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Unusually many Taurid meteors this year? As explained here this would not even be a surprise.
Update # 321 of Sunday, November 9, 2008
Chandrayaan-1 in lunar orbit!

Now three(!) active Asian lunar orbiters: Chandrayaan 1 has joined Kaguya & Chang'e!

As the 6th space agency (and the third one active there current) India's ISRO has has made it into lunar orbit on November 8 - or rather Chandrayaan-1 has done it following the firing of the spacecraft's liquid engine at 16:51 IST for a duration of 817 seconds. The highly complex lunar orbit insertion manoeuvre was performed from Chandrayaan-1 Spacecraft Control Centre at Bangalore. The engine was fired when the spacecraft passed at a distance of about 500 km from the moon to reduce its velocity to enable lunar gravity to capture it into an orbit around the moon. The spacecraft is now orbiting the moon in an elliptical orbit that passes over the polar regions of the moon. The nearest point of this orbit (periselene) lies at a distance of about 504 km from the moon's surface while the farthest point (aposelene) lies at about 7502 km.

Chandrayaan-1 takes about 11 hours to go round the moon once in this orbit. The performance of all the systems onboard Chandrayaan-1 is normal. In the following days, the height of Chandrayaan's orbit around the moon will be carefully reduced in steps to achieve a final polar orbit of about 100 km height from the surface. Following this, the Moon Impact Probe (MIP) of the spacecraft will be released to hit the surface; later, the other scientific instruments will be turned on sequentially. With the successful manoeuvre, India becomes the fifth country to send a spacecraft to Moon. The other countries, which have sent spacecraft to Moon, are the United States, former Soviet Union, Japan and China. Besides, the European Space Agency (ESA), a consortium of 17 countries, has also sent a spacecraft to moon.

Posted earlier in November

Chandrayaan-1 has entered Lunar Transfer Trajectory!

The fifth and final orbit raising manoeuvre of the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft was successfully carried out on November 4: The spacecraft's 440 Newton liquid engine was fired for about two and a half minutes. With this, Chandrayaan-1 entered the Lunar Transfer Trajectory with an apogee of about 380,000 km. The health of the spacecraft is being continuously monitored from the Spacecraft Control Centre at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bangalore with support from Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) antennas at Byalalu. Since its launch on October 22 by PSLV-C11, all systems onboard Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft are performing normally. Chandrayaan-1 will approach the Moon on November 8, 2008 and the spacecraft's liquid engine will be fired again to insert the spacecraft into lunar orbit.

Posted on October 22

India's first lunar orbiter on its way, 2nd mission not far behind

In its fourteenth flight conducted from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota early on October 22, 2008, a PSLV-C11 successfully launched the 1380 kg Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft into a transfer orbit with a perigee of 255 km and an apogee of 22,860 km, inclined at an angle of 17.9 deg to the equator. After a 52 hour count down, the PSLV had lifted off from the Second Launch Pad at SDSC SHAR at 06:22 Hrs Indian Standard Time (IST) with the ignition of the core first stage. Chandrayaan-1 is India's first spacecraft mission beyond Earth's orbit. With well-defined objectives, it intends to put an unmanned spacecraft into an orbit around the moon and to perform remote sensing of our nearest celestial neighbour for about two years using eleven scientific instruments built in India and five other countries. Chandrayaan-1 aims to achieve these objectives through high-resolution remote sensing of moon in the visible, near infrared, microwave and X-ray regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. With this, preparation of a 3-dimensional atlas of the lunar surface and chemical and mineralogical mapping of entire lunar surface is envisaged.

The PSLV placed Chandrayaan-1 into a highly elliptical Transfer Orbit (TO) around the earth. Later, through a series of highly complex manoeuvres, the desired trajectories will be achieved. After circling the Earth in its Transfer Orbit, Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft will be taken into more elliptical 'Extended Transfer Orbits' by repeatedly firing its Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) in a pre-determined sequence. Subsequently, the LAM is again fired to make the spacecraft to travel to the vicinity of the moon. When it reaches the vicinity of the Moon and passes at a few hundred kilometers from it, its LAM is fired again so that the spacecraft slows down sufficiently to enable the gravity of the moon to capture it into an elliptical orbit. Following this, the height of the spacecraft's orbit around the moon is reduced in steps to its intended 100 km height from the lunar surface. A Moon Impact Probe will be ejected from Chandrayaan-1 at the earliest opportunity to hit the lunar surface in a chosen area.

