A New Planet

The planet GU Psc b and its star GU Psc composed of visible and infrared images from the Gemini South telescope and an infrared image from the CFHT.  Image: CRAQ and Gemini

The planet GU Psc b and its star GU Psc composed of visible and infrared images from the Gemini South telescope and an infrared image from the CFHT. Image: CRAQ and Gemini

Way to go Canada! A team led by Université de Montréal researchers has discovered and photographed a new planet 155 light years away.

The planet, named GU Psc b, is so far from the parent star (GU Psc)it takes 80,000 years to make the trip! The parent star is about three times LESS massive than our own Sun. So this planet is still gravitationally bound enough to orbit 2,000 (Earth/Sun) AU from a star a third (?) the mass of our Sun? That’s amazing, I gotta do the math on this.

An image from 155 light-years? Read how at the Gemini site.

BETTII

This image shows BETTII interns and graduate students with their project. Front: Intern Arpan Rau and graduate student Arnab Dhabal. Back: Interns Sophie Johnson-Shapoval, Marcelo Canaparro, Stephen Weinreich, Spencer Gore, graduate student Maxime Rizzo, and interns John Alcorn and Debora Andrade. Image and caption credit: NASA Goddard/Bill Hrybyk

This image shows BETTII interns and graduate students with their project. Front: Intern Arpan Rau and graduate student Arnab Dhabal. Back: Interns Sophie Johnson-Shapoval, Marcelo Canaparro, Stephen Weinreich, Spencer Gore, graduate student Maxime Rizzo, and interns John Alcorn and Debora Andrade.
Image and caption credit: NASA Goddard/Bill Hrybyk

Things look to be on track for NASA’s BETTII mission. BETTII or more properly, Balloon Experimental Twin Telescope for Infrared Interferometry.  The mission is being put together seven student interns working with Dr. Stephen Rinehart, associate chief of the Observational Cosmology Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Fhight Center in Greenbelt,MD.

The students (including a high school student) are doing a great job.
The plan is to put two small telescope above all but the faintest traces of atmosphere. The observations of the two telescopes will be combined to increase the viewing power to that of a very much larger telescope. The telescopic view needs to be distortion free as much as possible for the best possible observations. Since they will be lifted by a tether from a balloon they must be small

The small telescopes are each less than two feet wide (~9 to 10 cm), combined by a technique called spatial interferometry would equate to one large telescope with a diameter of (about) 65 feet! The thing would weigh more than 1,000 lbs (453 kg. A lot to ask from a balloon.

The balloon has a height of about 250 ft (76 m) and 290 ft (88 m) in diameter.
Balloon borne observations are certainly not new, but nowadays they’re getting it done. They are very complicated and quite exciting, I hope the interns get to be in on the launch when it happens. I know I’d jump at the chance.

Check out the NASA press release.

May Camelopardalis

Earth is set to cross the debris path of comet 209P/LINEAR on 24 May 2014. No one knows quite what to expect. I’ll be finding out provided we have decent clouds.

The video suggests the best time is going to be around 0600 to 0800 UTC. If you are on the east coast of North America earlier in that range might be better because daybreak will be shortly after 0800 UTC.

How to find Camelopardalis? On the 24th (or any other time in the near future) you can find Camelopardalis by looking north. If the meteor shower is as busy as it could be, the location will be self evident. However, if there are only a few meteors or you just want to find it and have no idea, find the “Little Dipper” aka: Ursa Minor, and look from the dipper part down the “handle”, it points right to the area.

Still confused? Look above your northern horizon. Here’s a guide to help you out.

Video source

Ride Along

Watch this! They (Airanespace) call it remarkable, I call that an understatement!  This is astounding is what it is.

One of the many really cool video showing up recently.

This from Arianespace:

Remarkable images from on-board cameras provide a detailed “ride-along” view of Arianespace’s Flight VS07, which orbited Europe’s Sentinel-1A from the Spaceport in French Guiana.

Recorded during the 23-minute mission on April 3, multiple cameras covered the action from final countdown to separation of the mission’s payload.

The Arianespace/European Space Agency/Roscosmos-copyrighted video begins with the pre-launch steps as seen from two cameras – mounted on opposite sides of the medium-lift launcher.

