Progress 59: “The spacecraft is 160 miles high and travelling at more than 16,000mph…”

…and out of control…  The BBC reports on the Russian unmanned cargo ship delivering supplies to the International Space Station that mission control has lost contact with and is now in a uncontrolled spin. Or, as RTÉ says, it’s ‘plunging back to Earth’. Here’s the view from a camera on-board the spacecraft. From the BBC report The Russian news agency Tass reports that Progress M-27M is now orbiting in an uncontrolled spin. Scientists may try again to control it, but it … Read more

Raise a glass to Hubble! – Redux

The Hubble Space Telescope celebrates its 25th Anniversary in space today, 24th April, with the release of this wondrous image of the giant star-cluster, Westerlund 2, in the stellar nursery, Gum 29, located 20,000 light-years away in the constellation Carina.  [Image credit: Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), A. Nota (ESA/STScI), and the Westerlund 2 Science Team] From the accompanying text to the image. To capture this image, Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 pierced through the dusty veil shrouding … Read more

In case you missed the eclipse…

Or, like me, cloud cover obscured the solar eclipse of 20 March 2015.  Here’s probably the best view of this morning’s event, from ESA’s Sun-watching Proba-2 mini-satellite.  [Image credit: ESA/ROB] And via ESA on YouTube. As Europe enjoyed a partial solar eclipse on the morning of Friday 20 March 2015, ESA’s Sun-watching Proba-2 minisatellite had a ringside seat from space. Orbiting Earth once approximately every 100 minutes, Proba-2 caught two eclipses over the course of the morning. Proba-2 used its SWAP imager … Read more

Rosetta: “We’ll need some luck not to land on a boulder or a steep slope.”

[Image credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA] The ESA Rosetta probe has been on a long journey – spotted en route briefly on Slugger in 2008, and more leisurely in 2010 as it took time out from its mission to the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko to take a look at the asteroid Lutetia.  Ten years after launch, it’s now orbiting its designated target, and the lander, Philae, is descending.  However, there has been a hiccup… During checks on the lander’s health, it was discovered that the active … Read more

“an unforgettable journey across the Red Planet.”

Curiosity may have been on the surface of Mars for over a year, but ESA’s Mars Express has been in orbit around the Red Planet for almost a decade.  It’s one of a number of ways Mars is being observed, up close and personal.  And, like the Hi-RISE camera on Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Express has some specialised instruments on-board for that purpose.  Among them is the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC).  The stunning 3D images in this video were taken by that camera.   The video was released … Read more

“Will Comet ISON fizzle … or sizzle?”

Science at Nasa has a great assessment of the potential for Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) to become the ‘Comet of the Century’.  Worth watching. Just remember – “comets are like cats: they have tails, and do whatever they want to do.” But as the Science at Nasa assessment notes “Comet ISON is probably at least twice as big as Comet Lovejoy and will pass a bit farther from the sun’s surface” notes Knight. “This would seem to favor Comet ISON surviving and … Read more

Further Up Yonder

Stunning views of the Earth accompany this seasonal message from the crew of the International Space Station. Pete Baker

“We stared at this patch of sky for about 22 days…”

As the BBC’s spaceman, Jonathan Amos, notes, the Hubble Space Telescope team have released an updated version of their stunning Ultra Deep Field image – the eXtreme Deep Field (XDF) – and they have seen further than ever.  [Image credit: NASA, ESA, G. Illingworth, D. Magee, and P. Oesch (University of California, Santa Cruz), R. Bouwens (Leiden University), and the HUDF09 Team] From the text accompanying the above image The Hubble Ultra Deep Field is an image of a small area of space in the … Read more

Dwarf Planet Gains Fifth Moon…

Not that it didn’t already have five moons.  At least.  ANYhoo…  As I was saying this time last year, when Hubble spotted a fourth moon orbiting Pluto.  The Hubble Space Telescope has been looking at the twin dwarf planet system of Pluto and Charon ahead of Nasa’s New Horizons mission expected arrival in the neighbourhood in 2015.  [Image credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Showalter (SETI Institute)] They’ve already mapped the surface of Pluto, to an extent, and now they’ve spotted a … Read more

The trouble with Stormont’s MLAs is that they are not real politicians…

Well, the Irish News yesterday went fairly big on the possible abandonment of the ESA (Education and Skills Authority) that was supposed to streamline the running of schools in Northern Ireland by amalgamating a whole bunch of organisations, not least the many of the executive of the Department and the five Education and Library Boards. Brian Feeney is pretty sharp in his attack on the lack of any political nous amongst the political parties at Stormont. One minute they are … Read more

