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)

Monday, July 30, 2007


Astroversity originally started out as an astronomy site where you could get the latest in space/astronomy news. Although I will still provide important news, I won't be reporting all of the news. This in effect is going to steer this site so it is more helpful and interactive with the daily visitor.

Like I said news won't be the main objective of this site, but if you're looking for astronomy news, visit my favorite website Universe Today where Fraser Cain is always reporting the latest.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Best of Hubble: Galaxies

The first edition of the Best of Hubble Image series will be Galaxies. When viewing the images, like I always say, my layout does not reveal the true beauty of these images, so click on them to view a hi-res version of the image. To learn more about the selected images, click its corresponding name at the bottom. The subject of the next set of images will be pictures that feature nebula (start sending in your favorites). Many of you submitted your favorite galaxies and here they are:

Image Credits: Hubble. Images in order: M51, NGC 1300, NGC 4038-4039, Hubble Ultra Deep Field, Hoag's Object Galaxy, M64

Perseid Meteor Shower

The annual Perseid meteor shower will rain in the sights of sky watchers all on the Earth in two weeks on August 12. The best part of all is that there is a new moon on the 12th, meaning there will be no moonlight to obscure the view of the meteor shower.

The meteor shower is credited to the Comet Swift-Tuttle. Every year in August, the Earth moves through the debris left by the Comet's tail as it passes through our orbit. The small bits of the comet collide into the Earth's atmosphere at a whopping 132,000 mph so even the smallest objects light up in the sky.

Above: A Perseid fireball photographed August 12, 2006, by Pierre Martin of Arnprior, Ontario, Canada

The meteor shower starts at 9:00 to 10:00 on the 12th in the northeast(your local time) and you may see a a couple during an hour of sky watching. At the night unfolds, so will the amount of meteors. At around 2 AM of the 13th (still your local time) there may be dozens of meteors every hour. Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office estimates that at the shower's peak (before dawn), there will be one or two Perseids every minute.

Mars will also be observable. It will look like a bright red star in the northeast.

For optimal viewing of the meteors, it is best to be somewhere in the country or small suburbs where light pollution is not much of an interference.

Original Article: NASA

Friday, July 27, 2007

My Favorite Space Images

These are some of my favorite space images. Not all of the below pictures are taken by hubble. The compressed images below do not do these images the justice they deserve, so just click on them to view a higher resolution version of the picture. (The first three make good desktop backgrounds). Images: Mars, M51, NGC 6357, Saturn, Carina Nebula.

Click For Higher Resolution

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Click For Higher Resolution

Click For Higher Resolution

Just a head's up, my first feature of Hubble images are going to be galaxies. So send in your suggestions and favorites of galaxy images that the Hubble has taken (email is located at the top right).

Carnival of Space 13

This week's Carnival of Space is being held at the LiftPort Blog. Give it a visit. Read about astronomy, and get to know a couple of new sites.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Best of Hubble Series

I'm going to start a series entitled, "Best of Hubble" in which I will feature the best of a certain type of Hubble image. So one theme might be "Best Nebula Images," or "Best Images From Our Solar System."

Pictured: The Hubble Space Telescope. Image Credit: NASA

I want to let everyone know that I cannot do this alone. I will be accepting suggestions for each theme. I will let you know in advance what kind of images I'm looking for, and then you can suggest them to me. My first of the Hubble Image Series will not be all Hubble images. They will just be a few of my all-around favorite space pictures. Be on the lookout for that, and I will be anxious for all of your help!

Mars Rover Dust Storm Update

Conditions at Opportunity, which was facing a very dangerous part of the storm, is starting to see conditions better very slightly. Meanwhile, Spirit, which was seeing a calmer side of the storm, is now beginning to see the storm's violent side.

Power consumption is a major problem, because if the dust storm blocks out too much light, the rovers will die trying to absorb sunlight. A new problem faced by both rovers is the freshly settled dust on both rovers which blocks a lot of sunlight from reaching the solar panels. NASA has commanded Opportunity to communicate with Earth once every three days, while Spirit is communicating daily. Activity on Opportunity and Spirit has been almost completely suspended.

NASA is still hoping the best for their fighting rovers, which are continuing to survive through conditions which they were never meant to operate in.

Pictured: Opportunity's view, as the horizon becomes more opaque every day. Image Credit: NASA
Original Article: NASA

Where is today's Carnival of Space 13?

