Could This be the Start of a New Space Shuttle? – All is not lost for the space shuttle idea. Richard Branson is thinking big again and along with orbital sciences Corp, Sierra Nevada Corp and some others they may build a reusable taxi to space just like the space shuttle. NASA will find $200 million to help with the development. –Weirdwrap
Bright White Storm Raging on Saturn – About a week ago, a bright white storm emerged on Saturn’s northern hemisphere, and amateur astronomer/planet astrophotographer extraordinaire Anthony Wesley from Australia has captured a few images of it. “This is the brightest Saturn storm in decades,” Anthony said on his website, Ice In Space. “If you get a chance to see it visually then take it, as it may be one of the rare “Great White Spot” (GWS) outbreaks on Saturn.” –Nancy Atkinson / Universe Today
Cassini Spots Potential Ice Volcano on Saturn Moon - New data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft reveal topography on Saturn's moon Titan that makes the best case yet for an ice volcano on Titan and reveals the most Earth-like candidate in the outer solar system.
Discovery on the pad
ISS through clouds
Geminid in Death Valley
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Soyuz lift-off with ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli together with Dmitri Kondratyev and Catherine Coleman for a challenging 6-month mission on the International Space Station (ISS) as members of Expeditions 26/27. They were launched in the Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on 15 December at 19:09 GMT. Paolo’s MagISStra mission will be Europe’s third long-duration mission on the ISS. Between December 2010 and June 2011 he will be part of the ISS crew as a flight engineer. - Credit: ESA - S. Corvaja, 2010
Soyuz TMA-20 Launch of Expedition 26 - A Russian Soyuz rocket launched the Expedition 26 crew to the International Space Station. The crew includes Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev, American astronaut Catherine Coleman and from the European Space Agency Italian Paolo Nespoli.
Phobos shadow passing over Viking 1 landing site dust storm (40x actual speed) - On September 28, 1977, Viking Orbiter 1 observed a dust storm over the site where it had dropped its lander, more than a year previously. As Viking 1 orbiter watched, the shadow of Mars' inner moon Phobos passed over the cloud tops. Data: NASA/JPL. Processing: Daniel Machá?ek
NASA Discovers Asteroid Delivered Assortment of Meteorites – An international team of scientists studying remnants of an asteroid that crashed into the Nubian Desert in October 2008 discovered it contained at least 10 different types of meteorites. Some of them contained chemicals that form the building blocks of life on Earth, and those chemicals were spread through all parts of the asteroid by collisions. –NASA
Near-Synchronous Explosions Connect Across the Vast Distances on the Sun – For several decades, scientists studying the sun have observed solar flares that appear to occur almost simultaneously but originated in completely different areas on the Sun. Solar physicists called them “sympathetic” flares, but it was thought these near-synchronous explosions in the solar atmosphere were too far apart – sometimes millions of kilometers distant – to be related. But now, with the continuous high-resolution and multi-wavelength observations with the Solar Dynamics Observatory, combined with views from the twin STEREO spacecraft, the scientists are seeing how these sympathetic eruptions — sometimes on opposite sides of the sun — can connect through looping lines of the Sun’s magnetic field. –Nancy Atkinson / Universe Today
Galaxy Cluster Reveals Farthest Known Galaxy – Almost all of the bright objects in this Hubble Space Telescope image are galaxies in the cluster known as Abell 2218 -a cluster so massive and so compact that its gravity bends and focuses the light from galaxies that lie behind it. As a result, multiple images of these background galaxies are distorted into long faint arcs. –The Daily Galaxy
93rd Birth Anniversary of Sir Arthur Clarke – Let’s cherish the 93rd birth anniversary of Sir Arthur Clarke, who rendered an immense service to the world, by means of his innovative concepts on telecommunication + thrilling scientific books, We should do something to remind the world about his being in a day like this, as what his imagination has rendered, continues to grow day by day –IYA 2009 / Sri Lanka
A Majestic Galaxy in One of the Largest Known Structures in the Observable Universe – This image shows a majestic face-on spiral galaxy located deep within the Coma Cluster of galaxies, which lies 320 million light-years away, in the northern constellation Coma Berenices. The galaxy, known as NGC 4911, contains rich lanes of dust and gas near its center. These are silhouetted against glowing newborn star clusters and iridescent pink clouds of hydrogen, the existence of which indicates ongoing star formation. –The Daily Galaxy
Dec 14/15 Meteors (night after the Geminids peak) – What a difference 24 hours makes! Only a day removed from the Geminids peak and rates have crashed to a fraction of their peak. During the past 5 nights SALSA3 detected 12, 22, 69, 124 and now 20 Geminids. This is a characteristic of the Geminids in that the post-peak rates fall off much more rapidly than the pre-peak increase. –Carl Hergenrother
All set for Paolo Nespoli launch tomorrow – The next spaceflight by a European astronaut is about to begin: ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli and his crewmates will be launched aboard a Soyuz spacecraft from Baikonur Cosmodrome on 15 December at 19:09 GMT to the International Space Station. –ESA
Meteors and the Geminids Peak – The Geminids did not dissapoint! Though the IMO ZHR Live page doesn’t seem to be updating observations made by myself and Salvador show ZHRs that equaled or even exceeded the expected value of 120. Over the course of about 3.33 hours I averaged about 1 meteor per minute under skies that range from a limiting magnitude of +5.0 (when the Moon was still up) to +5.7 (before the break of dawn).-Carl Hergenrother / Transient Sky
Qatar Led Team Discovers Exoplanet – When listing the major scientific powers, the tiny nation of Qatar is not one that generally comes to mind. However, a Qatar astronomer, partnered with teams from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) as well as other institutions has just discovered a new exoplanet, dubbed Qatar-1b. -Jon Voisey / Universe Today
Total Lunar Eclipse – December 21, 2010 – Both lunar and solar eclipses can only occur when the Earth, Sun and Moon are directly aligned… and that alignment is about to happen just four days before Christmas! While the winter treat of totality will lend itself to North America, many other parts of the world will be able to enjoy a partial eclipse as well. -Tammy Plotner / Universe Today
Timelapse: the last shuttle main engines are installed - The last set of space shuttle main engines is installed in Atlantis in this timelapse video recorded in Orbiter Processing Facility Bay 1 at the Kennedy Space Center.
