While on board the International Space Station, geophysicist Alexander Gerst spent a lot of time looking back down to Earth from 205 miles above. In his tenure aboard the ISS he took loads of photographs, documenting hurricanes, floods, dust storms, and oil fields. One of his favorite things, however, was taking pictures of how clouds cast shadows. The results can be quite dramatic.
Carl Sagan once proposed the idea of sailing through the cosmos via a solar-powered spacecraft. This spaceship would use sunlight radiation to power its flight much like a boat uses the wind for propellant. On May 20th, the Sagan co-founded Planetary Society will initiate its first test flight for such a solar vehicle: the LightSail.
The second meteor shower of the year will be in the form of the Eta Aquarids, an event that springs from the result of the passing of Halley’s Comet. The Eta Aquarids is an annual event that runs from around April 19th through May 28th. This year, the peak viewing time will be May 4 through Tuesday night, May 5th.
At 3:30pm ET on April 30, 2015, and after four years of studying, NASA’s Messenger Probe crashlanded the surface of Mercury. After being in service for more than a decade, it is the first vehicle to ever make it to Mercury. However, it didn’t leave without saying goodbye.
Forty-six years ago, Neil Armstrong became the first man to ever walk on the moon. Since that date, July 20, 1969, the moon has become the subject of much debate and scientific analysis. From what Neil Armstrong first said as he took those initial steps to conspiracy theories about hoaxes, few historical events have captured the interest in mankind quite like the Apollo 11 moon landing. However, a few facts about this event have remained obscure through time.
This week NASA is celebrating a quarter century of discoveries from one of the most revolutionary scientific instruments of all time, the Hubble Space Telescope. Launched into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery on April 25, 1990, the Hubble changed our understanding of the age of the universe, the evolution of galaxies and the expansion of space itself. Along the way it has had the equivalent of knee and hip replacement surgery: Five times, astronauts on the space shuttle paid a visit to swap out old batteries and install new instruments. Hubble’s fate, however, is uncertain. The Hubble was designed to be serviced by the space shuttle, but the space shuttle fleet was retired in 2011, and the Hubble hasn’t had a repair job since 2009. At some point, under the laws of entropy that dominate the cosmos, the Hubble will begin to deteriorate.
It is time for the annual Lyrid meteor shower and this year it will be better than usual. The peak of this spectacle will be the night of April 22 and will continue through the dark morning hours of the 23rd. The moon will be in its waxing crescent phase and will set around midnight local daylight time, leaving the prime viewing hours before dawn moon-free.
This upcoming April 25th will be Astronomy Day. It is an annual event in the United States that promotes interaction between the general public and the various astronomy based organizations, enthusiasts, groups, and professionals. Baton Rouge has several events planned to celebrate this day including the participation of the Louisiana Art & Science Museum and the Highland Road Park Observatory.
The first color image of Pluto and its moon, Charon, was taken by the Ralph color imager aboard NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft on April 9. The image is a preliminary reconstruction which will later be refined by the New Horizon science team.
Back in 2012, the news hit that a proposed one-way trip to Mars was in the works by the non-profit organization, Mars One. Based out of the Netherlands and headed up by Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp, the mission was to take 4 crew members to the Martian surface and set up a permanent frontier. This was the crux of the news story: Many wondered who would volunteer for such a mission–to never see and step foot on Earth again. But thousands applied, and as the years whittled down the applicants it seemed that the mission was getting closer and closer to becoming a reality. But then that all fell apart when it was revealed to be a bit of a scam.