Showing posts from February, 2011

NASA's SDO Captures a Monster Prominence [video]

Source:   NASA Excerpt: When a rather large-sized flare occurred near the edge of the Sun, it blew out a gorgeous, waving mass of erupting plasma that swirled and twisted over a 90-minute period (Feb. 24, 2011). This event was captured …by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) spacecraft. To see an image showing the size of the prominence in comparison to the size of earth see To view a high res still from this event go here:

Berkeley Lab’s Saul Perlmutter wins Einstein Medal

Source:   Lance Knobel, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Excerpt: Saul Perlmutter, a professor of Physics at UC Berkeley ... has been awarded this year’s Einstein Medal, presented by the Albert Einstein Society. The medal was awarded for “discovering the acceleration of the universe” through the observation of very distant supernovae. .In 1998 Perlmutter announced the ... landmark finding that the expansion of the universe is not slowing, as virtually all scientists expected, but accelerating. The cause of the acceleration has been dubbed dark energy, and is estimated to constitute nearly three-quarters of everything in the universe. The nature of dark energy remains unknown.

MESSENGER Begins Historic Orbit around Mercury

Source:   NASA MESSENGER Mission News Excerpt: “Achieving Mercury orbit was by far the biggest milestone since MESSENGER was launched more than six and a half years ago,” says MESSENGER Project Manager Peter Bedini, of APL. “This accomplishment is the fruit of a tremendous amount of labor on the part of the navigation, guidance-and-control, and mission operations teams, who shepherded the spacecraft through its 4.9-billion-mile [7.9-billion-kilometer] journey.” For the next several weeks, APL engineers will be focused on ensuring that MESSENGER’s systems are all working well in Mercury’s harsh thermal environment.  

Images from Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter

Source:    NASA-LRO Excerpt: NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) team released ... the final set of data from the mission's exploration phase.... The spacecraft's seven instruments delivered more than 192 terabytes of data with an unprecedented level of detail ...a global map with a resolution of 100 meters per pixel. It would take approximately 41,000 typical DVDs to hold the new LRO data set.  ...Armchair astronauts can zoom in to full resolution with any of the mosaics.... All of the final records from the exploration phase, which lasted from Sept. 15, 2009 through Sept. 15, 2010, are available through several of the Planetary Data System nodes and the LROC website.   and

Jupiter's bold stripe is back

Source:   Science News Excerpt: New infrared images of Jupiter reveal why one of the giant planet’s most distinctive features, a brown-red stripe just south of the equator, is reemerging after being covered in white for about a year. The images, taken at the Keck observatory atop Hawaii’s Mauna Kea by Mike Wong of the University of California, Berkeley, show that wispy, high-altitude ice clouds that had formed over Jupiter’s southern region are now thinning, allowing more of the stripe to be seen.

Chat With Exoplanet Guru Geoff Marcy

Source:   Lisa Grossman, Wired Science  Excerpt: ...astronomer Geoff Marcy a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and his team went on to discover 70 of the first 100 exoplanets, pioneering techniques subsequently used to find and describe more than 400 planets — and counting.... Why exoplanets? You started back when there weren’t any. How did you get into this? Geoff Marcy: You want the real answer? It’s personal. research wasn’t going very well. A Harvard astronomer criticized my PhD thesis. ... I thought okay, well now the jig is up. Maybe my career is over.  ...I remember ... thinking, I can’t suffer like this anymore. I’ve got to just enjoy myself, do research that really means something to me. So I thought, what do I care about? I would love to know if there were other planets around other stars....

Year of the Solar System, February 2011: Small Bodies – Big Impacts

Source:   NASA Excerpt: There are many types of small bodies in the solar system, but none may be as dramatic as comets.  …Comets also have a big influence when they collide with Earth. …Some scientists argue that colliding comets early in Earth's development contributed much of Earth's water. Some scientists also postulate that comets could have delivered organic molecules critical to the formation of life....