I'm always saying how much I enjoy the weekly Carnival of Space. But this week's edition seems to be missing! Both the official blog carnival website and the Carnival of Space schedule say it is supposed to be today at the LiftPort Blog, but it is not. There is a post on their blog that says they only received six entries, but that still means there were entries. So what happened? I'm just confused.

News From Around the Block

There has been a lot of astronomy news lately, so here it is:

The Chandra X-Ray Observatory has discovered, 'piranha' black holes that that voracious eaters and seem to go away. Chandra catches ‘piranha’ black holes

Our Sun goes through a solar cycle, and the Sun is currently reaching the apex of one of them. The Sun Loses its Spots

It's possible for a planet to have the remarkable view of four sunsets by its four parent stars. Quadruple Sunsets Possible on Other Worlds

A plan to send a robotic mission to Mars which could send back some surface samples are causing a stir and debate between NASA scientists. Mars-and-back plan sets scientists abuzz

Image Credit: NASA. Pictured: A potential Mars sample-return mission.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Fantastic Guide to Learn About the Stars

I am very familiar with the many astronomy concepts of the Universe, but I know absolutely nothing about stargazing. I discovered a fantastic interactive guide, which will give anyone who goes through it a very basic understanding about watching the stars.

(This feature is intended for northern hemisphere skygazers)

Whenever I look up at the night sky (Chicago lights diminish the experience), I am always awed by the dim specks of light, and the infrequent visits of planets in my night sky. However, to actually understand what I am looking at, and how I can use the stars to my advantage is something I did not really know how to do.

By the end of the guide, you will be familiar with many different things, and will be able to identify:

  • 3 Constellations

  • 2 Stars

  • 1 (or more) planet

  • And the useful ability to use the stars as a natural compass

Visit the Night Sky Feature Here

This excellent feature allowed me to learn about the stars in such a simple way. I never thought understanding the stars could be such an easy experience. I give this feature five stars (no pun intended).

Original Article: From LifeHacker, From Hackszine

Monday, July 23, 2007

Mars Rovers Dust Storm Upadate

Last week, NASA said that both of their rovers were in the midst of a dangerous sand storm and there was a chance that the rovers would become disabled. Today NASA updated the situation, by revealing that because they canceled communication sessions with Opportunity, (which is facing the brute of the storm) the amount of power (input and and usage) is better.
Image Credit: NASA

Spirit, on the other side of the planet, has reported that the weather has bettered there. Opportunity, which is in a low-power mode is currently instructed to communicate with NASA only once every three days to conserve energy. Today NASA received a signal from Opportunity confirming it is still active, and the next communication date is Thursday, but NASA might try to communicate with it tomorrow.

NASA is saying that there is only one factor that will decide if both rovers continue to service, or become nonfunctional. They are saying if the weather worsens, then there will be larger difficulties in the future, but if the weather says the same as it is now or eases , then the rovers will be okay.

Original Article: JPL News Release

Sunday, July 22, 2007

It's Important to Capitalize in Astronomy

A small pet peeve of mine is capitalization. Many people fail to realize that astronomical objects such as the Earth or Sun should have their first letter capitalized. The most plain and obvious reason is that both of those words are proper nouns, and proper nouns should be capitalized because they can be seen as either a place or a thing.

I understand it is fairly simple to write something like, "The sun is at the center of the solar system." But I just feel those are large errors to commit when writing. Again, both the Sun and Solar System are proper nouns so they should automatically be capitalized.

From the IAU Manual

The International Astronomical Union (IAU), which is the official authority on naming celestial things, the structure of astronomical papers, and astronomical grammar, does not have the authority to fully demand capitalization all the time. Different countries have different rules in remarks to their grammar. The IAU Style Manual states, "The use of capitals for the initial letters of words is much more common in English (and German) than in French," but they do recommend that astronomical objects should be capitalized in both languages.

This is what the IAU recommends in reference to astronomy capitalization, "The initial letter of a word should be typed or printed as a capital in the following cases...individual astronomical objects (such as Earth, the Solar System, Orion, the Crab Nebula, Galactic Centre)...[and] names of individual objects or instruments (Voyager 2)."

I just wanted to address this because it is important to capitalize the Andromeda Galaxy just as its important to capitalize the White House. I am not going to end on a note saying thay, "To keep astronomy sacred and precious we must first correct our grammar." All that I am going to say is just capitalize those astronomical objects because all things in astronomy are wonders, are proper, and are worth the extra effort to be capitalized.

  • Is it just me, or did I say 'astronomical objects' a lot?

  • I noticed that major writing applications such as Word, Open Office, and other online spell-check features do not automatically capitalize astronomical objects.

  • I recently discussed astronomical capitalization with Helium.com and since then, they have changed most of their space-related articles so words like the Sun and Solar System are capitalized.

  • The IAU does not say anything about capitalizing astronomical objects that are plural
IAU Recommendation of Spelling (Online)
IAU Full Recommendation of Capitalization (In Print)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

NASA Makes a 360: Atlantis to Retire in 2008

I reported last month that NASA had decided that instead of originally retiring the space shuttle Atlantis in 2008, they changed their decision so it would retire in 2010 to ease the hectic burden off of Endeavour and Discovery. But NASA has made a complete U-Turn and in a recent manifest, have said that Atlantis will now retire in 2008.

Atlantis's last two mission will be STS-122, to add the Columbus Laboratory to the ISS and STS-125 will be a servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.

Rumors (let me stress rumors) suggest that this early retirement was so that NASA doesn't have to pay the workers of the United Space Alliance who help to maintain the shuttle and many other tasks. The money saved by the reduced labor costs would most likely be put forth for the Constellation Space Program. This rumor is suggest by many sources because there is a lack of a better reason for this early retirement.

Because Atlantis will be retired two years before its counterparts, Discovery and Endeavour, Atlantis will most likely stripped down for spare parts.

Image Credit: NASA

Friday, July 20, 2007

Mars Rovers Face Destructive Dust Storm

For about a month now, the Martian Rovers Spirit and Opportunity have been facing a series of dangerous dust storms. Opportunity, the rover in greater danger, is only receiving 1 percent of incoming sunlight because of the storm. Communications, observations and driving have been suspended for Opportunity in order to conserve power.

The storm over Opportunity has blocked out 99 percent of the sunlight, leaving the rover to draw on its battery for energy. NASA is hoping for the best outcome, but admit that the rovers were not designed to survive this kind of harsh environment. The two rovers were only supposed to last 90 days, but have been active for three and a half years; so NASA remains optimistic about its fighting rovers.

The above image shows images taken over a 30-sol day period by Opportunity. Visibility is currently very poor, and the heavy accumulation of dust is evident on the surface in the image. Image Credit: NASA

Before the dust storms, Opportunity's solar panels produced 700 watt hours of electricity a day, but after passing 148 watt hours (the lowest for either rover during their stay on Mars), Opportunity is down to 128 watt hours. Although Opportunity is facing the brute of the storm, NASA has reduced activity on Spirit which is also facing the storm in a less severe position.

NASA wants to conserve Opportunity's energy usage, so for the first time, it has cancelled communication session for two days (yesterday and today) in order to save whatever electricity it can.

This storm might last for days or even weeks, and one or both of the rovers might become damaged or unable to operate. And the settled dust on the rovers' solar panels might also prove to be a problem. NASA engineers will analyze the rovers when the storm settles to determine the condition of each rover.

Times are harsh for the two rovers, but the rovers have proved they can accomplish much more than expected of them, and NASA hopes the two rovers will do the same though this storm.

Original Article: JPL News Release

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Explore the International Space Station

Today, NASA has launched an interesting interactive feature in which people can fully explore the International Space Station. It has many features and explains a lot about what the ISS's purpose is. Some features include:

  • How the crew lives: how they eat, sleep, and exercise
  • How the ISS: is operated, built, and supported
  • A 360 degree view of the space station
  • An explanation of the ISS's purpose
  • And a cool music video!

The ISS Interactive Reference Guide is a fund way to learn about, and explore the space station to achieve a better understanding of how it operates, and generally what it is. Here is a direct link the interactive ISS feature

Original Article: NASA

News From Around the Block

Here is the latest news in astronomy from around the web.

  • Astronomers Find Highly Elliptical Disk Around Young Star, Hubble

  • Traveling to space as a tourist has gone up from $25 Million to as high as $40 million, MSNBC

  • X-Ray satellites discover the largest collisions in the Universe, ESA

  • Saturn's 60th moon has been discovered! NASA

Carnival of Space #12

I'm a huge fan of the Carnival of Space because it allows be to check out websites and articles that I might have missed. This week's carnival is hosted at Music of Spheres. And one of my articles is also featured, so check it out!

