Thursday, August 9, 2007

The End of Astroversity

I am ending this site. I enjoyed posting the latest astronomy news, and discussing astronomy topics that are not very popularized. I hope everyone appreciated my effort as much as I enjoyed your visits. This site was just taking too much of my time. This site has given me a lot of insight to other websites where they work almost non-stop. Because I did everything on this site own my own watch, I might look for an online writing position at some kind of astronomy site (I would love to be contacted here).

From here, I say good-bye, maybe when I have more time I'll open up the shop again, but for now, thank you.

To all of my daily visitors and subscribers, I would like to forward you to my absolute favorite astronomy site, Universe Today by Fraser Cain: and along with Dr. Pamela Gay, their weekly podcast Astronomy Cast.

And if you have any last-time comments, feel free to email me at the email above.

Carnival of Space 15

Dr. Pamela Gay is hosting this week's exciting Carnival of Space. I enjoyed it, and you will to.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Do You Really Know What NASA Is?

When most people think of NASA, they either think of the space shuttle, or the two Mars rovers. What the majority of people don't know is that NASA is not just one large building in Florida where they build, plan, and research everything on their agenda. NASA is like a tree with many branches. There are many different divisions and branches each specialize in something. Some cohorts research, while others may be construction, test, or administrative facilities.

I will just give you a brief summary of 5 of NASA's 'branches' and then I will direct you to other 'branches:'

Kennedy Space Center - The KSC is home to the three space shuttles. This is where they are stored, maintained, and repaired. The center is also a very popular tourist location to view space launches and tour the location. The KSC is most familiar to people because it is where space shuttles (and other orbital spacecraft) are launched from. As NASA puts it, "Kennedy Space Center is America's Gateway to the Universe."

Jet Propulsion Laboratory - JPL is located in La CaƱada, California. JPL is managed by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). JPL is NASA's main source of robotic vehicles sent into space. Some of the unmanned spacecraft by JPL include: Voyager 1, Voyager 2, Mars Rovers (Spirit & Opportunity). Spitzer Space Telescope, Mars Phoenix Lander, and many more.

Goddard Space Flight Center - The Goddard Space Flight Center is not as 'technological' as JPL, instead it is more study based. Goddard's missions is to study Earth, the Solar System, and the Universe as a whole to further increase man's knowledge of the Universe. Goddard's main study approach is through observations.

Dryden Flight Research Center - Dryden represents the 'A' (the first one) in NASA. Dryden is where the world's "...newest, fastest, [and]... highest," debut. Dryden is at the forefront in aeronautical research and performance. They have helped to create some of the world's most advanced aircraft and have applied their knowledge to space technologies.

Marshall Space Flight Center - The Marshall Center do a large variety of things. The Marshall Space Flight Center is mainly a propulsion center. They construct propulsion technologies such as rockets, Space Shuttle propulsion, and the external fuel tank. The MSFC also manages various scientific activities aboard the International Space Station. They utilize space research and apply them to life here on Earth for the benefit of people all over the world.

I just offered a small bit of what NASA really is. The underlying purpose of this article is for you to understand that NASA is not a single installation, but instead a group of many facilities all over the U.S that help NASA to do everything that NASA does.

To learn more about the different NASA centers, visit this list. And to visit the sites of NASA's major centers, go here.

Image Credits: Wikimedia & NASA

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Space Exploration Is Important!

In discussion, the topic sometimes arises to question the importance of space exploration and NASA. Explaining the importance of NASA over an over again can sometimes lose its meaning. Today, I came upon a very good article by Neil deGrasse Tyson [via Bad Astronomy (thanks for the post!)] explaining why America needs to continue space exploration.

According to the article, NASA is only .7% of the federal budget. Compare this to the $12,000,00o that is spent in Iraq every hour! NASA is a cause that actually provides a beneficial outcome, airplanes, plastics, communication, and the list goes on!

I highly recommend you read Tyson's article, and also read commentary provided by Phil Plait.

