Friday, December 19, 2014

NASA’s Kepler Reborn, Makes 1st Exoplanet Find of New Mission

artistic concept shows NASA's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft
The artistic concept shows NASA's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft operating in a new mission profile called K2. Using publicly available data, astronomers have confirmed K2's first exoplanet discovery proving Kepler can still find planets.
Image Credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T Pyle 

NASA's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft makes a comeback with the discovery of the first exoplanet found using its new mission -- K2.

The discovery was made when astronomers and engineers devised an ingenious way to repurpose Kepler for the K2 mission and continue its search of the cosmos for other worlds.

"Last summer, the possibility of a scientifically productive mission for Kepler after its reaction wheel failure in its extended mission was not part of the conversation," said Paul Hertz, NASA's astrophysics division director at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "Today, thanks to an innovative idea and lots of hard work by the NASA and Ball Aerospace team, Kepler may well deliver the first candidates for follow-up study by the James Webb Space Telescope to characterize the atmospheres of distant worlds and search for signatures of life."

Lead researcher Andrew Vanderburg, a graduate student at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, studied publicly available data collected by the spacecraft during a test of K2 in February 2014. The discovery was confirmed with measurements taken by the HARPS-North spectrograph of the Telescopio Nazionale Galileo in the Canary Islands, which captured the wobble of the star caused by the planet’s gravitational tug as it orbits.

The newly confirmed planet, HIP 116454b, is 2.5 times the diameter of Earth and follows a close, nine-day orbit around a star that is smaller and cooler than our sun, making the planet too hot for life as we know it. HIP 116454b and its star are 180 light-years from Earth, toward the constellation Pisces.

Kepler’s onboard camera detects planets by looking for transits -- when a distant star dims slightly as a planet crosses in front of it. The smaller the planet, the weaker the dimming, so brightness measurements must be exquisitely precise. To enable that precision, the spacecraft must maintain steady pointing. In May 2013, data collection during Kepler's extended prime mission came to an end with the failure of the second of four gyroscopic reaction wheels, which are used to stabilize the spacecraft.

Rather than giving up on the stalwart spacecraft, a team of scientists and engineers crafted a resourceful strategy to use pressure from sunlight as a “virtual reaction wheel” to help control the spacecraft. The resulting K2 mission promises to not only continue Kepler’s planet hunt, but also to expand the search to bright nearby stars that harbor planets that can be studied in detail and better understand their composition. K2 also will introduce new opportunities to observe star clusters, active galaxies and supernovae.

Small planets like HIP 116454b, orbiting nearby bright stars, are a scientific sweet spot for K2 as they are good prospects for follow-up ground studies to obtain mass measurements. Using K2’s size measurements and ground-based mass measurements, astronomers can calculate the density of a planet to determine whether it is likely a rocky, watery or gaseous world.

"The Kepler mission showed us that planets larger in size than Earth and smaller than Neptune are common in the galaxy, yet they are absent in our solar system," said Steve Howell, Kepler/K2 project scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. "K2 is uniquely positioned to dramatically refine our understanding of these alien worlds and further define the boundary between rocky worlds like Earth and ice giants like Neptune."

Since the K2 mission officially began in May 2014, it has observed more than 35,000 stars and collected data on star clusters, dense star-forming regions, and several planetary objects within our own solar system. It is currently in its third campaign.

The research paper reporting this discovery has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.

Ames is responsible for Kepler's mission concept, ground system development, science data analysis and K2 mission operations. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colorado, developed the Kepler flight system and supports mission operations with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder. The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore archives, hosts and distributes Kepler science data. Kepler is NASA's 10th Discovery Mission and was funded by the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

More information about the Kepler mission: Link >>> http://www.nasa.gov/kepler

Felicia Chou
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-0257
felicia.chou@nasa.gov

Michele Johnson
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
650-604-6982
michele.johnson@nasa.gov

Source: NASA.

Related Blog Posts ---

New Mission for Crippled Kepler Telescope ?  (2013 Sept. 24):

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2013/09/new-mission-for-crippled-kepler.html

 

Kepler Exoplanet Hunter Spacecraft at Risk (2013 May 16):

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2013/05/kepler-exoplanet-hunter-spacecraft-at.html

 

Citizen Planet Hunters: Kepler Space Telescope Data Now Available  (2012 Oct. 30):

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2012/10/planet-hunters-kepler-space-telescope.html


2014: 75th Year of Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium Historic Zeiss II Planetarium Projector at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.


