NASA: Space Shuttle and International Space Station News 12 Jul 2017, 20:01 UTC Media accreditation is open for launch of the next SpaceX commercial cargo resupply services mission to the International Space Station, currently targeted for August. The uncrewed Dragon cargo spacecraft will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida
Lights in the Dark 12 Jul 2017, 16:12 UTC Jupiter’s Great Red Spot imaged by Juno on July 10, 2017. Credit: NASA/SwRI/MSSS/Jason Major They’ve arrived! Images from NASA’s Juno spacecraft P7 pass have landed on Earth (a few days early no less) showing Jupiter’s Great Red Spot from the closest distance that it’s ever been imaged before. Captured on the night of July 10 (early July 11 morning UTC) the closest Junocam images were taken from a distance of only about 5,600 miles from the top of the storm’s clouds—that’s less than an Earth diameter away from a hundreds-year-old hurricane an Earth and a half wide!
Sky and Telescope 12 Jul 2017, 14:26 UTC At opposition this week and as bright as it will be for the next 190 years, it's time to find your way to Pluto, a frigid enigma at the edge of night. When NASA's New Horizons probe flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015, it revealed a world more geologically active than anticipated. This image features Pluto's "Heart," a vast plain of nitrogen ice ringed by water-ice mountains covered in organic compounds that drifted down from the atmosphere. NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI Pluto may be a dwarf planet, but it can pose a gigantic challenge. Not only has the planet been fading since its 1989 perihelion, it's now playing hide-and-seek in star-rich Sagittarius at the pit of the ecliptic. Back when I first saw it in the early '80s, Pluto strode the star-barren fields of eastern Virgo at magnitude of +13.7. These nights, it winks back weakly at magnitude +14.2. What used to be an easy catch for an 8-inch scope under dark skies will probably require a 10-inch now. Fortunately, telescope aperture sizes have increased and prices have dropped since the heyday of Madonna, keeping Pluto within the range of many observers. I hope you'll be one of ...
Starts With a Bang! 12 Jul 2017, 14:01 UTC When it comes to the physical Universe, we fully expect things obeying the same fundamental laws to unfold in similar fashions, and to be comparable to one another today. By the same token, if they obey vastly different rules, we expect them to be different from one another today. If aspects of the Universe that should be very different turn out to be similar, we call this a “coincidence problem.” If aspects that we expect should be similar turn out to be very different, we call that a “hierarchy problem.” In general, these fine-tuning problems are puzzles that either have a natural explanation for why these coincidences or hierarchies exist, or we have to face the most dissatisfying solution we could ask for: the Universe is simply unnatural.
Centauri Dreams 12 Jul 2017, 12:38 UTC ‘Planetary mass binary’ is an unusual term, but one that seems to fit new observations of what was thought to be a brown dwarf or free-floating large Jupiter analog, and now turns out to be two objects, each of about 3.7 Jupiter masses. That puts them into planet-range when it comes to mass, as the International Astronomical Union normally considers objects below the minimum mass to fuse deuterium (13 Jupiter masses) to be planets. This is the lowest mass binary yet discovered.
One Universe at a Time 12 Jul 2017, 11:00 UTC In our solar system Jupiter is the king of planets. It is 2.5 times more massive than the other planets combined. But it isn’t the most massive planet we know of. In the search for planets around other stars, we’ve found planets with masses up to 20 times that of Jupiter. All things being equal, we can imagine Jupiter-like planets having a fairly even distribution of sizes, but it turns out that’s not the case.
The Lined Wolf 12 Jul 2017, 04:45 UTC This is BIG. Australian astronomers have tried for almost 2 decades to be part of the European Southern Observatory (ESO). Yesterday, 11th July 2017, at a ceremony happening during the Annual Meeting of the Astronomical Society of Australia (ASA) in Canberra, Australia, ESO’s Director General, Tim de Zeeuw, and the Australian Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Arthur Sinodinos, signed a 10 years Strategic Partnership between Australia and ESO. Image composition showing all the ESO observatories and the Headquarters. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser. Following the ESO-Australia Strategic Agreement, Australian astronomers (including me!) will have access to telescope time at La Silla and Paranal Observatories in Chile. The ESO-Australia Strategic Agreement also provides crucial opportunities for Australian influence and technical and scientific input, stimulating international research and industry collaborations. This is particularly important for the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO), as we are developing key instrumentation for ESO (as the ESOP positioner for the VISTA telescope), and that was a key part of the deal, with new opportunities to develop further telescope instrumentation in the nearby future. That also means an important re-arrangement within the AAO, which details are still unknown, but in which we’ll give our best. At a ceremony in Canberra, ...