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Category Archives: Hubble Telescope
Posted: June 17, 2020 at 12:54 am
Vice President Mike Pence plans to visit several Michigan businesses Thursday and deliver remarks at a steel manufacturer in Sterling Heights.
The White House announced Pences travel plans include lunch at Engine House, a bar and grill owned by two Detroit firefighters, followed by a tour of Chardam Gear Company. Pence is also scheduled to visit Casadei Structural Steel Inc. and deliver remarks before returning to Washington D.C.
America First Policies, a nonprofit group created to promote the policy agenda of President Donald Trumps re-election campaign, later announced Pence will participate in a noon roundtable at Casadei Structural Steel. A press release states the event is focused on policies driving economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic and is part of the groups Great American Comeback Tour.
Pence spoke at a similar event held by America First Policies on June 12 in Pennsylvania.
Additional details about the vice presidents trip, including whether the stops will be open to the public, have not been released as of Monday. Pences visit to Michigan is organized by the White House instead of the presidents campaign, though Sterling Heights and the surrounding Macomb County are important battlegrounds for Trump in 2020.
Trumps re-election campaign has kept a tight focus on suburban communities north of Detroit. Pence held a rally in Troy during his last visit to Michigan in February.
Trump visited Sterling Heights in the final days of the 2016 presidential election. He later won the city by a 12 percentage point margin and flipped Macomb County, which had previously voted for Democrats in the previous two elections.
The presidents support in Macomb County helped him win Michigan by 10,704 votes, his closest margin of victory in any state and the closest result in Michigan electoral history.
Chardam Gear Co. is an aerospace components company that manufactures parts for military and commercial aircraft. The company has also worked on projects in the space industry, according to its website, including the Hubble Telescope.
Casadei Structural Steel operates an 88,000-square-foot fabrication facility, where workers manufacture materials for stairs, railways and platforms.
Thursdays events are the first time Pence has stopped in Michigan since positive cases of COVID-19 were confirmed. The schedule is similar to his last visit in February, when Pence traveled to the Michigan Farm Bureau Lansing Legislative Seminar, dropped in at a local restaurant in Lansing, then held a Keep America Great rally in Troy.
The former Indiana governor previously visited Saginaw, Holland and Portage in December 2019, and also spoke at the Michigan Republican Partys biennial leadership conference on Mackinac Island last summer.
Trump came to Michigan last month to tour Ford Motor Companys Rawsonville manufacturing plant in Ypsilanti Township. The presidents visit was an official White House event, but Michigan Democrats have since criticized Trump administration officials for allegedly using the program to promote the candidacy of U.S. Senate hopeful John James.
Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes said Pences visit is an attempt to spin Trumps failed record in a statement, blaming the president for the heavy toll the coronavirus inflicted on Michigans economy and residents in the Detroit area.
No amount of pandering and empty words can undo the damage done by Donald Trumps failures and Michigan voters will hold him accountable in November, Barnes said.
Trump says U.S. economy is poised for epic comeback during Michigan visit
Trump declines to publicly don mask during tour of Michigan Ford plant
Trump visits Michigan amid coronavirus pandemic, historic flooding and economic downturn
Posted: at 12:54 am
Just over a week ago, two US astronauts - Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken - were blasted up to the International Space Station (ISS) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The moment was significant - the first time that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had lifted off in collaboration with a private company (SpaceX), and the first time astronauts have been launched upwards from American soil since 2011.
A ground-breaking (or, perhaps, exosphere-clearing) situation. Nonetheless, both men will have to go some way to match the achievements of Steve Smith. Now retired, he is one of NASAs most experienced alumni, having flown four Space Shuttle missions between 1994 and 2002, and logged almost 50 hours of space-walks - a total that puts him on the all-time Top Ten duration list of those who have mastered that particular skill.
Seriously ill when he was 15, Smith was unable to follow the most conventional path to being an astronaut, the military - instead taking an engineering route towards his extraterrestrial ambition. His responsibilities on his quartet of Space Shuttle flights were largely mechanical - servicing the Hubble Telescope in 1997 and 1999, and helping to install a section of the ISS on his final assignment beyond the demands of Earths gravity.
He turned 61 last year, but is as enthralled as ever by the worlds beyond our world. Here - in an interview conducted before the pandemic - he talks about the likelihood of humans on Mars and the moon, the dawn of space tourism, and why vomit is an astronaut thing
You had an engineering brief on your Shuttle missions. Did you feel extra pressure because you were responsible for the nuts and bolts on some very serious hardware?
Yes. When we were fixing the telescope, I was very worried about making a mistake. They told me before we launched that it was worth six billion dollars. That added some pressure. Although its unfair - I think - that the spacewalker gets so much praise. It took everybody in the spacecraft - and thousands of people on the ground - to do that job on Hubble. Sure, its the space-walkers who go outside - but in the end, its a team approach.
What exactly were you doing when you were servicing the Hubble?
Oh gosh, about 25 things. The first mission was basically taking out broken components and putting in new ones. But on the second, in 1999, the telescope was dead when we got there. Three of the six gyroscopes had failed - so that was a Save The Hubble mission.
