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Orion will be Fueled in Preparation for FlightNASA’s Orion spacecraft took its next giant leap towards space last week, on Thursday, Sept. 11, and we were able to take part in it. After departing from the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building, Orion preceded to make the mile-long journey to the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF) where it will be fueled for flight. Liftoff of Orion’s maiden voyage, Exploration Flight test-1 (EFT-1), is expected to take place at sunrise on December 4. During the initial test flight, the Orion spacecraft will orbit the Earth twice before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. At the PHSF, Orion’s 12 thrusters will be supplied with hydrazine propellant, ammonia coolant, and helium pressurization systems. After the fueling process is complete, Orion will be moved again to another facility, where it will be fitted with the launch abort system. Once the spacecraft has been fully assembled and stacked, it will be over 80 feet tall. In mid-November, the spacecraft will then be ready to move to Space Launch Complex 37 (SLC 37), and placed atop an United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket for final launch preparations.When asked about the day’s events and their importance, Kennedy Space Center director, Bob Cabana said, “There’s something about seeing a vehicle clear those doors, and know that it’s going on. Not since the Apollo days have we had a vehicle destined to travel beyond low-Earth orbit leave those doors. Today is a great day.”Thursday’s move of the Orion capsule to the PHSF marks the completion, from an assembly standpoint, of the EFT-1 spacecraft. This is the vehicle that will take human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit. EFT-1′s main purpose is to test the basic operations and systems on the vehicle. After splashdown, the capsule will be collected, refurbished, and used on an ascent and abort test in 2018. A new capsule will be constructed for both EM-1 (uncrewed) in 2017, and for EM-2 (crewed) in the 2021/2022 time frame. Scott Wilson, NASA’s Orion Production Operations Manager, said, “Orion is much larger than the Apollo capsule and comes in much faster than the shuttle ever did. Its large size and higher speeds means more heating on the capsule when returning from deep space. Part of the reason why we are doing this highly elliptical orbit is to simulate the speeds we would see returning from deep space.”He went on to say, “When Orion is re-entering the atmosphere, it will be traveling at roughly 80 percent of the speed we would see returning from a lunar mission or from deep space. This will allow us to test out how the heat shield performs on the spacecraft and how the thermal protection and back shields function.”The heat shield, installed earlier this spring, is one of the crucial systems being tested during EFT-1. When the spacecraft re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it will travel at speeds up to 20,000 mph and the shield will protect the capsule from temperatures of 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit.Source & Image Credit: NASA/TheUniverse/Spaceflight Insider To read more about Orion and SLS be sure to visit this link.

Orion will be Fueled in Preparation for Flight

NASA’s Orion spacecraft took its next giant leap towards space last week, on Thursday, Sept. 11, and we were able to take part in it. After departing from the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building, Orion preceded to make the mile-long journey to the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF) where it will be fueled for flight. Liftoff of Orion’s maiden voyage, Exploration Flight test-1 (EFT-1), is expected to take place at sunrise on December 4. During the initial test flight, the Orion spacecraft will orbit the Earth twice before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. 

At the PHSF, Orion’s 12 thrusters will be supplied with hydrazine propellant, ammonia coolant, and helium pressurization systems. After the fueling process is complete, Orion will be moved again to another facility, where it will be fitted with the launch abort system. Once the spacecraft has been fully assembled and stacked, it will be over 80 feet tall. In mid-November, the spacecraft will then be ready to move to Space Launch Complex 37 (SLC 37), and placed atop an United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket for final launch preparations.

When asked about the day’s events and their importance, Kennedy Space Center director, Bob Cabana said, “There’s something about seeing a vehicle clear those doors, and know that it’s going on. Not since the Apollo days have we had a vehicle destined to travel beyond low-Earth orbit leave those doors. Today is a great day.”

Thursday’s move of the Orion capsule to the PHSF marks the completion, from an assembly standpoint, of the EFT-1 spacecraft. This is the vehicle that will take human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit. EFT-1′s main purpose is to test the basic operations and systems on the vehicle. After splashdown, the capsule will be collected, refurbished, and used on an ascent and abort test in 2018. A new capsule will be constructed for both EM-1 (uncrewed) in 2017, and for EM-2 (crewed) in the 2021/2022 time frame. 

