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NASA Invites Public to Submit Messages for Asteroid Mission Time Capsule

Astronomy News - 2 September 2014 - 5:00pm
NASA is inviting the worldwide public to submit short messages and images on social media that could be placed in a time capsule aboard a spacecraft launching to an asteroid in 2016.

Titan's subsurface reservoirs modify methane rainfall

Astronomy News - 1 September 2014 - 3:07pm
The international Cassini mission has revealed hundreds of lakes and seas spread across the icy surface of Saturn's moon Titan, mostly in its polar regions. These lakes are filled not with water but with hydrocarbons, a form of organic compound that is also found naturally on Earth and includes methane. While most of the liquid in the lakes is thought to be replenished by rainfall from clouds in the moon's atmosphere, the cycling of liquid throughout Titan's crust and atmosphere is still not well understood.

Gaia in your pocket – mapping the Galaxy with the new Gaia app

Astronomy News - 1 September 2014 - 2:08pm

Mapping one billion stars in our Galaxy may seem like an impossible feat, but that’s exactly what ESA’s Gaia mission aims to do, with the ultimate goal of creating the largest, most precise 3D map of our Galaxy ever made. And now you can follow the mission’s progress with a new app created by the University of Barcelona. Being able to track the progress of this groundbreaking mission via your iPhone, iPad or iPod means the stars have never been closer!

Screenshot of Gaia App

The Gaia Mission app is a must-have for space enthusiasts and novices alike. Beautiful images, interactive diagrams, and videos of the satellite explain many aspects of this star-mapping mission, and clear instructions and demos are available for every feature of the app. For more experienced stargazers there is a host of in-depth information available for each section, accessed by simply swiping the page.

Screenshot of Gaia App

The app has interactive diagrams of the spacecraft and payload that can be moved 360˚, letting you explore inside the Gaia satellite, and by tapping on the highlighted regions of the diagrams you’ll find clear information about each component. The trajectory of the satellite and the distance from Earth can be followed via the mission status page, and you can track how much data has been acquired and processed on the mission operations page. Live news updates will ensure that you are among the first to know about any exciting new discoveries!

This is not the first time a satellite has been sent to map the stars. Back in 1989 the ESA Hipparcos mission charted over 120,000 objects, which formed the basis of a huge stellar catalogue. The Gaia mission will greatly improve on this achievement, as it will measure the position and motion of stars with a much higher level of accuracy. The number of stars observed during this five-year mission will increase to over one billion, resulting in the most precise three-dimensional map of our Galaxy ever created. Over the course of the mission, one petabyte (one million gigabytes) of digital information will be sent to the Data Processing and Analysis Consortium for analysis and for cataloguing - that’s enough to fill over 1.5 million CD ROMs!

Screenshot of Gaia App

The Gaia satellite orbits the second Sun-Earth Lagrange point, known as L2. There, at a distance of 1.5 million kilometres from the Earth, Gaia will have excellent views of the Galaxy, free of any eclipses and in stable thermal conditions. Scanning the sky as it rotates on its axis, Gaia will view each star about 70 times, allowing a great deal of information to be collected about each and every one. The Gaia Mission app will give updates on many of Gaia’s activities, from the moment it was launched on 19 December 2013, until the final catalogue is published in 2022.

As Carme Jordi, from the team at the University of Barcelona who developed the app explains: “With Gaia, we will be able to see the entire history of the Milky Way unfolding before our eyes.”

“Gaia has so many interesting aspects – from our view of the Universe, to the life cycles of stars and the detection of exoplanets. With the app you can learn the basics of all of these things and then see how the mission builds up a new picture for us all.”

Screenshot of Gaia App

The team hopes to add more interactive features to the app over the coming months. These could also be interesting for students in second and third level education. “There are different levels within the app,” says Marcial Clotet, the engineer who first came up with the idea for the app. “Those who want to can go through the various levels and find really in-depth information to correspond to their level of interest”.

“Humans have been mapping the stars for centuries, but there is still a great deal to find out with the Gaia mission,” continues Marcial. “Many of the people who made star maps could only dream of being able to observe from space; now, not only can we do it, we can share the adventure in real time.”

The app was created by the University of Barcelona and is available for free from the iTunes store in English, Spanish and Catalan. The University of Barcelona team is now working on the Android version, which will be available later this year.

This project was co-financed by the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology - Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness.

 

VIDEO: Footage of powerful solar flares

Astronomy News - 1 September 2014 - 2:44am
The US Space Agency Nasa has released new footage showing a series of powerful solar flares.

Our monthly digest features astronomy and space science events coming up during...

