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Tag: Space

Potrait of Endeavour And International Space Station

Here is an amazing picture of space shuttle endeavour parked at the International Space Station. The image was taken on May 23rd by ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli while he was leaving the space station aboard on Russian spacecraft Soyuz. His spacecraft was at a distance of about 600 feet when this picture was taken. Endeavour helped in building up the station over the past decade and this was the last space trip of Endeavour. Truly an amazing image. By the way if you ever wondered how parking your vehicle in space would look like, now you got the idea! If you want more of this, here is a high quality video taken by Nespoli.

Image and video credit: NASA

Leave a Comment June 8, 2011

Mars Rover Spirit Is Officially Dead

After exploring surface of Mars for about 7 years, Spirit has been officially declared dead for all scientific purposes. Spirit started it’s Martian journey on Jan 2004 to carry out it’s scientific mission which was supposed to last for 90 days. But Spirit surpassed all the expectations and continued exploring Mars for another seven years. It stopped communicating on Mar 2010 and attempts were being made by NASA to communicate with the rover. Finally, NASA concluded it’s attempts of contacting Spirit today.

“We’re now transitioning assets to support the November launch of our next generation Mars rover, Curiosity,” said Dave Lavery, NASA’s program executive for solar system exploration. “However, while we no longer believe there is a realistic probability of hearing from Spirit, the Deep Space Network may occasionally listen for any faint signals when the schedule permits.” [NASA]

Great job Spirit!  Here is xkcd’s take on spirited Martian journey of our beloved scientific instrument:

Image credit: 1) Artist concept of Mars rover| NASA/JPL/Cornell Univ 2)Xkcd

Leave a Comment May 25, 2011

Endeavour Blooms Inside The Clouds

I am a bit late posting this amazing picture of space shuttle Endeavour disappearing in the clouds. In case you missed the image, here you go. This beautiful image of Endeavour’s final trip to space was taken by Trey Ratcliff on May 17th.

Leave a Comment May 24, 2011

Exploding Star And It’s Stripes

The picture above is an X-ray image of supernova remnant, Tycho,  produced from the explosion of a white dwarf star in our galaxy. The image has been taken by Chandra X-ray observatory. The supernova remnant is about 13,000 light years away from earth and is located in Cassiopeia constellation in the Northern hemisphere. If you ask, how big is the explosion, it’s roughly 55 light years across (1 light year= 9.5 x 10^15 m). This supernova remnant was first observed by Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, in 1572 and that’s how it  got it’s name.

Now let’s get to some science behind the image. The blue color seen on the rim of the circular blob is from high energy X-rays (blast wave which contains high energetic electrons), while the interior red color is from the low energy X-rays (which contain expanding debris from the supernova). The interesting phenomenon observed in this image is the presence of stripes in the outer regions of the exploding star. Such “X-ray” stripes have never been observed in any other supernova remnant.

These X-ray stripes are beleived to form due to high turbulence and magnetic field entglements as compared to surrounding regions. In these regions, the electrons get trapped and get energized and emit X-rays as they sprial along the magnetic lines. In the image below, the black lines are the magnetic field lines, while the red lines show the path of the electrion. The spacing between these stripes is determined by the radius of the spiralling high energy proton (path shown in yellow), the energy of which can be over 100 times larger than what can be gerenrated in Large Hadron collider! These high energy particles are believed to be the source of cosmic rays on earth. So that’s for the science behind this beautiful image!

Image and info credit: NASA/CXC/Rutgers/K.Eriksen et al.

Leave a Comment March 25, 2011

“Supermoon” Or Superhype

There is a huge media-hype going around concerning the “supermoon” which is going to happen on March 19th, 7 PM UT, which is about 3 PM US Eastern time. So what is this supermoon and what is the hype about. As we all know, moon orbits around the earth in an elliptical orbit with one side of the orbit being closer to earth (perigee; 363,000 Km from earth) while the other being farther (apogee; 410,000 Km from earth). At it’s perigee, moon is closer to earth by about 50,000 km than the average distance at apogee. This distance fluctuates due to various reasons and influences and on March 19th, moon will be at a distance of 357,000 km from earth which is about 6,000 km closer than usual perigees which happens every month. At apogees, moon looks bigger and brighter, and tonight moon will appear to be about 14% bigger than usual and about 30% brighter, permitting weather conditions and your viewing location. Coinciding with the closest perigee is the full moon event which makes the event very rare. Last such full moon event occurred during March of 1983.

