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November 30, 2011

In a Star's Final Days, Astronomers Hunt 'Signal of Impending Doom'

In the first survey of its kind, the researchers have been scanning 25 nearby galaxies for stars that brighten and dim in unusual ways, in order to catch a few that are about to meet their end. In the three years since the study began, this particular unnamed binary system in the Whirlpool Galaxy was the first among the stars they've cataloged to produce a supernova.
The astronomers were trying to find out if there are patterns of brightening or dimming that herald the end of a star's life. Instead, they saw one star in this binary system dim noticeably before the other one exploded in a supernova during the summer of 2011.
Though they're still sorting through the data, it's likely that they didn't get any direct observations of the star that exploded -- only its much brighter partner.
Yet, principal investigator Christopher Kochanek, professor of astronomy at Ohio State and the Ohio Eminent Scholar in Observational Cosmology, does not regard this first result as a disappointment. Rather, it's a proof of concept.


Posted by annaeb at 11:53 PM | Comments (0)

Other Scientists Confirming Neutrino Experiment

While the original discovery by a group of scientists that neutrinos travel faster than the speed of light has had much doubt in the scientific community, similar results experienced by other groups performing the same experiment has begun to erase more of those doubts. The Italian Institute for Nuclear Physics has confirmed the original finding by replicating the experiment with an all-new batch of neutrinos.

While this group has removed one possible source of error in redesigning the neutrino beam, other sources of error still create implications that both findings could still be wrong.


Posted by ghuse at 11:23 PM | Comments (1)

Phobos-Grunt reports back

Phobos-Grunt is a sample-return mission to one of the moons of Mars, orchestrated by the Russian space agency. Shortly after leaving Earth’s orbit on November 8th, however, the shuttle failed to fire its boosters to set it on course. This left Phobos-Grunt adrift in orbit. The RFSA was able to make contact for the first time with the shuttle last week, although no data was able to be transmitted. If communication with the shuttle cannot be reestablished, it will likely drift in orbit before having an uncontrolled reentry sometime in January.

Lost Mars Probe Briefly Phones Home, But the Window to Save the Phobos-Grunt Mission is Closing
by Clay Dillow

Posted by mdolloff at 09:49 PM | Comments (0)

New Mars Rover is Launched

There was a new rover sent out to Mars on Nov 26. The rover is called Curiosity. Curiosity is expected to land is August 2012 and is sent on a 2 year mission to investigate microbial life on Mars and is sent on a 2 year mission. This relates to our in class topic about life on Mars because this is a current mission that will go down in history.


Posted by aguneet at 09:25 PM | Comments (3)

Cassini chronicles the life and times of Saturn's giant storm

This series of images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows the development of the largest storm seen on the planet since 1990. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Ever since the birth of a colossal atmospheric disturbance that has ravaged the northern face of Saturn for nearly a year, the high-resolution cameras of NASA’s Cassini spacecraft have been systematically recording the associated tumultuous changes in the planet’s appearance. The mission’s imaging team has released a series of images and movies that chronicle, month by month, the development and evolution of this monster tempest, the longest lasting ever observed on Saturn.

These brand new, full-color mosaics and animated movies begin with the storm’s emergence as a tiny spot in a single image December 5, 2010, and follow its subsequent growth to a storm so large it completely encircled the planet by late January 2011. The disturbance, which extends north-south approximately 9,000 miles (15,000 kilometers), grew to be the largest observed on Saturn in the past 21 years, and the largest by far ever observed on the planet from an interplanetary spacecraft. Other instruments on Cassini have detected the storm’s electrical activity and revealed it to be a convective thunderstorm. Its active convecting phase ended in late June, but the turbulent clouds it created linger in the atmosphere today.

The storm’s 200-day active period also makes it the longest-lasting planet-encircling storm ever seen on Saturn. The previous record holder was an outburst sighted in 1903, which lingered for 150 days. The large disturbance imaged 21 years ago by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope was comparable in size to the current storm. That 1990 storm lasted for only 55 days.

The collected images and movies can be seen here:
* http://ciclops.org
* http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov
* http://www.nasa.gov/cassini

They include mosaics of dozens of images stitched together and presented in true and false colors.

“The Saturn storm is more like a volcano than a terrestrial weather system,” said Andrew Ingersoll from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. “The pressure builds up for many years before the storm erupts. The mystery is that there’s no rock to resist the pressure to delay the eruption for so many years.”

Cassini has taken hundreds of images of this storm as part of the imaging team’s “Saturn Storm Watch” campaign. During this effort, Cassini takes quick looks at the storm in between other scheduled observations of either Saturn or its rings and moons. The new images, together with other high-quality images collected by Cassini since 2004, allow scientists to trace back the subtle changes on the planet that preceded the storm’s formation and have revealed insights into the storm’s development, its wind speeds, and the altitudes at which its changes occur.