We were meant to launch in early December, and they kept delaying, delaying, delaying. We ended up being in quarantine at the Kennedy Space Center for 17 days rather than four. The problem was that we were going into space when everyone was worried about Y2K and the Millennium Bug. They ended up saying they were going to cut the mission short; we were going to land by December 30th, no later. We lost a space-walk because of that. Of course nothing happened. I didnt think it was an issue. But better safe than sorry.
Were those spells in quarantine tough?
No, they were awesome. Youre away from everything. No more cutting your lawn. We didnt have internet banking back then - so no more bills to pay. Very few people can come to see you. Just your spouse, basically. I always enjoyed it. Theres a private nine-mile government beach at the Space Center which no-one else can go to. Its a good life.
You worked on the ISS as well. Was that trickier than working on the Hubble?
No, it was easier. By then, they had more experience in designing and building things, so the ISS was easier to work on. Things were bigger and more accessible. Whereas its tiny inside the Hubble. Youre wearing this 300-pound suit, but you cant really see whats behind you, so you have to be very careful when you move, hoping not to break anything.
You flew on three different Space Shuttles. Did you have a favourite?
No. They were all special, and all the crews I flew with were fun. I guess my second Hubble mission [on Discovery] was a big deal. The telescope has an aura when youre up close to it. Its a time machine - what it shows doesnt exist anymore. Its a picture of what the stars looked like 14 billion years ago - it takes that long for the light to get here.
How did it feel to space-walk for the first time? Were you nervous?
They always assign a veteran to you. So [fellow NASA alumnus] Mark Lee was with me. Hed already done a space-walk. I was confident - because I was with him. But yeah, theres always the worry that youll do something wrong, or lose something. You know - whoops, damn, there goes a $700,000 drill. In terms of it being frightening, I did make a mistake. I put my head out and went oh my gosh, its beautiful. What Mission Control heard was Oh my gosh!. Apparently, I paused. So for a moment, people were worried.
Do you miss the buzz of being in space?
Oh yes, absolutely. I probably still dream about it a couple of times a year. Ill wake up in the morning and Ill be so happy. Because in my head, Ive just done another space-walk.
You flew between the two Space Shuttle disasters [Challenger in 1986; Columbia in 2003]. Was that risk of death always on your mind, or could you push it away?
It was always somewhere on my mind, but it didnt really make me think twice. For a few reasons. One is, youre selfish and you want to do it. In some ways, its selfish to be an astronaut. The second is, you dont think its going to happen to you. Its that human defence-mechanism. We all do the same thing when we get on a plane. The third is that we now have astronauts involved in everything. If something is going wrong, you hear about it. That was one of the lessons from Challenger - when the astronaut office didnt know some of the recurring issues. Leading up to Challenger, the O-rings between the segments on the rocket booster were getting burned, but we kept flying. Oh, we made it, its OK, lets fly again. If wed had an astronaut involved, that might not have happened.
I did write letters to every family member before I flew. I gave them to a friend, with the agreement that they would deliver them if I died. They said three things. One: Im sorry. Two: That I still supported the [space] programme. Three, to my wife: Get married again.
Was your wife comfortable with your career?
Yeah. But she was rare. Astronauts spouses have a whole spectrum of feelings about it. Peggy and I had lots of discussions about why I was doing it. She was always part of it.
Does it feel strange to be back at Kennedy Space Center on the tourism side [Smith is one of the retired astronauts you can meet at the facilitys visitor complex]?
No, it feels good to be home. The tourism facilities have become so much more sophisticated. I think the Shuttle Simulator seats 30 people. And its right next to the real one. Atlantis is right there. People love space - Im not surprised [the Center] is popular.
Does the Shuttle Simulator come close to the real thing?
It does. Its pretty amazing. I dont know how they did it. Its really quite close. Apart from the vomiting.I felt fine for the first 93 minutes of my first flight. And then I threw up.
Is vomiting an inevitable part of the process?
Well, it wasnt just the first flight. I threw up, I would say, 100 times in four flights. Your body just isnt built to deal with zero-gravity. But theres no way of predicting how someone will handle it. Someone who gets car-sick all the time can be fine in space - or the opposite.Im fine in cars and on rollercoasters, but space is a different matter.
Will we see proper space tourism in the next 10 years? And will it ever get beyond the billionaire level in terms of affordability?
Yes and yes. Its within a couple of years for the wealthy. Were talking in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, but a lot of people can pay that. I think they already have 3,000, maybe 5,000 people signed up. But if you look at the long picture, it will be just like aeroplane flight. Everybody will be doing it. Likely 100 years from now, maybe even 50.
But is it really feasible for everyday travellers to go to space? Do people underestimate whats involved?
Obviously, yes. But tourists wont have to undergo the procedures I did. They will have professionals on board, kind of like tour guides, so they wont need to understand exactly how it all works. It wont take much training. With the Virgin Galactic flights, hardly any at all. Theyll tell you how to act in zero-gravity, what to do if you have to throw up, what to do if you need to go to the bathroom But yes, people do underestimate what it takes.
There is new talk of going to Mars. When will that happen? The next 10, 15 years?
Probably not. Were on track for the moon again. The next astronaut on the moon will be a woman, I think. Mars is difficult stuff. I dont think we [NASA] will do it by ourselves. Its going to need to be an international effort. Thats the only way to reach Mars. But Im 100 per cent sure it will happen. Maybe its 50 years from now. I think the current goal is the 2030s - thats pushing it. Mainly because the single weakest component is the human. The spaceships will be ready, but as it stands, the radiation will kill you on the way there.
