Thursday, December 19, 2013

China lands “Goddess and Rabbit” on Moon and other space news

Now that I'm through grading for the year, it's time to resume "regular programming" here.  I should be remarking on yesterday’s announcement of tapering off Quantitative Easing and Wall Street’s reaction, but I’m not up to it right now.  Instead, I’ll ease back into my routine by posting one of my themed news compilations, beginning with my weekly space news series.

The top story of last Saturday’s Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday was “Jade Rabbit lands on Moon.” Here’s the item I ran from the Christian Science Monitor, which was the most recent I could find at the time but is already out of date.

China moon landing: Beijing puts Jade Rabbit on the moon.
China moon landing: China joined elite company today with the controlled landing of its "Jade Rabbit" rover on the moon. China follows the US and Soviet Union as the third country with a controlled - or "soft" - landing on the moon.
By Peter Ford, Staff writer
December 14, 2013
China became only the third nation to soft-land a spacecraft on the moon, as Chang’e 3 – the first visitor from earth for over 35 years – touched down safely on a flat plain facing the Earth today.

A lunar rover, nicknamed “Jade Rabbit,” is due to start exploring the lunar surface by Sunday, burnishing China’s credentials as a space power and bringing it a step closer to putting a man on the moon.

“This is a very significant step for their space program,” says Gregory Kulacki, who studies China’s efforts in space for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It’s a prospecting mission, their first real chance to test whether there are mineral resources on the moon.”
As I’ve been documenting for the past two-and-one-half years, the Chinese are catching up to the U.S. in those areas of space with the most propaganda value.  For broad-based space science, I’d put my money on the Japanese and Indians in the Asian Space Race.  Just the same, I’m not going to dismiss the Chinese efforts as signs of the technological capability of their civilization and their willingness to challenge the U.S. in one of our areas of strength.

Follow over the jump for the rest of last week’s space and astronomy news.

NASA Television: Science News at AGU Fall meeting on This Week @NASA

Over twenty-two thousand Earth and space scientists, educators, students and leaders from around the world connected with each other and NASA at the American Geophysical Union's 46th annual fall meeting in San Francisco. Among the news from the event, NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has determined the age of a rock on Mars, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has detected additional liquid streaking down mountain slopes near the Martian equator and the Cassini space probe has photographed actual seas and lakes on Saturn's moon Titan. Also, New Juno Video, Energy Meeting at NASA Glenn, Morpheus Lander Tests, Too Cold to Breath and Cygnus Prepares for Launch.
Science at NASA: ScienceCasts: Geminid Meteors at Dawn

The Geminid meteor shower is underway. Forecasters say the best time to look is during the dark hours before sunrise on Saturday morning, Dec. 14th. Dark-sky observers could see dozens of bright shooting stars.
JPL: Soaring Over Titan: Extraterrestrial Land of Lakes

This colorized movie from NASA's Cassini mission takes viewers over the largest seas and lakes on Saturn's moon Titan. The movie is made from radar data received during multiple flyovers of Titan from 2004 to 2013.

This colorized movie from NASA's Cassini mission shows the most complete view yet of Titan's northern land of lakes and seas. Saturn's moon Titan is the only world in our solar system other than Earth that has stable liquid on its surface. The liquid in Titan's lakes and seas is mostly methane and ethane.
JPL: Earth and Moon Seen by Passing Juno Spacecraft with Music by Vangelis

When NASA's Juno spacecraft flew past Earth on Oct. 9, 2013, it received a boost in speed of more than 8,800 mph (about 7.3 kilometer per second), which set it on course for a July 4, 2016, rendezvous with Jupiter.

One of Juno's sensors, a special kind of camera optimized to track faint stars, also had a unique view of the Earth-moon system. The result was an intriguing, low-resolution glimpse of what our world would look like to a visitor from afar.
JPL: Curiosity Rover Report (Dec. 9, 2013): Dating Younger Rocks

NASA's Curiosity has determined the age of a Martian rock and provided first readings of radiation on the surface of Mars.
University of Wisconsin: "Star Tracker" Tracks Comet ISON

In a 5-minute rocket flight, you need to point your telescope at your target ASAP. The University of Wisconsin-Madison team that perfected the Star Tracker just used it to grab data on Comet ISON. Space astronomy: It's not only about Hubble Space Telescope!
University of New Hampshire: UNH Scientists Launch “CubeSats” into Radiation Belts
December 9, 2013
DURHAM, N.H. – Twin, pintsized satellites built in part at the University of New Hampshire’s Space Science Center by UNH graduate student Alex Crew were launched into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California just before midnight on December 5, 2013.

The two 4x4x6-inch Focused Investigations of Relativistic Electron Burst Intensity, Range, and Dynamics (FIREBIRD) satellites will now brave a region of space 400 miles above Earth, where they have begun probing a mysterious physical process within our planet's dangerous radiation belts.

That process, known as microbursts, involves electrons moving at nearly the speed of light during short-duration (100 milliseconds) events. Microbursts are thought to be one of the primary mechanisms by which the outer radiation belt loses energetic particles to Earth's atmosphere after the occurrence of powerful solar storms. Such storms can dramatically change the intensity of the radiation belts.
These are two of the CubeSats mentioned as the other payload in Spygames and paranoia 1: No that's not Cthulhu on the patch.  See, it’s not all Cthulhu eavesdropping on our cell phone conversations!

University of Massachusetts: Sunwheel and Sky-Watching Events Mark the Winter Solstice on Dec. 21
December 12, 2013
AMHERST, Mass. – The public is invited to witness sunrise and sunset associated with the winter solstice among the standing stones of the UMass Amherst Sunwheel on Saturday, Dec. 21 at 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Sunwheel events mark the astronomical change of seasons when nights are longest and days are shortest in the Northern Hemisphere and the sun rises and sets at its most southerly azimuth, or location along the horizon, over the southeasterly and southwesterly stones in the Sunwheel, respectively.
Yes, it’s that time of year already.  I’ll be looking for solstice stories for this Saturday’s OND.

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