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Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Also see: South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, & More: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
About the SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
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Twitter: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
Facebook: < http://www.facebook.com/pages/SpaceWatchtower/238017839577841?sk=wall >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
* Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mars Atmosphere: Spike in Methane Found - Biological Source?

NASA's Mars Curiosity rover has measured a tenfold spike in methane, an organic chemical, in the atmosphere around it and detected other organic molecules in a rock-powder sample collected by the robotic laboratory’s drill. The Mars Science Laboratory's Tunable Laser Spectrometer (TLS) instrument was used to confirm the presence of methane.

"This temporary increase in methane -- sharply up and then back down -- tells us there must be some relatively localized source," said Sushil Atreya of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and Curiosity rover science team. "There are many possible sources, biological or non-biological, such as interaction of water and rock."

splash
This image illustrates possible ways methane might be added to Mars' atmosphere (sources) and removed from the atmosphere (sinks). NASA's Curiosity Mars rover has detected fluctuations in methane concentration in the atmosphere, implying both types of activity occur on modern Mars. A longer caption discusses which are sources and which are sinks. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SAM-GSFC/Univ. of Michigan

Researchers used Curiosity’s onboard Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) laboratory a dozen times in a 20-month period to sniff methane in the atmosphere. During two of those months, in late 2013 and early 2014, four measurements averaged seven parts per billion. Before and after that, readings averaged only one-tenth that level.

Curiosity also detected different Martian organic chemicals in powder drilled from a rock dubbed Cumberland, the first definitive detection of organics in surface materials of Mars. These Martian organics could either have formed on Mars or been delivered to Mars by meteorites. 

More: Link >>> http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2014/16dec_methanespike/

Source: NASA Science News.

2014: 75th Year of Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium Historic Zeiss II Planetarium Projector at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.


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gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Also see: South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, & More: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
About the SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS, ASTRONOMICAL CALENDAR:
< http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#news >
Twitter: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
Facebook: < http://www.facebook.com/pages/SpaceWatchtower/238017839577841?sk=wall >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
* Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Geminid Meteor Shower Peaks Sat.& Sun. w/ Web-Casts

File:Meteor falling courtesy NASA.gif
Geminid fireball falling Earthward. (Source: NASA)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

The most intense meteor shower of the year, the Geminids, peaks this weekend: officially the peak is Sunday Morning, 2014 December 14 at 7:00 a.m. EST / 12:00 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). So, Saturday night / Sunday morning and Sunday night / Monday morning would be the peak nights for viewing this year's Geminids.

Particularly in good years when Moon light does not hamper viewing, 80 to 120 meteors per hour can be seen. Although some people believe this meteor shower is intensifying, as 120 to 160 meteors have been seen, under optimal conditions, during this meteor shower in recent years. However, Moon light may be a problem this year, as just 51 minutes after the Geminid Meteor Shower peak, the Moon reaches the Last Quarter Phase, at 7:51 a.m. EST / 12:51 UTC. So, at this time of the month, the Moon rises around local Midnight or a little later in the early morning hours and sets in the early afternoon.

As always, the best viewing for a meteor shower is between local midnight and local dawn, when the Earth is rotating into the meteor shower. So, Moon light could interfere with viewing the smaller, dimmer meteoroids. However, it may not be as bad as last year, when a Full Moon was visible at the prime meteor shower viewing time. At least this year, only half of the Moon's surface visible from Earth will be illuminated by the Sun.

Due to the intensity of the Geminid Meteor Shower, some meteors can be seen a few nights before, and a few nights after, the meteor shower peak. Of course, the number of meteors that can be seen is less on nights other than the peak night(s).

Clear skies are always a must for meteor viewing, something not always available in late Autumn and early Winter skies. And, it is always best to get away from city lights, for the chance to see the dimmer meteors.
 
The Geminids are so named because most meteors appear to radiate from the Constellation Gemini the Twins (apparent meteor shower radiant), a constellation which becomes more prominent as the Winter season approaches in Earth's Northern Hemisphere. However, during any meteor shower, meteors can appear in any part of the sky at any time.

Telescopes and binoculars are of little use for finding meteors. Such optical devices restrict the field-of-view, thus that you could easily miss a lot of meteors, and the chance that you could observe a meteor with a telescope or binoculars is not very good. The best way to look for meteors is to lie down on the ground, in an area with an unobstructed view of most of the sky. Then, just keep scanning throughout the sky until you see a meteor.