We will either have to go there faster, or come up with medication that heals your body as you get radiation damage. Its going to be Star Trek-type stuff. But I do think the first person to walk on Mars is already alive - perhaps its a baby, perhaps its a five-year-old.
Would you like to have gone to Mars yourself?
As a young person, yes. As a father, its hard to imagine being gone for two-and-a-half years to do anything. Your priorities change in life, of course. I would have loved to go to the moon, though. That would have been awesome. I love watching those Apollo movies.
Steve Smith is part of the Astronaut Encounter team at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (kennedyspacecenter.com). Tickets from $30 (24) per adult; $25 (20) per child 3-11.
Go here to read the rest:
'The next astronaut on the moon will be a woman' - Telegraph.co.uk
NASA allows you see what the Hubble Telescope might’ve seen in the universe on your birth date – Firstpost
Posted: June 1, 2020 at 3:13 am
FP TrendingMay 26, 2020 16:27:52 IST
The Hubble Space Telescope, sent to space by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1990, has been a boon in understanding the universe. It has delved deep into space to find out more about the age of the universe and explored dark matter.
NASAs entry on the accomplishments of the telescope says thatHubble has helped answer some of the most compelling astronomical questions of our time, and revealed enigmas that we never knew existed.
This year, Hubble completed three decades of service, and NASA has made available an interesting resource for all space lovers. People can now see what Hubble saw in outer space on their respective birth dates.
This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope Picture of the Week shows bright, colourful pockets of star formation blooming like roses in a spiral galaxy named NGC 972. Image: Hubble/NASA/ESA
Under the section: What did Hubble See on Your Birthday? on NASAs official site, people can enter their birth month and date to see what intergalactic wonder the telescope was discovered on the same day.
Hubble explores the universe 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That means it has observed some fascinating cosmic wonder every day of the year, including on your birthday. What did Hubble look at on your birthday? Enter the month and date below to find out! the page reads.
People can see the inner regions of faraway galaxies, close up shots of planets, nebulas in neighbouring galaxies, the nuclei of comets being hidden under their comas, and more with the feature.
As the resource works for every date possible, one can put in other special dates of their lives, such as their marriage anniversary or the day one brought their house, and check what the space telescope was up to on the same date.
NASA also lets users share the photo that Hubble saw with friends and social media followers.
The Hubble Space Telescope had completed its 30 year anniversary on April 24, 2020. It was launched into space via Space Shuttle Discovery from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida.
Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.
Posted: at 3:13 am
Crewed spacecraft have been around since 1961 when the Soviet Union's Vostok carried the first human into space.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.
It's been 59 years since the first person flew into space.
Since then, there have been eight different spacecraft that have carried humans into Earth orbit and beyond. SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule is about to be the ninth.
Wednesday's tentative launch (weather pending) of the Crew Dragon capsule carrying two American astronauts atop a Falcon 9 rocket will be a historic one for many reasons. SpaceX will be the first commercial company to send NASA astronauts to space, and this will be the first launch of American astronauts from American soil since the last Space Shuttle launch in 2011.
With all eyes on the skies for the launch of astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station, here's a look back at the history of crewed spaceships:
The Soviet Union's first spaceflight program also saw the launch of the first human into space -- Yuri Gagarin on April 12, 1961. The Vostok 1 was built to carry just one person and had no landing gear. There was also a window near Gagarin's feet to let him see the Earth during the flight.
The first American spaceship was a cone-shaped capsule that carried just one person. The Mercuryspacecraft was 6 feet, 10 inches long and 6 feet, 2.5 inches in diameter. There was also a 19-foot, 2-inch escape tower attached to its cylinder.
Three weeks after the Soviet Union launched Gagarin into space, astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American on a suborbital flight. Astronaut John Glenn reached orbit in February 1962 with the Mercury and the Friendship 7 capsule.
This spacecraft was similar to the Vostok, but it was able to carry more crewmembers and eventually help make the first spacewalk happen. The Soviet Union also nabbed the record for the first spacewalk thanks to the Voskhod 2 in 1965 when Alexei Leonov spent about 12 minutes in space.
Like Voskhod, Gemini was also adapted to fit more humans inside. And, since this was at the height of the first space race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, Gemini first flew days after the Voskhod 2 spacewalk mission.
Gemini spacecraft fit two astronauts and was instrumental in teaching engineers how to dock in orbit and extending the duration of time humans could spend in space. Gemini led to the first American spacewalker, Ed White, who spent 23 minutes in space.
Between 1965 and 1966, there were 10 crews and 16 individual astronauts who flew in low-Earth orbit during Gemini missions.
While the Soyuz capsule still ferries cosmonauts (and, until Crew Dragon, astronauts) back and forth to the International Space Station, the spacecraft was first developed in 1967. However, the Soyuz of today looks much different from the ones used in the 1960s.
There are three main parts of the Soyuz: The descent module is where the space travelers sit during launch and is the only part that returns to Earth, the orbital module includes crew living space and the docking system and the propulsion module carries engines, fuel and solar panels.
Perhaps the most famous spacecraft in the world, Apollo capsules were the ones who helped land humans on the moon for the first time. The spacecraft was more squat and conical in shape than Mercury and Gemini but were designed to carry even more astronauts, including the 12 people who have walked on the lunar surface.
