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Syndicate content Universe Today
Space and astronomy news
Updated: 6 hours 36 min ago

Watch Live as Astronomers Look for Object ‘G2′ in Observing Run Webcast from the Keck Observatory

7 hours 1 min ago

Wondering about the latest news on the intriguing object called ‘G2′ that is making its closest approach to the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy? You might be able to get the latest update on this object in real time during a rare live-streamed observing run from the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. Watch live above.

The two 10-meter Keck Observatory telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea will be steered by astronomer Andrea Ghez and her team of observers from the UCLA Galactic Center Group for two nights to study our galaxy’s supermassive black hole, with an attempt to focus in on the enigmatic G2 to see if it is still intact. They’ll also be setting up a test for Einstein’s General Relativity and gathering more data on what they describe as The Paradox of Youth: young objects paradoxically developing around the black hole.

Here’s the time for the livestream in various timezones:
(...)
Read the rest of Watch Live as Astronomers Look for Object ‘G2′ in Observing Run Webcast from the Keck Observatory (215 words)

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Rosetta Watches Comet 67P Tumbling Through Space

8 hours 7 min ago

Animation of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as seen by Rosetta on June 27-28, 2014

Animation of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko rotating as seen by Rosetta on June 27-28, 2014

This is really getting exciting! ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft (and the piggybacked Philae lander) are in the home stretch to arrive at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 34 days and the comet is showing up quite nicely in Rosetta’s narrow-angle camera. The animation above, assembled from 36 NAC images acquired last week, shows 67P/C-G rotating over a total elapsed time of 12.4 hours. No longer just an extra-bright pixel, it looks like a thing now!

(...)
Read the rest of Rosetta Watches Comet 67P Tumbling Through Space (159 words)

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Astronauts Keep an Eye on Tropical Storm Arthur from the Space Station

Wed, 02/07/2014 - 20:57

 Reid Wiseman/NASA.

Astronauts on the International Space Station took this image of Tropical Storm Arthur on July 2, 2014. Credit: Reid Wiseman/NASA.

The first storm of the Atlantic hurricane season is easily visible from space. International Space Station astronaut Reid Wiseman tweeted this picture of the storm, saying, “Just flew over Tropical Storm Arthur – hoping it heads to sea. Looks mean.”

Forecasters said the storm is slowly strengthening off Florida’s east coast, but will move up the coast just in time for the July 4th holiday in the US. While Tropical Storm Arthur is likely to stay offshore while it cruises by Florida, it might become a hurricane by Thursday. The National Hurricane Center reported at 2 pm EDT Wednesday that a tropical storm warning is in effect for all of coastal North Carolina with a hurricane watch the for the portion of the state that extends into the Atlantic Ocean. As of the time of the report, Tropical Storm Arthur was about 160 km (100 miles) east of Daytona Beach, Florida and 378 km (235 miles) south of Charleston, South Carolina.
(...)
Read the rest of Astronauts Keep an Eye on Tropical Storm Arthur from the Space Station (40 words)

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Ancient Asteroid Impacts Left Serpentine Traces On Vesta: Study

Wed, 02/07/2014 - 20:28

 NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCAL/MPS/DLR/IDA

Mosaic synthesizes some of the best views the spacecraft had of the giant asteroid Vesta. Dawn studied Vesta. The towering mountain at the south pole – more than twice the height of Mount Everest – is visible at the bottom of the image. The set of three craters known as the “snowman” can be seen at the top left. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCAL/MPS/DLR/IDA

While “dark materials” may leave some of us thinking about a certain Philip Pullman book series, on the asteroid Vesta its presence belies something equally exotic: old smaller asteroid impacts on its surface.

(...)
Read the rest of Ancient Asteroid Impacts Left Serpentine Traces On Vesta: Study (266 words)

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NASA’s Carbon Observatory Blasts off on Workhorse Delta II to Measure Carbon Dioxide Greenhouse Gas and Watch Earth Breathe

Wed, 02/07/2014 - 17:41

 NASA/Bill Ingalls

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, NASA’s first mission dedicated to studying carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere, lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, at 2:56 a.m. Pacific Time, July 2, 2014 on a Delta II rocket. The two-year mission will help scientists unravel key mysteries about carbon dioxide. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Story updated

Following a nearly three-year long hiatus, the workhorse Delta II rocket successfully launched NASA’s first spacecraft dedicated to watching Earth breathe by studying Earth’s atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) – the leading human-produced greenhouse gas and the principal human-produced driver of climate change.

