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President Obama Speaks With Astronauts

Thursday, 2010 Feb 18  - 12:09:16 AM EST

President Obama, congressional leaders and middle school students spoke with the astronaut
crews of the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle Endeavour at 5:14 p.m. EST
Wednesday and congratulated them on their successful ongoing mission. The call took place from
the Roosevelt Room of the White House.

A Mission Status Briefing will be Broadcast on NASA TV at 5:30 a.m. Thursday Feb 18 .


Space Shuttle Mission: STS-130

President Obama
Image Above: U.S. President Barack Obama, accompanied by White House Science Adviser John Holdren, left, Congressman C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger (D-MD) and middle school children, talks on the phone from the Roosevelt Room of the White House to astronauts on the International Space Station. Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

› Meet the STS-130 Crew

Shuttle, Station Crews Receive Presidential Call
The astronauts and cosmonauts on space shuttle Endeavour and the International Space Station have started an extra day of joint docked operations to complete relocation of the station’s regenerative life support system into the new Tranquility module.

About an hour after the crew wakeup call at 4:17 p.m. EST, all 11 astronauts and cosmonauts on the docked vehicles received a congratulatory phone call from President Barack Obama, who was accompanied at the White House by a dozen middle school students from across the country who are in Washington, D.C. for a national engineering competition.

› Read more about the call from President Obama

Internal outfitting of the new station modules fills up most of the timeline for this extra day on orbit, which was added specifically to support this activity. Crew members will relocate the remaining system racks of the regenerative environmental control and life support system—both Water Recovery System racks, the Waste Hygiene Compartment, and the Oxygen Generation System—into empty rack spaces in Tranquility, and finish setting up hardware in the new cupola module.

The plan to relocate the station’s robotic arm work station from Destiny into the cupola has been deferred for the station crew to complete after the shuttle departs to afford time for the on orbit crew and specialists in Houston to resolve issues of structural interference from hardware in the cupola.

Shortly after 1 a.m. Thursday, the station’s altitude will be raised slightly by firing Endeavour’s small vernier thrusters for 33 minutes. This adjustment combined with future altitude adjustments will set the stage for future spacecraft arrivals, including that of Discovery on the STS-131 mission now set
for an April 5th launch.

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Astronomers Find Super-Earth Orbiting 

Red Dwarf Star; May Have Atmosphere

ScienceDaily (Dec. 16, 2009) — Astronomers announced that they have discovered a "super-Earth"
orbiting a red dwarf star 40 light-years from Earth. They found the distant planet with a small fleet
of ground-based telescopes no larger than those many amateur astronomers have in their backyards.
Although the super-Earth is too hot to sustain life, the discovery shows that current, ground-based
technologies are capable of finding almost-Earth-sized planets in warm, life-friendly orbits.

The discovery is being published in the December 17 issue of the journal Nature.

A super-Earth is defined as a planet between one and ten times the mass of the Earth. The newfound
world GJ1214b, is about 6.5 times as massive as the Earth. Its host star, GJ1214, is a small,
red type M star about one-fifth the size of the Sun. It has a surface temperature of only about
4,900 degrees F and a luminosity only three-thousandths as bright as the Sun.

GJ1214b orbits its star once every 38 hours at a distance of only 1.3 million miles.
Astronomers estimate the planet's temperature to be about 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Although warm as an oven, it is still cooler than any other known transiting planet because
it orbits a very dim star.

Since J1214b crosses in front of its star, astronomers were able to measure its radius, which is
about 2.7 times that of Earth. This makes GJ1214b one of the two smallest transiting worlds
astronomers have discovered (the other being CoRoT-7-b). The resulting density suggests that
GJ1214b is composed of about three-fourths water and other ices, and one-fourth rock.
There are also tantalizing hints that the planet has a gaseous atmosphere.

"Despite its hot temperature, this appears to be a waterworld," said Zachory Berta, a
graduate student at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) who first spotted
the hint of the planet among the data. "It is much smaller, cooler, and more Earthlike than any
other known exoplanet."

Berta added that some of the planet's water should be in the form of exotic materials like
Ice VII (seven) -- a crystalline form of water that exists at pressures greater than 20,000 times
Earth's sea-level atmosphere.

Astronomers found the new planet using the MEarth (pronounced "mirth") Project -- an array of
eight identical 16-inch-diameter RC Optical Systems telescopes that monitor a pre-selected list of
2,000 red dwarf stars. Each telescope perches on a highly accurate Software Bisque Paramount
and funnels light to an Apogee U42 charge-coupled device (CCD) chip, which many amateurs
also use.

"Since we found the super-earth using a small ground-based telescope, this means that anyone
else with a similar telescope and a good CCD camera can detect it too. Students around the world
can now study this super-earth!" said David Charbonneau of CfA, lead author and head
of the MEarth project.

MEarth looks for stars that change brightness. The goal is to find a planet that crosses in front of,
or transits, its star. During such a mini-eclipse, the planet blocks a small portion of the star's light,
making it dimmer. Using innovative data processing techniques, astronomers can tease out the
telltale signal of a transiting planet and distinguish it from "false positives" such as eclipsing
double stars.

NASA's Kepler mission also uses transits to look for Earth-sized planets orbiting Sun-like stars.
However, such systems dim by only one part in ten thousand. The higher precision required to
detect the drop means that such worlds can only be found from space.

In contrast, a super-Earth transiting a small, red dwarf star yields a greater proportional decrease
In brightness and a stronger signal detectable from the ground. Astronomers then use instruments
like the HARPS (High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher) spectrograph at the
European Southern Observatory to measure the companion's mass and confirm it is a planet,
as they did with this discovery.

When astronomers compared the measured radius of GJ1214b to theoretical models, they found
that the observed radius exceeds the model's prediction, even assuming a pure water planet.
Something more than the planet's solid surface may be blocking the star's light -- specifically,
a surrounding atmosphere.

The team also notes that, if it has an atmosphere, those gases are almost certainly not primordial.
The star's heat is gradually boiling off the atmosphere. Over the planet's multiple-billion-year lifetime,
much of the original atmosphere may have been lost.

The next step for astronomers is to try to directly detect and characterize the atmosphere,
which will require a space-based instrument like NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. GJ1214b
is only 40 light-years from Earth, within the reach of current observatories.

"Since this planet is so close to Earth, Hubble should be able to detect the atmosphere and
determine what it's made of," said Charbonneau. "That will make it the first super-Earth with
a confirmed atmosphere -- even though that atmosphere probably won?t be hospitable to life
as we know it."


Story Source:

Adapted from materials provided by Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics,
via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Need to cite this story in your essay, paper, or report? Use one of the following formats:
APA

MLA
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (2009, December 16). Astronomers find super-Earth
 orbiting red dwarf star; may have atmosphere. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 18, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2009/12/091216131738.htm

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.




This artist's conception shows the newly discovered super-Earth GJ 1214b,
which orbits a red dwarf star 40 light-years from our Earth. It was discovered
 by the MEarth project -- a small fleet of ground-based telescopes no larger
than those many amateur astronomers have in their backyards. (Credit: David A. Aguilar, CfA)
 
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   Monday Dec 14th Launch of WISE IS SUCCESSFUL  AT 9:09 AM EST

WISE inside the Delta II payload fairing
Image above: NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer  WISE) has been wrapped in the outer
nose cone, or "fairing," that will protect it during its scheduled Dec. 14th launch from
Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
Image credit: NASA/VAFB


A Delta II rocket and its NASA payload, the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), are on track
for Monday's scheduled liftoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Space Telescope That Will Map the

Universe's 'Dark Side' Blasts off from

The Central Coast at 9:09 AM EST

By Emma Gallegos, Staff Writer PASADENA STAR NEWS
Posted: 12/14/2009 07:08:41 AM PST

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE - A rocket carrying a space telescope blasted off from Vandenberg
Air Force Base just moments before the sun rose Monday morning to the cheers of scientists looking on.

The rocket carried the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) into orbit, where it will take a survey
of the sky using a powerful infrared camera.

Related: Reporter Emma Gallegos' Tweets from the launch

Amy Mainzer, deputy project scientist for WISE at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, called it a "textbook"
launch.

"That is how a launch is done," she said, wiping tears from her eyes. "If you're really lucky, you get
to see your project go into space."

The rocket lifted-off on schedule at 6:09 a.m. It was originally slated to lift-off a week earlier, but launches
had been postponed several times because of a storm that buffeted the central coast. Later, engineers
doing final checks on the Delta 2 rocket that carried WISE into orbit found a problem with its booster engine.
The timing of the launch was a little different from others because the team has to prepare hydrogen ice
surrounding the telescope. The ice will keep it cooled to -430 degrees Fahrenheit.
All objects warmer than absolute zero - which are most objects - give off infrared light, which WISE's
camera will pick up. The frozen hydrogen will help the camera pick up infrared light from
distant galaxies - in some cases billions of light years away.



The 4 million-pixel camera on the spacecraft will map the universe in the infrared - notably objects that
may be large but give off little visible light light like asteroids, brown dwarfs and ultra-luminous galaxies.

If all goes well, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory-managed WISE team will receive a signal letting them know that
the space telescope has separated from the launch vehicle 55 minutes after it blasts off, according to
Bill Irace, WISE project manager at JPL.
The telescope has two star-trackers that will help it orient itself. About 16 days after launch, the cover
protecting WISE's camera will be After two weeks of calibration, the WISE camera can begin the work
of mapping the sky, Irace said.
The first image will be released a month after the camera begins mapping the sky, said
Peter Eisenhardt, WISE project scientist, who monitored the launch from JPL.

It will take WISE 6 months to map the entire sky, and then the space telescope will re-map some areas for
3 more months before its hydrogen ice melts.

WISE will take an image every 11 seconds, which will result in 5700 images a day and more than a
million images in total.

That will represent the "infrared mother lode that astronomers will mine for years to come," said
Jon Morse, NASA's Astrophysics division director.

Members of the WISE mission said they expect the unexpected with this mission.

"I'm sure that the most interesting things we're going to see are going to be total surprises, because we
haven't looked at this volume of the universe before," said Ned Wright, principal investigator for WISE
at UCLA.

The last time the entire sky was mapped in the infrared was 26 years ago with a camera that only
62 pixels. WISE's has4 million. The Spitzer space telescope mapped about 1% of the sky with this
clarity. The rest of the sky will be left for WISE.

One major part of the mission is to look for near-Earth objects, Mainzer said.

Most asteroids are between Mars and Jupiter, but there are a host of asteroids closer to Earth that
astronomers don't know about - even some that could be on a collision course.

"It's not a trivial risk - dinosaurs were wiped out by a fairly large asteroid," Eisenhardt said.

The WISE team expects to find thousands of new asteroids in the main asteroid belt and hundreds
of near-Earth objects, Mainzer said.

WISE could also find new star systems that are closer to our solar system than any other stars
astronomers have found, Eisenhardt said.

"Most people would be interested to know there are nearby stars that we haven't discovered,"
Eisenhardt said. "I think that's the most exciting discovery that we hope WISE will make."


 

 
 
The WISE spacecraft will circle Earth over the poles, scanning the entire sky
 one-and-a-half times in nine months. The mission will uncover hidden cosmic objects,
including the coolest stars, dark asteroids and the most luminous galaxies.

        SEE MORE ON MY WISE MISSION PAGE AT LEFT MENU

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                                    From Spaceweather.com for 2009 November 8

 ASTEROID NEAR MISS: On Nov. 6th at 4:32 PM EST, asteroid 2009 VA barely missed Earth when it 
flew just 14,000 km above the planet's surface. That's well inside the "Clarke Belt" of geosynchronous
satellites. If it had hit, the ~6-meter wide space rock would have disintegrated in the atmosphere as
a spectacular fireball, causing no significant damage to the ground. 2009 VA was discovered just
15 hours before closest approach by astronomers working at the Catalina Sky Survey.

                                                  
                                     From Spaceweather.com for 2009 November 3

NOT-SO-BLANK SUN: Today, the sunspot number is zero, which means the sun is blank, right?  Wrong.

This morning, NASA's STEREO-A spacecraft photographed sunspot 1029 seething with activity

over the sun's western horizon:


                                                            Photo credit: STEREO Extreme Ultra Violet Telescope (195 A)

This impressive sunspot, which rotated over the sun's western limb three days ago, does not add to the sunspot number

because it is no longer visible from Earth. Astronomers only count spots that are on the Earth-facing side of the sun.

That's how it's been done since Rudolph Wolf invented the sunspot number in 1848. In those days, only one side of

the sun was visible from Earth, so the tradition was established.

Now, however, for the first time in the history of astronomy, NASA's twin STEREO spacecraft are seeing over the sun's

horizon, tracking sunspots that officially "don't count." The two spacecraft are moving toward opposite sides of the sun,

and by February 2011 the entire sun will be under their watchful eyes. Perhaps it is time to start thinking about a

"whole sun" sunspot number. As today's image shows, the sun is not always as blank as it appears to be.


                                           ASTRONOMY PICTURE OF THE DAY FOR 2009 November 2
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

Ares 1-X Rocket Lifts Off
Credit & Copyright: Rory A. Duncan (United Space Alliance)
Explanation: Last week, NASA test fired a new rocket. The Ares 1-X was the first non-shuttle rocket launched from Kennedy Space Center since the Saturn launched humans to Earth orbit and the Moon in the 1960s and 1970s. NASA is testing Ares as a prelude to replacing the aging space shuttle fleet. The tremendous thrust of the Ares 1-X can bring the massive rocket from a standing start to a vertical speed of over 100 kilometers per hour in under eight seconds. The test rocket launched last week was longer than a football field and covered with over 700 sensors to record data that will enable engineers to refine details of future Ares rockets. Pictured above, the Ares 1-X blasts into space while the top part of the rocket becomes engulfed in a shock collar of water droplets likely created by the sudden drop of air pressure.


ARTICLE BELOW IS From Spaceweather.com

LUNAR IMPACT! NASA's LCROSS spacecraft and its Centaur booster rocket have hit the lunar surface. The impact flash from the Centaur booster rocket was not bright--it has been described "a dud" visually--but mission scientists say that could be good news, indicative of an impact in loose, relatively water-rich regolith. However, they are not ready to announce results while the data are so raw. Images from many observatories are still coming in and have yet to be analyzed.

The LCROSS mothership took this picture of crater Cabeus during the spacecraft's death plunge into the shadows. "X" marks the approximate point of impact:

When the Centaur booster rocket hit the crater floor, infrared cameras on the mothership detected a flash of heat and spectrometers detected sodium in the debris cloud. Mission scientists have not yet had a chance to fully examine the spectra for signs of water, but "we will be working on this feverishly today," said mission leader Tony Colaprete at a post-impact NASA press conference.

Amateur Images: from Ed Lomeli of Sacramento, California; from Mike Broussard of Maurice, Louisiana;

The low brightness of the flash did not dim the enthusiasm of thousands of people who stayed up late for lunar impact parties. At the Sci-Quest science museum in Huntsville, Alabama, kids and parents spelled out "LCROSS" to mark the event:


Photo credit: David Higginbotham, NASA

"We all gathered in the auditorium and donned our party hats and blew our noise makers and waited for the imact," says NASA science writer Dauna Coulter. "The actual footage was a bit of an anti-climax, but that didn't dampen the spirit of the attendees! "

Lunar Impact Resources:


 
                      MORE ON THE LCROSS MISSION at:
  http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/LCROSS/main/index.html

IN NASA'S SEARCH FOR WATER ON THE MOON


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Moon Craters Could Be Coldest Place in Solar System
By Andrea Thompson
Senior Writer at Space.com
Posted: 18 September 2009
01:12 pm ET

The coldest place in the solar system might be closer to home than we thought.

New data from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) suggests that permanently shadowed craters at the moon's south pole might be colder even than Pluto and the other objects in the solar system's furthest most reaches.

In its first set of measurements, announced Thursday, LRO's Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment, which is conducting the first global survey of the temperature of the lunar surface, found that craters along the lunar south pole that have areas permanently shielded from the sun's light (and suspected to harbor deposits of water ice) have extremely cold temperatures.

"Diviner has recorded minimum daytime brightness temperatures in portions of these craters of less than -397 degrees Fahrenheit," said David Paige, Diviner's principal investigator and a UCLA professor of planetary science. "These super-cold brightness temperatures are, to our knowledge, among the lowest that have been measured anywhere in the solar system, including the surface of Pluto."

While it may seem odd that the moon, which is much closer to the sun, could be colder than Pluto, it's not at all unexpected, one planetary scientist said. In fact, the poles of Mercury may be even colder.

"The key point is not their distance from the sun, but the fact that there are regions at the poles of the Moon and Mercury that never see the sun, and so never get heated by sunlight," said Alan Boss, of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C.

"The only heat they receive is from the underlying rock, but that means only interior heat leftover from their formation or their internal radioactive decays, but in any case the local rocks are still cold because they too are free to radiate out to -263 Celsius space without getting any heat back from the sun," Boss told SPACE.com.

The news of these frigid temperatures bolsters the idea that these craters could harbor water ice, which would be a boon to any future moon bases, which could melt the water and use it for drinking, or extract hydrogen for fuel.

The ultra-low temperatures of these craters are the opposite of those at the lunar equator, which are hotter than the boiling point of water at noontime.

Lunar surface temperatures are expected to change with the seasons, and Diviner will continue to monitor and map them throughout LRO's planned one-year mission.

LRO was launched on June 18, along with its companion, the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS). LCROSS will impact one of these lunar craters, Cabeus A, on Oct. 9 to generate debris that can be analyzed for signs of water.

NOTE THAT A TEMPERATURE OF - 391* F  WAS RECORDED BY VOYAGER 2 AT NEPTUNE's
MOON TRITON AND IT IS BELIEVED THAT COLDER TEMPERATURES COULD EXIST ON THE
DISTANT DWARF PLANET ERIS SOME 97 AU's AWAY  (8.7 BILLION MILES).
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         LATEST ASTROPHOTOS FROM THE UPGRADED HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE
                                                      MORE AT MY HST PAGE at Left Menu

The image “http://imgsrc.hubblesite.org/hu/db/images/hs-2009-25-a-web_print.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
 
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MYSTERIOUS NEW WHITE SPOT DISCOVERED ON VENUS
DISCOVERY PHOTOS  BELOW:

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                                                   MORE ON VENUS Page at Left Menu


 UPDATE ON JUPITER'S NEW IMPACT SCAR DISCOVERED ON JULY 19 & HST PHOTOS  OF IT
 SEE THE JUPITER  PAGE AT Left Menu
 


This infrared (heat) image taken with the Keck II telescope in Hawaii shows the new feature observed

on Jupiter and its relative size compared to Earth. The spot is bright because it's warmer than its

surroundings. Credit: Paul Kalas (UCB), Michael Fitzgerald (LLNL/UCB), Franck Marchis (SETI

Institute/UCB), James
Graham (UCB)

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THIS IS THE WAY A TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE REALLY LOOKS WITH A TWILIGHT NOT BLACK SKY.
 PHOTO BY ALAN DYER - MUCH  MORE ON THE JULY 22nd SOLAR ECLIPSE  PAGE at Left Menu
                   NOTE THE PLANET VENUS AT TOP  UNDER THE TWO BARS
                                                                                       ll
The image “http://spaceweather.com/eclipses/22jul09d/Alan-Dyer1.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE: On Wed, July 22nd, the Moon eclipsed the midday sun over China. "

The temperature dropped from 96.6 F to 88.5F at totality," reports Donald Gardner from Huangshan. "The roosters were crowing and the streetlights came on!" He took this picture below of a sun-sliver beaming through lunar mountains

(This is the famous phase known as "The  Diamond Ring") :

http://spaceweather.com/eclipses/22jul09/Donald-Gardner4.jpg

July 21, 2009, 8:28 pm

The Eclipse Chaser: We Have an Eclipse! From China

By Jay M. Pasachoff - Solar Expert and Professor at Wlliams College in PA

solar eclipse
Jay M. Pasachoff The total solar eclipse, seen from the mountains of China.
The longest total solar eclipse this century started in India, sweeping east across China and into the
Pacific Ocean. Blogging about the event for TierneyLab is Jay M. Pasachoff, a Williams College astronomer
 who is chasing the eclipse from a mountain outside Hangzhou, China.


MORE ON THE ECLIPSE  AT  SPECIAL NEWS  at Left  Menu

ALSO  - SEE A GREAT VIDEO FROM IWO JIMA WHERE THE ECLIPSE LASTED NEAR THE MAXIMUM
OF 6.65 MINUTES AT : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNF4sEwyS2Q&feature=channel

CLICK ON THE SQUARE AT LOWER RIGHT OF SCREEN TO SEE THE FULL SCREEN VIDEO
ALSO THERE ARE OTHER ECLIPSE VIDEOS FROM JAPANESE NHK ON THE PAGE
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THIS IS THE WAY A TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE REALLY LOOKS WITH A TWILIGHT NOT BLACK SKY.
 PHOTO BY ALAN DYER - MUCH  MORE ON THE JULY 22nd SOLAR ECLIPSE  PAGE at Left Menu
                   NOTE THE PLANET VENUS AT TOP  UNDER THE TWO BARS
                                                                                       ll
The image “http://spaceweather.com/eclipses/22jul09d/Alan-Dyer1.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE: On Wed, July 22nd, the Moon eclipsed the midday sun over China. "

The temperature dropped from 96.6 F to 88.5F at totality," reports Donald Gardner from Huangshan. "The roosters were crowing and the streetlights came on!" He took this picture below of a sun-sliver beaming through lunar mountains

(This is the famous phase known as "The  Diamond Ring") :

http://spaceweather.com/eclipses/22jul09/Donald-Gardner4.jpg

July 21, 2009, 8:28 pm

The Eclipse Chaser: We Have an Eclipse! From China

By Jay M. Pasachoff - Solar Expert and Professor at Wlliams College in PA

solar eclipse
Jay M. Pasachoff The total solar eclipse, seen from the mountains of China.
The longest total solar eclipse this century started in India, sweeping east across China and into the
Pacific Ocean. Blogging about the event for TierneyLab is Jay M. Pasachoff, a Williams College astronomer
 who is chasing the eclipse from a mountain outside Hangzhou, China.

MORE ON THE ECLIPSE  AT  SPECIAL NEWS  at Left  Menu

ALSO  - SEE A GREAT VIDEO FROM IWO JIMA WHERE THE ECLIPSE LASTED NEAR THE MAXIMUM
OF 6.65 MINUTES AT : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNF4sEwyS2Q&feature=channel

CLICK ON THE SQUARE AT LOWER RIGHT OF SCREEN TO SEE THE FULL SCREEN VIDEO
ALSO THERE ARE OTHER ECLIPSE VIDEOS FROM JAPANESE NHK ON THE PAGE
 
 
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LIGHTEST EXOPLANET DISCOVERED
SEE RECENT DISCOVERIES at Left Menu
 ----------------------------------------------------

THE HUBBLE TELESCOPE WAS LAUNCHED ON
1990 APRIL 24 - 19 YEARS AGO



New Hubble mission to launch around May 11 AFP/Getty Images/File – NASA said Thursday it may launch its final mission to the Hubble Space Telescope a day earlier than planned …
Thu Apr 23, 3:14 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – NASA said Thursday it may launch its final mission to the Hubble space telescope a day earlier than planned on May 11 to avoid a calendar clash of dates.

"This week we have been having discussions about target May 11 as a launch date," said LeRoy Cain, the deputy head of the US shuttle program.

"We have currently May 12 and 13 and due to some conflicts we will not be able to secure any other dates after the 13 ... and won't be able to fly again until approximately May 22, if we cannot launch the 12 or the 13."

Planned military launch activities around the same time means all other launches would be blocked until May 22 and the US space agency prefers to leave a three-day window around its launch dates in case the mission is delayed by bad weather or any last-minute technical hitches.

Cain said the shuttle Atlantis was on schedule to leave with a seven-strong crew to service the space telescope and carry out any necessary repairs. "The team is in a very good position to go to fly," Cain said.

A mission to Hubble carries more risks of being hit by space debris or micrometeorites than a flight to the International Space Station as it orbits at almost twice the height of the ISS.

Launched on 1990 April 24, Hubble orbits the Earth at an altitude of 575 kilometres (357 miles), using powerful instruments to peer into deep space.

It is considered one of the greatest tools in the history of astronomy, providing insights into the origins and evolution of the Universe.

This will be the fifth and last mission to the Hubble. Last year an Atlantis flight to the telescope had to be twice rescheduled due after it ran into transmission problems.

It is hoped that this mission will allow the Hubble to keep functioning until at least 2014 when it is due to be replaced by a highly sophisticated space telescope with an eagle-eye camera, the James Webb Space Telescope.

Scientists hope the new telescope will help to lift the veil off the mysteries and origins of the universe.


 -----------------------------------------------------------------------
NOW THE LATEST  HST SCIENCE NEWS from UNIVERSETODAY.COM :
April 23rd, 2009

New Hubble Survey Supports Cold Dark Matter in Early Universe

NICMOS Image of the GOODS North field. Credit: C Conselice, A Bluck, GOODS NICMOS Team.

NICMOS Image of the GOODS North field. Credit: C Conselice, A Bluck, GOODS NICMOS Team.



A new survey is revealing how the most massive galaxies formed in the early Universe, and the findings support the theory that Cold Dark Matter played a role. A team of scientists from six countries used the NICMOS near infrared camera on the Hubble Space Telescope to carry out the deepest ever survey of its type at near infrared wavelengths. Early results show that the most massive galaxies, which have masses roughly 10 times larger than the Milky Way, were involved in significant levels of galaxy mergers and interactions when the Universe was just 2-3 billion years old.
Click to continue…
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NEW COMET DISCOVERED!!
New Circumpolar Comet Yi-SWAN
See SPECIAL NEWS at Left Menu
 

 

THE ASTRONOMY PICTURE OF THE DAY 2009 April 3

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

Around the World in 80 Telescopes
Illustration Credit & Copyright: ESO / 100 Hours of Astronomy

Explanation: Want to go on an extraordinary voyage? Today you can, by watching Around the World in 80 Telescopes. The 24-hour long webcast is organized by the European Southern Observatory for the International Year of Astronomy cornerstone project 100 Hours of Astronomy. As suggested in this astronomically intense composite, the webcast event follows night and day around the globe to visit some of the most advanced observatories on Earth and in space, exploring the universe in visible light and beyond. The Gemini North Telescope (Hawaii, USA) and the large observatories at the summit of volcanic Mauna Kea are scheduled for the first stops in the program beginning April 3 at 09:00 UT. Others on the schedule include the Swift Satellite and Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, the Himalayan Chandra Telescope (Hanle, India), and the 10-meter South Pole Telescope and IceCube Neutrino Telescope (South Pole, Antarctica).

THE ASTRONOMY PICTURE OF THE DAY - APRIL 2

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

100 Hours of Astronomy Begins
Credit & Copyright: Tamas Ladanyi (TWAN)

Explanation: On April 3rd  100 Hours of Astronomy begins, a cornerstone project of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 celebrating the 400th anniversary of Gallileo's original telescopic exploration of the sky and Kepler's first two laws of planetary orbital motion.
Running from April 2 through April 5, many different public programs are planned worldwide as part of the project, starting with today's opening event at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Featuring one of Galileo's two remaining telescopes, the event will be webcast live. Of course, the sky examined by Galileo can still be appreciated today, with much more capable instruments that are widely available. But this skyward view from a private observatory in Veszprem Hungary also includes objects Galileo did not see when he gazed into the night. Recorded on March 26, the image captures the paired trails of the International Space Station (the brighter trail) and the shuttle orbiter Discovery in low Earth orbit, as well as the streak of a passing airplane.


 
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DEEP SOLAR MINIMUM: Where have all the sunspots gone? As o   March 21st, the sun has been blank on 85% of the days of 2009. If this rate of spotlessness continues, 2009 will match 1913 as the blankest year of the past century. A flurry of new-cycle sunspots in Oct. 2008 prompted some observers to declare that solar minimum was ending, but since then the calm has returned. We are still in the pits of a deep solar minimum.

THE ISS GETS NEW WINGS: The International Space Station's solar arrays are the largest deployable space assemblies ever built. On March 20th, astronauts unfurled a pair on the starboard side of the outpost, adding more than 8000 sq. feet of light-collecting surface area to the station's profile. Hours later, the ISS flew over Europe where amateur astronomers photographed the new additions:

Ralf Vandebergh took this picture from his backyard observatory in the Netherlands. "As the ISS flew overhead, I manually tracked it using my 10-inch Newtonian reflector. Note the shuttle with its payload bay doors open. The Canadian robotic arm, which helped install the arrays, is also visible."

Dirk Ewers of Germany also photographed the new wings. "I caught them only one hour deployment," he says. "It is a great addition to the station - not only for the power, but also for viewers on Earth." The movie he made using a 5-inch telescope is a must-see. (DivX required.)

more images: from Quintus Oostendorp of Vaassen, the Netherlands; from Pawel Warchal of Cracow, Poland; from Ralf Vandebergh of the Netherlands; from Janusz Krysiak of Koluszki, Poland; from Martin Wagner of Sonnenbuehl, Germany; from Rob Carew of Melbourne Australia; from Mike Tyrrell of Northwich, Cheshire, UK; from Dave Gallant of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada;

NEAR THE EDGE OF THE SUN: Imagine looking up at noon and seeing a planet with four moons just 0.1o from the edge of the blinding sun. Impossible? NASA's STEREO-B spacecraft did it this week. Click on the image below to launch a movie of Jupiter and the Galilean satellites in close "solar conjunction."


