Monthly Archives: September 2012

A Daytime Moon on Mars

Phobos seen during the Martian day (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

A raw image taken on September 21 by Curiosity’s right Mastcam shows a daytime view of the Martian sky with a crescent-lit Phobos in the frame… barely visible, yes, but most certainly there. Very cool!

The image above is a crop of the original, contrast-enhanced and sharpened to bring out as much detail as possible.

Read more here.

Curiosity’s Roving Along an Ancient Riverbed!

Geological evidence for water flowing within Gale Crater has been spotted by MSL (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS )

Not even two months after landing on Mars, NASA’s Curiosity rover has already found good evidence that water once flowed within Gale Crater! And not just as a random occurrence either, but an honest-to-goodness stream… long-lived and possibly hip-deep, according to both rocks and researchers.

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Our Sharpest (Ground-Based) View of Pluto Yet:

Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, seen by the Gemini North telescope on Mauna Kea (Gemini Observatory)

Real planet, dwarf planet, KBO… who cares? What matters here is that astronomers from NASA, NOAO and the Gemini Observatory have created the sharpest image of Pluto ever made with ground-based observations — and developed a new way to verify potential Earth-like exoplanets at the same time. Not too shabby, I’d say.

Here’s how they did it.

Poll: Would YOU Jump From the Edge of Space?

BASE jumper Felix Baumgartner will jump from 120,000 feet on October 8, 2012

The light is GREEN, all systems are GO… on October 8, 2012, pilot and extreme BASE jumper Felix Baumgartner will perform a record-breaking freefall from a capsule at the staggering altitude of 120,000 feet — that’s over 22 miles (36.5 kilometers) up! On the way down Baumgartner will go supersonic, setting both height and speed records for a human body in freefall.

Felix and his life support engineer Mike Todd during training

Sponsored by the popular energy drink, Felix’s Red Bull Stratos mission will not only break the standing record held by his mentor Joe Kittinger, but also provide valuable scientific data to how the body handles such extreme conditions — invaluable to researchers developing next-generation hardware for human space exploration.

Still, data aside, the jump has its inherent dangers and, of course, its thrills… for Felix as well as the millions of people who will be watching the event from the ground.

“AT 120,000 FT, AIR PRESSURE IS NEARLY NONEXISTENT. FOR FELIX THIS MEANS 99% OF THE EARTH’S ATMOSPHERE IS OUT OF REACH – UNTIL HE JUMPS.”

– redbullstratos.com

So here’s a question for you: if you had the support and backing of a dedicated and specialized team like Baumgartner’s, would YOU jump from the edge of space? Answer below or leave a comment — you may be featured in a future article!

Remember… it’s a long, cold ride down, but what a view! (And how else are we to learn how to fight off axe-wielding Romulans on space mining platforms in the future??)

Not sure what you’d do? Check out the video below from his March 15 test jump from “only” 71,500 feet:

Find out more about the Red Bull Stratos mission here.

Take a Tour of the Moon (and give a wink for Neil!)

In honor of International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN) I invite you to see the Moon like never before, with this beautiful HD tour that takes you around our natural satellite as it’s seen by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

According to the Lunar and Planetary Institute’s David R. Kring, “The scenes in the video are so dramatic that you may find yourself reaching out to pick up a rock and becoming restless to walk among the lunar peaks.”
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Dawn Makes an Elemental Discovery on Vesta

Hydrogen “hot spots” are shown in this color-coded image of Vesta, a single frame from an animation. Red indicates the greatest abundance.

In what could be called a “eureka” moment for Dawn researchers and planetary scientists alike, hydrogen has been found on the surface of Vesta, a 550-km (340-mile) -wide protoplanet and the second most massive world in our Solar System’s main asteroid belt. The elemental discovery was made with the Gamma Ray and Neutron Detector (GRaND) instrument on board NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, which just completed its 13-plus-month-long mission orbiting Vesta and is now heading for Ceres.
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Farewell, Endeavour: The Last Shuttle’s Final Flight from Florida’s Space Coast

Space shuttle Endeavour left Kennedy Space Center this morning, September 19, 2012, ferried aboard a modified Boeing 747 headed for California

The space shuttle Endeavour, mounted atop NASA’s Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), is seen shortly after takeoff from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012 in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The SCA, a modified 747 jetliner, is flying Endeavour to Los Angeles where it will be placed on public display at the California Science Center. The three-day trip will include flybys of many locations along the planned route, including New Orleans, Houston, Sacramento and San Francisco, as well as stopovers in Houston and Edwards Air Force Base. (Read more here.)

This is the final ferry flight of the Space Shuttle Program era and the last time an orbiter will take to the skies.

Photo credit: (NASA/Stan Jirman) See more images from Endeavour’s cross-country voyage here.

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