A nova in Sagittarius is bright enough to see with binoculars. Detected last month, the stellar explosion even approached the limit of naked-eye visibility last week. A classical nova results from a thermonuclear explosion on the surface of a white dwarf star -- a dense star having the size of our Earth but the mass of our Sun. In the featured image, the nova was captured last week above ancient Wat Mahathat in Sukhothai, Thailand.
To see Nova Sagittarius 2016 yourself, just go out just afte [...]
The Space Show, hosted by David Livingston at www.TheSpaceShow.com, will have the following guests this week:
1. Monday, November 21, 2016, 2-3:30 PM PST (22-23:30 GMT)
Mars, Leonard David's new book, and much more.
At the time of the Columbia accident, Leonard was full time with Space.com and was sent to cover the CAIB for several weeks in Houston. Leonard David is now an Insider Columnist with Space.com and a Research Associate for Secure World Foundation, has been writing about gl [...]
Three new crew members are aboard the International Space Station. The hatches on the space station and Soyuz MS-03 opened at 7:40 p.m. EST, marking the arrival to the orbiting laboratory for NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, Oleg Novitskiy of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency).
Along with Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko, the arriving crew members will contribute to more than 250 [...]
NASA successfully launched for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) the first in a series of highly advanced geostationary weather satellites Saturday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R (GOES-R) lifted off at 6:42 p.m. EST on its way to boost the nation’s weather observation capabilities, leading to more accurate and timely forecasts, watches and warnings.
“The launch of GOES-R represen [...]
How much mass do flocculent spirals hide? The featured true color image of flocculent spiral galaxy NGC 4414 was taken with the Hubble Space Telescope to help answer this question. The featured image was augmented with data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). Flocculent spirals -- galaxies without well-defined spiral arms -- are a quite common form of galaxy, and NGC 4414 is one of the closest.
Stars and gas near the visible edge of spiral galaxies orbit the center so fast that the gra [...]
The recognizable profile of the Pelican Nebula soars nearly 2,000 light-years away in the high flying constellation Cygnus, the Swan. Also known as IC 5070, this interstellar cloud of gas and dust is appropriately found just off the "east coast" of the North America Nebula (NGC 7000), another surprisingly familiar looking emission nebula in Cygnus. Both Pelican and North America nebulae are part of the same large and complex star forming region, almost as nearby as the better-known Orion Nebula. [...]
[Note: This blog post was originally planned to be something significantly longer, triggered by one of Eric Berger’s recent Ars Technica articles1. But running a bootstrapped startup gave me the choice of waiting until this was totally irrelevant, or saying something less comprehensive now. I went with the latter.]
One of the space policy ideas that has been getting a lot of air-time recently, particularly with the change in presidential administrations, is that NASA should abandon its Asteroid Redirect Mission and so-called Journey to Mars for a return to the Moon instead. You would think that as someone whose website name more or less means the “lunar back country,” that I would be a huge fan of that idea. But really, I’d rather that Congress and the Trump administration stick with their Journey to Mars, and only “throw the Moon a bone.”
By throwing the Moon a bone, I mean some level of NASA involvement that is greater than benign neglect, but less than being its core focus. Why? Because when NASA picks something as a core focus, it tends to attract all of the NASA centers and their special interests and pet projects out of the woodwork, trying to find some way to be involved, even if it doesn’t make sense. But programs that aren’t core or flagship programs, that get just enough support to actually happen without becoming another “10 healthy centers” make-work project, they sometimes get real things done. I’m thinking of things like COTS, or like the competed SMD missions. So, I’d rather NASA keep its manned spaceflight program focused on an indefinite “Journey to Mars,” with NASA centers fighting over development of some big Mars mission elements like deep space habs, Mars landers, or something else like that, while keeping lunar involvement lower key.
One idea would be to do something like COTS for the Moon, as part of supporting ESA’s Lunar Village concept. Basically do a public/private partnership with 2-3 companies to develop moderate-sized (1-20mT) unmanned cargo landers to the Moon, followed by a modest CRS-like cargo delivery contract. Have that, and possibly the use of a cislunar deep space hab be our contribution to the Lunar Village. If SLS/Orion survive the axe, maybe we could also throw in providing crew transport to the Moon as well. But let ESA develop the crew landerlunar ejector seat concept attached to the cargo landers'>2 and the base facilities. With the commitment of US provided logistics, and possibly crew transport to a cislunar orbital habitat, that should be encouragement enough to ESA and Russia etc to develop the rest. Ironically, that would have the US in a way playing a somewhat similar role for the Lunar Village to what Russia has been doing with Soyuz and Progress for ISS.
In return for us providing cargo deliveries, and possibly some part of the crew deliveries, NASA could ask for one of the crew landing on any given lunar mission be American (much as ESA and JAXA get to send a crew member in exchange for ATV and HTV deliveries), and having some subset of the crew time on the surface dedicated to NASA research and US commercial lunar efforts. Like ISS, they could set aside a useful fraction of the lunar cargo and crew time to be provided to commercial entities trying to prove out lunar ISRU, prospecting, propellantless launch/landing technologies, or other items related to lunar commerce. I’m just thinking about all of the technologies necessary for lunar resources to become useful to humanity–the prospecting, mining, refining, propellantless launching, etc. Imagine how much easier it would be to develop say a lunar ice mining system, if you had access to a little bit of crew support time as needed, without having to cover the full cost of getting the crew there. Without something like lunar village, the cost of having people in the loop would be prohibitive, so you’d be forced to try and do everything robotically. But the mix of robots with a tiny bit of crew time to handle the small subset of tasks that would take the vast majority of the effort to fully automate seems really promising.
My worry is that if the Moon becomes NASA’s core focus again, that NASA will insist on doing core elements in-house, like resurrecting the monstrosity previously known as LSAM to go after a manned lander. If we want to go back to the Moon in a way that doesn’t amount to little more than reheated Apollo leftovers, having the Moon be a secondary priority might actually better than being the main show.
A supermoon sets over the metropolis of Philadelphia in this twilight snapshot captured on November 14 at 6:21am Eastern Standard Time. Within hours of the Moon's exact full phase, that time does correspond to a lunar perigee or the closest point in the Moon's elliptical orbit around our fair planet.
Slightly bigger and brighter at perigee, this Full Moon is still flattened and distorted in appearance by refraction in atmospheric layers along the sight-line near the horizon. Also like more o [...]