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Meteor Shower Friday (7/28/2006)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

This week, Earth is passing through a meteoroid stream from--where? Its source is unknown. Every year in late July, the mystery stream produces a mild but pretty meteor shower, the Southern Delta Aquarids. The best time to look is Friday morning, July 28th. These meteors tend to be faint, so dark country skies are recommended.

Visit for sky maps and more information.

First Features Named on Asteroid Itokawa

Friday, July 21, 2006

The IAU has provisionally approved names for three features on Itokawa. The names are MUSES-C Regio, Sagamihara Regio, and Uchinoura Regio. Please visit the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature for details.

New Names on Venus

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The following names have been provisionally approved by the IAU for features on Venus. The database information and images showing the features can be seen on the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.

Chanum Coronae

Witte Patera

Azimua Tholi

Otohime Tholus

The name Oanuava Corona has been changed to the plural form Oanuava Coronae.

USGS in the News

Monday, July 17, 2006

Star Tales
Hear the interview! Interview with author Gerald Schaber (MP3 audio, 17MB)

Crop Circle Humor

Monday, July 17, 2006

Crop circles

Star Shade Could Reveal Earthlike Exoplanets

Monday, July 17, 2006

Star shade
Image: © AMY LO

Stars shine so brightly that any planets orbiting them are lost in the glow. In fact, astronomers can only detect exoplanets indirectly by their effects on parent stars: either gravitational or, as the planet passes in front, by dimming. But a 50-meter-wide, daisy-shaped star shade could block stellar light, allowing direct observation of their planets, according to a new paper in today's Nature.

Webster Cash of the University of Colorado designed the star shade to be used in conjunction with orbiting telescopes. The thin plastic shade would cancel out a specific star's light and the telescope--trailing 15,000 miles behind--could then take in light from its distant planets. "Think of an outfielder holding up one hand to block out the sunlight as he tracks a fly ball," Cash explains. "We would use the star shade as a giant hand to suppress the light emanating from a central star by a factor of about 10 billion."

Read More: Scientific -Star Shade Could Reveal Earthllike Exoplanets

Deep Impact Reveals Comet’s Components

Monday, July 17, 2006

Comet materials

The Fourth of July last year had some extra fireworks. NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft sent a hefty projectile--more than 800 pounds--into the body of the comet known as Tempel 1. The collision delivered 19 gigajoules of energy--the equivalent of nearly five tons of explosive TNT--into the wandering comet and ejected a plume of its innermost secrets. Roughly 10 million kilograms of comet stuff (more than 22 million pounds) spread out into space, giving scientists a rare glimpse of the ingredients that go into making a comet. Now researchers observing with the Spitzer Space Telescope have revealed their findings: comets contain a mix of materials that formed under widely divergent conditions.

Read more at SCIENCE NEWS -Deep Impact Reveals Comet's Components

Despite Balky Sensor, Venus Express Ready for Operations

Monday, July 17, 2006

Paris - Europe's Venus Express satellite, which entered Venus orbit in April, has cleared its commissioning phase and is ready to begin formal operations despite the fact that one of its seven observing instruments is not functioning, the European Space Agency (ESA) said July 12.

Venus Express satellite
Venus Express satellite

The Planetary Fourier Spectrometer (PFS), which encountered problems in May, is stuck in "closed" position despite weeks of efforts to return the instrument to operations, ESA said.

"[A] series of activities and further in-orbit tests [will] be conducted in the next months, as well as a series of independent investigations, to examine the origin of the problem," ESA said in a July 12 statement on Venus Express' status. "In the meantime, other instruments will cover some of the PFS objectives."

The PFS is designed to measure Venus' surface and atmospheric temperature. Part of its mission is to hunt for volcanic activity on the planet.

Venus Express was launched in November 2005 and entered Venus orbit in April, after which it began adjusting its position to arrive at the highly elliptical orbit in which it will operate. The satellite will view Venus from distances of between 66,000 kilometers and 250 kilometers.

Credit:, Peter de Selding--Despite Balky Sensor, Venus Express Ready for Operations

Spacewalkers to Make Critical Space Station Repairs

Monday, July 10, 2006

repairs in space

Houston - Two astronauts are set to step outside the International Space Station (ISS) today and make a critical repair to aid future construction of the orbital laboratory.

Spacewalkers Piers Sellers and Michael Fossum, who spent more than seven hours working outside the ISS Saturday, will once again don their U.S.-built spacesuits to restore the station’s mobile crane to full operations. The spacewalk was set to begin at 8:13 a.m. EDT (1213 GMT).

The primary task for Sellers and Fossum, both mission specialists for NASA’s STS-121 shuttle mission aboard Discovery, is to replace a reel-like power and data cable system that was severed late last year due to a still-unexplained glitch.

Known as a Trailing Umbilical System (TUS) Reel Assembly, the system transfers electricity, data and video to the space station’s railcar-like Mobile Transporter. The transporter itself is a critical movable platform for shifting the ISS robotic arm or massive station components along the orbital laboratory’s main truss.

“It’s mobile now, but it’s only dependable on one string,” Sellers told reporters Sunday during a space-to-ground video link. “And when we’re done tomorrow, it will have two strings and therefore be more reliable.”

More: - Spacewalkers to Make Critical Space Station Repairs

An Interview with Gerald G. Schaber

Monday, July 10, 2006

schaber figure 2
Jerry Schaber

A "must read" Open File Report that is a comprehensive account of the USGS participation in the Apollo era, from its conception through the end of Project Apollo, has been completed by Gerald G. “Jerry” Schaber during the time he was with the U.S. Geological Survey, Branch of Astrogeology, working as a Scientist Emeritus. We talk with the man behind the book, who filled that significant gap of history with regard to the participation of the USGS.

Every story has a heart and a soul, and Jerry hands these rich gifts to the reader with respect and perspective. Now Jerry shares with us, the thinking behind the book.

Hear the interview! Interview with author Gerald Schaber (MP3 audio, 17MB)

Q. Tell us, how does it feel to have completed the open file report?

A. Well, it feels very good as you might expect. It was a long time in coming.

Q. How long did it take?

A. I started in 2000, encouraged by Wes Ward, Carolyn Shoemaker and other people at the time to do it. I finished in 2002, but it was in editing ever since.

Continue reading "An Interview with Gerald G. Schaber"

New Name on Mars

Friday, July 7, 2006

The name Ganges Chaos has been provisionally approved for use on Mars. See the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature for more information about this name and an image showing the feature.