Archives

November 2012



Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have for the first time found that the outer region of a dusty disk encircling a brown dwarf contains millimeter-sized solid grains like those found in denser disks around newborn stars.

Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have for the first time found that the outer region of a dusty disk encircling a brown dwarf contains millimeter-sized solid grains like those found in denser disks around newborn stars. The surprising finding challenges theories of how rocky, Earth-scale planets form, and suggests that rocky planets may be even more common in the universe than expected.

North central Siberia is pictured in this Envisat image from 5 March 2012. An enormous area in north Asia, Siberia spreads from the Urals in the west to the Okhotsk Sea in the east, from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the borders of Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China in the south.

"NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston is accepting applications from teams of kindergarten, elementary and secondary school teachers to conduct scientific experiments aboard the agency's reduced gravity aircraft next year. The MicroGravity eXperience (Micro GX) flight program will take place July 12-20, 2013, at Johnson. Educators selected to fly also will participate in an online professional development course centered on microgravity science in the months before and after their flights. Seven teams, each composed of four to five educators from a single school or school district, will be selected to participate in Micro GX. The unique academic experience includes scientific and inquiry-based research, experiential learning during the reduced gravity flight, and education/public outreach activities." More.

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After two decades of satellite observations, an international team of experts brought together by ESA and NASA has produced the most accurate assessment of ice losses from Antarctica and Greenland to date. This study finds that the combined rate of ice sheet melting is increasing."

An international team of experts supported by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) has combined data from multiple satellites and aircraft to produce the most comprehensive and accurate assessment to date of ice sheet losses in Greenland and Antarctica and their contributions to sea level rise.


An international team of experts supported by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) has combined data from multiple satellites and aircraft to produce the most comprehensive and accurate assessment to date of ice sheet losses in Greenland and Antarctica and their contributions to sea level rise.

Spectacular jets powered by the gravitational energy of a super massive black hole in the core of the elliptical galaxy Hercules A illustrate the combined imaging power of two of astronomy's cutting-edge tools, the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3, and the recently upgraded Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope in New Mexico. Credit: NASA, ESA, S. Baum and C. O'Dea (RIT), R. Perley and W. Cotton (), and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)


Spectacular jets powered by the gravitational energy of a super massive black hole in the core of the elliptical galaxy Hercules A illustrate the combined imaging power of two of astronomy's cutting-edge tools, the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3, and the recently upgraded Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope in New Mexico.


Hoping to expand our understanding of auroras and other fleeting atmospheric events, a team of space-weather researchers designed and built NORUSCA II, a new camera with unprecedented capabilities that can simultaneously image multiple spectral bands, in essence different wavelengths or colors, of light.

The aurora as seen as a color composite image from the NORUSCA II camera. Three bands were combined to make the image. Each band was assigned a different color -- red, green, and blue - to enhance the features of the aurora for analysis. Credit: Optics Express.

"After two successful years of on-orbit operations, NASA's Fast, Affordable, Science and Technology Satellite, or FASTSAT, mission is coming to an end. FASTSAT successfully demonstrated a capability to build, deploy and operate a science and technology flight mission at lower costs than previously possible. The satellite was designed, developed and tested over a period of 14 months at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., in partnership with the Von Braun Center for Science & Innovation and Dynetics, both of Huntsville, and the Department of Defense's Space Test Program. FASTSAT used off-the-shelf commercial hardware provided by NASA and a group of industry partners. Weighing slightly less than 400 pounds and carrying six technology and atmospheric science experiments, FASTSAT provided an opportunity to conduct innovative research and mature the readiness of new technologies for future missions." More

After spending six weeks doing science investigations at Rocknest, NASA's Curiosity Mars rover is on the move again to Point Lake and a place to try out the drill.


NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft has identified large concentrations of hydrogen at Mercury's north pole, thought to be in the form of water ice, researchers announced today.

NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft has identified large concentrations of hydrogen at Mercury's north pole, thought to be in the form of water ice, researchers announced today.

The effects of solar events on Earth's magnetic field are global, but they are most pronounced and frequently noticed at northern latitudes. That's why Norway's long-standing expertise in space weather science is providing extremely valuable contributions to ESA's space hazards programme.

One of the Expedition 33 crew members aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of Chile featuring the North Patagonia Ice Field and the Arenales Glaciers. ISS033-E-010399 (7 Oct. 2012) - high res (1.2 M) low res (91 K)


A collage shows nine radar images of near-Earth asteroid 2007 PA8 that were obtained between Oct. 31 and Nov. 13, 2012, with data collected by NASA's 230-foot-wide (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, Calif.

A collage shows nine radar images of near-Earth asteroid 2007 PA8 that were obtained between Oct. 31 and Nov. 13, 2012, with data collected by NASA's 230-foot-wide (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, Calif. On Nov. 5 at 8:42 a.m. PST (11:42 a.m. EST/16:42 UTC), the object came about 4 million miles (6.5 million kilometers) from Earth, or 17 times the distance between Earth and the moon.

Predicting the rate of escape and thermal structure of Pluto's upper atmosphere in preparation for the New Horizons Spacecraft encounter in 2015 is important for planning and interpreting the expected measurements.

NASA's Terra satellite passed over the South Atlantic Ocean on November 15, 2012, allowing the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer instrument flying aboard to capture this true-color image of St. Helena Island and the band of wind-blown cloud vortices trailing towards the island's leeward side.

Since the last Pluto volatile transport models were published (Hansen and Paige 1996), we have (i) new stellar occultation data from 2002 and 2006-2012 that have roughly twice the pressure as the discovery occultation of 1988, (ii) new information about the surface properties of Pluto, (iii) a spacecraft due to arrive at Pluto in 2015, and (iv) a new volatile transport model that is rapid enough to allow a large parameter-space search.

We present a 3D general circulation model of Pluto and Triton's atmospheres, which uses radiative-conductive-convective forcing. In both the Pluto and Triton models, an easterly (prograde) jet is present at the equator with a maximum magnitude of 10-12 m/s and 4 m/s, respectively.

Astronomers have used the Hobby-Eberly Telescope at The University of Texas at Austin's McDonald Observatory to measure the mass of what may be the most massive black hole yet -- 17 billion Suns -- in galaxy NGC 1277. The unusual black hole makes up 14 percent of its galaxy's mass, rather than the usual 0.1 percent. This galaxy and several more in the same study could change theories of how black holes and galaxies form and evolve. The work will appear in the journal Nature on Nov. 29.

Data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft tie a shift in seasonal sunlight to a wholesale reversal, at unexpected altitudes, in the circulation of the atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan. At the south pole, the data show definitive evidence for sinking air where it was upwelling earlier in the mission. So the key to circulation in the atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan turned out to be a certain slant of light. The paper was published today in the journal Nature.

