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    Coming Oct. 27: Total Lunar Eclipse

    By Joe Rao
    SPACE.com Night Sky Columnist
    posted: 01 October 2004
    06:43 am ET

    Less than a year after North America was treated to a total lunar eclipse, another one will take place on the final Wednesday of this month.

    Almost everyone in the Americas and Western Europe will have a beautiful view of this eclipse. The Moon will be positioned well up in a dark, evening sky as viewed from most of the United States and Canada.

    Along the immediate West Coast the first partial stage of the eclipse will get under way just minutes after the Moon has risen. But by late twilight even Westerners will have a fine view of the totally eclipsed Moon, probably glowing dimly like a reddish ember low in the eastern sky.

    Across much of Alaska, the eclipse will already be underway when the Moon comes up; over southwest Alaska, the Moon will rise totally eclipsed, appearing like a weird, mottled, dim ball among the twilight stars. For Hawaiians, moonrise comes just after the end of totality, with the Moon ascending with its gradual emergence from the shadow readily visible

    It is easy to view this celestial spectacle.

    Unlike an eclipse of the Sun, which requires special viewing precautions in order to avoid eye damage, an eclipse of the Moon is perfectly safe to watch. All you’ll need are your eyes, but binoculars or a telescope will give a much nicer view.

    Totality will last somewhat longer than average, as eclipses go. The Moon will track through the northern portion of the Earth’s total shadow, called the umbra, creating a total shadow on the Moon for 1 hour and 22 minutes.

    Unless airborne volcanic aerosols or other atmospheric effects influence its appearance, the Moon’s disk should appear relatively bright, even when in shadow and especially right around the beginning and end of totality. The upper part of the Moon will likely appear brightest and glowing a ruddy or coppery hue, while the lower half of the Moon should look grayer or chocolate in color.

    The eclipse will actually begin when the Moon enters the faint outer portion, or penumbra, of the Earth’s shadow more than an hour before it begins moving into the umbra. The penumbra, however, is all but invisible to the eye until the Moon becomes deeply immersed in it. Sharp-eyed viewers may get their first glimpse of the penumbra as a faint "smudge" on the left part of the Moon’s disk at or around 8:48 p.m. EDT or 6:48 p.m. MDT.

    Main event

    Below is a timeline, for Eastern Daylight Time. In the Central Time Zone, subtract one hour from these times; in the Mountain Time Zone, two hours, and for the Pacific Time Zone, three hours.

    9:14 p.m.: Moon enters Earth’s dark umbral shadow
    10:23 p.m.: Totality begins
    11:04 p.m.: Mid-eclipse
    11:45 p.m.: Totality ends
    12:54 a.m. (Oct. 28): Moon leaves the umbra
    For Europe and Africa, the mid-point of this eclipse occurs roughly between midnight and dawn on the morning of Oct. 28 and as such the Moon will still be well placed in the western sky. At the moment of mid-totality (3:04 GMT), the Moon will stand directly overhead from a point in the Atlantic Ocean roughly several hundred miles to the northeast of the coast of Suriname.

    Interestingly, this will be fourth total lunar eclipse dating back to May 15, 2003. Four successive lunar eclipses can all be total ones, each eclipse coming at intervals of just under six months apart. Such an unusual lunar cycle is called a tetrad.

    The Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli (1835-1910) discovered that during a period of about three centuries tetrads can occur rather frequently; then in the next three hundred years tetrads never occur at all.

    "Presently we are living in a period where tetrads take place, while no tetrads at all occurred at the time Louis XIV was king of France," says the well-known Belgian eclipse calculator Jean Meeus.

    After this month’s eclipse, there will be no other total lunar eclipses until March 3, 2007.



    Bucky Ramone

    LOS ANGELES, California (AP) — As NASA’s Mars rovers keep rolling past all expectations of their useful lives, scientists have a happy mystery: For some reason one of the vehicles has actually gained power recently.

    Mystery power boost for Mars rover (from cnn.com) 8)



    I want one of these for my back yard… :P :wink:


    Inflatable space module wins approval
    By Leonard David
    Thursday, November 25, 2004 Posted: 9:00 AM EST

    (SPACE.com) — The U.S. government has given payload approval to Bigelow Aerospace permitting the entrepreneurial firm to launch its inflatable space module technology.

    Bigelow Aerospace of North Las Vegas, Nevada has blueprinted a step-by-step program to explore the use of inflatable Earth orbiting modules. Those modules would not only support made-in-microgravity product development, but serve as the technological foundation for eventual space tourist housing and use of similar structures on the moon and Mars.

    The Federal Aviation Administration’s Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, or FAA-AST, has given Bigelow Aerospace payload approval for flying its Genesis inflatable module – one-third scale hardware crafted to lead to a much larger space habitat dubbed the Nautilus.

