Compiled by Bryan Hubbard
NASA’s LRO Creating Unprecedented Topographic Map of Moon
Published: Friday, December 17, 2010 – 17:21 in Astronomy & Space
NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is allowing researchers to create the most precise and complete map to date of the moon’s complex, heavily cratered landscape. “This dataset is being used to make digital elevation and terrain maps that will be a fundamental reference for future scientific and human exploration missions to the moon,” said Dr. Gregory Neumann of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “After about one year taking data, we already have nearly 3 billion data points from the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter on board the LRO spacecraft, with near-uniform longitudinal coverage. We expect to continue to make measurements at this rate through the next two years of the science phase of the mission and beyond. Near the poles, we expect to provide near-GPS-like navigational capability as coverage is denser due to the spacecraft’s polar orbit.
Black Holes and Warped Space: New UK Telescope Shows Off First
Published: Thursday, December 9, 2010 – 19:33 in Astronomy & Space
Spearheaded by the University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Observatory and funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council, the e-MERLIN telescope will allow astronomers to address key questions relating to the origin and evolution of galaxies, stars and planets. To demonstrate its capabilities, University of
Manchester astronomers turned the new telescope array toward the “Double Quasar”. This enigmatic object, first discovered by Jodrell Bank, is a famous example of Einstein’s theory of gravity in action.
The new image shows how the light from a quasar billions of light years away is bent around a foreground galaxy by the curvature of space. This light has been travelling for 9 billion years before it reached the Earth. The quasar is a galaxy powered by a super-massive black hole, leading to the ejection of jets of matter moving at almost the speed of light – one of which can be seen arcing to the left in this new e-MERLIN image.
ESA’s Mercury Mapper Feels The Heat
Published: Tuesday, January 18, 2011 – 11:05 in Astronomy & Space
Key components of the ESA-led Mercury mapper BepiColombo have been tested in a specially upgraded European space simulator. ESA’s Large Space Simulator is now the most powerful in the world and the only facility capable of reproducing Mercury’s hellish environment for a full-scale spacecraft. The Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO) has survived a simulated voyage to the innermost planet. The octagonal spacecraft, which is Japan’s contribution to BepiColombo, and its ESA sunshield withstood temperatures higher than 350°C.
NASA Prepares To Launch Next Earth-Observing Satellite Mission
Published: Thursday, January 20, 2011 – 17:02 in Astronomy & Space
NASA’s newest Earth-observing research mission is nearing launch. The Glory mission will improve our understanding of how the sun and tiny atmospheric particles called aerosols affect Earth’s climate. Glory also will extend a legacy of long-term solar measurements needed to address key uncertainties about climate change. Glory is scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Feb. 23 at 5:09 a.m. EST. It will join a fleet called the Afternoon Constellation or “A-train” of satellites. This group of other Earth-observing satellites, includingNASA’s Aqua and Aura spacecraft, flies in tight formation.
Swift Survey Finds ‘Missing’ Active Galaxies
Published: Thursday, January 20, 2011 – 17:34 in Astronomy & Space
(This is a very interesting article and well worth reading – Bryan)
Seen in X-rays, the entire sky is aglow. Even far away from bright sources, X-rays originating from beyond our galaxy provide a steady glow in every direction. Astronomers have long suspected that the chief contributors to this cosmic X-ray background were dust-swaddled black holes at the centers of active galaxies. The trouble was, too few of them were detected to do the job.
Since 2004, Swift’s Burst Alert Telescope (BAT), developed and operated at NASA Goddard, has been mapping the entire sky in hard X-rays with energies between 15,000 and 200,000 electron volts — thousands of times the energy of visible light. Gradually building up its exposure year after year, the survey is now the largest, most sensitive and most complete census at these energies. It includes hundreds of active galaxies out to a distance of 650 million light-years.
Astronomers assumed that there were many active galaxies oriented edgewise to us, but they just couldn’t be detected because the disk of gas attenuates emissions too strongly.