Monday, August 6, 2007

As the Space Shuttles Age...

As the day nears when the space shuttle program will be retired, NASA is already making final-end decisions about their Orion fleet.

NASA originally decided that when astronauts would return to Earth (Using Orion Spacecraft), the space vehicle would use air bags to land on the ground. NASA and their contractor Lockheed Martian have decided to scrap that concept and go back to using an Apollo-style landing by splashing into the oceans. This will cut weight of of the mass and in turn, cost less.

Because all three space shuttles will be retired, NASA has already made plans for the three Orbiter Processing Facilities to be demolished between 2010 and 2012.

Original Article: NASA Spaceflight

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Carnival of Space #14

This week's Carnival of Space has rolled into Universe Today. I just checked it out and found a lot of interesting articles. You'll enjoy this week's large variety, so go check it out!

Best of Hubble: Nebula & Space Gas

The Best of Hubble Image Series theme today, is featuring various Nebula & Space Gas. I received a LOT of submissions. I had a very difficult time choosing the best, but I went with the images that were nonimated multiple times by different people. So here they are:

Image Credits: Hubble.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Explained: Why Pluto Is Not A Planet

In August of 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) made a textbook altering decision. The IAU is the main naming and definition-making organization in the astronomical community. After much debate and discussion, scientists at the IAU meeting collectively decided that Pluto's planetary title would be removed, and it would be labeled as a dwarf planet.

While some people applaud the IAU's decision, others refuse to accept it. The decision was made in 2006, and although people know Pluto is not a planet, most people fail to understand why Pluto is not a planet.

The common belief is that the IAU simply stripped Pluto's planet status. However, in reality, the IAU just issued a new set of requirements that would define if an object were a planet or not. Pluto failed to meet these new requirements. Pluto is not a planet because it does not meet all of the criteria that it takes for an object to be labeled as a planet.

The IAU stated that a celestial body must meet the following conditions to be called a planet:
  1. Orbits the Sun - The object should be orbiting the Sun. It cannot be orbiting another planet, or another object. It can only be a satellite of the Sun.
  2. Be a sphere - The object's 'self-gravity' should be strong enough that it smooths out any (major) bumps or ridges to become a mostly spherical body.
  3. Cleared its orbital neighborhood - There should not be any other bodies in the object's orbit. During the object's formation, it should have absorbed and cleaned out any debris in its orbit (with the exception of moons, because moons are gravitationally 'caught').
Pluto is not a planet because it fails to meet the third condition.
  • Compared to Pluto, Pluto's moon Charon, is pretty large because it is only about half Pluto's size. Both objects orbit a common center of gravity, but Pluto orbits this center of gravity at a much close distance than Charon, so that's why Charon is considered Pluto's moon.
  • For every three times Neptune orbits the Sun, Pluto orbits it only twice. This is called a 3:2 orbital resonance. In addition, there is a whole category of objects that do exactly this; they're called Plutinos. Pluto is also a Trans-Neptunian Object (TNO) and these objects orbit the Sun at a farther distance than Neptune does.
  • Pluto is also on the borderline of a region in our Solar System known as the Kuiper Belt where many icy bodies (both big and small) orbit the Sun at a very large distance.
Pluto falls into a whole range of objects that it can be included into. It can be considered a Trans-Neptunian Object, Kuiper Belt Object, and a Plutino. Basically, Pluto has not really cleared its orbit. There are too many objects that are similar to Pluto and are both larger and smaller than it is, that share common characteristics.
Therefore, instead of being a planet, Pluto is a dwarf planet. Dwarf planets orbit the Sun, are nearly round, have NOT cleared its orbital neighborhood, and does not orbit any other body (not a satellite).
Image Credits: IAU, The IAU Votes; NASA, Pluto's newly discovered Moons; Wikimedia, the New Solar System.
Additional Resource: AstronomyCast: Pluto's Planetary Identity Crisis (Why Pluto isn't a planet)