Lunar hole in one
Wham! Asteroids collide in space!
Sunset of the Shuttle
Gallery Pick of the Day
Every space mission from the last 50 years on one map
SpaceX Looking to Launch Next Dragon Spacecraft – to the ISS – With the success of the first and second launches of the Falcon 9 rocket as well as the successful recovery of the Dragon spacecraft, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has stated its intent to accelerate the pace of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program that the private space firm has with NASA. The company has been inspecting various elements of the Dragon spacecraft that launched to orbit on Dec. 8, to make potential changes to the next Dragon – in preparation for its flight. -Jason Rhian / Universe Today
That’s no asteroid! – On the evening of 21 February 1906, A. Kopff discovered asteroid 596 Scheila. It was found to have a fairly typical Main Body orbit, meaning that it lives comfortably in the middle of the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter. Beyond that, it never attracted much notice, being just one amongst billions of asteroids. –Urban Astronomer
Geminids – First Session Results – was able to spend ~40 minutes watching the Geminids so far tonight. This first session lasted from 11:43 pm (6:43 UT) till 12:28 am (7:28 UT). With a limiting magnitude of +5.4, I counted 23 meteors with 13 being Geminids and 10 being non-Geminids –Carl Hergenrother
Saturn Rings Formed From Moon Gone – Saturn’s rings are one of the most awe-inspiring features in the solar system but they may have had a violent creation 4.5 billion years ago according to a new theory advanced by astronomer Robin M. Canup at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, published in Nature. –Spaceports
Epic Filament Eruption - A very long solar filament that had been snaking around the Sun erupted (Dec. 6, 2010) with a flourish. STEREO (Behind) caught the action in dramatic detail in extreme ultraviolet light of Helium. It had been almost a million km long (about half a solar radius) and a prominent feature on the Sun visible over two weeks earlier before it rotated out of view. Filaments, elongated clouds of cooler gases suspended above the Sun by magnetic forces, are rather unstable and often break away from the Sun. - Courtesy of SOHO/STEREO consortium. SOHO is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.
The Moon Last Night
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This picture of NGC 6572 shows the intricate shapes that can develop as stars exhale their last breaths. Hubble has even imaged the central white dwarf star, the origin of the dazzling nebula, but now a faint, but hot, vestige of its former glory. - Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA
Preview of the 2010 Geminids – In the contest for best meteor shower of the year two showers are perennial candidates, the Perseids of August and next week’s Geminids. It’s usually a toss up as to which is better though over the past few years the Geminids have been better more times than not. If the sky is clear where you live, this Tuesday morning will provide one of the few nights of the year when it’s almost guaranteed that you will be able to observe a meteor after about 10-20 minutes of observing. –Carl Hergenrother
Venus Has a Moon? – Astronomers have been busy trying to determine the spin period and composition of Venus’ moon. December 8, 2010, results were announced by JPL/Caltech scientists, led by Michael Hicks. -Mike Simonsen / Universe Today
Technicians Set Up Tank for Test Next Week – At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians at Launch Pad 39A have installed an environmental enclosure on space shuttle Discovery’s external fuel tank for a tanking test planned for no earlier than Wednesday, Dec. 15. –NASA
Paranal telescopes with Laser Guide star (Unique 360º night time lapse)
Venus by Akatsuki
Small Magellanic Cloud
NGC 6334 - Cat's Paw Nebula
The hidden arms of M94
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Snow Storm across the U.S. Midwest - The blast of snow and cold air that moved across the Midwestern United States in early December 2010 is visible in this true-color image. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired the image at 11:00 a.m. Central time on December 7, two days after the weekend snow storm. - Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC.