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The Cosmic Mirror
By Daniel Fischer, Germany
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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.

2009 will be the International Year of Astronomy: Preparations have begun
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.
Update # 302 of Thursday, February 1, 2007
Brightest comet in 40 years rounds Sun, now in S. skies, tail's end seen from N, too / HST Servicing back! But ACS gone for good! / New Discovery studies: more comet visits?

McNaught tail grown to 40 degrees, bends towards North, end was even seen from Europe for a few days

It 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!.

Posted on January 18th

Dramatic dust tail in ever darker skies: McNaught now impressive sight for Southerners

This 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 ...

Posted on January 16th

McNaught seen naked eye in broad daylight, reached -5m, now visible in twilight at Southern latitudes

It 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!

Posted on January 12th

McNaught now at -3.5m, reaches perihelion today, is being tracked by SOHO, STEREO

The 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.

Posted on January 9th

McNaught now at -1.5m, easy binocular sight at dusk

For 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.

Posted on January 7th

Comet McNaught reaches zero magnitude; sky is the limit

Comet 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.

Posted in November 2006

A bright comet might be in the skies in early January

but 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.
Basic facts, more details, brightness estimates (light curve), the discoverer's own site, the orbit, a technical paper on the dust scatter effect and continuous updates (in German) on the situation, with links to most pictures available worldwide (some of which are also collected at SpaceWeather) and to many other websites on McNaught in various languages.
Many links are also included in comprehensive stories (in German) posted by yours truly on Jan. 21, Jan. 11 and Jan. 1, 2007, and Dec. 5 and Nov. 9, 2006.
Other media have only started to realize what's going on in early January - coverage of Feb. 1: APOD, Scotsman. Jan. 28: AdAstra. Jan. 24: APOD. Jan. 22: APOD. Jan. 20: PSB, APOD, NZ Herald. Jan. 19: APOD, SC. Jan. 18: APOD. Jan. 17: Raumf., APOD, McNB. Jan. 16: PSB. Jan. 15: Cosmos, APOD, Xinhua. Jan. 14: SC, StarBull, BAB, Asy, PSB. Jan. 13: SMH, Scotsman, APOD, SCB. Jan. 12: SC, King5, SkyMania, SC, PSB, ST, BdW, Standard, Exp., diverse weitere. Jan. 11: BAB. Jan. 10: Anchorage Daily News, MSNBC, S&T, DPA. Jan. 9: APOD. Jan. 8: Ast., S&T, Dsc. Jan. 7: WTOP. Jan. 5: APOD. Jan. 4: S&T, SC.
Press Releases by ESO of Jan. 19, Gemini of Jan. 19, ESA of Jan. 11 and NASA of Jan. 9.

Transit of Mercury observed mainly from space and U.S.

on Nov. 8/9: Hinode (in Japanese, via S@N and a movie taken with the SOT), TRACE and SOHO space pictures and groundbased ones from GONG, Jones, Wong, Schneider, Mayfield, Musgrave, Morana, DirtySkies, Bruenjes, the Whites, Cortner and others and many, a UA PR and coverage by S&T (B), PSB, BBC, ColBasinH, NwS, AP, APOD. Earlier: ESA, JPL and JHU Releases, Dsc., DiamB, NwS, PSB, SC (earlier). Want more? Here are 2544 Transits of Venus ...
Leonids fail to deliver final outburst on Nov. 19 around 4:45 UTC: the ZHR doesn't seem to have exceeded 70! The ZHR on the fly, reports and pictures by Pilz & al. Gährken and Hedén, a gallery and coverage by SCB. Earlier: predictions of a max. ZHR of 35, 100 and 120, NAMN Notes, S@N, Rao's page, an S&T PR, AstroBlog and preview stories by PS, NwS, SC (earlier, still earlier).

Moon's escaping gasses expose fresh surface

Several lines of evidence suggest that the moon may have seen eruptions of interior gasses as recently as 1 million years ago, rather than 3 billion years ago the date that had been most widely accepted: Brown Univ. PR, PSRD, S@N, NwS, SC. More lunar impacts than expected? S@N, SC. Still believers in lunar ice deposits of importance: SpR [SR].
Lunar A will probably be cancelled, a much-delayed Japanese lunar mission with impactors: PS, NwS, ST. China Moon probe readied for 2007 liftoff: Xinhua, SC.
Plethora of Puffy Planets - at least three other recently discovered transiting exoplanets are also puffed up like HD 209458b: S&T. What's a Planet? New riddles beyond the solar system: ScN.

Hayabusa prepares for voyage home!

The almost forgotten Japanese asteroid orbiter/kind-of-lander is actually making progress: PSB (earlier). Dawn tested: Update. Its target Ceres: S&T.
Rosetta spots Lutetia, warms up for Mars swing-by: ESA Release (earlier), PSB (earlier), BdW.
Venus Express launched over a year ago - now in orbit, celebrated, but very few pictures released so far: ESA Release (earlier, still earlier), DLR PM, NwS, PSB, SC, TP, BdW. Venus Express wins Popular Science's 'Best of What's New' award: ESA Release. Venus surface history: NwS.

Next round of ESA missions draws nearer

"A general sense of the way forward emerged" for ESA's science program - in 2007 there will be a call for proposals for new missions: ESA Release.
New Horizons' Jupiter encounter has begun, with nice close-ups already and a flyby on Feb. 28: APL Releases of Jan. 18 and Jan. 10, NASA Release of Jan. 18, BBC, PSB (earlier), NwS, HC, SC (earlier, still earlier), PI Persp., ST. And spots Pluto already: JHU APL PR, NwS, SC, PSB. Might visit a Neptune Trojan: SC.

