Thursday, 31 December 2009
In case you don’t know it, there will be a blue moon – the first in 20 years – at 7.15pm tonight which should, cloud cover permitting, be viewable here in the Lancaster area. Not only that, there will be a partial lunar eclipse with the deepest eclipse at 7.22pm.
This eclipse of the Moon is partial, so only eight per cent of the Moon will actually be covered by Earth’s shadow. However, quite a lot of the moon will appear to change colour.Sadly, a blue moon isn’t actually blue.The name reflects the relative rarity of two full moons in a month and is linked to the saying “once in a blue moon.” Most years on average have 12 full moons, with one appearing each month.
We’re told that the whole event is deeply significant astrologically, if not astronomically. The National Geographic notes that the last time a blue moon appeared was on New Year’s Eve was in 1990, and it won’t happen again until 2028.
NASA notes that while we won’t see a blue moon tonight, it is possible for the Moon to appear tinged by a blue hue, sometimes caused by fine dirt circulating in the Earth’s atmosphere, possibly from a volcanic explosion. The above picture is of our Moon taken was taken in a dark blue morning sky. The bright crescent is the only part directly exposed to sunlight – the rest of the Moon glows from sunlight reflected from the Earth. The planet Jupiter is also visible along with its four largest moons.
(With thanks to Jessica Abrahams. Image: Vic Winter, ICSTARS)
Monday, 21 December 2009
Lunar Impactor Launched, Finds Water on Moon
NASA successfully launched the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, in June on a mission to search for water ice in a permanently shadowed crater at the moon’s south pole. The satellite lifted off on an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, along with a companion mission, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO. Preliminary data from LCROSS indicated the mission successfully uncovered water in a permanently shadowed lunar crater when it impacted the moon in October.
The discovery of water by LCROSS opened a new chapter in our understanding of the moon.
Kepler Mission Begins Search for Planets Like Earth
NASA’s Kepler spacecraft launched in March to begin its search for other Earth-like worlds. The mission will spend the next three years staring at more than 150,000 stars for telltale signs of planets. In August, the Kepler space telescope detected the atmosphere of a known giant gas planet, demonstrating the telescope’s extraordinary scientific capabilities.
Needless to say, the search for alien life remains one of the most exciting aspects of space exploration for all of here at Ex Astris.
More info at: http://kepler.nasa.gov
This year, NASA Ames is celebrating its 70th anniversary. Among the 10 activities held to commemorate the center’s 20th December 1939 anniversary, was a display of Ames historical exhibits in downtown Mountain View, California, and an aerial photo taken of Ames employees forming a “70″ on the airfield, and the launch of a new historical website.
New Cloud Computing Initiative Announced
Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra announced a new government cloud computing initiative in September at NASA Ames. Kundra unveiled the new Apps.gov platform, an online storefront for federal agencies to browse and purchase cloud-based information technology (IT) services and predicted it would significantly lower government costs and increase innovation.
NASA Breaks Ground for ‘Greenest’ Federal Building Ever
In August, NASA held a ceremonial groundbreaking and dedication event for what is expected to become the highest-performing building in the federal government. The new, environmentally friendly building at NASA’s Ames will be named ‘Sustainability Base’ in honour of the first humans to walk on the surface of another world from their Tranquility Base Apollo 11 lunar landing site 40 years ago.
International Space University, Singularity University Host Programs at NASA Ames
Also this past summer, Ames hosted the International Space University’s nine-week course for postgraduate students and young professionals from more than 40 countries. Nearly 200 students, along with dozens of faculty and guest lecturers, attended the university’s 22nd annual Space Studies Program, held for the first time ever at a NASA center. Simultaneously, Ames also hosted the newly-launched Singularity University’s graduate studies program, a nine-week graduate-level interdisciplinary curriculum designed to prepare the next generation of leaders to address “humanity’s grand challenges.”