The storm first appeared at approximately 35° north latitude on Saturn and eventually wrapped itself around the entire planet to cover approximately 2 billion square miles (5 billion square km). The biggest disturbance heretofore witnessed by Cassini on Saturn occurred in a latitude band in the southern hemisphere called “Storm Alley” because of the prevalence of thunderstorms in this region — it lasted several months from 2009 to 2010. That storm was actually a cluster of thunderstorms, each of which lasted up to five days or so and affected only the local weather. The new northern disturbance is a single thunderstorm that raged continuously for more than 200 days and impacted almost one-fifth of the entire northern hemisphere.

“This new storm is a completely different kind of beast compared to anything we saw on Saturn previously with Cassini,” said Kunio Sayanagi from the University of California, Los Angeles. “The fact that such outbursts are episodic and keep happening on Saturn every 20 to 30 years or so is telling us something about deep inside the planet, but we are yet to figure out what it is.”

Current plans to continue the mission through 2017 will provide opportunities for Cassini to witness further changes in the planet’s atmosphere as the seasons progress to northern summer.

“It is the capability of being in orbit and able to turn a scrutinizing eye wherever it is needed that has allowed us to monitor this extraordinary phenomenon,” said Carolyn Porco from the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “Seven years of chasing such opportunities have already made Cassini one of the most scientifically productive planetary missions ever flown.”

Posted by halljo at 04:13 PM | Comments (0)

Federal Aviation Administration Addresses Commercial Space Flight

Although NASA may have launched its last shuttle for awhile, that does not necessarily mean that America will stop sending people into space, thanks to commercial space shuttles. Although the industry is still in its infancy, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) needs to develop rules and regulations to keep space travel safe for normal civilians. The article is an interview with the associate administrator of the FAA, George Nield, who answers some common questions on commercial space flights.

Nield acknowledges that space flight comes with some inherent risks, but asserts that any commercial programs would be anything but dangerous. He sees the spacecraft industry developing much like aviation, where the program will eventually win over the trust of the people, even to the point where there are multiple companies making spacecraft for recreational use. Neild goes on to state that while the FAA's safety standards will differ from NASA's, they will use the latter's as a guide as they develop their own. The entire interview can be read in the link below.

How to Keep Commercial Spaceflight Safe: Q&A With FAA's George Nield
by Clara Moskowitz

Posted by mgilbs at 03:38 PM | Comments (1)

Secret Government Space Plane

The X-37B has been in space since March. Its mission of course is highly classified. If you haven't seen this spacecraft, it looks like the Space Shuttle only much smaller. We always see these pictures of it landing, we can track its orbit, and we know its USAF property and the missions especially are confidential. What do you guys think they're doing with this orbiter?


Posted by dhupp at 12:17 PM | Comments (1)

Historic Photo of Another Galaxy

A New Zealand man was Monday being hailed as the first amateur photographer to capture an image of another solar system, after he photographed the star Beta Pictoris using a 10-inch (25cm) telescope at his home in Auckland. The photo shows the protoplanetary disk surrounding the star. The disk represents a developing solar system, and the material inside the disk could develop into planets and asteroids. Maybe if we have the equipment, we can do the same.


Posted by hanwen at 12:26 AM | Comments (4)

November 29, 2011

Proving The Existence Of Dark Matter Takes A Hit

Dark Matter is believed to be the large amount of undetectable mass that accounts for much of the total mass of the galaxy. Due to the fact that the orbital velocities of stars and gas clouds in galaxies nearly remain constant as their distance from the center of the galaxy increases, Newton's laws of graviton and motion tell us that the total mass of the galaxy is much larger than just the mass of the stars.

Although we believe we have evidence of dark matter, the existence of dark matter is has not yet been officially proved. One of the tests scientists used to predict dark matter was to monitor the positron signal, which should suddenly drop off in cosmic rays beyond a certain energy level. However this was not the case for researchers with the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who detected no drop-off. This result certainly does not prove that dark matter doesn't exist, but is inconclusive.


Posted by koransky at 05:22 PM | Comments (1)

NASA Launches Giant Rover Into Space

Nasa has just launched its largest and most complex rover ever to land on the surface of Mars in August of next year. "Curiosity" is intended to travel along the surface searching for possible signs of life. Scientists estimate the landing site to be in the Gale Crater.


Posted by balerner at 10:45 AM | Comments (1)

November 28, 2011

NASA launches most capable and robust rover to Mars

on November 26, NASA launced Mars Sience Labratory (MSL)to Mars which carries rover named Curiosity.
This rover is most advanced science and will tell critical things that we missed till now. I remember professor talking about this project in calss and was very happy to find article about this.
For more info,
check out

Posted by suekm at 09:05 PM | Comments (3)

Photo of Youngest Supernova taken

The supernova is 23 million light years away from Earth.
From this photograph, we can define the expansion velocity of the shock wave created in the explosion.
The telescopes used in this research were NASA's telescopes at Robledo de Chavela (Madrid) and those of the National Geographic Institute in Yebes (Guadalajara).

