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Picture of the Day

Planetary Nebula NGC 2440

NGC 2440 is a planetary nebula of about 1½ light-years across, located some 4,000 light-years away in the constellation of Puppis. It is moving away from us at approximately 62.7 kilometers per second.

Despite their name, planetary nebulae have nothing to do with planets. The name of planetary nebulae arose because of the visual similarity between some round planetary nebulae and the planets Uranus and Neptune when viewed through early telescopes.

When a star with a mass up to eight times that of the Sun runs out of fuel at the end of its life, it blows off its outer shells and begins to lose mass. This allows the hot, inner core of the star (collapsing from a red giant to a white dwarf) to radiate strongly, causing this outward-moving cocoon of gas to glow brightly as a planetary nebula.

Over the next several thousand years, the nebula will gradually disperse into space, and then the star will cool and fade away for billions of years as a white dwarf. Our own Sun is expected to undergo a similar fate, but fortunately this will not occur until some 5 billion years from now.

LINK: [link to annesastronomynews.com]

Namibian Nights

Namibia has some of the darkest nights visible from any continent. It is therefore home to some of the more spectacular skyscapes, a few of which have been captured in the above time-lapse video. Visible at the movie start are unusual quiver trees perched before a deep starfield highlighted by the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy. This bright band of stars and gas appears to pivot around the celestial south pole as our Earth rotates.

Video at Link: [link to apod.nasa.gov]

Zenit Engine Worked Normally

The first stage engine of the Zenit-2S rocket that failed shortly after Friday's launch operated in the normal regime during and after the liftoff, the press service of the Russian space agency Roscosmos said.

"An express analysis of the telemetry data has led to a preliminary conclusion that the first stage engine and the flight control system operated in the normal regime," Roscosmos said in a statement.

The Russian space agency also said that documents provided by Energomash, the company that had designed and produced the first stage and the flight control system, showed that no errors were made during the production.

The Sea Launch consortium, led by Energia, launched the Zenit rocket from its floating platform Odyssey at an equatorial launch site in international waters in the Pacific Ocean at 10.56 a.m. Moscow time (6.55 GMT).

The rocket fell into the sea not far from the Odyssey around 50 seconds into the flight, following an emergency shutdown of its first stage motor. The launch platform was not damaged in the failed launch.

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

A Hero For Humankind: Yuri Gagarin's Spaceflight

In April 1961, a man watched the musical comedy film "Be careful, Grandma!" (by Nadezhda Kosheverova, with Faina Ranevskaya, Ariadna Markeliya and Lyudmila Shengelaya; Lenfilm, 1960), played chess and badminton, and boarded a rocket to travel through space. This was one of the most important events of the twentieth century, not only from a technology standpoint, but also from a political one.

The rocket and capsule were originally designed for military purposes, but ended up being used as a propaganda weapon. The pilot elected, Yuri Gagarin, was to become "Hero of the Soviet Union", but today is remembered as a hero for all humankind.

At the end of World War II the United States had the monopoly of force globally. Thanks to the atomic bomb no country would dare to attack them. Until 1949, when, with the aid of stolen blueprints, the Soviet Union built theirs.

But the U.S. still retained the strategic advantage: its bombers were able to make rain these weapons in the heart of the USSR within hours. But the dictator Stalin had another "cool" plan: to use an invention of the Nazis, the ballistic missile. Developed with the help of prisoner German engineers, the R-7 missile (NATO code: SS-6 "Sapwood") would be able to catapult a 3,5 ton, 1 megaton bomb from side to side of the planet in just half an hour.

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

Search for Near-Earth Asteroids Needs a Speed Boost
At the current rate that near-Earth asteroids are being detected, it will take astronomers 15 years to identify every one of significant size and even more than 10 times longer to characterize their materials, a new study suggests.

Astronomers should dramatically ramp up the sky surveys, not only to better prepare for threats to Earth but also to exploit asteroids' contents, scientists say.

These asteroids could be mined one day for valuable metals such as platinum and cobalt, yet at the current rate it will take 190 years to characterize their materials, Charlie Beeson, a doctoral candidate in astronomy at Harvard University, told an audience last month at the 221st annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Long Beach, Calif.

LINK: [link to www.space.com]

Scientists Offer Wary Support for NASA's New Mars Rover
Scientists cheered NASA's decision to send a new rover to Mars in 2020, but stressed that the mission should pave the way to return Martian rocks to Earth a major goal of the planetary science community.

In a set of statements released Jan. 28 and Jan. 30, two large and well-respected groups of scientists the Planetary Society and the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS), respectively shared their views on the plan to send another robotic explorer to the Red Planet in seven years.

The new Mars rover mission was announced Dec. 4 by John Grunsfeld, NASA's associate administrator for science, at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. The new rover will share some design features with NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars in August to begin at least a two-year mission.

LINK: [link to www.space.com]

Taiwan deploys advanced early warning radar

Taiwan has put into service a US-made billion-dollar early warning radar system capable of giving more than six minutes' warning of a Chinese missile attack, a senior officer said Sunday.

The radar, on top of a mountain in the northern county of Hsinchu, started providing surveillance information after a ceremony presided over by the chief of the general staff, air force General Yen Ming, on Friday.

"The radar is able to provide us with more than six minutes' warning in preparation for any surprise attacks," air force Lieutenant General Wu Wan-chiao told AFP.

The Liberty Times newspaper said the phased array warning system, which cost Tw$40.9 billion ($1.38 billion), is capable of detecting flying objects up to 5,000 kilometres (3,100 miles) away.

LINK: [link to www.sinodaily.com]

Sun News 02/04/2013

Product: Forecast Discussion
Issued: 2013 Feb 04 1230 UTC
Prepared by the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, NOAA, Space Weather Prediction Center

Solar Activity
.24 hr Summary...
Solar activity was low due to a long duration C1 flare at 03/1801 UTC
from Region 1665 (N11W11). Slight decay and separation was observed in
the trailing spots of Region 1667 (N23E35). A filament eruption was
observed in the northwest quadrant in SDO/AIA 304 imagery beginning at
03/1606 UTC. A subsequent CME was observed off the northwest limb in
SOHO/LASCO C2 imagery beginning at 03/1848 UTC. The majority of the
ejecta appeared to be directed off the northwest limb and is not
expected to be geoeffective.

Solar activity is likely to be low with a slight chance for an M-class
flare for the forecast period (04-06 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 with a chance for high levels on days
2-3 (05-06 Feb) due to effects from the recent coronal hole high speed
stream. The greater than 10 MeV proton flux at geosynchronous orbit is
expected to continue at background levels.

Solar Wind

.24 hr Summary...
Solar wind speed, measured at the ACE spacecraft, declined from
approximately 477 km/s to end the period near 370 km/s. Total field
ranged from 1 nT to 7 nT while the Bz component of the interplanetary
magnetic field did not vary much beyond +7/-4 nT. Phi angle was mostly
negative (towards) during the period.

Solar wind speeds could be slightly enhanced by days 2-3 (05-06 Feb) as
a negative polarity coronal hole in the northern hemisphere moves into a
geoeffective position.


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

The geomagnetic field is expected to continue at quiet levels with a
chance for unsettled periods for the forecast period (04-06 Feb).

LINK: [link to www.solarham.net]

Streamer: [link to iswa.gsfc.nasa.gov]
[link to iswa.gsfc.nasa.gov]
[link to www.gdgps.net]

Active Region Map: [link to sidc.oma.be]
STAR Active region map: [link to solen.info]
EVE 3-Day: [link to helios.izmiran.rssi.ru]
Magnetometer: [link to www.swpc.noaa.gov]
Ionospheric Electrons: [link to www.ips.gov.au]
Ionospheric foF2: [link to www.ips.gov.au]
Surface Heat Index (USA): [link to weather.unisys.com]
NOAA Temps: [link to ww2010.atmos.uiuc.edu]
Sea Surface Temps <02/03/2013>: [link to www.ssec.wisc.edu]

Estimated Planetary K-Index : [link to www.solarham.net]

3MIN News February 4, 2013: Arctic Methane Rising

Big Shock to Big Bang | Space News
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