Friday, November 21, 2008

Copernicus' Grave Found

The grave  and remains of Nicolaus Copernicus - the medieval astronomer who started the heliocentric revolution - was found and identified by Polish scientists. 

The remains were found in Frombork Cathedral in north-eastern Poland, and DNA testing matched with the sample found in one of Copernicus's books.

Friday, October 03, 2008

UFO-Indicator Experiences

A Rutgers University professor has a fine paper on alien abduction. It listed five classic alien abductee symptoms:

1. "Waking up paralyzed with a sense of a strange person or presence or something else in the room.'

2. "Experiencing a period of time of an hour or more, in which you were apparently lost, but you could not remember why or where you had been."

3. "Feeling that you were actually flying through the air although you didn't know why or how."

4. "Seeing unusual lights or balls of light in a room without knowing what was causing them."

5. "Finding puzzling scars on your body and neither you nor anyone else remembering how you received them or where you got them."

Recognizing 4 out of 5 symptoms would qualify one as an alien abductee.

via io9

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

White Christmas in the Red Planet

The Mars Polar Lander discovered snow on Mars. A laser instrument detected the falling snow.

The spacecraft also detected calcium carbonate (chalk) on the surface. The carbonate usually forms in presence of water. 

more at NASA

Monday, September 29, 2008

SpaceX Successfully Launches Falcon 1 to Orbit

A. Launch of the Falcon 1 Flight 4 vehicle from Omelek Island, in the Kwajalein Atoll, 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii. Liftoff occurred Sunday 28 September 2008, at 4:15 PM (PDT), 23:15 (UTC).

B. The critical stage separation sequence began about 2 minutes and 37 seconds into flight with shutdown of the Merlin first stage engine, then separation of the first and second stages, followed by ignition of the Kestrel second stage engine.

C. About nine and a half minutes after launch, the second stage engine shuts down, and the Falcon 1 becomes the first privately developed liquid fuel rocket to orbit the Earth.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Space Derelicts

OObjects has a gallery of abandoned space vehicles and facilities. Pictured is a rotting Buran space shuttle, a USSR craft from Cold War days. 

Falcon 1 | Static Fire

The static firing for SpaceX's Falcon 1 rocket took place on Saturday [20 Sep 2008, CA time], as expected, and no major issues came up.

The replacement of a component in the 2nd stage engine LOX supply line would add a few extra days to the schedule, so the updated launch window estimate is now Sept 28th through Oct 1st [CA time].

Monday, September 22, 2008

Atlantis & Endeavor

Gizmodo has a nice pic of space shuttles Atlantis and Endeavor sitting in the launch pads. Endeavor is in standby as a rescue craft for the Atlantis, which is due to fly to repair the Hubble Telescope. 

Dwarf Planet Named Haumea

The International Astronomical Union named the football-shaped dwarf planet 2003 EL61 after a Hawaiian fertility goddess - Haumea.

Haumea, discovered in 2005, is the fifth dwarf planet in our Solar System, after Ceres, Pluto, Eris and Makemake.

Lucy in the Skies with Diamonds


A dwarf star in Centaurus is believed to have a solid diamond for a core - with a 2,500 mile diameter!

The star - called BPM 37093 and located 50,000 light years away - has a diamond core weighing a billion trillion trillion carats (2.7 thousand trillion trillion tons). 

Sunday, September 21, 2008

SpaceX Falcon's 4th Flight

SpaceX's Falcon rocket is still on track for a September launch countdown.

Expedited delivery – SpaceX purchased a C-17 flight from the USAF to fly the Falcon 1 Flight 4 vehicle from Los Angeles International to the Kwajalein Atoll. Image: SpaceX.

SpaceX’s Falcon 1 Flight 4 on the launch pad at Omelek Island in the Kwajalein Atoll of the Marshall Islands (19 Sep 2008).

LHC Out for 2 Months

The Large Hadron Collider will be out of commission for 2 months, barely a few days after it was launched. 

The LHC's 30-ton transformer failed yesterday. 

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Green is In, Even in Astronomy

Take this observatory for example.