Within Two Worlds from Goldpaint Photography on Vimeo.

"Within Two Worlds depicts an alternate perspective by giving us the illusion of times movement, signifying a beginning and end within a world of constant contradiction. It appears you are traveling in the midst of a dream, half-sleeping, half-waking, and touching the arch connecting heaven and earth." I discovered my passion for photography shortly after my mother's passing while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) 3 years ago. This time-lapse video is my visual representation of how the night sky and landscapes co-exist within a world of contradictions. I hope this connection between heaven and earth inspires you to discover and create your own opportunities, to reach your rightful place within two worlds." More

Forecasters could soon be better able to predict how intense tropical cyclones like Hurricane Sandy will be by analyzing relative-humidity levels within their large-scale environments, finds a new NASA-led study.

"In December 2012, Austria will launch its first two satellites: UniBRITE and BRITE-Austria. This is the first pair of three, forming a network called BRITE-Constellation. The other pairs being contributed by Canada and Poland. The primary goal of BRITE-Constellation is the exploration of short term intensity variations of bright stars (V>6 mag) for a few years. For each satellite pair, one will employ a blue filter and the other a red filter. With the discovery of the first exoplanet in 1992, more than 800 have been detected since. The high-precision photometry from the BRITE instrument will enable a transit search for exoplanets around bright stars. To estimate the capability of BRITE to detect planets, we include in our calculations technical constraints, such as photometric noise levels for stars accessible by BRITE, the duty cycle and duration of observations. The most important parameter is the fraction of stars harboring a planet. Our simulation is based on 2695 stars distributed over the entire sky. Kepler data indicate that at minimum 34% of all stars are orbited by at least one of five different planetary sizes: Earth, Super-Earth, Uranus, Jupiter and Super-Jupiter. Depending on the duty cycle and duration of the observations, about six planets should be detectable in 180 days, of which about five of them being of Jupiter size." More

"Have you taken an interesting astronomical photo this year? From planets and moons to the Sun, stars and galaxies, we'd like you to send us your images to feature as our Space Science Image of the Week on 31 December. The ESA Space Science team's favourite image will take the slot of our weekly image during the week beginning 31 December 2012 as a celebration of the astronomical events of the year gone by. The best of the rest will feature in our dedicated ESA Space Science images Flickr gallery. During 2012, the sky has staged a series of astronomical theatrics to provide plenty of inspiration for your entry. Perhaps you were lucky enough to observe a solar eclipse, or even the transit of Venus. Maybe you snapped a meteor streaking through the sky, or perhaps you found beauty in the constellations this year. Images of galaxies and nebulae are also welcomed." More

"No one could accuse the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of lacking imagination. But to rethink the entire design, development and manufacturing process used by aerospace for decades is ambitious, even for the agency that helped bring us GPS, the Internet and stealth. Under the Adaptive Vehicle Make (AVM) program, Darpa is working to combine model-based design, virtual collaborative engineering and foundry-style manufacturing into an end-to-end process that cuts development timescales by a factor of five, eliminating the design-build-test-redesign cycle that is driving costs and delays. "It's safe to say that the direction we have been going in military acquisitions is not a sustainable path," says Lt. Col. Nathan Wiedenman, Darpa AVM program manager. "We simply can't continue to spend more and get less for the money we spend." More at Aviation Week

"This notice is issued in accordance with 51 U.S.C. 20144(c). The 2013 Sample Return Robot Challenge is scheduled and teams that wish to compete may register. Centennial Challenges is a program of prize competitions to stimulate innovation in technologies of interest and value to NASA and the nation. The 2013 Sample Return Robot Challenge is a prize competition designed to encourage development of new technologies or application of existing technologies in unique ways to create robots that can autonomously seek out samples and return to a designated point in a set time period. Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) of Worcester, Massachusetts administers the Challenge for NASA. NASA is providing the prize purse." More


Astronomers using ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) have discovered a quasar with the most energetic outflow ever seen, at least five times more powerful than any that have been observed to date.

Astronomers using ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) have discovered a quasar with the most energetic outflow ever seen, at least five times more powerful than any that have been observed to date. Quasars are extremely bright galactic centres powered by supermassive black holes. Many blast huge amounts of material out into their host galaxies, and these outflows play a key role in the evolution of galaxies. But, until now, observed quasar outflows weren't as powerful as predicted by theorists.

On 28 November 2012 the Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft passed the halfway point between the orbits of Uranus and Neptune, zooming past another milepost on its historic trek to the planetary frontier.

"NASA is soliciting broad community inputs in support of a study activity focused on utilization of large flight qualified optical systems recently transferred to NASA from another Government Agency. The Study on Applications of Large Space Optics (SALSO) activity is a multistep process to develop a representative set of options for the use of these assets that draws on government, academic and industry capabilities to address Agency-wide needs. The goal of the overall study is to gather and assess concepts for possible utilization of the recently acquired systems for Agency goals aligned with 5 principal areas; space technology, human exploration and operations, heliophysics, planetary science, and astrophysics (excluding an infrared wide field survey). The SALSO activity consists of a managed workshop and follow-on study of concepts flowing from the workshop process. NASA encourages submission of concepts that address multiple NASA objectives (above); make innovative use of NASA capabilities and/or anticipated commercial services; and/or incorporate innovative processes or partnership arrangements." More

A tiny fraction of meteorites on earth contain strikingly beautiful, translucent, olive-green crystals embedded in an iron-nickel matrix. Called pallasites, these "space gems" have fascinated scientists since they were first identified as originating from outer space more than 200 years ago.

Russia's Vostok Station, which sits above subglacial Lake Vostok.

Peter Rejcek, Antarctic Sun Editor: It's taken a bit of magic -- not to mention an incredible effort by scientists, engineers and support personnel -- but the WISSARD project is poised to explore one of the last frontiers on the planet.


Using ESA's Herschel space observatory, astronomers have discovered vast comet belts surrounding two nearby planetary systems known to host only Earth-to-Neptune-mass worlds. The comet reservoirs could have delivered life-giving oceans to the innermost planets.

Artist impression of the debris disc and planets around the star known as Gliese 581, superimposed on Herschel PACS images at 70, 100 and 160 micrometre wavelengths. The line drawing superimposed on the Herschel image gives a schematic representation of the location and orientation of the star, planets and disc, albeit not to scale. The black oval outline sketched onto the Herschel data represents the innermost boundary of the debris disc; the approximate location of the outermost boundary is represented by the outer set of dashed lines. It is not possible to identify the central star due to smearing of the Herschel data. GJ 581's planets have masses between 2 and 15 Earth masses and are all located within 0.22 Astronomical Units (AU, where 1 AU is the distance between Earth and our Sun) of the central star. A vast debris disc extends from approximately 25 AU to 60 AU. Background galaxies are also visible in the Herschel field-of-view. Credits: ESA/AOES

One of the Expedition 33 crew members aboard the International Space Station took this oblique photograph showing part of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Areas that are easily recognized in the picture include parts of Eritrea, Yemen and Ethiopia. Slight haze is also visible. ISS033-E-013636 (20 Oct. 2012) - high res (1.1 M) low res (70 K)

An eruption plume from the Karymsky volcano on the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Russian Federation is visible in this image photographed by an Expedition 33 crew member on the International Space Station. The Karymsky stratovolcano stands 1,536 meters above sea level, with most eruptions and occasional lava flows originating from the summit.


