Kepler Space Telescope Recovered from Emergency Mode

It was recently reported that the deep space telescope, Kepler had run into trouble and had forced itself to enter its emergency mode. Thankfully the planet-hunting spacecraft has since returned to a stable state.

NASA’s Kepler team engineers were able to direct the communications array aboard the craft towards Earth and have begun the long process of downloading the data that could reveal the cause of the emergency. Due to the spacecraft being 75 million miles from Earth, any signal to and from it takes a whole 13 minutes.

When the telescope was first found to have run into issues late last week, NASA had declared a mission emergency, providing the Kepler team with priority access to the Deep Space Network, which is used to contact distant spacecraft. Due to emergency mode consuming vastly more fuel than normal, restoring Kepler’s functionality was a race against time before it would be unable to complete its mission. Now that Kepler has returned to a stable state, access to the DSN has returned to normal priorities.

Whether Kepler will be returned to “science mode” is yet to be decided by the mission engineers and they are currently performing health checks on all data received from the craft. At the time of failure, the telescope was only 14 hours away from beginning the next section of its ongoing mission, however, the craft has until July 1st to complete this stage, should it be deemed fit to return to full operation.

Japan Loses Contact with Hitomi Space Telescope

Only a month after the launch of their newest ASTRO-H X-ray telescope, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have reported that contact has been lost with the satellite. Currently, engineers at JAXA are working on reestablishing contact with the telescope but the reason for it going dark is unknown.

The ASTRO-H satellite was launched from Tanegashima Space Centre on the 17th of February and upon successfully achieving orbit, was given the name Hitomi, which means “Eye”. Hitomi seemed to be successfully up and running initially, having passed its system checks and was beginning to deploy equipment. Unfortunately, by the 26th of March, JAXA had reported a communications failure with the satellite, stating only that “While the cause of communication anomaly is under investigation, JAXA received a short signal from the satellite, and is working for recovery.”

“Under this circumstance, JAXA set up emergency headquarters, headed by the President, for recovery and investigation. The headquarters held its first meeting today, inand has been working for recovery and the investigation of the cause.”

According to the US Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC), who specialize in tracking large orbital objects, Hitomi broke up partially on the 26th of March, but no further details were given. This could be critical, or simply some of the satellite’s components becoming separated from the main unit.

On the Visual Satellite Observers mailing list, Texan astronomer Paul Maley reported that he had managed to track the telescope a day after contact was lost and recorded that it was spinning in a full rotation every 10 seconds. As the satellite is supposed to be in a stable orbit, this is not a good sign, and the rotation would make the communication array unable to send and receive signals until the orbit is stabilized.

There are a number of possible causes for Hitomi’s current situation, and while none of them are yet confirmed, JAXA is working around the clock to re-establish contact with the telescope and determine the cause of this issue.

Astronomers Observe Exploding Star for the First Time

For the first time ever, astronomers have recorded the moment at which a star started to explode – known as the “shock breakout” – within the optical wavelength of NASA’s Kepler space telescope.

The astronomy team, led by Peter Garnavich, Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, USA, monitored the light levels emitted by sources within 500 galaxies – around 500 trillion stars – over a three-year period in order to detect the early signs of a supernova. The observations led to Kepler monitoring two stars in particular – both red supergiants – that were on the verge of exploding. The massive stellar bodies, KSN 2011a and KSN 2011d, were around 1.2 billion light years away.

“To put their size into perspective, Earth’s orbit about our sun would fit comfortably within these colossal stars,” Garnavich explained on the NASA website.

KSN 2011a and KSN 2011d were then observed exploding. While the Type II supernovae of both stars matched known mathematical models of the phenomena, the explosion KSN 2011a was not preceded by the expected shock breakout.

“In order to see something that happens on timescales of minutes, like a shock breakout, you want to have a camera continuously monitoring the sky,” Garnavich said. “You don’t know when a supernova is going to go off, and Kepler’s vigilance allowed us to be a witness as the explosion began.”

The video below shows KSN 2011d exhibiting the shock breakout prior to its supernova:

“That is the puzzle of these results,” Garnavich added. “You look at two supernovae and see two different things. That’s maximum diversity.”

This New NASA Telescope is so Much Better Than Hubble

Since it was launched in low Earth orbit in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has been proving us with crucial information about space and time, and it even helped determine the rate of expansion of the universe. However, this brand new telescope developed by NASA hopes to blow Hubble out of the water, as it comes with a field of view 100 times larger than that of Hubble. Dubbed WFIRST (Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope), it can also block the glare of individual stars, which will help scientists determine the chemical makeup of other planets. Unfortunately, sources indicate that WFIRST won’t be launched until the mid-2020s, but this should come as no surprise considering its complexity.

The next big telescope launch that we can look forward to is that of the James Webb telescope, which will also feed crucial information about the Milky Way and the universe to thousands of astronomers from around the world. When WFIRST will finally end up in space, it will build on this information and will allow us to improve our overall understanding of the universe and its shape, not to mention the fact that it will support the research of dark matter and dark energy, both of which are still regarded as mysteries right now.