Many media outlets and individuals are linking this event as a reason for Japan’s earthquake. They are even predicting that many more natural disasters can happen due to moon’s increased effect of gravity on earth. All this is hoax and pseudoscience and moon has nothing to do with Japan’s earthquake nor this supermoon event (or perigee-Syzygy as it is scientifically called) is going to cause any serious natural disaster.

Just like any other perigee moon, which happens every month, tides will be higher. Perigee full moon will result in additional 3-5% gravity pull by moon resulting slighlty higher tides than usual. Due to lunar effect at perigee, tides are higher by few cms than usual. Geographical locations can amplify the effect to about 15 cms, but none of these is going to cause Tsunami, or floods or massive earthquakes. The supermoon event of March 1983 did not cause any havoc, but this doesn’t stop people like Richard Nolle from circulating wrong information and creating panic. He, by the way, is an astrologer with no scientifc background as such.

Moon does have an effect on earth, but not to the level of causing 9 level earthquake. If that was the case, we would be witnessing a massive earthquake or strom every month whenever the moon is at it’s perigee. If moon was the reason for Japan’s earthquake, why it happened on the date when moon was closer to apogee rather than perigee?? More than 1,000 earthquakes occur every year and moon revolves around the earth every month and we have been studying moon for ages; if there was any correlation between moon and major earthquakes, we would have deciphered it by now. So, let’s look at the full perigee moon tonight, possibly at the horizon with objects in foreground to get an awesome view, and not panic or spread panic.

Image credit: |AP Photo/Keystone, Alessandro Della Bella

1 Comment March 18, 2011

Kepler Mission Finds A Hot And Rocky Expolanet

Kepler Space Mission has found it’s first exoplanet, Kepler-10b. The announcement was made today in Seattle at the meeting of American Astronomical Society. It’s one of the smallest exoplanet discovered outside our solar system  and unlike other exoplanets found, this one is dense and rocky (or molten). It’s density is about 8.8 g/cc. The planet is 560 light years away, size is about 1.4 times that of earth and mass is about 4.6 times that of earth. It rotates very close to it’s sun, almost 20 times as close as Mercury is to our Sun, making it extremely hot and thereby makes it un-habitable (surface temperature is more than 2,500 F on the side which faces sun). I will try to write in more detail as to how the measurements of such planets are done (size, density, orbit radius etc.), probably tomorrow, meanwhile the  video below will give you a good idea about this new discovery. Looks like it’s going to be an exciting year in discovery of more exoplanets and maybe few of them will be in habitable zones.

1 Comment January 11, 2011

Hot N Cold Andromeda

Here is another amazing outer space picture for the day. What you see here is a superimposed image of Andromeda Galaxy taken by two ESA telescopes— Herschel infra-red space telescope and XMM-Newton telescope. Andromeda is the nearest neighboring galaxy to our Milky Way and this image is one of the most detailed image of the galaxy. In this composite image you can see the young stars being born in the cold region of the galaxy as well as old massive stars dying out and emitting X-rays in the central region of the galaxy. Herschel infra-red telescope is able to look at the far infra-red radiations emitted by cold dust and gases (few degrees above absolute zero), which can be seen in the image as orange hue. This is the region where star formation takes place. The bluish hue in the center of the galaxy is due to high energy X-rays emitted by hot gases from massive dying stars and supernova explosions which is captured by XMM-Newton telescope.

Image Credit:  ESA/Herschel/PACS/SPIRE/J.Fritz, U.Gent/XMM-Newton/EPIC/W. Pietsch, MPE

Leave a Comment January 6, 2011

International Space Station And Moon Eclipse Our Sun

Here is an amazing picture of partial solar eclipse which occurred on January 4th and was visible in parts of Asia, Africa and Europe. In this picture you can see sun being blocked by two of Earth’s satellites, the natural one- moon and the artificial one- International Space station (ISS)! Clearly you can see the moon blocking the sun. If you look closely, on the top portion of the image, you can see the shadow of ISS while in the central and lower parts of the image you can see few sun spots. These sun spots will peak in their activities during next two years as sun reaches solar maximum in 2013. While the partial  eclipse lasted for few minutes, the ISS was visible for just split of a second and astrophotographer Thierry Legault was able to capture that moment, isn’t that amazing. He traveled all the way to Muscat to capture this beautiful image; you should check out his website for more such images.

By the way, Happy New Year to all of you. Thanks to all of you for all the encouragement, hopefully this year I will continue posting more and more interesting stories.

Image credit: Thierry Legault |

Leave a Comment January 6, 2011

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October 21, 2020
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