(The Carnival of Space seriously needs a logo,)
[Imagine Cool Logo Pic Here]

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Crater Reveals Martian Subsurface

An impact crater near the suspected old river channel, Mawrth Vallis reveals layers of Martian soil underneath its surface. The revelations of the crater are similar to what Opportunity explored in a different crater. Craters like these reveal Mars's hidden surface and allow scientists to peer back into Mars's mysterious past.
Image Credit: NASA

Complete Article: NASA

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Gas Giants Near and Far

A study led by Beth Biller of the University of Arizona reveals that large gaseous planets (like our own Jupiter) stay close to their parent star. The study shows that is very rare for gas giants to be located far away from its host star.

This new study helps scientists to better develop models and theories of how planets form. Some theories suggest that large gas planets are formed far away from a star, and then are slowly pulled in by the star's gravity into a closer orbit.

Of the 246 planets discovered outside of our solar system, many of them are gas giants, 'Hot Jupiters,' that are very large and orbit their parent star in a few days or even hours. These extrasolar planets were detected using the radial velocity method which measures the pull-and-tug between the close orbiting gas giant and the star.

To find gas giants far away from the host star, Beth Biller and her fellow scientists conducted a three-year survey of 54 near and young stars that were thought to have giant gas planets still in their formation process.

Theory says that young 'Jupiters' are brighter than older Jupiters, hence they are more easy to detect. The research found that there were no gas giants that orbited a star at a distance of more than 10 AU ( 1 AU is the distance from the Earth to the Sun) leading the researchers to conclude that it is very rare for gas giants to be located in the outer parts of the solar system.

But Alan Boss, a planetary formation theorists points out a potential flaw in this study, "This survey depends on assuming that young gas giants are much brighter than older gas giants and hence easier to detect." So some Jupiters might exists in the outskirts of solar systems, but are too difficult to detect.

Original Article: Space.com

Jupiter is small compared to the many very large hot Jupiters that are found in other solar systems. Image Credit: NASA

Monday, July 16, 2007

Saving Spaceflight

I want to point you to one of my favorite articles. David S.F. Portree of the EarthSky Blog wrote this article a while back ago, but after re-reading it I thought it would be best to share it. Portree discusses how President Bush's plan was to send astronauts back into space so they can venture out farther then they have in the past.

Portree argues that we are spending too much to send people into space when we could be spending the same amount on robotic spacecraft and learning much more. Portree does an excellent job to support why spending money on robotic missions instead of human missions is a better choice. This article was able to effectively change my opinion into believing that our future in space should be dedicated towards sending robotic missions and then sending humans later.

Original Image Credits: NASA, Above Image Credit: Astroversity

Read the article and decide for yourself what our future of space exploration holds for us. Link To Article: Saving Spaceflight

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Reduce Your Greenhouse Gas Emissions

I would never do this, but this time is the only exception. I am a person who believes that we must slow down global warming so our planet (and later generations) can have a future. I came across a video that shows some very simple (let me stress simple) tips on how you can reduced greenhouse gas emissions that you put out whenever you do various tasks. I personally thought the tips can be followed by anyone (tip #4 was particularly interesting), so just check it out (and did I stress simple?).

7 Ways To Save The Environment And Stop Global Warming

News To Highlight

During the past week, there have been lots of news. I just wanted to highlight a couple of them and direct you to where you can read about them (besides here).

  • Scientists have discovered the farthest Galaxies, aged at 500 million years after the Big Bang: BBC

  • Water is discovered on an extrasolar planet: ESA

Friday, July 13, 2007

New Feature

I don't make any money from this site, so instead of posting those annoying Google ads that take up so much space and bother people, I've decided to go with a more subtle advertisement. Some words by be unerlined with two blue lines; this is the ad. Just roll your mouse over to see a 'snapshot' of what the ad is, if you like it, click it, if not, just move your mouse off the underlined word.

I'm just trying this out, if you don't like it and you find it bothersome, let me know so I can remove it, otherwise if it doesn't bother you, than also let me know. Email me with your feedback.

