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NASA's Final Flight on Friday 07/08/11 - Jul 3, 2011 at 3:07PM
Melanie Markman
133 Posts

It has been a while since I've written a blog related to astronomy mainly because I've been more focused on trying to help students find scholarships in our tight economy.  However, I thought it was important to note that this week NASA's final flight will take place.  

On Friday, July 8th, a small crew of four will board the space shuttle Atlantis for a 12 day mission.  This mission will mark the end of the space shuttle program.  During this mission which is scheduled to launch at 11:26am, the Atlantis will deliver a year's worth of supplies to the International Space Station. The crew will also deliver spare parts and a robotic-arm support for a spacewalk. The crew will bring home some broken equipment, junk for disposal and probably some mixed emotions as the program comes to an end.

Including this final trip for the Atlantis, NASA's track record will include:

    *135 shuttle missions
    *33 flights for the Atlantis  and
    *37 shuttle visits to help build or supply the International Space Station.

News articles suggest that NASA is under direction to aim beyond Earth's orbit, which could mean ultimately sending astronauts to an asteroid or Mars.

So, it remains to be seen what's in store for NASA next.  But one thing is pretty certain and that is we won't see anymore space shuttles except in museums.

Watching Northern Mars Landscape Change - Feb 6, 2011 at 4:14PM
Melanie Markman
133 Posts

On Mars there are several sand dunes.  These dunes ban around the northern polar cap, and are as large as Texas.  There is new evidence to suggest that these bans of sand dunes are among the most active of the Martian landscape.

HiRISE for short or  High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment  reached Mars nearly five years ago.  HiRISE was sent with the purpose of documenting changes in the Martian landscape, but has not documented many of the changes appearing within these sand dunes.  Scientist had come to assume that these dunes were stable and had been formed long ago, by a stronger set of winds.  Scientists are now seeing a different story with four years of images from the HiRISE.

HiRISE Deputy Principal Investigator Candice Hansen and other scientists have identified the seasonal coming and going of carbon dioxide ice, and the ice has been shown to facilitate change.  The carbon dioxide ice forms in the Martian winter and converts back to a gaseous state during the spring.  The change that occurs with the carbon dioxide from ice to gas is associated with destabilizing the sand dunes and creating massive avalanches with new alcoves.

Wind drives other changes on the land.  Winds powerful enough to erase the avalanches new alcoves have been seen in as little as one Mars year, or two Earth years.  The models of Mars do not predict the wind speed, and data from Mars Landers shows that high winds are rare on Mars.

While the role of the carbon dioxide ice is getting clearer to scientists there is still much to be discovered about the landscape of Mars.  Researchers are still relying on the HiRISE to collect data to understand the changes within these sand dunes and better understand Mars Atmosphere.

The goal of understanding the Martian atmosphere now is to be able to better understand Mars as it was formed.  Through a more thorough understanding of Mars do scientists gain a more complete picture of our Solar System and hopefully new insights for here on Earth.

NASA Spacecraft Prepares to Meet a Comet - Jan 29, 2011 at 8:05PM
Melanie Markman
133 Posts

NASA's Stardust-Next spacecraft is nearing the comet Temple-1.  The meeting with the comet will appear on February 14th at approximately  11:37pm E.S.T.

The importance of this mission is that for the first time scientists will be able to look at the changes on a comet's surface after the comet has completed orbiting around the sun.  During the mission the spacecraft will take high resolution photographs, and attempt to measure the composition, distribution, and material around the comet's nucleus.  This information will then be used to provide insight on how this comet was formed, and how the Jupiter – family of comets is formed.

The spacecraft is on the opposite side of the solar system waiting for the encounter.  The spacecraft and the comet will pass by one another, moving in opposite directions.   During this encounter the spacecraft will take 72 images of the comet, that will be transmitted back to earth.

In order to move Stardust-Next closer to the comet there are 3 additional maneuvers that have to take place.  This includes a move that will move Stardust-Next as close to the sun as Mars.

This is not Stardust-Next's first mission taking data from a comet; in 2004 it collected dust from the comet Wild 2.  

Studying comets will allow scientists to understand a process that occurred 4.5 billion years ago, and provide other clues to the intricacies of our universe.

New Way To View Distant Galaxies - Nov 7, 2010 at 3:07PM
Melanie Markman
133 Posts

Astronomers discovered a new way of finding cosmic zoom lenses.  The cosmic lenses, discovered with the European Space Agency's Herschel Space Observatory, enabling views of galaxies in the distant universe otherwise unachievable.  Ultimately the result will be new data into how galaxies have evolved over the course of time.  The first set of data, from the Hershel-ATLAS project, has been published in the scientific journal called 'Science' on November 5, 2010.

Dr Mattia Negrello, of the Open University and lead researcher of the study, is quoted as saying, "Our survey of the sky looks for sources of sub-millimetre light. The big breakthrough is that we have discovered that many of the brightest sources are being magnified by lenses, which means that we no longer have to rely on the rather inefficient methods of finding lenses which are used at visible and radio wavelengths."

Amazingly, thousands of galaxy images from The Herschel-ATLAS, are so distant that the light has taken billions of years to reach Earth. Dr Negrello and his team investigated five  bright objects in the sky. Normally, these bright objects viewed wtih optical telescopes on the Earth would not be bright at the far-infrared wavelengths observed by Herschel. This led Dr. Negrello and his team to infer that the galaxies seen in visible light might be gravitational lenses magnifying much more distant galaxies seen by Herschel.

To determine the true distances to the Herschel sources behind the lenses, Negrello and his team searched for a tell-tale signature of molecular gas. Using radio and sub-millimetre telescopes, they demonstrated that the galaxies are seen as if the Universe was just 2-4 billion years old,  This is less than a third of the Universe's current age. The galaxies seen by optical telescopes are much closer, each in a position to create a gravitational lens.

Dr Negrello said: "Previous searches for magnified galaxies have targeted clusters of galaxies where the huge mass of the cluster makes the gravitational lensing effect unavoidable. Our results show that gravitational lensing is at work in not just a few, but in all of the distant and bright galaxies seen by Herschel."

More detail can be found at:

NASA in Transition - Oct 9, 2010 at 4:18PM
Melanie Markman
133 Posts

Congress passed a new NASA authorization bill last week, just in time for NASA to ring in the birthday of the agency's creation on October 1st.  However, this year NASA finds itself shifting goals to explore asteroids and Mars.  The Bush administration had approved of NASA having astronauts return to the moon in 2020.

However, the new goal outlined by President Obama is to send explorers to an asteroid by 2025 and then to Mars in the 2030's.  The new direction comes as NASA marks the 52nd anniversary of space exploration.  The new bill according to NASA's Deputy Chief Lori Gaver is a good birthday present in the sense that the agency can now have a clearer picture of what direction the agency is headed.

The agency however, has not had a smooth transition and is still in for a rough time.  With the shuttle program winding down there are two more approved missions, with a third one just approved in the new bill before the three – orbiter fleet retires for good.  On September 30th NASA contractor Lockheed Martin announced it has finished its tank production duties after 37 years.  Lockheed had been in charge of building the external fuel tanks for the shuttles.

NASA has also managed to lay down the groundwork for better partnerships with commercial
spaceflight companies seeing as NASA itself will no longer be sending shuttles into space.  This has been a huge change for NASA and one that was often full of confusion while waiting for the bill outlining NASA's future to be passed.

NASA of course has a glorious past filled with human space flight and exploration they have expectations to live up to in the next fifty years.


NASA’s Kepler Spacecraft Discovers New Planets - Aug 29, 2010 at 5:03PM
Melanie Markman
133 Posts

NASA's Kepler spacecraft discovered two new planets.  These planets are rotating around the same star, like our solar system does.  This is the first confirmed planetary system that NASA has found that acts similar to ours.

The Kepler craft was a project launched by NASA searching for planets outside our solar system that were earthlike in nature.  The find of these two planets now named Kepler-9b and Kepler-9c comes after searching through more than 156,000 stars.

The spacecraft uses precise cameras that measures the decreases in the stars' brightness that occur when a planet crosses the stars' path.  The size of the planet can be calculated from these measurements as well.

After the data is gathered it is reviewed by the Kepler team.  The team looks for possible planets that could be orbiting around a star, which they then have the craft go and gather additional data to confirm or deny the findings.

Scientists have been able to gather additional information from the W.M Keck Observatory in Hawaii.  The scientists have observed a few things regarding Kepler-9b and Kepler-9c.  The Kepler-9b is the larger of the two planets, and both have a mass close to that of Saturn.  Kepler-9b lies closer to the star it revolves around with an orbit of 19 days.  While Kepler-9c orbits around the star in 38 days.

Kepler's discovery of these to planets is significant because it is "the first clear detection of significant changes in the intervals from one planetary transit to the next, what we call transit timing variations" (


additional info:

Astronauts Say Space Station Repair a Success - Aug 22, 2010 at 8:59PM
Melanie Markman
133 Posts

The astronauts on the International Space Station say the repair they made is a success.  After a coolant pump broke on July 31st the astronauts were forced to make several space walks in an attempt to fix the pump.

The astronauts on the space station had been forced to shut down experiments, labs, and backup systems to keep the station from overheating.  NASA had engineers on the Earth communicating with the astronauts in order to help repair the coolant pump.

After three space walks the astronauts are now calling the repairs a success.  The broken coolant pump had to be replaced with a spare on the space station.

Post edited August 22, 2010 at 8:45 PM EST.

A Fourth Spacewalk May Be Needed to fix the International Space Station - Aug 15, 2010 at 6:25PM
Melanie Markman
133 Posts

The coolant pump that broke on July 31, 2010 is still yet to be replaced.  The new pump is located conveniently in storage on the International Space Station in case of failure so at least NASA doesn't have to deliver the new pump!  

The pump uses liquid ammonia to cool the different equipment on the International Space Station.  Since the original pump failed, some experiments and back-up systems on board the space station have been shut off.

The ongoing effort to fix the problem has been plagued with several setbacks which have caused the need for so many space walks.  On the first spacewalk an unexpected but large ammonia leak took place and it caused the hose to stick and freeze the pump in place.

On the second spacewalk astronauts were able to shut off other valves that carried ammonia to the leaking pump.  The astronauts also managed to remove the broken pump paving the way for the instillation of the new pump.  NASA has designed a series of plans for the astronauts to keep the ammonia leak to a minimum during the instillation process.

The third spacewalk was delayed, so that the astronauts had time to rest before continuing the tedious instillation process.  It also gave NASA time to draw up some more repair plans for the crew.  This third spacewalk was originally scheduled for Sunday, August 15, 2010, but is now re-scheduled for Wednesday, August 18, 2010 and should result in the astronauts starting to install the new coolant pump.  If all goes well this is expected to only take a day.  However NASA is being cautious and is planning on a fourth spacewalk to complete the process.

NASA To Do A Third Spacewalk to Repair Cooling System - Aug 8, 2010 at 2:28PM
Melanie Markman
133 Posts

The International Space Station's cooling system broke when a cooling pump failed on July 31, 2010.  Astronauts were challenged to movethe cooling pump out of place, however upon doing so they found an ammonia leak.  This leak stalled the second unplanned space walk to repair the problem and a third spacewalk is now needed.

Upon finding the leak on the second space walk,  mission control told the astronauts to pack up for the day.  Without swapinng the pump on their second unplanned spacewalk, the astronauts returned to the space station with:

• half their systems running,
• experiments shut down and
• back up systems off

to prevent the space station from overheating.  They also returned with a record of the sixth longest space walk in history lasting eight hours and three minutes.

NASA engineers are hoping to have the problem fixed soon.  On the off chance that the cooling pump failed they had drawn up a plan to repair the system.  The pump will be replaced with one of four stored in the orbitting lab.  Each pump is approximently the size of a laundry dryer and weighs 780lbs.

Talks to prepair the space station for further construction work were originally schedualed for Thursday and have been postponed.  The NASA team is trying to repair the problem as quick as possilbe.  However, they are being careful to not exhaust the crew.

To read more visit:

“A Perfect STORRM” - Aug 1, 2010 at 3:09PM
Melanie Markman
133 Posts

A new technology was unveiled on July 20th that is supposed to make it easier and safer to dock into the International Space Station.  This new sensor was created by NASA, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, and Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.

This new docking system consists of sensors that will provide high definition three dimensional images to the crew.  The sensors include high definition camera and flight software that work together to provide images in real time.  The image quality is sixteen times better than the current docking software.  The sensors range also extends outward three miles to start providing data about docking sooner than the current software.

This technology is ready to be tested in space, and it is planned to be tested aboard the STS-134 which is the final shuttle mission.

NASA explained during the mission how the crew would test the new sensors; "As part of the Sensor Test for Orion Relative Navigation Risk Mitigation (STORRM) Development Test Objective (DTO). on Flight Day 11 of the mission, the shuttle crew will conduct an unprecedented on-orbit maneuver; they will undock from the space station and then re-rendezvous with the station on an Orion-like approach."

A demonstration of this technology was held at Ball Aerospace & Technologies.  This demonstration allowed the STORRM team a chance to operate the new technology before going into space.

For more on this ambitious project go to

NASA Saves Sea Turtles - Jul 18, 2010 at 3:07PM
Melanie Markman
133 Posts

After the oil slick in the gulf hit the beaches of Florida, NASA pitched in rescuing endangered baby sea turtles.  The Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles found a safe haven at the Kennedy Space Center.   Twenty-two of these turtles were released after being hatched at the space center.  These turtles had been rescued as eggs from a nest on the Walton County beaches.

The first turtles that hatched were released on July 11, 2010.  The relocation effort of these turtles along with the other seven hundred rescued nests is a collaboration of efforts with "NASA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the National Park Service, NOAA, conservationists, and FedEx," according to

The effort will move the endangered turtles along the coasts of Alabama to Florida, in order to protect them.  This effort will be carried out over the next several months.

While the turtles that first hatched were the Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles, other turtles that may be collected and hatched in this effort are loggerhead turtles and leatherback turtles.  NASA released a statement about the turtles and was happy with their progress and their survival during the excavation, and transport across the state.

Many of us probably wouldn't have envisioned NASA being involved in this type of project.  This begs the question; what's next for NASA?

NASA Delays the End of the Shuttle Program - Jul 8, 2010 at 9:03PM
Melanie Markman
133 Posts

There has been much uproar over NASA's future as President Obama opted for the cancelation of the shuttle program.  The future of NASA has been talked about at length, mostly regarding what NASA will continue to do without the shuttle program.

The space shuttle managers have pushed back the remaining two flights.  The last of the remaining flights will now be planned for late Febuary in 2011.  The two ships that have missions left are the Discovery and the Endevor.  This is due to the scheduling of delivering cargo to the Internation Space Station.  NASA mentioned in an earlier statement in late such a delay in ending the shuttle program could take place.

The Discovery's launch has been pushed back from September to November.  The Discovery is to carry a shuttle cargo pod, for use as permanint storage.  It is also to carry the Robonaut 2.  The Robonaut is a prototype robot that is to assist the astronauts in space.  The Discovery has had delays in having its cargo prepaired however, causing the domino effect with the last mission of the Endevor.

The Endevor now set to launch in late Febuary is to carry a astrophysics experiment with a price tag of 1.5 billion dollars.  The experiment is a piece of equipment called an Alpha Magnetic Spectromiter.  The experiment will be run by astronauts on the international space station.

These delays are of some concern because the President has cut the NASA budget.  NASA spends 200 million dollars a month maintaining the shuttle fleet.  President Obama has approved 600 million dollars in the budget for the 2011 year. Yet, NASA says they have enough funds to keep the program running through 2011.

NASA is also asking for approval from the White House to let the Atlantis fly one last mission.  Whether this will go through or not is an unknown.

NASA has also said its new mission is to land on an astroid and then Mars.  NASA wants to land on an astroid by 2025 and then set its focus on Mars.

What's In Store for NASA Now? - Jun 26, 2010 at 5:57PM
Melanie Markman
133 Posts

With the mission of the Atlantis over, and the shuttle program winding down many are wondering what is next for NASA?  President Obama has discussed the future of NASA several times, including the elimination of the shuttle program.  By eliminating the program Obama revealed plans that privatized space craft would carry astronauts and supplies to the international space station.

With just two shuttle missions left to go , NASA has a lot of descions to make with their endeavors into space.  NASA has to consider several things including the jobs that will be lost as the shuttle program comes to a close.  NASA asked for 4.26 billion dollars for the 2011 budget. However NASA has 19 billion dollars up for grabs, as Obama gets further involed with the future of NASA.  Now NASA could lose 100 million dollars,under the President's newest proposal to allocate some money to go to the Departments of Commerce and Labor.  The president hopes that this money could help brace the area where the job loss would take place, from the discontinuation of the shuttle program but also spur economic growth around Kennedy Space Center.

"This request would fund an initiative to develop a plan to spur regional economic growth and job creation along the Florida Space Coast and other affected regions in furtherance of my Administration's bold new course for human space flight, which revitalizes NASA and transitions to new opportunities in the space industry and beyond," Obama wrote House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a June 18 letter detailing a number of changes to his 2011 budget request. A copy of the letter was obtained by Space News.

Frustration by other lawmakers though is growing.  With the dramatic turns for NASA as a whole, lawmakers see a clear lack of planning within the agency.  Now lawmakers are asking the Administrator Charles Boden for proof of NASA's 2011 budget proposal by June 25th.   This includes the human space flight program that has been discussed by Obama and Pelosi.  

The committee that has been formed to take on this challenge with NASA is asking for breakdowns of the huge numbers being requested, and is showing a large amount of discretion towards the agency and the proposed budget.

While frustration with other lawmaker's grows. NASA has publicly stated that they are pleased to have the additional support of President Obama and that the agency is need of the fiscal support.  The Department of Commerce is also in favor of the additional support saying how the money in the president's latest plan could help the Florida Space Coast.

It's fair to say that not even NASA is sure of the direction the space agency is going.  The budget is said to be lacking in its planning, but the President is showing a strong backing of NASA  putting lawmakers at odds.  If NASA can demonstrate a need for the money to the committee, only then will the public start to learn the direction NASA will go in.  Even then, NASA has taken many unexpected turns since Obama began his term in office.

Privatized Space Shuttle Launch - Jun 19, 2010 at 3:15PM
Melanie Markman
133 Posts

The NASA shuttle program is winding down; as it winds down the first private shuttle craft lifts off.  The founder of Space Exploration Technologies, Elon  Musk, hopes that his company can make space travel cheaper and more accessible to everyone.

Space Exploration Technologies   sent their Falcon 9 ship into space from Cape Canaveral Florida.  The private rocket launched at 2:45pmon June 4th.The rocket was successful getting into orbit.  The rocket was able to travel 155miles above the Earth.

The launch however did not go as planned.  The launch was originally scheduled for 11am.  The glitch was then fixed and the launch was reset for 1:30pm.  Upon trying to launch the rocket at 1:30om another software error was found. Both glitches had to do with different software used on the rocket, and the rocket didn't have physical flaws that could lead to a big disaster like some of NASA's previous launches.

The president of Space Exploration Technologies thinks that the privatized launch of space ships gives some vindication for Obama's plan to rely on private ships rather than NASA to carry cargo and astronauts into space.

Space Exploration Technologies has entered into a contract with NASA for 1.6 billion dollars.  The contract allows NASA to use the Falcon 9 ship to carry cargo to the International Space Station after the final flights of NASA's shuttle program.  Only two of these flights remain.  NASA also has a contract with Space Exploration Technologies' competitor, Orbital Sciences of Virginia, for 1.9 billion dollars.  This contract also involves the private carry of cargo to the international space station.

President Obama has also suggested that the astronauts on these ships would no longer work for NASA but the privatized company themselves.

President Obama's plan has had mixed reviews ever since before the launch of the Falcon 9.  However, many reviews followed after the launch of the Falcon 9.  Some praised the plan and think that private space ships that can carry cargo to the Space Station is a good thing. While others aren't so sure and that NASA should manage the handlings of the shipment, carry, and launch of the space ships like they have for all these years.

With the successful launch of the Falcon 9 rocket, Musk assured everyone that there will be more launches ahead.  This includes the company's agreement with NASA to launch rockets that will then carry different supplies, as well as, astronauts to the International Space Station.

The Atlantis Launch and Landing - May 29, 2010 at 12:24PM
Melanie Markman
133 Posts

The Atlantis recently returned to Earth, after a visit to the international space station.  Atlantis left earth for its last time on May 14, 20l0.  It left to carry some equipment to the space station for research on its final mission.  The shuttle remained in space for twelve days, before coming back to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 26th.

The Atlantis has put 193 million miles under its belt during the 30 year shuttle program. The Atlantis has journeyed into space on 32 missions and spent a total of 300 days in orbit.  The shuttle and numerous crews have ventured many times since it's unveiling in 1985, and the ship has certainly earned its retirement.

While in space the Atlantis Crew performed two space walks.  They also added a new room to the space station and refreshed many supplies.  In the new room they added a new Russian Research model called Rassvet, meaning "Dawn" in Russian.  Another feature of the room is it can serve as a port for docking, for the Russian ships.  Rassvet is also filled with supplies from the U.S as well.

The room however, has not yet been opened due to some debris that needs to be swept up by the air filters.  Until they are sure, that the debris is swept through the filters, the room will remain closed.  NASA added that this is a common problem faced with construction in space, but the filters are designed to handle it.

The Atlantis also took home some equipment from space.  The Crew changed the solar batteries on the space station, and put the old ones in the cargo bay to come home with them.

There are only two flights remaining before the 30year program comes to an end.  There is one flight on the Discovery and one on the Endeavor.  Then U.S Astronauts will catch flights to the international space station with Russian Astronauts according to President Obama.

For More Articles on the Atlantis journey: has several articles on the Atlantis Mission has more details on the ship and its performance

And be sure to Google some video results of the mission, the launch/landing of the ship is remarkable.

New Revolutionary Telescopes in Development - May 22, 2010 at 2:07PM
Melanie Markman
133 Posts

At the University of Arizona, scientists are working on a glass disk approximately 28 feet in width which is the first of seven mirrors. When these mirrors are combined, they form a gigantic telescope which will dramatically impact ground based astronomy.

The Giant Magellen Telescope (GMT) will allow the viewer to see the universe's youngest starts and galaxies. In addition atmospheres surrounding planets orbiting other stars can be analyzed with this telescope.

Closer to home in our own solar system, the telescope will enable astronomers to navigate froze orbs well beyond the orbits of Neptune and Pluto. Another even larger telescope is in development at Hawaii's Mauna Kea Observatory. This telescope is called the Thirty Meter Telescope or the TMT.

For more information regarding the GMT and other such telescopes in development, see the article at: Once at the yahoo website, click on the science tab at top of the menu and then toward the right hand side of your screen look for the Space & Astronomy new section and click on that section.  Then you'll find the article "New Telescopes Could Revolutionize Astronomy, But At What Price" part way down the page.  You can also perform a search on Google using the name of the article to locate it.

Post edited May 22, 2010 at 2:03 PM EST.

Atlantis Clear For Launch - May 10, 2009 at 11:30PM
Melanie Markman
133 Posts

After many delays NASA has finally cleared the Atlantis for Launch.  The Endeavor will be standing by in case of an accident with Atlantis for this mission.  Both are said to be ready, and in good shape.  The Atlantis is heading for the Hubble Telescope.  The Atlantis is going up to the Hubble, on the telescope's fifth repair mission.

On another promising note, the weather for launch is looking good.  Not only is the weather in Florida going to be good for launch, the stand by emergency landing in Spain is also said to be good.  The launch will take place at 2 p.m., Eastern Standard Time tomorrow.

Once up in space the astronauts will perform five space walks.  The purpose of these walks is to install new equipment on the Hubble and replace some old equipment.  The Hubble will also have some repairs made.  The Hubble was last visited in 2002, and only old equipment was replaced.  The mission to update the telescope will cost NASA a billion dollars.

For more:

Post edited May 11, 2009 at 9:34 PM EST.

Gamma Ray Burst - Observations from Earth Set A New Record - May 2, 2009 at 2:24PM
Melanie Markman
133 Posts

A gamma ray burst set a new record for being the most distant object in space at 13 billion light-years.  Though this light is just now being observed on Earth, it originated when the Earth was  630 million years old.

The gamma ray burst is said to have most likely occurred from a dying star's collapse into a black hole.  After billions of light years the burst finally became visible to astronomers on the morning of April 23.  The light from the burst was caught by the NASA satellite Swift.  The Swift followed the burst and found where a fading afterglow was coming from, but no visible light.  This helped indicate the enormous distance between the Swift and where the burst's light came from.

Astronomers from the United States and United Kingdom then started to look into the satellite's find.  What astronomers found astonished them.  When looking at the afterglow the redshift was the highest ever measured.  Redshift occurs because of the ongoing expansion of the universe causes visible light to stretch out to longer wavelengths.

The Swift had made a previous discovery in September 2008.  This discovery was of a gamma ray burst that was 12.8 billion light-years away.  The Swift's find may help scientists and astronomers alike understand how an active early universe came into being and what started it all.

You can find more about this at:
as well as at:

The Lightest Alien Planet - Apr 25, 2009 at 10:21AM
Melanie Markman
133 Posts

Scientists have found a new planet.  What makes this planet so different is that it is only twice the weight of earth.  The 'exoplanet' was announced found by astronomers on Tuesday, April 22, 2009.  The planet was found using the HARPS spectrograph.

The lightweight planet is a part of the planetary system that is relatively well known as, Gliese 581.  This newly discovered planet is known as Gliese 581 e, and it was discovered when planet Gliese 581 d was being studied.  Astronomers were trying to better study the planet's orbit.  They were also looking at measurements that would help classify this planet within the "habitable zone."  The habitable zone is a zone where liquid oceans could exist to help support life.

Unfortunately Gliese 581 e is not a planet that could be put into the habitable zone, because it orbits too close to its host star.  Yet Gliese 581 e is still a unique because it is only one of four known planets with light earthmasses.  Planets like Gliese 581 e will be important clues to other exoplanets that may be within the habitable zone.

The sister planet Gliese 581 d, is slightly more massive.  Gliese 581 d has speculation surrounding it because of its mass.  Astronomers think that it may have been an ice covered planet.  The astronomers also think that the planet's orbit changed, moving closer to the host star, which could cause the current lack of ice.

For more:

Experimental Rocket Testing - Apr 18, 2009 at 8:36PM
Melanie Markman
133 Posts

There is a new kind of rocket in the works from NASA.  The new rocket would replace the existing rockets.  The prototype rocket is Ares 1-X.  It is set to launch this summer, as early as July or August, from Florida's Cape Canaveral.

The Ares 1-X first flight will be unmanned.  The flight will only contain the first part of the rocket.  It will contain the vehicle and mock ups of its upper stage to about 25 miles in about 2 minutes.  The first test of the rocket is critical for testing the new Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle.  NASA also wants to make sure the bottom part of the rocket will burn as intended.

Further NASA wants to be sure the rocket separates according to plan, as well as, the parachutes open and allow it to float back to Earth, like designed.  There are four cylindrical segments that will make up the rocket.  The rocket will be fueled in Utah and then sent in parts to Florida.  It will be assembled in Florida in its own Vehicle Assembly Building.  A whole host of sensors will be in place in order for ground control to monitor its testing very carefully.

NASA hopes that if all goes well that the new shuttle can carry a crew up to the International Space Station by 2015, and one to the moon in 2020.  The Ares 1 is apart of NASA's bigger goal called Project Constellation which will have a rocket known as the Ares 5 which will be built to carry heavy cargo, instead of people.

The test flight is supposed to take place on the Kennedy's launch pad, which is where the launch of the Apollo Capsules as well as the Saturn 5 Rockets.

For more go to the site:

Post edited April 18, 2009 at 8:32 PM EST.

The Edge of Space - Apr 11, 2009 at 9:57PM
Melanie Markman
133 Posts

An instrument developed at University of Calgary was used by scientists to find the location of what may be the edge of space.

This edge of space is defined as the boundary between Earth's atmosphere and outer space.

With the data from this new instrument scientists confirmed that space begins 73 miles above the surface of the Earth.  While we now know this much, there are still many unknowns about the boundary of space due to many definitions.

Astronauts have been saying they have been into space after they pass the 50 mile mark.  Yet, the boundary recognized by many members of the space industry has been known to be 62 miles.  This was calculated by scientist Theodor Von Karman who stated that at 62 miles the atmosphere is so thin that a conventional aircraft can no longer function.

The United States has never adopted a set boundary.  It has been said this is because it would complicate the issue of overflight rights of satellites and any other orbiting body.  Yet, it is known that NASA uses 76 miles for their re - entry altitude for shuttles.

In the new study, the Supra - Thermal Ion Imager, a new instrument, detected the boundary by tracking the winds of Earth's atmosphere and the charged particles in space.

The instrument was carried by the Joule II rocket on January 19th of 2007.  It traveled to about 124 miles above sea level, and collected data for the five minuets within the edge space.

It is said that the data could aid the study of space and weather impacts on earth.

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Re: The Edge of Space   (Julie Hunt - Aug 8, 2010 at 6:00AM)
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