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Kirock

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"Dawn" Mission To See Light Of Day

USA Today, Staff Writers

Tuesday, March 27, 2006

 

A new dawn arrived for NASA's mission to the asteroid belt Monday as the space agency announced the resurrection of its once-canceled plans. Now launching in the summer of 2007, the Dawn probe will slowly motor to the large asteroids Vesta in 2011 and Ceres in 2015. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory had appealed the cancellation decision earlier this month, citing progress on the mission's fuel and power problems. NASA's technical leaders decided to reinstate the mission, which now has a $440 million price tag after a 20% cost overrun. Technical problems with the spacecraft's slow-but-steady "ion drive," fuel tank and structure, as well as management problems, have been largely resolved since the December "stand-down," says NASA's Rex Greveden, who chaired the appeal panel. Ceres and Vesta are mini-planets, possible remnants of the planet-forming processes from the dawn of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago.

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If only space was the only final frontier... man.. ooooohhh

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Kirock

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Early Gravitational Pull Set Planets' Tilt

USA Today, Staff Writers

Thursday, April 27, 2006

 

An early gravitational shift made the giant planets tilt the way they do - which is different from the way Earth and the other smaller planets tilt, an astronomy study suggests. The shift probably happened billions of years ago when the bigger planets in our solar system were closer together than they are now, and the gravity of each one exerted a pull on the others, says the study in today's Nature. This "neutral gravitational interaction" caused Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune to have tilted axes that were determined as they moved through the solar system to take their current positions far from the sun, the study says. This differs from an earlier theory that the massive planets' tilts were caused by collisions with Earth-sized space rocks during the early period of the solar system.

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Neptune is the one that has always thrown me. It's plane of rotation is so incredibly different than any other planet I always just figured it was a stray that we had taken in.

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Kirock

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Trio Of Neptune-Size Planets Discovered

USA Today, Staff Writers

Thursday, May 18, 2006

 

European astronomers Wednesday reported the discovery of the smallest planet yet detected in the "habitable zone" of a nearby sun-like star. About the size of Neptune, the planet circles the star HD 69830, 41 light-years away in the southern sky (one light-year equals 5.9 trillion miles). Two other slightly smaller planets orbit closer to the star, the report in today's Nature says. Discovery of the planets suggests that "the search for habitable planets might be easier than assumed," Harvard astronomer David Charbonneau says in an accompanying commentary. The habitable-zone is not Earth-like but probably cloaked in a high-pressure hydrogen atmosphere, researchers say.

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So this planet is only 41 light-years away.  And one light-year equals 5.9 trillion miles.....  Let me do the math.

 

Remind me again............ how far away is Mars?  I'm just wondering how long it'll take to get to this new planet.  Better stock up on Jaffa Cakes.


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Kirock

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Spitzer Unveils Infant Stars In The

Christmas Tree Cluster

 

 

 Spitzer spots a stellar snowflake on the "Christmas Tree

Cluster." The infant stars appear as pink and red specks

in the snowflake shaped cluster at the center of the

image. Astronomers combined light from Spitzer's

IRAC and MIPS cameras in this mosaic.

 

 

Spitzer's cameras are very sensitive to the infrared (heat), allowing astronomers to see through the obscuring gas and dust of the star-forming cloud that swaddles infant stars.

The Christmas Tree Cluster, also known as NGC 2264, is a well-studied region in the Monoceros (the Unicorn) constellation. The Christmas Tree Cluster was so named because it looks like a tree in visible light. The nebula is roughly 2,500 light-years away. That is, the nebula emitted the light in the new Spitzer image 2,500 years ago.

For astronomers studying the development of very young stars -- stars less than a few million years old -- "This region has it all," said University of Arizona astronomer Erick T. Young.

"We see the dramatic-looking emission of cold gas -- clouds that look like thunderheads. We see when the massive molecular cloud breaks up and begins to condense into clumps of stars," Young said. "And, for the first time, because of Spitzer's sensitivity, we can see individual stars roughly the size of our sun tightly packed within those clumps." The cluster of stars is so tightly packed that they must be less than 100,000 years old, he added.

 

Astronomers are calling this compact collection of bright protostars within the Christmas Tree Cluster the "Snowflake Cluster" because of how they are spaced. The newborn stars are patterned like a single feathery crystal of snow, or geometrically spaced like spokes in a wheel.

The Spitzer observations show that just as theory predicts, the density and temperature of the initial star-forming cloud dictates the spacing between the protostars.

Young is deputy principal investigator for Spitzer's Multiband Imaging Photometer (MIPS), a UA-built camera that took the longest wavelengths of infrared light used in Christmas Tree Cluster mosaic. Astronomers combined light from MIPS and Spitzer's Infrared Array Camera (IRAC), developed by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, in constructing in the picture.

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