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) raced to orbit earlier this morning, during a spectacular nighttime blastoff at 2:56 a.m. PDT (5:56 a.m. EDT), Tuesday, July 2, 2014, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket. (...)
Read the rest of NASA’s Carbon Observatory Blasts off on Workhorse Delta II to Measure Carbon Dioxide Greenhouse Gas and Watch Earth Breathe (989 words)

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How Big is Rosetta’s Comet?

Wed, 02/07/2014 - 17:31

Diagram of Comet 67P/C-G compared to terrestrial landmarks (ESA)

Diagram of Comet 67P/C-G compared to terrestrial landmarks (ESA)

Pretty darn big, I’d say.

The illustration above shows the relative scale of the comet that ESA’s Rosetta and Philae spacecraft will explore “up-close and personal” later this year. And while it’s one thing to say that the nucleus of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is about three by five kilometers in diameter, it’s quite another to see it in context with more familiar objects. Think about it — a comet as tall as Mt Fuji!

(...)
Read the rest of How Big is Rosetta’s Comet? (282 words)

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Incredible View: Camping Under the Milky Way

Wed, 02/07/2014 - 17:06

 Tanja Sund.

A 10 panel panorama of the Milkyway, as seen from the top of the Amphitheatre mountain range in the Drakensberg Mountains, South Africa. Credit and copyright: Tanja Sund.

During the summer months, many of us hit the trails and do a little camping. But how often do you get a view like this?

Wow! Click on the image above to see larger versions on Flickr.

Astrophotographer Tanja Sund and a companion pitched their tent in the Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa, a 200-kilometer-long mountainous range in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, with the tent sitting just 10 meters from a 1 kilometer-high vertical drop. “This is the home of the Tugela Waterfall, second highest waterfall in the world,” Tanja wrote on Flickr.
(...)
Read the rest of Incredible View: Camping Under the Milky Way (230 words)

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Eureka! Kola Fireball Meteorites Found in Russia

Tue, 01/07/2014 - 20:37

 Asko Aikkila / Finnish Fireball Network

Amateur astronomer and physics teacher Asko Aikkila caught this image of the Kola fireball on videotape in Kuusamo, Finland on April 19, 2014. The picture has been processed to enhance the details. Credit: Asko Aikkila / Finnish Fireball Network

A spectacular fireball that crackled across the sky near the Russia-Finnish border on April 19th this year left more than a bright flash. A team of meteor researchers from Finland, Russia and the Czech Republic scoured the predicted impact zone and recently discovered extraterrestrial booty.(...)
Read the rest of Eureka! Kola Fireball Meteorites Found in Russia (504 words)

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Awesome Aurora Vine Video from the Space Station

Tue, 01/07/2014 - 16:34

Here’s the latest Vine video from astronaut Reid Wiseman on board the International Space Station, showing the Aurora Borealis shimmering in the sky as the stars of Orion rise in the sky. Modules of the ISS smoothly move through the top portion of the video.

In viewing the aurora from space earlier, Wiseman said, “It felt like I could reach out and touch it…moving like a snake through the sky.

Below is an image of aurora seen from the ISS.
(...)
Read the rest of Awesome Aurora Vine Video from the Space Station (25 words)

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Astronauts Say Happy Canada Day!

Tue, 01/07/2014 - 16:05

 ESA/NASA.

A view of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Canada under the clouds seen from the International Space Station by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst. Credit: ESA/NASA.

On 1 July, Canadians celebrate Canada Day, which honors the day the nation was officially born when the Constitution Act united three colonies into a single country. Astronauts both past and present send their greetings today: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst took this image, above, from the International Space Station and sent the message from space: “Canada is beautiful! Happy Canada Day!”

Below, NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman took a beautiful image showing storms swirling near Winnipeg, Manitoba.