Posted by buruken at 08:06 PM | Comments (4)

NASA orbiter catches Mars sand dunes in motion

The article that I found was about how NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter encountered sand dunes and ripples on the surface as it was traveling various different locations. This was quite a shock to the scientists who were observing Mars for years now because they had thought that the sand on Mars's surface did not really move and stayed immobile. Observations from the MRO tell us that the sand on Mar's is much more dynamic and does move around along the surface. Scientists think that the cause of this is because of the presence of gusts of wind that are pushing the sand in all directions. From the observations, they also believe that the winds may be capable of carrying a higher quantity of sand resulting in the sand being a lot more mobile. Scientists also inferred that since there is less air on Mars, the gusts of wind have to be going at a faster rate in order to move each grain of sand. The dark grains of sand are much harder to move then the red dust that travels everywhere on Mars's surface. Another inference that was made was that some of the sand dunes where there was no movement might be because the grains are fixated in such a way that they are harder to move. I found this article pretty interesting and knowledgable. To read about it a little more you can go to http://www.astronomy.com/en/News-Observing/News/2011/11/NASA%20orbiter%20catches%20Mars%20sand%20dunes%20in%20motion.aspx

Posted by aakashj at 03:40 PM | Comments (2)

November 27, 2011

NASA's latest Mars mission underway

This article talks more about the Atlas Five launch and it's plans for Curiosity and the red planet we know as Mars. Launched yesterday about 10 am, racing towards Mars looking and probing for undiscovered life.
This article also includes a short video about Curiosity and how it will be searching for life. This video helps us to question what we have learned in class about the possibility of life on mars in the past and present.


Posted by alcarey at 03:47 PM | Comments (2)

November 26, 2011

Galaxy Recycling

Galaxies bring recycling to a whole new meaning. Check it out: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111117202941.htm

Posted by paukenth at 12:57 AM | Comments (4)

November 21, 2011

Europa with shallow lakes

Scientists have found the best evidence just for beneath the surface of Europa. The Study suggests plumes of warmer water in Europa's icy shell, melting and fracturing the outer layers and this could represent a potential habitat for life. This presence of shallow lakes might mean that surface waters are probably vigorously mixing with deeper water. And the eddies could transfer nutrients between the surface water and the ocean's depths.

For more information

Posted by sangsong at 08:41 AM | Comments (8)

November 19, 2011

Moon, Mars and Bright Star Gather Early Saturday

Last night, our crescent moon, a bright star called Regulus, and Mars aligned in the form of an isosceles triangle in the night sky. The moon should have been easily identifiable, but distinguishing Regulus from Mars is a bit more difficult. Regulus was expected to have been in the top right corner of the isosceles triangle, while Mars was the glowing, orange-yellow spot in the top left corner of the triangle.

I missed it, but it is pretty exciting to know that there will be more opportunities to see Mars as Earth and Mars draw closer to one another over the next few months.

Here is the link to the full article:

Posted by djcarl at 06:57 PM | Comments (1)

November 18, 2011

Test confirms particles appear to travel faster than the speed of light

Back in September, scientists found that tiny particles called neutrinos appeared to travel faster than the speed of light. Scientists were skeptical about the finding, and the experiment was tested a second time at OPERA (Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tRacking Apparatus), where they found the same result. Again, scientists were skeptical, so the physicists at OPERA rechecked parts of the experiment, taking in account suggestions from critics, yet found the same result.

Are these neutrinos really going faster than the speed of light? This would significantly change how we look at space and time. However, other labs and scientists in Illinois and Japan are trying to replicate the experiment to further prove the results.

Full Article at CNN.com

Posted by lwasher at 08:01 PM | Comments (3)

November 16, 2011

Icy Europa Looking More Inviting

Scientists, using old images of Jupiter's radiation-blasted moon Europa, are now seeing evidence that Europa may have 'lakes' of liquid water that might be several km under a layer of ice that is 10 - 20 km thick. However, scientists recently announced that there could be pools of water that are as little as 3 km underneath the ice layer.

The process works like this: warm (but still solid) ice rises, driving the melting of the ice farther up to a few km below the surface. A briny slush of ice would then rise and disrupt Europa's chaotically ice-chunk jumbled surface. Further analysis and radar probing of these lakes would have to wait until scientists can get their hands on a several million dollar spacecraft.

