Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Space and astronomy news for the week of July 4th

While everyone was paying attention to the Higgs boson announcement and the heat wave, space news continued to be made. Since I can't pick out a single story to lead off, I'll be lazy and let This Week @NASA serve as the top story.

NASA Television on YouTube: Next Expedition Crew on Deck on This Week @NASA

In Star City, Russia, at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, Expedition 32 crewmembers, Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, NASA Astronaut Suni Williams and Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency participated in traditional ceremonies in advance of their mid-July launch to the station. Malenchenko, Williams and Hoshide will complete their training at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Upon their arrival to the space station, the trio will join ISS Commander Gennady Padalka, NASA astronaut Joe Acaba and Cosmonaut Sergei Revin -- the other three members of Expedition 32. Also, Orion is Unveiled at Kennedy Space Center to begin processing for its Exploration Flight Test-1 in 2014, some students and educators play rocket scientist during Rocket Week at Wallops Flight Facility, some pre-4th of July Solar fireworks captured by the Solar Dynamics Observatory and more!
The rest of last week's space and astronomy news awaits over the jump. on YouTube: Toddler Star Throws Dual Tantrums Daily | Video

A young star in McNeil's Nebula called V1647 Ori has a pair of spots that are 1000 times hotter than the rest of its surface. These x-ray emitting spots are thought to be the connections to a disk of dust and gas that surrounds the star.
Discovery News: Fetal Solar System Aborted
Astronomers believe the star, mysteriously stripped of its planet-forming dust disk, still has the right stuff for making planets.
By Irene Klotz
Wed Jul 4, 2012 01:00 PM ET
For a long while, it looked like the young star known as TYC 8241 2652 1 was getting ready to make some planets.

The sun-like star, located about 450 light-years from Earth in the constellation Centaurus was encircled by a disk of warm, brightly glowing dust located about as far away from the star as Mercury orbits the sun.

But something strange happened between 2008, when the star was observed by a powerful ground-based infrared telescope in Chile, and 2010 when NASA's WISE infrared space telescope took a look: The dust was gone.
NASA Television on YouTube: ScienceCasts: A Good Reason to Wake Up at Dawn

The brightest planets in the solar system are converging for a beautiful sunrise sky show in early July.
jim in IA on Daily Kos blogged about this in The July Sky Show @ Dawn. on YouTube: Earth Sand Before Mars Sand -- Curiosity's Cousin Tested

The Mars Science Laboratory, currently en route to the Red Planet, may land on or near Martian sand dunes. NASA engineers are taking an identically weighted test-rover for a spin in surface conditions similar to driving on Mars.
Discovery News: X-Rated: Sun Erupts With a Powerful Solar Flare
Analysis by Ian O'Neill
Fri Jul 6, 2012 09:02 PM ET
Ever since active region 1515 (AR1515) arrived on the solar scene, it's been crackling with flare activity. As if to upstage the Higgs boson announcement this week, AR1515 even blew its top on Monday, erupting with an M5.6 solar flare -- that was just shy of the energy of the most powerful type of flare.

But at 2308 UT (7:08 EDT/4:08 PDT) on Friday, the intense active region pockmarked with a complex of sunspots showed us what it's really made of and erupted with an X1.1 flare.

Although an X1.1 is powerful, it is still smaller than the X-class flares that occurred in March.
Once can't even escape the Higgs Boson story even in this compilation. Neither can one avoid the heat wave, as the last story will demonstrate.

Discovery News: Spacecraft Raises Mercury Mysteries
Analysis by Ray Villard
Tue Jul 3, 2012 12:48 AM ET
Planetary astronomers say that some theories about the origin of Mercury need to be discarded, based on data from NASA's Mercury MESSENGER probe that settled into orbit around the barren planet in 2011.

MESSENGER -- an acronym for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging -- revealed that Mercury is so chemically diverse that it could not have formed simply as a hot ball of molten iron as shown in most textbooks, researchers conclude. What's more, the planet is much more geologically diverse than our moon, which was once considered Mercury's cousin.
I promised that I'd recycle this next story. As you can see, I did. via Discovery News: Earth Is Farthest From the Sun This Week
As a heat wave continues over parts of the U.S. it may be hard to believe our planet is at its farthest point from the sun.
Thu Jul 5, 2012 08:22 AM ET
Content provided by Tariq Malik,
With a heat wave roasting parts of the United States this week, it may seem strange that our planet is now actually at its farthest point from the sun this year. Strange, but true.

According to the U.S. Naval Observatory, the Earth reached a point in its orbit called "aphelion" at 12 a.m. EDT (0400 GMT) on Thursday (July 5). The Earth's aphelion is the spot where it is the farthest from the sun that it can get in a single year -- about 94.5 million miles (152 million kilometers).

To put that in perspective, the Earth is typically about 93 million miles (150 million km) from the sun. But because our planet's orbit is not a perfect circle (it's actually an ellipse) it has a farthest point and closest point to the sun. Earth's closest approach to the sun is called perihelion and occurs in early January.
And that's it for this week's space and astronomy news, all of which was originally posted in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Higgs boson and heat wave edition) on Daily Kos.

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