After the Moon and Mars, ISRO eyes Venus for next exploration mission


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After the successful launch of its Mars orbiter, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is now viewing Venus as possibly the next planet it can study and explore.

“Besides the Mars-2 mission, we are looking at Venus and even an asteroid for exploration. A project has to be formulated for this before we chart out a proper roadmap for the explorations.  Venus is our neighbour and has many scientific challenges and aspects that need to be studied. Exploring an asteroid is also challenging task,” Dr Kiran Kumar, Isro chairman, told HT.

In 2014, India created history in space when its Mars orbiter slipped into the Red Planet’s orbit in its maiden attempt.

India became the first Asian country to reach Mars and the first in the world to enter the orbit of the planet in its first attempt.

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Photo of Mars as taken by ISRO’s Mars Oriber Mission

Regarding the Saarc satellite, Dr Kumar said that it would be launched before December 2016. “The activities related to this project are in progress and we should begin building the satellite soon.”

Moving beyond satellite launches and planetary explorations, Isro is also aggressively working with many government departments on optimising the usage of space tools and data.

A national meet on space is likely to be held in Delhi next month, where ministries and departments of the government will give presentations on how they are using space tools in their workings. From civil aviation to railways, tribal affairs to health, postal to agriculture the number of government departments working with Isro has increased to more than 60 in the past few months.

Source : HindustanTimes

Spectacular Images and Video of India From the International Space Station


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Pictures and footage of India taken from space show the country by night and day as seen from the International Space Station, including a spectacular lightning storm.

The images were taken by Terry Virts, the commander of the current project, Expedition 43, at the space station and tweeted from his verified account.

A one-year joint mission between space agencies in the United States, Russia and Europe, began on Mar. 11, 2015 and is in its final days. Astronauts are expected to return to Earth on Wednesday.

The six-member crew have been conducting astrophysics research, physical science investigations and technology demonstrations, but no space walks.

Two of the crew, Scott Kelly and Mikhail Korneinko, have spent the entire year in space and have undergone medical studies to help further scientific advancements on Earth. Other astronauts were rotated in at the end of Expedition 42 in December.

Check out some other Amzing Pictures of India From space taken by Terry Virts

Source: http://blogs.wsj.com

NASA’s Messenger Spacecraft Crashes into Mercury, Captures Stunning Shots Before Demise


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Artist rendering of Messenger above Mercury.

NASA confirmed Thursday afternoon that its Messenger spacecraft collided into Mercury’s surface at more than 8,000 mph, creating a new crater on the planet.

NOTE : MESSENGER (a backronym of MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) was a robotic NASA spacecraft which orbited the planet Mercury.MESSENGER became the second mission after Mariner 10’s 1975 flyby to reach Mercury when it made a flyby in January 2008, followed by a second flyby in October 2008, and a third flyby in September 2009, prior to entering Mercury’s orbit in March 2011. It was the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury.

“Going out with a bang as it impacts the surface of Mercury, we are celebrating Messenger as more than a successful mission,” John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate said. “The Messenger mission will continue to provide scientists with a bonanza of new results as we begin the next phase of this mission — analyzing the exciting data already in the archives, and unraveling the mysteries of Mercury.”

But before Messenger’s years-long mission came an end, NASA released several new photos of Mercury, as taken by the spacecraft. Some of these photos were composite imagery, combining years of data and photos collected by Messenger, according to CNET.

Here’s one of the incredible false-color images recently published by NASA. The different colors signify variations in mineral composition, topography and other factors on Mercury’s surface.

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Here are some images of Mercury,

Click Image to Start Slideshow

The mission ended, according to NASA, because the spacecraft’s thrusters have run out of fuel.

Source : Weather.com

Our star is five billion years younger than most in the Milky Way


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Our sun is nearly 4.5 billion years — which means it missed the charming initial years of the Milky Way galaxy. If you were standing on a planet nearly about 10 billion years ago, when the Milky Way was pretty young, the night sky would have appeared very different. The image below is an artist’s impression of the night sky on a planet in a relatively young Milky Way-type galaxy, the way our galaxy was 10 billion years ago. You can see “the sky are ablaze with star birth. Pink clouds of gas harbor newborn stars, and bluish-white, young star clusters litter the landscape,” as NASA explains.

