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Picture of the Day: Spiral Galaxy NGC 3621

NGC 3621 is a bright spiral galaxy of some 93,000 light-years across, located about 22 million light-years away in the constellation of Hydra (The Sea Snake). It is moving away from us at approximately 727 kilometers per second.

NGC 3621 is a truly remarkable galaxy. Like other spirals, it has a flat disk permeated by dark lanes of material and with prominent spiral arms where young stars are forming in clusters (the blue dots seen in the image). But while most spiral galaxies have a central bulge — a large group of old stars packed in a compact, spheroidal region — this galaxy doesn’t. There is simply a brightening to the centre, but no actual bulge. Thus, NGC 3621 is a pure-disk galaxy.

The galaxy has a flat, elliptical pancake shape, indicating that it hasn’t yet come face to face with another galaxy as such a galactic collision would have disturbed the thin disk of stars, creating a bulge in its center.

PICTURE AT LINK: [link to annesastronomynews.com]

Russia-launched satellite plunges into Pacific: official

A Russian rocket carrying a US telecommunications satellite plunged into the Pacific Ocean on Friday only moments after being launched from a mobile sea platform in Moscow's latest space failure.

The rocket may have veered off course from the moment of take-off because of heavy waves battering the former northern seas oil platform, initial reports said.

The Intelsat-27's loss means the giant Boeing aerospace corporation would for now be unable to fit the final piece of a constellation mean to provide TV feeds across Europe and the United States.

"There was an accident during the Zenit rocket launch," a source at the Energia corporation that makes the Zenit-3SL rocket used to lift up Intelsat satellites told AFP.

LINK: [link to www.space-travel.com]

South Korean Satellite Makes First Contact with Ground

After a successful Wednesday launch, South Korea's scientific satellite made its first contact with a ground station on Thursday, the Yonhap news agency said.

The country's Satellite Technology Research Center at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Daejeon announced that the first communication contact with the Science and Technology Satellite 2C (STSAT 2C) was made at 3:27 a.m. local time on Thursday [6:27 p.m. Wednesday GMT]

The homegrown 140-ton Korean Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1), also known as Naro, delivered the satellite to orbit on Wednesday afternoon, becoming the country's first space success following two unsuccessful attempts in 2009 and 2010.

LINK: [link to www.spacedaily.com]

AAS Division For Planetary Sciences Issues Statement On Mars 2020 Program

The following statement from the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences was prepared in collaboration with the Planetary Society, the American Geophysical Union's Planetary Science Section, and the Geological Society of America's Planetary Geology Division

"NASA recently announced a return to Mars in 2020 with a new rover derived from the MSL Curiosity design. Continued exploration of Mars is crucial to the scientific community and important for building upon our decades-long investment in technology and engineering capability.

"We strongly believe that the mission should carry a payload consistent with the recommendations given in the National Research Council's decadal survey for planetary science, Vision and Voyages. It is of the utmost importance that NASA and Congress follow the recommendations laid forth in the Decadal Survey in order to maximize science return and support a balanced and affordable approach to exploration in our solar system.

LINK: [link to www.marsdaily.com]

TW Hydrae: There's more to astronomers' favorite planetary nursery than previously thought

Using ESA's Herschel Space Telescope, astronomers including Thomas Henning from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg have used a new method to determine the mass of the planetary nursery around the star TW Hydrae. At a distance of merely 176 light-years from Earth, this is the closest star that is currently forming new planets - hence one of the most important objects for astronomers studying planet formation.

The precise new measurement shows a much larger mass for TW Hydrae's disk than in previous studies, indicating that the system could be forming planets similar to those of our own Solar System. The study is published in the January 31 issue of the journal Nature.

Where Egyptologists have their Rosetta Stone and geneticists their Drosophila fruit flies, astronomers studying planet formation have TW Hydrae: A readily accessible sample object with the potential to provide foundations for an entire area of study.

TW Hydrae is a young star with about the same mass as the Sun. It is surrounded by a protoplanetary disk: a disk of dense gas and dust in which small grains of ice and dust clump to form larger objects and, eventually, into planets. This is how our Solar System came into being more than 4 billion years ago.

LINK: [link to www.spacedaily.com]

Sun News 02/01/2013

Issued: 2013 Feb 01 1230 UTC
Prepared by the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, NOAA, Space Weather Prediction Center

Solar Activity

.24 hr Summary...
Solar activity was very low. The largest flare of the period was a B6
flare at 01/0342 UTC from Region 1665 (N12E30). A new Region emerged
from the northeast limb and was numbered as Region 1667 (N24E69). The
rest of the spotted regions were relatively stable. After further
analysis of the filament eruption in the northeast quadrant at
approximately 31/1543 UTC (SDO AIA 304 imagery), the resulting CME
appeared to be directed off the northeast limb and is not expected to be

Solar activity is expected to continue at very low levels with a chance
for C-class flares for the forecast period (01-03 Feb).

Energetic Particle

.24 hr Summary...
The greater than 2 MeV electron flux at geosynchronous orbit was at
normal to moderate levels. The greater than 10 MeV proton flux at
geosynchronous orbit was at background levels.

The greater than 2 MeV electron flux at geosynchronous orbit is expected
to be at normal to moderate levels. The greater than 10 MeV proton flux
at geosynchronous orbit is expected to be at background levels.

Solar Wind

.24 hr Summary...
Solar wind speed, measured at the ACE spacecraft, ranged from
approximately 300 km/s to 350 km/s. The total field ranged from 2 to 7
nT while the Bz component of the interplanetary magnetic field did not
vary much beyond +4/-5 nT.

A coronal hole high speed stream is expected to become geoeffective on
day 2 (02 Feb) causing an enhancement to solar wind speeds followed by a
glancing blow from the 31 January CME on 03 February. The latest WSA
ENLIL model run suggests wind speeds of approximately 450 km/s.


.24 hr Summary...
The geomagnetic field was quiet.

The geomagnetic field is expected to be quiet on day 1 (01 Feb). On day
2 (02 Feb), an increase to quiet to unsettled levels is expected as a
coronal hole high speed stream moves into geoeffective position. By day
3 (03 Feb), continued coronal hole effects combined with a glancing blow
from the 31 January CME are expected to cause unsettled to active levels
with a slight chance for periods of minor storming.

LINK: [link to www.solarham.net]

Flux level data

LINK: [link to www.solarham.net]

Space Weather Alerts and Warnings Timeline

LINK: [link to www.solarham.net]

3MIN News February 1, 2013: Quake Watch Update, Solar Magnetics
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