Sometimes I complain about the earthly weather, but mostly I like to post about astronomy and space events. Hope you enjoy the articles.
By: Susie77, 3:05 PM GMT on March 29, 2009
I made a new web page for kids about some of the birds at the World Bird Sanctuary hospital. Included are some of the various calls of the great horned and barred owls, red tailed hawk, and bald eagle. Hope you will enjoy!
By: Susie77, 9:53 PM GMT on March 27, 2009
Yeah, winter storm watch for us!!! I'm not ready to give up on winter yet! :)
By: Susie77, 12:12 AM GMT on March 18, 2009
Space Weather News for March 17, 2009
ASTEROID BUZZES EARTH: Newly-discovered asteroid 2009 FH is flying past Earth tonight only 85,000 km (0.00057 AU) away. That's a little more than twice the height of a geosynchronous communications satellite. Experienced amateur astronomers in North America can photograph the 20-meter-wide space rock racing through the constellation Gemini after sunset on March 17th. It should be about as bright as a 14th magnitude star. Please visit http://spaceweather.com for an ephemeris and updates.
This is the second time in March that an asteroid has flown so close to Earth. On March 2nd, 2009 DD45 passed by only 72,000 km away. Measuring some tens of meters in diameter, 2009 DD45 and 2009 FH are approximately Tunguska-class objects, meaning they pose no global threat but could cause local damage if they actually hit Earth. In years past, asteroids of this size often passed unnoticed, but recent improvements in asteroid surveys have resulted in growing numbers of space rocks caught in the act of near-Earth flybys.
By: Susie77, 8:04 PM GMT on March 16, 2009
Space Weather News for March 16, 2009
FLYBY ALERT: In a twilight launch of stunning beauty, space shuttle Discovery left Earth last night on a two week construction mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Discovery is now approaching the ISS for docking on March 17th. The timing of this mission favors sky watchers in North America and Europe who will be able to see the two spacecraft flying over many towns and cities in the evenings ahead. Tonight, March 16th, is extra-special because the not-yet-docked duo will appear as distinct points of bright light flying one after the other through the twilight sky--a rare "double flyby." Check the Simple Satellite Tracker for flyby times: http://spaceweather.com/flybys .
By: Susie77, 3:07 PM GMT on March 07, 2009
March 6, 2009: NASA's Kepler mission successfully launched into space from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II at 10:49 p.m. EST, Friday. Kepler is designed to find the first Earth-size planets orbiting stars at distances where water could pool on the planet's surface. Liquid water is believed to be essential for the formation of life.
"It was a stunning launch," said Kepler Project Manager James Fanson of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "Our team is thrilled to be a part of something so meaningful to the human race -- Kepler will help us understand if our Earth is unique or if others like it are out there."
Above: Liftoff of the Delta II rocket carrying NASA's Kepler spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller
Engineers acquired a signal from Kepler at 12:11 a.m. Saturday, after it separated from its spent third-stage rocket and entered its final sun-centered orbit, trailing 950 miles behind Earth. The spacecraft is generating its own power from its solar panels.
"Kepler now has the perfect place to watch more than 100,000 stars for signs of planets," said William Borucki, the mission's science principal investigator at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. Borucki has worked on the mission for 17 years. "Everyone is very excited as our dream becomes a reality. We are on the verge of learning if other Earths are ubiquitous in the galaxy."
Engineers have begun to check Kepler to ensure it is working properly, a process called "commissioning" that will take about 60 days. In about a month or less, NASA will send up commands for Kepler to eject its dust cover and make its first measurements. After another month of calibrating Kepler's single instrument, a wide-field charge-couple device camera, the telescope will begin to search for planets.
