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The Sky in April 2011
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NanoSail still in a high orbit three months after deployment, seen occasionally

but flare reports remain rather rare: gallery, Finnish pics, a NASA video, flare theory and some news coverage of Apr. 22: TwP. Apr. 21: SeS. Mar. 14: ArP. Feb. 27: AsB. Feb. 25: SC. Feb. 7: UT, SwB. LightSail on NASA launch shortlist: JPL and TPS Releases. Company profile: SpN. FASTSAT Update. Glory launch fails as Taurus doesn't drop fairing - again: NASA Releases of Mar. 9, Mar. 5, Mar. 4 (earlier; video clips), Mar. 1, Feb. 24, Feb. 23, Feb. 22, Feb. 16 and Feb. 10 (more), KyS PR of Mar. 4, U. CO PR of Feb. 22; the 3 CubeSats onboard and coverage of April 15: SN. March 11: UT. March 8: DcD. March 7: Nat., LAT. March 6: AFP. March 5: LAT, CSM. March 4: SN, RlC, PW, Nat. (B), BBC, SN, ScAm, CBS, NwSB, CNN, PSB, Tel., SpO, UT, ST, Sp. Earlier: SpN, ScAm, ST (earlier), KSJ, AI, TwP.
Update # 341 of Saturday, April 23, 2011
Stardust, MESSENGER and Dawn in action (grown since February 6)

Stardust revisits comet Tempel 1 / MESSENGER in Mercury orbit / Dawn approaches Vesta

A lot is happening in planetary exoploration: In February the old Stardust spacecraft performed a perfect fly-by of comet Tempel 1, found the crater caused by Deep Impact's impact in 2005 and was then finally shut down, in March MESSENGER entered into an orbit of Mercury without problems after three fly-bys and is now busy mapping and studying the planet, and the Dawn spacecraft, after a long ion-engine-driven journey, is about to spiral into a temporary orbit around asteroid Vesta. Stardust made its closest approach to comet Tempel 1 on Monday, Feb. 14, at 8:40 p.m. PST at a distance of approximately 178 km. Stardust took 72 high-resolution images of the comet and accumulated 468 kilobytes of data about the dust in its coma, the cloud that is a comet's atmosphere. The craft was on its second mission of exploration called Stardust-NExT, having completed its prime mission collecting cometary particles and returning them to Earth in 2006. The Stardust-NExT mission met its goals, which included observing surface features that changed in areas previously seen during the 2005 Deep Impact mission; imaging new terrain; and viewing the crater generated when the 2005 mission propelled an impactor at the comet.

MESSENGER is now in its yearlong science campaign to understand the innermost planet. The spacecraft will fly around Mercury 700 times over the next 12 months, and its instruments will perform the first complete reconnaissance of the cratered planet.s geochemistry, geophysics, geological history, atmosphere, magnetosphere, and plasma environment. MESSENGER.s orbital commissioning phase had demonstrated that the spacecraft and payload are all operating nominally, notwithstanding Mercury's challenging environment. With the beginning of the primary science phase of the mission on April 4, the orbiter is making nearly continuous observations that will allow its team to gain the first global perspective on the innermost planet. Moreover, as solar activity steadily increases, they'll have a front-row seat on the most dynamic magnetosphere.atmosphere system in the Solar System. MESSENGER's 12-month orbital phase covers two Mercury solar days (one Mercury solar day, from sunrise to sunrise, is equal to 176 Earth days). This means that the spacecraft can view a given spot on the surface under given lighting conditions only twice during the mission, six months apart, making available observation time a precious resource. So the surface mapping observations had to be planned for the entire year far in advance to ensure coverage of the entire planet under acceptable illumination and viewing geometries.

