The Cosmic Mirror
By Daniel Fischer, Germany
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Space history (English and German)
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|Feb. 10||Saturn in opposition at magnitude 0.0||June 21||Launch of Dawn to Ceres & Vesta|
|Feb. 25||Rosetta flies past Mars||July 22||Launch of Japan's Selene to the Moon|
|Feb. 28||New Horizons flies past Jupiter||Aug. 3||Launch of Phoenix to Mars|
|April ?||Launch of China's lunar orbiter||Sep. 1||Possible outburst of Alpha-Aurigid meteors|
|June 5||MESSENGER flies past Venus||Nov. ?||Launch of India's lunar orbiter|
|June 6||Jupiter in opposition at -2.6 mag.||Dec. 24||Mars in opposition at -1.6 mag.|
with the launch of the central website by the IAU. And 2007 is the International Heliophysical Year as well as the International Polar Year which stretches into 2009 and has some space implications, too.
McNaught tail grown to 40 degrees, bends towards North, end was even seen from Europe for a few daysIt just doesn't end: Day by day comet McNaught - despite a fading head - is more spectacular in Southern skies, as e.g. evidenced by stunning pictures obtained by Garradd, Vello or Mr McNaught himself. The tail length has now grown to 40 degrees, with lots of amazing structure (the physical meaning of the striations is under debate) - and perhaps most amazingly its bending so much towards the North that the 'tail end' of the tail, so to speak, is now visible from mid-Northern latitudes, as a faint fence of rays in the South, like a displaced aurora. Even from the North Sea coast and the U.K., at well beyond +50° latitude these rays have clearly been imaged - until January 21, when the waxing Moon got in the way. In the South the comet's head was fading fast at the end of January (estimated at around +2.5 mag.), but the tail remains impressive from rural sites - and in the very far South the comet is now even circumpolar!.
Dramatic dust tail in ever darker skies: McNaught now impressive sight for SouthernersThis is what is comet is supposed to look like: as recent images from Oz etc. show, since Jan. 17 and 18 McNaught has a long (6° by some naked-eye estimates, 10 to 15 degress according to images like this one) and dramatically structured dust tail now, not much unlike West's 31 years ago - and day after day it can be seen in darker skies from the Southern hemisphere. On January 17, the comet's brightness was still at about -2.5 mag., after a sharp peak at -5 mag. around Jan. 14, and on the 16th it was still visible in broad daylight even from low Northern latitudes (from Europe it was last spotted on the 15th). But the real show has only started now: e.g. it is now possible to see and image the detailled dust tail structure in front of a pretty dark sky long after sun- and even cometset, something that was never possible when the comet was in the Northern skies just a week earlier. If McNaught still isn't bright enough for your, just wait 2 Myr or so: Then a big KBO could be kicked by Neptune into the inner solar system and become the brightest comet of all times ...
McNaught seen naked eye in broad daylight, reached -5m, now visible in twilight at Southern latitudesIt required very clear skies, but then it was possible: Reports from many countries indicate that comet McNaught was visible to the naked eye at noon Jan. 12, (Jan. 13, when it seems to have been the most obvious) and Jan. 14, less than 6° from the Sun, when one shielded one's eyes from direct sunlight. The comet's brightness apparently rose to -5 mag. or thereabouts, even beating out comet West of 31 years ago (which was much better placed in the sky, though, plus a more impressive daytime comet) and making it the brightest comet since Ikeya-Seki another 10 years earlier (which was much brighter than McNaught). Under less perfect conditions binoculars or even a telescope were needed to pick McNaught out of the glare around the Sun (and often it didn't work at all), though astrophotography - with its possibilities of drastic contrast enhancement - seems to have been possible under about any sky condition. Surprisingly the comet was once more widely seen from Europe on the evening of Jan. 13, being already bright enough to beat out the very bright twilight. But now its visibility window has moved way South, with the comet - now already a little bit fainter than Venus - appearing low in twilight skies there and still (after rising higher on Jan. 16) described as "truly a spectacular sight". The show ain't over yet!