The first planets to roll out on the Kepler "assembly line" are expected to be the portly "hot Jupiters" -- gas giants that circle close and fast around their stars. NASA's Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes will be able to follow up with these planets and learn more about their atmospheres. Neptune-size planets will most likely be found next, followed by rocky ones as small as Earth. The true Earth analogs -- Earth-sized planets orbiting stars like our sun at distances where surface water, and possibly life, could exist -- would take at least three years to discover and confirm. Ground-based telescopes also will contribute to the mission by verifying some of the finds.
In the end, Kepler will give us our first look at the frequency of Earth-size planets in our Milky Way galaxy, as well as the frequency of Earth-size planets that could theoretically be habitable.
"Even if we find no planets like Earth, that by itself would be profound. It would indicate that we are probably alone in the galaxy," said Borucki.
By: Susie77, 10:40 PM GMT on March 06, 2009
NASA's Kepler Mission Set For Launch CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- NASA's Kepler mission to seek other Earth-like planets is undergoing final preparations for liftoff Friday, March 6, from Pad 17-B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft launch aboard a Delta II rocket has two windows of opportunity Friday, from 10:49 to 10:52 p.m. and 11:13 to 11:16 p.m. EST.
Kepler is designed to find the first Earth-size planets orbiting stars in habitable zones -- regions where water could pool on the surface of the planets. Liquid water is believed to be essential for the formation of life.
"This mission attempts to answer a question that is as old as time itself -- are other planets like ours out there?" said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "It's not just a science question -- it's a basic human question."
After the clock ticks down to liftoff, the Delta II's first-stage main engine and six strap-on solid rocket boosters will ignite. Three remaining boosters will ignite 65.5 seconds later, and the first-stage main engine will continue to burn for 4.5 minutes. The second stage will then ignite, carrying Kepler into a circular orbit 115 miles above Earth less than 10 minutes after launch. After coasting for 43 minutes, the second-stage engine will fire again, followed by second-stage shutdown and separation. The third stage will then burn for five minutes.
Sixty-two minutes after launch Kepler will have separated entirely from its rocket and will be in its final Earth-trailing orbit around the sun, an orbit similar to that of NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. "We are very excited to see this magnificent spacecraft come to life when it reaches space," said James Fanson, Kepler project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
After a commissioning period lasting about two months, Kepler will begin its job of staring at more than 100,000 stars for three-and-one-half years, looking for planets. Its isolated perch behind Earth will give the telescope an unobstructed view of a single, very large patch of sky near the Cygnus and Lyra constellations.
"We will monitor a wide range of stars; from small cool ones, where planets must circle closely to stay warm, to stars bigger and hotter than the sun, where planets must stay well clear to avoid being roasted," said William Borucki, science principal investigator for the mission at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. Borucki has been working on the mission for 17 years. "Everything about the mission is optimized to find Earth-size planets with the potential for life, to help us answer the question -- are Earths bountiful or is our planet unique?"
Kepler will find planets by looking for periodic dips in starlight. Planets that happen to pass directly in front of their stars from Earth's point of view cause the stars to dim by almost imperceptible amounts. Kepler's powerful camera, the largest ever flown in space, can see the faintest of these "winks."
"Trying to detect Jupiter-size planets crossing in front of their stars is like trying to measure the effect of a mosquito flying by a car's headlight," said Fanson. "Finding Earth-sized planets is like trying to detect a very tiny flea in that same headlight."
If the mission does find Earth-sized planets in the habitable zones of stars, it should find them first around stars that are smaller than our sun. This is because the habitable zone is closer for small stars; planets circling in this region would take less time to complete one lap and, theoretically, less time for Kepler to find them and for other ground-telescopes to confirm their existence. Any Earth-size planets orbiting in the habitable zones of stars like our sun -- the true Earth analogs -- would take at least three years to be confirmed.
Kepler is a NASA Discovery mission. Ames is the home organization of the science principal investigator and is responsible for the ground system development, mission operations and science data analysis. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colo., is responsible for developing the Kepler flight system and supporting mission operations. For more information about the Kepler mission, visit:
The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.