In this image provided by NASA TV, you can see Endeavour touching down on the runway at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
STS-134′s crew consisted of Commander Mark Kelly, Pilot Gregory H. Johnson and Mission Specialists Michael Fincke, Greg Chamitoff, Andrew Feustel and European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori.
The 16-day mission delivered the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) and spare parts to the International Space Station, including communications antennas, parts for the DEXTRE robot, and a high-pressure gas tank.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden was quoted as saying:
“We are very proud of Endeavour’s legacy, and this penultimate flight of the space shuttle program once again demonstrated the amazing skill and dedication of our astronauts and the entire workforce. As we begin the transition from the shuttle program to the commercial transportation of our crews and cargo, our ability to tackle big challenges remains steadfast and will ensure that NASA reaches even more destinations farther in the solar system.”
STS-134 was Endeavour’s final mission and the shuttle will eventually be on permanent display at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, California.
“If you buy cheap, you buy twice.“ was a response I had received when asking otherÂ amateurÂ astronomers about Orion’s new entry-level imager.
Considering the Celestron Neximage is twice the price, it’s no surprise that many in the community were initially skeptical of the unit. Â What bothered me about the skepticism was that no one had actually used one of these units to see what they were or weren’t capable of.
Deciding to put this product to the test, I ordered one from Orion and within a few days it was on my doorstep.Â Of course, like with any other new astro-gear purchase, the USB eyepiece arrived just in time for some of the worst winter weather Arizona had seen in over a decade. Â After the weather cleared out, I was able to test the USBÂ eyepieceÂ on Jupiter, Saturn, The Moon and a quick peek at Venus.
I also aimed my telescope at the Pleiades (M45) and the Orion Nebula (M42), to see if the image chip could pick up some of the “brighter” objects outside our solar system.
The phenomenon is a result of the grid layout of Manhattan’s city streets, specifically the streets that follow the 1811 Commissioners plan that laid out a grid offset 29.0 degrees from true eastâ€“west. The image to the left depicts Manhattanhenge from 42nd Street and was shot at 8:23 p.m. on July 13, 2006.
Memorial day isn’t the only time this phenomenon takes place! While the event usually occurs in the evenings on or around May 28th, is also happens around July 12th/13th. Around December 5th and January 8th, the phenomenon occurs in the early morning. The dates can, and usually do, vary from year to year.
According to Dr. Tyson:
For best effect, position yourself as far east in Manhattan as possible. But ensure that when you look west across the avenues you can still see New Jersey. Clear cross streets include 14th, 23rd, 34th. 42nd, 57th, and several streets adjacent to them. The Empire State building and the Chrysler building render 34th street and 42nd streets especially striking vistas.
The times listed for best viewing are as follows: ( Try to arrive a half-hour beforehand):
Half Sun on the grid:
Monday, May 30 â€” 8:17 P.M. EDT
Tuesday, July 12 â€” 8:25 P.M. EDT
Full Sun on the grid:
Tuesday, May 31 â€” 8:17 P.M. EDT
Monday, July 11 â€” 8:25 P.M. EDT
If you’d like to read more about the “Manhattanhenge” phenomenon, Dr. Tyson provides additional details at the “http://www.haydenplanetarium.org/resources/starstruck/manhattanhenge, or you can watch an excellent PBS/NOVA video at:
This week at the 218th meeting of the American Astronomical Society, NASA Astrophysics Division director Jon Morse and James Ulvestad, NSF division director for astronomical sciences discussed how budget cuts are creating tough decisions regarding projects outlined in last years 2010 Decadal Survey for Astronomy and Astrophysics.Given budgets that will be either flat or reduced, many agencies will be forced to discontinue existing projects in order to fund new ones. In the May 23rd town hall discussion, Morse said, “We can turn off the old to enable the new, That’s where we are from a budgetary standpoint.” Many researchers are intimately familiar with the budget woes NASA is facing due to the James Webb Space Telescope’s cost overrruns and delays, which have caused other projects to be postponed, or completely cancelled.