Dawn has, after a hibernation of about six months, turned on the framing cameras for test observations of stars. The spacecraft also powered up its visible and infrared mapping spectrometer, which investigates surface mineralogy, and the gamma ray and neutron detector, which detects elemental composition. The reactivation prepares the instruments for the May approach and July arrival at Vesta, Dawn's first port of call in the asteroid belt. In the months to come, the camera system will provide images needed to navigate the spacecraft to its rendezvous with Vesta, and will begin to image the asteroid's surface. These early images on approach will be the start of a campaign to systematically map Vesta's surface in detail and will provide tantalizing clues as to its mineralogical composition. In addition, the framing cameras will search for moons in Vesta's vicinity and look for evidence of past volcanic activity. Once in orbit around Vesta, Dawn will pass about 650 km above the asteroid's surface, snapping multi-angle images that will allow scientists to produce topographic maps. Later, Dawn will orbit at a lower altitude of about 200 km, getting closer shots of parts of the surface. The Dawn mission will have the capability to map 80 percent of the asteroid's surface in the year the spacecraft is in orbit around Vesta.

Stardust presser hilites (dust 'sounds'), morphed and rough flyby animations, visuals, pictures (alt.; stereo pair, another one, crater details), status 2011 quarter 1 page, JPL/NASA Releases of March 24 [alt.], March 23, Feb. 15 (earlier), Feb. 14 (earlier; more), Feb. 10, Feb. 9 and Feb. 8 (more), Univ. of Chicago PR of Feb. 11, Wash. Univ. PR of Feb. 9, Cornell PR of Feb. 8, LockMart PR of Feb. 15, S@N of Feb. 9 quick video intro and coverage of April 7: BdW. April 6: CD. March 25: SN, AW&ST (earlier), NwS, SC, AP, NaB, PSB, ST, AwF, Sp., TwP (more). March 24: SC, PSB, UT. March 23: PSB. March 16: PSB. March 3: PSB. Feb. 21: UT. Feb. 18: PSB. Feb. 17: SpW. Feb. 16: APOD, PSB, BBC, AN, ScN, CNN, T, ST. Feb. 15: PSB (earlier, still earlier, even earlier, still earlier, even earlier), NwS, NYT, LAT, CSM, S&T, SpW (earlier), Dsc., AE, AP, UT. Feb. 14: PSB, SN, BBC, ABC, C&N. Feb. 13: NYT, CSM, AP, UT. Feb. 11: LAT, ScAm, SC. Feb. 10: S&T, SC, PSB, AsB. Feb. 9: SpW. Stardust science from Wild 2: UA News. EPOXI science: PAB, LS [SC]. Some memories: AN. Hayabusa samples: PSRD, SN, PSB, SC.
MESSENGER insertion event video and stills, April 4, March 29 (less), March 28, March 21, March 17 (earlier), March 16, March 15 (pre-MOI telecon materials, Tw., announcement), March 7 and Feb. 18 Status (plus solar system mosaic; PSB), NASA, GSFC, Boulder, UA Releases, DLR PM, S@N (earlier, still earlier) and coverage of April 19: PSB, UT. April 4: SpR. March 31: NPR, HT, SpW, KSJ. March 30: SN, S&T, CBS, LAT, NYT, SC, PSB, UT, ST, Sp. March 29: ScN, NYT, CD, PSB, NaB, CL, UT. March 28: JHU Gaz., SC. March 27: CmB. March 23: 365DoA, Tw. March 18/17 post-MOI: CBS, BBC, S&T, PW, BaS, HT, CNN, USAT, SFG, NYT, SC (more), DlA (confused about 'em planets :-), AT, AP, NaB, SpW, UT, KSJ, Eur., Tw. (more). Pre-MOI coverage: NwS, PBS, SC (earlier), Dsc., Eco., BBC, PSB, UT, AP, DLF, Sp., WdP. Venus Express ESA Release of April 7.
Dawn JPL Releases of March 29 [S@N], March 21 and March 10, MPS Release of March 21 (and where the camera looked), DLR Release of March 10, Journal of March 31 and Feb. 27, S@N of Apr. 7 and coverage of April 15: PSB. March 31: CD. March 23: UT. March 21: PSB. Feb. 7: PSB.

