Not All Who Wonder Are Lost

electricspacekoolaid:

See Mercury at its Greatest Elongation for 2013

Image 1: A limb mosaic of the planet Mercury as seen from MESSENGER’s Wide Angle Camera & Dual Imaging System.

Image 2 :A comparison of elongations of Mercury as seen from the Earth at perihelion versus aphelion. (Created by the author).

Image 3:The path of Mercury looking east ~45 minutes prior to sunrise from latitude 30 degrees north from March 26th through April 30th, (Created by the author using Starry Night).

(Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University/Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington).

A fine apparition of the planet Mercury graces the dawn skies this week, leading up to its greatest elongation from the Sun for 2013.

It seems that nearly every appearance of the planet Mercury is touted as the “best” these days. Such was the case with the inner-most world’s dusk showing early last month. Truth is, all elongations of Mercury (and Venus, for that matter) are not created equal, and visibility of each apparition isn’t the same for observers worldwide. We’ll show you why.

Mercury orbits the Sun once every 88 days. With an orbit interior to our own, it never strays far from the Sun in the sky and thus can only appear low in the dawn or dusk. Its orbit is also elliptical, with an eccentricity of 0.206, the greatest of any planet in our solar system. This means that greatest elongations can vary considerably, from 17.9° away from the Sun in the sky near perihelion of the planet to 28.7° near aphelion. And although reaching greatest elongation near aphelion means the tiny world is above the muck of the horizon, it also means it’s also intrinsically a bit fainter; Mercury can vary in brightness from magnitude -0.2 at a perihelic-elongation to half a magnitude fainter at +0.3 for an aphelic-elongation.

But there’s more. Compounding this situation is the angle of the ecliptic, or the imaginary plane of the orbit of the Earth. Near the March equinox the ecliptic rides high in the dusk to the west and low in the dawn to the east for northern hemisphere observers. In the southern hemisphere, the reverse is true. It’s a strange sight for a northerner to head “Down Under” and watch the Sun rise in the east, transit to the north and set to the west!

Read more: 

space-pics:

a full day from space (x-post woahdude) [500x500]
http://space-pics.tumblr.com/

space-pics:

a full day from space (x-post woahdude) [500x500]

http://space-pics.tumblr.com/

electricspacekoolaid:

Star and Exoplanet Help Explain Backwards Orbits
A perplexing alien planet locked in a “backwards” orbit around its parent star may finally be explained by the discovery of an extra planet and star near the oddball planetary system, scientists say.

The discovery is centered on the so-called ”backwards” planet HAT-P-7b, which orbits a star 1,040 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. The planet, first spotted in 2008, has long defied explanation because of its orbit, which carries the world around parent star in the opposite (or retrograde) direction of the star’s spin.
Now, a Japan-led team of astronomers has found a second star and alien planet near the planet HAT-P-7b and its stellar parent. They used the Subaru Telescope Facility in Hilo, Hawaii, to make the discovery. Long-term gravitational interference from the newfound star and alien planet, which is a Jupiter-size world called HAT-P-7c, may be responsible for the strange retrograde orbit of HAT-P-7b, researchers said.
While the planets of Earth’s solar system all orbit the sun in the same direction as the sun’s spin, astronomers have observed retrograde planets circling distant stars. How these exoplanets got on such unusual paths has remained a mystery. The newfound planet and star near the HAT-P-7b planetary system could change that.
“The current team thinks that the existence of the companion star (HAT-P-7B) and the newly confirmed outer planet (HAT-P-7c) are likely to play an important role in forming and maintaining the retrograde orbit of the inner planet (HAT-P-7b),” officials with the Subaru Telescope Facility explained in a statement today (Jan. 24).  

electricspacekoolaid:

Star and Exoplanet Help Explain Backwards Orbits

A perplexing alien planet locked in a “backwards” orbit around its parent star may finally be explained by the discovery of an extra planet and star near the oddball planetary system, scientists say.

The discovery is centered on the so-called ”backwards” planet HAT-P-7b, which orbits a star 1,040 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. The planet, first spotted in 2008, has long defied explanation because of its orbit, which carries the world around parent star in the opposite (or retrograde) direction of the star’s spin.