McNaught now at -3.5m, reaches perihelion today, is being tracked by SOHO, STEREOThe comet has done it! The brightness has increased day after day, now approaching Venus', and while this (very early) evening it will make its last appearance low in European skies, the show is anything but over. First, there is a chance of McNaught brightening several more magnitudes due to light scattering effects around the 14th (see Jan. 7 entry). And by that day it will also reappear in Earth's sky, now for deep Southern latitudes: There it will become visible in deeper twilight a few days later when it should still have a negative magnitude, but by the 3rd decade of January it should fade rapidly. An amazing but very quick show and a challenge to astrophotographers - many of whom have performed brilliantly: see the links in the 'German stories' linked on the right, esp. the Jan. 11 entry! This morning McNaught has entered the field of view of SOHO's LASCO C3 coronagraph (where it blooms like crazy; the current movie) - and STEREO B yesterday afternoon took a marvellous image of McNaught's dust tail.
McNaught now at -1.5m, easy binocular sight at duskFor mid-northern latitudes, that is, but only a few remaining days: When the comet makes it around the Sun on Jan. 12/13, its visibility window will suddenly slip South. Yours truly finally saw the comet through small - but very clear - breaks in dense clouds on the evening of Jan. 9, an impressive and ususual (though not really dramatic) sight in 10x25 binoculars: bright and very condensed coma (much mucrhg fainter than Venus, though), short but bright (givenr that it was nautical twilight!) tail towards 1 o'clock. Observations were possible twice for a few seconds, at 4 and 2½ elevation, with the sight about the same: The full observing window may last some 20 minutes now but will be shrinking soon, with the comet rapidly disappearing from Germany after Jan. 11. It was at 0.21 AU from the Sun when these observations were made and will be at 0.17 AU at perihelion: The brightness should rise some more but slower than it did until the end of December, and while McNaught is a nice and rare binocular wonder now, it will probably never become a dramatic naked-eye sight on a par with Hale-Bopp ten years ago.
Comet McNaught reaches zero magnitude; sky is the limitComet C/2006 P1 (McNaught) is living up to expectations: In early January its brightness has risen dramatically to about zero magnitude around the 5th, but unfortunately the comet is very close to the Sun and can only be seen low on the horizon at dusk or dawn and only from Northern latitudes - thus it is not an obvious or easy sight. But with the brightness poised to rise several(?) more magnitudes in the days up to perihelion on Jan. 12, McNaught could become an amazing sight. There is even speculation about a brief naked-eye daytime visibility around Jan. 14 when it will be almost directly between Sun and Earth and its dust may scatter a lot of sunlight towards us. By that time the comet will have moved to the South of the Sun, and by late January it could still be a great sight for Southern latitudes.
A bright comet might be in the skies in early Januarybut the fate of C/2006 P1 (McNaught) is still up in the air - or rather down, as its proximity to the Sun as seen from Earth and thus very poor observing conditions are preventing good visual magnitude estimates, the basis of all cometary brightness predictions. On Nov. 7 McNaught was caught at 9.5 mag. from Austria: From the fragmentary data that exist it seems that its brightness has been rising quite well since its discovery on Aug. 7. The big question is whether the light curve will flatten considerably in the coming weeks as the comet draws closer to the Sun, as it has happened to many comets of moderate size before. But even if C/2006 P1 takes a turn for the worse, it could still be of negative magnitude in early January - when it will hug the horizon in twilight (both at dusk and dawn) from mid-Northern latitudes. Spacecraft such as SOHO and STEREO should have the best view around perihelion on Jan. 13 when McNaught is only a few degrees from the Sun; after Jan. 14 it'll swiftly turn into a Southern object - if it still exists at that point, that is.
