A composite image of the gravitationally interacting galaxies NGC 3226 (at the top) and NGC 3227 (bottom), which clearly shows the tidally generated large structures that surround them as a result of a past collision with a third galaxy. Optical wavelengths in the image are shown in gray scale. The infrared glow of dust is displayed in red, while blue depicts the glow of hydrogen gas in radio wavelengths. Image Credit: NASA/CFHT/NRAO/JPL-Caltech/Duc/Cuillandre
Galaxy collisions can be described as the cosmic equivalents of train wrecks, often changing the shapes and morphologies of the galaxies that are involved in these violent cosmic events, in spectacular fashion. Yet, contrary to train accidents which often result in significant destruction of rail transportation systems and their associated infrastructure, the stars inside colliding galaxies remain largely unaffected as the latter interact under the force of gravity, often causing them to pass right through each other or even merge, creating new and fascinating galaxy formations in the process. A new study by an international team of astronomers, which was recently published in the online edition of the Astrophysical Journal, adds an important dimension to the study of these cosmic smash-ups by showing that the latter can greatly inhibit star formation in the galaxies involved.
Continue reading Of Warm Gas and Galaxy Mergers: Collisions Between Galaxies Can Halt Star Formation, According to New Study
Fifteen years ago, NASA launched its third shuttle crew to service the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). The iconic observatory remains functional to this day. Photo Credit: NASA
Fifteen years ago, next week, Shuttle Discovery rocketed into orbit on a mission to dramatically service and repair the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). In doing so, the crew of STS-103—Commander Curt Brown, Pilot Scott Kelly, and Mission Specialists Steve Smith, John Grunsfeld, British-born Mike Foale, Frenchman Jean-Francois Clervoy, and Switzerland’s Claude Nicollier—became the first and only shuttle crew to spend Christmas in orbit and supported three critical spacewalks to bring the telescope back to operational status, after a series of mechanical malfunctions. Those three spacewalks each lasted in excess of eight hours, making them some of the longest EVAs ever performed in human history. Yet the mission itself came at a difficult time for NASA; flown on the cusp of the new millennium, it followed on the heels of a particularly hairy incident during the launch of Columbia on STS-93 and almost six months of inspections and repairs across the entire shuttle fleet.
Continue reading ‘A Question of Losing Science': 15 Years Since the Third Hubble Servicing Mission (Part 1)
The Atlas V 541 spears into the darkened Vandenberg sky at 7:19 p.m. PST Friday, 12 December, completing ULA’s 14th mission of 2014. Photo Credit: ULA
After a 24-hour delay, Friday night’s successful 7:19 p.m. PST launch of the classified NROL-35 payload for the National Reconnaissance Office, atop an Atlas V 541 booster from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-3E at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., has concluded a spectacularly successful run of 14 missions for United Launch Alliance (ULA) in 2014. This is surpassed only by 2009, when the Centennial, Colo.-based launch services organization lofted a total of 16 vehicles. In the last 12 months, ULA—which was formed back in December 2006 as a merger between Boeing and Lockheed Martin—has delivered a record-breaking nine Atlas Vs, together with four Delta IVs and a single Delta II, and placed NASA, military, and civilian payloads into low, medium, and geostationary Earth orbits. In doing so, ULA has added to an impressive legacy, flying its 80th overall mission in its eight-year history, the 50th Atlas V, the 25th Delta IV, and the first Delta II in almost three years.
Continue reading Secretive Vandenberg Launch Caps 14-Mission Banner Year for ULA
Radar image of long lines of dunes on Titan. They can be up to 300 feet tall and hundreds of miles long. Image Credit: NASA/JPL–Caltech/ASI/ESA and USGS/ESA
Saturn’s largest moon Titan is one of the most Earth-like places in the Solar System, as least in terms of appearances, with its seas, lakes, and rivers (of liquid methane/ethane). But it is similar in another way as well, with vast stretches of huge wind-blown dunes in its equatorial regions. Only Earth, Venus, and Mars are known to have such dunes. Now, scientists think they have figured out how Titan’s dunes can become so immense in size: fast-blowing winds.
Continue reading Strong Winds Explain Titan’s Immense Dunes, According to New Study
Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 20 November 2014. This mosaic comprises four individual NAVCAM images taken from 30.8 km from the centre of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 20 November 2014. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0
Comets? Asteroids? Or what?
