Thursday, March 31, 2011

New Images from Mercury: Just the Beginning for MESSENGER in Orbit


Sharing just a few of the 1,500 images the MESSENGER spacecraft has now taken from its orbital vantage point, mission scientists are understandably excitied – if not overwhelmed – by the data being returned from Mercury. “The instruments are all working marvelously and returning data,” said MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon. “The imaging system was turned on earlier this week and over 1,500 images will be acquired over a 3 day period. That is more images than were taken during any of the flybys by the spacecraft.”

Solomon said some of the first image were taken precisely 37 years after the first spacecraft flew by Mercury, Mariner 10 in 1974. “We have now closed the loop begun by Mariner 10, culminating with first insertion of spacecraft in orbit.”

2,430 days ago the MESSENGER lifted off from earth, and after three flybys and a nearly 5 billion mile journey, the spacecraft’s thrusters fired for 15 minutes back on March 17, enabling the spacecraft to ease into orbit.

While already finding intriguing features – many which pose more questions than answers, Solomon reminded reporters during a press conference call today that “all the big questions about Mercury are meant to be answered in a year of observations, not just a couple of days, so we’ll look forward to what is yet to come.”

The top image shows an area of Mercury’s north polar region, revealing terrain that had not been previously seen by spacecraft. The long shadows also accentuate the topography of the surface, which includes a number of ridges, but an unusually smooth surface. Solomon said understanding the interiors of the craters in Mercury’s polar regions and any ices they may contain is one of the main science goals of the MESSENGER mission. “Radar images of Mercury that are now 20 years old suggested that water ice could be in the interiors of these craters,” Solomon said. “That is a hypothesis we’ve been aching to test for 20 years, now and we’ll be able to peer into those crater floors.”

Read the rest of the story on

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

New additions to the website!

I've been working on getting the new website up to speed and it looks like it's coming along well.

  • We have pointed to the new one (still need to get .org fixed)
  • I've added the Event Calendar (see top navigation) and am ready to start publishing public events.
  • I've created a page called Astronomy Tools (top navigation again) so it'll be easy for people to get to the moon phase and sky charts for Longview and Tyler. If you want to see other areas represented, please join the Yahoo group and message me (Robert Brown)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Good meeting

We had an ASET Meeting last night at TJC and here's what we talked about.

Once we ge the domain switched over this will be the new "official" PR website for the group.

We discussed future star parties and enjoyed a presentation on the past, pesent and future of the Hudnall Planetarium (by Tom Hooten - Director of Hudnall Planetarium on the TJC campus). The renderings of the new planetarium are pretty amazing and we can't wait to see how nice it is when it opens in September 2011. Click Here to visit the planetarium website

Also, we were treated to a private planetarium show by Paul Shaw using the portable planetarium he has on loan from A&M Commerce :)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Alien Life (seriously)

Aliens exist, and we have proof.

That astonishingly awesome claim comes from Dr. Richard B. Hoover, an astrobiologist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, who says he has found conclusive evidence of alien life — fossils of bacteria found in an extremely rare class of meteorite called CI1 carbonaceous chondrites. (There are only nine such meteorites on planet Earth.) Hoover’s findings were published late Friday night in the Journal of Cosmology, a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

“I interpret it as indicating that life is more broadly distributed than restricted strictly to the planet earth,” Hoover, who has spent more than 10 years studying meteorites around the world, told in an interview. “This field of study has just barely been touched — because quite frankly, a great many scientist would say that this is impossible.”

Hoover discovered the fossils by breaking apart the CI1 meteorite, and analyzing the exposed rock with a scanning-electron microscope and a field emission electron-scanning microscope, which allowed him to detect any fossil remains. What he found were fossils of micro-organisms, many of which he says are strikingly similar to those found on our own planet.

“The exciting thing is that they are in many cases recognizable and can be associated very closely with the generic species here on earth,” said Hoover. Some of the fossils, however, are quite odd. “There are some that are just very strange and don’t look like anything that I’ve been able to identify, and I’ve shown them to many other experts that have also come up stump.”

click here for the rest of the story

Andrew Couts – Sat Mar 5, 5:28 pm ET

Huge Eruption on the Sun

New Website : )

Welcome to the new website for the Astronomical Society of East Texas.