And then, there’s a very special new video featuring former Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield and his brother Dave singing an original song by Dave titled, “In Canada.” It’s pretty great, and it gives you an inside look at the Hadfield family (they do family rocket launches!) and what it’s like to live in Canada. If you think Chris has a great singing voice, you’ll love Dave’s voice (they sound almost exactly the same!) and when they harmonize, it’s golden because they blend perfectly as only sibling voices can.
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Trekking Mars – Curiosity Roves Outside Landing Ellipse!

Tue, 01/07/2014 - 04:57

 NASA/JPL-Caltech/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

Curiosity treks across Martian dunes and drives outside landing ellipse here, in this photo mosaic view captured on Sol 672, June 27, 2014. Distant eroded rim of Gale Crater seen in background. Navcam camera raw images stitched and colorized. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

Trekking Mars – NASA’s intrepid robot Curiosity is roving rapidly across the sandy ripples of the Red Planet in her quest to reach mysterious Mount Sharp and just drove outside her landing ellipse!

The six wheeled rover marked a major milestone on Sol 672, June 27, 2014, by traversing beyond her targeted landing ellipse for the first time since touchdown on Mars nearly two years ago on August 5, 2012. (...)
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How to See Pluto at Opposition as New Horizons Crosses the One Year Out Mark

Mon, 30/06/2014 - 18:34

 Dave Walker.

Pluto passing near the star cluster M25 in late 2013. Credit: Dave Walker.

Are you ready for 2015? On July 14th, 2015 — just a little over a year from now — NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft with perform its historic flyby of Pluto and its retinue of moons. Flying just 10,000 kilometres from the surface of Pluto — just 2.5% the distance from Earth to the Moon on closest approach — New Horizons is expected to revolutionize our understanding of these distant worlds.

And whether you see Pluto as a much maligned planetary member of the solar system, an archetypal Plutoid, or the “King of the Kuiper Belt,” you can spy this denizen of the outer solar system using a decent sized backyard telescope and a little patience.

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Saturn’s Sailor: 20 Cassini Pictures Marking A Decade At The Ringed Planet

Mon, 30/06/2014 - 18:28

 NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Saturn’s northern storm marches through the planet’s atmosphere in the top right of this false-color mosaic from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

We’re spoiled, don’t you know? It was 10 years ago today that the Cassini spacecraft entered Saturn’s system, and it has been busily beaming back pictures of the ringed planet and its (many) moons ever since. We’ve learned more about seasons on Titan, investigated plumes on Enceladus, and examined phenomena such as auroras on Saturn.

Embedded in this story are 20 of our favourite pictures from Universe Today’s archive of Cassini discoveries, which you can check out below the jump.

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Astronauts Shave Their Heads Bald After U.S. Loses FIFA Match To Germany

Mon, 30/06/2014 - 17:57

 NASA / YouTube (screenshot)

NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman reacts mid-shave as fellow Expediton 40 crew member Alexander Gerst looks on. Wiseman and fellow NASA astronaut Steve Swanson both were shaved bald after the U.S. lost 1-0 to Germany in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Credit: NASA / YouTube (screenshot)

Lose a soccer game and lose your hair. That’s apparently the deal that American astronauts made on the International Space Station last week, as commander Steve Swanson and Reid Wiseman both were shaved bald after the U.S. lost to Germany 1-0 June 26 in the FIFA World Cup. Gleefully wielding the shaver was Alexander Gerst, who happens to be from Germany.

Despite their busy science schedule, the astronauts have been enthusiastically following (and tweeting about!) the games. Not to mention they did a couple of improvised soccer matches in zero gravity, complete with awesome celebratory dances. You can check out all the video action below.

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Rosetta’s Comet Already Sweating The Small Stuff, Far From The Sun

Mon, 30/06/2014 - 17:17

Artist's conception of Rosetta's target, 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, which is losing two 5-ounce (150 millileter cups) of water every second while still 362 million miles (583 million kilometers) from the sun. The water vapor output will increase as the comet gets closer; these measurements were made on June 6, 2014. Credit: ESA

Artist’s conception of Rosetta’s target, 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, which is losing two 5-ounce (150 milliliter cups) of water every second while still 362 million miles (583 million kilometers) from the sun. The water vapor output will increase as the comet gets closer; these measurements were made on June 6, 2014. Credit: ESA

Feeling thirsty? If you could somehow capture the water vapor from Rosetta’s comet, you would have the equivalent of two water glasses every second. That’s more than scientists expected given that Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko is still screaming into the inner solar system at more than double the distance from Mars to the Sun.

