Space

A deep new image of the magnificent Helix planetary nebula has been obtained using the Wide Field Imager at ESO's La Silla Observatory. The image shows a rich background of distant galaxies, usually not seen in other images of this object.
Interstellar space dust from a dead star identified by a research team led by The University of Nottingham could unlock some of the mysteries of the early universe.

Dr Loretta Dunne and her team have found new evidence of huge dust production in the Cassiopeia A supernova remnant, the remains of a star that exploded about 300 years ago. The paper is set to be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Sadly, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) had a launch failure, and is now spread out on Antarctica somewhere. Ironically, I'd written earlier today about the economics of the New Horizons mission.

For New Horizons, well, that launched successfully. OCO did not. This is a fundamental part of rocket science-- it either works or it doesn't. It either blows up or remains intact. When you're only launching one, the stakes are high. And rockets are risky.

Sending stuff into space requires it be lightweight and functional. And people seem to really like their lightweight, functional iPhones. But if we just sent an iPhone to Pluto, it wouldn't be able to do stuff. It hasn't the range or survivability. On the other hand, using the DSN to transmit data to a New Horizons-sized PDA isn't feasible either. But why am I making these silly comparisons?

Dr. Henry Throop of SWRI started it. He made an interesting comparison of the iPhone versus the New Horizons mission to Pluto, as part of his PPT on "The New Horizons Geometry Visualizer: Planning the Encounter with Pluto" at the IDL User Group (Oct 16 08). To this I added some cost figures. Here we go.

We're 54 days into the International Year of Astronomy, and what better way to celebrate than to peer at the heavens through your very own Galileoscope? Orders begin shipping in April.

Until your telescope arrives, grab a pair of binocs and check out the Green Comet. No, not a new summer blockbuster superhero franchise, but the comet Lulin. (I assume Bruce Willis and his team are standing by in case NASA calls.)
On long, dark winter nights, the constellation of Orion the Hunter dominates the sky. Within the Hunter's sword, the Orion Nebula swaddles a cluster of newborn stars called the Trapezium. These stars are young but powerful, each one shining with the brilliance of 100,000 Suns. They are also massive, containing 15 to 30 times as much material as the Sun.

Where did the Trapezium stars come from? The question is not as simple as it seems. When it comes to the theory of how massive stars form, the devil is in the details.

We hear a lot about 'going green' these days and it seems even the Universe can't endure one more moment of Al Gore putting his hands together, as if in prayer, and guilting us into investing in carbon trading companies, one of which he happens to own stock in.

As a peace offering, the cosmos is offering comet Lulin, which is making an appearance in the nighttime sky this month - and it's green.  Literally. Don Yeomans of JPL, manager for NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office, answers a few questions about this odd comet.

comet lulin

Sky chart showing comet Lulin on Feb. 24, 2009. Image credit: NASA/JPL

During the next decade, some cosmologists say a delicate measurement of primordial light could reveal evidence for the cosmic inflation hypothesis, which proposes that a random, microscopic density fluctuation in the fabric of space gave birth to the universe in a hot big bang approximately 13.7 billion years ago - it also predicts the existence of an infinite number of universes.   The hypothesis was first proposed by Alan Guth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1979 but cosmologists currently have no way of testing this prediction.

My Satellite will either save or destroy the Earth. I work as a Daytime Astronomer on the STEREO mission, a pair of identical satellites sent into an Earth-sized solar orbit to stare at the Sun.

Apparently, we also kill satellites. Our PI-- Principal Investigator-- took the role of private investigator and forwarded a Russian newspaper article on the recent satellite collision. Unjustly, they took an artist's conception of our satellite and added in some debris and wreckage to implicate us in the collision!

Gamma-ray bursts are the universe's most luminous explosions. Astronomers believe most occur when exotic massive stars run out of nuclear fuel. As a star's core collapses into a black hole, jets of material -- powered by processes not yet fully understood -- blast outward at nearly the speed of light. The jets bore all the way through the collapsing star and continue into space, where they interact with gas previously shed by the star and generate bright afterglows that fade with time.