Category Archives: Space

Happy Birthday Carl Sagan!


Happy Birthday Carl Sagan!
November 9, 1934 – December 20, 1996

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe. —Carl Sagan

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Posted by on November 9, 2011 in Science, Science News, Space, Special Interest



Experience Hubble’s Universe in 3-D

434459main_hs-2010-12-a-full_full This image depicts a vast canyon of dust and gas in the Orion Nebula from a 3-D computer model based on observations by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and created by science visualization specialists at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Md. A 3-D visualization of this model takes viewers on an amazing four-minute voyage through the 15-light-year-wide canyon.

The model takes viewers through an exhilarating ride through the Orion Nebula, a vast star-making factory 1,500 light-years away. This virtual space journey isn’t the latest video game but one of several groundbreaking astronomy visualizations created by specialists at STScI, the science operations center for NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. The cinematic space odysseys are part of the new Imax film Hubble 3D, which opens today at select IMAX theaters worldwide.

The 43-minute movie chronicles the 20-year life of Hubble and includes highlights from the May 2009 servicing mission to the Earth-orbiting observatory, with footage taken by the astronauts. The giant-screen film showcases some of Hubble’s breathtaking iconic pictures, such as the Eagle Nebula’s "Pillars of Creation," as well as stunning views taken by the newly installed Wide Field Camera 3.

While Hubble pictures of celestial objects are awe-inspiring, they are flat 2-D photographs. For this film, those 2-D images have been converted into 3-D environments, giving the audience the impression they are space travelers taking a tour of Hubble’s most popular targets.
Based on a Hubble image of Orion released in 2006, the visualization was a collaborative effort between science visualization specialists at STScI, including Greg Bacon, who sculpted the Orion Nebula digital model, with input from STScI astronomer Massimo Roberto; the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

For some of the sequences, STScI imaging specialists developed new techniques for transforming the 2-D Hubble images into 3-D. STScI image processing specialists Lisa Frattare and Zolt Levay, for example, created methods of splitting a giant gaseous pillar in the Carina Nebula into multiple layers to produce a 3-D effect, giving the structure depth.
Image Credit: NASA, G. Bacon, L. Frattare, Z. Levay, and F. Summers (STScI/AURA)

Hubble 3D – Movie Trailer 2010

Review: Hubble 3D Takes You on Beautiful, Brief Space Journey

The premise of Imax: Hubble 3D is simple: Make home movies in space. And what beautiful movies they are. The stunning space vistas and intimate moments with astronauts make for a fascinating flash of interstellar eye candy. The images were captured in 2009 when the space shuttle Atlantis crew left Earth to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. […]

03.20.10 From Underwire

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Posted by on March 19, 2010 in Science, Science News, Space


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NASA’s WISE Mission Releases Medley of First Images ~ NASA

PASADENA, Calif. — A diverse cast of cosmic characters is showcased in the first survey images NASA released Wednesday from its Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE.

Since WISE began its scan of the entire sky in infrared light on Jan. 14, the space telescope has beamed back more than a quarter of a million raw, infrared images. Four new, processed pictures illustrate a sampling of the mission’s targets — a wispy comet, a bursting star-forming cloud, the grand Andromeda galaxy and a faraway cluster of hundreds of galaxies. The images are online at .

"WISE has worked superbly," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "These first images are proving the spacecraft’s secondary mission of helping to track asteroids, comets and other stellar objects will be just as critically important as its primary mission of surveying the entire sky in infrared."

WISE Infrared View of Comet Siding Spring One image shows the beauty of a comet called Siding Spring. As the comet parades toward the sun, it sheds dust that glows in infrared light visible to WISE. The comet’s tail, which stretches about 10 million miles, looks like a streak of red paint. A bright star appears below it in blue.

"We’ve got a candy store of images coming down from space," said Edward (Ned) Wright of UCLA, the principal investigator for WISE. "Everyone has their favorite flavors, and we’ve got them all."

During its survey, the mission is expected to find perhaps dozens of comets, including some that ride along in orbits that take them somewhat close to Earth’s path around the sun. WISE will help unravel clues locked inside comets about how our solar system came to be.

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Posted by on February 17, 2010 in Science, Science News, Space


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The Most Detailed View To Date of Dwarf Planet Pluto, NASA Hubble Space Telescope

NASA today released the most detailed set of images ever taken of the distant dwarf planet Pluto. The images taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope show an icy and dark molasses-colored, mottled world that is undergoing seasonal changes in its surface color and brightness. Pluto has become significantly redder, while its illuminated northern hemisphere is getting brighter. These changes are most likely consequences of surface ices sublimating on the sunlit pole and then refreezing on the other pole as the dwarf planet heads into the next phase of its 248-year-long seasonal cycle. The dramatic change in color apparently took place in a two-year period, from 2000 to 2002.