One of the most basic questions driving Astronomy and Space Exploration is: Where did the water for Earth’s oceans come from?
The answer to the question of the origin of Earth’s water has the most fundamental implications for the formation of Earth and the origin of life on Earth, and is one of the top science goals of NASA’s and ESA’s planetary science exploration programs.
Continue reading Rosetta Observations Spark Debate on Origin of Earth’s Water
Artist’s concept of Boeing’s CST-100 space taxi ready for liftoff atop a man rated ULA Atlas-V rocket showing new crew access tower and arm at Space Launch Complex 41, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl. Credit: ULA
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL — Following closely on the heels of NASA’s stunning success with the flawless maiden test flight of the Orion crew module on Dec. 5, 2014, aimed at sending Americans back into deep space for the first time in over four decades, momentum is building rapidly for NASA’s concurrent commercial crew program (CCP) to send Americans back into low-Earth orbit for the first time in over three years.
Continue reading Construction of CST-100 Space Taxi Can Begin as NASA and Boeing Approve Vehicle Design Milestones
The new Kennedy Space Center Press Site countdown clock in action for the recent launch of NASA’s Orion crew capsule on the EFT-1 mission. Photo Credit: Dave Parrish / AmericaSpace
In the morning hours of Friday, Dec. 5, the world’s most powerful active rocket took off into overcast skies at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This marked Exploration Flight Test (EFT-1) of the Orion spacecraft, NASA’s new multi-purpose crew vehicle, propelled by a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta-IV Heavy rocket. The historic first flight of the Orion spacecraft coincided with the first official use of the new NASA countdown clock at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Press Site, and the decision to replace the old iconic NASA countdown clock with a newer version is an example of the forward-thinking changes being put in place at KSC. The new clock showed up just in time for the first flight of Orion, counting down the minutes until lift-off on its LED display.
Continue reading New Generation Countdown Clock Debuts in Time for Historic Orion EFT-1 Mission
United Launch Alliance (ULA) will employ their proven Atlas-V 401 rocket to fly at least one, and possibly two, Cygnus ISS resupply flights for Orbital Sciences Corporation in late 2015 / early 2016. In the meantime, Orbital is moving forward quickly to develop a new propulsion system for their Antares rocket, with those flights expected to begin again later in 2016. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace
When Orbital Sciences Corporation launched their Cygnus Orb-3 ISS resupply mission for NASA, nobody would have thought the flight would end in a spectacular explosion, but that’s exactly what happened, and in the time since Orbital has dusted the dirt off their shoes and implemented a contingency plan to overcome the setback quickly in order to fulfill their $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA. Signed in December 2008, the agreement requires the Dulles, Va.-based company to stage eight dedicated Cygnus flights to the International Space Station (ISS) by 2016 to deliver a total of 44,000 pounds of payloads and other items for NASA (this will now be accomplished in seven flights instead—keep reading).
Continue reading Orbital Sciences Contracts ULA’s Atlas-V for Cygnus CRS Flights Until Upgraded Antares is Ready
The USS Anchorage (LPD-23) arrives at Naval Base San Diego on Monday, Dec. 8. Onboard it carried EFT-1’s Orion capsule, recovered shortly after splashdown on Dec. 5. Photo Credit: NASA
Just three days after its historic mission, NASA’s Orion capsule—which made a successful test flight after being launched aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle on the morning of Friday, Dec. 5—was returned to shore by a U.S. Navy vessel. On the evening of Monday, Dec. 8, the USS Anchorage (LPD-23, a naval amphibious transport dock) pulled into port at Naval Base San Diego, where personnel off-loaded its precious cargo off the ship’s ramp onto a vehicle, readying the spacecraft for its journey back to Kennedy Space Center.
Continue reading EFT-1’s Orion Capsule Returned to San Diego by US Navy (PHOTOS)
Simulated view of Gale Crater Lake on Mars. This illustration depicts a lake of water partially filling Mars’ Gale Crater, receiving runoff from snow melting on the crater’s northern rim. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/DLR/FU Berlin/MSSS
Recent measurements by NASA’s Curiosity rover indicate that a huge lake once filled much of Gale Crater for millions and millions of years and thus possessed the right environmental conditions for a long enough time span to significantly increase the chances that simple microbial life forms could possibly have formed and persisted on Mars billions of years ago.
Continue reading Curiosity Rover Discovers Huge Lake Once Filled Gale Crater