The Keilder Observatory in UK is a self-sustainable design - it generates its own electricity via a windmill and roof-mounted solar panels. The structure is made of fir, and has nice touches, such as composting toilets.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Partial Rings in Saturn's Moons

Cassini spacecraft was reported to have detected partial rings in Saturn's inner moons Anthe and Methone, which orbit Mimas, a larger moon

Friday, August 01, 2008

Friday, July 25, 2008


Makemake is the name given by the International Astronomical Union to the fourth dwarf planet in our Solar System. Previously known as 2005 FY9, Makemake, which is named after a Polynesian fertility god, is also classified as a plutoid.

Discovered in 2005 by astronomers from the California Institute of Technology, Makemake is smaller than Pluto, and is located in a region just beyond Neptune. Its surface may be covered in frozen methane.

Source: International Astronomical Union

This is published in Google Knol.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Asteroid Named After Rafa

The International Astronomical Union approved the request of The Astronomical Observatory of Mallorca to rename an asteroid after tennis great Rafael Nadal, who recently won Wimbledon.

The asteroid, previously been known as 128036, is 4 kilometers in diameter and travels through space at a speed of 20 km per second. It was discovered in 2003.

more here

Friday, July 11, 2008

This Day in History: Skylab is Falling

On this day 29 years ago, America's first space station - Skylab - fell back to earth after 6 years in orbit.

The debris of the craft landed in Australia and Indian Ocean.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Kinda Creepy Astro Pics

Vincent Fournier has astro-themed photos in his site. Nice compositions, but personally I find them bordering on being creepy and depressing.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Today in History: Tunguska Event

One hundred years ago, a mysterious explosion in the Tunguska region in Western Siberia leveled an area of 2,000 square kilometers. Scientists speculate that Tunguska Event was caused by a meteor or comet impact - although no crater was found.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Send Your Name to the Moon

You can send your name to the Moon for posterity -- Planetary Society now accepts messages to be sent to the Earth's satellite, through the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which will be launched on November 24, 2008.

Deadline for submissions is June 27, 2008 and you can sign up at this site.

I already sent mine :)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Ice on Mars?

The Phoenix lander may have discovered ice on Mars, according to the official Mars Phoenix Twitter.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

This Day in History: June 18, 1178

Five English monks in Canterbury may have observed a meteor impact on the surface of the moon, the explosion of which may have created the crater Giordano Bruno.

more here , via Wired.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Pluto Gets a New Class

The International Astronomical Union has decreed that Pluto, along with other planetoids that lie beyond Neptune, will now be classified as 'plutoids.'

Currently, only two heavenly bodies qualify for that designation, Pluto and Eris. Ceres, which is only smaller than Pluto, cannot be classified as such because it is located between Mars and Jupiter.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Friday, May 30, 2008

Monday, May 26, 2008

First Raw Images From Mars by the Phoenix Lander

Phoenix is the first probe to have successfully landed on the surface of Mars since the Viking landers of 1976.

Its 90-day mission is to analyze the soils and permafrost of Mars' arctic tundra for signs of past or present life.

The lander is equipped with a robotic arm capable of scooping up ice and dirt to look for organic evidence that life once existed there, or even exists now.

These are the first images sent by the lander to JPL

Phoenix Mars Lander Successfully Lands On Mars

After the "seven minutes of terror," NASA received communications that the Mars Phoenix Lander had successfully landed on Mars on May 25. The craft traveled 422 million to Mars in 296 days.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Bizzare Cloud Phenomenon Before the Quake

Bizzare cloud phenomenon were observed about 30 minutes prior to the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan, China. The clouds were luminous and glowing. Could these clouds precursor to earthquakes?*

The video was recorded in Tianshui, Gansu province ~450km northeast of epicenter, by someone using a cell phone.

The earthquake in Sichuan, measured 7.9 on the Richter scale, killed at least 51 thousand (around 30 thousand more are missing).

*Wikipedia has an entry for earthquake light.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Astronomer’s Chronograph

OhGizmo reviews a watch for astronomers: it tracks things such as sunrises and sunsets, moonrise and moonsets, on 583 preset cities.

Oh, and its $495.95

13-yr Old Corrected NASA

A 13-year old German schoolboy handed NASA an egg on the face, by correcting the agency's estimates on an asteroid collision.

