January 19, 2013

Space Coast-Based NSS Chapter Resets Focus, Changes Name (Source: Florida Today)
The space program is changing, and with it one of the area’s leading advocacy organizations. This week, the Space Coast chapter of the National Space Society unveiled a new name that it says better reflects its mission and goal to grow a broader and more active membership. The chapter’s new identity: Florida Space Development Council. “We found that to be a more descriptive title,” said chapter president Laura Seward. “We wanted something a little more inclusive.”

The chapter — not to be confused with the National Space Club Florida Committee — aims to act as a grassroots advocacy group welcoming anyone with a general interest in space. Every other month the chapter hosts “Space Locals,” an informal lecture or roundtable discussion featuring local experts. The events are free, and annual membership is $5. Started in 2006, the chapter in 2009 hosted the national society’s annual International Space Development Conference in Orlando, but nearly dissolved after that.

It has rebounded to about 40 paying members. Seward said changes in space policy and in Brevard County in recent years contributed to a desire to rebrand and reinvigorate the chapter, one of two in the state. “I love the fact that Kennedy Space Center is diversifying and I love the fact that the area is diversifying, which is why I’m really optimistic,” she said. Click here to join. (1/19)

Extraterresterial Life Exists, Scientist Claims (Source: Huffington Post)
If a group of scientists are correct, tiny fossils uncovered inside a meteorite found in Sri Lanka in December are proof of extraterrestrial life. In a detailed paper called "Fossil Diatoms In A New Carbonaceous Meteorite" that is appearing in the Journal of Cosmology, Chandra Wickramasinghe claims to have found strong evidence that life exists throughout the universe. An electron microscope was used to study the reported remains of a large meteorite that fell near the Sri Lanka village of Polonnaruwa on Dec. 29.

But with any remarkable claim comes criticism of the scientist's research and conclusions. Astronomer Phil Plait has raised several red flags and called into question the validity of Wickramasinghe's findings. "Wickramasinghe is a fervent proponent of [panspermia]. Like, really fervent. So much so that he attributes everything to life in space," Plait wrote. Click here. (1/18)

Polaris: Not So Close After All (Source: Science)
Last November, astronomer David Turner made headlines by claiming that one of the sky's best known objects—the North Star, Polaris—was actually 111 light-years closer than thought. If true, the finding might have forced researchers to rethink how they calculate distances in the cosmos as well as what they know about some aspects of stellar physics. But a new study argues that distance measurements of the familiar star made some 2 decades ago by the European Space Agency's venerable Hipparcos satellite are still spot on. Experts appear to agree.

Astronomers arguably made the most accurate measure of the distance to Polaris in the mid-1990s. The star, five times as massive as the sun, is a so-called Classical Cepheid: a rapidly aging giant star that has used up its hydrogen fuel and is now burning helium in its core. In this period of instability, its outer stellar envelope expands and contracts over periods of days to a few months.

Scientists working with the Hipparcos satellite measured Polaris's distance by taking its trigonometric parallax; that is, how, over a period of months or years, the star moves across our line of sight in relation to other objects in the sky. Polaris, the team calculated, was 434 light-years away. (1/18)

Manatee in Space (Source: Science)
A distant nebula 18,000 light-years away bears a startling resemblance to Earth's humble manatee -- down to the "scars" on its back. Scientists already knew of the giant cloud, called the W50 nebula, which formed when a star went supernova 20,000 years ago. But a new image of it taken with the National Science Foundation's Very Large Array (VLA) telescope has inspired a new name for the object: the Manatee Nebula.

The nebula received its moniker after someone at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory noticed its resemblance to a manatee floating on its back, flippers over tummy. Bright arcs formed by powerful jets of charged particles in the massive cloud mirror the curved boat propeller scars the endangered animals often bear. And like its namesake, the Manatee Nebula is a whopper: It's 700 light-years across, one of the biggest supernova remnants ever spotted by VLA. Click here. (1/19)

Aerojet's AJ26 Engine Completes Successful Hot Fire in Support of Antares (Source: Aerojet)
Aerojet's AJ26 engine successfully completed a hot fire test at NASA's Stennis Space Center. Orbital Sciences Corp., Aerojet and NASA monitored the full-duration test in support of the Antares rocket program. This is the eleventh AJ26 engine to be tested at Stennis.

"This test kicks off a crucial year for the AJ26 engine," said Aerojet Executive Director of Space & Launch Programs, Pete Cova. "We have multiple engine acceptance tests at Stennis in the plan as well as support of the upcoming Antares Stage 1 Hot Fire Test and the first demonstration test flight. Our team has worked hard to get to this point and we're looking forward to seeing AJ26 engines fly." (1/18)

Russia May Support UN Resolution on North Korean Rocket Launch (Source: Itar-Tass)
The United Nations Security Council next week will most probably adopt a resolution over North Korea’s launch of a satellite-carrying rocket last December, Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin said. Russia may support the draft resolution agreed by the United States and China.

“Most probably the resolution will be adopted at the beginning of next week,” Churkin said. “Our position is this. North Korea’s launch of the ballistic missile, or of a satellite, as they say, was a violation of UN Security Council resolutions. There must be a response. I expect that we shall support that draft.” North Korea on December 12 launched an Unha-3 rocket carrying the Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite.

The United States, Canada and other allies suspect that in this way North Korea tested a long-range ballistic missile. UN resolutions prohibit North Korea from any research in that field. Pyongyang’s reluctance to cooperate with the international community resulted in harsh sanctions. Such measures were taken unilaterally by the United States, Japan, South Korea, the European Union and a number of other states. (1/19)

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