While most meteor showers occur at a time when Earth's orbit coincides with a trail of debris from a comet, this is not the case for the Geminids. Amazingly, the most intense meteor shower of the year seems to come from a strange rocky object identified as Asteroid 3200 Phaethon, what some scientists call a "rock comet." Discovered by NASA's Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) in 1983, 3200 Phaethon has an eccentric orbit which brings it inside the orbit of Mercury every 1.4 years.

Even though this asteroid is regularly blasted with solar heat when it nears the Sun, scientists using NASA satellite data have concluded that the debris falling-off of the asteroid due to this heating could not have caused the amount of debris found in the debris trail which comprises the Geminid Meteor Shower. The amount of debris which scientists recorded as having fallen-off of this asteroid during a recent encounter with the Sun is too low.

Some researchers believe that 5-kilometer Phaethon may have been chipped-off of one of the largest asteroids in the Solar System, 2 Pallas (which is 544 kilometers in diameter). Could some past planetary collision, which caused Phaethon to break-off from Pallas, have caused the debris trail now known as the Geminid Meteor Shower? Scientists who have studied this possible scenario say no. They say that the Geminid meteoroids were created much closer to the Sun, not in the Asteroid Belt.

Hence, the explanation for the intensity of the Geminid Meteor Shower remains a mystery to scientists.

So, bundle-up this weekend and hope for clear skies to see the most intense meteor shower of the year, apparently caused by an astronomical anomaly.

However, if the sky is not clear in your neighborhood, or it is just too cold to lie on the ground looking for meteors, there are a few Internet web-casts that will show the Geminid Meteor Shower live:

Live Internet Web-Casts of the Geminid Meteor Shower ---

Slooh Community Observatory - Beginning Sat., Dec. 13 at 8:00 p.m. EST / Dec. 14, 1:00 UTC:
Link >>> http://live.slooh.com/ 

NASA Marshall Space Flight Center - Dec. 13 - 14, 11:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. EST / 4:00 to 8:00 UTC:
Link >>> http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-msfc 
Additionally, NASA will offer a live web-chat regarding the Geminid Meteor Shower at this link:
Link >>> http://www.nasa.gov/connect/chat/geminids_2014.html

The Virtual Telescope Project - Beginning Sat., Dec. 13 at 9:00 p.m. EST / Dec. 14, 2:00 UTC:
Link >>> http://www.virtualtelescope.eu/webtv/

More on the Geminid Meteor Shower ---

Link 1 >>> http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2014/12dec_embers/
Link 2 >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geminids 

More on Asteroid 3200 Phaethon: Link >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3200_Phaethon

More on Asteroid or Minor Planet 2 Pallas: Link >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2_Pallas

Source: Glenn A. Walsh, Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.

2014: 75th Year of Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium Historic Zeiss II Planetarium Projector at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.


Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your inbox ?
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gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Also see: South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, & More: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
About the SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS, ASTRONOMICAL CALENDAR:
< http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#news >
Twitter: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
Facebook: < http://www.facebook.com/pages/SpaceWatchtower/238017839577841?sk=wall >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
* Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Friday, December 12, 2014

Asteroids, Not Comets, Brought Water to Earth's Oceans?

A photo of comet 67-P
This image of comet 67P is made up of four photographs taken by the Rosetta spacecraft.

Photograph by ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

By Dan Vergano

Asteroids, not comets, likely delivered Earth's ancient oceans from space, concludes a Wednesday study from the Rosetta spacecraft, now in orbit around a comet that is a frozen relic from the dawn of the planets.

Where did the Earth's oceans come from? the new study asks, investigating a long-debated question of whether the water on our planet's surface was delivered during a bombardment of comets some 3.8 billion years ago. Not likely, mission scientists conclude, pointing instead to ancient asteroids, which were covered with frost in the early solar system.

"Terrestrial water was probably brought by asteroids," says Rosetta study leader Kathrin Altwegg of the University of Bern in Switzerland. She finds that source "more likely than comets."

These are the first scientific results from the European Space Agency craft, which is orbiting the lumpy 2.5-mile-wide (4.1 kilometers) comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the mission team reports in the journal Science.

Rosetta arrived at the lumpy ice ball last month, delivering a probe that lost power and went into hibernation during its first days on the comet. Comet 67P is now more than 260 million miles (418 million kilometers) from the sun, awaiting a solar warm-up that will spark its cometary tail.

More: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/12/141210-rosetta-comet-water-space-science/

Source: National Geographic Magazine.