Later, cameras and other scientific instruments are turned on and thoroughly tested: This leads to the operational phase of the mission. This phase lasts for about two years during which Chandrayaan-1 explores the lunar surface with its array of instruments that includes cameras, spectrometers and SAR. The Indian Deep Space Network receives the data and sends commands to the spacecraft at a power level of up to 20 kW. IDSN consists of two large parabolic antennas, one with 18 m diameter and the other 32 m diameter, at Byalalu, 35 km from Bangalore. The 18 m antenna can support the Chandrayaan-1 mission, but the 32 m antenna can support spacecraft missions well beyond the Moon. (Which will be the destination of Chandrayaan-2 in about 2010, however.) The Spacecraft Control Centre, located near the ISTRAC campus at Peenya, North of Bangalore, is the focal point of all the operational activities of Chandrayaan-1 during all the phases of the mission.

ISRO Releases of Nov. 8, Nov. 4, Oct. 31, Oct. 29, Oct. 26, Oct. 25, Oct. 23 and Oct. 22, ESA Releases of Nov. 5 and Oct. 22, a UN Release, Twitter (inofficial), Launch video, more videos, a gallery and an eyewitness report.

Coverage of Nov. 9: Hin., ExpB. Nov. 8: PTI (more), IBN (more), SN, BBC, Frontline cover package (many articles; pre-LOI), UT, ST. Nov. 7: DLF. Nov. 6: Hin., BC. Nov. 5: Hin., KSJ. Nov. 4: BBC, Hin. Nov. 3: BBC. Nov. 1: Hin. (more), ToI, PSB (follow-up).
Coverage of Oct. 31: PTI. Oct. 30: ToI. Oct. 29: PTI (more), NDTV, ToI, NYT. Oct. 28: ExpB. Oct. 27: DI, P.Af. Oct. 26: AW&ST, ToI, ET, Hin., NDTV. Oct. 25: Hin., Tw. Oct. 24: S&T, Ind. Today (more), Hin., DcH, ToI.
Coverage of Oct. 23: Sify, PSB, Tweet, DI, ASI SC, IE, Hindu (more), IBN, ToI (earlier), IANS, Exp., DNA, BSt, CT, BBC, StrT, Ti., CSM, G, KS.
Post-launch coverage of Oct. 22: IBN (earlier), SN, BBC, SpN, PW, ToI, T, Sify (more, more), AW&ST, NYT, NDTV, IPR (earlier), CNN, NPR,, Tel. (more), SC, dB, HC, G, NwS, CIOL, PTI (more), Novinite, AFP (more), Nov. (more), AP, SpP, W, KSJ, NaB, PSB (earlier, still earlier), SB, ABCB, APr, BAB, ST, TS, St., TAZ, Z, KL. Pre-launch coverage of Oct. 22: IBN, ToI (more, more, more), SMH.

The LRO has begun environmental testing

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has begun environmental testing in a thermal vacuum that simulates the harsh rigors of space - launch planned for April 2009: NASA Release; Tw. Lunar orbit no junkyard: SC.
Again no ice found on the Moon, this time in Kaguya images - but it could be hidden: ScN, NYT, NaB, SC, NwS.

MESSENGER's 2nd Mercury flyby results

summarized - nothing really new, but volcanism's role strengthened: Oct. 29 Release, all the related images and all October picture releases (there were none in early Nov.), plus coverage of Nov. 7: AD. Nov. 3: JHUG. Oct. 31: NPR. Oct. 30: PS, S&T, NaB, KSJ. Oct. 29: ScN, CSM, NPR, NG, NwS, SC, Rtr, BAB. BepiColombo costs balloon: FG.
Neptune mission - possible in 2019? PSB.PSB. New Horizons almost on target - and tracked by ATA.
Highlights from a Cluster-THEMIS workshop in September: ESA Release(s). Dawn Journal of Oct. 30.

XMM-Newton "lost" and found

Contact was lost with the X-ray satellite, amateur astronomers helped in recovery: ESA Releases of Oct. 23 and Oct. 22 and coverage of Oct. 23: eA.
Primordial antimatter hunt with Chandra in galaxy clusters: CXO Release. Chandra images Crab pulsar wind nebula boundary: CXO Release. GALEX images NGC 404: JPL Release.

Mars Update

Phoenix Mission nearing its end with dropping temperatures - first shutdowns, then safe mode, then silence, but now talking again! Still some final science possible, it seems! JPL Releases of Nov. 3, Oct. 30 (the earlier version), Oct. 29 and Oct. 28, pictures #113... 83, 82 and 79 and coverage of Nov. 6: AW&ST. Nov. 5: Dsc., Wir., NwS. Nov. 4: PSB, Tw, Gizm. (parts 2 and 3), SC. Nov. 3: Tw. Nov. 1: LAT, ST. Oct. 31: PSB, Tw, KSJ, AP. Oct. 30: NW, NYT, SC, Tw (earlier), UT, SpD, WB. Oct. 29: PSB, NaB, APr, ST. Oct. 28: Rtr, AP, PSB, Tw (earlier). Oct. 27: WC. MRO NASA Release of Oct. 28, picture #113... 77 and coverage of Nov. 4: SC. Nov. 3: NYT. Oct. 30: AD. Oct. 29: BBC, KSJ. Oct. 28: SC. MER Spirit Updates for Oct. 9-15 and Opportunity Updates for Oct. 3-7 and coverage of Nov. 7: NwS, CL. Oct. 31: PSB. Oct. 28: PSB. Mars Express' best images. MSL cost overruns drove Stern out: letter in Science. Also: more commentary. Phobos Grunt testing: PS. Third Mars moon speculation: NwS. Martian methane meaning: arXiv Blog, UT.