ACS fails again, this time for good; repair during SM unlikelyOn January 27 Hubble's main camera, the Advanced Camera for Surveys, failed once again, and this time it seems to be gone for good: The break-down of the redundant power supply - the primary one already died in June 2006 - is permanent, and to make repairs during the Servicing Mission (see below) would mean that other tasks would have to be dropped. Early indications are that this will not be done: Thus the steady supply of high-resolution images in visible light is over until the Wide Field Camera 3 will be installed that should take over many of its functions. It is not known what exactly went wrong with the ACS power supply, but a puff of smoke was detected - it doesn't seem to have contaminated the telescope's optics, though. It will also be made sure that the electrical trouble does not affect other systems on the space telescope which is continuing its scientific work full steam until the final visitors come.
Final Hubble Servicing Mission officially on again!It had been expected for months, and since Oct. 31 it is official: There will be one final shuttle mission to the HST! The mission - since delayed a bit to Sep. 11, 2008, will extend and improve the observatory's capabilities through 2013, by exchanging worn-out components, repairing the STIS instrument and installing two new ones, the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) and Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). The COS is the most sensitive ultraviolet spectrograph ever flown on Hubble: It will probe the cosmic web, the large-scale structure of the universe whose form is determined by the gravity of dark matter and is traced by the spatial distribution of galaxies and intergalactic gas. WFC3 is a new camera sensitive across a wide range of wavelengths, including infrared, visible, and ultraviolet light. It will have a broad inquiry from the planets in our solar system to the early and distant galaxies beyond Hubble's current reach, to nearby galaxies with stories to tell about their star formation histories.
Other planned work includes installing a refurbished Fine Guidance Sensor that replaces one degrading unit of the three already onboard. The sensors control the telescope's pointing system. An attempt will also be made to repair the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph. Installed in 1997, it stopped working in 2004. The instrument is used for high resolution studies in visible and ultraviolet light of both nearby star systems and distant galaxies, providing information about the motions and chemical makeup of stars, planetary atmospheres, and other galaxies. The Hubble servicing mission is an 11-day flight. Following launch, the shuttle will rendezvous with the telescope on the third day of the flight. Using the shuttle's mechanical arm, the telescope will be placed on a work platform in the cargo bay. Five separate space walks will be needed to accomplish all of the mission objectives.
Concept studies for the next round of Discovery missions launchedNASA on Oct. 30 selected concept studies for missions that would return a sample of an enigmatic asteroid, probe the chemistry of Venus' atmosphere and reveal the interior structure and history of the Earth's moon. Also selected for further study are three missions of opportunity that would make new use of two NASA spacecraft that have completed their primary objectives. NASA may select one or more investigations to continue into a development effort after detailed review of the concept studies. Decisions about which mission concepts will proceed to development are expected next year. New missions will receive $1.2 million to conduct concept studies. If selected for continuation beyond the concept phase, each project must complete its mission, including archiving and analyzing data, for less than $425 million. Missions of opportunities will receive $250,000 to conduct concept studies and must be done for less than $35 million. Three new missions were selected for concept studies:
Mars UpdateMGS launched 10 years ago; contact lost; probably gone for good; may have been human error - and new deposits in gully discovered in MGS pics! JPL, NASA and MSSS Releases and Features of Jan. 10, Dec. 6 (also many details and a quick slideshow!), Nov. 21 [alt., alt.], Nov. 9 and Nov. 7, pictures 90... 31, 30, 29, 28, 27, 26, 25, 24, 23, 22, 21 and 20, paper by Iorio vs. Krogh and coverage of Jan. 11: NwS, Dsc, GCB, PSB, ST. Jan. 10: SR, Ast., SC. Jan. 9: NW. Dec. 20: SCB. Dec. 15: PS. Dec. 13: PNU. Dec. 12: SC (B). Dec. 8: Slate. Dec. 7: SFG, S&T, WP, RMN, LAT, FT, T, HC, G, CSM, C, ST. Dec. 6: PS (B), NG, BBC, Ast., VoA, Dsc., NwS, SFG, SC, BA, S&TB, APOD. Dec. 5: PSB. Dec. 2: NwS. Nov. 28: NwS. Nov. 27: PSB. Nov. 24: FT. Nov. 22: SFG, LAT, ST. Nov. 21: SN, NwS, BBC, RMN, Ast., S&TB, FTB, Dsc., SC. Nov. 18: RMN. Nov. 17: Dsc. Nov. 16: Ast. Nov. 15: PS, RMN. Nov. 14: SC, ST. Nov. 13: BBC, NwS. Nov. 11: RMN, FT. Nov. 10: SC, ST Nov. 9: NwS. Odyssey in safe mode after solar flare. Coverage of Dec. 7: PSB. MRO now in the science phase, also looking for missing landers - and even Jupiter! HiRISE Release of Jan. 31 [SR], JPL Releases of Jan. 11, Dec. 22, Dec. 13 [alt.], Dec. 4 and Nov. 18, UA Releases of Jan. 24, Jan. 11 and Nov. 29, Ames Release of Dec. 19, HiBlog of Nov. 8 and Nov. 6, pictures 91... 05, 01, 90... 98, 97, 96, 95, 94, 93, 89, 76, 75, 74, 73, 18... 83, 82, 81, 80 and 79 and coverage of Feb. 1: NwS. Jan. 31: PSB. Jan. 15: ST. Jan. 12: Ast., NwS. Jan. 11: PSB. Jan. 8: PSB. Dec. 13: Ast. Dec. 8: PSB. Dec. 6: BBC. Dec. 5: NwS, SC. Dec. 1: NwS. Nov. 30: PSB. Nov. 29: SC, PSB. Nov. 27: PSB. Nov. 24: NwS. Nov. 9: PSB. Nov. 1: SC. MER Opportunity may go down into Victoria for good, but so far she's still scouting around the crater's rim. Pictures # 91... 70, 16, 04, 03, 90... 92, 91, 90, 88, 87, 86, 85, 84, 83, 82, 81, 80, 79, 78, 77, 18... 98, 97, 94, 93, JPL Release of Dec. 28 and coverage of Jan. 31: PS. Jan. 24: PSB. Jan. 5: PSB. Jan. 4: SC. Jan. 2: BBC, NwS. Dec. 31: Syracuse. Dec. 28: SC. Dec. 14: SFG, NwS. Dec. 13: G. Dec. 11: Tompkins Weekly. Nov. 20: PSB. Nov. 16: NwS, PSB. Nov. 15: Cornell Chr., PSB. Nov. 9: BBC. Nov. 6: SC. Nov. 2: PSB. Mars Express radar sees hidden craters, delivers new data on atmospheric loss processes. DLR, ESA and JPL Releases, Dec. 22 Status, NwS, Dsc., SC, ST, BdW. ExoMars launch moved to 2013, may have to be descoped; NwS. Earlier: BBC, W. Two finalists for next Scout mission chosen; NASA will select one of the two missions in late 2007 for launch in 2011: NASA and Univ. of CO Releases, Denver Post, Daily Press (earlier), RMN, Dsc, PSB, ST. Phoenix partway through assembly and testing, survives termination review despite being over budget and still looking for a landing site: PS, NwS, RMN (earlier), AD (earlier), PSB (earlier, still earlier), SC (earlier, still earlier), pictures 18... 86 and 85. MSL details: SC. Too many mars missions? :-) [NW]. China to participate in Russian Mars mission (with Phobos sample return): AP. Gully watching: SC. Wind measurements in Mars' middle atmosphere at equinox and solstice: a paper by Moreno & al. Viking still debated: Wash. State Univ. PR. Dig deeply to seek life on Mars: AGU Release, BBC, G, SC, ST, BdW.