Full story: http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/11/scienceshot-icy-europa-looking.html?ref=hp

Posted by carmrose at 04:35 PM | Comments (5)

2012: Killer Solar Flares are a Physical Impossibility, Experts Say

Some people worry that a gigantic "killer solar flare" could hurl enough energy to destroy Earth. People believe that 2012 could be coincident with such a flare. The same solar cycle (11 year cycle) has occurred over millennia. Anyone over the age of 11 has lived through such a solar maximum with no harm. There simply isn't enough energy in the sun to send a killer fire ball 93 million miles to destroy Earth. Despite this fact, it is not fair to say that space weather cannot affect our planet. Although the explosive heat of a solar flare can't make it all the way to our globe, electromagnetic radiation and energetic particles certainly can. A coronal mass ejection is another phenomenon that is produced by the sun and can be even more disruptive, propelling hurts of particles and electromagnetic fluctuations into Earth's atmosphere. Those fluctuations could induce electric fluctuations at ground level and blow our transformers in power grids. In an increasingly technological world, space weather is a serious matter. It is a problem the same way hurricanes are a problem; once can protect oneself with advance information and proper precautions. For the full article go to: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111111095550.htm.

Posted by abrod at 01:27 PM | Comments (2)

Vikings use Sunstone for Navigation by Polarized Skylight

Many historians, archeologists and physicists still continue to question how Vikings navigated from Norway to America. Recent developments shed light towards Vikings using Polarimetric methods for their navigation. Using a common iceland spar as a depolarizer could have given Vikings an approximate location of the sun.


Posted by amug at 01:04 AM | Comments (3)

November 15, 2011

Battered Tharsis Tholus Volcano On Mars

Therasis Tholus is a large volcano on Mars. It contains a caldera in the center. A caldera is a cauldron-like volcanic feature. It's thought that the lava flow caused the chamber roof to collapse.
Read the entire article here:

Posted by dhurvitz at 12:39 AM | Comments (1)

November 14, 2011

Thanks to Technology, it's easier to locate Meteor Showers

With the apps "Meteor Shower Guide" for Apple and "Meteor Shower Calendar" for Android, anyone with a smartphone will be able to locate and watch meteor showers. The app is free for Android and $1 for Apple. Furthermore, this time of year is a great time to view such showers, because the nights are clearer and it's not too cold outside. If you're more interested in viewing the stars, check out "Google Sky Map" and "StarkWalk." Google Sky Map is free on Android. So if you want to impress your friends, now's the time to pick up your iPhone or Droid and purchase these apps; technology is making it easier for us to study the sky.

Full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/06/technology/personaltech/watching-stars-fall-cellphone-in-hand.html?_r=1&ref=astronomyandastrophysics

Posted by mhymes at 09:56 PM | Comments (2)

November 12, 2011

Lutetia: a Rare Survivor from the Birth of the Earth

A nearby asteroid, Lutetia, is believed to be a fragment of the same material that Earth, Venus, and Mercury consists of. This article was extremely interesting as, once again, it confirms what we've been learning in class. To read the full article go to: http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1144/#.Tr5fTLZyLok

Or read the excerpt below.

"New observations indicate that the asteroid Lutetia is a leftover fragment of the same original material that formed the Earth, Venus and Mercury. Astronomers have combined data from ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft, ESO’s New Technology Telescope, and NASA telescopes. They found that the properties of the asteroid closely match those of a rare kind of meteorites found on Earth and thought to have formed in the inner parts of the Solar System. Lutetia must, at some point, have moved out to its current location in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter."

Posted by tmthirty at 10:21 PM | Comments (5)

Magnetic mystery puts Moon in a spin

Since man went to the moon a one question has remained unanswered why are there magnetic rocks on the moon if the moon doesn't have a magnetic field? Two theories have been hypothesized to answer this question.
The first theory says that a magnetic filed was generated when the moon orbited closer to the Earth the gravitational force on the moon was stronger and caused the liquid core of the moon to rotate differently from the mantle so the moon was a big dynamo and that was what generated the magnetic field. This process stopped when the moon got farther away from the Earth.
The other theory says that large impacts hitting the moon caused its rotation rate to change and adding heat to the interior. The changed rate causes the mantle and the liquid core to rate at different rates which causes a magnetic field. The magnetic field hypothesized by both theories would be 100 times weaker than Earth's.


Posted by jsatonik at 07:28 PM | Comments (1)

Russian Mars Probe Stuck in Low Earth Orbit

After a successful liftoff on Tuesday, a massive probe named Phobos-Grunt was failed by its own engines. The russian mission was initiated to "retrieve samples from a Martian moon", and now it's trapped on its way.
The engines were scheduled to fire roughly three hours after blastoff, however, when it turned out that the probe didn't show up in the expected orbit, people found themselves in trouble.
Possibilities were analysed and now the only thing for sure is that the "$163 million mission" is now stuck somewhere in the low earth orbit.

