The New Den
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Exploring the cosmos, thinking critically.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLA. — From between lightning masts surrounding the launch pad, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft roars into the blue sky aboard an Atlas V rocket spewing flames and smoke. Liftoff was on time at 2 p.m. EST from Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This was the third launch attempt in as many days after scrubs due to weather concerns. The compact, 1,050-pound piano-sized probe will get a boost from a kick-stage solid propellant motor for its journey to Pluto. New Horizons will be the fastest spacecraft ever launched, reaching lunar orbit distance in just nine hours and passing Jupiter 13 months later. The New Horizons science payload, developed under direction of Southwest Research Institute, includes imaging infrared and ultraviolet spectrometers, a multi-color camera, a long-range telescopic camera, two particle spectrometers, a space-dust detector and a radio science experiment. The dust counter was designed and built by students at the University of Colorado, Boulder. The launch at this time allows New Horizons to fly past Jupiter in early 2007 and use the planet’s gravity as a slingshot toward Pluto. The Jupiter flyby trims the trip to Pluto by as many as five years and provides opportunities to test the spacecraft’s instruments and flyby capabilities on the Jupiter system. New Horizons could reach the Pluto system as early as mid-2015, conducting a five-month-long study possible only from the close-up vantage of a spacecraft.
Success! NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida aboard a fast-moving Atlas V rocket. It's headed for a distant rendezvous with the mysterious planet Pluto almost a decade from now.
The third time was the charm for New Horizons. Two consecutive launch attempts earlier in the week were foiled by high winds at the launch site and a power outage at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., which operates the spacecraft now that the mission is underway.
As the first spacecraft to visit Pluto and its moon Charon, New Horizons looks to unlock one of the solar system's last, great planetary secrets. After launch aboard an Atlas V, the New Horizons spacecraft will cross the entire span of the solar system and conduct flyby studies of Pluto and Charon in 2015. The seven science instruments on the piano-sized probe will shed light on the bodies' surface properties, geology, interior makeup and atmospheres.
The first 13 months of the mission include spacecraft and instrument checkouts, instrument calibrations and trajectory correction maneuvers. There will also be rehearsals for an encounter with Jupiter in spring 2007, in which the giant planet will provide a slingshot-like gravity boost that could save New Horizons up to three years of flight time. This encounter will be followed by an approximately 8-year interplanetary cruise to Pluto.
Scientists have confirmed that samples from a comet and interstellar dust have been returned to Earth by the Stardust spacecraft.
The scientist team opened the Stardust sample return capsule on Tuesday in a special facility at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC), Houston.
"The collection of cometary particles has exceeded our expectations," said Dr. Donald Brownlee, Stardust principal investigator from the University of Washington, Seattle. "We were absolutely thrilled to see thousands of impacts on the aerogel."
Inside the capsule, a tennis racket-like sample tray holds the particles captured in a gel as the spacecraft flew within 149 miles of comet Wild 2 in January 2004. An opposite side of the tray holds interstellar dust particles caught streaming through the solar system by Stardust during its seven-year journey. The team is analyzing the particle capture cells and removing individual grains of comet and interstellar dust. They will be sent to select investigators worldwide.
Leaders of the science and curation teams will participate in a press conference at 10 a.m. CST Thursday from JSC. The briefing will be broadcast on NASA Television and question-and-answer capability for reporters is available from participating NASA centers. Key scientists also will be available for live interviews via satellite from 4 p.m.-6 p.m. CST Thursday.
Participants in the Thursday news conference will include:
Video of the opening of the Stardust science canister and initial assessment of its contents will air on the NASA Television's Video File beginning at 2 p.m. CST today.
- Dr. Donald Brownlee, Principal Investigator, University of Washington
- Dr. Peter Tsou, Deputy Principal Investigator, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
- Dr. Michael Zolensky, Stardust Curator and Co-investigator, JSC
- Dr. Carlton Allen, Astromaterials Curator, JSC
Next Launch Attempt: Thursday, Jan. 19
Today's planned launch of an Atlas V carrying NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has been delayed for at least one more day. The Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory, which operates the spacecraft and is managing the mission, experienced a power outage early this morning that has not yet been resolved. Launch is now set for Thursday, Jan. 19, during a window extending from 1:08 p.m. - 3:07 p.m. EST.
