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
Gallery Pick of the Day
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
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
Gallery Pick of the Day
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.
On December 8, 2010 at 15:43 GMT a Falcon 9 launch vehicle took to the sky from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL as it transported a Dragon Capsule into orbit. Space X's Dragon capsule will demonstrate several objects on this flight, which will include space down and recovery.
This is the Webcast for the Falcon 9 Flight 2 from Space Exploration Technologies or SpaceX. The second Falcon 9 rocket launched for SLC-40 in Flordia carrying the first Dragon COTS demo unit
How to Settle, Once and for All, the Whole “What’s a Planet?” Debate – When I was a kid, I knew exactly what a planet was: It was something big and round, and it orbited the sun. There were nine such beasts in the celestial menagerie. We knew Pluto was a misfit—smallish, distant, and orbiting on a weird elliptical path—but we had no doubt it was part of the family. The other planets certainly fit my description, and all was well. –Phil Plait / Bad Astronomy
Keck Observatory Pictures Show Fourth Planet in Giant Solar System – Astronomers announced the discovery of a fourth giant planet joining three others orbiting a nearby star with information that challenges our current understanding of planet formation. The dusty young star named HR8799, located 129 light years away, was first recognized in 2008 when the research team presented the first-ever images of a planetary system orbiting a star other than our sun. –Keck Observatory
WASP-12b: A Carbon Rich Exoplanet – Since its discovery in 2008, WASP-12b has been an unusual planet. This 1.4 Jovian mass, gas giant lies so close to its parent star that gas is being stripped from its atmosphere. But being stripped away isn’t the only odd property of this planet’s atmosphere. A new study has shown that it’s full of carbon. -Jon Voisey / Universe Today
What would happen if the sun went dark – Perhaps you caught the moon last night in the southwestern sky – a thin crescent lit by sunlight. If your timing was right, with the sky not too bright and moon not too low, you may have also seen the entire outline of the moon. –Astrobob
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft lift off from Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., at 10:43 a.m. EST, Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010. In orbit, the Dragon capsule went through several maneuvers before it re-entered the atmosphere and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean about 500 miles west of the coast of Mexico. This is first demonstration flight for NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, which will provide cargo flights to the International Space Station in the future. - Credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Kevin O'Connell
Arsenic and old Universe – Two news updates, both of which are pretty interesting. 1) The arsenic-utilizing bacterium is still in the news… Last week, a paper made the rounds on various sites that Roger Penrose and a collaborator had found circular patterns in the cosmic background radiation that might point to clues about what happened before the Big Bang. –Phil Plait / Bad Astronomy
Sneak Attacks from the Sun – Our Sun can be a menace when it sends out powerful solar blasts of radiation towards the Earth. Astronomers keenly watch the Sun to learn more about what powers these solar eruptions, in hopes of being able to predict them. New research shows that one-third of the Sun’s blasts are “sneak attacks” that may occur without warning. –Center for Astrophysics
A team of NASA-funded researchers find there may be different criteria by which we search for life elsewhere in the universe. Also, shuttle Discovery gets a new target launch date; SOFIA flies its first science mission; NASA's Small Business Awards, and an alternative fuels pilot program. Plus, Scott Kelly's geography trivia from space, and the anniversary of Gemini 7.
