Category Archives: NASA

Merging Galaxies


One day our Milky Way will be in the midst of a similar merger, ours with Andromeda.

The ESA description:
The subject of this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image is known as NGC 3597. It is the product of a collision between two good-sized galaxies, and is slowly evolving to become a giant elliptical galaxy. This type of galaxy has grown more and more common as the Universe has evolved, with initially small galaxies merging and progressively building up into larger galactic structures over time.

NGC 3597 is located approximately 150 million light-years away in the constellation of Crater (The Cup). Astronomers study NGC 3597 to learn more about how elliptical galaxies form — many ellipticals began their lives far earlier in the history of the Universe. Older ellipticals are nicknamed “red and dead” by astronomers because these bloated galaxies are not anymore producing new, bluer, stars in ages, and are thus packed full of old and redder stellar populations.

Before infirmity sets in, some freshly formed elliptical galaxies experience a final flush of youth, as is the case with NGC 3597. Galaxies smashing together pool their available gas and dust, triggering new rounds of star birth. Some of this material ends up in dense pockets initially called proto-globular clusters, dozens of which festoon NGC 3597. These pockets will go on to collapse and form fully-fledged globular clusters, large spheres that orbit the centres of galaxies like satellites, packed tightly full of millions of stars.

Image and caption: ESA/Hubble & NASA

Apollo 12


Yesterday NASA featured this image as their Image of the Day.  The lunar module of Apollo 12 on 19 November 1969.


The Apollo 12 Lunar Module (LM), in a lunar landing configuration, is photographed in lunar orbit from the Command and Service Modules (CSM) on Nov. 19, 1969. The coordinates of the center of the lunar surface shown in picture are 4.5 degrees west longitude and 7 degrees south latitude. The largest crater in the foreground is Ptolemaeus; and the second largest is Herschel. Aboard the LM were astronauts Charles Conrad Jr., commander; and Alan L. Bean, lunar module pilot. Astronaut Richard R. Gordon Jr., command module pilot, remained with the CSM in lunar orbit while Conrad and Bean descended in the LM to explore the surface of the moon.

Image Credit: NASA

Kepler 452b


Kepler finds the best Earth analog so far. Kepler 452b is the smallest planet found in the so-called Goldilocks Zone, the place where liquid water can exist on a planet around a star. The Kepler-452 system is located 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus.

Kepler 452b is 60 percent larger in diameter with an orbit only 5 percent larger than we have here on Earth and the year is only a few days longer at 385.

It is thought Kepler 452b is a rocky planet. We don’t know the composition though and we don’t know the mass. When we find out the mass (and we will) then we can come up with all sorts of fun facts.

I am pleased to see the news coverage, but most is rather incomplete. If you haven’t read the press release, you can do so here – it’s much more informative than the coverage I’ve seen at least.

I chose the picture to show the size difference. Yes this planet is substantially different in size than Earth, but it’s getting closer and there are more candidates that seem to closely match Earth. It won’t be long and to think not that long ago we were “alone” as a solar system.

Back to Kepler’s Laws and sharpening my pencil.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle

RS-25 Engine Test

The RS-25 engine was tested on 11 June 2015 when it was fired for 500 seconds at NASA’s Stennis Space Center.

Four of these engines will be combined to power the new rocket, the Space Launch System by NASA. Eventually the engines will send astronauts to Mars or at least that’s the current plan.

This engine will have to go four more tests in this phased of development. No word on how this test went.


LDSD Flight Replay

Here is the video of the LDSD flight last Monday (08 June).

I enjoy balloon launches as much as rocket launches. The video gives a great view of that too. The balloon took the saucer-like LDSD to an altitude of 36.5 km / 120,000 ft when a rocket propelled it to Mach 4 an altitude of 54.9 km / 180,000 feet so the tests could be made in the thin atmosphere where it would be similar to that of Mars.

The two technologies tested were the donut-shaped airbag and a parachute that can be deployed while the vehicle is traveling at several times the speed of sound. So far it sounds like the aribag worked pretty well but the parachute only partially opened and you can see that in the video.


Lunar Evolution

The moon is pretty bright in the sky and will be full in just a couple of days.

The NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is helping us understand more about the moon’s history.

Video from NASA Goddard