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AstroBlog Follow Friday & Weekly Stumbles For 2012-06-29

Weekly Stumbles:

NASA Space Launch System Core Stage Moves from Concept to DesignNASA Space Launch System Core Stage Moves from Concept to Design
The United States’ space exploration program is taking a critical step forward with a successful major technical review of the core stage of the Space Launch System (SLS), the rocket that will take astronauts farther into space than ever before. The core stage is the heart of the heavy-lift launch vehicle. It will stand more than 61 meters tall with a diameter of 8.4 meters.

The value of MarsThe value of Mars
Governments are supposed to exist for the welfare of their people: to ensure we are protected, healthy, and employed. Through taxation they engage in a wide range of programs to do just that, from building bridges to investing in medical research to military matters. We all hope and believe that governments can do more to improve their ways, and over the years they are presented with many ideas on how to achieve their goals. One of those ideas on the fringes of government priorities is a project to send humans to explore Mars.

Cassini Shows Why Jet Streams Cross-Cut SaturnCassini Shows Why Jet Streams Cross-Cut Saturn
Turbulent jet streams, regions where winds blow faster than in other places, churn east and west across Saturn. Scientists have been trying to understand for years the mechanism that drives these wavy structures in Saturn’s atmosphere and the source from which the jets derive their energy. In a new study appearing in the June edition of the journal Icarus, scientists used images collected over several years by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft to discover that the heat from within the planet powers the jet streams.

NuSTAR Mission Status Report: Observatory Unfurls Its Unique MastNuSTAR Mission Status Report: Observatory Unfurls Its Unique Mast
NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has successfully deployed its lengthy mast, giving it the ability to see the highest energy X-rays in our universe. The mission is one step closer to beginning its hunt for black holes hiding in our Milky Way and other galaxies. “It’s a real pleasure to know that the mast, an accomplished feat of engineering, is now in its final position,” said Yunjin Kim, the NuSTAR project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The space industry grapples with satellite servicingThe space industry grapples with satellite servicing
Late in the evening of May 31, a Sea Launch Zenit-3SL rocket lifted off from its floating launch pad on the Equator in the Pacific Ocean. Its payload: the Intelsat 19, or IS-19, communications satellite, bound for geosynchronous orbit. The launch went smoothly and, an hour after liftoff, the Zenit’s upper stage released IS-19 into its planned transfer orbit. Both Sea Launch and Intelsat hailed the launch as a success.

Hubble Views Globular Cluster M10Hubble Views Globular Cluster M10
Like many of the most famous objects in the sky, globular cluster Messier 10 was of little interest to its discoverer. Charles Messier, the 18th century French astronomer, cataloged over 100 galaxies and clusters, but was primarily interested in comets. Through the telescopes available at the time, comets, nebulae, globular clusters and galaxies appeared just as faint, diffuse blobs and could easily be confused for one another.

Lichen Can Survive in Space: Space Station Research Sheds Light On Origin of Life; Potential for Better SunscreensLichen Can Survive in Space: Space Station Research Sheds Light On Origin of Life; Potential for Better Sunscreens
You can freeze it, thaw it, vacuum dry it and expose it to radiation, but still life survives. ESA’s research on the International Space Station is giving credibility to theories that life came from outer space — as well as helping to create better sunscreens. In 2008 scientists sent the suitcase-sized Expose-E experiment package to the Space Station filled with organic compounds and living organisms to test their reaction to outer space.

Could Mars Have Sustained Life? Extensive Water in Mars' InteriorCould Mars Have Sustained Life? Extensive Water in Mars’ Interior
Until now, Earth was the only planet known to have vast reservoirs of water in its interior. Scientists analyzed the water content of two Martian meteorites originating from inside the Red Planet. They found that the amount of water in places of the Martian mantle is vastly larger than previous estimates and is similar to that of Earth’s. The results not only affect what we know about the geologic history of Mars, but also have implications for how water got to the Martian surface.

