Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sun's Northern Hemisphere Bristling with Solar Flares

This movie show the activity on the Sun over the latest 48-hours in the 171 Angstrom emission line (showing the ~700,000K plasma) from the Atmospheric and Imaging Assembly (AIA) onboard the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). With a large active region currently in the northern hemisphere of the Sun, there has been a flurry of small solar flares over the past day. This larger active region may actually be comprised of four different active regions that are very close to each other forming one large, interconnected active region with multiple magnetic poles. This magnetically complex region has lead to 12 B-class and 1 C-class solar flare over the last 24 hours.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Discovery Technicians Work to Resolve Small Leak

A small leak was discovered in a propellant line for space shuttle Discovery's orbital maneuvering system engines. The leak was found at a flange located at the interface where two propellant lines meet in the shuttle's aft compartment. The line carries a propellant called monomethyl hydrazine, one of two chemicals used to ignite the 6,000-pound thrust engines seen on either side of the shuttle's tail above the three main engines.

Engineers and technicians working on Discovery at Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida will tighten the six bolts around the suspect flange and re-evaluate for leaks. If that doesn't work, the propellants already inside the tanks will be pumped out and technicians will replace its primary and secondary seals.

The processing schedule could allow the two seals to be replaced without delaying Discovery's targeted launch on Nov. 1. Space Shuttle Program managers, however, are careful about making sure any potential fixes are indeed successful before pressing ahead with a countdown.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

NASA astronaut launch video

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka and Alexander Kaleri launched in their Soyuz TMA-01M spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Thursday at 7:10 p.m. EDT (Friday, Kazakhstan time) beginning a two-day journey to the International Space Station.

Less than 10 minutes after launch, their spacecraft reached orbit and its antennas and solar arrays were deployed.

The trio will dock to the Poisk module Saturday at 8:02 p.m. completing the Expedition 25 crew. Kelly, Skripochka and Kaleri will begin a five-month tour of duty aboard the orbiting laboratory.

Welcoming them aboard will be current station residents, Expedition 25 Commander Doug Wheelock and Flight Engineers Fyodor Yurchikhin and Shannon Walker. Wheelock, Yurchikhin and Walker arrived June 17 aboard their Soyuz TMA-19 spacecraft.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

MAVEN Mission to Investigate How Sun Steals Martian Atmosphere

The Red Planet bleeds. Not blood, but its atmosphere, slowly trickling away to space. The culprit is our sun, which is using its own breath, the solar wind, and its radiation to rob Mars of its air. The crime may have condemned the planet's surface, once apparently promising for life, to a cold and sterile existence.

Features on Mars resembling dry riverbeds, and the discovery of minerals that form in the presence of water, indicate that Mars once had a thicker atmosphere and was warm enough for liquid water to flow on the surface. However, somehow that thick atmosphere got lost in space. It appears Mars has been cold and dry for billions of years, with an atmosphere so thin, any liquid water on the surface quickly boils away while the sun's ultraviolet radiation scours the ground.