June 2010

Views of IKAROS (and a Memory)

June 16, 2010

This is what a solar sail looks like in space. The images below were taken by a camera flown aboard the IKAROS mission and then separated from it using a spring, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). These pictures (and you can find several more here) take me back to my first reading […]

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750 Planetary Candidates from Kepler

June 15, 2010

The release of the first 43 days of Kepler data has demonstrated just how powerful a planet-hunting technology we’ve put into space. Listen to principal investigator William Borucki (NASA Ames) in a video released yesterday by NASA television: “We’re releasing data on 156,000 stars that we’ve been monitoring with the Kepler mission for 43 days, […]

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CoRoT & Hayabusa: Starting the Week Right

June 14, 2010

If we ended last week on a high note with the successful deployment of the IKAROS sail, this week started equally well with the return of JAXA’s Hayabusa spacecraft, whose re-entry capsule has now been recovered from the Australian desert and is intact. We’ll learn once it gets back to Japan how much material from […]

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Oort Finding: Many Comets From Other Stars

June 11, 2010

Here’s something to put the cap on a scintillating week in space science. It’s from Hal Levison (SwRI), who has led an international team in computer simulations focusing on our Sun’s earliest days. It turns out that our older assumption that the Oort cloud of comets surrounding the Sun came from the Sun’s protoplanetary disk […]

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IKAROS Deployment in Translation

June 11, 2010

For those of you interested in the key IKAROS post describing the final deployment of the sail, Lionel Ward has been so kind as to translate it in context. I’m leaving out the actual photographs, which you can see via the links posted in my previous IKAROS coverage — and also here in context — […]

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IKAROS Deployment Photos Arriving

June 11, 2010

IKAROS now appears to be fully deployed and generating power from its photovoltaic cells. The IKAROS blog even has a photo of the cake with which the sail team celebrated the success, but you’ll also want to go to this IKAROS page for a look at further imagery, one of which is the photo shown […]

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β Pictoris b: A New Planet and Its Implications

June 10, 2010

One of the problems with determining how planets form is the nature of the dusty gas-rich disks that surround their stars. We’re learning as we study these things that the disks around young stars disperse quickly in astronomical terms, within several million years. Thus finding a massive planet around a young star like Beta Pictoris […]

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Holding for Later Today

June 10, 2010

Update: As of 1611 UTC, the IKAROS blog is reporting “IKAROS state has been confirmed to be good.” More images and data are in the works, but we’re not likely to see anything until tomorrow. It’s getting late in Japan (2306 JST as I write, or 1406 UTC), and although a JAXA tweet promised new […]

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IKAROS Sail Deployment in Progress

June 9, 2010

Update: The IKAROS blog reports “The operation ended today as planned.” That must count as good news for the sail, now 7,480,787 kilometers from Earth, but we still need confirmation that the sail’s ‘secondary’ deployment is now complete. Maybe this is it: Japanese space journalist Mitsunari Kita, who is attending a press conference re the […]

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IKAROS Nears Full Deployment Attempt

June 8, 2010

Update: The IKAROS team has not confirmed full deployment of the sail, but does indicate we’ll have an update tomorrow. The IKAROS solar sail is partially deployed but the complete deployment was delayed while the mission’s engineers tried to figure out why the spacecraft’s spin rate has been increasing. JAXA’s updates are in Japanese, but […]

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