The Apollo command module was only meant for transportation to and from Earth. The lunar module was able to attach and detach from the "Columbia" command module to ferry Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon in 1969.
The Apollo era ended with the Apollo 17 mission in December 1972 and a final flight in 1975.
Space Shuttle 1981
The Space Shuttle was the largest crewed spacecraft and the first reusable one. Between 1981 and 2011, there were five different shuttles and 135 crewed missions. These missions helped construct the International Space Station and the Hubble telescope and launched and repaired satellites.
The main body of the shuttle, which looks like a plane and has similar landing gear, was also the orbiter. To launch the space shuttle, a massive rust-colored fuel tank and two smaller solid rocket boosters were used.
The space shuttle, technically called the Space Transportation System, was able to carry seven astronauts to space and also protect them from the burn of re-entry to Earth.
The space shuttle era ended on July 21, 2011, when Atlantis returned to Kennedy Space Center.
China's spacecraft looks similar to the Russian Soyuz capsule but is slightly larger. It also has three parts: the orbital module, the re-entry module and the service module. Though the country launched its first efforts for space exploration in 1968, the first crewed launch of the Shenzhou wasn't until 2003 during the Shenzhou 5 mission.
Crew Dragon, 2020
Like the Space Shuttle, SpaceX's Dragon capsule can carry up to seven astronauts. It's also meant to be reused. However, the Dragon spacecraft will be the first used by a commercial company as opposed to a government agency like NASA.
The Dragon capsules have also been used to carry cargo to and from the ISS as part of the public-private collaboration with NASA.
The spacecraft is more than 26 feet tall, 13 feet in diameter and is 328 square feet inside. The capsule is also able to launch more than 13,000 pounds of payload.
While it can hold up to seven, Dragon's first crewed mission will have just two astronauts headed to the ISS.
What other people are reading right now:
Posted: at 3:13 am
Making America great again just wasnt enough. President Trump is making space great again, the Republican National Committee declared this week.
Donald Trump returns to Cape Canaveral in Florida on Saturday to witness the rescheduled launch of a SpaceX rocket carrying Nasa astronauts that was delayed by weather three days earlier.
After that anticlimax, the US president will be pinning his hopes on a spectacle loaded with patriotic and political symbolism. Nine years after the space shuttle program fizzled out under Barack Obama, Trump wants to witness astronauts lift off from American soil once again.
The mission, billed as Launch America, also offers a welcome diversion from the coronavirus pandemic. Trump may hope that it will boost his optimistic narrative that the country is regaining its swagger and show him reaching for the stars even as his earthbound rival Joe Biden stews in his basement.
But while the astronauts wear sleek spacesuits and operate touchscreens that point to the future, their adventure is also redolent of the past: nostalgia for an age of perceived American exceptionalism and we can do anything spirit embodied by the Apollo missions to the moon. In Trumps view, a time when America was great.
Donald Trump is looking for any symbol of hopefulness and finding a symbol for the 1960s of Americas successes in space is a way for him to connect with a better time in America and make the argument that he is reviving that better time, said Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota.
Human spaceflight, with the potential to plant the Stars and Stripes on new worlds, has a natural appeal to a president who likes big shows of national virility, such as military parades and Fourth of July fireworks, and whose stated cultural touchstones Babe Ruth, Alfred E Neuman, Donna Reed are from a different era.
During his first year in office, Trump signed a directive for Nasa to work with private sector partners for a human return to the moon, followed by a mission to Mars. He re-established the National Space Council, which had been abolished by President Bill Clinton.
The president has also created the sixth branch of the armed forces, the Space Force. Receiving its flag earlier this month, he boasted of new military equipment including a super-duper missile. The space force has been widely mocked for its likeness to Star Trek and even inspired a Netflix comedy series, starring Steve Carell, that started on Friday.
Trumps political priorities are evident in other ways. Earlier this month the Reuters news agency reported his administration is drafting a legal blueprint for mining on the moon under a new US-sponsored international agreement called the Artemis Accords.
He has eased regulations on private industry space efforts. The launch of a crew by SpaceX owned by Elon Musk, also the chief executive of Tesla will be the first by a private company rather than a national space agency, which is on-brand for a president who came from the business world.
With an eye on the November election, Trump has increasingly sought to downplay the public health toll of the virus and Saturdays liftoff, which conveniently happens in the swing state of Florida, could reinforce that message in dramatic fashion.
Jacobs added: The whole operation for Donald Trump is to keep your eyeballs moving away from the reality that were in a pandemic and the economy has collapsed. Space travel is Americas little boys fascination and, rather than thinking about our current misery, we get to look at the sky and dream of different worlds.
Space is one of the few domains where Democrats and Republicans still regularly cooperate and where public goodwill endures. Last year crowds thronged the National Mall in Washington to watch a sound and light show, designed by artists who worked on the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing.
They saw the Saturn V rocket projected on to the Washington Monument and heard President John F Kennedys 1962 declaration that is now part of national mythology: We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.
Trump, by contrast, sowed confusion when he tweeted last year: For all of the money we are spending, NASA should NOT be talking about going to the Moon - We did that 50 years ago. They should be focused on the much bigger things we are doing, including Mars (of which the Moon is a part), Defense and Science!