ESA Excited to Add A Laboratory to Space Station

On December 6, 2007, that Space Shuttle Atlantis will launch with the European Space Agency's (ESA) Columbus Space Laboratory to attach it to the International Space Station (ISS). It was originally scheduled to launch in 2002 but after the Columbia disaster and other ISS delays, the mission was delayed for five years.

The lab arrived in Florida in May of 2006. NASA is currently inspecting and preparing the Columbus Lab for its December launch. Inspectors will examine the lab for air leaks, check the electrical system, look for leaks in the water cooling system.

An artist's impression of Columbus, a cutaway view, the European laboratory module of the International Space Station. Image Credit: ESA / D.Ducros

The Columbus Project Manager, Bernardo Patti said, "Once Columbus is operational, we will have a permanent presence on the Station. We will own our own real estate... ESA will be able to meet its scientific objectives as a full partner, sharing resources with other ISS participants rather than simply purchasing them."

When the lab is attached, astronauts will finally be able to conduct experiments and research that they have waited five years to do.

Original Article: ESA

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Best Space Image Out There

There are a lot of space images out there of nebulae, galaxies, stars, star clusters, and many more, but there is only one picture that is my absolute favorite.

Pictured Above: M51, the above image does not do this Galaxy justice, click here to view a higher resolution/larger picture to fully enjoy its majesty. Image Credit: Hubble Space Telescope.

NGC 5194, M51, or, The Whirlpool Galaxy as it is commonly called, is a beautiful galaxy located 31 million light-years away in the constellation Canes Venatici. This majestic galaxy is perfect to watch because it is directly facing us. The two grand spiral arms reveal themselves with breath-taking red and blue colors, for the old and young stars that are so snugly nestled within the long swirls of gas and dust.

This galaxy is very appealing to the eye, with its symmetrical design, and bright yellow bulge in the middle. This is not any kind of galaxy – it is a grand-design spiral galaxy. This not a barred spiral with a large scar through its center, nor is it an unusual looking irregular or lenticular galaxy, and it is not spread out over enormous distances like some elliptical galaxies. M51 is just right.

NGC 5195 is a dwarf galaxy that lies at the end of one of NGC 5194’s spiral arms. With an almost solid color of yellow, it does not steal from its companion’s beauty; instead, it complements M51 (A) with its bright glow. This dwarf galaxy gently glides behind its larger companion. This gliding sends gravitational waves through its companion, all the while compressing gas to jump-start the star-creation process, and igniting new light in the whirlpool to add to its beauty.

With the Hubble Space Telescope’s keen eye, the true greatness of this wonderful galaxy pair is revealed, so everyone can appreciate its light, colors, length, enormity, and overall beauty. Like two graceful ballroom dancers, the two galaxies dance, spin, and move through space, ignorant to its distant observers who marvel at its every movement and its complex existence.

This is space, this is astronomy, this is science, this is nature, and this is what the universe is about. Marvel among marvel, beauty upon beauty, M51 is a fine example of the majesty that lies in the universe.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Water Discovered on a Far-Away Planet

By analyzing the spectra of a giant gas planet, scientists have discovered that the planet HD 189733b, which is 15% larger than Jupiter; has water on it. The spectra revealed water vapor in the atmosphere of the planet and scientists now have evidence that water can exist on places outside of our own solar system.

An Artist's Impression of HD 189733b
Image Credit: ESA, C. Carreau

HD 189733b orbits a star that is similar to our sun 63 light-years away. This planet orbits its parent star at a very close proximity, taking only 2 days to round the star.

Both the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes confirm the findings. The discovery was made when the planet made a transit in front of the star its orbit. This transit allowed the star's light to shine through the planet's atmosphere, and the spectra they received from that light could only be from the presence of water vapor in the atmosphere.

Scientists believe that water is an essential element for life to exist, and although this discovery supports theories that water can exist in other places besides our own solar system, because the planet is so close to the star it orbits, it is very unlikely that any living creatures exist on it.

Original Article: Space.com / ESA

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Today's News

Once again, I have to apologize because I am too busy to write again, so I'll forward you to today's news. Remember, I only link you the best articles that I find. I guarantee you that tomorrow I will be back delivering you the news.

