The Gigantic Peanut In The Sky
This is an artist’s representation of the largest yellow star ever found. It is more than 1,300 times larger than the Sun and it is rapidly getting even larger. According to the study leader, Olivier Chesneau:
The two stars are so close that they touch and the whole system resembles a gigantic peanut.
The double star’s boring official name is HR 5171, but I propose we call it The Great Sky Peanut. Even though it is 12,000 light-years from earth, a keen sighted person could see it on a dark night, twinkling in the constellation Centaurus.
Image credit: ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2
Asteroid (216) Kleopatra has been interesting to astronomers for a long time because its brightness is highly variable, but it seems to get more interesting every time somebody looks at it with a new instrument. In 2000 it was found to be “dog-bone” shaped; in 2008 it was discovered to have two moons.
Like the ancient Egyptian queen it was named for, the asteroid Kleopatra has birthed twins — a pair of moons that have helped scientists learn that the huge space rock is a rubble pile rather than a chunk of solid rock.
These two moons, named Alexhelios and Cleoselene after the twin children of the queen, were discovered in 2008. Now, astronomers studying their orbits have deduced that their parent asteroid is a jumble of loosely held rocks.
There are a number of smaller asteroids throughout the solar system that are loose, gravitationally bound piles of rock rather than solid objects.
But to find one in such a large system is surprising. At about 135 miles (217 km) in length, Kleopatra is among the largest of these rubble pile asteroids discovered over the past few years, topped only by 174-mile (280 km) 87 Sylvia.
Credit: UC Berkeley NewsCente/Nola Taylor Redd
The Moon is our logical & vital next step after ISS as we learn how to explore everywhere else:http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2013/08/25/tech-space-station-canadian-on-moon.html
Astronomers have snapped a photo of a pink alien world that’s the smallest yet exoplanet found around a star like our sun.
Image: Glowing a dark magenta, the newly discovered exoplanet GJ 504b weighs in with about four times Jupiter’s mass, making it the lowest-mass planet ever directly imaged around a star like the sun. This image is an artist’s representation of the alien world. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/S. Wiessinger
The alien planet GJ 504b is a colder and bluer world than astronomers had anticipated and it likely has a dark magenta hue, infrared data from the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii revealed.
"If we could travel to this giant planet, we would see a world still glowing from the heat of its formation with a color reminiscent of a dark cherry blossom, a dull magenta," study researcher Michael McElwain, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said in a statement from the space agency.
NASA is currently working on the first practical field test toward the possibility of faster than light travel.
Traveling faster than light has always been attributed to science fiction, but that all changed when Harold White and his team at NASA started to work on and tweak the Alcubierre Drive. Special relativity may hold true, but to travel faster or at the speed of light we might not need a craft that can travel at that speed. The solution might be to place a craft within a space that is moving faster than the speed of light! Therefore the craft itself does not have to travel at the speed of light from it’s own type of propulsion system.
A Shuttle Veteran Celebrates Her Spacecraft
I’d been off the planet for 13 days—12 days, 20 hours, 20 minutes and 4 seconds to be precise—when the space shuttle Atlantis touched down on runway 22 at Edwards Air Force Base in California on February 20, 2001. It was the 102nd mission in the Space Shuttle program, and the 23rd for Atlantis. It was my fifth and final space flight and I knew going into it that it would be my last. I’d had a good run, as they say: 5 flights in 11 years, with a little bit of everything—satellite deployment and retrieval, a visit to Russia’s Mir space station and now an assembly flight to the International Space Station, joining the first station crew on board.
Actually, it was more than a good run, it was a pretty incredible run, and three of my five flights had been aboard this same ship that had once again brought me safely home. Walking off the orbiter I was proud to have been part of this mission, this program and this agency. As I stepped through the hatch, I turned and kissed Atlantis, to the surprise of the ground support folks. After all you are not supposed to touch the tiles, much less put your lips on them. But I didn’t know any other way to say thank you to the spacecraft and, well, to everything and everyone around it.
At that moment I could never have imagined the mournful days to come: the horror of the Columbia accident still two years away; the indefensible cancellation of the Constellation program—which would have returned humans to the moon and produced a new generation of heavy-lift booster; and the ambling, unfocused human spaceflight program that would replace it, a program so poorly defined that it amounts to no real program at all. Had I known all that back then, I would have put my arms around Atlantis if I could have figured out a way.
Here we are a decade later, and this never-imagined future has become a heartbreaking reality. We bear painful witness to the erosion of the capability and the spirit that let us put the first human footprint on the moon and defiantly welcomed the challenge of space exploration. Today NASA’s “year in review” in human spaceflight shows the ferry flights of the remaining Orbiters to their homes in museums around the country. And that’s it. So it was with great trepidation that I accepted the invitation, as a former Atlantis crew member, to participate in the opening ceremonies for the “Space Shuttle Atlantis Celebration” June 28-29 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s complex, when Atlantis would be unveiled in its new $100 million facility.
After a total of 33 missions and 126 million miles flown between 1985 and 2011, including the one that marked the end of the 30- year Space Shuttle program, Atlantis certainly deserved the tribute. So I expected great hoopla and fanfare. I expected too to feel melancholy for the end of a 30 year program in human spaceflight and angry at no foreseeable future. I expected a memorial. What I did not expect was for it to be…right.
The multiscreen surround sound movie show that is the entrance to the exhibit ends with the screen fading to transparent, though an image of an Orbiter—its payload bay doors open, its robotic arm extended, flying towards you as you could only ever see it from space—is still visible. And then the screen rises to reveal Atlantis herself.
The gut punch of emotion I experienced is impossible to convey using mere words. The orbiter, suspended from the ceiling, seemed to be flying free—graceful and elegant in its impossibility, and its reality.
Looking at the spacecraft, I felt a visceral wave of memory—of people loved, of people lost, of days spent inside the vehicle off the planet, of years spent in and around the program, helping to support other shuttle flights, of a career devoted to human spaceflight. I felt the presence of all the people whose labors of love now hung motionless before me.
There was no more hardworking, dedicated, fiercely proud team than the one at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The men and women who processed the shuttles did their work with a devotion and a passion that is probably unheard of anywhere else. We the crew may have been the face of the missions, but these people were the heart. And this display is a testament and an homage to that workforce.
The building that is now home to Atlantis is full of stories, history, hardware and lots of hands-on interactive stations. The pictures are of the people who worked on the shuttles. The stories are their stories and the interactive stations are all narrated by NASA engineers, not actors, not artificial voices. Real people explaining the science and engineering of real spaceflight in the kind of how-cool-is-that! way that only people who love their work can share. Unlike most museum displays that are about what they have done, this one is about what we as a team and a nation have done.
And at the center of it all is a real spaceship—an exhibit that doesn’t just honor the life of the vehicle, but that salutes the hearts and souls of the people who made it work. May we live up to your memory. All hail Atlantis.
(Marsha Ivins is a retired astronaut and a veteran of five shuttle missions, with a total of 1,318 hours—or 55 days—in space)