Now, a Japan-led team of astronomers has found a second star and alien planet near the planet HAT-P-7b and its stellar parent. They used the Subaru Telescope Facility in Hilo, Hawaii, to make the discovery. Long-term gravitational interference from the newfound star and alien planet, which is a Jupiter-size world called HAT-P-7c, may be responsible for the strange retrograde orbit of HAT-P-7b, researchers said.

While the planets of Earth’s solar system all orbit the sun in the same direction as the sun’s spin, astronomers have observed retrograde planets circling distant stars. How these exoplanets got on such unusual paths has remained a mystery. The newfound planet and star near the HAT-P-7b planetary system could change that.

“The current team thinks that the existence of the companion star (HAT-P-7B) and the newly confirmed outer planet (HAT-P-7c) are likely to play an important role in forming and maintaining the retrograde orbit of the inner planet (HAT-P-7b),” officials with the Subaru Telescope Facility explained in a statement today (Jan. 24).  

electricspacekoolaid:

Iran Launches Monkey on A Suborbital Rocket
According to Iran state media, Iran launched a suborbital rocket last week with a passenger aboard: a monkey. A gray tufted monkey survived the flight, riding inside an “indigenous bio-capsule” which was recovered after the flight.

While the US and other nations are worried that Iran’s real goal is to have a nuclear missile program, Iran’s Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi told state television that this launch was a “big step” towards sending astronauts into space by 2020.Iranian news agencies said the rocket traveled to an altitude of 120 kilometres (75 miles) for a suborbital flight. The space capsule was named Pishgam, which is “Pioneer” in Farsi. The launch has not yet been independently verified.



“This success is the first step towards man conquering the space and it paves the way for other moves,” General Vahidi said, but added that the process of putting a human into space would be a lengthy one.



“Today’s successful launch follows previous successes we had in launching (space) probes with other living creatures,” he said, referring to the launch in the past of a rat, turtles and worms into space.

electricspacekoolaid:

Iran Launches Monkey on A Suborbital Rocket

According to Iran state media, Iran launched a suborbital rocket last week with a passenger aboard: a monkey. A gray tufted monkey survived the flight, riding inside an “indigenous bio-capsule” which was recovered after the flight.

While the US and other nations are worried that Iran’s real goal is to have a nuclear missile program, Iran’s Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi told state television that this launch was a “big step” towards sending astronauts into space by 2020.Iranian news agencies said the rocket traveled to an altitude of 120 kilometres (75 miles) for a suborbital flight. The space capsule was named Pishgam, which is “Pioneer” in Farsi. The launch has not yet been independently verified.

“This success is the first step towards man conquering the space and it paves the way for other moves,” General Vahidi said, but added that the process of putting a human into space would be a lengthy one.

“Today’s successful launch follows previous successes we had in launching (space) probes with other living creatures,” he said, referring to the launch in the past of a rat, turtles and worms into space.

sagansense:

NASA Considers Tugging An Asteroid Into Orbit Around The Moon
Rather than sending humans into deep space, why not bring the asteroids to us? image: Arkyd Series 200 Interceptor, as Envisioned by Planetary Resources Planetary Resources Inc.
NASA’s (and President Obama’s) vision for sending a manned space mission to a distant asteroid by the 2020s doesn’t seem to be gaining much steam, but a conceptual mission under development by the Keck Institute for Space Studies in California could bring an asteroid much closer to home in that timeframe. An estimated $2.6 billion could fund a mission that would send a robotic spacecraft out into interplanetary space and drag an asteroid into orbit around the moon where robots and even humans could explore it far more conveniently.
The reasons for doing this are many. For one, a manned mission beyond the moon to a faraway asteroid would likely take six months or more to reach even the closest passing asteroid of interest. During that time out from under the protective umbrella of Earth’s magnetic field, astronauts would be exposed to long periods of cosmic radiation—the effects of which aren’t exactly defined. Moreover, it would be costly, dangerous, and might not yield that much scientific benefit. But an asteroid in orbit around the moon meshes well with some other initiatives NASA has cooking, including placing a fixed space station at a Lagrange point on the far side of the moon from which human inhabitants could tele-robotically explore the moon (and, if available, an asteroid).
The Keck concept calls for an Atlas V rocket to launch a slow-moving, solar/ion powered spacecraft toward a rendezvous with a target asteroid. This wouldn’t be an Earth killer or anything even close—the Keck study calls for something in 20-25 feet wide. The spacecraft would then literally haul the asteroid in a huge bag back to lunar orbit. Total mission duration: six to 10 years.
NASA’s not the first entity to speak seriously of moving asteroids into more favorable orbits for human observation (and consumption). Last year billionaire-backed private space startup Planetary Resources announced an ambitious agenda to explore and mine minerals from asteroids, including potentially moving a target asteroid from deep space into an orbit more accessible to mining robots. The idea is not only to extract minerals for export back to earth, but also to create “orbital gas stations” where water ice on asteroids could be processed into hydrogen and oxygen to refuel rockets in space. That’s an idea that’s also been kicked around NASA over the years where the future of deep space travel is concerned. Pulling a small asteroid into lunar orbit would be a good start.