Since the heady days of Apollo, there have been achievements including the Hubble telescope and international space station, but moonshot has become a phrase applied by politicians to almost any endeavor except the moon itself. Bill Galston, a former policy adviser to President Clinton, recalled: I was in high school when Kennedy spoke those words and I cant tell you how different the context was from today or how different the mentality or consciousness of the country was.
Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution thinktank in Washington, watched the 1969 moon landing from a US marine base in Vietnam as war raged. Everything else was going absolutely haywire and the country was in a terrible place but, even so, the symbolism of spaceflight was still fresh enough. I dont think you can bottle that lightning again, especially with the country in the mood and circumstances its now in.
Even Trumps evocation of a lost golden age is less innocent than it seems. Kennedy had little interest in space exploration but, after the Soviet Union launched the first satellite into orbit in 1957, saw the cold war imperative of reaching the moon first.
Civil rights protesters marched on Cape Kennedy, as it was then, on the eve of the Apollo 11 launch, arguing that the vast sums spent on the space program could lift millions of African Americans out of poverty. The musician and poet Gil Scott-Herons Whitey on the Moon highlighted the disparity. All 12 people who walked on the moon were white and male.
John Logsdon, a space historian and professor emeritus at George Washington Universitys Space Policy Institute, recalls that the Apollo era did not feel morally superior at the time. I lived through it and we didnt perceive ourselves quite in that heroic role. But Trump is a believer in American exceptionalism and thats been a theme since at least the end of World War Two.
Its politically attractive. Whatever one thinks about Mr Trump, he knows about symbols, he knows about advertising and he knows the kind of themes that are attractive to a broad segment of the population. I think he has concluded that a successful space program is one of the things that has those attributes.
Thus the Trump re-election campaign claimed this week that the Obama-Biden administration neglected Nasa for years and cut its budget, forcing Americas space program to rely on Russia.
Thanks to President Trump, space exploration is once again a top priority, it said. Joe Biden, meanwhile, hasnt said much about the issue, indicating that in a Biden presidency, space exploration would take a back seat to Bidens radical, expensive climate change agenda.
But whether such attack ads will convince voters that Trump has the right stuff remains questionable as the coronavirus focuses attention closer to home. Bob Shrum, a Democratic strategist and director of the Center for the Political Future at the University of Southern California, said: The country would like steady, experienced leadership that listens to science and doesnt grandstand and actually cares when 100,000 people are killed. Tesla in the sky doesnt make up for 100,000 dead people.
Posted: May 14, 2020 at 5:14 pm
There's an extensive system of haze layers in the bizarre hexagon on Saturn, a new study has found.
"Saturn's Hexagon" is a swirling maelstrom at the planet's north pole that, as its name implies, has an odd, hexagonal shape. The hexagon is an ever-present cloud pattern that "stands" as tall as an enormous, whirling tower on the planet. The phenomenon was first discovered in 1980 by NASA's Voyager spacecraft and was later on imaged in exquisite detail by the Cassini spacecraft, which orbited the planet from 2004 to 2017.
Now in a new study, scientists with the Planetary Science Group at the University of Basque Country used images from Cassini and the Hubble Space Telescope to show that Saturn's hexagon is more than just a geometric oddity. The feature has its own system of hazes layered on top of one another.
Related: Saturn's weird hexagon storms in stunning photos
In 2015, Cassini's main camera snapped high-resolution images of Saturn that revealed the hazes above the clouds in the hexagon. Fifteen days later, the Hubble telescope also took a look at the planet and its strange hexagon. Using these images, the team was able to understand more about the layers of hexagon hazes spotted by Cassini.
"The Cassini images have enabled us to discover that, just as if a sandwich had been formed, the hexagon has a multi-layered system of at least seven mists that extend from the summit of its clouds to an altitude of more than 300 km [186 miles] above them," Agustn Snchez-Lavega, a professor at the University of Basque Country who led the study, said in a statement. "Other cold worlds, such as Saturn's satellite Titan or the dwarf planet Pluto, also have layers of hazes, but not in such numbers nor as regularly spaced out."
The researchers found that each of these haze layers is approximately between 4.3 and 11 miles (7 and 18 kilometers). The team thinks that because of the drastic freezing temperatures in Saturns atmosphere (which range from minus 184 degrees Fahrenheit to minus 292 degrees F (minus 120 degrees Celsius to minus 180 degrees C)) there are likely frozen crystalline particles made up butane, acetylene or even propane in the cloud structure.
Now, this wasn't the first time these hazes have been spotted and studied but, with this work, these researchers have not only studied these layers closer, but they also suggest that the hazes are vertically distributed based on oscillations in density and temperature in Saturn's atmosphere caused by a gravitational pull. "Gravity waves" like this happen on other planets too, even on Earth with jet streams traveling in the atmosphere.
While Saturn's hexagon is still not completely understood, by understanding phenomena like Saturn's hexagon better, researchers hope to better understand not only this strange cloud pattern on Saturn but also atmospheric phenomena that happen here on our home planet, according to the same statement.
This work is detailed here in the May 8 edition of the journal Nature Communications.
Follow Chelsea Gohd on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.
Posted: at 5:14 pm
It was a major scientific scandal: Established astronomers insisted the sun was made of the same mix of elements as Earth's crust, only to have a female graduate student publish a meticulous dissertation arguing that they were entirely wrong, that stars are made primarily of hydrogen.
