On June 5th, 2012, Venus will pass across the face of the sun, producing a silhouette that no one alive today will likely see again. Transits of Venus are very rare, coming in pairs separated by more than a hundred years. This June’s transit, the bookend of a 2004-2012 pair, won’t be repeated until the year 2117. Fortunately, the event is widely visible. Observers on seven continents, even a sliver of Antarctica, will be in position to see it.
Scientists on NASA’s asteroid sample return mission, Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx), have measured the orbit of their destination asteroid, 1999 RQ36, with such accuracy they were able to directly measure the drift resulting from a subtle but important force called the Yarkovsky effect the slight push created when the asteroid absorbs sunlight and re-emits that energy as heat.
A new sensory organ has been discovered in rorqual whales. Rorqual whales are a subgroup of baleen whales that includes blue, fin, minke, and humpback whales. They are known for their enormous size, and an accordion-like layer of blubber extending from their snout to their navel. This blubber can expand to many times its resting size, allowing massive quantities of prey-filled water to be swallowed and then expelled back out while filtering the prey.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket roars into space and delivered a Dragon cargo capsule into orbit on May 22, 2012. The launch began an ambitious mission to show that the company is ready to deliver cargo to the International Space Station. As said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden the significance of this day cannot be overstated. While there is a lot of work ahead to successfully complete this mission, the start is good.
An American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts arrived at the International Space Station early on May 17, kicking off a four-month stay aboard the orbiting laboratory. A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying NASA astronaut Joe Acaba and cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin docked with the space station at 12:36 a.m. EDT (0436 GMT) Thursday as the two spacecraft soared 249 miles above the border between Mongolia and Kazakhstan.
Astronomers have previously detected superflares from a variety of star types, which release bursts that have 10 to 10,000 times more energy than the largest solar flare ever detected from our sun. Scientists wanted to know how common these outbursts might be from stars like the sun, those with masses and temperatures similar to our star. Even normal solar flares can damage satellites, endanger astronauts and wreak havoc on electrical grids on Earth, suggesting that superflares might be catastrophic to life on Earth.
New photo, snapped by the European Space Agency’s Herschel space observatory, shows Cygnus-X, an extremely active star-forming region about 4,500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus (The Swan). As said researchers in the new photo, bright white areas highlight areas where large stars have recently formed out of such clouds. These clumps are particularly evident in the right-hand side of the image, which shows a chaotic network of filaments.
On May 20 a solar eclipse will block out most of the sun, leaving a spectacular “ring of fire” shining in the sky for observers located along the eclipse’s path. The event is what’s known as an annular solar eclipse, from the Latin “annulus,” meaning “little ring”, and its full glory should be visible from much of Asia, the Pacific region and some of western North America, weather permitting. At its peak, the eclipse will block about 94 percent of the sun’s light.
An asteroid with the size of a school bus gave Earth a close shave on May 13, passing well inside the orbit of the moon. According to NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif the near-Earth asteroid 2012 JU, which is thought to be about 40 feet (12 meters) wide, came within 119,000 miles (191,500 kilometers) or so of our planet before zooming off into deep space.