Grand Theft Auto Players in Search of Jetpack Find Memorial Island Instead

Some players from Grand Theft Auto have been searching Los Santos for a jetpack since the title was released. However, they seemed to have found some other touching memorials put inside by the devs instead.

Players are reported to have found an easter egg by trying to solve the Mt Chiliad mystery, as seen below:

Some research done on the bench revealed that it was put there to commemorate one of Rockstars employees, Chris Edwards, who was credited on titles such as Max Payne, Grand Theft Auto and LA Noire. He apparently passed away in 2014.

“As it happens, after pioneering in Second Life, Chris went on to create art for Rockstar Games, for Grand Theft Auto V. I know this, because I asked his widow (Alayne Wartell IRL, Fallingwater Cellardoor in SL) and she confirmed to me that he’d become an artist for Rockstar. And I told her about the memorial for her late husband in the game. Rockstar had told her about the tribute, she told me, but because she doesn’t have a Playstation 4, hadn’t seen it for herself. But she told me she was glad someone had finally found it. She was even more pleased that the memorial had led players to go searching for Chris, and wound up seeing the photo of her and husband together, during their happy times.” New World Notes states.

In addition to the latter easter egg, players have also found what was considered a suspicious spot with a peculiar telescope. It is reportedly pointing in a direction and players though it was leading them to something specific or at least another clue.

“The telescope seems to be pointing in the rough area where the rumoured fourth UFO is,” one player wrote. “I really think we will be able to view something special with this telescope,” another player opined.

Up until now, there have been many easter eggs uncovered in Rockstar’s title. However, a jetpack is unfortunately not amongst them just yet.

Thank you Kotaku for providing us with this information

New Telescope Technology Could Allow Us to See Alien Life within 20 Years

There is a lot of the solar system that remains to be seen and NASA are working hard to take a real close look at what is out there. A panel convened recently to discuss future projects that include incredibly powerful telescopes, which would be capable of viewing planets in so much details we could potentially see if there was life there.

NASA believes that this level of technology will be available to us within the next twenty years, and with recent projects such as the new Kepler Telescope, Dark Energy Survey and the Very Large Telescope already up and running, all working to detect the presence of planets and their atmospheres, the next wave of telescopes are going to offer even more details. The Transiting Exoplanet Surveying Satellite (TESS) and of course the mighty James Webb Space Telescope, which are set to go into service in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

The two new projects are set to find planets and beyond that we’ll start searching those planets for features such as water and gases such as carbon dioxide.

“it’s highly improbable in the limitless vastness of the universe that we humans stand alone.” said Astronaut Charles Bolden.

Of course it is all speculation that there is life elsewhere in the universe, but the only true way to find out if we are alone in the cosmos is to get out there and take a look. Even if it means looking far beyond out technical range in terms of space travel.

Thank you Engadget for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Engadget.

Hubble Time Lapse Shows Epic Stellar Explosion

Like many humans, I get an odd sense of satisfaction of watching things blow up in slow motion, be that a can of Cola packed with TNT, or a balloon filled with Hydrogen, it’s just really cool to watch. So what if we kick things up to an astronomical scale? V838 Monocerotis gave off a massive intergalactic explosion in January 2002, what scientists first thought was a supernova. The team got hubble to lock its sights on the event and take thousands of pictures of the course of 3-4 years, the results of which have allowed them to create a stunning time lapse video.

Of course this video isn’t actually slow motion, it’s just that the scale of the event is hard to comprehend and appears to be moving slowly, but don’t be fooled, as it’s really a stunning shockwave of radiation and gas blasting through space. It’s unclear at this time if the event was a supernova due to its characteristics, but it still puts on a great light show and for those of us who aren’t astrophysicists, its one of the few parts of the discovery that we can enjoy. For those of you who want to know more about the event, check out the full story here. For those of you who just want to see a massive explosion in space, check out the video below.

[youtube width=”800″ height=”450″]http://youtu.be/U1fvMSs9cps[/youtube]

Thank you IFLScience for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of IFLScience.

Billion-Pixel Gaia Space Telescope Snaps It’s First Picture

While the first image taken by the Gaia Space Telescope may not look incredible, it really is an incredible first step in what will be one of the most impressive technical achievements in space exploration. The billion-pixel space telescope snapped its first picture this week and while it is a little blurry, the teams at the UK Space Agency and ESA say that there is much more to come as the machine is still learning how to focus.

The picture may be off, but the mission is right on track and we can’t wait to see what this thing can really do when it gets its lens lined up. When fully operational, the Gaia telescope is going to work on creating the most accurate map of the Milky Way ever conceived. It’ll be able to make precise measurements of about 1% of all the 100 billion stars in our galaxy, unlocking more history and knowledge about the space around us than ever before.

“Seeing the first magnificent images from Gaia’s UK-built billion pixel camera first of all generates a huge vote of thanks to all those scientists and engineers who have worked so hard to make this happen. Second, it provides just a tiny taste of the excellence and challenges ahead, to turn Gaia data into human understanding of the Milky Way’s origins. One substantial step for astronomy, one huge leap still to come.”

