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Peggy Whitson's Space Record. Twins in Space (Or one of the Twins).

March 29, 2018


Peggy Whitson has just come back from space and she a record for the longest duration in space for US astronauts at 665 days. Mark and Scott Kelly are now re-united. Scott Kelly spent 1 year in space, while his twin brother Mark stayed on Earth. During this time, potential changes in Scott's genes, or gene expression, was measured. Telomeres and Telomerase of genes were focused on. When looked at over many years, telomeres decrease in length as one ages. In just 1 year,  Scott’s telomeres on the ends of chromosomes in his white blood cells increased in length in space. This could be linked to increased exercise and reduced caloric intake during the mission. However, upon his return to Earth they began to shorten again. There was also a decrease in Scott's bone formation during his last 6 months in space. In the DNA within Scott’s white blood cells, the level of methylation, or chemical modifications to DNA, decreased while inflight – including a gene regulating telomeres, but hey returned to normal upon return. On the ground, Mark’s level of methylation in the DNA derived from his white blood cells increased at the midpoint of the study but returned to normal in the end. Variability occurred in the methylation patterns from both twins; however, this epigenetic noise was slightly higher in Scott in psace, but returned to baseline levels on Earth. This could indicate genes are more sensitive to a changing environment whether on Earth or in space. Other long term changes will appear in upcoming articles. James Webb Space Telescope's launch has been delayed again, until may 2020. 

Interview Trina Ray NASA Cassini Scientist May 1, 2018

May 1, 2018 


Interview with NASA Astronomer Trina Ray, form the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, on Cassini's Final Days. Trina Ray lets us know so many fascinating things about the science that was done in the final few weeks of the Cassini mission, just before the Cassini spacecraft dove in between Saturn and its rings, and finally crash landed into Saturn on September 15, 2017.

5000th Sol

February 19, 2018


 The Mars Solar powered Opportunity Rover has just finished its 5000th sol on Mars. A "SOL" is a Martian day, and it is 2 hours longer than an Earth day. A Martian year is also 2 Earth years. The Rover is explo9ring the rim of the Endeavour Crater, an area known as the Perseverance Valley. Scientists have noted a series of stripes on the rocks there, and are unsure as what the origins of the stripes are. On its 5000th Martian sunrise, Opportunity will see the Sun rise over the basin's eastern rim, about 14 miles (22 kilometers) away. Perseverance Valley is a shallow channel incised from the rim's crest of the crater's floor. Opportunity has returned about 225,000 images, and they are available to the public. NASA is also set to launch the TESS Sattelite from Cape Canaveral Florida, after February 38, 2018. TESS is an exoplanet hunter. TESS will monitor the entire sky, and the 200,00 closest stars to Earth. TESS works by monitoring the dip in the light intensity when an exoplanet transits in front of its host star. TESS will work in colloboration with the upcoming James Webb Telescope, in an attempt to examine the atmospheres of, and to search for life on newly discovered exoplanets. 

Webb Telescope to Witness Galactic Infancy

October 5, 2017


NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JW) (long overdue for its launch) has a mission to look at the universe's first galaxies and stars. JW will focus on the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field (HUDF) and the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS). HUDF is a photo of a tiny patch of sky that contains 10,000 or so galaxies. The galaxies are so faint, and so old, so it is hoped JW will reveal info on the temperature, mass and composition of the galaxies, through spectroscopic studies. Scientists then hope to determine how gas was transformed into stars in the first galaxies, and how super-massive black holes in the galaxies formed. MIRI, Webb's mid-infrared instrument, and NIRCam, Webb's near infrared camera, will be the main instruments used. Webb will be able to see objects with 8 times more spatial resolution, and objects that are 250 times fainter, than the Spitzer Space Telescope could see. Webb will also see things in a different spatial band than Hubble did, so Webb will improve on all previous instruments. And Webb will be able to see with twice the spatial resolution, and at 50 times fainter, than Hubble can. The universe is expanding, so light from distant galaxies (that are moving away from us) are red-shifted. The galaxies that are farthest away have their light red-shifted into the infrared and mid-infrared bands. Webb will be ideally suited to image this light. This will make Webb ideal for looking at the early universe. Says Pablo Pérez-González, from Complutense University of Madrid in Spain: “When you build an observatory with unprecedented capabilities, most probably the most interesting results will not be those that you can expect or predict, but those that no one can imagine.”    