NASA, the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), and their international partners have selected two veteran spacefarers for a one-year mission aboard the International Space Station in 2015.

Comet Halley, the originator of the Orionids meteor shower that lit up our skies last month - as they do every October - is seen here up close by ESA's Giotto probe as it flew past the famous comet on 13-14 March 1986.

Giotto was ESA's first deep-space mission. It swept within 600 km of Halley, obtaining the first close-up images of a comet. Comets are considered to be the primitive building blocks of the Solar System and likely helped to 'seed' Earth with water.


A team of researchers, including engineers from Los Alamos National Laboratory, has demonstrated a new concept for a reliable nuclear reactor that could be used on space flights.

Scanning electron micrograph of very small and numerous bacterial cells inhabiting icy brine channels in Antarctica's Lake Vida, which lies in the Victoria Valley, one of the northernmost of the Antarctic dry valleys. Credit: Christian H. Fritsen, Desert Research Institute

DRI scientists' co-author study examining life in one of Earth's coldest, ice-sealed ecosystems

"Engineers at the University of Glasgow and Clyde Space Ltd have developed a practical solution to the increasing problem of space debris. Millions of pieces of 'space junk' are orbiting the Earth as a side-effect of human exploration and exploitation of space. The pieces range from tiny fragments of bigger objects such as rocket boosters to full-sized pieces of now-defunct equipment. Working satellites and spacecraft can be damaged by collisions with debris, which can travel at velocities of several kilometres per second. The problem is compounded by every collision which creates more debris in turn; in 2009, the collision of a non-operational Russian communications satellite and a working US satellite created more than 700 pieces of debris. Dr Patrick Harkness of the University's School of Engineering has led the development of the Aerodynamic End Of Life Deorbit System, or AEOLDOS, to help ensure that objects sent into space in future can be removed from orbit at the end of their operational cycle." More - with video

The Hubble Space Telescope has spotted the spiral galaxy ESO 499-G37, seen here against a backdrop of distant galaxies, scattered with nearby stars. The galaxy is viewed from an angle, allowing Hubble to reveal its spiral nature clearly. The faint, loose spiral arms can be distinguished as bluish features swirling around the galaxy's nucleus. This blue tinge emanates from the hot, young stars located in the spiral arms. The arms of a spiral galaxy have large amounts of gas and dust, and are often areas where new stars are constantly forming.


A Martian dust storm that NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been tracking since last week has also produced atmospheric changes detectable by rovers on Mars.

A Martian dust storm that NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been tracking since last week has also produced atmospheric changes detectable by rovers on Mars.

Astronomers have used three telescopes at ESO's observatories in Chile to observe the dwarf planet Makemake as it drifted in front of a distant star and blocked its light. The new observations have allowed them to check for the first time whether Makemake is surrounded by an atmosphere. This chilly world has an orbit lying in the outer Solar System and was expected to have an atmosphere like Pluto (eso0908), but this is now shown not to be the case. The scientists also measured Makemake's density for the first time. The new results are to be published in the 22 November issue of the journal Nature.


Astronomers have used three telescopes at ESO's observatories in Chile to observe the dwarf planet Makemake as it drifted in front of a distant star and blocked its light. The new observations have allowed them to check for the first time whether Makemake is surrounded by an atmosphere.


Astronomers have used three telescopes at ESO's observatories in Chile to observe the dwarf planet Makemake as it drifted in front of a distant star and blocked its light. The new observations have allowed them to check for the first time whether Makemake is surrounded by an atmosphere.

Onboard the International Space Station NASA's Kevin Ford continues to settle into his role as Commander of the orbiting laboratory. Ford and Expedition 34 crewmates Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin of the Russian Federal Space Agency are continuing work with the multitude of research being conducted on the station -- including investigations on human research, biological and physical sciences, technology development and Earth observation.

NASA GRC Solicitation: Curiosity Rover Scale Models

"NASA/GRC has a requirement for two (2) high quality 1/10th scale models and one (1) 1/5th scale model of the Curiosity Rover. NASA/GRC intends to purchase the items from Scale Model Company on a sole source basis due to the proprietary restrictions on drawings."

Keith's note: "Proprietary restrictions on drawings"? Gee, I wonder were this company got the data for the drawings of Curiosity in the first place? (Likely) answer: one way or another it all comes from NASA - even if the company did additional work on the drawings for their own uses. Too bad NASA has to spend lots of money on these models. There is little, if any, incentive at NASA to find cheaper ways to procure things like this since the expensive way is the way things have always been done. I wonder how much they are paying for these models? If I ask NASA PAO what the models cost they will almost certainly refuse to tell me and will make me file a FOIA request.

More or less every NASA center has 3-D printers these days and is experimenting with 3-D printing of satellite and rocket engine components. Why not take NASA's Curiosity drawings and make them open source? There's a large, growing DIY / "Maker" community who'd just love to do this for free. Then anyone (including NASA) can just print the models out - at a variety of scales - in a variety of materials - on an as-needed basis. Not only would this provide a huge audience with a chance to get a more intimate understanding of how these rovers work, it would also end up costing less money to make these models that NASA just loves to spend money on.

That said, I am sure the ITAR enforcers will find reasons why you can't release things like this - even if the schematics simply show the outside of components - not their internal design. Yet nothing stops a company like Scaled Model Company from producing a model on their own - one of sufficient fidelity that NASA itself wants to buy it.

- 3D Printed CubeSat, Fabbaloo
- PrintSat - An Amateur Radio 3D Printer CubeSat, Southgate
- 3D Printing of cubesat structure, YouTube
- NASA 3D prints rocket parts -- with steel, not plastic, ExtremeTech

Weather image today via NOAA. Novolazarevskaya Station (Novo) is located on the coast in the top center of this image. Larger image. Current weather satellite imagery.