5 MB Quicktime movie | labeled still frame | Zoom in on Jupiter

During the 30-hour movie, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto circle Jupiter as a massive CME billows overhead. STEREO-B recorded the action on March 15th and 16th using an occulting disk to block the solar glare. This arrangment allowed STEREO's cameras to photograph moons of Jupiter eight thousand billion (8x1012) times dimmer than the adjacent sun.

STEREO's coronagraph (occulting disk+camera) is designed to monitor faint but powerful activity in the sun's outer atmosphere. The CME is a good example. With a limiting magnitude of +6.5, it can also see stars, planets, moons and comets so close to the edge of the sun, it seems impossible. In fact, it happens all the time. Browse the STEREO gallery for examples.

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VANGUARD I  LAUNCHED 51 YEARS AGO ON 1958 MARCH 17 - ABOUT 200,000 ORBITS AGO
AND IS STILL ORBITING THE EARTH
READ MORE ON THIS HISTORIC ACHIEVEMENT AT SPECIAL NEWS AT LEFT MENU

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RAINBOW PLANET: Something special is happening to Venus. The brightest of all planets is hanging low in the western sky after sunset, and if you look at it with a backyard telescope or even just binoculars, you'll see that it is a slender 4% crescent. But that's not the only special part.

What's  really special is that Venus looks like a RAINBOW:

Sadegh Ghomizadeh took the picture above from Tehran, Iran, on March 10th. It shows the view through his 11-inch Celestron. "The seeing was poor, but Venus was still bright and beautiful," he says.

Venus resembles a rainbow because Earth's atmosphere acts like a prism. When Venus is near the horizon, refraction separates the red crescent from the blue. The crescent is so thin, the splitting of colors is obvious. Later this month, Venus will soon disappear into the glare of the sun in a about a week, so catch the rainbow planet while you can!

Mark D. Marquette took the picture above from Boones Creek, Tennessee on March 16th. It shows the view through his 8-inch Celestron. "There was an extreme rainbow effect," he says.


More Images: from Sam Cole of Austin, Texas; from Matteo Marzo of Rome, Italy; from Maurice Gavin of Worcester Park SW London UK; from Zlatko Pasko of Stara Pazova, Serbia; from Radek Karwacki of Ostrzeszów, Poland; from Sadegh Ghomizadeh of Tehran, Iran; from Joe Ricci of Rochester, New York; from Elias Chasiotis of Markopoulo, Greece; from Lorenzo Comolli of Tradate (VA), Italy; from Paul Kinzer of Galesville, Wisconsin; from P-M Hedén of Vallentuna, Sweden; from Alan Simpson of Renfrew, Scotland; from Frederic Caron of Victoriaville, Qc, Canada; from Paul Schneider of Wilton, Connecticut;

More images: from P-M Hedén of Vallentuna, Sweden; from Alan Simpson of Renfrew, Scotland; from Frederic Caron of Victoriaville, Qc, Canada

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AURORA BLARNEYALIS: Green auroras over Greenland? It must be St. Patrick's Day. The celebration began the night  of March 16 with this display over Nuuk:

"They were not the most powerful auroras," says photographer Thomas Bojer Eltorpbut, "but it was such a beautiful display." He took the picture by opening the shutter of his Nikon D3 for 90 seconds at ISO 1600.

More green is in the offing. A solar wind stream is heading for Earth, and it could spark even stronger geomagnetic activity when it arrives on or about March 20th. Arctic sky watchers should be alert for auroras on the first night of Spring.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Click here to See the March 2009 Aurora Gallery from Spaceweather.com

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3D SATELLITE DEBRIS: Regard the maps below. Cross your eyes until the two globes merge and voila!--you can see the remains of Cosmos 2251 and Iridium 33 in spellbinding 3D. (Having trouble? A larger pair may help.)

Tom Wagner of Waterloo, Iowa, created the graphics. "John Burns supplied a KML file that in Google Earth shows where 217 pieces of Iridium 33 and 455 pieces of Cosmos 2521 were located on March 11th at 12:00 UT. Using Google Earth, I produced stereo pairs for cross-eyed viewing and also a red-blue anaglyph for 3D glasses."

"Note the three yellow dots," he points out. "Those are the pieces of Cosmos 2251 predicted to reenter the atmosphere [on March 12th, 28th and 30th]."



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THE KEPLER MISSION WAS SUCCESSFULLY LAUNCHED!
          FRIDAY  MARCH 6 - 10:49:57 p.m. EST

Description: The Kepler Mission, a NASA Discovery mission, is specifically designed to survey our region of the Milky Way Galaxy to detect and characterize hundreds of Earth-size and smaller planets in or near the habitable zone.
 
The Kepler Mission Begins
Liftoff of the Delta II rocket and Kepler spacecraft
Image above: Liftoff of the Delta II rocket carrying NASA's Kepler spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller
 

The Delta II rocket carrying the Kepler planet-hunting spacecraft lifted off on time at 10:49 p.m. EST from Launch Complex 17-B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spectacular nighttime launch followed a smooth countdown free of technical issues or weather concerns.

Kepler's mission: to peer closely at a patch of space for at least three-and-a-half years, looking for rocky planets similar our own. The spacecraft will target an area rich with stars like our sun, watching for a slight dimming in the starlight as planets slip through the space between.

"Kepler is a critical component in NASA's broader efforts to ultimately find and study planets where Earth-like conditions may be present," said Jon Morse, the Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The planetary census Kepler takes will be very important for understanding the frequency of Earth-size planets in our galaxy and planning future missions that directly detect and characterize such worlds around nearby stars."

