Launching rockets into outer space has never been easy – there’s a reason it’s called rocket science. Occasionally things go wrong, often in testing, sometimes on actual launches. Rockets may misbehave by not going where they should go or even refuse to work altogether and simply blow up – that’s their nature and that’s what happened yesterday with Orbital Science’s third cargo flight to the International Space Station. The Antares rocket, all 40 meters of it, first appeared to launch normally, but then there was an explosion at the rocket’s business end only a couple of seconds into the flight. It was followed by an even bigger explosion when it crashed back to earth in a spectacular, but also rather terrifying fireball.
Continue reading »
It’s finally happening, but it seems like ages since Comet C/2013 A1 “Siding Springs” was discovered last year and everyone was very excited at first because it looked like it would actually collide with Mars. Fortunately, if turned out that the comet is only making a close flyby of the red planet, but this is going to be spectacular nevertheless. With a whole fleet of scientific probes around and even on Mars, humanity is still going to have a front seat without being too near the action. The whole spectacle starts at about 18:30 UTC in less than four hours and while we probably won’t see any images from the orbiters and rovers right away, we can still observe the comet’s encounter here from earth. Here are a few pointers with all the necessary information:
• Emily Lakdawalls’s post basically has all the links, including several online observatories which will be broadcasting later. It’s also recommended to follow her on Twitter at @elakdawalla because she will probably be live-tweeting the event.
• Universe Today has several articles up, but this one by David Dickinson from a couple of days ago is especially interesting because it describes how the comet encounter actually looks from the surface of Mars – hint: it’s enormeous!
[Update 20.10.: All three NASA Mars orbiters are fine and the newest arrival, India’s MOM also seems to be okay. Now we just have to wait for news on observations – no new images yet from the orbiters and rovers, but that will probably come in the next few days when all the images have been downlinked. (It appears one image already has made its way to Earth!) And you can always check on Deep Space Network Now what the different radio telescopes in the interplanetary WiFi are doing!]
Because I haven’t been posting here much, here’s just a quick reminder that I’ve been constantly updating the Science & Astronomy Hangouts Schedule on the original post from August and lonks to many previous hangouts are still archived there. You can also join the WSH Crew Google+ Community (named for the Weekly Space Hangout) where this post is also available plus a Google Calendar which we keep updated with all the interesting hangouts.
The WSH Crew Community has been growing a lot recently and if you’re interested what’s new in space and astronomy you might feel right at home there. It’s much smaller than the big Space Community on Google+ and relatively low-noise, but filled with a great group of people who have been following and supporting what CosmoQuest, Universe Today & Co are doing for a long time. Some of the journalists and scientists involved in the Weekly Space Hangout have also joined and recently hangout organizer and host Fraser Cain has asked the community to contribute news stories to the hangout by posting them in the news section. This has been really popular and successful in the last couple of hangouts, making themeven more lively than usual in the last half. So you can join in and be a part of it if you want!