Posted by wangrt at 06:49 PM | Comments (4)

Stretching the Search for Signs of Life

I found an article written by Dennis Overbye which described new technology that will help us find things that we could not before. They are new radio telescopes that will help us discover things like black holes eating each other and dark galaxies that do not contain stars. Another advantage of this technology is that it allows scientists to view large portions of the sky at once. They are also hoping the radio signals will somehow make contact with some form of extraterrestrial intelligence. They said that the radio can detect a signal from as far as 500 light years away. It is amazing how are technology is always expanding and giving us new opportunities.
To read more here is the full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/11/science/11seti.html?scp=1&sq=Stretching%20the%20Search%20for%20Signs%20of%20Life&st=cse

Posted by ouellbre at 05:02 PM | Comments (0)

November 11, 2011

Pristine Big Bang Gas Found

Pure gas that was formed only minutes after the Big Bang was discovered approximately 12 billion light-years away from Earth was recently discovered. "Pure" meaning that the clouds comprised of the gas contains only Hydrogen and Deuterium, elements created moments after the Big Bang. There were only two clouds found, but scientists have always predicted that pure gas clouds such as the ones discovered had existed. It was simply that no one had found them previously.


Posted by joshin at 10:16 AM | Comments (5)

November 10, 2011

Giant planet may have been ejected from solar system

According to an article by the Science Daily, there could have originally been five giant planets in our solar system instead of four. However, a potential 'jump' in Jupiter's orbit during its gravitational clearing of smaller bodies could have possibly sent that extra planet out of our solar system-- a simulation that astronomers conducted supported this theory, showing that a jump in Jupiter's orbit would have no effect on the terrestrial planets. It seems then, that the ejection of planets during solar system formation could be a common occurrence.


Posted by drdod at 06:45 PM | Comments (2)

Newly Found Dwarf Galaxies Could Help Reveal the Nature of Dark Matter

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—In work that could help advance astronomers' understanding of dark matter, University of Michigan researchers have discovered two additional dwarf galaxies that appear to be satellites of Andromeda, the closest spiral galaxy to Earth.

Eric Bell, an associate professor in astronomy, and Colin Slater, an astronomy Ph.D. student, found Andromeda XXVIII and XXIX---that's 28 and 29. They did it by using a tested star-counting technique on the newest data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which has mapped more than a third of the night sky. They also used follow-up data from the Gemini North Telescope in Hawaii.

At 1.1 million and 600,000 light years from Andromeda, these are two of the furthest satellite galaxies ever detected. Invisible to the naked eye, the galaxies are 100,000 times fainter than Andromeda, and can barely be seen even with large telescopes.

The findings are published in the current Nov. 20 edition of Astrophysical Journal.

These astronomers set out looking for dwarf galaxies around Andromeda to help them understand how matter relates to dark matter, an invisible substance that doesn't emit or reflect light, but is believed to make up most of the universe's mass. Astronomers believe it exists because they can detect its gravitational effects on visible matter. With its gravity, dark matter is believed to be responsible for organizing visible matter into galaxies.

"These faint, dwarf, relatively nearby galaxies are a real battleground in trying to understand how dark matter acts at small scales," Bell said. "The stakes are high."

The prevailing hypothesis is that visible galaxies are all nestled in beds of dark matter, and each bed of dark matter has a galaxy in it. For a given volume of universe, the predictions match observations of large galaxies.

"But it seems to break down when we get to smaller galaxies," Slater said. "The models predict far more dark matter halos than we observe galaxies. We don't know if it's because we're not seeing all of the galaxies or because our predictions are wrong."

"The exciting answer," Bell said, "would be that there just aren't that many dark matter halos." Bell said. "This is part of the grand effort to test that paradigm."

The papers are titled, "Andromeda XXIX: A New Dwarf Spheroidal Galaxy 200 kpc from Andromeda," and Andromeda XXVIII: A Dwarf Galaxy more than 350 kpc from Andromeda."

The research is funded in part by the National Science Foundation.


Posted by dustont at 04:19 PM | Comments (0)

Universe Expanding more rapidly than we thought

Earlier this month, three U.S. scientists won a nobel prize for discovering that the universe is actually expanding more rapidly as time passes, rather than expanding slowly. The 'old' idea was that the pull of gravity between galaxies and matter was slowing the expansion, when in fact it seems that a newly discovered force, or "dark energy" is actually pushing the universe outward faster. Whatever the dark energy is, it seems to be even more powerful than gravity, and it seems that a lot of new research is going to be conducted to figure out exactly what that energy is. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/04/us-nobel-physics-idUSTRE7931ET20111004

Posted by drdod at 08:59 AM | Comments (4)

November 09, 2011

NASA Develops Super-Black Material That Absorbs Light Across Multiple Wavelength Bands

