space

Mysterious “Cold Spot”: Fingerprint of Largest Structure In the Universe?

astroengine writes At the furthest-most reaches of the observable universe lies one of the most enigmatic mysteries of modern cosmology: the cosmic microwave background (CMB) Cold Spot. Discovered in 2004, this strange feature etched into the primordial echo of the Big Bang has been the focus of many hypotheses — could it be the presence of another universe? Or is it just instrumental error? Now, astronomers may have acquired strong evidence as to the Cold Spot’s origin and, perhaps unsurprisingly, no multiverse hypothesis is required. But it’s not instrumental error either. It could be a vast “supervoid” around 1.8 billion light-years wide that is altering the characteristics of the CMB radiation traveling through it.

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Rocket Lab Unveils “Electric” Rocket Engine

New submitter Adrian Harvey writes The New Zealand based commercial space company Rocket Lab has unveiled their new rocket engine which the media is describing as battery-powered. It still uses rocket fuel, of course, but has an entirely new propulsion cycle which uses electric motors to drive its turbopumps. To add to the interest over the design, it uses 3D printing for all its primary components. First launch is expected this year, with commercial operations commencing in 2016.

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The Origin of the First Light In the Universe

StartsWithABang writes Before there were planets, galaxies, or even stars in the Universe, there really was light. We see that light, left over today, in the form of the Cosmic Microwave Background, or the remnant glow from the Big Bang. But these photons outnumber the matter in our Universe by more than a-billion-to-one, and are the most numerous thing around. So where did they first come from? Science has the answer.

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Incorrectly Built SLS Welding Machine To Be Rebuilt

schwit1 writes A giant welding machine, built for NASA’s multi-billion dollar Space Launch System (SLS), has to be taken apart and rebuilt because the contractor failed to reinforce the floor, as required, prior to construction: “Sweden’s ESAB Welding & Cutting, which has its North American headquarters in Florence, South Carolina, built the the roughly 50-meter tall Vertical Assembly Center as a subcontractor to SLS contractor Boeing at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.

ESAB was supposed to reinforce Michoud’s floor before installing the welding tool, but did not, NASA SLS Program Manager Todd May told SpaceNews after an April 15 panel session during the 31st Space Symposium here. As a result, the enormous machine leaned ever so slightly, cocking the rails that guide massive rings used to lift parts of the 8.4-meter-diameter SLS stages The rings wound up 0.06 degrees out of alignment, which may not sound like much, “but when you’re talking about something that’s 217 feet [66.14 meters] tall, that adds up,” May said.

Asked why ESAB did not reinforce the foundation as it was supposed to, May said only it was a result of “a miscommunication between two [Boeing] subcontractors and ESAB.” It is baffling how everyone at NASA, Boeing, and ESAB could have forgotten to do the reinforcing, even though it was specified in the contract. It also suggests that the quality control in the SLS rocket program has some serious problems.

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Enceladus Spreads Ghostly Ice Tendrils Around Saturn

astroengine writes A ghostly apparition has long been known to follow Saturn moon Enceladus in its orbit around the gas giant. But until now, scientists have had a hard time tracking its source. Using images from NASA’s Cassini mission, the source of these tendrils have been tracked down and they originate from the icy moon’s famous geysers. But even better than that, scientists have been able to track the tendril shapes down to the specific geysers that produce them. “We’ve been able to show that each unique tendril structure can be reproduced by particular sets of geysers on the moon’s surface,” said Colin Mitchell, a Cassini imaging team associate at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., and lead author of a paper published int he Astrophysical Journal. The study of these features are helping scientists understand how much ice is being transported into Saturn’s E ring from Enceladus as well as helping us understand the evolution of the moon’s sub-surface ocean.

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An Engineering Analysis of the Falcon 9 First Stage Landing Failure

schwit1 writes: AviationWeek has posted an analysis of SpaceX’s latest attempt to land its Falcon 9 rocket on an ocean barge. Quoting: “SpaceX founder and chief technology officer Elon Musk tweeted that “excess lateral velocity caused it [the booster] to tip over post landing.” In a later tweet that was subsequently withdrawn, Musk then indicated that “the issue was stiction in the biprop throttle valve, resulting in control system phase lag.” In this statement, Musk was referring to “stiction” — or static friction — in the valve controlling the throttling of the engine. The friction appears to have momentarily slowed the response of the engine, causing the control system to command more of an extreme reaction from the propulsion system than was required. As a result, the control system entered a form of hysteresis, a condition in which the control response lags behind changes in the effect causing it.

Despite the failure of the latest attempt, SpaceX will be encouraged by the landing accuracy of the Falcon 9 and the bigger-picture success of its guidance, navigation and control (GNC) system in bringing the booster back to the drone ship. The GNC also worked as designed during the prior landing attempt in January, which ended in the destruction of the vehicle following a hard touchdown on the edge of the platform.”
In related news, SpaceX is hoping to attempt its next landing on solid ground.

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NASA images show dwarf planet Ceres in highest-resolution yet

Ceres

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, which has spent the past month orbiting the dwarf planet Ceres, managed to snap the highest-resolution images seen to date of the mysterious planetary body, according to the space agency.

Dawn spent the past month in orbit on the dark side of Ceres, but has now managed to send back photos of the north pole clearly visible due to the Sun.

Ceres is located in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. NASA released the images on Thursday, though they were taken on April 10 from 21,000 miles above the surface of Ceres.

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Russian spaceport workers aren’t getting paid, so they painted demands visible from above

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The construction workers building Russia’s new spaceport claim they have’t been paid in four months. So to get President Vladimir Putin’s attention, they painted their demands in letters big enough to be seen from above.

Scribbled in white paint on the roofs of construction huts, the messages read: “Dear Putin,” “save the workers,” “four months without pay” and “we want to work.”

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Image: Amur Info

Amur-Cosmo

Image: Amur Info

The letters wouldn’t be visible to the naked eye from the International Space Station, which the spaceport will eventually serve. But they are big enough to have gotten Putin’s attention. Read more…

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Spitzer Space Telescope Finds New Planet

Aspiring Astronomer sends word of the discovery of one of the farthest known exoplanets. NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has teamed up with a telescope on the ground to find a remote gas planet about 13,000 light-years away, making it one of the most distant planets known. The discovery demonstrates that Spitzer — from its unique perch in space — can be used to help solve the puzzle of how planets are distributed throughout our flat, spiral-shaped Milky Way galaxy. Are they concentrated heavily in its central hub, or more evenly spread throughout its suburbs? ‘We don’t know if planets are more common in our galaxy’s central bulge or the disk of the galaxy, which is why these observations are so important,’ said Jennifer Yee of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a NASA Sagan fellow. Yee is the lead author of one of three new studies that appeared recently in the Astrophysical Journal describing a collaboration between astronomers using Spitzer and the Polish Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment, or OGLE.”

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Longer Video Shows How Incredibly Close Falcon Stage Came To Successful Landing

Bruce Perens writes In the video here, the Falcon 9 first stage is shown landing with a tilt, and then a thruster keeps the rocket vertical on the barge for a few seconds before it quits, followed by Kabooom with obvious significant damage to the barge. It looks like this attempt was incredibly close to success. Given fixes, a successful first-stage recovery seems likely.

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