Category Archives: Astronomy

Stephen Hawking has passed away

NPR The Two-Way: Stephen Hawking, Who Awed Both Scientists And The Public, Dies.

“There aren’t very many scientists who achieved rock-star status. Stephen Hawking, who has died at the age of 76, family members told British media early Wednesday, was definitely a contender.

“He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years,” the family statement said, according to The Guardian. “His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world. He once said, ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’ We will miss him for ever.””

Link via Garret.

Many more links and stories about Hawking in this MetaFilter thread: A brief history of a man.

I read his most famous book “A Brief History of Time” (Eine kurze Geschichte der Zeit) years ago, but think I’ll re-read it now.

“At 13 billion miles from Earth, there’s no mechanic shop nearby to get a tune-up.”

JPL CalTech: Voyager 1 Fires Up Thrusters After 37 Years

Voyager 1, NASA’s farthest and fastest spacecraft, is the only human-made object in interstellar space, the environment between the stars. The spacecraft, which has been flying for 40 years, relies on small devices called thrusters to orient itself so it can communicate with Earth. These thrusters fire in tiny pulses, or “puffs,” lasting mere milliseconds, to subtly rotate the spacecraft so that its antenna points at our planet. Now, the Voyager team is able to use a set of four backup thrusters, dormant since 1980.

“With these thrusters that are still functional after 37 years without use, we will be able to extend the life of the Voyager 1 spacecraft by two to three years,” said Suzanne Dodd, project manager for Voyager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.”

Link via MetaFilter.

Some eye candy: Voyager Images from the Odysseys (NASA Space Photos) (YouTube, 2:48min)

“Some 130 million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed Earth, two dead stars in a far-away galaxy collided violently…”

NRP Science: A New Era For Astronomy Has Begun.

“Astronomy will never be the same again. We will be able to watch extremely violent processes on the fly, and watch them in many different ways, as they run their course. […] That so many astronomers could each catch a piece of the story and then work together to patch it together is a magnificent achievement.

Everytime a new tool or technique made its way into astronomy, amazing new discoveries followed. We are now watching the skies with unprecedented precision and breadth, combining all wavelengths of light with gravitational waves.

If history is a guide, we can expect untold surprises as we dramatically amplify our grasp on physical reality. Stay tuned and enjoy the show.”

“Gosh, I’ve worked on Cassini for almost an entire Saturn year.”

BBC News: ‘Our Saturn years’. Cassini’s epic journey to the ringed planet, told by the people who helped make it happen. By Paul Rincon.

““The Voyagers gave us a really wonderful impression of Saturn. It’s a beautiful gas giant,” says Nasa’s director of planetary science Jim Green.

Prof Andrew Coates, from the Mullard Space Science Laboratory in Surrey, UK, agrees:

“Saturn is the most spectacular planet in our Solar System. The incredible rings, visible even in binoculars or a small telescope, make it stand out compared to all the rest.”

In places, the rings are only about as tall as a telephone pole. Yet from end-to-end they are more than 20-times as wide as the Earth. “

Link via MetaFilter.