East-west space race or space cooperation?East-west space race or space cooperation?
According to the 12-year-cycle of the Chinese lunisolar calendar, 2012 is the year of the Dragon. From the perspective of SpaceX, that is indeed the case. The successful launch of its Dragon spacecraft on its Falcon 9 rocket, Dragon’s flawless rendezvous with the ISS, and its safe return back to Earth, are a set of splendid accomplishments that has kept the skeptics silenced, and perhaps made them rethik the future of private human spaceflight.

Proximity of New Planets Stuns Even AstronomersProximity of New Planets Stuns Even Astronomers
One is a rocky planet 1.5 times the size of Earth. The other is a gaseous world nearly four times Earth’s size. Together they form a spectacular system in which two planets orbit closer to each other than any yet discovered. “We’ve never known of planets like this,” said Yale University astronomer Sarbani Basu, a member of the research team that analyzed the system. “If you were on the smaller planet looking up, the larger planet would seem more than twice the size of Earth’s full moon. It would be jaw-dropping.”

Very Large Telescope Takes a Close Look at the War and Peace NebulaVery Large Telescope Takes a Close Look at the War and Peace Nebula
ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) has taken the most detailed image so far of a spectacular part of the stellar nursery called NGC 6357. The view shows many hot young stars, glowing clouds of gas and weird dust formations sculpted by ultraviolet radiation and stellar winds. Deep in the Milky Way in the constellation of Scorpius lies NGC 6357, a region of space where new stars are being born in of chaotic clouds of gas and dust.

China Successfully Docks Manned Space Capsule at Orbiting ModuleChina Successfully Docks Manned Space Capsule at Orbiting Module
Chinese astronauts docked two spaceships in orbit for the first time Monday (June 18), marking a vital milestone in the country’s quest to build a manned space station in Earth orbit. The three-person crew of the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft, which includes the China’s first female astronaut, arrived at the country’s Tiangong 1 (“Heavenly Palace”) test module in orbit and joined the two craft to complete the successful docking.

Compact Blue Dwarf Can't Hide from HubbleCompact Blue Dwarf Can’t Hide from Hubble
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured a new view of the dwarf galaxy UGC 5497, which looks a bit like salt sprinkled on black velvet in the image. The object is a compact blue dwarf galaxy that is infused with newly formed clusters of stars. The bright, blue stars that arise in these clusters help to give the galaxy an overall bluish appearance that lasts for several million years until these fast-burning stars explode as supernovae.

Mars Weather Report: Size of Particles in Martian Clouds of Carbon Dioxide Snow CalculatedMars Weather Report: Size of Particles in Martian Clouds of Carbon Dioxide Snow Calculated
In the dead of a Martian winter, clouds of snow blanket the Red Planet’s poles — but unlike our water-based snow, the particles on Mars are frozen crystals of carbon dioxide. Most of the Martian atmosphere is composed of carbon dioxide, and in the winter, the poles get so cold — cold enough to freeze alcohol — that the gas condenses, forming tiny particles of snow.

 NASA's Juno Mission to Probe Jupiter's Biggest SecretsNASA’s Juno Mission to Probe Jupiter’s Biggest Secrets
A NASA probe that is traveling through space on its way to Jupiter is expected to help astronomers unlock mysteries about the largest planet in our solar system when it arrives there in 2016. NASA’s Juno mission was launched in August 2011 to study how Jupiter formed and evolved. After a five-year journey, the spacecraft is expected to arrive at the gas giant planet in August 2016.

Black Holes as Particle DetectorsBlack Holes as Particle Detectors
Finding new particles usually requires high energies — that is why huge accelerators have been built, which can accelerate particles to almost the speed of light. But there are other creative ways of finding new particles: At the Vienna University of Technology, scientists presented a method to prove the existence of hypothetical “axions.” These axions could accumulate around a black hole and extract energy from it. This process could emit gravity waves, which could then be measured.

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Paul Tomaszewski is the founder of and He enjoys programming and writing on topics such as technology, business, astronomy, and many more. He also has a personal blog called

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