Received from Dale Andersen Novolazarevskaya Station, Antarctica, on 21 November 2012 via Iridium email:

"This annual competition is open to university and college students from the United States, Canada, Mexico and other countries. Teams of three to 10 students must design, build and launch a sensor payload called a CanSat. Each CanSat is slightly larger than a soda can and must be built according to the specifications released by the competition organizing committee." More

"NASA is considering the initiation of an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Airspace Operations Challenge (hereinafter "Challenge") to be conducted under the Centennial Challenges Program administered through NASA Headquarters located in Washington, D.C. Through this Opportunity Notice (NOTICE) NASA seeks to select a Lead Allied Organization and additional Supporting Allied Organization(s) to work with NASA to conduct this Challenge. Overall coordination of the Lead and Supporting Allied Organizations will be done by a NASA Challenge manager. The date for Challenge competition is expected to be between August 30, 2013 and June 30, 2014 depending upon the availability of a test range and competitor registration date." More


Its about 120 km over the glacial ice fields between Novo Station and the lake. Its a rough ride with variations in the amount of snow or blue ice that one encounters along the way but the route is relatively safe, avoiding most major crevasse fields.

Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 34 Commander Kevin Ford of NASA displayed some of the food he and his crewmates will enjoy on Thanksgiving Day on the orbital outpost and discussed the significance of flying in space over the holidays during a downlink message November 20. Ford and his Russian crewmates, Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin are tending to station operations and research as a three-man crew until three additional crewmates arrive at the complex on December 21.

"William 'Red' Whittaker often spends his Sundays lowering a robot into a recently blown up coal mine pit near his cattle ranch in Pennsylvania (see video). By 2015, he hopes that his robot, or something like it, will be rappelling down a much deeper hole, on the Moon. The hole was discovered three years ago when Japanese researchers published images from the satellite SELENE, but spacecraft orbiting the Moon have been unable to see into its shadowy recesses."

Seen from the International Space Station, the Soyuz TMA-05M descent module begins to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere, leaving a plasma trail as the Expedition 33 crew streaks toward a pre-dawn landing on the steppe of Kazakhstan.

A team of scientists, including Carnegie's Conel Alexander and Jianhua Wang, studied the hydrogen in water from the Martian interior and found that Mars formed from similar building blocks to that of Earth, but that there were differences in the later evolution of the two planets.

The Sun erupted with two prominence eruptions, one after the other over a four-hour period on Nov. 16, 2012, between the hours of 1 and 5 a.m. EST. The red-glowing looped material is plasma, a hot gas made of electrically charged hydrogen and helium. The prominence plasma flows along a tangled and twisted structure of magnetic fields generated by the sun's internal dynamo. An erupting prominence occurs when such a structure becomes unstable and bursts outward, releasing the plasma.

ESA's Planck space telescope has made the first conclusive detection of a bridge of hot gas connecting a pair of galaxy clusters across 10 million light-years of intergalactic space.

Planck's primary task is to capture the most ancient light of the cosmos, the Cosmic Microwave Background, or CMB. As this faint light traverses the Universe, it encounters different types of structure including galaxies and galaxy clusters - assemblies of hundreds to thousands of galaxies bound together by gravity.

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity used a mechanism on its robotic arm to dig up five scoopfuls of material from a patch of dusty sand called "Rocknest," producing the five bite-mark pits visible in this image from the rover's left Navigation Camera (Navcam). Each of the pits is about 2 inches (5 centimeters) wide.

Volcanoes in central Kamchatka are featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 33 crew member on the International Space Station. The snow-covered peaks of several volcanoes of the central Kamchatka Peninsula are visible standing above a fairly uniform cloud deck that obscures the surrounding lowlands.

Astrophysicists at the University of Toronto and other institutions across the United States, Europe and Asia have discovered a 'super-Jupiter' around the massive star Kappa Andromedae

NASA Ames Director Pete Worden Talks Small Satellites (Video)

"Last week at the Canadian Space Summit Pete Worden was one of the invited keynote speakers. His topic was Small Satellites for Science and Other Uses and as an example: Earth Observation, promises and challenges. Among the technologies he discusses is the Interplanetary Internet and what the future might hold. The talk is about 30 minutes with a 12 minute question and answer session."

An ozone sonde is released from the Balloon Inflation Facility at the South Pole Station earlier this year. Ozone depletion above Antarctica was much less this austral spring due to warmer temperatures in the stratosphere. Photo Credit: Sven Lidstrom

Peter Rejcek, Antarctic Sun Editor: The annual ozone hole that forms above Antarctica during the Southern Hemisphere spring is the second smallest recorded in two decades.

Luminous galaxies glow like fireflies on a dark night in this image snapped by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The upper central galaxy in this image is a gigantic elliptical galaxy designated 4C 73.08. A prominent spiral galaxy seen from "above" shines in the lower part of the image, while examples of galaxies viewed edge-on also populate the cosmic landscape.

This photograph of Bhutan, taken by one of the Expedition 33 crew members aboard the International Space Station, shows a number of Himalayan peaks, glaciers and lakes. The space station was flying over a nadir point located at 28.3 degrees north latitude and 92.1 degrees east longitude when the image was recorded. ISS033-E-014658 (21 Oct. 2012) - high res (1.6 M) low res (126 K)

The Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft is seen shortly after it landed with Expedition 33 Commander Sunita Williams of NASA and Flight Engineers Akihiko Hoshide of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Yuri Malenchenko of Roscosmos (Russian Federal Space Agency) in a remote area near the town of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan on Nov. 19, 2012 (Kazakhstan time). Williams, Hoshide and Malenchenko returned from four months onboard the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls 201211190002hq (19 Nov. 2012) - high res (0.9 M) low res (81 K)

Near surface water has shaped the landscape of Mars. Areas of the planet's northern and southern hemispheres have alternately thawed and frozen in recent geologic history and comprise striking similarities to the landscape of Svalbard.


The Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft carrying Expedition 33 Commander Suni Williams and Flight Engineers Yuri Malenchenko and Aki Hoshide landed in the steppe of Kazakhstan northeast of the remote town of Arkalyk at 8:56 p.m. EST (7:56 a.m. Monday, Kazakhstan time).

On 11 September 2012 SpaceRef Editor Keith Cowing had a chance to talk with Astronaut Suni Williams aboard the International Space Station.

11 September 2012: Mission Control: SpaceRef.com this is Houston please call station for a voice check.

Cowing: Station this is SpaceRef.com how do you hear me?

Williams: I've got you loud and clear how me?


MESSENGER has discovered assemblages of tectonic landforms unlike any previously found on Mercury or elsewhere in the Solar System.

MESSENGER has discovered assemblages of tectonic landforms unlike any previously found on Mercury or elsewhere in the Solar System. The findings are reported in a paper led by Smithsonian scientist Thomas Watters, "Extension and contraction within volcanically buried impact craters and basins on Mercury," published in the December issue of the journal Geology and available online at http://geology.gsapubs.org/content/40/12/1123.full .

OPPORTUNITY UPDATE: Survey At 'Matijevic Hill' Wrapping Up - sols 3125-3132, Nov. 7, 2012-Nov. 14, 2012: Opportunity is nearing the completion of the local area survey around the location called "Matijevic Hill" (named in honor of Jake Matijevic) at the inboard edge of Cape York on the rim of Endeavour Crater.

Observers in Australia and the South Pacific were treated to a total solar eclipse on Nov. 13, 2012. The orbit of Hinode resulted in two eclipses this time, each with a somewhat different perspective. The first eclipse was total. During the second, the moon skimmed the left limb of the sun for a partial eclipse.

The Tibesti Mountains, located mostly in Chad with the northern slopes extending into Libya, are captured in this Envisat image.

This range of inactive - with some potentially active - volcanoes in the central Sahara desert covers about 100 000 sq km. Home to the Toubou people today, the region is known for its ancient cave paintings, mostly dating from the fifth to the third millennium BC.

SETI Institute announces today it has received a donation of $3.5 million from Franklin Antonio, Co-founder and Chief Scientist of Qualcomm.

NASA is marking two milestones in the search for planets like Earth -- the successful completion of the Kepler Space Telescope's 3 1/2- year prime mission and the beginning of an extended mission that could last as long as four years.

Scientists have used Kepler data to identify more than 2,300 planet candidates and confirm more than 100 planets - teaching us that the galaxy is teeming with planetary systems, that planets are prolific, and hints that nature makes small planets efficiently.


NASA is marking two milestones in the search for planets like Earth -- the successful completion of the Kepler Space Telescope's 3 1/2- year prime mission and the beginning of an extended mission that could last as long as four years.

A nighttime view of Qatar is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 33 crew member on the International Space Station. Night lights can be very revealing regarding the distribution of people on the landscape.


Astronomers have found evidence for a dying Sun-like star coming briefly back to life after casting its gassy shells out into space, mimicking the possible fate our own Solar System faces in a few billion years.

Astronomers have found evidence for a dying Sun-like star coming briefly back to life after casting its gassy shells out into space, mimicking the possible fate our own Solar System faces in a few billion years.

This new picture of the planetary nebula Abell 30, located 5500 light-years from Earth, is a composite of visible images from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and X-ray data from ESA's XMM-Newton and NASA's Chandra space telescopes.


Astronomers using ESO's Very Large Telescope and the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope have identified a body that is very probably a planet wandering through space without a parent star.


The aftershock of a stellar explosion rippling through space is captured in this new view of supernova remnant W44, which combines far-infrared and X-ray data from ESA's Herschel and XMM-Newton space observatories.

Astronomers using ESO's Very Large Telescope and the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope have identified a body that is very probably a planet wandering through space without a parent star. This is the most exciting free-floating planet candidate so far and the closest such object to the Solar System at a distance of about 100 light-years. Its comparative proximity, and the absence of a bright star very close to it, has allowed the team to study its atmosphere in great detail. This object also gives astronomers a preview of the exoplanets that future instruments aim to image around stars other than the Sun."

The aftershock of a stellar explosion rippling through space is captured in this new view of supernova remnant W44, which combines far-infrared and X-ray data from ESA's Herschel and XMM-Newton space observatories.

W44, located around 10 000 light-years away within a forest of dense star-forming clouds in the constellation of Aquila, the Eagle, is one of the best examples of a supernova remnant interacting with its parent molecular cloud.

"NASA's PhoneSat project has won Popular Science's 2012 Best of What's New Award for innovation in aerospace. PhoneSat will demonstrate the ability to launch one of the lowest-cost, easiest-to-build satellites ever flown in space -- capabilities enabled by using off-the-shelf consumer smartphones. Each year, Popular Science reviews thousands of new products and innovations, and chooses the top 100 winners across 12 categories for its annual Best of What's New issue. To win, a product or technology must represent a significant step forward in its category. All of the winners will be featured in the December special issue of the magazine. "NASA's PhoneSat mission will demonstrate use of small satellites for space commerce, educational activities and citizen-exploration are well within the reach of ordinary Americans because of lower cost, commercially available components," said Michael Gazarik, director of NASA's Space Technology Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Thanks to America's continuing investment in space technology to enable NASA missions, we've seen space tech brought down and into our lives here on Earth. With PhoneSat, we're doubling up, and taking those same great technologies back to space." More


ESA's Sun-watching Proba-2 satellite experienced three partial solar eclipses last night while lucky observers watching from northern Australia were treated to a total solar eclipse.

ESA's Sun-watching Proba-2 satellite experienced three partial solar eclipses last night while lucky observers watching from northern Australia were treated to a total solar eclipse.

During a total solar eclipse, the Moon moves in front of the Sun as seen from Earth, their alignment and separation such that the much closer Moon appears large enough to block out the light from the much more distant Sun.

"Organizers of the NASA Student Launch Projects have announced the 57 student teams whose inventive creations will soar skyward in April during the space agency's 2012-13 rocketry challenge. Representing schools in 26 states around the country, participating teams each will design and build a large, high-powered rocket, complete with a working science or engineering payload and capable of flying to the target altitude of 1 mile. NASA created the rocketry challenge to encourage young people to pursue careers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. "Every year, the NASA Student Launch Projects build on our students' classroom studies in an energizing, exciting way," said Tammy Rowan, manager of the Academic Affairs Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., which organizes the event. "It's great fun, but it also reflects the real-world complexity of planning missions, building flight hardware and completing tough pre-flight checks and reviews. It tests their problem-solving skills and gives them practical, hands-on experience. We hope the experience is so unforgettable it leads many of them to become the nation's next generation of scientists, engineers and space explorers." More

"NASA estimates more than 500,000 pieces of hazardous space debris orbit the earth, threatening satellites that support peacekeeping and combat missions. These objects include spent rocket stages, defunct satellites and fragments from other spacecraft that are the result of erosion, explosion and collision. A collision between one of these small pieces of debris and a satellite could release more than 20,000 times the energy of a head-on automobile collision at 65 mph. To help address the threat, DARPA created SpaceView, a space debris tracking project that provides amateur astronomers with the means to make a difference. Amateur astronomers will have their first opportunity to sign up in person for the program at the Arizona Science and Astronomy Expo in Tucson, November 10-11, 2012." More


On Nov. 13, 2012, the sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:04 p.m. EST.

By observing the sun in a number of different wavelengths, NASA's telescopes can tease out different aspects of events on the sun. These three images of a solar flare on Nov. 13, 2012, captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), show from left to right: light in the 304 Angstrom wavelength, which shows light from the region of the sun's atmosphere where flares originate; light from the sun in the 193 Angstrom wavelength, which shows the hotter material of a solar flare; and light in 335 Angstroms, which highlights light from active regions in the corona. Credit: NASA/SDO/Goddard Space Flight Center


BOSS, the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey, is mapping a huge volume of space to measure the role of dark energy in the evolution of the universe.

BOSS, the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey, is mapping a huge volume of space to measure the role of dark energy in the evolution of the universe. BOSS is the largest program of the third Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-III) and has just announced the first major result of a new mapping technique, based on the spectra of over 48,000 quasars with redshifts up to 3.5, meaning that light left these active galaxies up to 11.5 billion years in the past.

In early November 2012, a wintery nor'easter followed on the heels of Hurricane Sandy. When that second storm cleared out of the region, it left behind snow stretching from New Jersey to Massachusetts. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite captured this natural-color view of the region on November 9, 2012.


The NASA Mars Odyssey orbiter has resumed duty after switching to a set of redundant equipment, including a main computer, that had not been used since before the spacecraft's 2001 launch.

The NASA Mars Odyssey orbiter has resumed duty after switching to a set of redundant equipment, including a main computer, that had not been used since before the spacecraft's 2001 launch.

Odyssey relayed data to Earth late Sunday that it received from NASA's Opportunity rover on Mars using the orbiter's fresh "B-side" radio for UHF (ultra-high frequency) communications. In plans for this week are relay opportunities for the newest Mars rover, Curiosity, and resumption of Odyssey's own scientific observations.

View of Sheldon Glacier with Mount Barre in the background, seen from Ryder Bay near Rothera Research Station, Adelaide Island, Antarctica. A new NASA/British Antarctic Survey study examines why Antarctic sea ice cover has increased under the effects of climate change over the past two decades. Image credit: British Antarctic Survey. Larger image


View of Sheldon Glacier with Mount Barre in the background, seen from Ryder Bay near Rothera Research Station, Adelaide Island, Antarctica. A new NASA/British Antarctic Survey study examines why Antarctic sea ice cover has increased under the effects of climate change over the past two decades.

"The National Science Foundation today awarded a $2.5-million grant to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to enable its participation in a new international organization that will accelerate research data sharing among scientists around the globe. The grant will be used to develop a Research Data Alliance (RDA) that will allow researchers the world over to collaboratively use scientific data to speed up innovation. To date, more than 120 U.S. and international participants are helping conceptualize the organization and populate its first efforts. Along with scientific and data leaders from the United States, members from Australia and the European Union are part of the new alliance's organizational steering committee. U.S. participation will be led by Rensselaer Computer Science Professor Francine Berman." More


The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured a beautiful galaxy that, with its reddish and yellow central area, looks rather like an explosion from a Hollywood movie. The galaxy, called NGC 5010, is in a period of transition.


The sole secondary mirror and another primary mirror that will fly aboard NASA's James Webb Space Telescope arrived at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., on Nov. 5, 2012.


Tomorrow's total solar eclipse will only be visible in its entirety to ground-based observers watching from northern Australia, but ESA's Sun-watching Proba-2 satellite will have a ringside seat from its orbit around Earth.

The sole secondary mirror and another primary mirror that will fly aboard NASA's James Webb Space Telescope arrived at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., on Nov. 5, 2012. In this photo, technicians inspect the secondary mirror using flashlights. Reflections of one of the technicians and the roof of the giant clean room that houses the mirror are seen on the mirror's surface.

The sole secondary mirror and another primary mirror that will fly aboard NASA's James Webb Space Telescope arrived at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., on Nov. 5, 2012. In this photo, technicians inspect the secondary mirror using flashlights. Reflections of one of the technicians and the roof of the giant clean room that houses the mirror are seen on the mirror's surface.

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured a beautiful galaxy that, with its reddish and yellow central area, looks rather like an explosion from a Hollywood movie. The galaxy, called NGC 5010, is in a period of transition. The aging galaxy is moving on from life as a spiral galaxy, like our Milky Way, to an older, less defined type called an elliptical galaxy. In this in-between phase, astronomers refer to NGC 5010 as a lenticular galaxy, which has features of both spirals and ellipticals.

Solar corona larger image

Tomorrow's total solar eclipse will only be visible in its entirety to ground-based observers watching from northern Australia, but ESA's Sun-watching Proba-2 satellite will have a ringside seat from its orbit around Earth.

Titan's swirling south-polar vortex stands out brightly against the other clouds of the south pole (seen at the lower right of the image). The Cassini spacecraft is monitoring the development of the south polar vortex to help understand seasonal changes on Saturn's largest moon.

For a color image of the south polar vortex on Titan, see Titan's Colorful South Polar Vortex. For a movie of the vortex, see Titan's South Polar Vortex in Motion.

The Milky Way and other galaxies in the universe harbor many young star clusters and associations that each contain hundreds to thousands of hot, massive, young stars known as O and B stars. The star cluster Cygnus OB2 contains more than 60 O-type stars and about a thousand B-type stars. Deep observations with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory have been used to detect the X-ray emission from the hot outer atmospheres, or coronas, of young stars in the cluster and to probe how these fascinating star factories form and evolve.

"NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) successfully have used an experimental version of interplanetary Internet to control an educational rover from the International Space Station. The experiment used NASA's Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) protocol to transmit messages and demonstrate technology that one day may enable Internet-like communications with space vehicles and support habitats or infrastructure on another planet. Space station Expedition 33 commander Sunita Williams in late October used a NASA-developed laptop to remotely drive a small LEGO robot at the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany. The European-led experiment used NASA's DTN to simulate a scenario in which an astronaut in a vehicle orbiting a planetary body controls a robotic rover on the planet's surface." More


NASA astronaut Sunita Williams recently controlled an ESA rover in Germany from the International Space Station in a joint test of a communication protocol designed for interplanetary spaceflight.

Three rugged vehicles parked in front of Concordia research base in Antarctica. During the cold winter months the machines are stored from the snow and wind. When the temperatures rise in the summer they are service and used to prepare the base for the arrival of over 50 scientists.Credits: IPEV/PNRA-E. Bondoux

The views from the top of Mount Kilimanjaro--a 5,895-meter (19,341-foot) dormant stratovolcano in Tanzania--are as surreal as they are spectacular. After ascending through multiple ecosystems, including cropland, lush rainforest, alpine desert, and a virtual dead zone near the summit, climbers can find themselves peering down on a thick blanket of clouds below that seems to stretch endlessly in the distance.

"Future space explorers are getting on their marks to invade gyms and train like astronauts for the 2013 Mission-X challenge. Luca Parmitano, the next European to fly to the Space Station, is giving youngsters tips on being fit and having a healthy lifestyle. In its third year, Mission-X fever is spreading across the planet. Schoolchildren aged 8-12 years will follow the six-week challenge in over 20 different countries. In Europe, new participants will include Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Young explorers worldwide will earn points by completing activities inspired by astronaut training." More

OPPORTUNITY UPDATE: More Driving And Imaging At 'Matijevic Hill' - sols 3118-3124, Oct. 31, 2012-Nov. 6, 2012:

Opportunity is continuing the local area survey around the location called Matijevic Hill (named in honor of Jake Matijevic) at the inboard edge of Cape York on the rim of Endeavour Crater.

Every six seconds, for millions of years, comets have been colliding with one another near a star in the constellation Cetus called 49 CETI, which is visible to the naked eye.

Over the past three decades, astronomers have discovered hundreds of dusty disks around stars, but only two -- 49 CETI is one -- have been found that also have large amounts of gas orbiting them.


Every six seconds, for millions of years, comets have been colliding with one another near a star in the constellation Cetus called 49 CETI, which is visible to the naked eye.


A new super-Earth planet that may have an Earth-like climate and be just right to support life has been discovered around a nearby star by an international team of astronomers, led by Mikko Tuomi, University of Hertfordshire, and Guillem Anglada-Escude, University of Goettingen.

A new super-Earth planet that may have an Earth-like climate and be just right to support life has been discovered around a nearby star by an international team of astronomers, led by Mikko Tuomi, University of Hertfordshire, and Guillem Anglada-Escude, University of Goettingen.


NASA's Aqua satellite captured an infrared image of the developing low pressure system off the Mid-Atlantic coast that is forecast to become a Nor'easter and bring winds, heavy surf, rain and snow to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast today, Nov. 7 and tomorrow, Nov. 8.


On Oct. 28, 2011, the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite successfully blasted into orbit in a spectacular night launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

These two images are season-long composites of ocean chlorophyll concentrations derived from visible radiometric measurements made by the VIIRS instrument on Suomi NPP. The date ranges of the two composites are included in the individual images. These false-colored images make the data stand out. The purple and blue colors represent lower chlorophyll concentrations. The oranges and reds represent higher chlorophyll concentrations. These differences in color indicate areas with lesser or greater phytoplankton biomass. Credit: NASA/Suomi NPP/Norman Kuring

It looks like even the craters on Mercury have heard of Bob Ross! The central peaks of this complex crater have formed in such a way that it resembles a smiling face. This image is oriented so north is toward the bottom.

NASA's Aqua satellite captured an infrared image of the developing low pressure system off the Mid-Atlantic coast that is forecast to become a Nor'easter and bring winds, heavy surf, rain and snow to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast today, Nov. 7 and tomorrow, Nov. 8. Nor'easters get their name from the continuously strong northeasterly winds blowing in from the ocean ahead of the storm and over the coastal areas.


"Registration is now open for the 20th annual NASA Great Moonbuggy Race, which challenges high school, college and university students around the world to build and race fast, lightweight "moonbuggies" of their own design. The students' work will culminate in two days of competitive racing April 26-27, 2013, at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. NASA created the event two decades ago to complement classroom learning, provide young thinkers and builders with real-world engineering experience and inspire them to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- the STEM fields. "It's our goal to keep the wheels turning," said Tammy Rowan, manager of the Academic Affairs Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, which organizes the race each year. "The ingenuity and enthusiasm we see among racers begins in the classroom. That first spark of interest -- whether it's in basic chemistry or astronomy or the history of spaceflight -- starts the wheels turning. The Great Moonbuggy Race helps sustain that momentum, turning interest into passion, and dreams into a lifelong pursuit of new answers and new horizons." More


This composite image of asteroid 2007 PA8 was obtained using data taken by NASA's 230-foot-wide (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, Calif.

It's difficult not to think of an egg when looking at Saturn's moon Methone, seen here during a Cassini flyby of the small moon. The relatively smooth surface adds to the effect created by the oblong shape.

Small moons like Methone are not generally spherical in shape like the larger moons. Their small sizes means that they lack sufficient gravity to pull themselves into a round shape. Scientists think that the elongated shapes of these moons may be a clue to how they formed.

This composite image of asteroid 2007 PA8 was obtained using data taken by NASA's 230-foot-wide (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, Calif. The composite incorporates images generated from data collected at Goldstone on Oct. 28, 29, and 30, 2012. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Gemini

In the Zvezda Service Module, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, Expedition 33 flight engineer, monitors the rendezvous and docking of the Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft, bringing NASA astronaut Kevin Ford, Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin to the space station. ISS033-E-016098 (25 Oct. 2012) - high res (2.2 M) low res (119 K)

Scientist Aaron Curtis descends into Sauna Cave on Mount Erebus. Curtis is conducting an ongoing survey of the dozens of ice caves along the flanks of the volcano. Research on the caves has linked the vents that feed into the subterranean structures to being a major source of carbon dioxide. Photo Credit: Nial Peters

Peter Rejcek, Antarctic Sun Editor: The discovery of a lava lake on Mount Erebus 40 years ago offered a window into the "plumbing" of Antarctica's southernmost active volcano.

If you want to learn more about the history of Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system, craters are a great place to look. Now, thanks to LRO's LROC instrument, we can take a much closer look at Linn? Crater on the moon--a pristine crater that's great to use to compare with other craters.

One of the lowest mass supermassive black holes ever observed in the middle of a galaxy has been identified, thanks to NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and several other observatories. The host galaxy is of a type not expected to harbor supermassive black holes, suggesting that this black hole, while related to its supermassive cousins, may have a different origin.

Isla Santiago is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 33 crew member on the International Space Station. The island of Santiago is located near the center of the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. The Galapagos Islands are situated near the equator, and were formed from volcanism related to a large mantle plume (also known as a hot spot). This hot spot is very close to the tectonic boundary between the Galapagos Ridge, a plate boundary that is also an oceanic spreading center, and the Nazca and Cocos plates.

SpaceRef is committed to providing timely, useful news and analysis on a wide variety of topics. Our web site focusing on business has been up until today called Commercial Space Watch. Today I'm happy to announce that in the first of many changes to the site we''re rebranding it as SpaceRef Business (spaceref.biz). Over the coming months you'll see increased business coverage and services on the site.


Set against a star-studded backdrop and a splash of the Milky Way, the green glow of an auroral curtain pervades the permanently dark winter skies of the South Pole.

Set against a star-studded backdrop and a splash of the Milky Way, the green glow of an auroral curtain pervades the permanently dark winter skies of the South Pole. The only sign of life here is the Concordia research station that ESA uses to prepare for future long-duration missions beyond Earth. The site also caters to scientific research from geology and glaciology to climate change, astronomy and planetary magnetic fields.

The Hergenrother comet is currently traversing the inner-solar system. Amateur and professional astronomers alike have been following the icy-dirt ball over the past several weeks as it has been generating a series of impressive outbursts of cometary-dust material. Now comes word that the comet's nucleus has taken the next step in its relationship with Mother Nature.


The Hergenrother comet is currently traversing the inner-solar system. Amateur and professional astronomers alike have been following the icy-dirt ball over the past several weeks as it has been generating a series of impressive outbursts of cometary-dust material. Now comes word that the comet's nucleus has taken the next step in its relationship with Mother Nature.

Space Shuttle Endeavour brings out the crowds in Los Angeles as the orbiter wends its way from LAX to the California Science Center. Also, legacy power; milestone met; water drop tests; Curiosity Rover Report; and more!

NASA's DC-8 flying laboratory passes Antarctica's tallest peak, Mount Vinson, on Oct. 22, 2012, during a flight over the continent to measure changes in the massive ice sheet and sea ice. The flight is part of NASA's Operation IceBridge, a multi-year airborne campaign to monitor changes in Earth's polar ice caps in both the Antarctic and Arctic. IceBridge science flights from Punta Arenas, Chile, began on Oct. 12 and continue through early November. Mount Vinson is located in the Sentinel Range of the Ellsworth Mountains in Antarctica. Image Credit: NASA/Michael Studinger. Larger image

An unpiloted ISS Progress resupply vehicle approaches the International Space Station, carrying 2,050 pounds of space station propellant, 62 pounds of oxygen, 42 pounds of air, 926 pounds of water and 2,738 pounds of spare parts, crew supplies and equipment for the Expedition 33 crew members. Progress 49 docked to the station's Zvezda Service Module aft port at 9:33 a.m. (EDT) on Oct. 31, 2012. ISS033-E-016932 (31 Oct. 2012) - high res (1.3 M) low res (52 K)

Solar systems with life-bearing planets may be rare if they are dependent on the presence of asteroid belts of just the right mass, according to a study by Rebecca Martin, a NASA Sagan Fellow from the University of Colorado in Boulder, and astronomer Mario Livio of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md.


Solar systems with life-bearing planets may be rare if they are dependent on the presence of asteroid belts of just the right mass, according to a study by Rebecca Martin, a NASA Sagan Fellow from the University of Colorado in Boulder, and astronomer Mario Livio of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md.


NASA's car-sized rover, Curiosity, has taken significant steps toward understanding how Mars may have lost much of its original atmosphere.

OPPORTUNITY UPDATE: Survey Of 'Matijevic Hill' Continues - sols 3111-3117, Oct. 24, 2012-Oct. 30, 2012:

Opportunity has completed approximately half of the local area survey around the location called Matijevic Hill (named in honor of Jake Matijevic) at the inboard edge of Cape York on the rim of Endeavour Crater.

Covering part of the Eastern Mediterranean this Envisat image is dominated by the island of Cyprus, a former British colony that became independent in 1960.

The island was shaped from the collision of the African and European tectonic plates. It is located on the Anatolian plate and therefore belongs geologically to Asia.

As Hurricane Sandy moved north along the East Coast of the United States, its waves churned up sediments from the continental shelf and left turbid water in its wake. By midday October 30, 2012, the skies over coastal Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina had cleared enough to reveal that turbidity to the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite. Meanwhile, the remnants of the storm were battering the northeastern states.

Given Tablets but No Teachers, Ethiopian Children Teach Themselves, MIT

"With 100 million first-grade-aged children worldwide having no access to schooling, the One Laptop Per Child organization is trying something new in two remote Ethiopian villages--simply dropping off tablet computers with preloaded programs and seeing what happens. ... Earlier this year, OLPC workers dropped off closed boxes containing the tablets, taped shut, with no instruction. "I thought the kids would play with the boxes. Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, found the on-off switch ... powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child, per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs in the village, and within five months, they had hacked Android," Negroponte said. "Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera, and they figured out the camera, and had hacked Android."

Ethiopian kids hack OLPCs in 5 months with zero instruction, Dvice

"What happens if you give a thousand Motorola Zoom tablet PCs to Ethiopian kids who have never even seen a printed word? Within five months, they'll start teaching themselves English while circumventing the security on your OS to customize settings and activate disabled hardware. Whoa."

Keith's note: If you read NASA Watch often enough you know I tend to focus a lot on the education and public outreach that NASA does, crowd sourcing, open source computing, etc. When I came across this story my jaw dropped. I had seen hints of this when I was in Nepal and visited the Khumjung school and when I saw Sherpa children playing with laptops in remote villages where small scale hydro systems provided only rudimentary power. I have an OLPC XO laptop so I have an idea what they have to work with. But this story from Ethiopia just stunned me. The take home lesson? Perhaps education and public outreach as practiced by NASA and other agencies and organizations needs to just drop the trendy gimmicks and focus in on the most basic enablers of learning. Imagine the cadre of coders and spacecraft designers NASA could cause to arise form all sectors of the economy and regions of the America ...

With temperatures dropping in the northern hemisphere, fall colors have swept across the Mid-Atlantic. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite captured this natural-color image on October 22, 2012. The brownish-red areas in the Appalachians are hardwood forests dominated by oaks; the yellower shades in the Delmarva Peninsula are evidence of corn or soybean crops, not fall foliage.

An iceberg embedded in sea ice in the Bellingshausen Sea, seen from the IceBridge DC-8 on Oct. 19. Credit: NASA / George Hale. View larger

This colourful view of the globular star cluster NGC 6362 was captured by the Wide Field Imager attached to the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile. This new picture, along with a new image of the central region from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, provide the best view of this little-known cluster ever obtained. Globular clusters are mainly composed of tens of thousands of very ancient stars, but they also contain some stars that look suspiciously young.

On 6 June, the high-resolution stereo camera on ESA's Mars Express revisited the Argyre basin as featured in our October release, but this time aiming at Nereidum Montes, some 380 km northeast of Hooke crater.

The stunning rugged terrain of Nereidum Montes marks the far northern extent of Argyre, one of the largest impact basins on Mars.

Nereidum Montes stretches almost 1150 km and was named by the noted Greek astronomer Eugene Michel Antoniadi (1870-1944).


On 6 June, the high-resolution stereo camera on ESA's Mars Express revisited the Argyre basin as featured in our October release, but this time aiming at Nereidum Montes, some 380 km northeast of Hooke crater.

As Hurricane Sandy made a historic landfall on the New Jersey coast during the night of Oct. 29, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on NASA/NOAA's Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite captured this night-time view of the storm. This image provided by University of Wisconsin-Madison is a composite of several satellite passes over North America taken 16 to18 hours before Sandy's landfall.


As Hurricane Sandy made a historic landfall on the New Jersey coast during the night of Oct. 29, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on NASA/NOAA's Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite captured this night-time view of the storm.

This video highlights sights and sounds from the journey of NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Cassini launched 15 years ago and has been exploring the Saturn system since 2004.