The European Space Agency last week launched Gaia, a star-charting satellite that will repeatedly survey a billion stars over the course of five years. It is en route to a virtual orbit point called "L2", 1.5 million km further from the sun than the planet Earth orbits. It will measure the position, brightness, temperature and chemical composition of each star 70 times.
China's Chang'e-3 lander and Jade Rabbit rover launched Dec. 1 and landed on the moon yesterday without incident, and now we're getting footage of the event. The photos and videos show the moon up close and personal. We're also seeing shots of both robots on the moon, apparently in full working order.
China's "Long March to the Moon" has placed a lander and a rover on the moon. The Chang'e-3 lander and her accompanying Yutu or "Jade Rabbit" rover arrived inside the right eye of the "Man in the Moon" this evening at 9:00PM Beijing time. This marks the first time in more than 40 years anyone has performed a soft lunar landing. All sources point to a successful deployment for the robot visitors.
Astronomers and sky watchers around the world watched in anticipation in late November and early December as comet ISON made its close pass around the sun. The prediction was that if the comet survived its close encounter with the sun, it would be one of the brightest comets in centuries. Sadly, when the comet went behind the sun, it didn’t emerge as hoped.
A planet eleven times as big as Jupiter has been discovered orbiting a star at a distance of 650 astronomical units. That's 650 times as far from its star as Earth is from our own star. Never have we discovered a planet to be orbiting a star at so nearly great a distance.
The NASA Van Allen twin probes launched last year have revealed that the Earth is a giant particle accelerator. Recently it was reported that particles in the magnetosphere sometimes accelerate across distances of a few hundred meters. But the newer discovery shows the acceleration can occur across hundreds of thousands of kilometers. The data will be helpful to to scientists helping satellite operators and the International Space Station to predict and prepare for the destructive tendencies of the seemingly random fluctuations that can occur in the magnetosphere.
We've been following the comet ISON since it was first discovered. The comet is making its way towards the sun and putting on quite a light show as it does. The comet will reach its closest approach to the sun around Thanksgiving day, assuming it doesn't break apart before then.
Comet ISON has the potential be one of the brightest comets to fly past the Earth in many years. However, so far the brightness of the comet has been rather disappointing to astronomers and amateur skywatchers. The lack of brightness from the comet had led some to believe that it might not be as spectacular as previously hoped.