A so-called annular solar eclipse, which took place on May 20, was seen across the globe from late afternoon to early evening, beginning in East Asia and traveling across to the western United States. In an annular solar eclipse, the moon does not completely block the sun, but leaves a fiery ring around its circumference. Observers along a narrow path were well placed to see the full annular solar eclipse, but skywatchers elsewhere (with the exception of the U.S. East Coast) caught a stunning partial eclipse.
SpaceX engineers have replaced a faulty engine valve on a private rocket carrying the first commercial space capsule bound for the International Space Station following the last-second abort during an attempted liftoff on May 19 (Saturday). The valve replacement came after SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, which will loft the firm’s unmanned Dragon capsule toward the station, aborted its launch attempt a half-second before liftoff from a pad here at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope turned its powerful wide field Advanced Camera for Surveys towards NGC 891 spiral galaxy and took this close-up of its northern half. The galaxy’s central bulge is just out of the image on the bottom left. NGC 891 (also known as Caldwell 23) is a spiral galaxy about 30 million light-years away in the constellation Andromeda. It was discovered by William Herschel on October 6 1784.
The Herschel Space Observatory has discovered a giant, galaxy-packed filament ablaze with billions of new stars. The filament connects two clusters of galaxies that, along with a third cluster, will smash together and give rise to one of the largest galaxy superclusters in the universe. Herschel is a European Space Agency mission with important NASA contributions. The filament is the first structure of its kind spied in a critical era of cosmic buildup when colossal collections of galaxies called superclusters began to take shape.
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.
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.
NASA shut down space shuttle Endeavour for the final time on May 11, 2012. Space shuttle technicians working inside Orbiter Processing Facility-2 (OPF-2) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida powered down Endeavour, the youngest of the retired fleet’s orbiters, at 9:58 a.m. EDT (1358 GMT) as they moved forward with preparations for the winged spacecraft’s museum display. This September, NASA will mount Endeavour on top of a modified Boeing 747 carrier aircraft and ferry it to Los Angeles for its exhibit at the California Science Center.