Astronomers find the most-distant galaxies; W.M. Keck Observatory and MSNBC

A relatively near star, does not seem to be alone; Chandra X-Ray Observatory

Venus is about to get bright (July 12) , only the moon will be brighter; Astronomy Magazine

Astronomers study how galaxies form and change; Science Daily

Killer Electrons from Space! ; Universe Today

Monday, July 9, 2007

Today's News

I'm very busy with a project I'm working on, so today I will just direct to today's news (always to the sites that are best-written :) ).

NASA's Phoenix Mission is prepared to go to Mars

A rocket test has been proven successful and brings NASA closer to its plans of a lunar landing.

I'll definitely be posting again tomorrow.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Dawn Launch Date Pushed to September

NASA's Dawn Spacecraft, a mission to go to the asteroid belt to study its two largest objects, Ceres and Vesta, was scheduled to launch no later than the 15th . Today NASA Officials have decided to postpone the launch until September.

NASA Officials, Managers, and its Head Administrator decided that the Dawn launch could possibly interfere or impact the launch preparations for NASA's Phoenix mission that is headed to Mars. The Phoenix Mars Lander will be lifting off in early August.
This September launch date will cause Dawn to miss the latest launch window, July 19. That window allowed Dawn to receive a sling-shot from mars to speed up the mission, but now NASA has decided to use the other launch window to receive a sling-shot from Mars, in September.

Pictured: NASA's Dawn Spacecraft, sent to study asteroid belt. Image Credit: NASA

NASA says that even with Dawn taking-off in September, it will still be able to maintain all of its science missions goals the same way as if it had taken off in July. NASA will discuss the Phoenix Mars Lander and provide more information about the Dawn spacecraft in a press conference tomorrow (July 8) 11:30 AM Eastern time.

Date of Last Hubble Misison Set

September 10, 2008 will be the date for the last servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. The last service mission to Hubble, STS-125, will be performed by a seven person crew aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis during an 11-day mission. This servicing mission will repair and improve Hubble's abilities through 2013.

This date was finally set because NASA managers did not want to interfere shuttle launches with their plans to complete the International Space Station by 2010; the same time the space shuttle fleet is due to retire.NASA is deciding how to spread out the next few shuttle missions, because they want to complete the ISS, service Hubble for the last time, and accomplish as much as they can before the shuttles are sent into retirement.

"Image Above: The astronauts selected for the final shuttle mission to perform work on the Hubble Space Telescope pose for a group photo. From left to right are astronauts Megan McArthur, Michael Good, Gregory C. Johnson, Scott Altman, John Grunsfeld, Michael Massimino and Andrew Feustel. Image credit: NASA" -- NASA

Friday, July 6, 2007

Searching for Space News Isn't All that Boring

Usually, I spend a lot of time everyday searching through many, many, many websites for the latest astronomy related news. This is not a very exciting task because there is just not something new every hour of every day. But today I was on one of NASA's sites when I spotted this. I thought it was funny.

And it is still live, it seems NASA hasn't noticed their mistake. :)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

NASA Thinking Big About Space Telescopes

I came upon a NASA article discussing the possibilities of launching large items, such as space telescopes (even larger than the Hubble) into orbit. I would write a summary of it here, but I think it is very well written and right to the point. So read it for yourself.

NASA Thinking Big About Space Telescopes

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Opportunity's Trip Into Victoria Crater Delayed

The Mars rover, Opportunity was expected to make its voyage into Victoria Crater, but an ongoing dust storm has delayed this endeavour.

Dust storms block out sunlight, which not not allow the solar panels on the rovers to receive produce energy. With a lack of energy, the rovers are not able to move. Storms like these also coat the panels on the rovers so even if the dust storm stops, there still might be dust settled on the panels and blocks sunlight from reaching the panels.

Image Credit: NASA

This is the worst storm yet faced by both Spirit and Opportunity. Opportunity's solar panels energy went from 765 watt-hours to 402 watt-hours. Steve Squyres a principal investigator at Cornell University said, "While this only represents enough dust to coat the planet to about the thickness of a human hair, it is enough to decrease the brightness of the noon sun by 96 percent compared to a completely clear atmosphere."

The storm will continue for about another week and Opportunity's descent into Victoria Crater will be delayed for several days. Rover operators have cut back on activity to conserve power.

John Callas, Mars Exploration Rover project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said, "We are keeping an eye on this as we go forward, but our entry into Victoria Crater will be delayed until no sooner than July 13."

