Wandering through the realms of the cosmos, pondering its huge vastness

Space Missions

Celebrate World Space Week 2012!

Join the largest annual public space event on Earth!

World Space Week (WSW)  is an annual observance held from October 4 to October 10 established by the United Nations General Assembly to be an international celebration of science and technology and their contribution to the betterment of the human condition.

The start and end dates of World Space Week recognize the launch of the first human-made Earth satellite, Sputnik 1, on October 4, 1957; and the signing of the Outer Space Treaty on October 10, 1967.

UP Astronomical Society members held this WSW banner which contained the theme, “50 Years in Space” during the celebration of the World Space Week in the Philippines last 2007 (source: upastrosoc.multiply.com)

Every year, the World Space Week Association, in coordination with the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs, selects a theme that participants are asked to incorporate into their World Space Week events. The theme for World Space Week 2012 is “Space for Human Safety and Security.” All World Space Week participants are requested to: 1) Plan World Space Week programs that address this theme in some way; 2) Incorporate this theme into all of their World Space Week publicity materials.

Various WSW events will be  hosted by local participating organizations. In the Philippines, there are 11 registered events for WSW 2012. Everyone is invited to attend these events.

For more information about the WSW celebration, please visit http://www.worldspaceweek.org/. You may also follow @WorldSpaceWeek on Twitter and use the hashtag #wsw2012 in your tweets.

To infinity and beyond! 😀


Celebrating 50 Years of Space Flight

Google and Youtube are celebrating 50th Anniversary of Space flight! 😀

The Google Doodle’s art wizards have created a distinctly 1960s-looking version of the famous logo. 🙂

The first letter ‘o’ has been replaced with a drawing of Gagarin in his space suit while the second ‘o’ has become the planet Earth.

Charmingly, when you first see the logo, an animated spaceship launches from the planet’s surface. If you want to see it take off again, just hit refresh.

The Gagarin Google Doodle is the latest in a long line of artistic logo variations that the search engine has produced.

Yuri Gagarin: 50th Anniversary of First Human Spaceflight

Gagarin made history when his Vostok 1 spacecraft took off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and completed a 108-minute orbit of the Earth on Tuesday April 12, 1961.

Unsurprisingly, he became a national hero and was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union.

Gagarin’s flight spurred the international space race between the United States and the Soviet Union, leading President John F. Kennedy to set the goal of being the first to land on the moon.

Seven years after Gagarin’s first journey into space, he was killed on a routine training flight. His pioneering legacy is remembered at Star City, Moscow’s oldest space-flight training facility.

Gagarin's Soviet Vostok-1 spaceship blasts off in Kazakhstan in 1961 (Picture: AFP/Getty)

Having a blast-off: Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin inside the Vostok 1 command capsule (Picture: AFP/Getty)


“What beauty. I saw clouds and their light shadows on the distant dear earth…. The water looked like darkish, slightly gleaming spots…. When I watched the horizon, I saw the abrupt, contrasting transition from the earth’s light-colored surface to the absolutely black sky. I enjoyed the rich color spectrum of the earth. It is surrounded by a light blue aureole that gradually darkens, becoming turquiose, dark blue, violet, and finally coal black.”

—  Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin, Soviet pilot and cosmonaut
9 March 1934 – 27 March 1968



Lunar Transit Captured by SDO – March 4, 2011


There is the Moon eating away at the Sun! 🙂 Image credit: NASA/GSFC/SDO


NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) satellite captured the dark moon creating a partial eclipse of the Sun last March 2-4, 2011.

More still images here.

Watch HD Video.

These images, while unusual and cool to see, also have practical value to the SDO science team. Karel Schrijver of Lockheed-Martin’s Solar and Astrophysics Lab explains: “The very sharp edge of the lunar limb allows us to measure the in-orbit characteristics of the telescope e.g., light diffraction on optics and filter support grids. Once these are characterized, we can use that information to correct our data for instrumental effects and sharpen up the images to even more detail.”

On October 7, 2010, SDO observed its first lunar transit when the new Moon passed directly between the spacecraft (in its geosynchronous orbit) and the Sun.

Date with a Comet on Valentines Day!

The planned Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14, 2011) rendezvous between NASA’s Stardust-NExT mission and comet Tempel 1 inspired this chocolate-themed artist’s concept.

Read more about this mission and learn how you can watch the live webcasts of this event on NASA TV here. Also, check out this site to know Five Cool Facts  about NASA’s Stardust-NExT spacecraft as it prepares for a Valentine’s “date” with comet Tempel 1.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Successful Close Encounter with a ‘Space Peanut’: EPOXI’s flyby to Comet Hartley 2

credit: JPL/NASA

Just a few hours ago, NASA’s EPOXI mission spacecraft successfully flew past comet Hartley 2 at 6:59:47 a.m PDT (13:59:47 Universal Time) Thursday, Nov. 4.

The Deep Impact probe zoomed to within 435 miles (700 kilometers) of Hartley and  it took incredible images of the comet’s solid nucleus. The close encounter marked just the fifth time that a spacecraft has ever visited a comet.

Experts say initial images from the flyby provide new information about the comet’s volume and material spewing from its surface. The small but active comet is full of surprises, with spinning jets, geysers of cyanide gas, and a strange, irregularly-shaped core. The nucleus is only about 2.2 km (1.4 miles) across, so there’s not much mass in it, which means that it has weak gravity. In fact, the round ends of the nucleus are bumpy and rough, indicating material is loosely aggregated there.

EPOXI is an extended mission that uses the already in-flight Deep Impact spacecraft. Its encounter phase with Hartley 2 began at 1 p.m. PDT (4 p.m. EDT) on Nov. 3, when the spacecraft began to point its two imagers at the comet’s nucleus. Imaging of the nucleus began one hour later.

I watched the coverage of this event through an online live steaming available at NASA TV. I was updating my Facebook and Twitter account as I was waiting for updates and images of the closest approach. After more than an hour since the webcast began, the first images that were taken many hours before close encounter were  received. They depicted the comet nucleus as little more than a point of light, with the fuzzy coma surrounding it. I was saving screenshots every now and then as the images came in.


First snapshot of Comet Hartley! Notice the jets that were clearly visible streaming from the peanut-shaped comet nucleus. This shape is common in asteroids and comet nuclei, according to astronomers.

Moments later, a few of the close-approach images were finally shown. I was really amazed upon seeing its odd peanut-shaped body with an irregular and contoured surface. Images are available here and here. According to NASA EPOXI’s tweet, the 55 images taken about every 15 minutes were 256 x 256 subframes and the 5 close approach are full frames 1024 x 1024.

This image montage shows comet Hartley 2 as NASA’s EPOXI mission approached and flew under the comet. The images progress in time clockwise, starting at the top left.  This was taken by EPOXI’s Medium-Resolution Instrument. The sun is to the right.  Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMD

A nice animation of the five close-approach images above 🙂 image credit: planetary.org

Those bright streamers of light are jets of gas shooting away from the comet, formed when frozen material on the comet surface gets heated by the Sun, expands, and shoots away.


This image shows many features across the comet's surface. The length of the comet is indicated. There are two obvious regions of jet activity associated with rough terrain. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMD

These are medium-resolution; hi-res ones will be coming soon.

Scientists are interested in comets because they’re icy leftovers from the formation of the solar system about 4.5 billion years ago. Studying them could provide clues to how Earth and the planets formed and evolved.

Congratulations to the EPOXI team for a successful commetary encounter  and for sending amazing  images! 😀



Related links:

NASA EPOXI Flyby Reveals New Insights Into Comet Features

NASA Image Gallery

Hartley 2 compared to other comets, and in motion 3D

Jets are clearly visible streaming from the peanut-shaped comet nucleusJets are clearly visible streaming from the peanut-shaped comet nucleus