    Extensive review
    The FAA-AST approval letter of November 17 regarding the Bigelow Aerospace scale demonstration module comes after an extensive review of the concept, including its construction, materials used, shielding technology, the in-space inflation process to be utilized, as well as the deorbiting of the test module.

    "Obtaining the FAA-AST payload approval for Genesis is a first of its kind," explained Mike Gold, corporate counsel for Bigelow Aerospace in Washington, D.C. "This will go a long way to establishing a good precedent for the inflatables," he said.

    "This is a first step…but an important first step along the road that Bigelow Aerospace is traveling," Gold added. To obtain the "favorable payload determination" by the FAA-AST, a review process took place over roughly an eight-month period, he said.

    Gold said that the approval letter is not "rocket specific" and carries no deadline date. The letter indicates, he said, that if a launch operator applies to the FAA for license to launch a vehicle carrying the Genesis payload, the favorable payload determination will be incorporated in the review of the license application.

    "It’s one small step for the FAA-AST, one giant leap for Bigelow Aerospace," Gold said. He saluted the FAA-AST for helping nascent space firms move forward and for taking a larger look at the role entrepreneurs and new technologies can play in space.

    Bigelow Aerospace is headed by Robert Bigelow, owner of the Budget Suites of America Hotel Chain, among a roster of other business ventures.

    The current plan is to launch the Genesis payload on the private booster, the Falcon V, a derivative of the still-to-fly Falcon 1 being built by Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) in El Segundo, California.

    The Genesis prototype hardware would be onboard the Falcon V’s maiden flight that is targeted for a November 2005 time frame.

    Bigelow Aerospace also plans to loft a Genesis Pathfinder module in April 2006, using a silo-launched Dnepr booster under contract with ISC Kosmotras, a Russian and Ukrainian rocket-for-hire company.

    America’s Space Prize
    Earlier this month, Bigelow Aerospace took the wraps off the $50 million "America’s Space Prize". That contest, with a January 10, 2010 deadline, is designed to stimulate the building of orbital, crew-carrying spacecraft that have the ability to dock with a Bigelow Aerospace inflatable space habitat.

    "We’ve gotten lots of interest from a variety of sources," Gold said. "It has run the spectrum from small entrepreneurial groups to interest from larger traditional aerospace companies."

    There have been some gripes from would-be contestants not based in the United States.

    In the primary rules for the competition it states that the contestant must be domiciled in the United States of America. Furthermore, the contestant must have its principal place of business in the U.S.

    For one, if a spacecraft system is developed domestically in the United States, a benefit is not dealing with International Traffic in Arms Regulations and export control issues that can be "quite difficult and quite problematic," Gold explained.

    However, Gold added, those two prize rules should not be construed as some kind of blanket prohibition on international participation. "I would imagine that an international entity would be able to easily establish a subsidiary of some kind that would meet those two requirements."

    "America’s Space Prize in no way precludes international participation. That’s just not the case," Gold said.

    Copyright © 1999-2004 SPACE.com, Inc.



    probably a good thing… :P

    Whew! Asteroid Won’t Hit Earth in 2029, Scientists Now Say
    By Robert Roy Britt
    Senior Science Writer
    posted: 27 December 2004
    08:15 pm ET

    The world can exhale a collective sigh of relief. A newfound asteroid tagged with the highest warning level ever issued will not strike Earth, scientists said Monday.

    The giant space rock, named 2004 MN4, was said on Dec. 23 to have an outside shot at hitting the planet on April 13, 2029. The odds climbed as high as 1-in-37, or 2.7 percent, on Monday, Dec. 27.

    Researchers had flagged the object as one to monitor very carefully. It was the first asteroid to be ranked 4 on the Torino Scale, a Richter-like measure for potentially threatening space rocks. The asteroid is about a quarter mile (400 meters) wide, large enough to cause considerable local or regional damage were it to hit the planet.

    All along, scientists said additional observations would likely reduce the chance of impact to zero for the April 13 scenario, but they did not expect any significant new data to allow such a downgrading for days or weeks.

    Instead, old observations provided the data necessary to rule out an impact.

    Several groups were looking for the asteroid in past observations. Jeff Larsen and Anne Descour of the Spacewatch Observatory near Tucson, Arizona, found very faint images of asteroid 2004 MN4 on archival images dating to March 15 this year. Astronomers already had observations in June and from this month.

    "An Earth impact on April 13, 2029 can now be ruled out," read a statement issued Monday evening by asteroid experts Don Yeomans, Steve Chesley and Paul Chodas at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

    It is not the first time a potentially threatening asteroid has been theoretically defused by looking into the past, pointed out Clark Chapman of the Southwest Research Institute. Most famously, a space rock catalogued as 1997 XF11 was said, in 1998, to be on a collision course before archived data showed it would pass harmlessly.