Muana Kea Telescopes, Hurricane Maria, and the end of the Cassini Mission

September 21, 2017


https://www.ifa.hawaii.edu/mko/


I ventured to Hawaii's Mount Muana Kea to see its telescopes. Gemini 8.1 meter diameter, Optical/Infrared Telescope, operated by a consortium of 7 countries:  Canada is one. Canada, France, Hawaii Telescope, 3.6 m Optical Telescope, UK 3.8 m Infrared Telescope, University of Hawaii 0.6 m educational reflector Telescope, James Clerk Maxwell 15 m Telescope for submillimeter astronomy, operated by UK and Canada, the Submillieter Array, an array of 8, 6 m, submillimeter antennas, Subaru 8.3 m Telescope operated by Japan, W.M. Keck Observatory, housed in 2 buildings, with 2, 10 m Telescopes and the NASA INFRARED Telescope, operated for NASA by University of Hawaii. I saw the Milky Way after sun- down. NICE. In other news, MARIA, is hitting Puerto Rico. NASA is monitoring with satellites and GPS systems. Among these are Hubble and GEOS- 16. NASA is getting data on the amount of rain, where it is hitting, where it is heavier, and it is also providing information about the eye of the storm. Also, Cassini ended its historic 13 year mission on Saturn, by crashlanding into the ringed planet, Friday, September 15, 2017. The fuel supply was used up, and NASA wanted to ensure that Cassini would not crash on any moon with subsurface oceans, particularly Enceladus. the telemetry recieved from Cassini during its final plunge showed the spacecraft entered Saturn's atmosphere, using its thrusters to maintain stability. Loss of contact with the spacecraft occurred on t 4:55 a.m. PDT, with the signal received by NASA's Deep Space Network antenna complex in Canberra, Australia. NASA monitored the data as Cassini made its plunge. The spacecraft started its drama, by diving between Saturn and its rings, giving valuable information about Saturn's atmosphere. With the enormous amount of data received from Cassini during its 13 year mission to Saturn, and also during its 4 year flight to reach the ringed planet, the textbooks will definitely be re-written for Saturn, its rings, and its moons. Hopefully I can talk to Trina Ray, a mission scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, to ask her about all the interesting things about Saturn. I had Trina Ray on a year or two ago. Thank you Cassini, NASA, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. 

Hubble and Gravitational Lensing

July 6, 2017


With help from the Hubble Space Telescope, scientists have viewed a distant cluster of galaxies, that has been microlensed, and then capture by the lens of HST. J143450.5+033843 lies 11 Billion light years away, and without the aid of gravitational lensing, and HST, it would not be visible. The light of the faint galaxy is being magnified by a cluster of foreground, or closer, galaxies, and without this magnification, HST would not be able to image it well. The strong gravity of the galaxy cluster acts as a magnifier, multiplying the light intensity coming from this far away galaxy. Presently, HST is only able to image the younger stars in this galaxy, but when the James Webb Telescope becomes operational, JSWT will be able to image the older stars in the galaxy. As for the HST, the images it would produce would seem unremarkable without the lensing effect. Astronomers would not be able to make out or spot the hundreds of galaxies, or the knots of galaxies, as astronomers are calling them. Knots of stars, forming in galaxies 200 -- 300 light years across are now visible. Without the lensing and the HST, the light would appear to be smooth; so the formation of the stars would not be visible.  

