On Monday August 6th, at 1:31 am EDT (0531 GMT), following a 254 day, 352 million mile (567 million kilometer) journey through the Solar system, NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) will land its newest rover, “Curiosity”, on the surface of the red planet.
In what is NASA’s most ambitious and risky Mars mission ever, the entry, descent and landing phase (EDL) is particularly hazardous. So much so, that the time from MSL’s entry into the Martian atmosphere to its landing of Curiosity on the Martian surface has even been dubbed by NASA, the ‘Seven Minutes of . . .
Late last month, space and astronomy blogs and news sources were abuzz over the discovery of what may be the most distant event ever detected in the Universe.
The event was something referred to as a Gamma Ray Burst officially designated as GRB 090429B, and it was detected by the ‘Burst Alert Telescope’ which is part of NASA’s ‘Swift’ space satellite. The satellite, launched in 2004, orbits at an altitude of 600 km above the Earth. Here, I take a closer look at what a “gamma ray burst” really is and why this observation is interesting.
A whole . . .
There is plenty of excitement for NASA this week with both manned and unmanned missions sharing the limelight. Avid shuttle watchers are eagerly awaiting this week’s scheduled launch of Space Shuttle Discovery’s final mission to the International Space Station now scheduled for Nov.5th at the earliest.
Nov. 4th held a real treat: NASA’s EPOXI mission made a very successful close encounter with a comet known as Hartley 2. In fact this encounter is the closest a man-made object has ever come to any comet – coming within 435 miles/700 km. This is only the fifth time a spacecraft has . . .
Last year the infamous NASA LCROSS mission gained attention as the unmanned space probe was set on a collision course with the lunar surface. On October 9 2009, viewers watched as footage of the crash event was streamed back to Earth. The mission crashed a rocket into the moon’s southern pole while the LCROSS craft with all the sensors and recording equipment followed behind, analyzing the cloud of material kicked up by the impact, looking for water. And water was found: on November 13 2009, scientists confirmed the presence of water in data collected from the mission.
It . . .
A Case Study: The Pluto Effect
On the afternoon of 24th August 2006, members of the IAU present at the General Assembly in Prague were able to vote on a resolution to essentially classify what it meant to be a planet in the Solar system.
With new so-called Kuiper Belt objects being discovered, it became apparent that the planet Pluto – heralded as the 9th planet since 1930, had company. Astronomers were either quickly discovering several new planets or alternatively our categorization of Pluto as a planet was perhaps inappropriate. Maybe Pluto wasn’t so special after all? This was a . . .