    "Past observations can greatly extend the time baseline and strongly influence knowledge of the orbit," Chapman told SPACE.com. "At some level, we are ‘lucky’ that these earlier sightings were made since 2004 MN4 is usually too faint to be detected by near-Earth-object search telescopes."

    The difficulty in predicting a precise path earlier in the game owes to knowing only a small section of an asteroid’s orbit around the Sun. New observations — or old ones — make the known path longer and allow a better prediction of the full path, as well as where an asteroid will be years from now.

    Orbits change slightly with time because of gravitational tugs by the Sun and planets, among other factors.

    2004 MN4 circles the Sun, but unlike most asteroids that reside in a belt between Mars and Jupiter, the 323-day orbit of 2004 MN4 lies mostly within the orbit of Earth.

    Scientists cannot say that the asteroid will never hit Earth, but there are no serious threats in the foreseeable future. "No subsequent Earth encounters in the 21st century are of any concern," the NASA statement read.



    Nasa’s Comet Smashing Spacecraft is on it’s way, plan is to smash into a huge comet on July 4’th. Heard a guy from Oz this am talking about what they hope to find, called the comet a huge frozen snowball, a primordial laboratory. Sounds pleasing, hope it works. Some problems post launch though, spacecraft is in safe mode r/t some kind of temp regulation problems, they say it can be fixed…fingers crossed, Nasa’s had some bad luck recently, the Stardust crash landing was a huge loss for them :!:

    NASA’s Comet Smashing Mission Ready to Fly
    By Tariq Malik
    Staff Writer
    posted: 11 January 2005
    3:55 p.m. ET

    NASA’s first mission to purposely destroy a spacecraft in the name of science is poised to rocket skyward Wednesday, the start of an anticipated six-month mission to crash into a comet.

    During a prelaunch briefing today, launch officials said NASA’s Deep Impact mission to send two probes to double team an icy comet is ready for flight atop a Boeing-built Delta 2 rocket.

    "The whole science community has been studying comets for a long time," explained NASA’s Orlando Figueroa, deputy associate administrator for the agency’s science mission directorate, during the press briefing. "We have flown by them, we have observed them from afar and this year we go for the home run."

    Speaking from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, near Deep Impact’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launch pad, Figueroa and mission team members gave reporters one final update before tomorrow’s scheduled space shot at 1:47:08 p.m. EST (1847:08 GMT).

    Launch officials said there is currently a 90 percent change that Deep Impact will have favorable liftoff conditions despite expected showers and coastal clouds. But weather will become more of a concern later in the week if tomorrow’s space shot should be postponed, they added.

    At the heart of the mission is the heart of Comet Tempel 1, which scientists hope Deep Impact will expose during a July 4 (EST) cometary collision. If it hits the mark, the mission would give scientists their first glimpse inside a comet and unveil material that was formed during the solar system’s infancy.

    "The mission, in deep space terms, is relatively short," said Deep Impact project manager Rick Grammier during the press briefing. "It’s basically a direct trajectory to the comet."

    Deep Impact carries two aptly named space probes, the Impactor probe and its mothership Flyby. The copper-tipped Impactor is designed to actually crash into Tempel 1 while Flyby – equipped with one of the largest telescopes ever launched on a planetary mission – records the event and transmits data from itself and an Impactor camera back to Earth.

    "Planetary experiments [like Deep Impact] have been very rare," the mission’s principal investigator Michael A’Hearn, a University of Maryland astronomer, told reporters. "Our experiment has a scale comparable to nothing done since the Apollo program, when we dropped Saturn [rocket] boosters and lunar modules to the moon to understand its seismological properties."

    If tomorrow’s launch is successful – as well as the mission’s six-month spaceflight, for that matter – Deep Impact’s 820-pound (372-kilogram) Impactor should slam into the sunlit side of Tempel 1 at about 23,000 miles an hour (37,014 kilometers an hour). The resulting explosion would be equivalent to detonating 4.5 tons of dynamite, NASA researchers said.

    "A lot of people asked us why we didn’t just pack the spacecraft with a whole lot of explosives," said Jay Melosh, a co-investigator in the mission from the University of Arizona. "But Impactor will hit the comet at 10 kilometers a second. That’s 10 times faster than a fast rifle bullet and about 10 times larger than the equivalent mass of TNT."

    The eighth of NASA’s Discovery class missions, the $330-million Deep Impact spacecraft were built by Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. While the mission has a single, instantaneous liftoff time set for tomorrow, its actual launch window stretches through Jan. 28, with two launch opportunities daily beginning Jan. 13.

    If Deep Impact launches anytime before Jan. 28, it will reach Tempel 1 on July 4 of this year, mission managers said.

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