Archive for the ‘Astronomy’ Category
Twenty years ago, the Hubble Space Telescope snapped one of its most iconic images ever. The three towering columns of gas bathed in the light of hot, young stars came to be called the Pillars of Creation:
Now, to celebrate its 25th anniversary, Hubble has taken a new image of the well-known region in the Eagle Nebula, about 6,500 light-years away. (see full-size image here)
The Hubble team also photographed the region at infrared wavelengths, which can reveal infant stars inside the gas and dust. That should help astronomers work out whether the nebula is an efficient star-former.
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.
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.
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.
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 …
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.”
Have you ever wondered why the sky is dark at night? Well wonder no more …
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.
Newly analyzed lunar rocks have revealed the first direct evidence of the ancient smashup that created the moon, bolstering a long-held theory.
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 — one of the most iconic and well known features in the solar system — is shrinking, and nobody knows why.
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.
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.
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.