|Launch Date||Arrival Year|
|Jan. 19 - 28||2015|
|Jan. 29 - 31||2016|
|Feb. 1 - 2||2017|
|Feb. 3 - 8||2018|
|Feb. 9 - 11||2019|
|Feb. 13 - 14||2020|
No-Go for New Horizons
Today's planned launch of an Atlas V carrying NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has been scrubbed due to excessive ground winds at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Launch managers extended the countdown several times, hoping the upper level and ground winds would die down, but the winds surpassed limits during the final minutes prior to liftoff. NASA will try again tomorrow, Jan. 18, during a launch window extending from 1:16 p.m. - 3:15 p.m. EST.
New Horizons Update
On Tuesday, Jan. 17, at 10:39 a.m., Pad 41 will be cleared of personnel in preparation for cryogenic fueling operations which are scheduled to begin at L-2 hours, or 11:24 a.m.
New Horizons Mission
NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will be the first spacecraft to visit Pluto and its moon Charon. No spacecraft has ever visited the planet, and not even the Hubble Space Telescope can spot details on its rocky, icy surface. Yet with the New Horizons mission, now in development and planning for liftoff January 2006 from Launch Complex 41 at the Kennedy Space Center, NASA looks to unlock one of the solar system's last, great planetary secrets.
After launch aboard an Atlas V, New Horizons would cross the entire span of the solar system -- in record time -- and conduct flyby studies of Pluto and its moon, Charon, in 2015. The seven science instruments on the piano-sized probe would shed light on the bodies' surface properties, geology, interior makeup and atmospheres.
This image was taken by the DC-8 Stardust Observation Campaign flight. It shows Stardust as it is moving through the atmosphere.
NASA's Stardust Passes Moon, Just Hours Away From Earth Return
Less than one day of space travel separates Earth and history's first comet sample return mission. Today at 9:30 a.m. Pacific time (10:30 a.m. Mountain time), the Stardust spacecraft will cross the moon's orbit as the craft makes its way toward Earth.
The final 400,000 kilometers (249,000 miles) of the mission to return a capsule containing cometary particles to Earth will take just 16 hours and 27 minutes. It took the Apollo astronauts about three days to make the same journey.
"Our entire flight and recovery team will be watching this final leg of our flight with tremendous expectation as we implement a precise celestial ballet in delivering our capsule to Earth," said Stardust Project Manager Tom Duxbury of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "We feel like parents awaiting the return of a child who left us young and innocent, who now returns holding answers to the most profound questions of our solar system."
Prior to passing the moon's orbit, the spacecraft performed a final maneuver to place it on a precise path to reach its landing target on the Utah Test and Training Range. The burn, which took place yesterday at 8:53 p.m. Pacific time (9:53 p.m. Mountain time), took 58.5 seconds to complete and changed the spacecraft's velocity by 2.9 mph. At the time of the burn the spacecraft was about 706,000 kilometers (439,000 miles) from Earth.
NASA's Stardust mission return capsule will land Sunday, Jan. 15, at approximately 5:12 a.m. Eastern time on the Utah Test and Training Range. Stardust is completing a 2.88 billion mile round-trip odyssey to capture and return cometary and interstellar dust particles to Earth.
The spacecraft performs its last maneuver to put it on the correct path?to enter Earth's atmosphere on Friday, Jan. 13, at 8:53 p.m. Pacific time (9:53 p.m. Mountain time). The speed of the sample return capsule as it enters Earth's atmosphere at 46,440 kilometers per hour (28,860 miles per hour) will be the greatest of any human-made object on record. The previous record was set in May 1969 by the returning Apollo 10 command module.
The capsule will release a parachute at approximately 32 kilometers (105,000 feet) and descend to the salt flats. Weather permitting, it will be recovered by helicopter teams and taken to a cleanroom at the Michael Army Air Field, Dugway Proving Ground, for initial processing.
