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Predicting the weather on Titan?

Monday, January 30, 2006

False-colour Images of Titan
False-colour Images of Titan (obtained by the Cassini-Huygens Visual Infrared Mapping Spectrometer)
Credits: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
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Using recent Cassini, Huygens and Earth-based observations, scientists have been able to create a computer model which explains the formation of several types of ethane and methane clouds on Titan.
Clouds have been observed recently on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, through the thick haze, using near-infrared spectroscopy and images of the south pole and temperate regions near 40° South. Recent observations from Earth-based telescopes and the NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini spacecraft are now providing an insight into cloud climatology.

More:ESA Science-Predicting the weather on Titan

Disembodied Space Suit

Monday, January 30, 2006

Using a simple police scanner or ham radio, you can listen to a disembodied spacesuit circling Earth.

January 26, 2006: One of the strangest satellites in the history of the space age is about to go into orbit. Launch date: Feb. 3rd. That's when astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS) will hurl an empty spacesuit overboard.

SuitSat in Flight Configuaration
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The spacesuit is the satellite -- "SuitSat" for short.

"SuitSat is a Russian brainstorm," explains Frank Bauer of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "Some of our Russian partners in the ISS program, mainly a group led by Sergey Samburov, had an idea: Maybe we can turn old spacesuits into useful satellites." SuitSat is a first test of that idea.

"We've equipped a Russian Orlan spacesuit with three batteries, a radio transmitter, and internal sensors to measure temperature and battery power," says Bauer. "As SuitSat circles Earth, it will transmit its condition to the ground."

Unlike a normal spacewalk, with a human inside the suit, SuitSat's temperature controls will be turned off to conserve power. The suit, arms and legs akimbo, possibly spinning, will be exposed to the fierce rays of the sun with no way to regulate its internal temperature.

"Will the suit overheat? How long will the batteries last? Can we get a clear transmission if the suit tumbles?" wonders Bauer. These are some of the questions SuitSat will answer, laying the groundwork for SuitSats of the future.


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New Horizons Launch

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

New Horizons Launch
Liftoff of the Atlas V carrying NASA's New Horizons spacecraft to a distant date with Pluto!
Image credit: NASA/KSC
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After launch aboard a Lockheed-Martin Atlas V rocket, the New Horizons spacecraft set out on a journey to the edge of the solar system. Liftoff occurred Jan. 19, 2006 at 2:00:00 p.m. EST from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. New Horizons is headed for a distant rendezvous with the mysterious planet Pluto almost a decade from now.

As the first spacecraft to visit Pluto and its moon Charon, New Horizons looks to unlock one of the solar system's last, great planetary secrets. The New Horizons spacecraft will cross the entire span of the solar system and conduct flyby studies of Pluto and Charon in 2015. The seven science instruments on the piano-sized probe will shed light on the bodies' surface properties, geology, interior makeup and atmospheres.

More: NASA -New Horizons Heads for Pluto

Stardust Canister Opened: 'A Huge Success'

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Stardust
Stardust Canister Opened
Credit: space.com/Leonard David

Fresh from its fall to Earth last weekend, the Stardust sample return capsule has been opened in a cleanroom at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas.

“It exceeds all expectations,” said Donald Brownlee, Stardust’s lead scientist from the University of Washington, Seattle. “It’s a huge success,” he explained in a University of Washington statement released today.

“We can see lots of impacts. There are big ones, there are small ones. The big ones you can see from 10 feet away,” Brownlee observed.

A preliminary estimation is that there might be more than a million microscopic specks of dust embedded in Stardust’s aerogel-laden collector. Furthermore, it appears—from the size of the carrot-shaped impact tracks in the aerogel—that there are about 10 particles of 100 microns in size.

More: space.com - Stardust Canister Opened