For more than five decades, humans have been suiting up and riding rockets to escape the bonds of Earth, but the anniversary of that historic first flight, which blasted off 51 years ago this week, takes center stage on April 12. On 12 April 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel into space when he launched into orbit on the Vostok 3KA-3 spacecraft (Vostok 1). To mark the groundbreaking flight of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin in 1961, space geeks worldwide will revel at themed parties, and a filmmaker will tweet the mission’s audio transcript live to coincide with the actual time of the flight.
The modified-Boeing 747, known as the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), touched down at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on april 10. The jumbo jetliner came in from Dryden Flight Research Center in California to ferry Discovery to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., where the iconic spacecraft is set to go on public display. The aircraft landed at 5:35 p.m. EDT (2135 GMT) on the same runway that Discovery used to return from space for a 39th and final time on March 9, 2011.
Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Washington, D.C., discovered the odd, newly identified features, which they call coronal cells, by studying the sun’s ultraviolet emissions at temperatures around 1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit (999,700 degrees Celsius). According to reserachers the pattern of cells, which have bright centers and dark boundaries, look similar to bubbles that rise to the top of boiling water. But, the scientists were surprised to find these features higher up in the corona, a part of the sun’s atmosphere that is typically dominated by bright loops and dark coronal holes.
Magnetic phenomenon that causes auroras on Earth has now surprisingly been discovered creating giant magnetic bubbles around Venus, a planet without a magnetic field. The Northern and Southern Lights on Earth are caused by magnetic lines of force breaking and connecting with each other. This process, known as magnetic reconnection, can explosively convert magnetic energy to heat and kinetic energy.
A gigantic dust devil races across the surface of Mars. NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) captured the 12 mile-high (20 kilometer) twister as it whirled its way through the Amazonis Planitia region of northern Mars on March 14. According to researchers despite its towering height, the dust devil is just 210 feet (64 meters) wide. The plume’s shadow is also clearly visible in the new image, as are some topographic features on the Red Planet’s complex surface.
As space agency announced on April 4 NASA’s prolific Kepler space observatory, which has discovered more than 2,300 potential alien planets to date, will keep hunting strange new worlds for at least four more years. The $600 milllion Kepler observatory launched in March 2009 on a mission to find Earth-size planets in the so-called habitable zones of their parent stars, a just-right range of distances that could support liquid water and, perhaps, life as we know it.
According to scientists massive supernova explosion that destroyed a faraway star apparently turned the left over stellar corpse inside out as well. Using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory spacecraft, a team of researchers mapped the distribution of elements in the supernova remnant Cassiopeia A (Cas A for short) in unprecedented detail. They found that Cas A, which is located about 11,000 light-years from Earth and exploded 300 years ago from our perspective, is wearing its guts on the outside.
NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer satellite (GALEX) snapped a spectacular photo of a wispy blue nebula with an odd twist. It looks like a giant human head in deep space. NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX), which took the Cygnus Loop nebula photo, was launched in April 2003 on a mission to map vast areas of the sky in the ultraviolet range of the light spectrum. The spacecraft completed its primary mission in 2007 and was placed in standby mode as engineers prepare to shut it down for good later this year.
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft has captured video of a massive solar tornado five times wider than the Earth twisting its way across the surface of the sun. As said researchers NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) looked on as the huge, swirling storm raged on Sept. 25, 2011, spinning solar gas at speeds up to 186,000 mph (300,000 kph. Here on Earth, tornado wind speeds top out at around 300 mph (483 kph).