June 15, 2011

Texas Man Sentenced for Hacking of NASA, Business (Source: AP)
A Texas man has been sentenced for hacking into the computer systems of a Minnesota company and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. Twenty-six-year-old Jeremey Parker of Houston was sentenced Tuesday to two years in prison on one count of wire fraud. (6/15)

A Sun With No Spots? What That Could Mean for Earth and its Climate (Source: CSM)
Three studies suggest a decline in sun spots – to the point that they could largely vanish for a long period. That could lead to fewer solar storms, as well as a chance to study whether fewer sun spots leads to a cooler climate on Earth. If the trends the studies highlight hold, the researchers say, a sun humbled by changes in its own internal workings could produce fewer solar storms during a prolonged quiet period.

That's good news for satellite operators, astronauts, and Earthbound utility companies that must keep solar storms from triggering blackouts. A long quiescent period also could provide an unexpected, natural laboratory for investigating often-discussed but poorly explored links between sunspot activity and global climate. (6/15)

NASA Day on the Hill (Source: NASA)
NASA invited the public and journalists to a special event that highlighted agency missions and technologies on June 15 in the Rayburn House Office. Deputy Administrator Lori Garver was the featured speaker at an evening program. The event, known as NASA Day on the Hill: Reaching for New Heights, included exhibits and demonstrations of agency technology.

Former astronaut and Associate Administrator for Education Leland Melvin delivered a presentation about NASA education programs, and astronauts Pat Forrester and Kjell Lindgren were available to sign autographs. Forrester is a veteran of three space shuttle flights to the International Space Station. Lindgren was selected in June 2009 as one of nine U.S. candidates of the 20th NASA astronaut class and recently graduated from astronaut candidate training. (6/15)

Sun Heads Into Rare Hibernation (Source: Cosmos)
For years, scientists have been predicting the Sun would by around 2012 move into solar maximum, a period of intense flares and sunspot activity, but lately a curious calm has suggested quite the opposite. According to three studies released this week, experts believe the familiar sunspot cycle may be shutting down and heading toward a pattern of inactivity unseen since the 17th century. The signs include a missing jet stream, fading spots, and slower activity near the poles. (6/15)

Europe Downscales Monster Telescope to Save Money (Source: Science)
The world's biggest telescope is getting smaller—but more affordable. The designers of the future European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) have decided to shrink the telescope's primary mirror from a diameter of 42 meters to 39.3 meters. The resulting 13% decrease in sensitivity is likely to reduce its scientific payoff. But the 18% savings in its overall cost gives the telescope a better chance to remain on schedule for first light in 2022.

The decrease in mirror diameter has not yet been officially announced. "But it's part of the new design study that will be presented to the ESO Council," says Tim de Zeeuw, director general of the European Southern Observatory. ESO plans to build the telescope at Cerro Armazones, a 3064-meter-high peak close to its existing Very Large Telescope, which consists of four identical 8.2-meter instruments. ESO's governing council is expected to make a final decision on the project in December. (6/15)

NASA Preparing for Full ISS Utilization in Post-Shuttle Era (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
With the US Segment of the International Space Station (ISS) now complete, NASA managers are turning their attention away from the era of construction and maintenance of the station and toward the new era of utilization, which includes advanced technology demos ranging from beam energy transfer to robotic servicing.

Up until now, ISS managers and on-orbit crew time have been devoted to construction and maintenance of the ISS, and utilization activities have had to slot into the remaining time. However, in the new utilization era, the prime focus will be science activities, with maintenance activities slotting into the remaining time. Click here. (6/15)

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