Gaia will scan a billion suns 70 times each over the course of five years, tracking them, mapping them and photographing them from its current orbit of around 1.5 million kilometres from the earth and today’s test image is just the first step as the team bring the telescopes bring the various sensors online.

Thank you Huffington for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Huffington.

“Hand of God” Spotted By NASA Telescope

NASA captured some X-Ray images with the help of its Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR for short. The image resulted in a hand-shaped celestial object that resembles the “Hand of God”.

“NuSTAR’s unique viewpoint, in seeing the highest-energy X-rays, is showing us well-studied objects and regions in a whole new light,” NuSTAR principal investigator Fiona Harrison, of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, said in a statement.

It illustrates a pulsar wind nebula, produced by the dense remnant of a star that exploded in a supernova. The remnants created afterwards a pulsar, called PSR B1509-58, or B1509 for short, which spins around 7 times per second blowing a wind of particles into material ejected during the star’s death throes. As these particles interact with nearby magnetic fields, they produce an X-ray glow in the shape of a hand. Scientists however aren’t sure whether the ejected material actually assumes the shape of a hand, or whether its interaction with the pulsar’s particles is just making it appear that way.

The red cloud appearing at the fingertips is a separate structure called RCW 89. Astronomers believe the pulsar’s wind may be heating the cloud and producing the low-energy X-ray glow.The X-ray energies seen by NuSTAR range from 7 to 25 kiloelectron volts, or keV, whereas the energies seen by Chandra range from 0.5 to 2 keV.

This could be an example of pareidolia, a phenomenon which makes people see familiar things in unusual shapes. However, despite its supernatural appearance, the “Hand of God” figure was produced by a natural astrophysical phenomena.

Thank you Mashable for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of Mashable

Europe Launches Billion Dollar Telescope

An artists impression of the Gaia Telescope

The ESA (European Space Agency) has successfully launched a highly advanced telescope into space, it’s mission will be to detect over a billion stars whilst providing the most detailed map of the Milky Way Galaxy to date. The Gaia telescope was successfully launched from a Soyuz-STB-Fregat rocket from the ESA’s base in Kourou, French Guiana. The $1.4 billion telescope is the most sophisticated and hi-etch space telescope ever built by ESA and aims to build a “astronomical census”  of over a billion stars, roughly 1% of all the stars in the Milky Way.

Gaia will not only be measuring distance, speed, direction and motion of these stars to create a 3D map of our section of the galaxy. It will also be on the look out for new planets beyond our Solar System, with as many as 50,000 so called “extra-solar planets” hoping to be spotted during the telescopes five year life and mission. Gaia  will also be on the lookout for asteroids that could one day threaten Earth with the telescope mainly focusing on the massive asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter as well as looking for the distant explosion of exploding stars also known as a supernovae. Something that is rarely recorded let alone observed in real time, which this h-tech telescope will be capable of doing.

Jean-Yves Le Gall, head of the France National Center of Space Studies (CNES) which is taking lead of this mission had this to say;

‘We are at the dawn of revolutionizing our understanding of the history of the Milky Way. Gaia is the culmination of nine years of intense work which will enable exceptional advances in our understanding of the universe, it’s history and laws.” The 2-tonne telescope is so sensitive that it can measure the equivalent of the diameter of a hair at the distance of 1000 kilometers.”

Gaia will start it’s mission in May when it takes up a position at the Lagrange point L2, which is located about 1.5 million kilometers from Earth. This position with offer year round observation of the cosmos with out being disturbed by the Earth, Moon or the Sun blocking its view. It will take years after the Gaia’s mission has finished to transform the million billion bytes of raw data into usable maps, catalogs and eventually a 3D map of our section of the Milky Way.

Thank you The Sydney Morning Herald for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of The Sydney Morning Herald.

Telescopes, Lunar Landers And Commercial Developement On The Moon

We are perhaps taking the first step in colonizing our Moon. The last time a human visited the Moon was in 1972, since then only unmanned spacecraft have visited the Moon. Wired.com recently reported that two companies are working together to create a scientific and commercial base on the moon, International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA ) is heading off the project with help from Moon Express are aiming to start construction as soon as 2016.

The two companies will start off by placing two telescopes as well as a 2-meter radio antenna atop a lunar mountain located on the moon’s south pole. This location would give optimal viewing of the center of the Milky Way galaxy giving us perhaps the clearest view possible .

One main concern will be how to design equipment to sustain the harsh temperatures of the moon, reaching highs over 120 degrees Celsius in the sun, and lows below -170 degrees Celsius. Electricity shouldn’t be much of an issue, as they will be able to collect plenty of energy from solar panels.

Moon Express, which aims to become the FedEx of the stars has yet to land a lunar lander on the moon as of yet, but they aim to land their first payload in 2015 in order to win 20 million dollars from the Google Lunar X-Prize. As well as delivering ILO-X, a small telescope in order to test ILOA’s hardware as well as software.

We have so much that we have yet to discover on Earth, I can’t help but wonder why all of this interest in the Moon, and Mars, why not build factories under the ocean.

Thank you Wired for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Wired.