Saturn UpdatePictures # 91... 71, 15, 12, 11, 02, 90... 37, 36, 35, 34, 33, 32, 88... 69, 66, 65, 64, 63, 62, 61, 60, 59, 58, 57, 56, 55, 54, 53, 52, 51, 50, 49, 48, 47, 46, 45, 44, 43, 42, 41, 40, 39, 38, 37, 36, 35, 34, 33, 32, 31, 30, 29, 28, 27, 26, 25, 24, 23, 22, 21, 20, 83... 55, 54, 53, 52, 51, 50, 49, 48, 46, 40, 39, 38, 37, 36, 35, 34, 33, 32, 19 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 09, 08, 07, 06, 04, 03, 02, 01, 00, 82... 99, JPL Releases of Jan. 31, Jan. 24, Jan. 3 and Dec. 12, ESA Releases of Jan. 24, Jan. 12, Dec. 12 and Nov. 24, a UA Release of Jan. 16, a UC Davis Release of Dec. 15, an Univ. Ill. Release of Dec. 14, a NASA Release of Nov. 9, a CICLOPS Releases of Dec. 29 and Nov. 9, an Ames Release of Nov. 6, an U CO Release of Nov. 6, AstroEnlazador, and coverage of Jan. 31: PSB, APOD. Jan. 29: BdW. Jan. 26: PSB. Jan. 23: BdW. Jan. 22: PSB. Jan. 16: BdW. Jan. 15: PSB. Jan. 4: BBC, ST, BdW. Jan. 3: SC, PSB. Dec. 27: PSB. Dec. 26: PSB. Dec. 22: PSB. Dec. 21: PSB. Dec. 19: PSB. Dec. 15: RMN, PSB, BdW. Dec. 14: PS, SC, BdW. Dec. 13: NwS, BBC, SFG, PSB. Dec. 6: CampusPress. Nov. 30: SC. Nov. 28: BdW. Nov. 15: PSB, S&T. Nov. 13: APOD, Nov. 11: FT, G, BdW. Nov. 10: BBC, PSB. Nov. 9: NwS, SC. Nov. 8: SC. Nov. 7: Dsc., PS, SFG. Nov. 2: AP.
ISS etc. UpdateIt's now official: a permanently inhabited lunar base is NASA's goal - for some time in the 2020's - while Discovery is back from STS-116 and the next launch has been moved forward one day to March 15. The shuttle manifest as of Jan. 2, NASA Releases of Jan. 31, Jan. 23, Dec. 22, Dec. 9, Dec. 4 (briefing transcript and viewgraphs), Nov. 29, Nov. 17, Nov. 16 and Nov. 1, ESA Releases of Dec. 22, Dec. 14, Dec. 12, Dec. 10, Nov. 30 and Nov. 22 (another one), PPARC Release of Jan. 10, RSC Energia Release of Nov. 30, U.S. State Dept. Release of Jan. 11 (on the new Space Policy), a paper by Lazio & al., Science@NASA of Jan. 26, Jan. 23, Dec. 28 and Nov. 30, DLR PMn vom 10.12., 4.12. und 16.11., Plan. Soc. PRs of Dec. 5 and Dec. 4, a video of a camera being lost during an STS-116 EVA (!), some stills, Fuglesang's diary, the transcript of a Jan. 23 ISS press conference, Griffin speeches on Jan. 26, Jan. 19 and Dec. 1, a Dale speech on Dec. 5, an Ares memo, the Continuing Resolution and the Dems about it, an earlier memo re. the FY '07 Budget (still earlier), the Plan. Soc. on the budget, China's space plans and coverage of Feb. 1: Nature, ST, SCB. Jan. 31: PS, SN, SC, ST. Jan. 28: SR. Jan. 26: Dsc., CNN, SC (other story). Jan. 25: ST, BdW. Jan. 23: NwS. Jan. 22: SpR. Jan. 20: ST. Jan. 19: SC. Jan. 18: WP, Hartf.C., Chic.T., ST, Phoenix. Jan. 17: SC (other story). Jan. 16: PSB. Jan. 15: NwS, Novosti, SpR. Jan. 14: HC. Jan. 11: AD, Econom., NW, BAB. Jan. 10: BBC, NwS, G, AFP, NW. Jan. 9: PSB. Jan. 2: SpR. Dec. 27: SC. Dec. 26: NwS, SC, ST. Dec. 25: APOD. Dec. 23: WP. Dec. 22: SN, BBC, NwS, PS, ABC, MSNBC, SC (earlier), Adorama, ST (earlier). Dec. 21: SN. Dec. 20: AN, SN, NwS, SC, ST. Dec. 19: SN (earlier), NwS, SC, ST. Dec. 18: SN (earlier, still earlier), SpR, SC. Dec. 17: FT, NwS, SC, ST - and a cartoon ... Dec. 16: SN (earlier, still earlier, even earlier, still earlier), ST. Dec. 15: SN, NwS (earlier), SC (earlier), ST. Dec. 14: SC, ST. Dec. 13: FT, BBC, NwS, SC (other story), ST (other story). Dec. 12: SN (earlier), G, SC, ST. Dec. 11: SpR, SN (earlier, still earlier), AW&ST, BBC, SC (earlier, B), MSNBC, ST. Dec. 10: SN, NwS, LAT, G, SC. Dec. 9: SN, BBC, AN, NwS, FT, CS, SC (other story), ST. Dec. 8: SN, ABC, BBC, NwS, FT, Slate, USN&WR, ST, S&TB. Dec. 7: SN (earlier), FT, CSM, NwS (earlier), SC (other story), ST. Dec. 6: SC, SwissInfo, G, Oregonian, ST. Dec. 5: SN (earlier), WP, FT, BBC (other story), NwS, ABC, SC 1 2, 3, 4, AFP, PBS, ST 1, 2, 3, diverse Stories in Deutsch. Dec. 4: SpR, SN (other and another story), ABC, NG, NwS, SC (other story), VoA, HC, WP, SpR (another story), Daily Reveille, AB. Dec. 3: SN, SC. Dec. 1: SN, NW. Nov. 30: SN, PS, HC, NwS, BBC, ST (other item). Nov. 29: SN, NwS, SC. Nov. 28: SC, ST. Nov. 27: SN, NW, SpN. Nov. 25: G. Nov. 23: HC, BBC, FTB, NwS, G, SC, ST, Handelsbl. Nov. 22: CS, AP, NwS, SN. Nov. 21: FTB, Stand. Nov. 20: SpN, NW, BBC. Nov. 18: BBC. Nov. 17: NwS. Nov. 16: SC, NW. Nov. 15: FT, NwS, SC (other story). Nov. 14: NwS, SC. Nov. 13: SpN, CSM, SpR, AFP. Nov. 12: SC. Nov. 11: SR (NW), BBC, G. Nov. 10: FT, PSB, SC, ST, St. Nov. 9: SN (earlier), HT, NwS, CS, SC. Nov. 8: SD, NW. Nov. 7: HC, SC, NW (another rant and another one), ST, PSB. Nov. 6: AFP, NwS, RIAN, SC. Nov. 3: SC, ST. Nov. 2: ST. Nov. 1: SR, SC. Oct 31: SR, NW.
Dark Energy as strong 9 Gyr ago as todayDark energy, the mysterious force that is causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate, has existed in the universe for at least nine billion years, new distant supernova discoveries demonstrate: a paper by Riess & al., HST, NASA and JHU Releases and coverage by PNU, PW, S&T (B), BBC, NwS, WP, SC, ST.
Gravity helps SDSS-II reveal a brilliant jewel of the early universeA newly discovered galaxy, seen as an arc of four elongated images that encircle the foreground lens, offers a rare window into the state of the universe two billion years after the big bang: SDSS Release.