Blobs of X-Ray Emissions Chandra X-Ray Observatory

June 8, 2017


Astronomers using Chandra are studying a Mira type symbiotic star, which co-exists with another star. R Aquair, or R Aqr, is 710 light years from Earth, and is emitting blobs of X-ray emissions. It is a cool, red giant star (a Mira variable star), orbiting a dense white dwarf. The red giant is pulsating and its brightness can change by a factor of 250. The surface temperature of the white dwarf is 20,000 degrees, while the red giant measures in at 3,000. The 2 stars are comparable in mass, but since the WD is much more compact, it is much more dense. This means it has a stronger gravitational tug, and it is therefore pulling off gas from the red giant, and onto itself. This has resulted in nova explosions on the WD in 1073 and 1773. NASA scientists now believe NOVA explosions occurred from the WD in the early 2000s, and in the 1950s and 1980s. With the NOVA, matter is ejected from the WD at 10 million miles per hour. With this a ring of ejecta is seen.The NOVA explosions are thought to give rise to 2 jets of X-ray emissions that stream away from the pair of stars at 14. & 1.9 millions miles per hour. With these observations, scientists are trying to understand the volatile relationships that can occur between pairs of stars like these. 

Cancer Research Aboard the International Space Station

June 15, 2017


Researchers are testing how drugs, and combinations of drugs, are affected in treating cancer, in a micro-gravity environment on the ISS. Larger cancer tumors, and tumors that are more spherical in shape, can be grown aboard the ISS. This gives researchers a more accurate picture of how cancer tumors form in the human body, and what is happening with the cancer tumors in the body. On Earth, the cancer cells being studied are not spherical. This research is just one example of what NASA is doing, in order to study how differently the human body reacts in a gravity free environment, which would be the case on a mission to a place like Mars. Researchers are also using rodents for stem cell research, and, they are also studying how "mold" behaves in a micro-gravity environment. 

Juno Mission for Jupiter

May 25, 2017


 

Juno blasted off from Earth in August 5, 2011, and entered the orbit in the Jovian system on July 5, 2016. In its long, elliptical orbits around Jupiter, Juno is conducting various experiments. First data show cyclones at the poles of this turbulent world, that can be as big as the Earth, and that can travel at great speeds. The atmospheric content of ammonia on the planet can vary, and the magnetic filed surround Jupiter is bigger and more irregular than previously thought. Juno gets its closest to Jupiter every 53 days, as it approaches the gas giant in line with its north pole. The science coming in is endless and surprising. The Juno mission to Jupiter is being overseen by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena. Stay tuned for more.

 

Enceladus. Images of Mars MRO, HIRISE and MAVEN

April 13, 2017


Cassini is showing off: well, just a little. NASA is revealing details of data gleamed from a Cassini dive through plumes of vapor as it flies through Enceladus' atmosphere. Enceladus is the icy moon of Saturn. A sub-surface ocean existon Enceladus, hightening the possibility that life could exist on the moon. For life to exist (as we know it) 3 ingredients are necessary: liquid water, the right chemical ingredients, and a source of energy for metabloism. Enceladus is thought to have all of these. The article describing this is at  www.nasa.gov, in "NASA Missions Provide New Insights into 'Ocean Worlds' in Our Solar System", April 13, 2017. In another region of our Solar System, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) is exploring a region called, "Noctis Labyrinthus". MRO has captured a striking image of a mesa, just one of several in the region known as Valles Marineris. The mesa is ~ 0.4 km wide, probably composed of sedimentary deposits, that are eroding. The image is magnificent, and is at  https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/jpl/pia21585/a-mesa-in-noctis-labyrinthus. Another image from MRO shows a hill on Mars, on the South Pole layered deposits. The hill protects the icy layers from erosion, and they have  beautiful spiral patterns. Also from MRO, over 500 new impact events have been exposed from before and after images of the Southern Middle Latitudes. The new images show shallow sheets of ice that have interested scientists, because ice has not been previously detected on Mars at these latitudes. The scientists hope to better map the ice distribution on Mars, with help from this new data. NASA is also using the MAVEN spacecraft (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) to examine the charged metal atoms that exist high in Mars' whimsy upper atmosphere, or ionosphere. This is the first direct detection of atoms like these in a planet other than Earth. Metallic ions have long lifetimes, so studying these ions can help scientists infer the motion of Mars' ionosphere. With this info it is hoped scientists can better understand how Mars lost most of its atmosphere, making it the dry, dusty world it is today. Scientists believe that ions exist in the atmospheres of other planets in our Solar System. When other spacecraft have tried to send signals to Earth from locations on planets such as Jupiter or Saturn, parts of these signals have sometimes been blocked. Scientists have inferred that the presence of metal ions in the ionospheres of these other planets have been responsible for the signal blockage, but no direct proof of this has been offered. Another curious find on Mars was that the metal ions in Mars' ionosphere behave differently than the ions in Earth's ionoshpere. This could be due to the presence of a magnetosphere on Earth, and a lack of one on Mars. Scientists with MAVEN are also trying to learn about the formation of high altitude clouds on Earth and Mars, and what role the ions in the ionospheres have on this phenomenon. 

