'Habitable' planet discovered circling Tau Ceti star

A planet with conditions that could support life orbits a twin neighbor of the sun visible to the naked eye, scientists have revealed.

The world is one of five thought to be circling Tau Ceti, a star just 12 light years away that is almost identical to the sun. Astronomers estimate the Tau Ceti planets to be two to six times bigger than Earth. One of them, with five times the Earth's mass, lies in the star's "habitable zone".

Also known as the "Goldilocks zone", this is the orbital region that is neither too hot nor too cold to allow liquid surface water and, potentially, life. Details of the discovery are to appear in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Because of the difficulties involved in detecting extra-solar planets, most found so far have had high masses. The Tau Ceti planetary family is thought to be the lowest-mass solar system yet detected.

 

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ISRO's 100th Space Mission

 

Today marked a milestone moment for Indian space capabilities as ISRO launched its "100th Space Mission" this morning. The PM was also present at the Sriharikota near Chennai, to witness the launch of PSLV-C21 carrying two foreign satellites.

The rocket - Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle-C21 (PSLV-C21), standing around 44 metres tall and weighing around 230 tonne, with a one-way ticket - hurtled towards the skies ferrying SPOT 6, a French earth observation satellite weighing 712 kg, and a 15-kg micro satellite Proiteres from Japan.

 

History of ISRO

ISRO’s beginnings were humble. Begun on India’s independence day in 1969 by Dr Vikram A Sarabhai, the father of India’s space programme some of its operations were planned from inside a cow shed. Its first achievement was the launch of the Aryabhatta satellite using a Russian rocket.

ISRO was also responsible for the first large scale launch of remote sensing satellites for television broadcasts. India now has the largest fleet of remote sensing satellites in the world.

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Transits of Venus: The rarest of predictable astronomical phenomena

The transit of Venus will be visible on June 6 this year. The next transit will be visible only in 2117, followed by another opportunity in 2125.

 

A transit of Venus across the Sun takes place when the planet Venus passes directly between the Sun and Earth, becoming visible against (and hence obscuring a small portion of) the solar disk. During a transit, Venus can be seen from Earth as a small black disk moving across the face of the Sun. The duration of such transits is usually measured in hours (the transit of 2004 lasted six hours). A transit is similar to a solar eclipse by the Moon. While the diameter of Venus is almost four times that of the Moon, Venus appears smaller, and travels more slowly across the face of the Sun, because it is much farther away from Earth. Observations of transits of Venus helped scientists use the principle of parallax to calculate the distance between the Sun and the Earth.

 

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SpaceX Dragon capsule successfully returns to earth

The Dragon capsule, owned by US company SpaceX, made a splash-landing in the Pacific Ocean marking a successful end to the first mission by a commercial company to resupply the International Space Station.

The unmanned supply ship scored a bull’s-eye with its arrival, splashing down into the ocean about 500 miles (800 kilometres) off Mexico’s Baja California peninsula. A fleet of recovery ships quickly moved in to pull the capsule aboard a barge for towing to Los Angeles.

It was the first time since the shuttles stopped flying last summer that NASA got back a big load from the space station, in this case more than half a ton of experiments and equipment.

Thursday’s dramatic arrival of the world’s first commercial cargo carrier capped a nine-day test flight that was virtually flawless, beginning with the May 22 launch aboard the SpaceX company’s Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral and continuing through the space station docking three days later and the departure a scant six hours before hitting the water.

SpaceX or more properly Space Exploration Technologies Corp. plans to hustle off a few returning items while still at sea to demonstrate to NASA a fast 48-hour turnaround. That capability would be needed for future missions bearing vital experiments.

The capsule returned nearly 1,400 pounds (635 kilograms) of old space station equipment and some science samples, a little more than it took up. Because it was a test flight, NASA did not want to load it with anything valuable. It carried up mostly food.

This was only the second time a Dragon has returned from orbit. In December 2010, SpaceX conducted a solo-flying shakedown cruise. Like the Dragon before it, this capsule will likely become a travelling exhibit.

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation considers the Dragon’s success a critical stepping stone. “It’s a seminal moment for the U.S. as a nation, and indeed for the world,” said its chairman, Eric Anderson.

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