The team of engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., reported their findings recently at the SPIE Optics and Photonics conference, the largest interdisciplinary technical meeting in this discipline. The team has since reconfirmed the material's absorption capabilities in additional testing, said John Hagopian, who is leading the effort involving 10 Goddard technologists.
"The reflectance tests showed that our team had extended by 50 times the range of the material's absorption capabilities. Though other researchers are reporting near-perfect absorption levels mainly in the ultraviolet and visible, our material is darn near perfect across multiple wavelength bands, from the ultraviolet to the far infrared," Hagopian said. "No one else has achieved this milestone yet."
The nanotech-based coating is a thin layer of multi-walled carbon nanotubes, tiny hollow tubes made of pure carbon about 10,000 times thinner than a strand of human hair. They are positioned vertically on various substrate materials much like a shag rug. The team has grown the nanotubes on silicon, silicon nitride, titanium, and stainless steel, materials commonly used in space-based scientific instruments. (To grow carbon nanotubes, Goddard technologist Stephanie Getty applies a catalyst layer of iron to an underlayer on silicon, titanium, and other materials. She then heats the material in an oven to about 1,382 degrees Fahrenheit. While heating, the material is bathed in carbon-containing feedstock gas.)
The tests indicate that the nanotube material is especially useful for a variety of spaceflight applications where observing in multiple wavelength bands is important to scientific discovery. One such application is stray-light suppression. The tiny gaps between the tubes collect and trap background light to prevent it from reflecting off surfaces and interfering with the light that scientists actually want to measure. Because only a small fraction of light reflects off the coating, the human eye and sensitive detectors see the material as black.
In particular, the team found that the material absorbs 99.5 percent of the light in the ultraviolet and visible, dipping to 98 percent in the longer or far-infrared bands. "The advantage over other materials is that our material is from 10 to 100 times more absorbent, depending on the specific wavelength band," Hagopian said.
"We were a little surprised by the results," said Goddard engineer Manuel Quijada, who co-authored the SPIE paper and carried out the reflectance tests. "We knew it was absorbent. We just didn't think it would be this absorbent from the ultraviolet to the far infrared."
If used in detectors and other instrument components, the technology would allow scientists to gather hard-to-obtain measurements of objects so distant in the universe that astronomers no longer can see them in visible light or those in high-contrast areas, including planets in orbit around other stars, Hagopian said. Earth scientists studying the oceans and atmosphere also would benefit. More than 90 percent of the light Earth-monitoring instruments gather comes from the atmosphere, overwhelming the faint signal they are trying to retrieve.

Currently, instrument developers apply black paint to baffles and other components to help prevent stray light from ricocheting off surfaces. However, black paints absorb only 90 percent of the light that strikes it. The effect of multiple bounces makes the coating's overall advantage even larger, potentially resulting in hundreds of times less stray light.
In addition, black paints do not remain black when exposed to cryogenic temperatures. They take on a shiny, slightly silver quality, said Goddard scientist Ed Wollack, who is evaluating the carbon-nanotube material for use as a calibrator on far-infrared-sensing instruments that must operate in super-cold conditions to gather faint far-infrared signals emanating from objects in the very distant universe. If these instruments are not cold, thermal heat generated by the instrument and observatory, will swamp the faint infrared they are designed to collect.
Black materials also serve another important function on spacecraft instruments, particularly infrared-sensing instruments, added Goddard engineer Jim Tuttle. The blacker the material, the more heat it radiates away. In other words, super-black materials, like the carbon nanotube coating, can be used on devices that remove heat from instruments and radiate it away to deep space. This cools the instruments to lower temperatures, where they are more sensitive to faint signals.
To prevent the black paints from losing their absorption and radiative properties at long wavelengths, instrument developers currently use epoxies loaded with conductive metals to create a black coating. However, the mixture adds weight, always a concern for instrument developers. With the carbon-nanotube coating, however, the material is less dense and remains black without additives, and therefore is effective at absorbing light and removing heat. "This is a very promising material," Wollack said. "It's robust, lightweight, and extremely black. It is better than black paint by a long shot."

Posted by curryka at 11:33 PM | Comments (0)

Russian Mars mission halted by glitch in low Earth orbit

A Russian mission to retrieve samples from the Russian moon Phobos is stranded in low Earth orbit. The engine firings that consisted of two rockets did not go off as planned says Russian executives. It took hours for the Russians to realize the rocket did not go off as planned since it was planned to launch over South America where it was outside out Russian ground stations. There is a three day time span that must be adhered to before the launch fails and Phobos-Grunt is destroyed. The propulsion system of the mission itself was priced at 163 million dollars and has been used in the past to get to the high Earth orbit. Phobos-Grunt was supposed land on the surface of the moon Phobos in Feb. 2013 to study the moon with remote sensing instruments. It was expected to be back to Earth around August 2014 with half a pound of soil. This mission was very crucial to the Soviets and it is unknown what there next step of action will be if the mission cannot be rescued.