New Horizons and Cassini Missions

 

April 6, 2017


www.nasa.gov/feature/new-horizo…-next-flyby-target 


On April 17, 2016, the New Horizons spacecraft (NH) will have reached its halfway point on its flight from Pluto, to its next target in the Kuiper Belt, 2014 MU69 (486.19 million miles from Pluto). When NH does reach 2014 NMU69, it will become the most distant world ever explored in our Solar System. NH is actually slowly down slightly due to the gravitational pull of the Sun. It will therefore reach its midpoint in distance 5 days before it reaches its midpoint in time. And, to add more intrigue to this unfolding drama, NH will also be asleep on April 7, before it reaches the midpoint. This will be done to preserve the systems on the spacecraft. The spacedraft will be put in hibernation for 157 days, but it needs the time off. NH would have been "awake" for 1 and 1/2 years, since December 2014. In that time period, NH flew by Pluto, relayed data back to Earth for 16 months, and also studied a dozen other Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs). The busy little spacecraft has also studied the outer reaches of the heliosphere (the Sun's atmosphere), and the Kuiper Belt's dusty, ionicly charged environment. Another interesting fact: a signal sent between NH and Earth takes 5 hours and 20 minutes (at the speed of light) to travel the 3.5 billion mile distance between Earth and the New Horizons spacecraft. Now, off to Saturn. Cassini is preparing for its Grand Finale at Saturn, where it will dive between Saturn and its rings, then burn up in Saturn's atmosphere. It will actually go through a total of 22 dives before its grand finale. Cassini has been in the Saturn system for 13 years, and since then it has learned much about things like the moon Enceldus, its icy surface, and its sub-surface ocean, and also about the moon Titan, and its liquid methane seas. With the ocean of information it has gained in this 13 years, mission scientists are using all this information to make the final dive very purposeful. During the final plunge, Cassini will sample Saturn`s atmosphere, sample particles from the rings, and relay back to Earth the closest ever pictures of Saturn, its clouds, and its inner rings. The duties that the robotic probe on Cassini will be assinged to undertake will be downloaded to the probe in what is called a sequence, on April 11. Cassini will study the moon Titan one last time, on April 22, then will carry out other experiments, all in anticipation for its grand finale dive on September 15. This will truly be the end of something special, as Cassini has given the scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), anc citizen astronomers, more than they could have ever hoped for. 