Geminids Meteor Shower 2010: What You Might See – The final meteor shower of 2010 is the Geminids, the peak of which falls on the night of the 13/14 December 2010. The Geminids is described by the IMO as “one of the finest, and probably the most reliable, of the major annual showers presently observable”, and this year’s shower is set to put on a good show. -Steve Owens / Meteorwatch
Geminid Meteor Shower Defies Explanation – The Geminid meteor shower, which peaks this year on Dec. 13th and 14th, is the most intense meteor shower of the year. It’s also NASA astronomer Bill Cooke’s favorite meteor shower—but not for any of the reasons listed above. “The Geminids are my favorite,” he explains, “because they defy explanation.” –NASA
Japan’s Akatsuki to Reach Venus Today – Japan’s Akatsuki spacecraft will arrive at Venus later today, and will enter orbit around the planet. The box-shaped orbiter will make observations from an elliptical orbit, from a distance of between 300 and 80,000 kilometers looking for — among other things — signs of lightning and active volcanoes. –Nancy Atkinson / Universe Today
SpaceX Delays Falcon 9 Launch Attempt To Dec. 9 – SpaceX will delay the launch attempt of the Falcon 9 rocket until at least Thursday, Dec. 9. At a press conference today, company president Gwynne Shotwell said a final review of closeout photos this morning found some indications of a potential issue on a second stage nozzle. Reports from journalist Robert Pearlman on Twitter said the Falcon 9 had been lowered from the vertical launch position. And Shotwell said if they have to replace the nozzle, the launch would be no earlier than Friday, Dec. 10. –Nancy Atkinson / Universe Today
So You Think You Can Solve a Cosmology Puzzle? – Cosmologists have come up with a new way to solve their problems. They are inviting scientists, including those from totally unrelated fields, to participate in a grand competition. The idea is to spur outside interest in one of cosmology’s trickiest problems — measuring the invisible dark matter and dark energy that permeate our universe. –NASA/JPL
The Milky Way Project is live – The Milky Way Project is a joint venture between the Adler Planetarium in Chicago and the Zooniverse. So how can you help? Using our bubble-drawing interface, our hope is that you will find bubbles and note any important or unusual characteristics. For example, if you can see what looks like a knot in the bubble, flag it! This knot might tell us something about how the bubble is affecting star formation in the region. –Zooniverse
A HUGE looping prominence on the Sun! – That was taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory at about 17:50 UT, or just an hour or so ago as I post this. Wow! That prominence must be nearly a million kilometers across! [Update: Geeked on Goddard estimates it at 700,000 km.] Mind you, on the scale of this image, the entire Earth would be about 5 pixels in size. –Phil Plait / Bad Astronomy
The launch of Apollo 17 - December 7th 1972. Onboard are astronauts Gene Cernan (CDR) Ron Evans (CMP) and Jack Schmitt (LMP). The first and only Saturn V night launch - Film coverage starts at T-3:04 through 1st stage Sep. Audio begins with the KSC PAO through to Tower Clear when it switches to the Command Module onboard recorder tapes (No PAO just the comments made by the crew). The countdown is the raw TV feed from KSC and the launch is NASA stock footage.
Launch of Apollo 17
Space Shuttle Discovery
Gallery Pick of the Day
On December 16, 1992, 8 days after its encounter with Earth, the Galileo spacecraft looked back from a distance of about 6.2 million kilometers to capture this remarkable view of the Moon in orbit about Earth - Credit: NASA/JPL
Early morning on Tuesday, July 14 at 03:35 UTC SpaceX started a new and exciting chapter in spaceflight history by successfully launching Falcon 1, the first ever privately developed rocket, into a stable Earth’s orbit from the SpaceX’s launch pad on Omelek Island, at Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Falcon 1 carries Malaysia’s satellite RazakSAT with a high-resolution camera on board. SpaceX has set another milestone after the success story of the SpaceShipOne which completed the first ever privately funded (sub-orbital) human spaceflight on June 21, 2004.
Founded in 2002, the SpaceX team has now over 700 members who work on developing a family of launch vehicles and spacecrafts intended to increase the reliability and reduce the cost of both manned and unmanned space transportation. With the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 vehicles, SpaceX offers highly reliable/cost-efficient launch capabilities for spacecraft insertion into any orbital altitude and inclination.
Starting in 2010, SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft will provide Earth–to-LEO transport of pressurized and unpressurized cargo, including resupply to the space station. One of the Detailed Test Objectives (DTO) of the STS-127 mission, delayed for the fifth time due to weather, is the investigation of “DragonEye” – a pulsed laser navigation senser that SpaceX’s Dragon vehilce will use to approach the ISS.