› Multimedia for Feb. 19 Press conference
› Launch Processing Images


MUCH MORE ON THE KEPLER MISSION PAGE AT LEFT MENU
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LULIN AND THE BEEHIVE: Last night March 5th, Comet Lulin had a close encounter with the Beehive star cluster. Astrophotographer Doug Zubenel reports from rural Kansas: "I stepped outside around 10 p.m. and discovered to my great delight a big gap in the cirrus clouds with the Comet Lulin right in the middle. A 90-second exposure with my Canon Rebel XTi revealed the star cluster as well."

Next, Zubenel pointed his hand-ground 4.25" RFT (rich field telescope) at the gap. "Wow! What a sight it was seeing the bright green atmosphere of Comet Lulin in the same 3.5o field of view as the Beehive Cluster. Even in the bright moonlight, it was a good show."

 

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See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

 


Welcome to the International Year of Astronomy

Credit: IYA2009, IAU, UNESCO

Explanation: Astronomers all over planet Earth invite you to experience the night sky as part of the International Year of Astronomy 2009. This year was picked by the International Astronomical Union and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization because it occurs 400 years after Galileo turned one of the first telescopes toward the heavens. Peering through that small window, Galileo discovered that the Moon has craters, Venus has phases, Jupiter has moons, and Saturn has rings. This year you can discover these and many modern wonders of the amazing overhead tapestry that is shared by all of humanity. If, like many others, you find the night sky wondrous and educational, be sure to attend an IYA2009 event in your area, and tell any schools and children that might be interested. Also, please feel free to explore the extensive IYA2009 web pages to find international media events that include blogs, webcasts and much much more.

 
 

 
 

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FROM SPACEWEATHER.COM

ASTEROID FLYBY: Asteroid 2009 DD45 zipped past Earth on March 2nd at 13:40 UT, about 72,000 km (0.00048 AU) away. That's only twice the height of a geostationary communications satellite. The 35-meter-wide space rock is similar in size to the Tunguska impactor of 1908, but today there was no danger of a collision--just a close shave. Experienced amateur astronomers can track the asteroid receding from Earth using this ephemeris.

movies: from Albert Quijano Vodniza of the Nariño Observatory in Colombia; from Dave Herald of Canberra, Australia; from Cristovao Jacques and Eduardo Pimentel of Belo Horizonte, Brazil; from Ernesto Guido et al of the Skylive Observatory in Australia;

NOTE THAT A SIMILAR METEOR GRAZED OUR ATMOSPHERE AT A 35 MILE ALTITUDE ON 1972 AUGUST 10

HERE BELOW  IS A PICTURE OF IT ! CLICK ON  GREAT DAYLIGHT FIREBALL of 1972 For Its Story


ASTRONOMY PICTURE OF THE DAY FOR 2009 March 2
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

Earthgrazer: The Great Daylight Fireball of 1972 AUGUST 10
Credit & Copyright: James M. Baker

Explanation: What is that streaking across the sky? A bright earthgrazing meteor. In 1972, an unusually bright meteor from space was witnessed bouncing off Earth's atmosphere, much like a skipping stone can bounce off of a calm lake. The impressive event lasted several seconds, was visible in daylight, and reportedly visible all the way from Utah, USA to Alberta, Canada. Pictured above, the fireball was photographed streaking above Teton mountains behind Jackson Lake, Wyoming, USA. The Great Daylight Fireball of 1972 was possibly the size of a small truck, and would likely have created an impressive airburst were it to have struck Earth more directly. Earthgrazing meteors are rare but are more commonly seen when the radiant of a meteor shower is just rising or setting. At that time, meteors closer to the Earth than earthgrazers would more usually strike the Earth near the horizon, while meteors further than earthgrazers would miss the Earth entirely.

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SOLAR ACTIVITY: With no sunspots in sight, the face of the sun is blank and dull. The edge of the sun, on the other hand, is pretty lively. Peter Lawrence photographed the action on March 2nd from his backyard observatory in Selsey, UK:

NOTE: THE SUN's BLACKENED OUT DISK (by a filter) IS AT THE LEFT

"A lovely clear blue sky with the Sun shining brightly convinced me to take out my solar telescope and have a look at the Sun," says Lawrence. "It didn't disappoint. This lovely complex prominence was visible on the north-western limb, a superb sight to warm a chilly winter day."

According to SOHO, the prominence is still showing off today. Readers, if you have a solar telescope, take a look.



ASTEROID CERES - CLOSER TO EARTH UNTIL THE YEAR 4164 !
SEE  THE WORLD CERES  and CURRENT SKY EVENTS at Left Menu

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THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE GOT TO SEE A GREAT MORNING CONJUNCTION OF THE MOON
AND SEVERAL PLANETS  (BECAUSE THEY WERE HIGHER IN THE SKY)   ON FEB 23 -  See Below

ASTRONOMY PICTURE OF THE DAY FOR 2009 February 26 

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

Moon, Mercury, Jupiter, Mars on Feb 23
Credit & Copyright: Mike Salway

Explanation: When the Moon rose in dawn skies on February 23rd, it sported a sunlit crescent. It also offered early morning risers a tantalizing view of earthshine, the dark portion of the lunar disk illuminated by sunlight reflected from the Earth. Of course, on that morning a remarkable conjunction with three wandering planets added an impressive touch to the celestial scene. Recorded just before sunrise, this serene skyview looks east toward a glowing horizon across Tuggerah Lake on the Central Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Along with the waning crescent Moon, the picture captures (top to bottom) bright Mercury, Jupiter, and Mars.