Stardust launched on Feb. 7, 1999, and encountered comet Wild 2 on Jan. 2, 2004. It flew less than 241 kilometers (150 miles) from the comet's nucleus to capture tiny grains of dust. During the voyage, the spacecraft captured bits of interstellar dust streaming into the solar system from other parts of the galaxy. Scientists believe these precious samples will help provide answers to fundamental questions about comets and the origins of the solar system.Those living out west have a chance to view Stardust's re-entry, weather permitting. Here's a map courtesy of Spaceweather.com showing the flightpath. As Dr. Phillips notes:
NASA TV coverage of the landing starts Sunday at 1:30 a.m. Pacific time (2:30 a.m. Mountain time) on the Public (101), Education (102) and Media (103) channels. NASA TV is available on an MPEG-2 digital C-band signal accessed via satellite AMC-6, at 72 degrees west longitude, transponder 17C, 4040 MHz, vertical polarization. In Alaska and Hawaii, it's available on AMC-7 at 137 degrees west longitude, transponder 18C, at 4060 MHz, horizontal polarization. For NASA TV information and schedules on the Web, visit http://www.nasa.gov/ntv .
The last few hours of the Stardust mission will be filled with significant milestones. On Jan. 14 at 11:23 pm EST mission controllers will command the spacecraft to begin the computer-controlled sequence that will release the sample return capsule. On Jan. 15 at 12:56 am EST the Stardust spacecraft will complete the sequence by severing the umbilical cables between spacecraft and capsule. One minute later, springs aboard the spacecraft will literally push the capsule away. Fifteen minutes after release - while the sample return capsule continues its trajectory towards the Utah Test and Training Range, the Stardust spacecraft will perform a maneuver to place it in orbit around the Sun.
At 4:57 am EST, four hours after being released by the Stardust spacecraft, the capsule will enter Earth's atmosphere at an altitude of 125 kilometers (410,000 feet) over Northern Calif. At this point it will be 20 kilometers (12.43 miles) east of the coast and 22 kilometers (13.67 miles) south of the Oregon-California border. The velocity of the sample return capsule as it enters Earth's atmosphere at 46,440 kilometers per hour (28,860 miles per hour) will be the greatest of any human-made object on record. This will surpass the record set in May 1969 during the return of the Apollo 10 command module.
The capsule will release a drogue parachute at an altitude of approximately 32 kilometers (105,000 feet). Once the capsule has descended to an altitude of about 3 kilometers (10,000 feet) at 5:05 a.m. EST, the main parachute will deploy. The capsule is scheduled to land on the salt flats of the Utah Test and Training Range at 5:12 a.m. EST.
If weather conditions allow, the recovery team will be flown by helicopter to recover the capsule and fly it to the U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, for initial processing. If weather does not allow helicopters to fly, special off-road vehicles will be used to transport the recovery team to retrieve the capsule and return it to Dugway. The collector grid with cometary and interstellar samples will be moved to a special laboratory at NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, where they will be preserved and studied by scientists.
The best observing sites: near Carlin and Elko, Nevada, where the man-made meteor is expected to shine as much as 60 times brighter than Venus. The fireball should be visible from parts of Oregon, Idaho and Utah as well as California and Nevada.
In one of the most detailed astronomical images ever produced, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captured an unprecedented look at the Orion Nebula. This turbulent star formation region is one of astronomy's most dramatic and photogenic celestial objects.
"Orion is a bustling cauldron of activity. This new large-scale Hubble image of the region reveals a treasure-house of beauty and astonishing detail for comprehensive scientific study," said Jennifer Wiseman, NASA's Hubble program scientist.
The crisp image is a tapestry of star formation. It varies from jets fired by stars still embedded in their dust and gas cocoons to disks of material encircling young stars that could be the building blocks of future solar systems.
In a mosaic containing a billion pixels, Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys uncovered thousands of stars never seen before in visible light. Some are merely one-hundredth the brightness of previously viewed Orion stars.
Among the stars Hubble spotted for the first time in visible light in Orion were young brown dwarfs and a small population of possible binary brown dwarfs (two brown dwarfs orbiting each other). Brown dwarfs are so-called "failed stars." These cool objects are too small to be ordinary stars, because they cannot sustain nuclear fusion in their cores the way the sun does. Comparing the characteristics of newborn stars and brown dwarfs in their natal environment provides unique information about how they form.
"The wealth of information in this Hubble survey, including seeing stars of all sizes in one dense place, provides an extraordinary opportunity to study star formation," said observation leader Massimo Robberto of the Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore. "Our goal is to calculate the masses and ages for these young stars, so that we can map their history and get a general scenario of the star formation in that region. We can then sort the stars by mass and age and look for trends."