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Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Z. Levay (STScI)

A recent study of young galaxies like our own demonstrates that as these galaxies slow down creating stars, they also stop developing as quickly in general. Which is quite logical. NASA explains:

“Astronomers don’t have baby pictures of our Milky Way’s formative years to trace the history of stellar growth so they studied galaxies similar in mass to our Milky Way, found in deep surveys of the universe. The farther into the universe astronomers look, the further back in time they are seeing, because starlight from long ago is just arriving at Earth now. From those surveys, stretching back in time more than 10 billion years, researchers assembled an album of images containing nearly 2,000 snapshots of Milky Way-like galaxies. The new census provides the most complete picture yet of how galaxies like the Milky Way grew over the past 10 billion years into today’s majestic spiral galaxies. The multi-wavelength study spans ultraviolet to far-infrared light, combining observations from NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory, and ground-based telescopes, including the Magellan Baade Telescope at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile.”

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Above is a selection of Hubble Space Telescope photos, displaying how galaxies similar to our own developed over time.

Source : Physics-astronomy

Hubble Space Telescope Views Globular Cluster Messier 22


The crammed centre of Messier 22

This newly released Hubble image shows Messier 22, the brightest globular cluster visible from the northern hemisphere.

A globular cluster is a spherical collection of stars that orbits a galactic core as a satellite. Globular clusters are very tightly bound by gravity, which gives them their spherical shapes and relatively high stellar densities toward their centers.

Messier 22 is located in the constellation Sagittarius, approximately 10,400 light-years away.

It was the first globular cluster to be discovered. German astronomer Johann Abraham Ihle found it on August 26, 1665, while observing Saturn.

The cluster, also known as M22 or NGC 6656, has a diameter of about 70 light-years and half a million solar masses.

According to astronomers, Messier 22 orbits the galactic center once every 200 million years.

The cluster is an easy object for the naked eye to see. Despite its relative proximity to us, the light from the cluster’s stars is not as bright as it should be as it is dimmed by dust and gas located between us and Messier 22.

As they are leftovers from the early Universe, globular clusters are popular study objects for astronomers.

Messier 22 has fascinating additional features: six planet-sized objects that are not orbiting a star have been detected in the cluster; it seems to host two black holes.

The cluster is one of only three ever found to host a planetary nebula – a short-lived gaseous shells ejected by massive stars at the ends of their lives.

Source : Sci-news

The icy eyes of Mars


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One thing all solid bodies in the Solar System share in common is craters. Some worlds, like Mercury or the Moon, are covered in them, having no atmosphere to erode them away. Earth has relatively few; our dynamic atmosphere and water circulation wipes them out after a few millennia. And some icy bodies like Saturn’s moon Enceladus or Jupiter’s Europa only have a few because their surfaces are also constantly changing… on a geologic timescale.

Source : Sen Blog

Russia to create joint orbital station with India, China


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Russia is exploring the possibility of a joint manned orbital station with India and China as part of a common strategy to create technological alliances and may take up the matter with the two Asian space giants in July.

“Moscow could propose to China and India to create a joint manned orbital station at the summit of the BRICS emerging economies in Russia’s Ufa in July,” a document drafted by the expert council at Russia’s military and industrial commission said.

The experts recommend “working out the possibilities of an international manned project with BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) countries as part of a common strategy of creating technological alliances”, Itar Tass reported.

The proposal comes after months of speculation that the crisis in Ukraine would doom U.S.-Russia space cooperation. For two decades this effort has largely been focused on the International Space Station project (ISS), which is due to end in 2020. NASA has proposed extending it to 2024, but Russia has suggested it might duck out and instead build its own space station — possibly with the participation of China.

The BRICS project would be roughly analogous to the ISS, a $150 billion project involving 15 nations. Anchored by the United States and Russia, the world’s leading spacefaring powers, the ISS allows countries with less advanced spaceflight capabilities to either join onto the station’s Russian and American segments or contribute smaller segments.

A BRICS space station would likely emerge from a similar two-nation partnership, again with Russia in a driver’s seat. The Military-Industrial Commission recommended approaching either China or India — both countries that have well-developed and increasingly ambitious space programs. The proposal would then allow other BRICS members to join.

India has yet to put a man in space without hitching rides on other nations’ rockets. Last year, it demonstrated its rising capabilities after launching an unmanned satellite to Mars on a shoestring budget.

China is perhaps the best partner for such a project. China already launches its own astronauts into space, and is designing its own medium-sized space station. The placement of Russia’s new Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East also makes close cooperation with China far easier.

Source : Times Of India , TheMoscowTimes

ISRO Mars Orbiter Mission Team Wins Space Pioneer Award


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The men and women behind India’s Mars Mission at ISRO, Bangalore. (Reuters Photo)

ISRO’s Mars Mission team has won the prestigious 2015 Space Pioneer Award in the science and engineering category in recognition of achieving the rare feat in its very first attempt.

The prestigious award given by the National Space Society would be presented to the ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Programme Team during the National Space Society’s 2015 International Space Development Conference to be held in Toronto from May 20-24.

The mission was launched on November 5, 2013 and went into Mars orbit on September 24, 2014.

In a statement, the Society said, this mission has achieved two significant mission firsts. One an Indian spacecraft has gone into orbit around Mars on the very first try (on Sept 24, 2014), which no other country has ever done.

Secondly, the spacecraft is in an elliptical orbit with a high apoapsis (point at which an orbiting object is farthest away from the body it is orbiting), and has a high resolution camera which is taking full-disk color imagery of Mars.

“Very few full disk images have ever been taken in the past, mostly on approach to the planet, as most imaging is done looking straight down in mapping mode. These images will aid planetary scientists,” the statement said.

The Mars Orbiter programme team located in Bangalore is headed by Dr Mylswamy Annadurai.

The Space Pioneer Award consists of a silvery pewter Moon globe cast by the Baker Art Foundry in Placerville, California, from a sculpture originally created by Don Davis, the well-known space and astronomical artist.

Source : NDTV

NASA Begins Countdown to Pluto Flyby


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An artist’s impression of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, currently en route to Pluto; after nine years and a journey of 3 billion miles, NASA’s New Horizons robotic probe will be woken from hibernation to begin its unprecedented mission: the study of the icy dwarf planet Pluto and its home, the Kuiper Belt.

Today marks the beginning of the world’s encounter with Pluto, as a NASA spacecraft that has journeyed for nine years begins its first phrase of approach to the dwarf planet.

The spacecraft is still 135 million miles away from Pluto, but Thursday marks a significant day for NASA scientists as the beginning of a series of phases in which the spacecraft can start studying and capturing increasingly detailed images of the Pluto system.

In just under six months, the world will catches its first close-up glimpse of Pluto when NASA’s New Horizons zooms within 6,200 miles of the dwarf planet on July 14.

New Horizons has traveled three billion miles since its launch on January 19, 2006, according to NASA. That’s farther than any other other space exploration mission has ever gone to reach its primary target.

As with space missions before it, the New Horizons spacecraft is packed with interesting memorabilia, including two U.S. flags and some of the ashes of Clyde Tombaugh, the American astronomer who discovered Pluto in 1930.

The spacecraft has spent about two-thirds of the time since its launch (intermittently) “in hibernation” in order to reduce the wear and tear on equipment and minimize the risk of system failures. But on December 6 last year, the spacecraft came out of hibernation and switched into active mode for its final approach.

Continue reading NASA Begins Countdown to Pluto Flyby

A Pair of Black Holes Could Soon Collide And Destroy Their Galaxy


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One black hole is not to be messed with, let alone two. Astronomers have discovered what appears to be two supermassive black holes just one light-year apart, setting up a collision so massive it could be release as much energy as 100 million supernovas and destroy it’s inside galaxy . Yep.

A Supermassive Black Hole is the largest type of black hole, on the order of hundreds of thousands to billions of solar masses and are found in the center of almost all massive galaxies.In the case of the Milky Way, the Supermassive black hole is believed to correspond with the location of Sagittarius A*(At the center).

Thankfully, the black holes are far away in a remote galaxy called PG 1302-102. The collision itself, if astronomers have done the calculations right, will happen in the next million years. That’s a pretty unfathomably long time for humans, but just a blink of an eye in cosmic time.

Astronomers are excited about the discovery because a pair of black holes could yield valuable information about theorized but never directly detected gravitational waves. Gravitational waves are ripples in space-time that exist according to Einstein’s theory of general relativity. If the two black holes collide, most of the released energy will be in the form of gravitational waves, literally bending the fabric of space-time.

But for now, the pair of black holes still need to be 100 percent confirmed. When two black holes so far away are close to one another, astronomers on Earth can only see it as a particular flicker of light. Astronomers need to rule the flicker out as a statistical anomaly. Still, in the long history of the universe, black holes have almost certainly collided before. Destroying whole galaxies in one fell swoop is not just science fiction.

Source : gizmodo.com