She was right, and with her 1925 dissertation, Cecilia Payne, later known as Payne-Gaposchkin, earned a place in science history. But her story is still little known, and nearly a century after her stunning research, former journalist and retired banker Donovan Moore stumbled on a painting of Payne-Gaposchkin and fell down a rabbit hole.
The result of this research is his book, "What Stars Are Made Of: The Life of Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin" (Harvard University Press, 2020). Space.com talked with Moore about how the book came to be and why he was so invested in telling Payne-Gaposchkin's story. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Related: Read an excerpt from "What Stars Are Made Of"More: Best space and sci-fi books for 2020
Space.com: How did you decide to write this book?
Donovan Moore: [A friend] arranged to send me the materials from a course that he was auditing at Princeton that was called The Universe. So he sent it to me, and I'm leafing through it, and I get to this page, it has three photographs on the page, no names, just three photographs. I recognized the two men, Aristotle and Newton. Who's the woman, literally on the same page as these eminent scientists?
So I started to poke around as to who she was, and the more I poked, the more intrigued I became. It was this amazingly inspirational story of a woman who had to overcome unbelievable obstacles personal, professional, academic in order to make one of the most fundamental discoveries in all of science, and no one had written a book about her. I decided I would be the person who would write that book.
Space.com: What was the research for this project like?
Moore: I immediately started researching and what I did was I read her memoirs and I pored over old photographs that her daughter, Katherine Haramundanis, she was very helpful to me, she supplied me with the photographs.
I went to Cambridge, England, because that's where Cecilia went to school. And I went to the university there and I spent about a week there and I didn't rent a car, I rented a bicycle because I wanted to see what it was like for Cecilia back in the 1920s. And so I biked all over Cambridge University day and night to the Cavendish Laboratory to Trinity Hall to the Cambridge Observatory, just as she did.
I came back home, I spent a lot of time in the Harvard archives and hired a researcher to help me with that. And finally, after a good bit of that kind of research, I had enough to sit down and write the manuscript. So that's what I did, I just sat down and wrote it.
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Space.com: You don't have a strong background in astronomy why did you want to write a book about an astronomer, what drew you to Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin as a biography subject?
Moore: I was always interested in science. When I wrote this, I was not a professor and I was not a historian. All I really was was a writer looking for a good story. I wrote it because it was such a compelling story. And so it is, on one level, a very meticulously researched biography.
But on another level, it's really a narrative about the basic human need to understand, to figure out something and to explain it. Cecilia had a relentless need to know, and it's really what drove her. She was derided in class, she was paid poorly. She was denied a teaching credit, she was told she was wrong, all those things. None of that mattered, she just stepped on every obstacle, because she simply had this driving need to understand. So that really puts the book on a whole other level than just a description of someone's life.
Space.com: You cover her education and doctorate in a lot more detail than her later career. Why is that, and could you talk a bit about what she was working on later in life?
Moore: Half of the book is really her time in England and Cambridge. That was [full of] really good examples of what I'm talking about, of having to overcome obstacles. She took physics at the classroom in the Cavendish Laboratory. The head of the lab was Ernest Rutherford, who was a Nobel-winning scientist in chemistry, and he would start off each class looking right at Cecilia.
She was the only woman in the class and, as a woman, she was required to sit in the front row. So he would start every class with ladies and gentlemen looking right at her and all the boys would stamp their feet and howl with laughter. It's that kind of drama that drew me to the story. She had to put up with that. Because she needed to learn, she needed to understand.
Before she even got to Cambridge she was kicked out of school for her need to understand and it kind of flew in the face of the Catholic school that she was in. There's one really nice anecdote in the book about how she asked a London bookbinder to take the writings of Plato, bind them and put on the spine "Holy Bible," so that her teachers would think that she was studying her religion instead of reading Plato.
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It's that kind of anecdotal stuff that really developed her as a person. So that's why I spent a fair amount of time on that part of her life. After she wrote her thesis and was told she was wrong, when in fact she was absolutely correct. Her work after that, [Harlow] Shapley, who ran the Harvard Observatory, he kind of forced her to do more work in classifying variable stars and things like that, which was not quite as interesting, at least to me, as the work that she was doing studying stellar spectra. So I kind of went quickly through that.
After that, when she spirited her husband-to-be out of Germany, that was very interesting.
Space.com: What was your favorite thing you learned about Payne-Gaposchkin and her work while writing the book?
Moore: What I learned was: be careful making judgments. Because she was a little, 24-year-old, 25-year-old woman graduate student. And no one thought someone like that could make the kind of discovery that she made. What was really going on here is that it was a very interesting time in science because physics was just emerging as a form of study. There were these scientists who were taking physics and they were combining it with other disciplines to really make unbelievable discoveries. So, Rutherford, for example, he fused physics with chemistry to understand the nucleus of an atom and Niels Bohr fused physics with the quantum theory to understand the molecular structure and Einstein fused physics with mathematics to produce his theory of relativity.
So what she was doing was fusing physics with astronomy to understand what stars are made of. And that was really the birth of astrophysics. By looking down at these glass plates, she was able to do what centuries of astronomers tried to do by looking up through telescopes. And because she had this knowledge of physics, she was able to peer, so to speak, more deeply into the universe than the established men of science.