Mars Update

MER JPL Releases of April 11 and March 9, an HiRISE pic of Endeavour and coverage of Apr. 17: R2E. Apr. 14: R2E. Apr. 9: R2E. Tw. Apr. 3: R2E. Mar. 31: PS, R2E. Mar. 30: ST, Tw. Mar. 29: SC, UT. Mar. 27: UT, Mar. 26: R2E. Mar. 22: R2E. Mar. 21: AsP. Mar. 18: R2E, UT. Mar. 16: R2E. Mar. 12: R2E. Mar. 9: R2E. Mar. 7: MaP. Feb. 28: PS. Feb. 27: R2E. Feb. 24: R2E, PSB. Feb. 21: TwP. Feb. 18: R2E (more). Feb. 17: PSB. Feb. 16: R2E. Feb. 13: R2E. Feb. 11: Tw. Feb. 10: R2E. MRO JPL Releases of March 21, March 9 and March 8 and coverage of Apr. 22: ST, Sp. Apr. 21: AT, ScAm. Mar. 11: S&T. Mar. 8: SpW. Mar. 1: S&T. Feb. 7: ScAm. Mars Express papers by Vincendon & al. (earlier), ESA Release of March 4. MSL JPL Releases of Apr. 6, March 25, March 18, March 17 and Feb. 18 and coverage of Apr. 8: BB, UT. Apr. 7: SC, TwP. Apr. 6: BB, TwP. Apr. 4: PSN, PSB, ION. Mar. 23: PSB. Mar. 10: AT. Feb. 24: GlM. Grunt coverage of March 24: RiC. China 2013 Mars idea: X. ExoMars crisis: SpN (earlier), MaP. Mars experiment ideas: MIT and PNL Releases, SC. Near-Tropical Subsurface Ice On Mars: axb. Gushing flood formed giant Martian sinkhole: NwS.

Saturn Update

JPL, NASA etc. Releases of Apr. 20 [alt.], April 7, March 31 [alt.] (visual), March 22, March 17 (pics) [alt.], March 7 and Feb. 17, APL Release of Apr. 20, Cornell Release of Apr. 1, UA Release of March 17, paper on Titan lakes and preview of rev. 145 and coverage of April 21: BdW. April 20: NwS, PSB. April 19: PSB. April 18: aXb. April 13: PSB. April 8: NwS. April 4: UrA. April 1: WdP, DLF, BdW. March 31: Nat., BBC, HuP, SB, AT. March 23: PSB. March 22: PSB. March 18: BdW. March 17: SC, AT, PSB. March 15: S&T, APOD. March 8: HaA, PSB, APOD, WdP. Europa questions: SB.

ISS etc. Update

Discovery is back from space ... for good, after 39 missions. As is Soyuz TMA-01M while TMA-21 launched - and STS-134 slips to Apr. 29. STS-134 Press Kit (118 pg.), AMS02 immersive images, the Fragile Oasis blog (Apr. 8 post), Exp. 27 launch pics, previous Soyuz landing pics, Shuttle ascent highlights video, DLR launch blog, plane view and cockpit view (stills) videos, launch pics (more, more, more, more), the ISS & Discovery after undocking, the ATV Press Kit, ESA Releases of Apr. 19, Apr. 13, Mar. 22, Mar. 15, Mar. 1, Feb. 24, Feb. 17, Feb. 16, Feb. 14 and Feb. 11, NASA Releases & Blog of Apr. 19, Apr. 15, Apr. 14, Apr. 4 (earlier), Mar. 26, Mar. 18, Mar. 16, Mar. 9, Mar. 7, Feb. 24, Feb. 18, Feb. 14, Feb. 10 and Feb. 9, JAXA Release of Mar. 30, ATK Release of Feb. 8, Roskosmos PR of Feb. 7, DLR PMn & Blog of/vom 31.3., 18.3., 17.3., March 3, 18.2., 16.2. und 14.2., Uni Magdeburg PM vom 5.4., BTU PM vom 8.2., INAF Notizia de Apr. 5, Mikulski PR of April 11, Bolden Blog of Apr. 12 and Feb. 14 and testimony of Mar. 2, paper on the MAXI astronomy instrument, AMS-2 visuals and coverage of Apr. 23: TkS, NYT. Apr. 22: Nov., SpP. Tw. Apr. 21: SN, SpO, Dsc., SpW. Apr. 20: ST, Sp. Apr. 19: CBS, Nat., UT, AI. Apr. 18: SpR. Apr. 17: DLF. Apr. 16: HC, ST. Apr. 15: NSF, SpN, CNN, SW. Apr. 14: SN. SpO, SpP, TS. Apr. 13: NwS. Apr. 12: SpN, OSB, SpP, Salon, ST. Apr. 11: SpP. Apr. 10: BG, SpP. Apr. 8: HC, SpN, SpP, UT, NaB, 4th. Apr. 7: FT, CL, ST. Apr. 6: SN, SC, SpO, SpP. Apr. 5: Nat. (B), SpN, NaB, OSB, SpP, USAT, BBB, ST. Apr. 4: SC, NSF, UT, CL, UT, TSR, ST, Tw. Apr. 3: SNB. Apr. 2: TW@N, NSF. Apr. 1: SpN, Sp. Mar. 31: CNN, SpN, SC, SN, SpP, NwSB, DLF, Eur. Mar. 30: SC, WP, SpO, ScAm. Mar. 29: SN, CS, AW&ST, UT, ST. Mar. 28: SN (other story), SC, SpR, Tw. Mar. 27: SN. Mar. 26: SpP. Mar. 25: SN, SpO. Mar. 24: CNN, SC, Foc. Mar. 23: SpO, SpP, CBS. Mar. 22: SN, AwF. Mar. 21: SpR, AsC. Mar. 18: BBC, Tel. Mar. 17: BBC, NSF, SpO, Sp. Mar. 16: BG, CBS, SC, SpP, UT, ST. Mar. 15: SC, SpO (more), ST (other story). Mar. 14: FT, AVN, SC, CS, Rtr, NwSB, SpP. Mar. 12: ST. Mar. 11: SN, SpP (earlier), SC, ST. Mar. 10: SN, SpP, PSB. Mar. 9: LAT, SN (pics, more), ScG, ST, Sp. Mar. 8: NYT, SN, SC (more), UT (more, more), SpP. Mar. 7: SpN, STC, Sp. Mar. 5: NaB. Mar. 4: LAT, SpP, FB, ST, TwP. Mar. 3: SpN, ST, FlR. Mar. 2: SpP, ST. Mar. 1: APOD, UT, ST. Feb. 28: Nov. Feb. 27: Dsc., ST. Feb. 26: SC, AsB, SpW, NSG, YT. Feb. 25: Roscosmos Blog, CL, NPR, Dsc., G, SC, OO, AwF, AI, SWL. Feb. 24: NYT, SN, LAT, FT, NPR, CNN, ST (earlier), USt, TS, Sp. Feb. 23: SC, FB. Feb. 22: SpN, Sify, ST. Feb. 21: SN, SB. Feb. 20: HT, DNA. Feb. 19: SpO, NaB, SpP, UT, ST. Feb. 18: SpO (earlier), SpN, CS, UT. Feb. 17: NSF, SN (more), BBCB, asb, ST (earlier), Sp., Tw. Feb. 17: SN. Feb. 16: PeN, ST, Sp. Feb. 15: SpO, BBC, ST, DLF. Feb. 14: SpN, FT, SN, BBC, SpO, SpP, HCB, LS, CV, PbA (more), SC, SpR, Tel., AiG, Sp. Feb. 13: SpO (earlier), ST. Feb. 12: SpN, FT, SpP. Feb. 11: SN, NaB, UT, DLF. Feb. 10: SN, NSF, SpO, SpP, ST, NASA clip. Feb. 9: OSB, Fr. Feb. 8: NYT, BBC, ST, DLF.

Kepler planet deluge aftermath

new papers by Latham & al., Howard & al. (pic) and Catanzarite & Shao, another visualization attempt and more reax by SW; asb, Oklo (later), DscB, NaB, 80b, CL (earlier), BB (more, more), 21C, NG (earlier), FlD, S&T, G&M, CD (earlier, still earlier), NwS (B), CJ, NYT, SC, TlB, AP [alt.], Dsc. (earlier), CNNB, AsB, PWB, AAAS Chat, UStream (25:35 to 50:35), WdP, BR, DLF (früher), Sp. Kepler & star seismology / census / cases: papers by Welsh & al., and Bedding & al., IA State (other topic), NASA and U Syd. Releases, S&T, UT, PW. BBC (other topic). Kepler out of safemode - twice: MMU (earlier), NWW, SC.