ACS fails again, this time for good; repair during SM unlikely

On 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.

Posted earlier

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.

The ACS failure: a NASA and ESA Releases and coverage by SN, AD, NwS (earlier), BBC, SC, ST.
The return of the Servicing Mission: NASA (more), Boehlert, ESA, Mikulski, CU Boulder, Udall, AAS, LockMart and Univ. of AZ Press Releases - and even more. Plus a transcript of a NASA PC.
Coverage by Ast. (earlier), SN, AD, WP, FT (OpEd), HC (OpEd), Dsc, PS, S&T, CampPr, TR, PopSci, NG, NwS (earlier, more, still more), RMN, BBC, SCS, G, MSNBC, MN Daily, CSM, SC (earlier, more, still earlier), NW, BA, PSB, ST, SZ, St., W, NZ.

Concept studies for the next round of Discovery missions launched

NASA 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:
  • The Origins Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and Security (OSIRIS) mission would survey an asteroid and provide the first return of asteroid surface material samples to Earth.
  • The Vesper mission is a Venus chemistry and dynamics orbiter that would advance our knowledge of the planet's atmospheric composition and dynamics.
  • The Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission would use high-quality gravity field mapping of the moon to determine the moon's interior structure.
The three missions of opportunity selected for concept studies are: - The Deep Impact eXtended Investigation of Comets (DIXI) mission would use the existing Deep Impact spacecraft for an extended flyby mission to a second comet (Boethin, in Dec. 2008) to take pictures of its nucleus to increase our understanding of the diversity of comets. - The Extrasolar Planet Observations and Characterization (EPOCh) mission would use the high-resolution camera on the Deep Impact spacecraft to search for the first Earth-sized planets detected around other stars. - And the Stardust NExT mission would use the existing Stardust spacecraft to flyby comet Tempel 1 and observe changes since the Deep Impact mission visited it in 2005. In 2005, Tempel 1 has made its closest approach to the sun, possibly changing the surface of the comet. Joseph Veverka of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., is NExT's principal investigator.
NASA, UMD and GSFC Releases - and Engineering & Science (10 pg. PDF) on the achievements of the original Deep Impact mission.
Coverage by RMN, PS, Dsc, DiamB, NwS, PSB.

Hinode sends first images, video clips

The new Japanese spacecraft sent into orbit in September to study the Sun has returned its first scientific data: JAXA [SR], NASA, PPARC and CfA Releases, pictures, BBC (earlier).
SOHO finds 1200+ comets, with the count already at 1214: S&T. SOHO follows another comet plunge into the Sun: C2 and C3 images, SC.
STEREOs in final orbits, telescopes turned on, first images available: JHU APL, NASA, ESA, LockMart and Kiel Univ. PMn., APOD. Where they are heading: trajectory details, JSR. Who's involved: MyWebPal. 3D analysis: papers by Wiegelmann & Inhester and Inhester. Ulysses embarks on third set of polar passes - the Sun has settled down once again and will be close to its minimum: ESA Release. Double Star mission extended til Sep. 2007: ESA Release.

Mars Update

MGS 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 Update

Pictures # 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. Update

It'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 today

Dark 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.

Dark matter mapped with weak lensing in big Hubble survey; bright tracks dark, more or less: NASA Release, BBC, NwS, SC, ST.

Gravity helps SDSS-II reveal a brilliant jewel of the early universe

A 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 Remnant

New 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.

Two supernovae simultaneously in one galaxy, NGC 1316 - there are now 4 known in this system, all of type Ia: PSU and NASA Release, NwS, BBC, Dsc., BdW.

FUor brightens x30, creates nebula in dark cloud: Tautenburg PM, NwS.

Most powerful flare ever seen erupts on nearby star

The 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.

V838 Mon light echo evolution continues, now with dusty swirls being illuminated: HST Release, APOD, NwS.

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 inaugurated

Mexican 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 funding

in 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 Star

The 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. 27

A 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.

Spitzer + Hubble image M 42 for a very colorful composite: JPL Release, PhotoJournal.

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 satellites

on 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, SN, SC, ST.

PSLV launches four satellites, one comes back to Earth

An Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket placed four satellites into orbit on Jan. 10, including a new remote sensing satellite and India's first recoverable spacecraft - the Space Recovery Experiment 1 (SRE-1) spacecraft splashed down in the Bay of Bengal on Jan. 22: ISRO Release (earlier), ST (earlier). Earlier: SN, NwS.

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.

China tests ASAT weapon, gets widely criticized, claims peaceful intentions: WP, NwS (earlier), BBC, MSNBC, G, ST earlier, still earlier).

  • New ESO DG named: ESO Release.
  • COSMIC delivers - innovative satellite system proves its worth with better weather forecasts, climate data: NCAR Release.
  • Solar sail mission to rise again? The Planetary Society may try it once again, this time considering sending a new spacecraft built from spare parts to the Lagrange point L1: Plan. Soc. story, NwS.
  • Planck instruments ready for integration - engineers are ready to begin integrating the scientific instruments into ESA's Planck satellite: ESA Release, BBC.
  • IceCube progress at the South Pole: Antarctic Sun.
  • Blue Origin conducts first flight test - the secretive commercial space venture established by founder Jeff Bezos performed its first (low-level) flight test of its suborbital vehicle on Nov. 13, lasting minutes: MSNBC, ST.
  • Bigelow to push ahead- "we are years ahead of where we thought we would be at this time": SC. Next Falcon 1 attempt on Jan. 21: NwS, SC.
  • GLONASS quality to improve next January: TASS, NwS, TP.

Have you read the the previous issue?!
All other historical issues can be found in the Archive.
Compiled and written by Daniel Fischer