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Reserve a satellite launch online? Make it so!

Peter Beck
Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck aims to have the company’s Electron rocket blasting off from a New Zealand launch site within a year. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

The CubeSat revolution has come to this: Now you can make an online reservation for a nanosatellite launch almost as easily as booking a flight from Seattle to Los Angeles.

L.A.-based Rocket Lab unveiled its launch booking system today at the annualSmallSat conference in Logan, Utah. “It’s really about trying to break down the barriers and make space more accessible,” Peter Beck, the company’s CEO, explained during a GeekWire interview.

It’s one more small step toward turning the satellite business into a turnkey operation for researchers, entrepreneurs, students and Kickstarter-savvy enthusiasts.

Read the full story at GeekWire.

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GeekWire

The moon photobombs Earth!

Moon and Earth
The moon passes across Earth’s disk in a July 16 image captured by the DSCOVR satellite from its observation point, a million miles out in space. The Americas and the Pacific Ocean are visible beneath Earth’s cloud cover. Because the moon was moving while DSCOVR acquired the data for this three-filter image, there appears to be a thin green offset on the right side of the moon’s disk, and red and blue offsets on the left. (Credit: NASA / NOAA)

The Deep Space Climate Observatory, better known as DSCOVR, is designed to provide full-disk, sunlit views of our home planet from a vantage point a million miles away. But every so often, the moon crosses through the frame. Today, NASA released the first amazing photobomb sequence.

The perspective from DSCOVR’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (a.k.a. EPIC), captured on July 16, provides a topsy-turvy view: Here we’re seeing the moon’s far side, which earthbound skywatchers can never observe. And although it looks like a full moon, on Earth the moon was in its totally dark, “new” phase.

This isn’t the first lunar photobombing: NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft caught the moon crossing Earth’s half-lit disk back in 2008. But when DSCOVR goes into full operation next month and starts sending back near-real-time images, we can expect to see a new-moon photobomb roughly twice a year.

Launched in February, DSCOVR is a joint mission of NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with the twin objectives of making climate observations and keeping watch for incoming solar storms.

The Earth-watching part of the mission follows through on an idea put forward by Vice President Al Gore back in the 1990s – and the former veep was obviously tickled to see the latest pictures released from NASA’s lockbox:

A version of this item was published August 5, 2015, on GeekWire. For more from Alan Boyle, check out the Cosmic Log Google+ archive.

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Universe Today

Kepler mission finds Earth’s older ‘cousin’

This artist’s concept depicts one possible appearance of the planet Kepler-452b, the first near-Earth-size world to be found in the habitable zone of star that is similar to our sun. (NASA Ames / JPL-Caltech Illustration / T. Pyle)

Scientists say NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope has discovered Earth’s “older, bigger first cousin” –  a planet that’s about 60 percent bigger than our own, circling a sunlike star in an orbit that could sustain liquid water and perhaps life.

“Today, Earth is a little bit less lonely, because there’s a new kid on the block,” Kepler data analysis lead Jon Jenkins, a computer scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, said during a NASA teleconference about the find.

Get the full story on Universe Today.

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Universe Today

What are Ceres’ spots? Reply hazy, ask again later

Ceres' Occator Crater
Haze has been detected in Ceres’ Occator Crater. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / UCLA / MPS / DLR / IDA Photo)

The crater that contains those puzzlingly bright spots on Ceres may harbor an equally puzzling haze. Or not. The hints of haze on the dwarf planet, seen in some of the images coming from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, add another intriguing twist to Ceres’ mysteries.

The hubbub over haze arose this week during the Exploration Science Forum at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California. For months, Dawn’s scientists have been observing – and trying to make sense out of – unusually reflective spots within Ceres’ craters that show up when the asteroid turns into the sunlight. The team has speculated that they could be frozen pools of water ice, or patches of light-colored, salt-rich material.

Get the full story on Universe Today.