2014: 75th Year of Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium Historic Zeiss II Planetarium Projector at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.


Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your inbox ?
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gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Also see: South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, & More: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
About the SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS, ASTRONOMICAL CALENDAR:
< http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#news >
Twitter: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
Facebook: < http://www.facebook.com/pages/SpaceWatchtower/238017839577841?sk=wall >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
* Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

NASA: Near-Earth-Asteroid 2014 UR116 No Threat to Earth


Short animation of NASA images showing the rotation of the second largest
Near-Earth-Object, Asteroid 433 Eros, which was visited by the Near Earth
Asteroid - Shoemaker space probe in 2000. Another fairly large, Near-Earth-
Asteroid, 2014 UR116, was recently discovered and found not to be a threat to
Earth, despite some media reports to the contrary.
(Image Sources: NASA, Wikipedia.org )

NASA/JPL Near-Earth Object Program Office
2014 December 8

Some recent press reports have suggested that an asteroid designated 2014 UR116, found on 2014 October 27, at the MASTER-II observatory in Kislovodsk, Russia, represents an impact threat to the Earth. While this approximately 400-meter sized asteroid has a three year orbital period around the sun and returns to the Earth's neighborhood periodically, it does not represent a threat because its orbital path does not pass sufficiently close to the Earth's orbit.

Furthermore, Tim Spahr, Director of the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge Massachusetts, has also re-computed this object's orbit after noticing that it was the same as an object observed six years ago. Using both sets of observations, the future motion of this asteroid was carried further forward in time using the automatic computations made by the Sentry system at NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. These computations rule out this object as an impact threat to Earth (or any other planet) for at least the next 150 years.

Any statements about risk for impact of discovered asteroids and comets should be verified by scientists and the media by accessing NASA' Near Earth Object (NEO) Program web site at
Link >>> http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/risk/

or the European equivalent, the NEO Dynamic Site at
Link >>> http://newton.dm.unipi.it/neodys/index.php?pc=4.1

Source: NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

2014: 75th Year of Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium Historic Zeiss II Planetarium Projector at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.


Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your inbox ?
Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >..

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Also see: South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, & More: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
About the SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS, ASTRONOMICAL CALENDAR:
< http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#news >
Twitter: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
Facebook: < http://www.facebook.com/pages/SpaceWatchtower/238017839577841?sk=wall >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
* Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Air & Space Museum Debates Preservation of U.S. Plane at Pearl Harbor Attack


This Sikorsky JRS-1 is the only aircraft in the collection, of the Smithsonian Institution's
National Air and Space Museum, that was stationed at Pearl Harbor on 1941 December 7.
It was later used for testing by the predecessor agency to NASA.
(Image Source: National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution)

From Friday's edition of the PBS NewsHour:

Sunday marks the 73rd anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack that launched U.S. involvement in World War II.

Tonight, we bring you a rare survivor of that day, an American military plane that is the last of its kind. We tagged along at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center, as curator Dr. Jeremy Kinney showed off the seaplane to a volunteer and explained the debate over how to restore it.

This is a Sikorsky JRS-1 flying boat. And it’s the only artifact in the Air and Space Museum’s collection that was present at Pearl Harbor on 1941 December 7.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor, this JRS flew in search of Japanese submarines and the Japanese carrier fleet. And then as the months wore on through 1942, it continued its support mission for Navy fighting, bombing and torpedo squadrons.

This particular JRS flew until 1944 with the U.S. Navy. It went into storage. The Navy kept it as an airplane. It actually performed yeoman’s service with the NACA, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which is now NASA today, as an air dynamics testing platform.

If we restore it, then every — everything that’s original is removed pretty much or it’s painted over. So, I mean, this is the original glass, no matter how bad it looks. This is the original paint, no matter how badly chipped and cracked it is, the peeling fabric, which there are ways to repair that.

But it’s the things that curators and specialists and conservators agonize over. That’s a — it’s a big debate in terms of what we want to do with it, because it’s only original once, even though it’s in rough shape.

Complete television segment transcript and video:
Link >>> http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/remember-pearl-harbor-debate-restoring-last-kind-military-plane/

More on the Sikorsky JRS-1:
Link >>> http://airandspace.si.edu/collections/artifact.cfm?id=A19610112000

Source: Public Broadcasting Service.

2014: 75th Year of Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium Historic Zeiss II Planetarium Projector at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.


Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your inbox ?
Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >..

