Live, Learn, and Dream

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Tag Archives: Space

Orion Nebula Center

A violent young star

NASA | IBEX Provides First View of the Solar System’s Tail

NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer, or IBEX, recently mapped the boundaries of the solar system’s tail, called the heliotail. By combining observations from the first three years of IBEX imagery, scientists have mapped out a tail that shows a combination of fast and slow moving particles. The entire structure twisted, because it experiences the pushing and pulling of magnetic fields outside the solar system.

Our solar has a comet-like tail called heliotail. NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer has mapped the shape of the tail based on the relative speed of solar particles. I wonder if it is possible to observe the same phenomena from nearest stars (Alpha Centauri, Sirius, Barnard’s Star, …, etc.) in our part of galactic neighborhood.

Comets Lemmon and PanSTARRS Peaking

Two impressive comets will both reach their peak brightness during the next two weeks. Taking advantage of a rare imaging opportunity, both of these comets were captured in the sky together last week over the Atacama desert in South America. Comet C/2012 F6 (Lemmon), visible on the upper left of the above image, is sporting a long tail dominated by glowing green ions. Comet C/2011 L4 (PanSTARRS), visible near the horizon on the lower right, is showing a bright tail dominated by dust reflecting sunlight. The tails of both comets point approximately toward the recently set Sun. Comet Lemmon will be just barely visible to the unaided eye before sunset in southern skies for the next week, and then best viewed with binoculars as it fades and moves slowly north. Comet PanSTARRS, however, will remain visible in southern skies for only a few more days, after which it will remain bright enough to be locatable with the unaided eye as it moves into northern skies. To find the giant melting snowball PanSTARRS, sky enthusiasts should look toward the western horizon just after sunset. Deep sky observers are also monitoring the brightening of Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON), which may become one of the brightest objects in the entire night sky toward the end of 2013.

Two comets appear in the sky at the same time. Unfortunately, it will be rainy and cloudy for the next few days, I really hope I still have a chance for a glimpse on Friday.
Source: NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day

Raining Loops on the Sun

On July 19, 2012, an eruption occurred on the sun that produced a moderately powerful solar flare and a dazzling magnetic display known as coronal rain. Hot plasma in the corona cooled and condensed along strong magnetic fields in the region. Magnetic fields, are invisible, but the charged plasma is forced to move along the lines, showing up brightly in the extreme ultraviolet wavelength of 304 Angstroms, and outlining the fields as it slowly falls back to the solar surface. Music: “Thunderbolt” by Lars Leonhard, courtesy of artist.

Source: NASA
Note: NASA’s embedded scripts are not compatible here, so an alternative source (instead of official source) is used. Also, the music can be a bit distracting.

The Fisher Space Pen

A rumor I first read more than 10 years ago on the Internet claims that NASA has spent millions (if not billions) to develop a pen that would work in the space, but (socialist) Russia just uses pencil. For whatever reasons, the rumor keeps resurfacing once a while. The truth is that both sides used pencil in the beginning of the space race, and pencil had its own problems and could potentially cause flight hazard. If you too are interested in facts, read quote from NASA history office:

During the first NASA missions the astronauts used pencils. For Project Gemini, for example, NASA ordered mechanical pencils in 1965 from Tycam Engineering Manufacturing, Inc., in Houston. The fixed price contract purchased 34 units at a total cost of $4,382.50, or $128.89 per unit. That created something of a controversy at the time, as many people believed it was a frivolous expense. NASA backtracked immediately and equipped the astronauts with less costly items.

During this time period, Paul C. Fisher of the Fisher Pen Co. designed a ballpoint pen that would operate better in the unique environment of space. His new pen, with a pressurized ink cartridge, functioned in a weightless environment, underwater, in other liquids, and in temperature extremes ranging from -50 F to +400 F.

Fisher developed his space pen with no NASA funding. The company reportedly invested about $1 million of its own funds in the effort then patented its product and cornered the market as a result.

Fisher offered the pens to NASA in 1965, but, because of the earlier controversy, the agency was hesitant in its approach. In 1967, after rigorous tests, NASA managers agreed to equip the Apollo astronauts with these pens. Media reports indicate that approximately 400 pens were purchased from Fisher at $6 per unit for Project Apollo.

The Soviet Union also purchased 100 of the Fisher pens, and 1,000 ink cartridges, in February 1969, for use on its Soyuz space flights. Previously, its cosmonauts had been using grease pencils to write in orbit.

Both American astronauts and Soviet/Russian cosmonauts have continued to use these pens.

Fisher continues to market his space pens as the writing instrument that went to the Moon and has spun off this effort into a separate corporation, the Fisher Space Pen Co.

Source: NASA History Office

Fireball or Space Debris, 21 September 2012, Lisburn, Northern Ireland

fireball or space debris

I was out in my garden this evening experimenting with taking a few shots of the stars when what I initially thought to be a fireball came into view, breaking up into many bright pieces and moving quite slowly across the sky. It really was quite stunning, like a slow moving firework. I quickly swung my camera up and got this pot shot, a 5 second exposure taken at 22:55:52 BST / 21:55:52 GMT/UTC. The fireball was travelling directly east to west and overhead. The image shows it grazing Alpheratz, the top left star in The Great Square of Pegasus. I’d describe it as ‘fire’ coloured – orange/yellow; no sound that I noticed.

Source: Colin Campbell on flickr.

Mars orbiter catches pic of Curiosity on its way down!

Mars orbiter catches pic of Curiosity on its way down!

This is truly astonishing: the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped what may turn out to be the Space Picture of the Year: Curiosity descending to Mars under its parachutes!

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