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: 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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Hey everyone. I wanted to explain the changes that you’re ultimately noticing here and on my associated social media presence. The Forty-Six Billion Light Year Zone (46BLYZ) is no more. In its place is the new brand: The Star Splitter. All of the old posts and other content created under the 46BLYZ name will live on under The Star Splitter brand, and old links should redirect to the new domain (let me know if you see anything funky). For those that are curious, I’ll briefly explain why the change is taking place and how I decided on the new brand. For starters, the 46BLYZ [...]
Tue, Jan 24, 2017
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What’s A Solstice? For many of us, December 21, 2016, marks this year’s Winter Solstice. But for plenty of others, it’s also the Summer Solstice. How can this be? What is actually unique about today from an astronomical sense? What is a solstice anyhow? First, let’s be considerate of all people regardless of whether they live in the northern or southern hemisphere. Let’s refer to today’s event as the December solstice. We do this because while those of us that live in the northern hemisphere consider it to be Winter, our friends south of the equator are in the middle of their [...]
Tue, Dec 20, 2016
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STS-41-D - The Penguin Patch
How An Imaginary Constellation Ended Up On An Official NASA Mission Patch There are some great stories behind the patches that NASA issues for each of its missions, and the latest one I have learned about is no exception. I picked the story up from former astronaut, Rhea Seddon, via her newsletter and blog. (Seddon was featured in this previous post about NASA’s first female astronauts.) STS-41-D Mission Patch – Source: NASA STS-41-D was Space Shuttle Discovery’s first mission. Flying that mission were: Commander Henry W. Hartsfield Jr., Michael L. Coats, Richard M. Mullane, Steven A. Hawley, Judy Resnik, and Charles D. [...]
Tue, Dec 13, 2016
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OSIRIS-REx Mission Logo - Source: NASA
Tomorrow, September 8, 2016, NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) is slated to launch from Cape Canaveral. It will take two years for the craft to reach its destination, the asteroid Bennu, where it will collect a sample and return it to Earth. The mission is a partnership between the University of Arizona, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and the Lockheed Martin Company. OSIRIS-REx Mission Logo – Source: NASA The OSIRIS-REx mission will send a spacecraft to 101955 Bennu (hereafter referred to simply as Bennu), a potentially Earth-impacting asteroid with an average diameter of 492 meters (1,614 ft; [...]
Wed, Sep 07, 2016
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Gagarin's Vostok 3KA Capsule
Today marks the anniversary of one of the most historic moments in human history. It was on this day in 1961, that Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to take a journey into outer space. Aboard his Vostok spacecraft, not only did Gagarin become the first person in space, he also was the first to orbit the Earth — something NASA didn’t accomplish until its third manned Mercury mission, some nine months later. Yuri Gagarin - 1964 While strapped to the top of a Soviet Vostok-K rocket, Gagarin hummed and whistled “Lilies of the Valley”, cracked jokes, and found plenty [...]
Tue, Apr 12, 2016
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SpaceX CRS-8 Mission Patch
Yesterday was a big day for Elon Musk and his space launch services company SpaceX. On April 9, 2016, SpaceX launched its Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral. The rocket was topped with the company’s Dragon capsule, filled with 7,000 pounds of supplies destined for the International Space Station. Included in the payload was the 3,100 pound Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), Bigelow Aerospace’s attempt to demonstrate its expandable space habitats. SpaceX CRS-8 Mission Patch – Source: SpaceX The highlight of the mission, designated CRS-8, was SpaceX’s first successful landing of its Falcon 9 rocket on a droneship (christened “Of Course I [...]
Sun, Apr 10, 2016
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