Space & Planetary Science: January 2012 Archives

Geomagnetic Storm Expected Tuesday, Jan 23

"As the strongest Solar Radiation Storm (S3) since May, 2005 continues, the associated Earthward-directed Coronal Mass Ejection is expected to arrive about 1400 UT (9am EST) Jan 24. SWPC has issued a Geomagnetic Storm Watch with G2 level storming likely and G3 level storming possible, with the storm continuing into Wednesday, Jan 25. All of this activity is related to a moderate (R2) Radio Blackout x-ray flare that erupted Sunday night (11pm EST)."

Joint USAF/NOAA Report of Solar and Geophysical Activity 23 January 2012

"Geophysical Activity Forecast: The geomagnetic field is expected to range from quiet to isolated severe storm levels on day one (24 January). Mostly quiet levels are expected through midday on 24 January when the anticipated arrival of the 23 January CME is expected to affect the field. Active to major storm levels, with isolated severe storm periods, are expected for the remainder of day one."

An astronaut and a scientist (interview with John Grunsfeld), Nature

"I would like NASA to articulate a plan to explore the Solar System with humans and associated science investigations, because I see them going hand in hand. We're not going to send people anywhere, unless we're out there doing science or enabling science as a part of an exploration framework. My desire is to work more closely with the human spaceflight programme so we can take advantage of synergy."

NASA Cassini Significant Events 12/21/11 - 1/3/12

"Friday, Dec. 23 (DOY 357) - No signal was detected from the spacecraft today at the beginning of track at Deep Space Station (DSS) DSS-43, the Canberra 70 meter station. Additional tracking was obtained at Canberra's DSS-45 and Goldstone's DSS-14 to no avail. The 2-way coherent signal was acquired at the one round trip light-time point into the track as usual, indicating it was a spacecraft problem and not a ground system error. Incident Surprise Anomaly (ISA) #50901 and Discrepancy Report (DR) C108400 were submitted to document this spacecraft anomaly. Commands were sent on Dec. 25 to inhibit the ultra-stable oscillator (USO) and use the auxiliary oscillator as the frequency source for the downlink signal. The spacecraft has operated in this mode for every pass starting on Dec. 27, and telemetry is being received for entire passes again. Data loss was limited to two round-trip light time periods. Analysis of the problem has been delayed because of the holidays with many of the key engineers being unavailable, but it is now well underway."

The Milky Way Contains At Least 100 Billion Planets According to Survey

"Our Milky Way galaxy contains a minimum of 100 billion planets according to a detailed statistical study based on the detection of three extrasolar planets by an observational technique called microlensing. Kailash Sahu, of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., is part of an international team reporting today that our galaxy contains a minimum of one planet for every star on average. This means that there should be a minimum of 1,500 planets within just 50 light-years of Earth."

A Wealth of Habitable Planets in the Milky Way

"Our results show that planets orbiting around stars are more the rule than the exception. In a typical solar system approximately four planets have their orbits in the terrestrial zone, which is the distance from the star where you can find solid planets. On average, there are 1.6 planets in the area around the stars that corresponds to the area between Venus and Saturn."

Kepler Discovery Establishes New Class of Planetary Systems

"Using data from NASA's Kepler Mission, astronomers announced the discovery of two new transiting "circumbinary" planet systems -- planets that orbit two stars. This work establishes that such "two sun" planets are not rare exceptions, but are in fact common with many millions existing in our Galaxy."

Discovery of the Smallest Exoplanets: The Barnard's Star Connection

"The discovery of the three smallest planets yet orbiting a distant star, which was announced today at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society, has an unusual connection to Barnard's star, one of the Sun's nearest neighbors. .. The team used data from NASA's Kepler mission combined with additional observations of a single star, called KOI-961, to determine that it possesses three planets that range in size from 0.57 to 0.78 times the radius of Earth. This makes them the smallest of the more than 700 exoplanets confirmed to orbit other stars."

Underfunding doomed Russian Mars probe, lawyer says, USA Today

"Russia's Phobos-Grunt ("grunt" is Russian for ground or soil) mission aimed for a first landing of a probe on the Martian moon Phobos. Launched Nov. 8, the spacecraft reached Earth orbit but failed to fire the rocket that would send it on an eight-month interplanetary trip to Mars. It's likely to fall to Earth around Jan. 15, the Russian Defense Ministry concluded, the victim of a steadily dropping orbit. "Way too ambitious and way too underfunded to reach its goal," space law attorney Michael Listner says."

Russia's Phobos-Grunt probe heads for fiery finale, USA Today

"... the 29,100-pound spacecraft, stuffed with 8.3 tons of hydrazine fuel, will likely come down around Jan. 15, the Russian Defense Ministry has concluded."

First Look at Kepler SETI Candidate Signals

"The signals below are undoubtedly examples of terrestrial radio frequency interference (RFI). ... These signals look similar to what we think might be produced from an extraterrestrial technology. They are narrow in frequency, much narrower than would be produced by any known astrophysical phenomena, and they drift in frequency with time, as we would expect because of the doppler effect imposed by the relative motion of the transmitter and the receiving radio telescope."

Keith's note: Wow - looks like NASA can fund and support SETI again. This is great news! For decades NASA has been afraid to fund anything that even hints at SETI due to a supposed Congressional prohibition on funding SETI with NASA funds. Yet no one has ever managed to produce the public law or actual legally binding Congressional document that actually states that such a prohibition does indeed exist. I never understood the logic in this SETI ban - especially when you note that many of the highest grossing films of all time (i.e. things that voters/taxpayers willingly pay to see) deal with SETI, Astrobiology, and life on other worlds.

NASA LRO Lunar Image: A Detailed Look at the Walls of Crater Aristarchus

"No wonder planners for the Apollo missions put this plateau high on its list of targets for human exploration. This amazing image was acquired on 10 November 2011 as LRO passed north-to-south about 70 km east of the crater's center."

First Of NASA'S Two Grail Spacecraft Enters Orbit Around Moon

"The first of two NASA spacecraft to study the moon in unprecedented detail has entered lunar orbit. NASA's Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL)-A spacecraft successfully completed its planned main engine burn at 2 p.m. PST (5 p.m. EST) today. As of 3 p.m. PST (6 p.m. EST), GRAIL-A is in a 56-mile (90-kilometer) by 5,197-mile (8,363-kilometer) orbit around the moon that takes approximately 11.5 hours to complete."

NASA's Twin Grail Spacecraft Reunite in Lunar Orbit

"The second of NASA's two Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft has successfully completed its planned main engine burn and is now in lunar orbit. Working together, GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B will study the moon as never before."


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This page is an archive of entries in the Space & Planetary Science category from January 2012.

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