Life on star-less planets not impossible: AsP, WL. Beta Pic images: A&A PR, Dsc. White dwarfs & exoplanets: U Wash. PR. GALEX hunts candidate stars: JPL Release, GALEX Feature. STEREO finds exoplanet: UT. WD planets: AN. Hot planes: RAS PR, SC. Storms on exoplanets: ETH PM. Aurorae on exoplanets: RAS PR. DEBRIS: AN. Brown dwarf w/100°C surface: ESO, CFHT and Keck Releases, S&T, CL, CD, BdW, DLF, TAZ. Warmer BD: Gemini PR. FINDS update: PS. Buckyballs in ISM: McDonald PR. IBEX' ribbon: CD, NG.

Direct Images of Disks Unravel Mystery of Planet Formation

The fruits of the SEEDS (Strategic Explorations of Exoplanets and Disks with Subaru) Project: Subaru, MPA [D] Releases. Forming planet in young disk around T Cha: papers by Olofsson & al. and Huelamo & al., ESO PR, BdW. Red Giant dusty veils: ISAS PR. HH jets - only IR delivers full view: paper by Raga & al., JPL Release. Herschel unravels the thread of star formation in the Gould Belt: ESA PR (more). Star formation details: Cardiff PR. Cascading Material Pours onto a Young Star: McDonald Obs. PR.

Astronomy satellites join forces to track weird GRB

Swift, Hubble and Chandra have teamed up to study one of the most puzzling cosmic blasts yet observed, GRB 110328A: GR Blog, NASA, Chandra, STScI Releases, asb, ScN, PrA, ST. SN light echo interpretation. Cas A n* matter: paper by Shternin & al. Date speculation: RAS PR. axb. SN 2008am: paper by E. Chatzopoulos & al., McD. Obs., Keck Releases. Exotic SNE: asb. SN rate in dwarfs: JPL Release. Short GRB simulation: NASA Release.

Lonely PSR studied: asb. Crab acting up: AT. Cyg X-1 Integral observations: ESA Release (more), UT. Cas A n* interior: paper by Page & al., Chandra PR, KSJ. WISE (mission now over - and data released to the community; CD, SC) vs. Luminous Red Novae: ATel. Heaviest stars: Chandra Release [alt.]. Classical nova V723 Cas: Asb. Shortest period WD pair: CfA PR. Regulus interferometric image: U. Mich PR. Cepheid ceases: paper by Turner & al., UT.

Herschel quantifies the dark matter threshold for starburst galaxies

Dark matter halos with a mass larger than 300 billion times the Sun's are particularly efficient at igniting massive starbursts: ESA Science, NASA, ESA, JPL and UKSA Releases, more info. Most distant mature cluster at z=2.07: ESO, ESA, STScI Releases, WdP, BdW. Perseus cluster details by Suzaku: NASA Release. M 82 superwind: NAOJ PR.

New Hubble Hubble constant is 73.8: paper by Riess & al., STScI, NASA Releases, S&T, ScN, NwS, CD, KSJ, WdP, BdW. Obscured galaxies found by Swift: NASA Release. Z=6 galaxy reionization role: paper by Richard & al., PW. Z=2.5 cluster: Subaru PR. AGN triple merger: asb. Galaxy growth end: RAS PR. No Dark Flow: UBR. GAMA: RAS PR.

Galactic center SMBH candidate studying. Spiral arm theory: RAS PR. Munched dwarf: ScN. Compact galaxy formation: RAS PR. Invisible Milky Way Satellite: LBL Release. Magellanic clouds simulation: ICRAR. Astronomers identify thick disc of older stars in nearby Andromeda galaxy: UCLA PR. Mrk 231: Gemini PR. NGC 6264: T. Barred spirals: axb. Spiral galaxy formation: PW. First galaxies even earlier: HST, Spitzer, ESA HST, Keck Releases. LCDM status: asb. Future knowledge: CfA PR.

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