SJAA Ephemeris April 2009 | SJAA Home | Contents | Previous | Next

The Last Month in Astronomy

FEB-07-2009 • McKay at SJAA • Christopher McKay came to the February General Meeting to speak to the SJAA. He discussed some findings from the Phoenix mission and other things that we are learning about Mars. During the Q&A he offered that he is somewhat skeptical of the claims concerning large amounts of methane in the Martian atmosphere.


MAR-06-2009 • Kepler Launches • The Kepler spacecraft was successfully launched and is heading for its Earth-trailing orbit around the Sun. This latest telescope in space will search the area between Cygnus and Lyra staring consistently at 10,000 stars looking for an Earth size planet to pass in front of a Sun-like star. If nothing else, this mission should give an accurate estimation of one of the Drake equation factors, what percentage of stars have planets that can support life as know it.

MAR-05-2009 • Binary Black Hole Found • A binary black hole has been found by astronomers at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Arizona. Such phenomena has been theorized before but the expected spectral signature has not been found until now.

MAR-01-2009 • Chinese craft lunar crash • The Chinese lunar orbiter Chang’e 1 was deliberately sent crashing into the moon as its mission came to an end. This event was not widely publicized. Even though it occurred on the near side of the moon, it isn’t clear that anyone saw or was even looking for the crash.

FEB-24-2009 • OCO Fails • The Orbiting Carbon Observatory failed to reach orbit after launch. The crushing failure means that some critically important measurements of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will be delayed by years. Initial reports say that the failure was caused because the ordnance that was supposed to separate the fairing didn’t fire successfully and the spacecraft was then too heavy to reach orbit. A failure analysis is ongoing.

FEB-23-2009 • Planck Mission Ready • The Planck spacecraft has arrived at French Guiana in preparation for its launch in April aboard an Ariane 5 rocket. This is an ESA mission with a lot of work done by NASA. Planck will be sent to an orbit around the second Lagrangian point along with another spacecraft, the Herschel mission, but they will be in different orbits and the two missions are otherwise unrelated. Planck will study the anisotropies (non-uniformity) of the CMB (Cosmic Microwave Background) to an unprecedented degree. This should tell us a lot about the Inflationary period of the Universe - a time when the size of the Universe increased at a fantastic rate. For a technical description of the Planck mission see but for a look at the spacecraft and its successful delivery to the launch site go to . The Herschel mission is a 3.5 meter telescope looking in the far-infrared and submillimeter wavelengths.


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