Glutinous Star and Planet Formation

 

March 9, 2017


The young star FU Orionis suddenly began devouring material from the gas and dust surrounding it, in 1936. Over a 3 month super-binge, the star flared up 100 times brighter, and its temperature rose to 7,000 degrees Kelvin. Since 1936, FU Orionis has continued to gobble up surrounding gas, but not at quite the same rate. The star is roughly the size of our Sun, and to this point, FU Orionis has reached the point of being the brightest young star ever seen, for a star the size of our Sun. Scientists are now trying to figure out what the implications of this sudden heating is for how planets form. The chemistry of FU Orionis is thought to have changed with its heating, so the material in the disk that would make up planets also changed. Scientists believe this look at FU Orionis is just like looking back at the younger, formative, or baby years of the formation of our solar system. The intense baking of the star's surrounding disk likely changed its chemistry, permanently altering material that could one day turn into planets. Our solar system could have gone through a similar brightening change when it was forming. Scientists will now turn to studying FU Orionis at infrared wavelengths, to gather more data about this Sun-like star. Over the past years, FU O has devoured or eaten the equivalent weight of 80 Jupiters (or about 8,000 Earths). Scientists estimate that FU O will continue to snack on surrounding gas and dust for a few hundred more years, before it returns to its pre-1936 brightening level. The amount of visible and infrared light energy coming from FU O has decreased by 13% over the past 1 2 years. The dimming is thought to have occurred at shorter infrared wavelengths, not at longer wavelengths. This implies that 13% of the hotter material material has disappeared, while colder material remains, so it seems that only the inner part of the proto-planetary disk has been eaten by FU O. The colder outer part has remained intact. This could have tremendous implications for how planets closer of farther from a star, like Earth or Mars, could have formed, or could have been influenced. The heating of the disk, and the changing of its chemical composition at certain distances out from a star, could help explain the relative abundance of certain elements on Earth as opposed to Mars, or vice versa. FU Orionis is 1,500 light years from Earth, in the constellation of Orion. 

Impossible Could on Titan

September 22, 2016


Scientists working on the Cassini Mission in the Saturn system have discovered an impossible cloud on Saturn's largest moon Titan. A similar type ice cloud was found decades ago by the Voyager 1 Spacecraft. At that time, V1 scientists were puzzled by the fact that the cloud contained less than 1% of the dicyaniacetylene gas that was needed in order for the cloud to condense. At that time, scientists believed that V1's instruments may not have been sensitive enough to detect the gas. The same thing has happened again: just this week, scientists that work with the Cassini spacecraft have found less than 1% of the gas they thought would be needed in order for the cloud to condense. Clouds are thought to form on Titan in the same way that they form on Earth: through the condensation of gases in a evaporation/condensation cycle. Instead of water, the gas in Titan's atmosphere is methane. This puzzling occurrence of the formation of the cloud has led to another theory: the cloud on Titan forms through a similar type of solid-state chemical process that occurs over the N & S poles on Earth. The polar stratospheres on Titan and Earth could not be more different, so Titan has yielded another surprise. It seems that the underlying physical processes in Titans's and Earth's atmospheres have led to analogous cloud chemistry in both places. 

Saturn and Enceladus

August 11, 2016


 NASA's Cassini Spacecraft has discovered a large assortment of canyons on Titan, the biggest moon in the Saturn system. Large hydrocarbon lakes were also detected in the steep canyons. The depths of the canyons were measured by bouncing radar pings off the surface of Titan. The narrow branching channels of the canyon areas, named Vid Flumina, are quite narrow, but they are also quite deep, measuring anywhere from 790 - 1,870 feet. Titan is an interesting moon, featuring flowing hydrocarbon river, and hydrocarbon lakes. The clouds in Saturn's northern hemisphere, were imaged with infrared, IR, light, at wavelengths of 750, 727and 619 nanometers. Filters at these wavelengths were used because they are sensitive to the absorption and scattering of light with the methane that is found in Saturn's atmosphere. The water-moon Enceladus of Saturn, was also imaged. It appeared like a drop of dew floating on a leaf. But, it was just hovering Saturn's ring system. 

Jupiter and Io

August 4, 2016


The Juno mission is focsing on Io. Jupiter's moon Io is the most volcanicaly active moon in the solar system. Scientists have now discovered that Io's atmosphere is variable, and this phenomenon is affected by whether iO is or isn't hiding from the Sun in the shadow of its host planet Jupiter. The Juno mission to Jupiter is also talked about. The Great Red Spot on Jupiter, (GRS) which is as wide as 3 Earth diameters, also has an effect on the heating of Jupiter's atmosphere. There is therefore a lot of atmosphere on the show today. 

