

so sorry about your cat, but i think she's had a full and happy life with you. :)

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