Scott Wilson, NASA’s Orion Production Operations Manager, said, “Orion is much larger than the Apollo capsule and comes in much faster than the shuttle ever did. Its large size and higher speeds means more heating on the capsule when returning from deep space. Part of the reason why we are doing this highly elliptical orbit is to simulate the speeds we would see returning from deep space.”

He went on to say, “When Orion is re-entering the atmosphere, it will be traveling at roughly 80 percent of the speed we would see returning from a lunar mission or from deep space. This will allow us to test out how the heat shield performs on the spacecraft and how the thermal protection and back shields function.”

The heat shield, installed earlier this spring, is one of the crucial systems being tested during EFT-1. When the spacecraft re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it will travel at speeds up to 20,000 mph and the shield will protect the capsule from temperatures of 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Source & Image Credit: NASA/TheUniverse/Spaceflight Insider 

To read more about Orion and SLS be sure to visit this link.

Site ‘J’ Selected as Philae’s Primary TargetThis morning, ESA announced the primary landing site as well as one backup site during a press conference. On November 11, the lander is scheduled to make history by being the first spacecraft to touch down on a comet’s surface.Although none of the candidate sites fit the ideal criteria 100 percent, site ‘J’ proved to be an intriguing region on the head of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Full of science potential, and minimal risks to the lander, the voting for site ‘J’ was unanimous. The backup site, site ‘C’, is located on the body of the comet.Comet 67P has proven to be an interesting world, spanning roughly 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) at its widest point, and choosing a landing site has not been an easy task.The hunt for the ideal landing site kicked off on August 6, as soon as Rosetta reached the comet and scientists were able to it for up-close for the first time. Subsequent data collected allowed scientists to narrow down the choices and ultimately to create a unique map of the comet’s surface.The team can now draft an operational timeline and plan out Rosetta’s precise approach trajectory. The team must work quickly as the landing has to take place before mid-November. The closer comet 67P gets to the Sun, the more active it becomes and the more dangerous that will be for Philae.Philae’s descent to the comet’s surface will take approximately seven hours and will be fully autonomous. The Lander Control Center at DLR will prepare commands and upload them via Rosetta mission control prior to separation. Images and other data pertaining to the comet’s environment will be collected during descent.On September 26, we should expect to see a confirmed landing date and a final Go/No Go for landing will occur after a comprehensive readiness review on October 14.ESA will hold a contest in the upcoming for the public to be able to name the landing site. Details will be available soon. If you want to see how the lander will anchor itself to comet 67P, be sure to check out this ESA animation.Source & Image Credit: ESA  View high resolution

Site ‘J’ Selected as Philae’s Primary Target

This morning, ESA announced the primary landing site as well as one backup site during a press conference. On November 11, the lander is scheduled to make history by being the first spacecraft to touch down on a comet’s surface.

Although none of the candidate sites fit the ideal criteria 100 percent, site ‘J’ proved to be an intriguing region on the head of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Full of science potential, and minimal risks to the lander, the voting for site ‘J’ was unanimous. The backup site, site ‘C’, is located on the body of the comet.

Comet 67P has proven to be an interesting world, spanning roughly 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) at its widest point, and choosing a landing site has not been an easy task.

The hunt for the ideal landing site kicked off on August 6, as soon as Rosetta reached the comet and scientists were able to it for up-close for the first time. Subsequent data collected allowed scientists to narrow down the choices and ultimately to create a unique map of the comet’s surface.

The team can now draft an operational timeline and plan out Rosetta’s precise approach trajectory. The team must work quickly as the landing has to take place before mid-November. The closer comet 67P gets to the Sun, the more active it becomes and the more dangerous that will be for Philae.

Philae’s descent to the comet’s surface will take approximately seven hours and will be fully autonomous. The Lander Control Center at DLR will prepare commands and upload them via Rosetta mission control prior to separation. Images and other data pertaining to the comet’s environment will be collected during descent.

On September 26, we should expect to see a confirmed landing date and a final Go/No Go for landing will occur after a comprehensive readiness review on October 14.

ESA will hold a contest in the upcoming for the public to be able to name the landing site. Details will be available soon. 

If you want to see how the lander will anchor itself to comet 67P, be sure to check out this ESA animation.

