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.|