Cassini, Saturn, and Mars Ice Deposits

November 24, 2016


Scientists have determined that the Utopia Planatia region on Mars holds as much water as Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes. The deposits are under a layer of soil, in the form of frozen matter. If the water ice mixture were exposed to the Martian atmosphere, then it would sublime into the atmosphere and be lost. The deposit is thought to be away from the poles, and the tilt of Mars, which varies in cycles of 120,000 years has an effect on the water ice mixture. When the poles are heated during this cycle, then this drives the water-ice towards the equator.
The Cassini mission on Saturn is heading for another experiment. In this one, beginning on November 30, the spacecraft will make orbits, at a high tilt to the plane of the rings, in an effort to orbit, and then come close to, the rings of Saturn. The A, B & F rings will be studied in these orbits. The spacecraft will come close enough to the rings so as to be able to sample gas and some small particles from the rings. If the particles are too big, though, they could easily damage the spacecraft, rendering it useless. The A ring is one main target, as scientists want to study the propellers in the A rings. Propellers are the signatures of unknown moonlets. Many of Saturn's smallest moons are thought to originate, and form, inside the rings. The tiny moonlets Pan, Atlas, Pandora and Daphnis are presently orbiting close to the A ring. Because of this, these small moonlets will also be studied, in effort to reveal more of their secrets. The Cassini spacecraft is running low on fuel, so in April 2017, the spacecraft will make a final, daring dive into history, burning up in Saturn's atmosphere. Thank you for all the beautiful pictures, and memories, Cassini. 

Titan

July 14, 2016


 Titan, the solar system's second biggest moon, is the topic today. Review of the Cassini spacecrafts efforts at Titan, to learn more about this moon's atmosphere, when it is inside Saturn's protective magnetosphere, and when it wanders outside of this magnetosphere. 

Juno Orbiting Jupiter

July 7, 2016


 The Juno Spacecraft, which launched from Earth on August 5, 2011, and then traveled 1.7 Billion miles, executed maneuvers, and then was successfully captured by Jupiter, to go into orbit around the giant gas planet on July 4, 2016. Juno then turned itself toward a more beneficial position so that its solar panels could capture rays from the Sun, as the spacecraft is powered by solar energy. Over the next few months, scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena will perform final tests on Juno's subsystems, do final calibrations on Juno's science instruments,and also do some minor science collection activities. The official science collection phase begins 53.5 days after July 4, on October 19. Juno will try to help uncover more secrets about Jupiter's atmosphere, and gather more info about Jupiter's solid, rocky core, and the liquid material that circles just outside that core. 

Jupiter and Pluto

June 30, 2016


Pluto is revealing more of its secrets. Pluto's Sputnik Planum, a nitrogen ice plane on the surface of Pluto, is a topic today. The New Horizons Spacecraft, which zipped past Pluto in July 2015, has sent back data that shows Pluto's icy nitrogen surface has some smooth, rough and ridgey areas. Sunlight is reflected in different ways on this diverse ice surface. It is quite dynamic, constantly changing shape and form. The Juno mission to Jupiter has now entered the Jovian system. Juno left the solar wind imbedded reach of the Sun, and is now in the upper reaches of Jupiter's magnetosphere. Listen in as we track the progress of Juno, as it moves closer into toward Jupiter. The Juno spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral Florida on August 11, 2011, entered Jupiter's magnetosphere on June 24, 2016, and is expected to go into orbit around Jupiter on July 4, 2016, and begin sampling the lower reaches of Jupiter's magnetosphere on July 25. The upper reaches of Jupiter's magnetosphere, or bow shock, is incredibly complex, as scientists now pour pour over data sent back to them, beginning June 24. 

