The Planetary Society Blog 11 Aug 2017, 11:00 UTC I was really into cars when I was younger, and by extension, car magazines. I particularly loved reading concept car articles, which came with glossy sketches and hyperbolic headlines like "Is this the next Corvette?" Sadly, I also learned production cars rarely end up looking their theoretical forebearers. Form usually gives way to function. It's not much different in the space business. When NASA's Space Launch System was unveiled in 2011, it had a pearl-white paint job resembling the Saturn V Moon rocket. The initial artist's rendering, which featured an American flag fluttering in the foreground, was almost stunning enough to make casual observers forget the rocket was born out of one of the most contentious space policy debates of all time—one that continues to rage today.
AmericaSpace 10 Aug 2017, 23:00 UTC Testing of the new brain for the RS-25 engines that will help power the colossal Space Launch System (SLS) rocket uphill from launch pad 39B in the coming years has been on a roll at NASA’s Stennis Space Center all summer, and they just finished up testing of the fourth RS-25 engine controller (the brain) needed for the inaugural flight in 2019 – two weeks after the third test of another RS-25 engine flight controller.
Space Fellowship 10 Aug 2017, 21:30 UTC The Expedition 52 crew members pulled out their medical hardware today for a variety of eye checks and other biomedical research. The station residents are also making space and packing up gear for next week’s cargo delivery aboard the SpaceX Dragon.
Astro Bob 10 Aug 2017, 18:45 UTC To whet your appetite for the upcoming eclipse, nature has an opening act performing this weekend. It’s the annual Perseid meteor shower, a pleasant “rain” of fiery flashes coming to a sky near you Friday through Sunday nights. Each year in mid-August, Earth zips through the stream of grit and ice boiled off the nucleus of comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle during its once-every-133-year-journey around the sun. Particles that range in size from sand grains to Grape-Nuts and even a few pebble-sized pieces slam into the atmosphere at speeds in excess of 133,000 mph (59 km/sec) and vaporize in a flash of light.
Centauri Dreams 10 Aug 2017, 16:15 UTC I’m going to miss the Cassini mission as much as anyone, but I have to say it’s fascinating to watch how mission controllers are wringing good science out of every last moment of the spacecraft’s life. We’re now in the Grand Finale phase of the mission, in which Cassini has moved between the planet and its rings in a series of weekly dives. Now we’re about to push into a new series of close passes, actually moving through Saturn’s upper atmosphere.
ESO Announcements 10 Aug 2017, 13:00 UTC Back in October 2012, the near-Earth asteroid 2012 TC4 had a close encounter with Earth. It passed our planet at a distance only a quarter of that between the Earth and the Moon. In October 2017, this small asteroid, with a size of only about 15 to 30 metres, will return for another very close fly-by, making it the perfect object to test the asteroid detection and tracking network.
The Planetary Society Blog 10 Aug 2017, 11:00 UTC NASA’s managers are in the process of selecting the agency’s next planetary mission from a field of twelve competitors. This fourth mission in the New Frontiers program will follow in the footsteps of the three missions in this program that have already launched: The New Horizons Pluto spacecraft, the Juno Jupiter orbiter, and the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission.
Tom's Astronomy Blog 10 Aug 2017, 04:54 UTC Hard to imagine Cassini is about to begin the last five orbits of the mission. No mission extensions this time, Cassini will become part of Saturn. The image is from 12 August 2014 credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute. The Final Five from NASA: NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will enter new territory in its final mission phase, the Grand Finale, as it prepares to embark on a set of ultra-close passes through Saturn’s upper atmosphere with its final five orbits around the planet. Cassini will make the first of these five passes over Saturn at 12:22 a.m. EDT Monday, Aug. 14. The spacecraft’s point of closest approach to Saturn during these passes will be between about 1,010 and 1,060 miles (1,630 and 1,710 kilometers) above Saturn’s cloud tops. The spacecraft is expected to encounter atmosphere dense enough to require the use of its small rocket thrusters to maintain stability – conditions similar to those encountered during many of Cassini’s close flybys of Saturn’s moon Titan, which has its own dense atmosphere. “Cassini’s Titan flybys prepared us for these rapid passes through Saturn’s upper atmosphere,” said Earl Maize, Cassini project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California. “Thanks to our past experience, ...
Sky and Telescope 9 Aug 2017, 20:21 UTC Two studies of star formation in distant galaxy clusters point to different mechanisms of slowing the stellar baby boom that reigned in the early universe. The star-formation history of the universe still isn’t a settled issue in astronomy. In theory starbirth peaked around 10 billion years ago, and it’s been decreasing ever since, but that’s not an easy thing to verify observationally. Two new studies take a closer look at star-forming galaxies in distant, long-ago clusters — although they raise more questions than they answer. What Halts Star Formation in Galaxy Clusters? As a spiral galaxy plunges into the Norma Cluster, the hot intercluster gas strips away cold, potentially star-forming gas. NASA / ESA / CXC Galaxy clusters are some of the largest known gravitationally bound structures in the universe. They consist of hundreds to thousands of galaxies permeated by hot gas and dark matter. As galaxies move through their cluster, the denser gas between galaxies is thought to strip away the sparser molecular gas within galaxies, removing their fuel for star formation and decreasing star formation rates. Conversely, galaxies in “the field,” away from clusters, usually have higher star formations rates, since they don’t have outside forces working to ...