Posted by zachrk at 11:25 PM | Comments (0)

Asteroid Fly By on November 8

Just yesterday on November 8, asteroid 2005 YU55 flew by Earth. The asteroid is 1,300 feet in width (400 meters) and spherical in shape. NASA reports that the asteroid will have no gravitational influence on the Earth. NASA scientists have been tracking the asteroid from Deep Space Network at Goldstone, California. The asteroid's orbit went between the Earth and the Moon, and at its closest point it was 201,700 miles (324,600 kilometers) from Earth. That is about 0.85 the distance from the Moon to Earth. 2005 YU55 is currently in an orbit that comes close to the three furthest terrestrial planets (Venus, Earth and Mars). But November 8 was the closest the asteroid has been to coming in contact with a planet in the last 200 years. The last close encounter Earth had with an asteroid came in 1976 and the next projected close encounter will be in 2028. We can only wait and see how close the next asteroid will be to coming in contact with our planet.

For more information visit:

Posted by chazr at 02:10 PM | Comments (2)

Volunteers end simulated mission to Mars

ScienceDaily (Nov. 6, 2011) — The record-breaking simulated mission to Mars has ended with smiling faces after 17 months. Mars500's six brave volunteers stepped out of their 'spacecraft' Nov. 4, 2011 to be welcomed by the waiting scientists -- happy that the venture had worked even better than expected.

Mars500, the first full-length, high-fidelity simulation of a human mission to our neighbouring planet, started 520 days ago, on 3 June 2010, at the Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow.
The international crew were isolated in their interplanetary spacecraft mock-up, faithfully following the phases of a real mission: a long flight to Mars, insertion into orbit around the planet, landing, surface exploration, return to orbit, a monotonous return flight and arrival at Earth.
During the 'flight', the crew performed more than 100 experiments, all linked to the problems of long-duration missions in deep space.
To add to their isolation, communications with mission control were artificially delayed to mimic the natural delays over the great distances on a real Mars flight.
The crew of three Russians, one Chinese and two Europeans have performed exceptionally well. They have kept together and showed that motivation and team spirit can keep humans going under very difficult conditions. Scientists are pleased at their exceptional discipline.
"Thank you very much for your outstanding effort," said the European Space Agency's Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain in his greeting from Paris after the crew stepped from their module.

Posted by kimnath at 01:35 PM | Comments (4)

New Galaxies Discovered

Dwarf galaxies have been analyzed by a deep sky survey called Sloan Digital Sky survey (SDSS). This survey helped found two new dwarf galaxies in the universe. It is hard to usually detect dwarf galaxies, but using the data from this survey, it helped detect a couple new ones. Also, the distances were approximated too, as well as location in the universe. So far, the type of galaxy it is can still not be fully analyzed. Better imaging is needed in order to determine this.

Source: http://www.astro.lsa.umich.edu/about/news.php#newDwarfGal

Posted by jjwdowik at 12:09 AM | Comments (1)

November 07, 2011

Majoring in the sciences


I was curious to know what people thought of this article in the New York Times. Obviously this does not pertain to Astro 101 directly, but it does pertain to classes in astronomy, and science in general.

Posted by jonmm at 05:28 PM | Comments (1)

November 06, 2011

Geo and Heliocentric Model

My roommate found this awesome online model and shared it with me. It shows all the Jovian moons we are studying in class now, can show you the constellation the sun is in, and even has a feature that shows a model for Tycho Brahe's vision of the solar system. It can show day by day positioning and is really an awesome thing to explore if you want to check it out.


Posted by cato at 04:02 PM | Comments (0)

How far are we from Mars?

During my revision I haven't confused the blog with the chat room. This is more in reference to the fact that on November 4th a simulated mission to Mars 'returned' to Earth. Six astronauts were sealed in a simulation spaceship for a year and a half in order to measure the physical and psychological effects that a future mission to Mars would have. In order for the experience to be as life like as possible (bar the existence of gravity in the simulation) there was even a time delay of 25 minutes between radio questions and answers. As it stands, they all seem to be very healthy.


Posted by arevuo at 01:43 PM | Comments (2)

City lights = E.T Civilization

Astronomers are considering a new and interesting approach to finding life on other planets. Avi Loeb and Edwin Turner, who are from Princeton and Harvard University, suggest seeing if a planet has city lights when it eclipses its own star from the view of our telescopes. They hypothesize that any advanced civilization should have artificial illumination in the dark, thus the presence of artificial lights should indicate life on another planet, and the planet eclipsing its star would remove other forms of light that would otherwise have illuminated the planet.

This isn't to say that all astronomers should now start looking at random planets to see if they illuminate city lights, but "looking for alien cities...wouldn't require extra resources. And if we succeed, it would change our perception of our place in the universe,"

What do you all think? is this a viable method for searching for other forms of life?

