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MISSE-3 just prior to retrieval during an STS-118 spacewalk.
If you had a really, really, really good telescope and took a peep at the International Space Station (which would be quite a feat for as quickly as it moves across the sky), you might notice what looks like a make-up kit or a watercolor palette dangling from the side of the station. MISSE-3 just prior to retrieval during an STS-118 spacewalk. – Credit: NASA While some astronauts have taken their makeup into space, and some have found time to create art in orbit, they don’t tend to leave their supplies attached to the outside of the ISS. Ruling those out, instead what [...]
Sun, Mar 19, 2017
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The Twin Jet Nebula, or PN M2-9
The Twin Jet Nebula, or PN M2-9 – Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA SpaceTelescope.org: The Twin Jet Nebula, or PN M2-9, is a striking example of a bipolar planetary nebula. Bipolar planetary nebulae are formed when the central object is not a single star, but a binary system, Studies have shown that the nebula’s size increases with time, and measurements of this rate of increase suggest that the stellar outburst that formed the lobes occurred just 1200 years ago. [...]
Tue, Mar 07, 2017
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Cygnus Loop and Veil Nebula
Between 5,000 and 8,000 years ago, a star many times more massive than our Sun met its end in a fantastic supernova explosion. The supernova remnant–the observable aftermath of that ancient star’s spectacular demise–is known as the Cygnus Loop. Not all of the radiation from the remnant is in the visual spectrum however–meaning our eyes can’t see the entire structure–but the portion that does fall within the visible spectrum is a popular target for professional and amateur astronomers and is commonly referred to as the Veil Nebula. Cygnus Loop and Veil Nebula – Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), Digitized [...]
Thu, Mar 02, 2017
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SpaceX Falcon 9 moments before landing on February 19, 2017
SpaceX is no stranger to making commercial spaceflight history. They were the first private corporation to launch a liquid-fueled rocket into orbit, send a re-supply spacecraft to the International Space Station, and to land their first-stage rockets back on Earth (for potential re-use), among other milestones. They’re also on the cusp of providing transportation services for International Space Station crew members. SpaceX Falcon 9 moments before landing on February 19, 2017 – Source: SpaceX On February 19, 2017, SpaceX accomplished another major feat: They became the first private company to launch from the historic Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center. Launch Pad [...]
Sat, Feb 25, 2017
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Artist's concept of the surface of TRAPPIST1-f.
Artist’s concept of the surface of TRAPPIST1-f. – Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech NASA held a press conference today, announcing an exciting new discovery: A record-breaking seven Earth-sized planets have been discovered orbiting a star located about 40 light years from Earth. Three of these planets are firmly located within what’s called the habitable zone–the area around a star that is likely to have rocky planets with liquid water. The star is named TRAPPIST-1 (also known as 2MASS J23062928-0502285). It’s an ‘ultra-cool dwarf’ star, with approximately 8% of the mass and 11% of the radius of our Sun. Size-wise, this is approximately the difference between a basketball [...]
Wed, Feb 22, 2017
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XPRIZE logo
Be the first team to land a spacecraft on the Moon, travel at least 500 meters, transmit HD images and video back to Earth, and you’ve won yourself $20 million. Oh, and you also have to do this 90%-funded by private investment and do it by the end of 2017. That’s the mission for the Google Lunar XPRIZE. The XPRIZE is the name of various competitions organized by the non-profit XPRIZE Foundation. The XPRIZE mission is to bring about “radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity” through incentivized competition. We foster high‐profile competitions that motivate individuals, companies and organizations across all disciplines to [...]
Mon, Feb 20, 2017
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2MASS J0523-1403 identified in its starfield
Like most of my good blog posts, this started with a question from my daughter: What is the smallest star? As much as I love answering her space questions off the top of my head, sometimes it’s even more fun when I get to say, “I don’t know; let’s find out!” There are many different types of stars, ranging from the smallest red dwarfs to the largest red super giants. Aside from diameter, stars vary tremendously in temperature, mass, brightness (or luminosity, depending on context), color and lifespan. The Universe is home to an amazing amount of stellar variety. So back to the [...]
Sat, Feb 11, 2017
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Luna 9 model
The Soviets claimed many firsts in their space race with the United States. First person in space (and orbit), first woman in space, first satellite in orbit. Most would agree, however, that the United States accomplished the biggest first by being the first (and to this day, only) to land humans on the Moon. But the Soviet space program did claim a important lunar firsts of their own: the first lunar fly-by, the first pictures of the far side of the Moon, and the first soft-landing of a probe on the Moon’s surface. Luna 9 model – Source: NASA.gov On February 3, 1966, the Soviet spacecraft, Luna 9, [...]
Fri, Feb 03, 2017
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Space Shuttle program patch
Space Shuttle program patch It has been nearly six years since NASA’s final shuttle launch ended an era, but I’m still just not ready to let it go. As I’ve written previously, I’ve dubbed my generation ‘the space shuttle generation’. Today, I want to tell you how the shuttles were numbered and explore whether or not the number scheme changed due to one NASA administrator’s triskaidekaphobia (the fear of the number 13). Space Transportation System The official name for the space shuttle program was Space Transportation System (abbreviated STS). The program was envisioned to be America’s routine link to orbit, designed to reuse many major components [...]
Tue, Jan 31, 2017
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Apollo 1 Mission Patch
Today marks the sad anniversary of the day we lost the crew of Apollo 1. On January 27, 1967, heroes Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Edward H. White II, and Roger B. Chaffee, were conducting a launch rehearsal test in an Apollo Command Module. Their mission was to be the first crewed mission of the Apollo program, which would ultimately put humans on the Moon. These three men paid the ultimate sacrifice so that humanity could spread its reach into the cosmos. Apollo 1 Mission Patch – Credit: NASA Virgil Ivan “Gus” Grissom Virgil “Gus” Grissom – Source: NASA/Public Domain Gus Grissom was born on April [...]
Fri, Jan 27, 2017
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