Nico Marquardt calculate that there was a 1 in 450 chance that the Apophis asteroid will collide with Earth, far from NASA's estimate of 1:45,000 chance of it happening.

And the best part is? NASA concurred.

more here

John Wheeler, 96

John Archibald Wheeler, the cosmologist who coined the term 'black hole,' passed away at age 96.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Methane Found in Other Planet

Methane molecules are found in the atmosphere of a distant planet, the first instance that the organic gas is detected outside the solar system.  The gas was detected in the atmosphere of a Jupiter-sized planet known as HD 189733b.

The discovery will be published in the journal Nature.

Monday, March 17, 2008

iPod in Space

An iPod was pictured in space! Seen in the cockpit of space shuttle Endeavor. It looks like a 4th gen, is it?

via Engadget

Friday, March 07, 2008

Cassini Finds Rings in Rhea?

The Cassini spacecraft has apparently detected a ring system in Rhea, Saturn's second biggest moon, during the 2005 flyby. If validated, Rhea's ring system will be the first non-planetary one to be discovered.

Trivia: Rhea was discovered by Giovanni Domenico Cassini, who also discovered the Great Red Spot of Jupiter and the Cassini division.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

SpaceX Completes Falcon 1 Engine Qualification

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) announced today that it has completed the qualification testing program of its Merlin 1C next generation liquid fueled rocket booster engine for use in the Falcon 1 rocket. Tests were conducted at the SpaceX Texas Test Facility near Waco, TX, on a Merlin 1C configured for powering the first stage of a Falcon 1 rocket.

The single Merlin 1C will power SpaceX’s next Falcon 1 mission, scheduled to lift off in Spring of 2008 from the SpaceX launch complex in the Central Pacific atoll of Kwajalein. The far larger Falcon 9 uses nine Merlins on the first stage, and a single Merlin in vacuum configuration powers the Falcon 9 second stage.

The Merlin 1C is an improved version of the Merlin 1A ablatively cooled engine, which lofted the Falcon 1 on its first flight in March 2006 and second flight in March 2007. The regeneratively cooled Merlin 1C uses rocket propellant grade kerosene (RP-1), a refined form of jet fuel, to first cool the combustion chamber and nozzle before being combined with the liquid oxygen to create thrust. This cooling allows for higher performance without significantly increasing engine mass.

In its Falcon 1 configuration, Merlin 1C has a thrust at sea level of 78,000 lbs, a vacuum thrust of 90,000 pounds and a vacuum specific impulse of 301 seconds. In generating this thrust, Merlin consumes 300 lbs/second of propellant and the chamber and nozzle, cooled by 90 lbs/sec of kerosene, are capable of absorbing 10 MW of heat energy.

(press release)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Total Lunar Eclipse

The last total lunar eclipse until 2010 will occur today, starting 7pm PST. It will be visible in North and South America. Europe and Africa will see parts of the eclipse.

More here

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Beam Me Up, John

NASA will beam a copy of Beatles' Across the Universe to Polaris, the North Star using the Deep Space Network. The celestial release of the song will mark the 50th anniversary of the space agency and the 45th anniversary of the Deep Space Network. The song will be transmitted using the MP3 format.

No word if aliens can upload it on their peer-to-peer networks.

Mullahs in Space

Iran launched a rocket into space to commemorate the establishment of a space center. The rocket, named Safir -1 (Explorer-1), is probably a sounding rocket similar to the one launched last February. The White House deems the launch as a ballistic missile test in disguise.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Lady in Mars

This pic of a rock formation in Mars- which resembles a woman (or Auguste Rodin's The Thinker?) - has set the blogosphere abuzz. The pic was taken by NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit in December 2007.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University, via

Thursday, January 24, 2008

SpaceShipTwo Unveiled

Virgin Galactic has unveiled its SpaceShipTwo, a private spacecraft that will take tourists on a suborbital jaunt in space - for $200,000 a pop.

via Gizmodo

Monday, January 07, 2008

Celestron SkyScout Scope

Designed exclusively for use with the Celestron SkyScoutPersonal Planetarium, the $299 new SkyScout Scope 90 is a must-have for budding amateur astronomers.

Gizmodo has a nice vid showing the new scope at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas.