From a recent edition of the print-only publication Coffee News:
It’s that time of year again—time for my favorite holiday tradition: the 2014 Hubble Space Telescope Advent Calendar. Every day until Thursday, December 25, this page will present an amazing new image of our universe from NASA’s Hubble telescope. Be sure to visit every day until Christmas, or follow me on Twitter (@in_focus), Google+, Facebook, or Tumblr for daily updates. I hope you enjoy these amazing and awe-inspiring images and the efforts of the science teams who have brought them to Earth. Merry Christmas, and peace on Earth to all. (Also, choosing the “1280px” viewing option below, if you can support it, is always a good option.)
More than a decade ago, the European Space Agency launched an orbiter named Rosetta, bound on a circuitous voyage to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. In the years since, Rosetta has been drawn in and flung along by multiple gravity assist maneuvers, visiting the Earth three times and making observations of the Moon, Mars, and several asteroids and comets. In January of this year, after 31 months of hibernation, Rosetta re-awoke, nearing comet 67P. Recently, it approached to within 100 km of the comet, entering orbit and preparing send a lander to the surface. The lander, named Philae, will be deployed in November, securing itself to the comet with harpoons and drills to prevent it from bouncing away in the weak gravity. The lander and orbiter are then scheduled to ride along, escorting the comet on its upcoming close approach to the Sun next August, all the while sending imagery and data home to be combined with Earth-based observations. Gathered here are some snapshots of Rosetta’s incredible trip so far.
The Ardbeg Distillery is getting ready to test a drink that’s literally out of this world – the first whiskey to have ever been matured in outer space. After spending three years on the International Space Station, the vial of single malt is finally returning to Earth. It is expected to land on solid ground in Kazakhstan on September 12, before making its way to Houston.
The project is part of an experiment to study the impact of gravity on how alcohol matures. The whisky was launched into outer space in an unmanned cargo spacecraft in October 2011, along with particles of charred oak. The vial containing the alcoholic drink was specially designed for the mission, and has been orbiting the earth 15 times a day for 1,045 days, on the ISS.
When the vial returns, the alcohol won’t be consumed right away. It has to be tested by scientists first, and compared with regular whisky from another bottle that was corked around the same time. They plan to examine the interaction of the Ardbeg-crafted molecules with charred oak, to measure the differences between earth-whiskey and space-whiskey.
“This is one small step for man but one giant leap for whisky,” said Ardbeg director Dr. Bill Lumsden. “The team hopes to uncover how flavors develop in different gravitational conditions – findings which could revolutionise the whisky-making process.”
Better living through chemistry – and physics!
Gotta love science. 🙂
One lucky citizen of the oil-rich United Arab Emirates could soon get the chance to be rocketed into space.
Government-backed Aabar Investments on Sunday announced the start of a competition to award an Emirati a free spot aboard Virgin Galactic’s spaceship when it begins ferrying space tourists briefly into space.
The most Earth-like planet yet has been discovered, scientists report in the journal Science.
The rocky planet, Kepler 186f, is close to the size of Earth and has the potential to hold liquid water, which is critical for life, the team says.
Nestled in the Milky Way, it is part of a five-planet system that orbits around a cool dwarf star.
It was spotted by the Kepler telescope, which has found nearly 1,000 new worlds since its launch in 2009.
“This is the smallest planet we’ve found so far in the habitable zone,” said Prof Stephen Kane, an astrophysicist from San Francisco State University, US.
The Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) has created a team of specialists, which will elaborate the Moon program. The scientists plan to launch three spacecraft – two landing and one orbital – to the Moon to the end of this decade.
Roscosmos is about to begin creation of a carrier rocket that will be launched from the Vostochny Cosmodrome. The agency is also elaborating a carrier rocket of extra-heavy class for flights to the Moon, Denis Lyskov, Deputy Director of Roscosmos, told journalists.
“Within the program of the Vostochny Cosmodrome, we create a modern carrier rocket that will suit a manned spacecraft,” Lyskov said. The spacecraft will weigh 14 tons for lower orbit and 20 tons for lunar missions.