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Also see: South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, & More: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
About the SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS, ASTRONOMICAL CALENDAR:
< http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#news >
Twitter: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
Facebook: < http://www.facebook.com/pages/SpaceWatchtower/238017839577841?sk=wall >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
* Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Friday, December 5, 2014

NASA Orion Spacecraft: Near-Perfect Test Mission After Day-Delay

SuperClose
NASA's Orion Deep-Space Vehicle floating in the Pacific Ocean shortly after a near-perfect splash-down at 11:29 EST this morning / 16:29 UTC. (Image Source: NASA)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

After a one-day delay due to high ground winds and a technical problem with the Delta IV Heavy launch rocket, NASA had great success on Friday morning with the first test of the Orion Deep-Space Vehicle. The Orion capsule, successor to the Space Shuttle and the first deep-space transport since Project Apollo, is expected to take astronauts back to the Moon, to asteroids, and perhaps eventually to Mars.

Early Friday morning there had been concern about weather conditions at the launch site, the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. In fact, it had been estimated that there was only a 40 percent chance that weather conditions would allow a launch Friday morning.

However, the launch occurred right on time this morning, just after sunrise, at 7:05 EST / 12:05 UTC. And from then on, the test mission went like clock-work. The uncrewed flight lasted four and a-half hours, making nearly two full orbits of the Earth before landing in the Pacific Ocean, 270 miles west of Mexico's Baja California peninsula, right on schedule at 11:29 a.m. EST / 16:29 UTC.

While the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station fly in low-Earth orbit, about 250 miles above the Earth, Orion is designed to fly in deep-space. And, during this test flight, Orion flew more than 3,500 miles above the Earth, proving its deep-space capabilities. This is the first human-rated spacecraft to fly that far from the Earth since December of 1972, when Apollo 17 was the last mission that sent men to the Moon.

At NASA's post-mission media briefing, it was mentioned that the video processing units on-board Orion were automatically reset due to higher radiation experienced as Orion flew through the Van Allen Radiation Belts. However, scientists were pleased that no computer units experienced such resets.

The Van Allen Radiation Belts (two main belts exist) are layers of energetically-charged particles held in-place in Earth's upper atmosphere by our planet's magnetic field. They were named for University of Iowa space scientist Dr. James Van Allen, who discovered the radiation belts at the very beginning of the Space Age, from data received from three early satellites launched in 1958: Explorer 1, Explorer 3, and Pioneer 3. The Van Allen Radiation Belts extend 600 to 37,000 miles above the Earth, much higher than the orbit of the International Space Station or orbits used by the Space Shuttle.

For this mission, NASA used drones, in addition to chase aircraft, to obtain video of the spacecraft as it neared splash-down. Following splash-down, recovery of the spacecraft is being handled by two U.S. Navy ships: an amphbious transport dock ship, the USS Anchorage, and the Military Sealift Command rescue and salvage ship, USNS Salvor.

Once back on land, at Naval Base San Diego, the Orion capsule will be trucked back to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Due to the fact that the spacecraft will still contain unused fuel and other dangerous chemicals, the trucking firm that transports Orion will have to meet hazardous transport regulations for each state the truck travels through.

Just as the heat shield tiles were critical during each Space Shuttle mission, NASA scientists will now closely evaluate how the heat shield on Orion succeeded in keeping dangerous heat out of the capsule during re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere. By the time Orion hit the Earth's atmosphere during re-entry, it was expected that the spacecraft would be traveling more than 20,000 miles-per-hour, and the heat shield would experience up to +4,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

More on the Orion Deep-Space Vehicle:
Link 1 >>> www.nasa.gov/orion/
Link 2 >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orion_%28spacecraft%29

More on Orion's First Test Flight: Link >>> https://blogs.nasa.gov/orion/

More on the Van Allen Radiation Belts:
Link >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Van_Allen_radiation_belt

More about spacecraft heat shields:
Link >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmospheric_entry#Thermal_protection_systems

Related Blog Posts ---

Thur. 7:05 a.m.: 1st NASA Test Launch of Orion Deep-Space Vehicle (2014 Dec. 3):

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2014/12/thur-705-am-1st-nasa-test-launch-of.html

 

Thur. NASA Orion Launch Scrubbed; Next Try Fri. 7:05 a.m.  (2014 Dec. 4):

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2014/12/thur-nasa-orion-launch-scrubbed-next.html

Source: Glenn A. Walsh, Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.

2014: 75th Year of Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium Historic Zeiss II Planetarium Projector at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.


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