2008 01 18 Space News

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Information about 2008 01 18 Space News
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Published on March 10, 2008

Author: Manfred

Source: authorstream.com

Unseen Mercury Hemisphere:  18-01-2008 Unseen Mercury Hemisphere Shortly following MESSENGER’s closest approach to Mercury on January 14, 2008, the spacecraft’s Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) on the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) instrument acquired images that covers much of the sunlit portion of the hemisphere not viewed by Mariner 10. It provides insight into the relative timing of processes that have acted on Mercury's surface in the past. This image is one of those mosaic frames and was acquired on January 14, 2008, 18:10 UTC, when the spacecraft was about 18,000 kilometers (11,000 miles) from the surface of Mercury, about 55 minutes before MESSENGER’s closest approach to the planet. It shows a variety of surface textures. http://messenger.jhuapl.edu Mercury Close up:  18-01-2008 Mercury Close up The double-ringed crater pictured in the upper right of this image appears to be filled with smooth plains material, perhaps volcanic in nature. This crater was subsequently disrupted by the formation of a prominent scarp (cliff), the surface expression of a major crustal fault system, that runs alongside part of its southern rim and may have led to the uplift seen across a portion of the crater’s floor. A smaller crater in the upper left of the image has also been cut by the scarp, showing that the fault beneath the scarp was active after both of these craters had formed. The MESSENGER team is working to combine inferences about the timing of events gained from this image with similar information from the hundreds of other images acquired by MESSENGER to extend and refine the geological history of Mercury previously defined on the basis only of Mariner 10 images. http://messenger.jhuapl.edu “Darkest Ever” Material Created:  18-01-2008 “Darkest Ever” Material Created The "darkest ever" substance known to science has been made in a US laboratory. The material was created from carbon nanotubes - sheets of carbon just one atom thick rolled up into cylinders. Researchers say it is the closest thing yet to the ideal black material, which absorbs light perfectly at all angles and over all wavelengths. The discovery is expected to have applications in the fields of electronics and solar energy. Experiments showed that this "forest" of carbon nanotubes was very good at absorbing light, and very poor at reflecting it. Reporting their findings in the journal Nano Letters, Dr Ajayan, Dr Lin and colleagues say the reflectance of the material is three times lower than previously achieved. This makes it the "darkest man-made material ever". http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7190107.stm "The periodic nanotube structures make an ideal candidate for creating superdark materials, because it allows one to tailor light absorption by controlling the dimensions and periodicities of nanotubes in the structure," said Dr Ajayan. Commenting on the study, Professor Sir John Pendry, who first predicted that such a discovery might be possible, said the results were promising. "They've made the blackest material known to science," the theoretical physicist from Imperial College, London, told BBC News. "The application will be to things like more efficient solar cells, more efficient solar panels and any application where you need to harvest light," he added. Sea Launch Back in Business:  15-01-2008 Sea Launch Back in Business The Sea Launch company has returned to flight with a mission to loft a telecoms satellite to serve the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region. The firm's Zenit 3SL rocket lifted off from its converted oil rig platform stationed in the Pacific at 1149 GMT. The Thuraya 3 satellite separated from the vehicle some 98 minutes later. The flight was the first for Sea Launch since the catastrophic explosion in January 2007 which destroyed a Zenit and its payload on the pad. Sea Launch is based in Long Beach, California, but is operated by an international consortium, including the Boeing aerospace company and the Russian spacecraft manufacturer Energia. It uses a floating platform and a command ship for launches. Both are sailed out of California to the equator at 154 degrees West. The position, close to the Pacific island of Kiritimati, means the Zenit rocket can take full advantage of the Earth's rotational speed and launch more mass for less effort, compared with the world's major land-based spaceports. Tuesday's successful mission was the 25th for Sea Launch. "It feels good to be back," said company president Robert Peckham. Sea Launch is seen as an important competitor for the European launch services company Arianespace, which, in the absence of the Pacific Ocean system, lofted 80% of the world's commercial payloads in 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7189392.stm Clouds on Mars:  16-01-2008 Clouds on Mars With its thin atmosphere and scant moisture, Mars is often largely cloud-free. But new observations reveal clouds of dry ice thick enough to cast significant shadows on the red planet. The new research finds that carbon dioxide, the main component of martian air, freezes into clouds so dense they dim the sun by about 40 percent. Frozen carbon dioxide is commonly called dry ice here on Earth. "This is the first time that carbon dioxide ice clouds on Mars have been imaged and identified from above," said Franck Montmessin of the Service d'Aeronomie, University of Versailles and lead author of a paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research. "This is important because the images tell us not only about