They did not have the same training in physics that she did. And so, when she was able to peer more deeply and did make a fundamental discovery, they could not grasp it and they could not believe it. And so they really didn't even follow up on her discovery. Had she been a man, I have no doubt that she would have triggered follow-up research.
It was obviously frustrating for her. She was very careful in her thesis, she wrote "my results are almost certainly not real." She was very careful how she worded it because she wanted it to be known right or wrong, that she was the one to make that discovery. That's very dramatic stuff for a book.
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Space.com: Why do you think this is an important story to tell now?
Moore: I think it's really important for women and young girls in science. The problems that you come across don't care what your gender is, they don't care. They don't care if you're a man or a woman, you're black or white, you're old or young.
What the problem cares about is can your brain wrap itself around what you're trying to figure out and understand it? And that is a very powerful thing, if you think that through. Men also have to read this book and understand that the ability to perceive, to discover, to understand is not gender-specific. I hope that's what comes through in the book.
Space.com: What do you hope people take away from reading the book?
Moore: I would like the book to be perceived, as I said before, as more than just a simple biography. It's really a slice of history that I was describing. And really that need to understand is so it's so ingrained in people and it's so important.
You can buy "What Stars Are Made Of" on Amazon or Bookshop.org.
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'What Stars Are Made Of' tells the life story of the woman behind a stellar science - Space.com
Posted: May 11, 2020 at 10:48 am
Ken Kopczynski, The Sky Guy Published 3:47 p.m. ET May 4, 2020
The Hubble space telescope was the first such device placed in space to orbit the Earth, a great leap forward toward our understanding of the cosmos and revolutionized astronomy.(Photo: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons)
Last month was the 30th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). It is named for the pioneering astronomer Edwin Hubble who discovered that galaxies were not part of the Milky Way itself but island universes of their own.
Shortly after the HST went into operation on April 24, 1990, it was determined there was something wrong with the mirror. A defect caused the images to be blurry but that didnt stop NASA from using the telescope.
In December 1993 a servicing mission corrected the mirror defect and the blurring was eliminated. Check out this link for a press conference with Senator Mikulski and NASA administrators (www.c-span.org/video/?53735-1/hubble-space-telescope). HST was about to rock the universe.
In July 1994 Hubble captured comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 breaking up and smashing into Jupiter and in November HST scientists released images of the surface of Titan, a moon of Saturn.
Dave Granlund editorial cartoon(Photo: USA toDAY Network)
One of the most iconic images from Hubble was the Pillars of Creation showing new born stars coming out of dust cocoons taken in November 1995.
My favorite, mind-blowing image is the Ultra Deep Field released in January 1996. NASA had the Hubble focus on a part of sky devoid of many stars in an area the size of a grain of sand held out at arms length. The camera recorded over 10 straight days. When the images were processed, over 1,500 galaxies were found.
The Eagle Nebula's 'Pillars of Creation.' The dust and gas in the pillars is seared by the intense radiation from young stars and eroded by strong winds from massive nearby stars.(Photo: NASA via AP)
Imagine how many grains of sand held out at arms length it would take the cover the whole sky?
You can view the timeline of the HST at this link: http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/hubble-history-timeline.
There was at least one downside to the Hubble. The public now expects to see images like from the Hubble when they looked through a telescope. Dont I wish!
Morning sky: Three planets continue to dominate the morning sky: (west to east) Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars. As the month begins, Jupiter (the brightest of the three) and Saturn are relatively close together. Both rise around 1:30 in the morning. By the end of the month they will rise before mid-night. Mars doesnt rise until 2-3 am.
Evening sky: The brilliant planet Venus is the brightest object (beside the Sun and the Moon) in the west setting over three hours after sunset as May begins but setting only half-an-hour after by the end of the month. Mercury joins Venus in the evening sky around mid-May.
Due to the coronavirus there will be no public viewings scheduled in May.
4th - 5th: Eta Aquariids meteor shower peaks. Debris from Halleys Comet produce this event. Best viewed in the early morning.
12th: Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn form a triangle in the morning sky.
14th: Moon below right of Mars in the morning sky.
15th: Moon below left of Mars in the morning sky.
18th: TAS monthly meeting is cancelled.
21st: Mercury and Venus conjunction they will be less than a full Moon apart.
23rd: Thin crescent Moon below Venus.
24th: Thin crescent Moon above left of Mercury.
Check out TASs events calendar at http://www.stargazers.org
Ken Kopczynski is president of the Tallahassee Astronomical Society, a local group of amateur astronomers.
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Posted: at 10:48 am
Powerful cosmos examining tools such as the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which is scheduled for launch next year, will be used to analyse the biosignature - traces of life - of planets. NASA will use the tool to look for life in the cosmos, or at least that will be one of its purposes.
Now, research has found the best place to look for biosignatures is on rocky planets orbiting white dwarf stars.
White dwarfs are dead stars which have shrunk down - a fate which awaits our own Sun in about five billion years.
As they shrink, they pull in nearby material. Because white dwarfs are much fainter, scientists can analyse materials without the brightness of a relatively newer star.
What is more is white dwarf stars are typically older than others, logically meaning life has had a better chance to evolve over billions of years.
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A new study published in Astrophysical Journal Letters also stated planets around these stars are more likely to be rocky and Earth-like.
