NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope new image shows NGC 7026, a planetary nebula. Located just beyond the tip of the tail of the constellation of Cygnus (The Swan), this butterfly-shaped cloud of glowing gas and dust is the wreckage of a star similar to the Sun. Planetary nebulae, despite their name, have nothing to do with planets. They are in fact a relatively short-lived phenomenon that occurs at the end of the life of mid-sized stars.
Venus will pass in front of the sun from Earth’s perspective on Tuesday (June 5; Wednesday, June 6, in much of the Eastern Hemisphere), marking the last such Venus transit until 2117. However, there’s a chance to observe an Earth transit less than two years from now using a little creative thinking, some researchers note. In January 2014, Jupiter will witness a transit of Earth. And we can see it too, the astronomers say, by training NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope on the huge planet and studying the sunlight it reflects.
The full moon of June will dip through Earth’s shadow early Monday (June 4) in a partial lunar eclipse. Eclipses of the sun and moon always come in groups. A solar eclipse is always accompanied by a lunar eclipse two weeks before or after it, since over those two weeks the moon travels halfway around in its orbit and is likely to form another almost straight line with the earth and sun. If the solar eclipse is a “central” one (either total or annular) the lunar eclipse is likely to be one where the moon will only partially interact with the shadow of the Earth.
Four billion years from now, the Milky Way galaxy as we know it will cease to exist. Our Milky Way is bound for a head-on collision with the similar-sized Andromeda galaxy, researchers announced on May 31. Over time, the huge galactic smashup will create an entirely new hybrid galaxy, one likely bearing an elliptical shape rather than the Milky Way’s trademark spiral-armed disk. Astronomers have long known that the Milky Way and Andromeda, which is also known as M31, are barrelling toward one another at a speed of about 250,000 mph (400,000 kph).
The American SpaceX company’s Dragon cargo capsule is heading back to Earth having spent a week attached to the International Space Station (ISS). Built by commercial company Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), the Dragon capsule was detached from the space station by astronauts using the outpost’s robotic arm, which officially released the spacecraft at 5:49 a.m. EDT (0949 GMT). Dragon is the first private spacecraft ever to visit the $100 billion space station.
Two small asteroids zipped close by Earth in back-to-back flybys of the planet on May 28 and on May 29. As said NASA scientists while both space rocks came well within the moon’s orbit, they posed no danger to our plane. The newfound asteroid 2012 KP24, which measures approximately 69 feet (21 meters) across, zoomed by Earth on May 28, coming within 32,000 miles (51,000 kilometers) on its closest approach, according to astronomers at NASA’s Asteroid Watch at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
A Long March 3B rocket lifted off Saturday (May 26, 2012) and successfully deployed a Chinese military communications satellite bound for an orbit over the equator. The 185-foot-tall launch vehicle, weighing about one million pounds, blasted off at 1556 GMT (11:56 a.m. EDT) Saturday (May 26, 2012) from the Xichang space center in southwest China’s Sichuan province. Launch was at 11:56 p.m. Beijing time. The Long March 3B/E rocket flew with an enhanced first stage and liquid-fueled boosters.
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 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.