Posts Tagged ‘Astronomy’

We Landed a Spacecraft on a Comet!

November 13, 2014

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosetta has become immortalised in space history as the first mission to land a spacecraft on a comet.

The ESA’s Rosetta mission sent a washing-machine-size probe named Philae to the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Rosetta lander Philae

Despite a thruster failure on Wednesday, the three-legged, 100-kilogram probe set down successfully using harpoons and ice screws to anchor itself to the rubber-duck-shaped comet, to begin what could be up to a year or more of intensive scrutiny of the comet’s composition and structure.

The landing was predicted to be particularly fraught because of the comet’s rough surface, which is covered with boulders, crevasses and craters. Against all the odds, the 100-kilogram lander arrived safely within its target site.

Comet_67P_on_19_September_2014_NavCam_mosaic

Rosetta was launched on 2 March 2004 and travelled 6.4 billion kilometres through the solar system before arriving at the comet in August.

During its decade-long journey, Rosetta has continued to push the boundaries of space engineering, from its three slingshot flybys of Earth and its two and a half year hibernation to Philae’s completely automated descent and landing.

Learn more here, here, here, here, here, here, here or here.

Cassini Sees Sunny Seas on Titan

November 2, 2014

As it soared past Saturn’s large moon Titan recently, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft caught a glimpse of bright sunlight reflecting off hydrocarbon seas.

In the past, Cassini had captured, separately, views of the polar seas and the sun glinting off them, but this is the first time both have been seen together in the same view. Check it out

Titan hydrocarbon seas

That’s one small step for a man …

July 21, 2014

Forty five years ago today, on July 21, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first human to step on the moon. He and “Buzz” Aldrin walked around for about three hours.

Happy anniversary fellas!

And this, now forty five year old clip, still blows my mind:

“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Why is it Dark at Night?

June 20, 2014

Have you ever wondered why the sky is dark at night? Well wonder no more …

Video Of The Accident That Almost Killed Neil Armstrong

June 13, 2014

US Navy pilot, war veteran, aerospace engineer, astronaut and first man on the moon Neil Armstrong was also an incredible test pilot, with 900 flights in experimental aircraft including the dangerous Lunar Landing Testing Vehicle. On 6 May 1968, he almost died flying one. This is the video of the crash.

The controls on his Lunar Landing Research Vehicle started to go crazy at an altitude of 30m, and the vehicle started to bank dangerously. Armstrong ejected and landed safely, but, according to the post-accident investigation, he would have died had he ejected only half a second later. Learn more here.

First Direct Evidence of Collision That Formed Moon

June 6, 2014

Newly analyzed lunar rocks have revealed the first direct evidence of the ancient smashup that created the moon, bolstering a long-held theory.

Theia smashes Earth

The rocks were gathered by astronauts on NASA’s Apollo missions. But newer scanning electron microscopes have now allowed scientists to detect in them the first chemical traces of the Mars-size planet thought to have blasted the proto-Earth around 4.5 billion years ago.

When the ancient planet, Theia, smashed into Earth, it blasted debris into space. The moon formed out of that debris. If the moon formed predominantly from the fragments of Theia, as predicted by most numerical models, the Earth and Moon should differ. This new analysis has provided evidence of this difference. Learn more here.

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is Shrinking

May 17, 2014

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot — one of the most iconic and well known features in the solar system — is shrinking, and nobody knows why.

Great Red Spot is Shrinking

The so-called “Great Red Spot” is a violent storm, which in the late 1800s was estimated to be about 40,000 kilometres in diameter – wide enough for three Earths to fit side by side.

The storm, which is the biggest in the solar system, appears as a deep red orb surrounded by layers of pale yellow, orange and white.

Winds inside the storm have been measured at several hundreds of kilometres per hour.

By the time NASA’s Voyager space probes flew by in 1979 and 1980, the spot was down to about 22,500 kilometres across.

Now, new pictures taken by the Earth-orbiting Hubble Space Telescope show Jupiter’s red spot is smaller than it has ever been, measuring less than 16,100 kilometres in diameter. It also appears more circular in shape.

Scientists aren’t sure why the Great Red Spot is shrinking by about 1000 kilometres a year. Learn more here, here or here.

New Exoplanet Could Be Earth’s Cousin

April 18, 2014

Astronomers have found the first Earth-sized exoplanet within a star’s habitable zone. The planet is the closest thing yet to the coveted ‘Goldilocks’ orb that scientists have long sought — a world roughly the size of Earth orbiting a star at a distance that is just right for liquid water to exist.

Kepler-186f

Named Kepler-186f, the planet orbits a star that is less than half the size of the sun and much cooler. The new world is the outermost of five planets orbiting Kepler-186, a red dwarf star some 500 light-years from Earth.

Kepler-186f position

Learn more here, here, here, here or here.

Skydiver almost gets hit by a Meteorite

April 6, 2014

It sounds like an almost unbelievable: Anders Helstrup went skydiving nearly two years ago in Hedmark, Norway and while he didn’t realize it at the time, when he reviewed the footage taken by two cameras fixed to his helmet during the dive, he saw a rock plummet past him. He took it to experts and they realized he had captured a meteorite falling during its “dark flight” — when it has been slowed by atmospheric braking, and has cooled and is no longer luminous.

Skydiver Meteorite 1

Watch a video here or learn more here or here.

Fly through of a sliver of the universe

March 15, 2014

The Galaxy and Mass Assembly catalogue is a detailed map of the Universe showing where galaxies are in 3D. This simulated flythrough shows the real positions and images of the galaxies that have been mapped so far. Distances are to scale, but the galaxy images have been enlarged for your viewing pleasure.

Remember each little speck is an entire galaxy, not just a single star. Our Solar System’s star, the Sun, is merely one of the 100–400 billion stars in our galaxy The Milky Way.

Get ready to see an awful lot of galaxies …


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