Astronomy News - 29 August 2014 - 3:45pm
Our monthly digest features astronomy and space science events coming up during September

https://www.ras.org.uk/news-and-press/2501-space-and-astronomy-digest-september-2014


Space and astronomy digest: September 2014
www.ras.org.uk
The latest digest of upcoming news and astronomy events, from the RAS. This month sees two spacecraft arrive at Mars, the launch of the latest mission to the International Space Station and the first Paul Ruffle memorial lecture.

Voyager 2's view of solar system's edge will be unique

Astronomy News - 29 August 2014 - 3:21pm
There's reason to think Voyager 2's sensors will pick up changes that contrast with what Voyager 1 saw en route to the edge of interstellar space






Voyager 2's view of solar system's edge will be unique

Astronomy News - 29 August 2014 - 3:21pm
There's reason to think Voyager 2's sensors will pick up changes that contrast with what Voyager 1 saw en route to the edge of interstellar space






NASA's Spitzer Telescope Witnesses Asteroid Smashup

Astronomy News - 28 August 2014 - 5:00pm
NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has spotted an eruption of dust around a young star, possibly the result of a smashup between large asteroids. This type of collision can eventually lead to the formation of planets.

Experiment tests whether universe is a hologram

Astronomy News - 28 August 2014 - 4:07pm
A new device searching for fundamental units of space and time has officially started taking data, and could reveal new features of the nature of reality






Dead stars 'can re-ignite' and blow

Astronomy News - 28 August 2014 - 4:03pm
Astronomers have shown that dead stars known as white dwarfs can re-ignite and explode as supernovas.

A mixed-up magnetic storm

Astronomy News - 28 August 2014 - 10:08am
The Sun is a variable star, experiencing 11-year-long cycles of activity which impact our planet and near-Earth space. Forecasting the changing space weather and the effects it will have on Earth remains a challenge, as illustrated by an unusual magnetic storm that was observed by ESA’s Cluster quartet and one of the Chinese-ESA Double Star spacecraft.

Vibrations in rings reveal Saturn's inner secrets

Astronomy News - 27 August 2014 - 7:30pm
Eavesdropping on Saturn's rings has given us clues about surprises in the gas giant's interior






Vibrations in rings reveal Saturn's inner secrets

Astronomy News - 27 August 2014 - 7:30pm
Eavesdropping on Saturn's rings has given us clues about surprises in the gas giant's interior






Source of sun's power revealed by ghostly particles

Astronomy News - 27 August 2014 - 6:00pm
The first detection of neutrinos produced by fusion in the sun confirms that our star has been stable for millions of years






Supernova find backs dark energy and universe expansion

Astronomy News - 27 August 2014 - 6:00pm
The first evidence that type Ia supernovae are thermonuclear explosions solidifies one of the cornerstones to the discovery of dark energy






NASA Telescopes Help Uncover Early Construction Phase Of Giant Galaxy

Astronomy News - 27 August 2014 - 6:00pm

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The birth of massive galaxies, according to galaxy formation theories, begins with the buildup of a dense, compact core that is ablaze with the glow of millions of newly formed stars. Evidence of this early construction phase, however, has eluded astronomers until now. Astronomers identified a dense galactic core, dubbed "Sparky," using a combination of data from Hubble and Spitzer, other space telescopes, and the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. Hubble photographed the emerging galaxy as it looked 11 billion years ago, just 3 billion years after the birth of our universe in the big bang.

Witnessing the early growth of a giant - First ever sighting of galaxy core formation [heic1418]

Astronomy News - 27 August 2014 - 6:00pm
Astronomers have uncovered for the first time the earliest stages of a massive galaxy forming in the young Universe. The discovery was made possible through combining observations from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, ESA's Herschel Space Observatory, and the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. The growing galaxy core is blazing with the light of millions of newborn stars that are forming at a ferocious rate. The paper appears in the journal Nature on 27 August.

INTEGRAL catches dead star exploding in a blaze of glory

Astronomy News - 27 August 2014 - 6:00pm
Astronomers using ESA's INTEGRAL gamma-ray observatory have demonstrated beyond doubt that dead stars known as white dwarfs can reignite and explode as supernovae.

Source of sun's power revealed by ghostly particles

Astronomy News - 27 August 2014 - 6:00pm
The first detection of neutrinos produced inside the sun confirms that our star is powered by nuclear fusion and has been stable for millions of years






Supernova find backs dark energy and universe expansion

Astronomy News - 27 August 2014 - 6:00pm
The first evidence that type Ia supernovae are thermonuclear explosions solidifies one of the cornerstones to the discovery of dark energy