Pluto

June 23, 2016


Pluto and it moons. Canyons in the Pluto system are deeper and longer than the Grand Canyon on Earth. New Horizons, the spacecraft which flew by Pluto on July 14, 2015, continues to send back data and pictures of the mysterious Pluto system, such as how Pluto interacts with the Solar Wind. Listen to this, and all other mysteries Pluto continues to reveal to us. 

The Moons Of Pluto

June 16, 2016


Scientists now believe Pluto has 5 moons. Data sent back from the New Horizons flyby of Pluto on July 15, 2015 has now been analyzed, and a lot of pictures and data have been made available to us Earthlings on the moons Charon, Nix, Stix, Hydra and Kerberos. The most prominent theory regarding the formation of these moons is that they formed out of a debris cloud, that formed after an object impacted a young Pluto. The surfaces of Charon, Hydra and Nix show a strong signature of water-ice absorption. The surface of Pluto's largest moon, Charon, also was discovered to surprisingly have deep ridges and canyons. Yikes, how much excitement can we Earthlings absorb in 1 show! 

Pluto

June 9, 2016


Today, I will read a few articles about our friend Pluto. Yes, Pluto was demoted to the status of dwarf planet a few years ago, but there's hope ahead for all you Plutoites. Today, I talk about some interesting things about Pluto, so you Plutonians out there might talk comfort in what I found. Pluto interacts with the solar wind (SW) in ways that are more similar to how the SW interacts with planets such as Venus or Mars. Scientists speculated before that Pluto might interact with SW in ways that are more similar to how a comet interacts with the SW, but apparently, that ain't so. I also talk about other things that scientists have gleamed from the data that the New Horizons spacecraft sent back to Earth as it flew by Pluto in July 2015. Scientists are still deciphering the data sent back by NH, and are discovering more fascinating things about Pluto. Hope you Plutocratonians enjoy this show. 



Space Shuttle Challenger

January 28, 2016


30 years ago, on January 28, 1986 the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in ruins, 73 seconds after lift-off. A faulty O-Ring was blamed, but engineers had warned NASA of safety concerns with the O-Rings. Challenger was also launched when the outside temperature was 41 degrees F, 9 degrees below the safe operating temperature of 50 degrees. Engineers had issued warnings about the dangers of operating below 50 degrees, but these warnings, like the warnings about the O-Rings, were not passed on to top NASA officials. The Challenger disaster grounded the space shuttle program for 32 months. Human space flight was more common in the last quarter of the 21st century, and even though humankind is now experiencing a golden age in Astronomy, nothing could match the excitement of these human space missions. After the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas upon re-entry on February 1, 2003, Space Shuttles were grounded again. Even though NASA suffered setbacks on these 2 missions, the Space Shuttle program flew 135 missions from 1981 - 2011, and returned remarkable science. The projected benefits, though,  of operating a reusable low-Earth orbit space vehicle clashed with the realities of how difficult it became to maintain the fleet of 5 space shuttles. During each launch, 1 million things had to go right, but only 1 thing, like underestimating the dangers of 1 faulty O-Ring, could lead to disaster. Still, the Space Shuttle program was one of NASA's great accomplishments, and from them, a myriad of astronomy buffs. 

Philae Lander Comet 67 P

November 20, 2014


Today, I will read a few articles about our friend Pluto. Yes, Pluto was demoted to the status of dwarf planet a few years ago, but there's hope ahead for all you Plutoites. Today, I talk about some interesting things about Pluto, so you Plutonians out there might talk comfort in what I found. Pluto interacts with the solar wind (SW) in ways that are more similar to how the SW interacts with planets such as Venus or Mars. Scientists speculated before that Pluto might interact with SW in ways that are more similar to how a comet interacts with the SW, but apparently, that ain't so. I also talk about other things that scientists have gleamed from the data that the New Horizons spacecraft sent back to Earth as it flew by Pluto in July 2015. Scientists are still deciphering the data sent back by NH, and are discovering more fascinating things about Pluto. Hope you Plutocratonians enjoy this show.