One Small Step 17 May 2009, 15:16 UTC Google have just released a fab new application for their Android phones, called Sky Map. When you point your phone at the sky, Sky Map can automatically load a map of the bit you’re looking at. Or if you’re looking for Mars, it can actually direct you to it on the sky, in a very cool “icy-cooler-bit warmer now-warm-hot-scorching-yes you’ve got it!”-stylee.One of the main developers on the project is a software engineer who used to work on AstroGrid, John Taylor (h/t to Andy for flagging that up). Check out the video below from the application launch at the recent Google Searchology event (the sleek promo video is here).
Music of the Spheres 17 May 2009, 13:37 UTC STS-125 astronauts Mike Massimino and Mike Good are just leaving the airlock to start the fourth EVA of the ongoing Hubble servicing mission. The Atlantis astronauts are doing amazing work on this mission. EVA's one and two were pretty tough - they accomplished their tasks, but they ran into problems that caused the EVA's to run long. Yesterday's third EVA was expected to be even tougher, with
Hubble Servicing Mission 4 Blog 17 May 2009, 13:32 UTC Astronauts Mike Massimino and Mike Good will conduct SM4’s fourth spacewalk today, focusing on the repair of the STIS instrument (Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph). A power supply failure in 2004 rendered the “black hole hunter” inoperable. Watch NASA’s video about the STIS repair.
Bad Astronomy 17 May 2009, 13:00 UTC I was driving around Boulder the other day running some errands, and my travels took me past Ball Aerospace. I spotted this sign hanging from the side of the main building: This made me smile. Ball is where many of the instruments on board Hubble were built. That includes the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, or STIS, one of the finest cameras ever flown in space. And I know: I helped calibrate it.Back in 1994, right after getting my PhD, I got a short-lived job working on COBE, which at the time was winding down after a long and highly successful mission. But because the project was closing down, it was a difficult work environment (which is true for any project): the computing equipment was aging, the money was tight, and the only problems left to solve were ones that were extremely difficult — and in my case, intractable. The writing on the wall was clear enough.I started applying for other jobs almost immediately (a sad but common state for people with astronomy degrees) and happily was offered a position with a different company at Goddard Space Flight Center working on calibrating STIS, which was just starting to be built. That ...
Space Fellowship 17 May 2009, 10:10 UTC Mission Specialists John Grunsfeld and Andrew Feustel completed the third spacewalk of Atlantis’ mission to the Hubble Space Telescope in 6 hours, 36 minutes, stepping smoothly through the difficult tasks of repairing a delicate camera and installing its most sensitive spectrograph ever. Grunsfeld and Feustel began the spacewalk at 8:35 a.m., removing the telescope’s 16-year-old “contact [...]
Astrobiology Magazine 17 May 2009, 07:01 UTC Scientists studying the chemical composition of comets have determined that they contain missing ingredients needed for life on the primordial Earth. The study lends weight to the idea that cometary impacts played an important role in the origin of life.
Hubble Servicing Mission 4 Blog 16 May 2009, 20:58 UTC Sat, 16 May 2009 04:17:07 PM EDTThe third of five STS-125 spacewalks concluded at 4:11 p.m. ET. It was 6 hours, 36 minutes. During the endeavour outside the Shuttle, Feustel and Grunsfeld removed the Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement and installed in its place the new Cosmic Origins Spectrograph. They also completed the Advanced Camera for Surveys electronic card replacement work. The spacewalkers were ahead of schedule and were able to complete part 2 of the ACS repair, installing a new electronics box and cable.Today’s mission status briefing now is scheduled to begin no earlier than 5 p.m. ET (23:00 CEST). The participants will be Tony Ceccacci, STS-125 lead flight director, Tomas Gonzalez-Torres, STS-125 lead EVA officer, Jon Morse, director, Astrophysics Division, Preston Burch, HST Program manager, and Dave Leckrone, HST Senior Scientist.
Cosmic Ray: Discovery Space 16 May 2009, 17:34 UTC If the stubborn bolt hadn’t budged, or broke when torqued at too great a force, the replacement Wide Field Camera 3 – a camera that promises the deepest-ever views of the universe – would have come back home on the shuttle as a $135 million piece of ballast. I’ve been in Houston, Texas all week at NASA’s Johnson SpaceCenter in support of the fifth and last servicing mission to the Hubble SpaceTelescope. If the tune-up mission is successful, Hubble will remain a viablespace telescope, capable of more extraordinary discoveries, for at least thenext five years. In fact it will be at the apex of its exploration prowess. The most hair-raising event so far was a stuck bolt thatheld the telescope’s premiere camera in place, the Wide Field Planetary Camera2, which was first installed in 1993. I joked about this possibility withcolleagues just before the first space walk. The bolt’s been in there for 16years in a hard vacuum where a phenomenon call “cold welding” could happen. If the stubborn bolt hadn’t budged, or broke when torqued attoo great a force, the replacement Wide Field Camera 3 – a camera that promisesthe deepest-ever views of the universe – would have come ...
Hubble Servicing Mission 4 Blog