sagansense:

NASA Considers Tugging An Asteroid Into Orbit Around The Moon

Rather than sending humans into deep space, why not bring the asteroids to us?
image: Arkyd Series 200 Interceptor, as Envisioned by Planetary Resources Planetary Resources Inc.

NASA’s (and President Obama’s) vision for sending a manned space mission to a distant asteroid by the 2020s doesn’t seem to be gaining much steam, but a conceptual mission under development by the Keck Institute for Space Studies in California could bring an asteroid much closer to home in that timeframe. An estimated $2.6 billion could fund a mission that would send a robotic spacecraft out into interplanetary space and drag an asteroid into orbit around the moon where robots and even humans could explore it far more conveniently.

The reasons for doing this are many. For one, a manned mission beyond the moon to a faraway asteroid would likely take six months or more to reach even the closest passing asteroid of interest. During that time out from under the protective umbrella of Earth’s magnetic field, astronauts would be exposed to long periods of cosmic radiation—the effects of which aren’t exactly defined. Moreover, it would be costly, dangerous, and might not yield that much scientific benefit. But an asteroid in orbit around the moon meshes well with some other initiatives NASA has cooking, including placing a fixed space station at a Lagrange point on the far side of the moon from which human inhabitants could tele-robotically explore the moon (and, if available, an asteroid).

The Keck concept calls for an Atlas V rocket to launch a slow-moving, solar/ion powered spacecraft toward a rendezvous with a target asteroid. This wouldn’t be an Earth killer or anything even close—the Keck study calls for something in 20-25 feet wide. The spacecraft would then literally haul the asteroid in a huge bag back to lunar orbit. Total mission duration: six to 10 years.

NASA’s not the first entity to speak seriously of moving asteroids into more favorable orbits for human observation (and consumption). Last year billionaire-backed private space startup Planetary Resources announced an ambitious agenda to explore and mine minerals from asteroids, including potentially moving a target asteroid from deep space into an orbit more accessible to mining robots. The idea is not only to extract minerals for export back to earth, but also to create “orbital gas stations” where water ice on asteroids could be processed into hydrogen and oxygen to refuel rockets in space. That’s an idea that’s also been kicked around NASA over the years where the future of deep space travel is concerned. Pulling a small asteroid into lunar orbit would be a good start.

rhamphotheca:

For Manned Deep-Space Missions, Radiation Is Biggest Hurdle
by Mike Wall
High radiation levels beyond Earth orbit pose the biggest challenge to human exploration of deep-space destinations, experts say.
With current spacecraft technology, astronauts can cruise through deep space for a maximum of one year or so before accumulating a dangerously high radiation dose, researchers say. As a result, many intriguing solar system targets remain off-limits to human exploration at the moment.
“There is an equivalent of a Mach 1 — a sound barrier — that exists, in terms of galactic cosmic radiation,” Alvin Drew, manager of NASA’s Deep Space Habitat Project, said Wednesday (Dec. 19) during a presentation with the agency’s Future In-Space Operations working group…
(read more: Live Science)                            (image by NASA)

rhamphotheca:

For Manned Deep-Space Missions, Radiation Is Biggest Hurdle

by Mike Wall

High radiation levels beyond Earth orbit pose the biggest challenge to human exploration of deep-space destinations, experts say.