During a second town hall meeting on May 24th, Ulvestad discussed the impact budget cuts will have on ground-based projects, such as the The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, Gemini Observatory, and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. Ulvestad mentioned, “We really can’t do any of the decadal survey with a flat budget”. Ulvestad also discussed the current costs of NSF astronomy facilities, which currently over a billion dollars and is expected to reach two billion by the end of the decade once the LSST is completed. Given the expected costs and either flat or reduced budgets Ulvestad mentions â€œThere would basically be no money left over for grants.â€
One poignant quote by Ulvestad is as follows: “We live in the environment of the U.S. budget deficit, You can’t say astronomy doesn’t live there.” Ulvestad’s statement underscores the challenges many science agencies will be facing over the next decade, or longer.â€œThe time for difficult decisions is here.” said Tom Statler, a program director in the NSFâ€™s division of astronomical sciences. Statler also mentioned that the NSF will be creating a panel of researchers to advise on where budget cuts can be made, adding, “These recommendations may include, and this is the bad part: closures, divestments and terminations of programs, We know that this is going to be difficult, and we know that this is going to affect the careers of a lot of people.”
During the May 24th town hall meeting Ulvestad also discussed the decadal survey’s recommendations to consolidate the Gemini project with the National Optical Astronomy Observatory. Given the Gemini Observatory is an international project and the NOAO is a United States entity, there are complications that make a consolidation difficult. Ulvestad also discussed the fact that Gemini Observatory governance is the problem he spends most time on at the moment.
Ulvestad also acknowledged an agency plan to change management of the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico from Cornell University, to a consortium led by SRI International. â€œThere hasnâ€™t been a hand-off of this type in astronomy before,â€ Ulvestad said. While declining to discuss Cornell’s bid, Ulvestad did mention that SRI International’s bid had been selected because the bid included significant involvement by Puerto Rican institutions.
With one of my very first Astronomy research projects being based on the 2MASS data, I have a bit of a personal connection to this announcement by the team at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. I never cease to be amazed by scientific findings that are made years, and even decades after the initial data is acquired.
The 2MASS Redshift Survey, which took more than ten years to complete, produced the most complete 3-D map of the local universe (out to a distance of 380 million light-years) yet. This new map was presented this week at the 218th meeting of the American Astronomical Society.
“The 2MASS Redshift Survey is a wonderfully complete new look at the local universe – particularly near the Galactic plane,” Masters said. “We’re also honoring the legacy of the late John Huchra, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who was a guiding force behind this and earlier galaxy redshift surveys.”
To generate a 3-D map, the researchers utilized redshift measurements to calculate galaxy distances, which provide a third dimension to the map. The researchers chose galaxies made by the Two-Micron All-SkySurvey (2MASS). Utilizing three “near-infrared” wavelengths, 2MASS was able to see through obscuring dust that ordinarily blocks visible light. The end result is a sky survey that is generally more complete than what would be available with standard optical telescopes.
During the 218th meeting of the American Astronomical Society, the Kepler team presented new findings: A new planet in the Kepler-10 system – the smallest yet discovered, a plethora of multi-planet star systems, and new methods for discovering the true age of a star.
So far, the Kepler mission has discovered two planets in the Kepler-10 system. In January of this year, the discovery of Kepler-10b was announced. So far, Kepler-10b is the smallest known exoplanet, with a radius about 1.4 times Earth’s and orbits its parent star in less than three hours.
This week, the Kepler team announced Kepler-10c (The larger object in the image to the left). The newly discovered planet is much larger than Kepler-10b, with a radius of twice that of Earth and orbiting its parent star in 45 days. Due to the close proximity of both planets to the Kepler-10 star, both worlds would be incredibly hot.
The new discovery was first identified by Kepler, then by using the combination of a computer simulation technique called “Blender,” and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, validated. Since ground-based telescopes have difficulty resolving small, distant planets using the “radial velocity” method, the team will use the “Blender” combination to validate a majority of their discoveries.
The Kepler team also revealed that with over 1,200 planetary candidates, over 400 are in systems with two or more planets. Interestingly enough, most of the discovered multi-planet systems are very different than our solar system. Download a 1.2MB Powerpoint presentation on the topic by David Latham Also presented was a new method for determining the age of a star by measuring the rate at which it spins on its axis. Download the presentation by Francois Fressin – (7.3MB Powerpoint)