Saturn Update

Oct. 31 Enceladus encounter picture highlights, blog and plan, pictures #111... 23, 21 and 20, #105 08, 05 and 01, #104 99 and 97 and coverage of Nov. 6: SC, PSB. Nov. 4: S&T. Nov. 1: BAB. Oct. 28: NG. Oct. 24: BG (Big Picture!), Oct. 22: PSB.

ISS etc. Update

Soyuz TMA-12 has returned without problems, STS-126 is go for Nov. 14 - but the status of the Ares I is again controversial and the fate of the shuttle post-2010 unclear. GAO and CBO statements on the shuttle, STS-126 Status, NASA Releases of Nov. 7, Nov. 4, Oct. 30 and Oct. 24 (Kazakh Time), NASA pic of Nov. 6 and coverage of Nov. 9: AP. Nov. 6: SpP (other story), KSJ, NaB, UT. Nov. 5: SpP, SpN, KSJ. Nov. 4: CL, IOP, BBC, DecH, SC, UT, ST (other story). Nov. 3: OSB, SN, SC. Nov. 1: NW, UT, ST. Oct. 31: Tim., Tel., SpP. Oct. 30: SN, HT, LAT, FT, BBC (audio), KSJ. Oct. 29: OS, FT, SC, AP, NW. Oct. 28: OS, HT, FT, NwS, UT. Oct. 27: OSB, AP. Oct. 26: OS, UPI, SpP. Oct. 25: G. Oct. 24: SN, BBC, NwS, SC, AP (other story), ST, TS, W, St. Oct. 23: SC (other story), CL. Oct. 22: SpN, SC, ST. HST SM4 trouble Hubble back in action, WFPC2 calibration images "nominal" - but the ground spare (for SM4) is misbehaving! Hubble Status of Nov. 11, Oct. 25, Oct. 23, Livio Blog of Oct. 29, new Hubble picture release of Oct. 30 and coverage of Nov. 3: PrA. Oct. 31: BaltSun, ST. Oct. 30: S&T, OSB, BBC, FTB, FG, NwSB, SC (earlier), BAB, SB, UT, KSJ. Oct. 29: FG. Oct. 28: FT, NwS. Oct. 27: FT, PSB. Oct. 26: SD. Oct. 24: PopMech, BBC, KSJ, ST. Oct. 23: AW&ST, SN, NYT, AT, NaB, BAB, CSM, SC, NwS. Oct. 22: FT, AD.

European team confirms: mass of Sgr A* > 4 mio. solar masses

First the American competitors published a detailled analysis of star orbits around the central compact mass of our galaxy, deducing a mass larger than 4 million solar masses and a distance to it greater than 8 kpc - and now the European team has published its detailled analysis, arriving at 4.3±0.4 million solar masses and 8.3±0.4 kpc distance: paper by Gillessen & al.

CoRoT directly sees 'Sun-quakes' in other stars

Sounding the Sun through a technique similar to seismology has opened a new era for understanding the Sun's interior - the little COROT satellite has now applied this technique to three stars, directly probing the interiors of stars beyond the Sun for the first time: ESA (alt.) and AAAS Releases, BBC (incl. sonifications!), NwS.

Two more pulsating carbon white dwarfs found - this really looks like a new class of star: PrA.

Epsilon Eridani has three dusty belts

The nearby star Epsilon Eridani has two rocky asteroid belts and an outer icy ring, making it a triple-ring system: paper by Backman & al., CfA and JPL Releases, HarvCr, USAT, SC, NaB, UT, BdW.

Magnetic fields record the early histories of planets in meteorites: MIT Release, SC, BdW.

  • GOCE launch slips to 2009 because of persistent launcher trouble: ESA Release, BBC, AN, AFP, AE. Italian radar sat launches on Delta 2: launch pics, ST.
  • LAMOST commissioning - China's new big telescope: X, KSJ, Rtr.
  • China launches research satellites - the mission of the two small spacecraft in the Shijian-6 series was not reported by Chinese media other than to perform "environmental exploration": ST.
  • Scientists selected for SOFIA - first light in summer, early science in late 2009: Ames Press Release.
  • Life could survive in meteorites, space experiment shows: SpD.

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