“awe, curiosity, wonder, joy, amazement”

After a brief scientific explanation of the phenomena, this video from LittleSDOHMI delivers some wondrous recent views (March 3, 4 and 10) of the Aurora Australis from the International Space Station.  With music! [Video credit: NASA ISS/JSC/ Science@NASA] And here are those stunning clips by themselves. [All videos courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center (] From Kenya to the Aurora Australis This video was taken by the crew of Expedition 30 on board the International … Read more

The Universe at a glance…

Well, several glances actually…  As spotted by the Guardian blog’s Tom McCarthy, NASA has released a new atlas and catalog of the entire infrared sky “showing more than a half billion stars, galaxies and other objects captured by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission.”  And an impressive view it is. [Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA]   From the Nasa press release The sky can be thought of as a sphere that surrounds us in three dimensions. To make a map of … Read more

The Galactic Centre Revisited

While waiting, hopefully, for the arrival of the James Webb Space Telescope, here’s a short video of what the current space telescopes, particularly Nasa’s Spitzer and ESA’s Herschel, have seen at the centre of our galaxy.  The above image is a three-color composite, showing infrared observations from two of Spitzer instruments. [Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech].  Video from SpitzerSpaceCenter. As well as the twisted ring of very dense and cold gas and dust at the galactic centre, there have been other amazing structures observed.  Then there are the “colossal swathes of … Read more

Hubble spots fourth moon of Pluto

  The Hubble Space Telescope has been looking at the twin dwarf planet system of Pluto and Charon ahead of Nasa’s New Horizons mission expected arrival in the neighbourhood in 2015.  They’ve already mapped the surface of Pluto, to an extent, and now they’ve spotted a fourth moon in the system– if you count the dwarf planet Charon as a moon of Pluto, that is.  The new moon has been designated “S/2011 P1” or “P4” until a permanent name is chosen.  [All … Read more

Johannes Kepler “will tumble, disintegrate and burn”

ESA’s second Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), Johannes Kepler, the first operational version, was launched on 16 February this year.  At a total mass of 20 tonnes it was Europe’s heaviest spacecraft. As well as delivering its payload to the International Space Station, on 2 April Johannes Kepler successfully manoeuvred the complex to avoid a collision with space debris and, over recent days, boosted the 417-tonne Station to a higher orbit – from around 345 km to its new height of 380 km. … Read more

Endeavour’s last visit to the International Space Station

The BBC flagged up the stunning first-ever detailed image of a Space Shuttle docked at the International Space Station – Endeavour’s final voyage.  Now NasaTV have released the video.  The video was shot by European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli from the Russian Soyuz spacecraft that undocked from the station on May 23. He, Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev and NASA astronaut Cady Coleman were departing the station for a return to Earth after five months on the station. Nespoli documented the … Read more

Mission to Mars…

The US National Research Council have expressed doubts about the extent of US involvement in the planned joint ESA/Nasa rover mission to Mars, as well as two subsequent orbiter missions – one to the Jovian moon Europa and the other to Uranus. But, for now, Mars remains under close scrutiny.  The latest false colour image from the Hi-RISE camera on Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows the Mars rover Opportunity at the edge of a football-field sized crater, Santa Maria, where it’s been exploring … Read more

Final Flight of Discovery

After a number of postponements due to technical problems, the Space Shuttle Discovery is scheduled to lift-off for the last time from the Kennedy Space Centre tonight at 9.50pm [GMT]. After 38 missions to date and more than 5,600 trips around the Earth, it’s the final flight of Discovery – on Mission STS-133.  They’re heading to the International Space Station where ESA’s ATV Johannes Kepler has just docked. Discovery will become the first shuttle to be retired.  Only two Space Shuttle missions remain scheduled – Endeavour on … Read more

“It is all part of a grand cycle that turns over the course of billions of years”

A wondrous composite image of our nearest galactic neighbour, the Andromeda galaxy, as unveiled on the BBC’s Stargazing Live programme tonight.  Combining an infrared view from ESA’s Herschel observatory with an X-ray view by the similarly orbiting XMM-Newton observatory, it shows at least five concentric rings of star-forming dust [infrared in orange] along with X-ray sources [in blue] where collapsed stars – white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes – are located.  It’s a similar composite view to that taken of the Whirlpool … Read more