New Horizons: Live Briefing

Having survived yesterday’s fly-by, follow the live-briefing from the Nasa New Horizons mission to Pluto as they reveal the first hi-resolution images from the dwarf planet system nearly 5 billion km away. Adds The big news is that Pluto, and Charon, may still be geologically active. There are 3,500metre (11,000feet) high water-ice mountains on the surface of Pluto in a region now called Tombaugh Regio after Pluto’s discoverer, Clyde Tombaugh – some of his ashes are on-board the New Horizons …

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New Horizons: Countdown to Pluto

Nasa’s New Horizons mission spacecraft is now within two days journey time to the dwarf planet Pluto and its complex system of 5 moons.  [Image credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Showalter (SETI Institute)]   Travelling at 14km/s, New Horizons’ swift fly-by of the dwarf planet is scheduled to take place on Tuesday 14 July, at exactly 11:49:59 GMT (12:49:59 BST; 07:49:59 EDT), when it will be a mere 12,500km from the surface. At a distance of 4.7 billion km, New …

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“the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink”

Private family man, engineer, US Navy fighter pilot, war veteran, civilian test pilot, astronaut, academic, businessman, reluctant hero, and the first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong has died at the age of 82.  Reg Turnill, who was the BBC’s aerospace correspondent at the time of the first moon landing, gives his thoughts.  Nasa’s tribute is available here. And, via the Professor, Rand Simberg has a detailed biography that’s worth a read. For the 40th Anniversary of the launch of …

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“Opportunity on Mars – 8 years and counting!”

Nasa’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity landed in Eagle Crater on Mars on Jan. 25, 2004, Universal Time, three weeks after its rover twin, Spirit, had landed halfway around the planet.  Opportunity completed its three-month prime mission in April that year, everything else has been bonus, extended missions.  Spirit is no longer with us.  But Opportunity carries on. [Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.] This mosaic of images taken in mid-January 2012 shows the windswept vista northward (left) to northeastward (right) from the location …

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Phobos-Grunt: “Re-entry is now imminent”

The BBC’s spaceman, Jonathan Amos, reports on the imminent re-entry of the 13-tonne failed Russian Mars probe, Phobos-Grunt.  Included in that 13-tonnes are more than 10 tonnes of fuel which is expected to explode when the aluminium storage tanks rupture during re-entry.  From the BBC report The Russian space agency says little of the probe will survive to the surface. It calculates no more than 200kg in maybe 20-30 fragments. Precisely where on the Earth’s surface – and when – this …

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Kepler-22b: “This is a major milestone on the road to finding Earth’s twin”

By the time its last catalogue of exoplanet candidates was released in February,  Nasa’s Kepler space observatory, launched in March 2009, first light in April 2009, had identified 1,235 planetary candidates – and 54 candidates within the habitable zone. The Kepler team have now identified 2,326 planet candidates – of those, 207 are approximately Earth-size, 680 are super Earth-size, 1,181 are Neptune-size, 203 are Jupiter-size and 55 are larger than Jupiter.  And there are now 48 planet candidates in their star’s habitable zone There …

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“We can retrace the astronauts’ steps with greater clarity”

As the BBC’s spaceman, Jonathon Amos, notes, Nasa have released the sharpest ever images ever taken from space of the Apollo 12, 14 and 17 landing sites using a camera on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.   Here’s the Apollo 17 landing site with the last footprints made by man on the Moon. [All images credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/ASU]     Here’s that same image helpfully labelled.   They’re even sharper than the ones released in 2009.  You can do a side-by-side comparison at …

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Journey to Jupiter

As the BBC reports, and the Guardian notes, Nasa’s Juno Mission to our friend and lord, Jupiter, is scheduled to launch this afternoon on an Atlas V rocket.  There’s an impressive Juno mission website too.  Lift-off at 15:34 UT [4.34pm BST].  Here’s a short overview of the mission.  Video credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. And, if you have time, here’s the full science briefing via NasaTV. You can also watch the launch live via NasaTV.  Or, indeed, here! Update2  I’ve replaced the live Ustream video with …

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Vesta’s dark side [and possibly a colourful one]

As the BBC spaceman, Jonathon Amos, notes Nasa’s Dawn spacecraft has taken a close look at the 530 km wide giant asteroid Vesta’s northern hemisphere– to add to all those earlier images.  This image was taken on 23 July, at a distance of about 3,200 miles (5,200 kilometers) away from the proto planet Vesta.  Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA.   And in a short while, 1700 UT [6pm BST], Nasa will be holding a press conference to present the latest findings.  Which may include some colour …

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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 …

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Dawn’s final approach

Next weekend (on 16 July), barring any further unforeseen problems, Nasa’s Dawn spacecraft will enter orbit around the giant asteroid Vesta and begin its year-long observation of the 530km wide proto-planet. [Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA] From the JPL press release (23 June) After Dawn enters Vesta’s orbit, engineers will need a few days to determine the exact time of capture. Unlike other missions where a dramatic, nail-biting propulsive burn results in orbit insertion around a planet, Dawn has been using its placid ion propulsion …

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Space Shuttle’s Final Launch

If the weather clears, and currently the weather is a “go”, Nasa’s Space Shuttle Atlantis will launch from the Kennedy Space Centre at 4.26pm [BST].  It’s the end of the Space Shuttle era.  Follow events at Nasa’s launch blog, or via the BBC online, as well as the usual NasaTV coverage. Or, even, here! Broadcasting Live with Ustream Pete Baker

Voyager: “It’s bubbly out there.”

The Guardian’s GrrlScientist picked up on the 30-something Voyager probes’ latest scientific discovery on humanity’s farthest journey.  New view of the heliosheath. Red and blue spirals are the gracefully curving magnetic field lines of orthodox models. New data from Voyager add a magnetic froth to the mix. Image: NASA Here’s the YouTube version of the ScienceatNasa video posted at the Guardian. And if that explanation was a little too pink and fluffy for you, try this different version of the same …

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“One small step for [a] man…”

Last year saw the 40th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11.  Four days later, on 20th July 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon.  And, as the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter discovered, the evidence is still there. The BBC have some clips online, including this fascinating interview with Neil Armstrong from The Sky at Night in 1970. And, looking forward, the BBC’s Spaceman blog has a post on a potential compromise over President Obama’s proposed new policy for Nasa, the Nasa …

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