Spacecrafts Streak Over Colorado
Explanation: Have you ever seen a “star” drifting slowly overhead, but not known what it was? Sometimes even pointing it out to friends or family will only lead to a shrug. What you are seeing, most likely, is a spacecraft in low Earth orbit reflecting back sunlight as it circles the Earth once every 90 minutes or so. Two of the brighter spacecraft in the present day sky are the International Space Station (ISS), and, when it is up, a NASA space shuttle. As relative orientations change, the brightness of reflections may also change, sometimes suddenly. Another source of bright drifting objects, Iridium communication satellites, may even appear to flare up to become brighter than any other sky object for a few seconds. Pictured above, two bright points of light separated by only a few degrees drifted together across the sky above Lory State Park, Colorado, USA last week, just after sunset. These lights were were the ISS and the space shuttle Discovery, which had undocked from the ISS a few hours earlier. Given a digital fusion of many separate camera exposures and a wide angle perspective, the pair appears above as steaks in front of point-like stars. Web sites now exist that can help you identify unknown “drifters” and even predict the time of the next pass of the ISS visible from your location. (via Spacecrafts Streak Over Colorado)
A Mars Panorama from the Phoenix Lander
Explanation: If you could stand on Mars, what would you see? The robotic Phoenix spacecraft that landed on Mars in 2008 recorded the above spectacular panorama. The above image is actually a digital combination of over 100 camera pointings and surveys fully 360 degrees around the busy robotic laboratory. Scrolling right will reveal the rest of the panoramic image. Visible in the image foreground are circular solar panels, various Phoenix instruments, rust colored rocks, a trench dug by Phoenix to probe Mars’ chemical composition, a vast plateau of dirt and dirt-covered ice, and, far in the distance, the dust colored atmosphere of Mars. Phoenix landed in the far north of Mars and has used its sophisticated laboratory to search for signs that past life might have been possible. Soil analyses have confirmed the presence of ice and gave unexpected indications of perchlorate salts. Whether Martian life could have evolved around such perchlorates is an ongoing topic of research. (via A Mars Panorama from the Phoenix Lander)
JSC2004-E-44650 (September 2004) —- A crewmember-eye view of the International Space Station’s Cupola in the Alenia Spazio clean room in Turin, Italy. Personnel are preparing the hardware for shipment to NASA’s launch facility at Cape Kennedy, Florida. From inside the Cupola, a dome-shaped module with seven windows (seen here under a protective cover), astronauts have a panoramic view for observing operations on the outside of the orbiting complex. The Cupola module provides external observation capabilities during spacewalks, docking operations, hardware surveys and for Earth and celestial studies. It also serves as the primary location for executing robot arm operations of Canadarm2. Until the Cupola is installed, crews have been using a robotic control computer station located in the Destiny Laboratory to operate the arm. The Cupola’s windows enhance the robotic arm operator’s situational awareness, supplementing camera and graphic views provided by the computer workstation. (via Photo-jsc2004e44650)
Low-cost spacecraft called CubeSats are helping bring open-source, DIY culture to spaceflight […]
The Herschel telescope mirror (by European Space Agency)
This picture of the Herschel observatory’s telescope mirror was taken during testing at ESA’s European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC), in the Netherlands.
Herschel’s telescope is a classic Cassegrain design with a 3.5-m primary mirror — seen here, the largest ever launched into space — and a smaller secondary mirror.
Herschel was launched in May 2009. This powerful telescope will allow astronomers to look deep into space by detecting light emitted in the far-infrared and sub-millimetre regions of the spectrum. Earth’s atmosphere prevents most of this light from reaching ground-based telescopes. From orbit around the second Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth system, L2, 1.5 million kilometres from Earth, Herschel will provide unprecedented views of the Universe by bridging the gap between previous infrared observatories and ground-based radio telescopes