ASTRONOMY PICTURE OF THE DAY FOR 2009 February 25 

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

Two Tails of Comet Lulin
Credit & Copyright: Richard Richins (NMSU)

Explanation: Go outside tonight and see Comet Lulin. From a dark location, you should need only a good star map and admirable perseverance -- although wide-field binoculars might help. Yesterday, Comet Lulin passed its closest to Earth, so that the comet will remain near its brightest over the next few days. The comet is currently almost 180 degrees around from the Sun and so visible nearly all night long, but will appear to move on the sky about 10 full moons a night. Pictured above, Comet Lulin was captured in spectacular form on Feb 23 from New Mexico, USA. The central coma of the comet is appearing quite green, a color likely indicating glowing cyanogen and molecular carbon gasses. Bright stars and a distant spiral galaxy are clearly visible in the image background. The yellow dust tail, reflecting sunlight, is visible sprawling to the coma's left trailing behind the comet, while the textured bluish-glowing ion tail is visible to the coma's right, pointing away from the Sun. Over the past few weeks, from the current vantage point of Earth, these two tails appeared to point in opposite directions. Comet Lulin is expected to slowly fade over the next few weeks.



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Kaguya Captures Eclipse — From the Moon

Written by Nancy Atkinson

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse as seen from the Moon.  Credit: JAXA

Here's something you don't see everyday. In fact, this is the first time this has ever been seen. On Feb. 10 Japan's Kaguya spacecraft in orbit around the moon successfully took an image of a penumbral lunar eclipse. That's the Earth passing in front of the sun, as seen from the Moon. From the Moon! The image was taken just at the moment when the Earth covered up most of the sun, creating a diamond ring effect. If we're lucky on Earth, we can see this effect in a solar eclipse, when the Moon blocks the Sun as seen from Earth. Here, Earth’s atmosphere is lit up by the sun, creating the ring and just enough sunlight is sneaking by on one side of the Earth, creating the diamond. Sensational! Plus, there's a movie of the eclipse, too!

A penumbral lunar eclipse is a phenomenon in which the Sun, Earth and Moon line up in tandem, and the moon is in the Earth's penumbra, or, when you look from the Moon, the Sun is partially covered by the Earth (partial eclipse.) When the phenomenon occurs, the volume of light from the Sun to the Moon decreases, making the Moon's surface look darker when you see it from the Earth.

ARTICLE IS FROM UniverseToday.com

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THE  ASTRONOMY PICTURE OF THE DAY FOR 2009 February 18   (PLUTO DISCOVERED IN 1930 ON FEB 18 BY  TOMBAUGH)
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

Satellites Collide in Low Earth Orbit
Illustration Credit & Copyright: Analytical Graphics, Inc.

Explanation: How often do satellites collide? Although minuscule space debris may strike any satellite on occasion, the first known collision between time two full satellites occurred only last week. Even though thousands of satellites have been launched, the low collision rate is caused by the great vastness of space. Last week, however, a defunct Russian communications satellite named Cosmos 2251 smashed right into an operational US communications satellite named Iridium 33 over Siberia, Russia. Both satellites were destroyed. The sheer number of massive particles in a dispersing debris cloud, depicted in an inset image above, increases the risk that other operating satellites might be struck by a harmful fast-moving projectile. The collision occurred in low Earth orbit only 750 kilometers up, a height shared by many satellites but significantly higher than the 350-km high human-occupied International Space Station. Since satellites may disintegrate when struck by fast-moving space junk, the crash focuses concern that a future dramatic satellite collision may one day start an ablation cascade of increasingly more collisions. The result could then render future human space flights increasingly risky and expensive satellite lifetimes increasingly short.

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SPACECRAFT BUZZES MARS: NASA's Dawn spacecraft had a close encounter with Mars last night, FEB 18  flying just 341 miles above the Red Planet's surface. The gravity-assist maneuver propelled Dawn toward the asteroid belt where it will orbit and explore Vesta and Ceres beginning in 2011. Mission managers say the Mars flyby images will be beamed back to Earth on or about FEB 24th.

 

THE DAWN MISSION TO THE LARGEST ASTEROID CERES & BRIGHTEST ASTEROID VESTA

Dawn Mission Timeline
Launch September 27, 2007
Mars gravity assist February 18, 2009
Vesta arrival August 2011
Vesta departure May 2012
Ceres arrival February 2015
End of primary mission July 2015

DAWN SPACECRAFT CURRENT LOCATION
 DISTANCES IN THE DIAGRAM BELOW ARE IN ASTRONOMICAL UNITS (AU) WHERE 1 AU = 92,955,807 MILES
UTC IS COORDINATED UNIVERSAL TIME WHICH IS 5 HOURS AHEAD OF EST AND 4 HOURS AHEAD OF EDT

http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/orbits/fulltraj.jpg

FOR MORE INFORMATION GO TO:     http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/live_shots.asp


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See also:

References

  1. ^ "China's first lunar probe Chang'e-1 blasts off". SINA Corporation (24 October 2007). Retrieved on 2007-10-24.
  2. ^ "China's 1st moon orbiter enters Earth orbit". Xinhua News Agency (24 October 2007). Retrieved on 2007-10-24.
  3. ^ "China publishes first moon picture". China National Space Administration (26 November 2007). Retrieved on 2007-11-26.
  4. ^ "Chang'e-1 - new mission to Moon lifts off". European Space Agency. Retrieved on 2007-10-24.
  5. ^ a b Sūn Huīxiān (孙辉先), Dài Shùwǔ (代树武), Yáng Jiànfēng (杨建峰), Wú Jì (吴季) and Jiāng Jǐngshān (姜景山) (2005). "Scientific objectives and payloads of Chang’E-1 lunar satellite". Journal of Earth System Science 114: 789–794. doi:10.1007/BF02715964. 
  6. ^ D. J. Lawrence, * W. C. Feldman, B. L. Barraclough, A. B. Binder, R. C. Elphic, S. Maurice, D. R. Thomsen (1998). "Global Elemental Maps of the Moon: The Lunar Prospector Gamma-Ray Spectrometer". Science 281 (5382): 1484–1489. doi:10.1126/science.281.5382.1484. PMID 9727970. 
  7. ^ "Chang'e-1 Satellite Launch Delayed". China Radio International (15 March 2007). Retrieved on 2007-10-24.

External links

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