Source & Image Credit: ESA 

Puppis A
Puppis A is a supernova remnant, seen here blasting into the surrounding interstellar medium. At a distance of about 7000 light years from Earth, the shock wave is about 10 light years across.The image is constructed using X-ray data from Chandra and XMM-Newton (shown in blue) and infrared 24 and 70 micron data, shown in green and red respectively.The structures traced by the X-ray and infrared data seem to match closely – pastel, bright sections of the image are where infrared and X-ray emissions blend together.-CBImage Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/IAFE/ G. Dubner et al., ESA/XMM-Newton Infrared: NASA/ESA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC/ R. Arendt et al. Released: 21 August 2014More Information: 1, 2Dubner et al. Arendt et al. View high resolution

Puppis A

Puppis A is a supernova remnant, seen here blasting into the surrounding interstellar medium. At a distance of about 7000 light years from Earth, the shock wave is about 10 light years across.

The image is constructed using X-ray data from Chandra and XMM-Newton (shown in blue) and infrared 24 and 70 micron data, shown in green and red respectively.

The structures traced by the X-ray and infrared data seem to match closely – pastel, bright sections of the image are where infrared and X-ray emissions blend together.

-CB

Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/IAFE/ G. Dubner et al., ESA/XMM-Newton 
Infrared: NASA/ESA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC/ R. Arendt et al. Released: 21 August 2014

More Information: 1, 2
Dubner et al. 
Arendt et al.

PEACE MOONA supermoon occurs when the moon’s orbit is closest to Earth (called perigee), at the same time as a full moon. Last month’s perigee full moon (supermoon) was a favourite for astrophotographers. Here the August 2014 supermoon is seen over The Peace Monument on the grounds of the United States Capitol. Another supermoon occurred on September 9, 2014 – see photos of it here.-CBIMAGE: NASA/Bill Ingalls via https://www.flickr.com/photos/nasahqphoto/14860034616/ View high resolution

PEACE MOON

A supermoon occurs when the moon’s orbit is closest to Earth (called perigee), at the same time as a full moon. Last month’s perigee full moon (supermoon) was a favourite for astrophotographers. 

Here the August 2014 supermoon is seen over The Peace Monument on the grounds of the United States Capitol. Another supermoon occurred on September 9, 2014 – see photos of it here.

-CB

IMAGE: NASA/Bill Ingalls via https://www.flickr.com/photos/nasahqphoto/14860034616/

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LUNAR HALOLast week’s solar activity made many aurorae hunters around the globe very excited. For Australian photographers, the height of possible auroral activity occurred during the day – where the light from the sun overpowers any auroral light. Photographer Julie Head said she, “Was out hunting for the aurora last night [September 12], which didn’t eventuate. Just happened to turn around and face north and noticed the halo around the moon, looking seaward. It was really quite pretty”. Julie didn’t come out empty handed, while the auroral activity wasn’t as extreme as some predicted, she was still able to catch a weak aurora earlier in the night (see link): http://bit.ly/Xfd6Mm-CBIMAGE CREDIT AND COPYRIGHT: Julie Head, ISO 1600; f/2.8; 2.4 seconds, at 24 mm, September 13, 3:45am View high resolution

LUNAR HALO

Last week’s solar activity made many aurorae hunters around the globe very excited. For Australian photographers, the height of possible auroral activity occurred during the day – where the light from the sun overpowers any auroral light. 

Photographer Julie Head said she, “Was out hunting for the aurora last night [September 12], which didn’t eventuate. Just happened to turn around and face north and noticed the halo around the moon, looking seaward. It was really quite pretty”. 

Julie didn’t come out empty handed, while the auroral activity wasn’t as extreme as some predicted, she was still able to catch a weak aurora earlier in the night (see link): http://bit.ly/Xfd6Mm

-CB

IMAGE CREDIT AND COPYRIGHT: Julie Head, ISO 1600; f/2.8; 2.4 seconds, at 24 mm, September 13, 3:45am

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STAR RAINThe European Southern Observatory’s La Silla Observatory only sees significant rain or snow once every few years. The Atacama Desert is therefore a fantastic site in which to build world class optical telescopes.This image was taken by Diana Juncher, a PhD student with the Niels Bohr Institute, on 21 May 2013. Diana was at the Observatory for two weeks, observing exo planets towards the centre of our Galaxy.-CBImage: ESO/Diana Juncher (released Aug 21, 2014)More Information View high resolution

STAR RAIN

The European Southern Observatory’s La Silla Observatory only sees significant rain or snow once every few years. The Atacama Desert is therefore a fantastic site in which to build world class optical telescopes.
This image was taken by Diana Juncher, a PhD student with the Niels Bohr Institute, on 21 May 2013. Diana was at the Observatory for two weeks, observing exo planets towards the centre of our Galaxy.

-CB

Image: ESO/Diana Juncher (released Aug 21, 2014)
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PEW PEW PEWThis image shows the 0.6m Cassegrain reflector telescope of the Allgäu Public Observatory in Ottobeuren, Germany. The yellow laser beam is actually the “Wendelstein laser guide star unit” - it creates an artificial ‘star’ on the sky with known properties. The telescope then observes this fake star to characterise the smearing and twinkling caused by the atmosphere. This characterisation can then be applied to real observations to ‘correct’ for the atmosphere. This practise is called adaptive optics.Other pictures of the laser guide star unit, and some pretty impressive facts, can be found here.-CBImage: European Southern Observatory/M. Kornmesser (released Sept 1, 2014)More Information: 1, 2 View high resolution

PEW PEW PEW

This image shows the 0.6m Cassegrain reflector telescope of the Allgäu Public Observatory in Ottobeuren, Germany. 
The yellow laser beam is actually the “Wendelstein laser guide star unit” - it creates an artificial ‘star’ on the sky with known properties. The telescope then observes this fake star to characterise the smearing and twinkling caused by the atmosphere. This characterisation can then be applied to real observations to ‘correct’ for the atmosphere. This practise is called adaptive optics.
Other pictures of the laser guide star unit, and some pretty impressive facts, can be found here.

-CB

Image: European Southern Observatory/M. Kornmesser (released Sept 1, 2014)
More Information: 1, 2

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOMEPublished in Nature on September 4, is a paper describing the Laniakea supercluster of galaxies – which includes our own Galaxy, the Milky Way. Laniakea means “immense heavens” in Hawaiian.We know that galaxies tend to congregate in clusters, and along filaments, with large ‘void’ structures in between. If the distances to these galaxies, from Earth, can be measured a map of our “local” surrounds can be created. This research team describes the Laniakea supercluster as the volume of galaxies with a net ‘inward’ movement – after the effects of cosmic expansion and long range flows.A key component of the paper is this filmhttp://irfu.cea.fr/laniakea (this link also provides access to a open access preprint version of the paper.For this image, Laniakea is outlined in orange; the blue dot is the location of the Milky Way; the white dots and lines show the positions of galaxies and their motion towards the supercluster centre.-CBImage Credit: R. Brent Tully (U. Hawaii) et al., SDvision, DP, CEA/SaclayMore Information: 1, 2 View high resolution

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME

Published in Nature on September 4, is a paper describing the Laniakea supercluster of galaxies – which includes our own Galaxy, the Milky Way. Laniakea means “immense heavens” in Hawaiian.

We know that galaxies tend to congregate in clusters, and along filaments, with large ‘void’ structures in between. If the distances to these galaxies, from Earth, can be measured a map of our “local” surrounds can be created. This research team describes the Laniakea supercluster as the volume of galaxies with a net ‘inward’ movement – after the effects of cosmic expansion and long range flows.

A key component of the paper is this filmhttp://irfu.cea.fr/laniakea (this link also provides access to a open access preprint version of the paper.

For this image, Laniakea is outlined in orange; the blue dot is the location of the Milky Way; the white dots and lines show the positions of galaxies and their motion towards the supercluster centre.

-CB

Image Credit: R. Brent Tully (U. Hawaii) et al., SDvision, DP, CEA/Saclay

More Information: 1, 2

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FLYING THROUGH THE LIGHTSESA astronaut Alexander Gerst posted this image to his Twitter account (@Astro_Alex) on August 29. He accompanied the image with the words, “Words can’t describe how it feels flying through an #aurora. I wouldn’t even know where to begin….”-CBImage Credit: NASA/ESA/Alexander GerstMore Information: 1, 2 View high resolution

FLYING THROUGH THE LIGHTS

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst posted this image to his Twitter account (@Astro_Alex) on August 29. He accompanied the image with the words, “Words can’t describe how it feels flying through an #aurora. I wouldn’t even know where to begin….”

-CB

Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Alexander Gerst

More Information: 1, 2