Original Article: JPL News Release - Dust Delays Mars Crater Entry

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Air Pressure Makes A Difference When Landing A Rover

Physicists at the University of Twente in the Netherlands experiment the outcomes of landing, by dropping a steel ball onto very fine sand. In addition, the researchers altered the air pressure to observe any potential differences in the landings.

Image Credit: Gabriel Caballero et al. Physical Review Letters

The physicists discovered that by altering the air pressure, they were able to change the height of the sand plume that resulted from the steel ball's landing. This sand plume is similar to a plume that is made when a swimmer cannonballs into a swimming pool; the resulting large splash the swimmer makes, would be similar to the plume of sand from the steel ball.

They found that with lower air pressures, there was a smaller plume of sand, and with higher pressures, the plumes were much larger. This happens because with higher pressures, the air and sand pressures 'mix' in a sort of way, leading to a more fluid like behavior which lessens the friction and causes a higher plume.

On planets with dust such as Mars, this kind of research is the difference between a successful probe landing, and a hundred-million dollar chunk of buried metal.

Original Article: Air Pressure Matters When Landing On Sandy Planets

NASA Creates a new office

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center is opening up a new office, the Einstein's Probe Office. The program will investigate the Universe's mysteries and attempt to answer questions about things such as black holes, dark energy, and the cosmic microwave background.

Image Credit: NASA

The Beyond Einstein Program is proposing to build two major observatories and three smaller probes. NASA has commissioned a research committee to determine which mission is the best to develop first. The recommendations are scheduled to be released this coming September.

As NASA puts it, "The Beyond Einstein Program is designed to provide key information to help answer fundamental questions about the origin and evolution of the universe."

Original Article: New NASA Office Will Study Strange Cosmic Phenomena

Monday, July 2, 2007


Okay, now that I am getting regular visitors daily and around 100 people subscribing to this blog so early, I think I'm not going to abondon it. But this blog is facing and identy crisis. I have decided to name this blog one of two names

  1. Astroversity - Astro- space/astronomy related + versity- place of knowledge = astroversity, also happens to be the name of a children's game in the making

  2. The Universe Made Simple - This would be a long URL to type in (unless you subscribe or bookmark :) ), but it defines this website well and is right to the point

PLEASE I'm asking you to vote. It will take literally about 7 seconds, just vote by clicking the link, thank you. Click Here to take survey

ESA Considers Building a Shuttle of their Own

The European Space Agency (ESA) has held meetings a few meetings, with more to come this month, discussing possible plans to build a possible 'Space Shuttle' of their own. The ESA does not want to be fully dependant on NASA's Orion shuttle in the future. They want to be able to have a way to reach space; to deliver experiments, cargo, and conduct research on their own. And if any of NASA's vehicles fails, then the ESA wants to have a backup of their own so they don't face any delays.

ESA's future space vehicle might be an advanced version of the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, or it might be a completely new model and concept.

Russia's Soyuz might be enhanced or
a new concept might be undertaken

The ESA has given about $24 million dollars (U.S) for the study, which is lead by Russia, but if plans for the space vehicle are approved in the future; the agency will have to shell out hundreds of millions more.

Original Article: BBC

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Before the Big Bang?

Theoretical physicist Martin Bojowald has recently published a paper with some interesting findings. This is something very complex, but I will try to boil it down to make it simple. Basically, the Universe and everything in it was once all condensed into a very small point. Researchers believe that the energy and density of the Universe at that time were infinite, but Bojowald suggests that although the energy and density was extremely high, they were finite.

Einstien failed to successfully combine his theories of relativity and quantum mechanics, which are essential to look back to the very first moments of the Universe; and possibly even time 0, or even before that. Bojowald has worked on Loop Quantum Gravity to combine the two concepts and used a 'new type of math' to look back almost at time 0. His 'new math' still works where math always seems to break down when scientists try to look back to the exact moment of the Big Bang.
Image Credit: Space.com

If Bojowald's findings are correct, it may help to learning more about a Universe that existed before. A Universe that was once spread out, condensed, and then expanded as the Big Bang. Whether or not Bojowald's results are completely valid or not is still left to the scientific community, but it never hurts to wonder about what happened before the Big Bang.

*This article is just a small bit of the whole finding. Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy wrote an absolutely terrific article on this. Although it's long I highly suggest you read it here*