Looking down from the launcher’s upper portion, the opening sequence includes separation of umbilical connections for Soyuz’ Fregat upper stage, followed by the tilt-back of two umbilical masts. One of these masts provides fluids and electrical connections for the launcher’s Block I third stage, while the second mast services the Soyuz vehicle’s Block A core stage.

Soyuz’ engine ignition is clearly seen in the video with the startup sequence for the first stage’s four boosters and central core second-stage. This is followed by liftoff and the opening of four arms that supported the vehicle while on the pad – and which are opened by Soyuz’ upward movement.
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Take the Plunge

Submit your guess!  Image: NASA

Submit your guess! Image: NASA

The LADEE spacecraft is coming to the end of it’s mission. The spacecraft is going to go out with a bang, literately, it is going to impact the surface of the moon.

You can be a part of end of the mission too. Go on, take the challenge!

How?

First, read the short background below from NASA on what is going on.

Then just make your best guess and SUBMIT IT HERE.

The NASA link below will take you to the complete press release as I only included enough to get you going.

My entry is in, that certificate of success is as good as mine. . . or not. LOL.

Good luck and have fun.

From NASA:

When will it impact the lunar surface? NASA wants to hear your best guess!

LADEE mission managers expect the spacecraft will impact the moon’s surface on or before April 21. On April 11, ground controllers at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., will command LADEE to perform its final orbital maintenance maneuver prior to a total lunar eclipse on April 15, when Earth’s shadow passes over the moon. This eclipse, which will last approximately four hours, exposes the spacecraft to conditions just on the edge of what it was designed to survive.

This final maneuver will ensure that LADEE’s trajectory will impact the far side of the moon, which is not in view of Earth and away from any previous lunar mission landings. There are no plans to target a particular impact location on the lunar surface, and the exact date and time depends on several factors.

“The moon’s gravity field is so lumpy, and the terrain is so highly variable with crater ridges and valleys that frequent maneuvers are required or the LADEE spacecraft will impact the moon’s surface,” said Butler Hine, LADEE project manager at Ames. “Even if we perform all maneuvers perfectly, there’s still a chance LADEE could impact the moon sometime before April 21, which is when we expect LADEE’s orbit to naturally decay after using all the fuel onboard.”

Anyone is eligible to enter the “Take the Plunge: LADEE Impact Challenge.” Winners will be announced after impact and will be e-mailed a commemorative, personalized certificate from the LADEE program. The submissions deadline is 3 p.m. PDT Friday, April 11.

A New Dwarf Planet

Dwarf Planet 2012 VP113 in three different images stacked together, it's the red, blue and green dots. Image: Courtesy Scott Sheppard and Chad Trujillo.

Dwarf Planet 2012 VP113 in three different images stacked together, it’s the red, blue and green dots. Image: Courtesy Scott Sheppard and Chad Trujillo.

A new dwarf planet has been found in our solar system, its name: 2012 VP113. The new dwarf planet is a long ways out, coming no closer to the sun than 80 AU.

Not just that, but it sounds like there is a potential of a new planet out there, possibly up to 10 times the size of the Earth! This remains to be seen though.

This from the Carnegie Institute:

New work from Carnegie’s Scott Sheppard and Chadwick Trujillo of the Gemini Observatory reports the discovery of a distant dwarf planet, called 2012 VP113, which was found beyond the known edge of the Solar System. This is likely one of thousands of distant objects that are thought to form the so-called inner Oort cloud. What’s more, their work indicates the potential presence of an enormous planet, perhaps up to 10 times the size of Earth, not yet seen, but possibly influencing the orbit of 2012 VP113, as well as other inner Oort cloud objects.

Read the rest of the press release at the Carnegie Institute (more images too).

The “Other Earthrise”

The less famous Earthrise image. Credit: LOIRP

The less famous Earthrise image. Credit: LOIRP

Very nice! This is an Earthrise image taken by Lunar Orbiter 1 in 1966. The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) just released the newly enhanced image they call: the “Other Earthrise.

The image is actually one of two images taken. The first of the pair was released by NASA is of course famous and one you’ve probably seen before.

There is a great story and more images at Moon Views – The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP).