Surprise: Comet E4 Lovejoy Brightens Comet C/2017 E4 Lovejoy from the morning of Monday, April 3rd, courtesy of Gianluca Masi. Credit and copyright: The Virtual Telescope Project Had your fill of binocular comets yet? Thus far this year, we’ve had periodic comets 2P/Encke, 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková and 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresák all reach binocular visibility above +10th magnitude as forecasted. Now, we’d like to point out a surprise interloper in the dawn sky that you’re perhaps not watching, but should be: Comet C/2017 E4 Lovejoy. If that name sounds familiar, that’s because E4 Lovejoy is the sixth discovery by prolific comet hunter Terry Lovejoy. Comets that have shared the LovejoyRead More →

1st Reflown SpaceX Falcon 9 Soars to Orbit with SES-10 Revolutionizing Rocketry Forever – Photo/Video Gallery Worlds 1st ever reflown SpaceX Falcon 9 soars to orbit with SES-10 telecomsat from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 6:27 p.m. EDT on March 30, 2017. Credit: Ken Kremer/Kenkremer.com KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s Billion dollar bet on rocket recycling paid off beautifully when the world’s first ever reflown rocket booster – a SpaceX Falcon 9 – roared off NASA’s historic pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center and successfully delivered the next generation SES-10 TV satellite toRead More →

Deepest X-ray Image Ever Made Contains Mysterious Explosion For over sixty years, astronomers have been exploring the Universe for x-ray sources. Known to be associated with stars, clouds of super heated gas, interstellar mediums, and destructive events, the detection of cosmic x-rays is challenging work. In recent decades, astronomers have been benefited immensely from by the deployment of orbital telescopes like the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Since it was launched on July 23rd, 1999, Chandra has been NASA’s flagship mission for X-ray astronomy. And this past week (on Thurs. March 30th, 2017), the Observatory accomplished something very impressive. Using its suite of advanced instruments, the observatoryRead More →

Space Station Drama After Vital Micrometeorite Shielding Floats Away This past week (on Thurs. March 30th), two crew members of Expedition 50 conducted an important spacewalk on the exterior of the International Space Station. During the seven hours in which they conducted this extravehicular activity (EVA), the astronauts reconnected cables and electrical connections on a new Pressurized Mating Adapter (PMA-3) and installed four new thermal protection shields on the Tranquility module. These shields were required to cover the port that was left exposed when (earlier in the week) the PMA-3 was removed and installed robotically on the Harmony module. In the course of the EVA,Read More →

Four Candidates For Planet 9 Located A concentrated three-day search for a mysterious, unseen planet in the far reaches of our own solar system has yielded four possible candidates. The search for the so-called Planet 9 was part of a real-time search with a Zooniverse citizen science project, in coordination with the BBC’s Stargazing Live broadcast from the Australian National University’s Siding Spring Observatory. A view of data from SAMI, a new multi-object integral field spectrograph at Siding Spring Observatory, which was used to look for the hypothetical Planet 9. Credit: Dilyar Barat via Twitter. Researcher Brad Tucker from ANU, who led the effort, saidRead More →

Weekly Space Hangout – Mar 31, 2017: The IDATA Project and Afterglow Access Host: Fraser Cain (@fcain) Special Guest: This week’s special guests are Timothy Spuck, Kathryn Meredith, Dr. James Hammerman and Andreas Stefik of the Innovators Developing Accessible Tools for Astronomy (IDATA) Project Team. The IDATA project aims to design and develop Afterglow Access, a new software tool that will expand accessibility beyond touch, making the universe more accessible to those with visual impairments. Tim Spuck (Associated Universities Inc. STEM Education Development Officer and IDATA PI) currently serves as PI on three NSF supported programs including, Innovators Developing Accessible Tools for Astronomy, the Chile-USRead More →

ARCA Unveils the World’s first Single-Stage-to-Orbit Rocket Since the beginning of the Space Age, scientists have relied on multi-stage rockets in order to put spacecraft and payloads into orbit. The same technology has allowed for missions farther into space, sending robotic spacecraft to every planet in the Solar System, and astronauts to the Moon. But looking to the future, it is clear that new ideas will be needed in order to cut costs and expand launch services. Hence why the ARCA Space Corporation has developed a concept for a single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) rocket. It’s known as the Haas 2CA, the latest in  a series of rocketsRead More →

SpaceX Accomplishes American ‘Science Triumph’ with ‘Mind Blowing’ Historic 2nd Launch and Landing of Used Rocket The ‘used’ SpaceX Falcon 9 launches the SES-10 telecomsat to orbit from historic Launch Complex 39A as it zooms past US Flag by the countdown clock at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 6:27 p.m. EDT on March 30, 2017. Credit: Ken Kremer/Kenkremer.com KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – SpaceX accomplished an American ‘Science Triumph’ with today’s “Mind Blowing” and history making second launch and landing of a previously flown Falcon 9 booster that successfully delivered a massive and powerful Hi Def TV satellite to orbit for telecom giantRead More →

Solar Probe Plus Will ‘Touch’ The Sun Coronal Mass Ejections (aka. solar flares) are a seriously hazardous thing. Whenever the Sun emits a burst of these charged particles, it can play havoc with electrical systems, aircraft and satellites here on Earth. Worse yet is the harm it can inflict on astronauts stationed aboard the ISS, who do not have the protection of Earth’s magnetic field. As such, it is obvious why scientists want to be able to predict these events better. For this reason, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory – a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based non-profit engineering organization – are working toRead More →

The Ever-Working Mars Orbiter Passes 50,000 Orbits Most of us never do one thing 50,000 times in our life. So for NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), completing 50,000 orbits around the red planet is a big deal. And, it only took 10 years to do so. The MRO could be called one of NASA’s flagship missions. It’s presence in orbit around Mars has helped open up our understanding of that planet immensely. And it’s done so while providing us a steady stream of eye candy. This recent image from MRO’s HiRise camera shows dune structure inside an impact crater. Image: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona MRO wasRead More →

SpaceX Attempting Launch of 1st Orbit Class Recycled Rocket March 30 – Watch Live SpaceX Falcon 9 recycled rocket carrying SES-10 telecomsat raised erect atop Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center as seen from inside the pad ahead of liftoff slated for 6:27 p.m on 30 Mar 2017 on world’s first reflight of an orbit class rocket. Credit: Ken Kremer/Kenkremer.com KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – The moment of truth is rapidly approaching as SpaceX attempts the world’s first reflight of an orbital class rocket later today, Thursday, March 30, with the firms Falcon 9 standing proudly at historic launch complex 39A at NASA’sRead More →

How Long is a Year on Uranus? Uranus is a most unusual planet. Aside from being the seventh planet of our Solar System and the third gas giant, it is also classified sometimes as an “ice giant” (along with Neptune). This is because of its peculiar chemical composition, where water and other volatiles (i.e. ammonia, methane, and other hydrocarbons) in its atmosphere are compressed to the point where they become solid. In addition to that, it also has a very long orbital period. Basically, it takes Uranus a little over 84 Earth years to complete a single orbit of the Sun. What this means isRead More →

SES ComSat Boss Proclaims High ‘Confidence’ in Bold SpaceX 1st Flight-Proven Rocket Launch- March 30 The SES-10 satellite was manufactured by Airbus Defence & Space in and is based on the Eurostar E3000 platform. It will operate in geostationary orbit.Credit: SES/Airbus CAPE CANAVERAL/KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – As the hours tick down to the history making liftoff of the world’s first recycled rocket, the commercial customer SES is proclaiming high “confidence” in the flight worthiness of the “Flight-Proven” SpaceX Falcon 9 booster that will blastoff with a massive Hi-Def TV satellite for telecom giant SES this Thursday, Chief Technology Officer Martin Halliwell told Universe TodayRead More →

Finite Light — Why We Always Look Back In Time Beads of rainwater on a poplar leaf act like lenses, focusing light and enlarging the leaf’s network of veins. Moving at 186,000 miles per second, light from the leaf arrives at your eye 0.5 nanosecond later. A blink of an eye takes 600,000 times as much time! Credit: Bob King My attention was focused on beaded water on a poplar leaf. How gemmy and bursting with the morning’s sunlight. I moved closer, removed my glasses and noticed that each drop magnified a little patch of veins that thread and support the leaf. Focusing the camera lens, I wondered howRead More →

Watch Rotating Horns of Venus at Dawn Venus just 10.5 hours before inferior conjunction on March 25th. Image credit and copyright: Shahrin Ahmad (@Shahgazer) Have you seen it yet? An old friend greeted us on an early morning run yesterday as we could easily spy brilliant Venus in the dawn, just three days after inferior conjunction this past Saturday on March 25th. This was an especially wide pass, as the planet crossed just over eight degrees (that’s 16 Full Moon diameters!) north of the Sun. We once managed to see Venus with the unaided eye on the very day of inferior conjunction back in 1998 fromRead More →

Take a Peek Inside Blue Origin’s New Shepard Crew Capsule Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos provided a sneak peek today into the interior of the New Shepard crew capsule, the suborbital vehicle for space tourism. He released a few images which illustrate what the flight experience might be like on board. “Our New Shepard flight test program is focused on demonstrating the performance and robustness of the system,” Bezos said via an email release. “In parallel, we’ve been designing the capsule interior with an eye toward precision engineering, safety, and comfort.” Take a look: A view of the interior of the New Shepard crew capsuleRead More →

How Long is a Year on Pluto? Discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh, Pluto was once thought to be the ninth and outermost planet of the Solar System. However, due to the formal definition adopted in 2006 at the 26th General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), Pluto ceased being the ninth planet of the Solar System and has become alternately known as a “Dwarf Planet”, “Plutiod”, Trans-Neptunian Object (TNO) and Kuiper Belt Object (KBO). Despite this change of designation, Pluto remains one of the most fascinating celestial bodies known to astronomers. In addition to having a very distant orbit around the Sun (andRead More →

What is the Color of Pluto? When Pluto was first discovered by Clybe Tombaugh in 1930, astronomers believed that they had found the ninth and outermost planet of the Solar System. In the decades that followed, what little we were able to learn about this distant world was the product of surveys conducted using Earth-based telescopes. Throughout this period, astronomers believed that Pluto was a dirty brown color. In recent years, thanks to improved observations and the New Horizons mission, we have finally managed to obtain a clear picture of what Pluto looks like. In addition to information about its surface features, composition and tenuousRead More →

What is an Astronomical Unit? When it comes to dealing with the cosmos, we humans like to couch things in familiar terms. When examining exoplanets, we classify them based on their similarities to the planets in our own Solar System – i.e. terrestrial, gas giant, Earth-size, Jupiter-sized, Neptune-sized, etc. And when measuring astronomical distances, we do much the same. For instance, one of the most commonly used means of measuring distances across space is known as an Astronomical Unit (AU). Based on the distance between the Earth and the Sun, this unit allows astronomers to characterize the vast distances between the Solar planets and theRead More →

Successful HotFire Test Sets SpaceX on Course for Historic Relaunch of 1st ‘Flight-Proven’ Rocket SpaceX conducts successful static hot fire test of 1st previously flown Falcon 9 booster atop Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center on 27 Mar. 2017 as seen from Space View Park, Titusville, FL. History making launch of first recycled rocket is slated for 30 March 2017 with SES-10 telecommunications comsat. Credit: Ken Kremer/Kenkremer.com SPACE VIEW PARK/KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – This afternoons (Mar. 27) successful hotfire test of a recycled Falcon 9 booster at the Kennedy Space Center sets SpaceX on course for a rendezvous with history involving theRead More →