For more information visit:

Posted by davidnug at 12:00 PM | Comments (4)

November 04, 2011

Quarter-mile-wide asteroid coming close to Earth

I think that this article goes along perfectly with what we've been discussing in class right now. An asteroid bigger than an aircraft carrier will pass between the Earth and the Moon on this coming Tuesday. This is the the closest encounter by such a large asteroid in over 35 years. The asteroid, named 2005 YU55, has passed by the Earth before, over 200 years ago actually, but has never come this close to striking the planet. The asteroid will be only 202,000 miles of Earth and 150,000 miles from the Moon. Scientists have estimated that if 2005 YU55 were to plow into the Earth, it would blast out a crater four miles across and 1,700 feet deep. This would be equivalent to a magnitude 7 earthquake and 70 foot high tsunami waves around the entire planet. Scientists have been tracking the asteroid since its discovery in 2005, and are positive it won't do any damage. To read more of the article, and to find out about more possible close impacts that could occur, go to


Posted by nzingas at 08:17 PM | Comments (6)

November 03, 2011

6 Most Amazing Things Discovered in Space

Cracked.com presents us with an amazing set of discoveries from outer space. This makes us truly appreciate the wonders and anomalies in space such as the planet made of pure diamond, the arc of lightning that spans more than 3 times the width of the Milky Way and my personal favorite, VY Canis Majoris, a star so big that if it were placed in the solar system, it would extend all the way to Saturn's Orbit.


Posted by jeffsong at 11:52 PM | Comments (3)

Methanol Leading to Life

Scientists at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have panned through years of data to find places in outer space that have very good chances for complex organic formation. Their technique for doing this was to search for methanol. Methanol is important in the combining of organic molecules to make complex life. The researchers discovered that the key holders of methanol were younger stars, and that as much as 30 percent of the ices around these stars contain methanol. Obviously there's always some search for life outside our own planet going on. However, I have never heard of scientists looking for methanol to lead to life, so I thought it was worth posting.

Read the full article at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111102190028.htm

Posted by sjbar at 10:04 PM | Comments (1)

Have We Found the Universte that Existed Before the Big Bang?

This interesting short article challenges the traditional creation theory of the Big Bang. The article reports on the revolutionary new discoveries of physicist Sir Roger Penrose. Penrose takes issue with the Big Bang theory, proposing instead a cyclical view of the Universe. In Penrose's theory, the universe is created from a single high density point (like the in the Big Bang Theory), then the universe collapses upon black holes until black holes themselves collapse. This creates another high density point from which a new universe can emerge. Unger Penrose's inflationary model, our current universe is far from the first of its kind. Now, Penrose has found evidence supporting his theory. Penrose has observe concentric circles in the cosmic microwave background of the Universe. Penrose claims that these circles are windows into past universes.

Posted by derbach at 03:04 PM | Comments (5)

November 02, 2011

UM Student-Built Satellite recently launched

On Friday, October 28th, the M-cubed satellite built by UofM students was launched into space. The satellite is a small CubeSat, and the first of its kind (LEADERS...)to test an instrument for NASA to be used on major space missions. Much of the materials for building M-Cubed were purchased at local retail hardware stores. The article details what a CubeSat is, and talks about how NASA selected U of M (...BEST) to evaluate NASA devloped Virtex-5 Field-Programmable Gate Array, which should process images taken by a multi-directional, multi-wavelength camera. A second U-M student-built satellite, RAX-2, will accompany M-Cubed which will study irregularities in the density of plasma in the ionosphere.

Don't know about you, but this makes me awfully proud of our University!


Posted by vacr at 03:42 PM | Comments (1)

What is Space?

Tonight, PBS is going to air the first of four episode's concerning the nature of space, and all that we know about it. The series will be a four part NOVA documentary based on a book written by Brian Greene called The Fabric of the Cosmos. The series will explore the fundamentals of Einstein's theory of relativity and will prove how the space between planets and stars is not really empty. The show will also explain the fundamentals of gravity and will show how the Sun can effect the Earth from such a far distance. To everyone who's interested in finding more about the series, the show's website is


Also, if you would like to read the full article visit:


Posted by nzingas at 03:40 PM | Comments (0)

November 01, 2011

Pluto has a Twin Sister: Frigid Dwarf Planet

Astronomers have discovered that Eris, the other significantly large object past the planets in our solar system is 27% more massive than Pluto. This once and for all nails Pluto into the dwarf planet category. They measured Eris' size by letting is pass a know star that gets covered up by Eris in the process. they then measured how long the star was covered by Eris to estimate its size. Two different telescopes in Chile both backed up the data. Now the only question that remains is why Pluto and Eris are so different seeing as they are practically the same size but not mass and reside in similar parts of the solar system.

Full article http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2098150,00.html

Posted by jsatonik at 12:45 PM | Comments (0)