With current spacecraft technology, astronauts can cruise through deep space for a maximum of one year or so before accumulating a dangerously high radiation dose, researchers say. As a result, many intriguing solar system targets remain off-limits to human exploration at the moment.

“There is an equivalent of a Mach 1 — a sound barrier — that exists, in terms of galactic cosmic radiation,” Alvin Drew, manager of NASA’s Deep Space Habitat Project, said Wednesday (Dec. 19) during a presentation with the agency’s Future In-Space Operations working group…

(read more: Live Science)                            (image by NASA)

ikenbot:

Super-Dense Neutron Star Is Fastest Ever Seen
Astronomers have discovered an ultra-dense star that orbits with a dying stellar companion once every 93 minutes, making it the fastest-orbiting star of its kind.
Image: Credit: NASA/DOE/Fermi LAT Collaboration/AEI 
The speedy object, a kind of neutron star called a millisecond pulsar, rockets through space at 8,100 mph (13,000 kph) or more, researchers said. Its lightweight companion — which the “black widow” pulsar is destroying with a barrage of radiation — is faster still, zipping around the system’s common center of mass at 1.7 million mph (2.8 million kph) or so.
The pulsar, known as PSR J1311-3430, and its partner are separated by just 320,000 miles (520,000 kilometers) — about 1.4 times the distance from Earth to the moon — making them the most tightly bound such pair known.
Scientists spotted PSR J1311-3430 after combing through four years’ worth of data collected by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope. The find marks the first time a millisecond pulsar (MSP) has been detected via high-energy gamma rays alone, researchers said.
“The discovery of this first MSP from direct gamma-ray pulsations opens the door to the detection of other extreme binary pulsars,” study lead author Holger Pletsch, of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) in Hanover, Germany, told SPACE.com via email.
Full Article

ikenbot:

Super-Dense Neutron Star Is Fastest Ever Seen

Astronomers have discovered an ultra-dense star that orbits with a dying stellar companion once every 93 minutes, making it the fastest-orbiting star of its kind.

Image: Credit: NASA/DOE/Fermi LAT Collaboration/AEI

The speedy object, a kind of neutron star called a millisecond pulsar, rockets through space at 8,100 mph (13,000 kph) or more, researchers said. Its lightweight companion — which the “black widow” pulsar is destroying with a barrage of radiation — is faster still, zipping around the system’s common center of mass at 1.7 million mph (2.8 million kph) or so.

The pulsar, known as PSR J1311-3430, and its partner are separated by just 320,000 miles (520,000 kilometers) — about 1.4 times the distance from Earth to the moon — making them the most tightly bound such pair known.

Scientists spotted PSR J1311-3430 after combing through four years’ worth of data collected by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope. The find marks the first time a millisecond pulsar (MSP) has been detected via high-energy gamma rays alone, researchers said.

“The discovery of this first MSP from direct gamma-ray pulsations opens the door to the detection of other extreme binary pulsars,” study lead author Holger Pletsch, of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) in Hanover, Germany, told SPACE.com via email.

Full Article

infinity-imagined:

The orbits of the moons and planets form a 4-dimensional fractal helix in spacetime.

crookedindifference:

Modeling Space Debris

Orbital debris, or “space junk,” is any man-made object in orbit around the Earth that no longer serves a useful purpose. Space junk can be bad news for an orbiting satellite.

To minimize the risk of collision between spacecraft and space junk, the U.S. Space Surveillance Network tracks all debris larger than 10 centimeters. These images represent all man-made objects, both functioning and useful objects and debris, currently being tracked. The images were made from models used to track debris in Earth orbit. Of the approximately 19,000 manmade objects larger than 10 centimeters in Earth orbit as of July 2009, most orbit close to the Earth, bottom image. The top image shows all items in orbit, both close to and far from the Earth.

nevver:

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