Saturday, September 30, 2006

Frequent Flyer Miles to Space

Virgin Galactic, the space flight company owned by billionaire Richard Branson, gives the option of converting frequent flyer miles incurred on its twin company, Virgin Atlantic, into a free flight to space. Virgin Galactic will start having commercial suborbital flights starting 2009.

Pictured is the Virgin Galatic spacecraft being developed by famed aircraft designer Burt Rutan.

Virgin Galactic's website is here.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Saturn's New Ring

The Cassini spacecraft has discovered a new ring of Saturn. The ring, which crosses the orbits of moons Janus and Epimetheus, is located inside the outer E ring system. It is likely to be made up of water ice particles.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Shuttle Discovery's Amazing Backflip

The Space Shuttle Discovery doing an amazing pirouette before docking with the International Space Station

Meteor Crash

I saw this video on You Tube a few months back, and I'd say it fooled me pretty good the first time I viewed it. It think it's a commercial for a truck...

Friday, September 15, 2006

A Planet That Floats on Water

Astronomers have discovered a new class of huge planets but has a density lower than that of water. The newly discovered body was detected orbiting a binary star 450 light-years away at constellation Lacerta. According to the discoverers, the planet, designated HAT-P-1, has the same density as cork, but is bigger than Jupiter, and if there's a big enough tub, it will float in water.

Xena Renamed

The International Astronomical Union has renamed Xena, the minor planet that was the bane of Pluto's existence. Xena, designated 2003 UB313, is now officially known as Eris, after the Greek goddess for discord. Its moon, previously dubbed Gabrielle, was named Dynomia, after Eris's daughter.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Asteroid 134340

Asteroid 134340 is now the official designation of Pluto, underscoring its downgrade to minor planet status. The new designation was given by the Minor Planet Center. Because they are part of the Pluto system, the companion bodies Charon, Nix and Hydra will also be called 134340 I, II and III, respectively.

The center also designated numbers to newly discovered bodies Xena (Asteroid 136199), and Kuiper Belt Objects 2006 EL61 (Asteroid 136108) and KBO 2005 FY9 (Asteroid 136472).

Monday, September 04, 2006

They should have seen it coming...

It seems that the controversy regarding the demotion of Pluto has repercussions far more than the IAU had expected. Astrologers from all over had been calling foul over the astronomy body's decision to demote Pluto from its planet status.

Astrologers are specially concerned about the demotion's effects on people whose zodiac sign is Scorpio (like me, for instance) as Pluto has an affinity with the birth sign. Most decided to stick with Pluto. Other astrologers are also in the bind whether to include the minor planets into the astrology charts that they consult when making horoscopes. One was a bit pragmatic though, saying "UB313 is never going to tell you whether Wednesday is good for romance," as the minor planet is so far away in the Solar System.

Well said. But then again, they should have predicted this already.

Link to the story here.

Thanks for the tip on the story, Bamm.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Europe lands on Moon with a bang

SMART-1, Europe's first mission on the moon, has landed with a bang. Literally. The spacecraft, which was designed to crash on the moon's surface, did so at a planned 1.25 miles/hour. The resulting dust cloud of the explosion was observed by scientists, who hoped that the dusts will give a clue on the composition of the area around the impact site.

SMART-1 was launched last September 2003 from the French space facility in Kourou. It uses an solar-cell-powered ion engine for propulsion.

More about SMART-1 here.