"In this bowl of stars we see the entire formation history of Orion printed into the features of the nebula: arcs, blobs, pillars, and rings of dust that resemble cigar smoke," Robberto said. "Each one tells a story of stellar winds from young stars that impact the environment and the material ejected from other stars. This appears to be a typical star-forming environment. Our sun may have been born 4.5 billion years ago in a cloud like this one."
This extensive study took 105 Hubble orbits to complete. All imaging instruments aboard the telescope were used simultaneously to study Orion. The Advanced Camera mosaic covers approximately the apparent angular size of the full moon.
An analysis of the Hubble Space Telescope's deepest view of the universe offers compelling evidence that monster black holes in the centers of galaxies were not born big but grew over time through repeated galactic mergers.
"By studying distant galaxies in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF), we have the first statistical evidence that supermassive black-hole growth is linked to the process of galaxy assembly," said astronomer Rogier Windhorst, of Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz., and a member of the two teams that conducted the analysis. "Black holes grow by drawing in stars, gas, and dust. These morsels come more plentifully within their reach when galaxies merge."
The two teams will present their results in a press conference on Jan. 10 at the 207th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington, D.C.
The HUDF studies also confirm the predictions of recent computer simulations by Lars Hernquist, Philip Hopkins, Tiziana di Matteo, and Volker Springel of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., that newly merging galaxies are enshrouded in so much dust that astronomers cannot see the black-hole feeding frenzy. The computer simulations, as supported by Hubble, suggest that it takes hundreds of millions to a billion years before enough dust clears so that astronomers can see the black holes feasting on stars and gas from the merger. The telltale sign that black holes are dining is seeing light from galaxies that varies with time.
The two HUDF teams believe they are seeing two distinct phases in galaxy evolution: the first phase —- the tadpole stage —- representing the early-merging systems where central black holes are still enshrouded in dust, and the much later "variable-object phase," in which the merged system has cleared out enough gas for the inner accretion disk around the black hole to become visible.
"The fact that these phases were almost entirely separate was a surprise, because it is commonly believed that galaxy mergers and central black-hole activity are closely related. Our nearby universe has mature galaxies, but in order to understand how they formed and evolved, we must study them over time," Windhorst explained. "The HUDF provides an actual look back in time to see snapshots of early galaxies so that we can study them when they were young."
A link between the growth of galaxies through mergers and the feeding of the central black holes has long been suspected. The evidence, however, has been inconclusive for many years. "The HUDF has provided very high-quality information. It is the first data we could use to test this theory, since it allowed us to study about 5,000 distant galaxies over a period of four months," said Seth Cohen of Arizona State University and leader of one of the teams.
The HUDF observations have now shed light on how the growth of monster black holes kept pace with that of galaxies. A team of astronomers, led by Amber Straughn of Arizona State University, searched the HUDF for "tadpole galaxies," so-called because they have bright knots and tails caused by mergers. These features are produced when the galaxies lose their gravitational grip on their stars, spewing some of those stars into space. The team found about 165 tadpole galaxies, representing about 6 percent of the 2,700 galaxies in the tadpole galaxy study.
"To our surprise, however, these tadpole objects did not show any fluctuation in brightness," Straughn said. "The flickering light — when it is present — comes from the material swirling around an accretion disk surrounding a black hole. The material is heated and begins to glow. As it spirals down toward the black hole, it can rapidly change in brightness. This study of tadpole galaxies suggests that black holes in newly merging galaxies are enshrouded in dust, and therefore, we cannot see them accreting material."
Cohen's team studied the brightness of about 4,600 HUDF objects over several weeks to many months. The Hubble team found that about 45 (non-tadpole) objects, representing 1 percent of the faint galaxies in the study, fluctuated significantly in brightness over time. This result indicates that the galaxies probably contain supermassive black holes that are feeding on stars or gas.
"A black hole's typical mealtime lasts at least a few dozen million years," Windhorst said. "This is equivalent to black holes spending no more than 15 minutes per day eating all their food —- a veritable fast food diet."
The HUDF analysis also reinforces previous Hubble telescope studies of monster black holes in the centers of nearby, massive galaxies. Those studies showed a close relationship between the mass of a galaxy's "central bulge" of stars and that of the central black hole. Galaxies today have central black holes with masses ranging from a few million to a few billion solar masses.