their shape, but also their size and density." Until now, only indirect information suggested what these clouds were made of. The new observations were made by the European Space Agency's orbiting Mars Express. The carbon-dioxide clouds are surprisingly high, some 50 miles (80 kilometers) and are several hundred miles wide. They're thicker than expected, according to Montmessin's team. Another surprise: the clouds are made of particles that are larger than expected. The particles are more than a micron wide (one-thousandth of a millimeter). Normally, particles of this size would not be expected to form in the upper atmosphere or to stay aloft for very long before falling back toward the surface. The clouds "cast quite a dense shadow and this has a noticeable effect on the local ground temperature," Montmessin said. "Temperatures in the shadow can be up to 10 degrees Celsius [50 degrees Fahrenheit] cooler than their surroundings, and this in turn modifies the local weather, particularly the winds." http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/080116-mars-clouds.html Spirit Takes Rest:  03-01-2008 Spirit Takes Rest After several months near the base of the plateau called "Home Plate" in the inner basin of the Columbia Hills range inside Gusev Crater, Spirit climbed onto the eastern edge of the plateau during the rover's 1,306th Martian day, or sol, (Sept. 5, 2007). It examined rocks and soils at several locations on the southern half of Home Plate during September and October. It was perched near the western edge of Home Plate when it used its panoramic camera (Pancam) to take the images used in this view on sols 1,366 through 1,369 (Nov. 6 through Nov. 9, 2007). With its daily solar-energy supply shrinking as Martian summer turned to fall, Spirit then drove to the northern edge of Home Plate for a favorable winter haven. The rover reached that northward-tilting site in December, in time for the fourth Earth-year anniversary of its landing on Mars. Spirit reached Mars on Jan. 4, 2004, Universal Time (Jan. 3, 2004, Pacific Standard Time). It landed at a site at about the center of the horizon in this image. This panorama covers a scene spanning left to right from southwest to northeast. The western edge of Home Plate is in the foreground, generally lighter in tone than the more distant parts of the scene. A rock-dotted hill in the middle distance across the left third of the image is "Tsiolkovski Ridge," about 30 meters or 100 feet from the edge of Home Plate and about that same distance across. A bump on the horizon above the left edge of Tsiolkovski Ridge is "Grissom Hill," about 8 kilometers or 5 miles away. At right, the highest point of the horizon is "Husband Hill," to the north and about 800 meters or half a mile away. http://marsrovers.nasa.gov/gallery/press/spirit/20080103a.html Self Destructing Palm Tree Discovered:  17-01-2008 Self Destructing Palm Tree Discovered ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar (AP) -- A self-destructing palm tree that flowers once every 100 years and then dies has been discovered on the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar, botanists said Thursday. The name of the giant palm and its remarkable life cycle will be detailed in a study by Kew Gardens scientists in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society published Thursday. "It's spectacular. It does not flower for maybe 100 years and when it's like this it can be mistaken for other types of palm," said Mijoro Rakotoarinivo, who works for the London botanical gardens in Madagascar. "But then a large shoot, a bit like an asparagus, grows out of the top of the tree and starts to spread. You get something that looks a bit like a Christmas tree growing out of the top of the palm," he said. The branches of this shoot then become covered in hundreds of tiny white flowers that ooze with nectar, attracting insects and birds. But the effort of flowering and fruiting depletes the tree so much that within a few months it collapses and dies, said botanist Dr. John Dransfield, author of the study. Dransfield noted that "even for Madagascar this is a stupendous palm and an astonishing discovery." The world's fourth largest island, Madagascar is renowned for its unusual flora and fauna, including 12,000 species of plant found nowhere else in the world. Indeed 90 percent of its plant species are endemic. The palm tree, which grows to 66 feet in height and has about 16-foot leaves, is only found in an extremely remote region in the northwest of the country, some four days by road from the capital. Local villagers have known about it for years although none had seen it in flower until last year. http://edition.cnn.com/2008/TECH/science/01/16/madagascar.palm.tree.ap/index.html Slide8:  15-01-2008 http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/01/sunspot-appeara.html The double-ringed crater pictured in the upper right of this image appears to be filled with smooth plains material, perhaps volcanic in nature. This crater was subsequently disrupted by the formation of a prominent scarp (cliff), the surface expression of a major crustal fault system, that runs alongside part of its southern rim and may have led to the uplift seen across a portion of the crater’s floor. A smaller crater in the upper left of the image has also been cut by the scarp, showing that the fault beneath the scarp was active after both of these craters had formed. The MESSENGER team is working to combine inferences about the timing of events gained from this image with similar information from the hundreds of other images acquired by MESSENGER to extend and refine the geological history of Mercury previously defined on the basis only of Mariner 10 images. Sunspot Marks New Solar Cycle

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