NASA Ames Celebrates 40th Anniversary of Moon Landings
40 years ago, humans took their first steps on the moon. In commemoration of that historic event, NASA Ames hosted ‘Moonfest 2009: From Apollo to LCROSS, and Beyond!,’ a celebration of all things related to the moon. Held in July, the celebration focused on the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moonwalks and NASA’s LCROSS mission. The day was filled with guest speakers, musical performances and hands-on family activities, interactive games and exhibits. More than 11,400 people attended the celebration at Ames.
Ex Astris fans will recall we celebrated the event with a contribution to the downthetubes Moon Landing album (above), which you can view online here.
Ames Wins 2008 NASA Government Invention of the Year Award
NASA Ames was named the recipient of the 2008 NASA Government Invention of the Year Award this year. Ames won the award for developing a “High Speed Three-Dimensional Laser Scanner with Real Time Processing.” The scanner is used in a Mold Impression Laser Tool (MILT), a hand-held instrument used to scan space shuttle tiles to detect and measure the amount of any damage. Several MILT instruments are currently in use at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida, where they provide accurate and reliable tile flaw information for the space shuttle maintenance crews. In addition, MILT technology been adapted for use in other NASA programs, including the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), the Stardust Sample Return Capsule Program, and the Mars and Lunar Rover Programs.
NASA Successfully Launches PharmaSat, SOAREX Missions
NASA successfully launched its PharmaSat nanosatellite in May from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport located at Wallops Island, Va. PharmaSat investigated the effects of antifungal agents on the growth of yeast in microgravity. This research could improve understanding of how microbes may become resistant to the drugs used to treat sick astronauts on long-duration space missions. NASA also successfully launched two Sub-Orbital Aerodynamic Re-entry Experiments, or SOAREX, probes more than 80 miles high in 2009 from NASA’s Wallops. The two NASA-developed experiments will help engineers and scientists design efficient ways to return experiments to Earth from the International Space Station.
NASA, Google, Microsoft, Cisco Collaborate on Virtual Exploration, Climate Change
In commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11, NASA and Google launched the Moon in Google Earth, an interactive, 3D atlas of the moon that enables users to explore a virtual moonscape and follow guided tours from astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Jack Schmidt.
Also in 2009, NASA and Google launched a new Mars mode in Google Earth that brings to everyone’s desktop a high-resolution, three-dimensional view of the Red Planet.
NASA and Microsoft Corp., announced this year they are jointly developing the technology and infrastructure necessary to make the most interesting NASA content, including high-resolution scientific images and data from Mars and the moon, available on WorldWide Telescope, Microsoft’s online virtual telescope for exploring the universe. Under the terms of a Space Act Agreement, NASA is processing enough data to fill 20,000 DVDs.
In 2009, NASA and Cisco Inc., partnered to develop an online collaborative global monitoring platform called the “Planetary Skin” to capture, collect, analyze and report data from satellite, airborne, sea- and land-based sensors on environmental conditions around the world. This data will be made available for the general public, government and businesses to measure, report and verify environmental data in near-real time to help detect and adapt to global climate change.
The Year Ahead…
Looking ahead to 2010, NASA Ames will continue to play a major role to support the space shuttle program with its work in thermal protection systems and the heat shields that protect the space shuttle during its fiery re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere. Public viewing opportunities of four live broadcasts of space shuttle launches drew nearly 500 people to Ames and will continue in 2010.
The Kepler mission, NASA’s first mission capable of finding Earth-size and smaller planets, will announce its latest discoveries in its search for habitable planets next year and the LCROSS mission will announce the latest results of its analysis of water it found at one of the lunar poles. The data will provide scientists with a wealth of data that will tell us a great deal about the lunar surface and help prepare NASA to put boots on the moon by the end of the next decade.
Also next year, NASA’s airborne observatory, SOFIA, is scheduled to begin conducting science flights.
New initiatives in 2010 will set the stage for a robust year in education and outreach.
“Educate to Innovate,” a federal challenge to improve education and NASA’s Summer of Innovation aspire to reach one million students through enrichment programs to keep kids on track and inspire the next generation of explorers.
• For more information about NASA Ames, visit: www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/news
• For information about NASA and agency programs, visit: www.nasa.gov