9/11 Victims Speak Out in New Book
"Above Us Only Sky: A View of 9/11 from the Spirit World,” is the first to channel the accounts of 9/11 from its victims.
Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) January 6, 2006 -- Author and spiritual medium Sarah Price has released “Above Us Only Sky: A View of 9/11 from the Spirit World,” her new book comprising channeled messages from victims of 9/11 and “spirit witnesses.” The book is the first to bring the words of the victims to the public post-9/11.
The book was written after “vivid dreams and a need to be of help to 9/11 victims became overwhelming and unavoidable,” Price says. Soon, she was inundated by messages that needed to be passed on, and the book was born.
The 9/11 victim chapters are divided into seven sections: Flt. 11, Flt. 93, Flt. 77, Flight 175, The Pentagon, The Rescue Workers, and The World Trade Center Towers. The last section comprises the accounts of victims who had to leap from the towers. For this reason, only first names are used.
Among the spirit witnesses are Anne Frank, Christopher Reeve, President John F. Kennedy, John Lennon and NBC journalist David Bloom, who bring their own insights on the events of 9/11 and advice on life in general."
My next book is channeled messages from servicemen and women who have passed away in the war in Iraq. I am working directly with the families on this project, so if you have lost a family member in the war and would like to participate, please e-mail me. 50% of the proceeds will go to American Gold Star Mothers, to help with sending supplies to service members who are still in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Sooner or later we all will face this inevitability [death], starting, in the normal course of events, with the loss of our parents, then siblings and friends, and eventually ourselves. It is a grim outcome under the best of circumstances, made all the worse when death comes early or accidentally to those whose "time was not up." As those who traffic in the business of loss, death, and grief know all too well, we are often at our most vulnerable at such times. Giving deep thought to this reality can cause the most controlled and rational among us to succumb to our emotions.
The reason John Edward, James Van Praagh, and the other so-called mediums are unethical and dangerous is that they are not helping anyone in what they are doing. They are simply preying on the emotions of grieving people. As all loss, death, and grief counselors know, the best way to deal with death is to face it head on. Death is a part of life, and pretending that the dead are gathering in a television studio in New York to talk twaddle with a former ballroom-dance instructor is an insult to the intelligence and humanity of the living.
We tend to think of the North Star, Polaris, as a steady, solitary point of light that guided sailors in ages past. But there is more to the North Star than meets the eye. The North Star is actually a triple star system. And while one companion can be seen easily through small telescopes, the other hugs Polaris so tightly that it has never been seen – until now.
By stretching the capabilities of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to the limit, astronomers have photographed the close companion of Polaris for the first time. They presented their findings today in a press conference at the 207th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington, D.C.
"The star we observed is so close to Polaris that we needed every available bit of Hubble's resolution to see it," said Smithsonian astronomer Nancy Evans (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics). The companion proved to be less than two-tenths of an arcsecond from Polaris — an incredibly tiny angle equivalent to the apparent diameter of a quarter located 19 miles away. At the system's distance of 430 light-years, that translates into a separation of about 2 billion miles.
"The brightness difference between the two stars made it even more difficult to resolve them," stated Howard Bond of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). Polaris is a supergiant more than two thousand times brighter than the Sun, while its companion is a main-sequence star. "With Hubble, we've pulled the North Star's companion out of the shadows and into the spotlight."
By watching the motion of the companion star, Evans and her colleagues expect to learn not only the stars' orbits but also their masses. Measuring the mass of a star is one of the most difficult tasks facing stellar astronomers.
Astronomers want to determine the mass of Polaris accurately, because it is the nearest Cepheid variable star. Cepheids' brightness variations are used to measure the distances of galaxies and the expansion rate of the universe, so it is essential to understand their physics and evolution. Knowing their mass is the most important ingredient in this understanding.
"Studying binary stars is the best available way to measure the masses of stars," said science team member Gail Schaefer of STScI.
"We only have the binary stars that nature provided us," added Bond. "With the best instruments like Hubble, we can push farther into space and study more of them up close."
The researchers plan to continue observing the Polaris system for several years. In that time, the movement of the small companion in its 30-year orbit around the primary should be detectable.
"Our ultimate goal is the get an accurate mass for Polaris," said Evans. "To do that, the next milestone is to measure the motion of the companion in its orbit."