Monthly Archives: August 2009

Discovery docks with the ISS

Not long ago, the Space Shuttle Discovery docked with the International Space Station, arriving as part of STS-128, an ISS resupply and construction mission. Yesterday saw an inspection of the heat shield following the launch of Discovery. Videos posted to NASA’s Youtube Channel include the arrival of the astronauts, the launch (from different perspectives and in HD), post launch news conference, flight day 1 highlights, briefings, flight day 2 highlights, the roll pitch maneuver, docking with the ISS and the hatch opening ceremony – try watching those in one sitting:

The mission can be followed by occasional bulletins here, its mission pages, through live events on NASA TV (later posted to NASA’s Youtube Channel) or through twitter via @Astro_Jose, @Astro_Tim, @CFuglesang and @NASA. Check here to see if the ISS or other satellites are going to pass over your area.

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Mount Wilson Observatory threatened by LA fires

The fires that have been devastating parts of Los Angeles also now threaten the historic Mount Wilson Observatory. Founded by George Hale in 1904 and now part of the UCLA Department of Physics and Astronomy, the observatory is an active science hub and is visible from much of LA.

MWO has a webpage describing current threat levels and, as with telescopes threatened at the recent La Palma fires, has a webcam, this time pointing in the direction of the fires themselves.

The LA Times has been tweeting reports on the fires.

Discovery has Launched!

The space shuttle Discovery has just blasted off on mission STS-128, an International Space Station resupply mission. Once at the ISS, three spacewalks will be conducted and a lot of material transferred. Going to the ISS, items include a new fridge and science benches as well as the COLBERT treadmill. Coming back will be ESA’s exposed facility, including pieces of rock from the Devon coastline, which have spent 18 months in space, testing the durability of bugs living inside the rock. Wiring will also be installed in preparation for the arrival of the Tranquility Node, later on.

The space shuttle Discovery will be celebrating its 25th anniversary whilst in orbit. Spaceflight Now gives a rundown of a quarter century working in space.

The mission can be followed by occasional bulletins here, its mission pages, through live events on NASA TV (later posted to NASA’s Youtube Channel) or through twitter via @Astro_Jose, @Astro_Tim, @CFuglesang and @NASA. Check here to see if the ISS or other satellites are going to pass over your area.

IYA2009 Updates

I missed putting out the updates for the International Year of Astronomy, 2009 when they were posted on Monday. Worse, they decided this week was the week they’d reinstated putting the next updates on Friday… so those ones will have to wait until I’ve worked through other news items that I missed, so for now, here’s IYA2009 media mentions and project updates from Monday:

IYA2009 Project Updates opens with Dr Robert Thirsk’s IYA message from the ISS. More info about the joint India Bangladesh Starpeace meeting during the total eclipse. Some news on a women in astronomy and space science 2009 conference to be held Oct 21st-23rd College Park, MD, USA. Experimental play Space & Time is released. 400 years of the telescope wins Best Director at SCINEMA, Australia’s science film festival. Brazilian competition has Galileoscopes donated to it. UCL hosted Your Universe within the hallowed cloisters. And the World at Night comes to shoppers all over the US – their latest newsletter showing new scenes across the planet of familiar sights with a starry background is here.

IYA2009 News roundup starts with a blog or two on that world at night shopping mall tour. Pakistan has a Perseid story and one about a neglected planetarium. The Missouri University of Science and Technology allowed visitors to use its 16″ ‘scope tonight. The Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory will have an open day on the 26th of September. Astronomers from the Royal Military College, Queen’s University, Canada showed members of the public the night sky through telescopes at Market Square. Southgate Amateur Radio Club have an article on Swiss scouts planning to quiz ISS astronauts and build a telescope from an old drain. Finally, an article encouraging people to get involved in IYA2009.

Just to end, Japan has been popularising IYA2009 with cakes and all sorts, they’ve even done this song:

These weeks @ NASA

The one would guess weekly edition of this week @ NASA came out twice this week, following a near fortnight absence. Ah well, welcome back and as well as appearing on NASA’s Youtube Channel, enjoy your positioning below:

Thunderstorm shocks ionosphere

via New Scientist.

With crashing thunder and flashing lightning, thunderstorms are the more dramatic side of ordinary weather. Even from above they are seen to fire things called sprites, blue jets and even giant jets upward. These more elusive top side events normally evade attempts to study them, however a team led by Steven Cummer at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina managed to get radio equipment in the right place at the right time to measure synchrotron radiation from charged particles in a giant jet. Their jet erupted at an altitude of 14 kilometres and roared into the upper atmosphere, reaching altitudes in excess of 75 kilometres, discharging 144 coulombs up there in a single second. This is equivalent to a large downward strike. Possibly due to the size of the storm, this eruption had no measured effect on the rate of downward discharges.

Those interested in strange weather effects might also want to see this image of Morning Glory clouds, long, fast moving tubular clouds that run parallel to one another, snaking over the landscape.

Shuttle Launch imminent

The space shuttle Discovery is about two hours from launching (view it on either NASA TV or the spaceflight now video feed). Originally intending to launch on the morning of the 25th, bad weather prevented the night launch, then a problem developed with a faulty valve. Rescheduled to last night, the launch was again scrubbed due to extra time being required to analyse the faulty valve. All that is over, the weather appears to be ok and all is go for the launch at this time. Discovery will be blasting off to the International Space Station on mission STS-128 at 11:59pm EDT Friday, that’s 4:59 BST Saturday for us UK people, for an ISS resupply mission from the Kennedy Space Center. Videos have been posted of the scrub briefing, the prelaunch press conference and the astronauts boarding the astrovan on the way to the shuttle. These are on the NASA Youtube Channel and also available below:

The mission can be followed by occasional bulletins here, its mission pages, through live events on NASA TV (later posted to NASA’s Youtube Channel) or through twitter via @Astro_Jose, @Astro_Tim, @CFuglesang and @NASA. Check here to see if the ISS or other satellites are going to pass over your area.