Milky Way's neighbouring galaxies have gifferent history - the chemistry in the stars in these dwarf galaxies is just not consistent with current cosmological models: a paper by Helmi & al., and ESO Release and coverage by BdW.
Cosmic Ray acceleration in Supernova RemnantNew clues that cosmic rays are generated by shock waves in supernova remnants were revealed by a new study of Cas A using the Chandra X-ray observatory: CXC Release, SC. Spitzer sees Cas A layering: Spitzer Release, SC, BdW.
Most powerful flare ever seen erupts on nearby starThe flare erupted from a star called II Pegasi, 135 light years from Earth, and was 100,000 times more powerful than the most violent flares ever observed on the Sun: GSFC Release, Dsc., NwS, SC.
Twenty New Stars in the Neighborhood include the twenty-third and twenty-fourth closest stars - the known population of the Milky Way galaxy within 10 pc of Earth has grown by 16 percent in just the past six years: NOAO Release, SC, BdW.
Large Millimeter Telescope inauguratedMexican President Vicente Fox has inaugurated a giant radio telescope that could help scientists uncover clues about the origins of the Universe: NwS, BBC, DPA [alt.], NZ. China launches FAST feasibility study: Xinhua [SD].
Arecibo may lose fundingin shake-up of NSF astronomy funding priorities: Review documents, Cornell (statement), NRAO, DPS, AURA and NOAO Press Releases, Cornell Chr., Cornell Daily Sun, IthakaJ, NwS, Chieftain, AP, PSB, S&TB. Radar astronomy & NEOs: JPL Release.
Subaru Adaptive Optics improved with Laser Guide StarThe Subaru telescope will be improving its eyesight by a factor of ten with the completion of a new adaptive optics and laser guide star system: Subaru PR.
Gemini North recovers from earthquake - the telescope resumed regular science operations on November 11: Gemini PR.
VISTA Camera takes to the air - the world's biggest infrared camera for Europe's newest telescope left the UK on Jan 17th for its flight to Santiago in Chile: PPARC Release. Czech Republic to become member of ESO of 1 January 2007: ESO Release.
COROT launched on Dec. 27A mainly French mission for exoplanet hunting (via transits) and asteroseismology has been launched on a Soyuz-Fregat; first light was successful: a special homepage, CNES, ESA (earlier, still earlier, even earlier, still earlier, even earlier) and PPARC Releases, an interview and coverage by PhysWeb, NwS (earlier, still earlier), SN, G (earlier, OpEd), DW, PS, BBC (earlier), SC, ST, St, Earlier: France in Space, Ast., St, TP.
Akari views the LMC and is nearing the completion of its first scan of the entire sky: JAXA and ESA Releases. VLT image of NGC 1313, a galaxy with "many enigmas that continue to defy our understanding": ESO PR, BdW. Chandra + HST + Spitzer image of N49, a SNR in the LMC: CXO Release.
Minotaur launches two small satelliteson Dec. 16 - TacSat-2 is an experimental military satellite designed to test means of providing tactical imagery directly to troops on the ground; GeneSat-1 is a microsatellite built by NASA Ames Research Center to test the effects of the space environment on a strain of E. coli bacteria: Ames PR (earlier), Status (earlier), SN (earlier), APOD, Dispatch, DelMarvaNow, VirgPilot, WP, ST (earlier).
Japan launches experimental communications satellite on Dec. 18 - ETS 8, also known as Kiku 8, soon deployed a large reflector that will provide high-powered communications services, including directly to handsets and other mobile devices: JAXA Release (earlier), AFP, ST.
Zenit 3SL explodes at liftoff from SeaLaunch platform on Jan. 30, cause unknown, platform survives:
Feb. 1 status,
German SAR-Lupe satellite safely in orbit - the first German reconnaissance satellite in the SAR-Lupe system has been successfully placed in a 500 km orbit on Dec. 19 from the Russian Plesetsk spaceport: OHB and Alcatel Releases, SN, Novosti, ST.