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.
— Yuri Gagarin, 1st human in space.
We hope to see you dream, explore, and celebrate at any of the hundreds of events each year. Find out where a Yuri’s Night is being celebrated: http://yurisnight.net/events
I’ve always imagined that one day I’d get home, turn on the news, and see this big developing news story that evidence of life beyond our solar system had been discovered. It’s typically the stuff of movies and comic books, but recently NASA’s chief scientist, Ellen Stofan, predicted that signs of alien life will be discovered by 2025 with even stronger evidence for extraterrestrials in the years that follow.
This April 4th, 2015, most of North America, South America, Asia, and parts of Australia will be able to view a Total Lunar Eclipse. The moon will be eclipsed in totality for about 5 minutes. The entire event will take place, from beginning to end, for 3 hours and 29 minutes.
Democritus was the first to claim that the Milky Way consisted of distant stars, but it was William Herschel in 1785 that made the first map of the Milky Way. Herschel was the first to study and measure the distribution of stars in space, and when he counted the stars he came to a conclusion that they were grouped in a huge disk formation. It is believed that this disk–our Milky Way Galaxy–is about 100,000 light years from tip to tip; however, recent evidence may suggest that it could be about 50 percent larger than we initially ever thought.
Back in 2005, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft first revealed that Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, had active geologic activity. It discovered an icy spray issuing out of the moon’s southern polar region as well as temperatures in that region that were higher than expected. Currently, it is being suggested, that there also may be a 6-mile deep, 25 mile thick, ocean beneath the moon’s icy shell.