Category: Links

[Blog] Awesomeness Round-Up – 12/22/2011

Hubble Holiday Card
Credit: NASA/ESA/HubbleSite

Looking for a space-themed way to say “Happy Holidays!” to your family and friends? How about some printable holiday cards with Hubble images? Every card features fabulous astronomical objects… and when you go to download a card, you’ll find links to articles about related Hubble discoveries! The ornaments above feature Mars, the Whirlpool Galaxy, the star LL Ori, and several nebulae – the Cone Nebula, the Orion Nebula, the Retina Nebula, the Eskimo Nebula, the Bubble Nebula, and the Crab Nebula. Can you tell which is which?
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[Blog] Awesomeness Round-Up – 12/7/2011

Closer to Finding an Earth
Credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech

While scientists have discovered hundreds of extrasolar planets over the past decade, finding Earth’s twin (an Earth-like planet in a similar orbit to ours around a Sun-like star) has been much more difficult. But a recent discovery by the Kepler mission has brought us one step closer – planet Kepler-22b is 2.4 times the radius of Earth, orbiting within the habitable zone (the region where an Earth-like planet could maintain liquid water on its surface) around a host star slightly smaller and cooler than our Sun. Kepler’s observations have identified several dozen other habitable zone planet candidates, and the mission will continue watching these objects as they transit in front of their host stars to see if more potential Earth twins are found.

Kepler-22b -- Comfortably Circling within the Habitable Zone
Credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech

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[Blog] Awesomeness Round-Up – 11/22/2011

One of the newest additions to NASA Goddard is this giant structural steel frame that will be used to assemble the mirrors and instruments of the James Webb Space Telescope. “This milestone is important as it marks the transition to the integration and testing phase for the Webb telescope’s optical telescope element,” said Lee Feinberg, Optical Telescope Element Manager for the Webb telescope at Goddard.

The U-shaped Ambient Optical Assembly Stand (or AOAS) is 24 feet high, 52 feet wide and 41 feet long and weighs 139,000 pounds. Its purpose is to cradle the entire 3.7 metric ton optical telescope and install 18 individual 90 pound mirror segments and other components onto the telescope structure with better than one one-thousandth of an inch precision.

Here’s a time-lapse video of the assembly stand being constructed:

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[Blog] Awesomeness Round-Up – 11/16/2011

We start with a new Hubble result. Using its near-infrared vision to peer 9 billion years back in time, the Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered an extraordinary population of young dwarf galaxies brimming with star formation. While dwarf galaxies are the most common type of galaxy in the universe, the rapid star-birth observed in these newly found examples may force astronomers to reassess their understanding of the ways in which galaxies form.

The galaxies are a hundred times less massive, on average, than the Milky Way, yet churn out stars at such a furious pace that their stellar content would double in just 10 million years. By comparison, the Milky Way would take a thousand times longer to double its star population.

“In addition to the images, Hubble has captured spectra that show us the oxygen in a handful of galaxies and confirmed their extreme star-forming nature,” said co-author Amber Straughn at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “Spectra are like fingerprints. They tell us the galaxies’ chemical composition.”

Dr. Amber Straughn is one of our guest bloggers at NASA Blueshift – so congrats to her for this discovery! Read the rest of the release.

Here is a related video, showing a zoom into the region observed.

Credit: NASA; ESA; and G. Bacon, STScI

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[Blog] Awesomeness Round-Up – 11/10/2011

Pulsars are fascinating stars. They’re neutron stars – objects so dense that a teaspoonful of their matter weighs as much as Mount Everest – and they emit periodic bursts of energy as they rotate, like lighthouse beacons in space. Scientists watch for the tell-tale pattern of emissions, which typically show up every few seconds. A specific group of pulsars known as millisecond pulsars whirl thousands of times per minute. The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has recently identified ten new pulsars, including an unusual millisecond pulsar that may be the youngest ever observed. To learn more about the 100 pulsars that Fermi has discovered to date, you can check out the interactive Fermi Pulsar Explorer.
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[Blog] Awesomeness Round-Up – 10/31/2011

Sara’s note: Don’t forget to enter our costume contest! You’ve still got a few more days to snap a pic of your geeky, science-y costume… and win NASA goodies! More details at the link above.

Aurora 6 med
Credit: David St. Louis

It’s been a busy couple of weeks in astronomy – big discoveries, the launch of NPP – but the biggest story about space may have been the huge geomagnetic storm on October 24th and the subsequent aurora seen all over the place! There are tons of photos that people have posted of the northern lights seen in their area. The coronal mass ejection that caused the event was powerful enough that aurora were seen at far lower latitudes than they are usually visible. Want to know more about the science behind the northern lights? Discovery News put together a nice feature about what causes aurora and what made this particular night’s so spectacular.
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[Blog] Awesomeness Round-Up – 10/20/2011

The full-scale model of the James Webb Space Telescope is currently at the Maryland Science Center at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore. It will be there until October 26th, 2011. It really is an impressive sight (the satellite is about the size of a tennis court!), so if you have time, be sure to check it out!

There are a number of nice photos of it. Below you can see it against the Baltimore skyline. Visible on the wall of the Maryland Science Center is Hubble spectral observations of distant galaxies projected with an intense green laser (from the laser exhibit that ended on the 18th). You can see more photos on Flickr.

Full-scale Model in Baltimore
Credit: Mark Clampin

Giant-Sized Webb Space Telescope Model 'Lands' in Baltimore
Credit: NASA/Carla Cioffi

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[Blog] Awesomeness Round-Up – 10/11/2011

This YouTube vid features recordings made by the U.S. Air Force Space Surveillance Radar in Texas during the Perseid meteor shower. How does this work? Head over to Phil Plait’s blog for an explanation.

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[Blog] Awesomeness Round-Up – 10/3/2011

There are gorgeous new shots of a full-scale test version of one layer of the James Webb Space Telescope’s tennis court-sized sunshield:

Sunshield Membrane
Credit: NGAS

Sunshield Membrane
Credit: NGAS

There are two more on their Flickr.

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[Blog] Awesomeness Round-Up – 9/26/2011

In the Light of Two Suns
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle

In the hunt for extrasolar planets, we’re interested in finding Earth-like planets… but how about Tatooine-like planets? NASA’s Kepler satellite has discovered a planet that might look a little familiar to Star Wars fans. It’s the first planet scientists have seen that orbits two stars! The planet, called Kepler-16b, is about 200 light-years away, and it’s a little different from the sci-fi home of Luke Skywalker. It’s cold and gaseous, orbiting outside of the star system’s habitable zone. Still, it shows that there’s a whole new class of planetary systems out there – and that sometimes science fact is as exciting as science fiction!
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