The Hubble images will remain our sharpest view of Pluto until NASA’s New Horizons probe is within six months of its Pluto flyby. The Hubble pictures are proving invaluable for picking out the planet’s most interesting-looking hemisphere for the New Horizons spacecraft to swoop over when it flies by Pluto in 2015.

Though Pluto is arguably one of the public’s favorite planetary objects, it is also the hardest of which to get a detailed portrait because the world is small and very far away. Hubble resolves surface variations a few hundred miles across, which are too coarse for understanding surface geology. But in terms of surface color and brightness Hubble reveals a complex-looking and variegated world with white, dark-orange and charcoal-black terrain. The overall color is believed to be a result of ultraviolet radiation from the distant sun breaking up methane that is present on Pluto’s surface, leaving behind a dark and red carbon-rich residue.

When Hubble pictures taken in 1994 are compared with a new set of images taken in 2002 to 2003, astronomers see evidence that the northern polar region has gotten brighter, while the southern hemisphere has gotten darker. These changes hint at very complex processes affecting the visible surface, and the new data will be used in continued research.

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Posted by on February 5, 2010 in Science News, Space


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Obama Budget Scraps NASA Moon Plan





(President Obama’s 2011 budget request for NASA cut the agency’s Constellation program completely, effectively canceling a five-year, $9 billion effort to build new Orion spacecraft and Ares rockets.)


T-2:05…………PLT……….Would you give that back to me?

T-2:03…………CDR……….We might have a problem.


T-1:58…………CDR……….Two minutes ago President budget request released. Looks like we are scrapped. You got a watch running down there?

(NASA: Two minutes till launch.)

T-1:47…………PLT……….OK there goes extending human colonization.

(NASA: Liquid oxygen supply arm to ET.)

T-1:46…………CDR……….$9 billion is apparently more than the government is willing to spend right now.

(NASA: Liquid oxygen vent cap.)

T-1:44…………PLT……….Doesn’t the country want to further pursue scientific activities intrinsic to the moon?


T-1:39…………PLT……….I thought we were supposed to test new technologies, systems, flight operations and techniques to serve future space exploration missions.

T-1:39…………CDR……….That was the plan Constellation.

T-1:38…………PLT……….This new path is a big change.

(NASA: Obstructed view of liquid oxygen supply arm.)

T-1:33. ……….CDR……….Got your harnesses locked?

(NASA: Seat restraints.)

T-1:29…………PLT……….What for?

T-1:28…………PLT……….I won’t lock mine; I might have to vomit.

T-1:24…………CDR……….Ooh kaaaay.

T-1:04…………PLT……….It has taken over 50 years to build and develop America’s ascension to its rightful place as the dominant player in human spaceflight. That dominance is apparently no longer desired.


T-59…………..CDR……….At least we have this cool video.


(NASA: HOLD at T-59, One minute till launch.)

(NASA: Caution and warning alarm. Routine occurrence during prelaunch).


Obama Budget Scraps NASA Moon Plan for ’21st Century Space Program ~

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Posted by on February 2, 2010 in Science News, Space


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Nasa Ares V Rocket Gets an Upgrade: It will be Bigger and Stronger (Video)

Having just watched Discovery Channels When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions I was interested to learn that we currently have a plan to revisit the Moon around the year 2020. 

On Wednesday, June 26th 2008 NASA announced that the original Constellation project’s principle rocket, the Ares V Cargo Launch Vehicle, will need to be designed to carry a larger payload for manned missions to the Moon by the year 2020 (As of June 2008, NASA has a planned Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission scheduled for late 2008). This means the original concept will need to have a length extension of 20 feet (6 metres) and will need to use six main engines at its base, rather than the current five. This upgrade will be capable of sending far more instrumentation into space, an extra 15,600 lb (7,000 kg, or the equivalent mass of 39 female lions, or 9.3 cows, or 7 shire horses, or 1.3 male African Elephants.)…

Now how does one get a seat on one of these missions?


Posted by on June 29, 2008 in Science News, Space


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Target Earth, Gregg Easterbrook leads an illustrated tour through the treacherous world of space rocks.

Stéphane Guisard,

 Image credit: Stéphane Guisard,

Gregg Easterbrook

The Sky is Falling
The Atlantic, June 2008

“The task of defending Earth from objects falling from the skies seems most fitting for NASA, or perhaps for a multinational civilian agency that might be created. Which raises the question: What could NASA, or anyone else, actually do to provide a defense?… Unlike in the movies, where impossibly good-looking, wisecracking men and women grab space suits and race to the launchpad immediately after receiving a warning that something is approaching from space, in real life preparations to defend against a space object would take many years.”


Read the full story at The

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Posted by on June 18, 2008 in Science News, Space