Lisa Kaltenegger, associate professor of astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences and director of the Carl Sagan Institute, said: "Rocky planets around white dwarfs are intriguing candidates to characterize because their hosts are not much bigger than Earth-size planets.
"We wanted to know if light from a white dwarf - a long-dead star - would allow us to spot life in a planet's atmosphere if it were there.
"If we would find signs of life on planets orbiting under the light of long-dead stars, the next intriguing question would be whether life survived the star's death or started all over again - a second genesis, if you will."
JWST still has to undergo testing before its scheduled launch in 2021, when it will replace the ageing Hubble Telescope as the premier set of eyes on the sky.
Scientists are optimistic the JWST will help unravel the mysteries of the Universe and potentially find alien life.
The infrared machine is so powerful it will reach back to the furthest realms and the earliest moments of space and time.
And the JWST, which is named after NASAs second administrator James Webb who served from 1961 to 1968 and who played a major part in the Apollo missions, has the capability of scanning thousands of planets for alien life even though those planets are thousands of light-years away.
As well as seeing further into space it will accurately measure the content of water, carbon dioxide and other components in the atmosphere of an exoplanet a planet outside of our solar system as well as tell scientists more about the size and distance these planets are from their host stars.
Posted: May 4, 2020 at 3:49 am
If it were not for the fact that the Hubble Space Telescope was designed to be repaired and upgraded while in orbit, it would not have reached its 30th anniversary this month. After shaky beginnings that almost doomed the project, it was saved by astronaut servicing missions that repaired and replaced components that enabled it to run for three decades.
Hubble's successor, the much larger and more expensive James Webb Space Telescope, won't have that capacity,so it has to work right the first time.
The idea of putting a telescope into space goes back to 1946 and pioneering astronomer Lyman Spitzer.He first proposed placing a large astronomical telescope above the Earth's atmosphere where it would have a perfectly clear view of the universe, unhindered by clouds, pollution and shimmering air currents that obscure the vision of even the largest telescopes on the ground. Spitzer was instrumental in pushing for the development of the Hubble telescope and a later instrument, the Spitzer Space Telescope was named in his honour.
It was not until the 1970s that Spitzer's dream started to come to fruition. NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) collaborated to build the Hubble Space Telescope, which after long delays and cost overruns was finally launched on space shuttle Discovery on April 25,1990.
But as soon as the big eye in the sky saw first light, astronomers on the ground knew something was wrong. The images were nowhere near as sharp as they expected. The telescope was suffering from a condition known as spherical aberration, indicating the 2.4 metre mirror had been ground to the wrong shape and could not focus properly.
Thistrouble with Hubble became an immediate embarrassment for NASA. It looked like a billion dollar boondoggle, a piece of expensive space junk and a scientific failure.
But engineers were able to take advantage of the fact that the telescope was designed with modular components that could be replaced by astronauts for repairs or upgrades. To fix the vision problem, a new set of corrective optics were developed, which were smaller mirrors designed to compensate for the flaw in the main mirror,analogous to the way a pair of glasses gives a nearsighted person distance vision.
In a dramatic space shuttle mission two years later, astronauts aboard the shuttle Endeavourused the Canadarm to grab Hubble in space, bring it into the cargo bay and install the new optics during space walks.
It worked. And with its new, clear vision, Hubble began to send back dramatic images of objects right out to the edge of the universe.
Since then, four other servicing missions by astronauts have replaced worn out components such as gyroscopes and solar panels to keep it running, and installed new types of cameras that didn't even exist when Hubble was first designed, making it a much better telescope today than when it was launched. None of this would have been possible if the telescope had not been designed with servicing in mind.
Hubble's new successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, was not designed that way.Nor does NASA have the capacity to launch such a missionwhich might make you worry, since the JWST is a much larger and more complex machine than Hubble was.
In astronomy, size matters. Larger mirrors gather more light and therefore are able to see dimmer objects much farther away. So the new successor to Hubble has a compound mirror 6.5 metres across, giving it more than six times more light gathering power than Hubble.
The problem with a mirror that size is that it's too large to fit inside the nose cone of a rocket. So the Webb mirror is made up of 18 hexagonal segments that fold together for launch, and then laterare supposed to unfurl once in space in a complicated sequence of events like a giant flower blooming.
This is a critical operation. Not only do each of the mirror segments each have to have a perfect shape they must assemble together overall into perfect alignment to give the telescope clear vision. So must other components including a huge sun shield that must expand to the size of a tennis court to protect the telescope from the sun's heat and glare. If all these components do not unfold with microscopic precision, the whole $10 billion US project could be a failure.
And astronauts won't be able to help. The James Webb is not designed to be serviced or repaired, and in fact it will be out of reach.Hubble is in low earth orbit. The new telescope will be positioned in a special spot in space called L-2, a Lagrange Point, where the gravity of the sun, Earth and moon all balance. This parking spot in space is 1.5 million kilometresaway from Earth, beyond the orbit of the moon. That is well beyond the reach of human astronauts.
The launch date of the Webb telescope has been pushed back many times, and is currently set at March 2021. All of NASA's proverbial eggs will be placed into one ESA Ariane Rocket and launched from French Guiana. All eyes will be on that rocket as it carries the most complicated instrument ever built intospace.
If you have been impressed by the amazing discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope over the past 30 years, you ain't seen nothin' yet... if Webb actually works.
All fingers are crossed.