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NASA Deems Flying Saucer Test A Success Despite Failed Parachute

Mon, 30/06/2014 - 15:48

 NASA/JPL-Caltech

A recovery vessel lifts the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator aboard after its June 28, 2014 test over the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Although the parachute didn’t pop out during a flight test this weekend of NASA’s flying-saucer shaped prototype spacecraft for future Mars exploration, the agency says the so-called Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator performed to expectations.

In an update released yesterday (June 30), one day after the craft made a hard landing in the Pacific, the agency noted that every goal on the flight had been met. The nature of the parachute failure is being investigated; the parachute was a year ahead of schedule in its development, according to NASA.

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NASA Set to Launch OCO-2 Observatory on July 1 – Sniffer of Carbon Dioxide Greenhouse Gas

Sun, 29/06/2014 - 20:02

 NASA/Bill Ingalls

NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) at the Launch Pad
This black-and-white infrared view shows the launch gantry, surrounding the United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket with the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite onboard. The photo was taken at Space Launch Complex 2, Friday, June 27, 2014, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. OCO-2 is set for a July 1, 2014 launch. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

After a lengthy hiatus, the workhorse Delta II rocket that first launched a quarter of a century ago and placed numerous renowned NASA science missions into Earth orbit and interplanetary space, as well as lofting dozens of commercial and DOD missions, is about to soar again this week on July 1 with NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) sniffer to study atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2).

OCO-2 is NASA’s first mission dedicated to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide, the leading human-produced greenhouse gas and the principal human-produced driver of climate change.(...)
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NASA’s Orion Deep Space Capsule Completes Most Complex Parachute Test Ahead of Maiden Launch

Sat, 28/06/2014 - 17:38

  NASA/Rad Sinyak

A test version of NASA’s Orion manned spacecraft descends under its three main parachutes above the U.S. Army Proving Ground in Arizona in the agency’s most difficult test of the parachutes system’s performance to prepare Orion for its first trip to space in December 2014. Credit: NASA/Rad Sinyak

A test version of NASA’s Orion deep space capsule has completed its most complex and last full flight-like parachute drop test on June 25 ahead of the maiden launch on the EFT-1 mission now slated for early December 2014.

The descent test was conducted at an altitude of 35,000 feet over the Arizona desert at the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground by pulling the test vehicle out of a huge C-17 cargo aircraft.

The test also included the addition of several (...)
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Zoom Around Curiosity’s View on Mars with a New Interactive Panorama

Fri, 27/06/2014 - 17:12


Mars Panorama – Curiosity rover: Martian solar day 647 in out-of-this-world

Here’s the latest interactive panorama via panoramacist Andrew Bodrov from imagery taken by the Curiosity Mars at Gale Crater, from Sol 647 (May 1, 2014).

The images for panorama were obtained by the rover’s 34-millimeter Mast Camera. The mosaic, which stretches about 30,000 pixels width, includes 134 images, all taken on Sol 647.

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What are Those Colorful, Crazy Clouds in the Sky??

Fri, 27/06/2014 - 16:49

 Nathanial Burton-Bradford.

Ethereal and stunning sundog-like forms in the clouds called circumhorizontal arcs over Oxford, England on June 25, 2014. Credit and copyright: Nathanial Burton-Bradford.

My Twitter feed exploded on June 25 with reports of colorful, crazy-looking clouds, sundogs, Sun halos and more. The above image from Nathanial Burton-Bradford is just an example of the type of atmospheric effect called a circumhorizontal arc. These are sometimes referred to as “fire rainbows” but of course are not rainbows, and fire plays no role.

This is an optical phenomenon from sunlight hitting ice crystals in high cirrus clouds. It is actually a rather rare occurrence, but it happens most often during the daytime in summer when the Sun is high in the sky. This creates a rainbow-type effect directly in the ice crystal-filled clouds.

See more examples below.
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