Most of us appreciate a bit of a break in our day. Even a brief moment away can help us stay focused on the usual tasks of work, home life, or whatever occupies our time.
Sometimes, astronomy can supply that step away from the every day. It can provide an opportunity to consider big picture questions about our place in the Universe, think about exotic and fascinating phenomena, or even just relax and enjoy beautiful imagery.
We can only imagine how much more important it is to have that chance for a momentary escape if you have a dangerous and important job such as being a soldier.
Nine years ago today, we experienced a terrible tragedy. On February 1, 2003, the seven-member crew of STS-107 was lost when the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas and Louisiana on its re-entry into Earth's atmosphere.
This 219th meeting of the American Astronomical Society meeting is under way this week in Austin, TX. There will be lots of scientific talks, posters, and in-the-hallway discussions between the 2,700 astronomers who have come to Texas for the meeting. (That's quite a bit when you consider there are probably only several thousand professional astronomers in the whole US!)
Of course, there are lots of Chandra results being shared. Tomorrow, there will be a press conference to announce some exciting new findings involving Chandra and some of the largest objects in the Universe. We'll have the news posted on our website at 10am Central so check back for the latest in the X-ray Universe.
-Megan Watzke, CXC
Today, a new leader reports to NASA HQ to take over what is known as the Science Mission Directorate, or SMD. SMD is the branch of the agency that is responsible for all things science at NASA - from heliophysics to Earth science to planetary science and astrophysics. Chandra, as well as the other "Great Observatories" missions of Hubble and Spitzer, and many, many missions belong to the astrophysics realm of SMD.
One of the projects that we're very excited around here is something called "Stop for Science!" (aka, STOP). This is a program aimed at engaging kids outside of classroom time in thinking about science. STOP is meant to be fun, but also informative. The centerpiece of the program is a series of five posters covering different areas. The topics range from "how tall is tall" to "when stars go boom." Each poster has accompanying material including background information, questions for different ages of kids, and teacher resource guides.
While most of us in the US were still digesting from the Thanksgiving holiday this past weekend, many folks at NASA were incredibly busy. That's because on Saturday, November 26th, NASA launched the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) into space aboard an Atlas V rocket.
An era of space exploration ended on July 21, 2011 when Space Shuttle Atlantis touched down before dawn at Kennedy Space Center. The shuttle flights excited our imaginations and tragically revealed the dangers of space travel as mankind dipped its toes into the cosmic ocean. One of the most enduring legacies of the shuttle was established in the 1990's, when the shuttle delivered three of NASA's Great Observatories – Hubble Space Telescope, Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, and the Chandra X-ray Observatory – into space.
Last week, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) issued this statement:
"On 23 October 2011 at 03:50 CEST, the German research satellite ROSAT re-entered the atmosphere over the Bay of Bengal; it is not known whether any parts of the satellite reached Earth's surface. Determination of the time and location of re-entry was based on the evaluation of data provided by international partners, including the USA."
View the most recent updates to the Chandra image collection at Flickr Commons, a forum created by Flickr for cultural institutions to share their photographic collections with the public.
For more on the new additions to the Chandra collection, visit the Smithsonian's Bigger Picture blog: http://siarchives.si.edu/blog/new-chandra-x-ray-images-flickr-commons
-Kim Arcand, Chandra EPO
October is American Archives Month—a time to celebrate the importance of archives across the country. In honor of Archives Month, we're participating in a pan-Smithsonian blogathon. Throughout October we, and other blogs from across the Smithsonian, will be blogging about Chandra's rich archive of astronomical data, issues, and behind-the-scenes projects. Check out the RSS feed of blogathon posts from across the Smithsonian.
Concluding our series of Archives Month blog posts, we thought we'd shift our focus towards the future of Chandra's digital legacy. Although the modern marvel of engineering that is the Chandra X-ray Observatory will not last forever, its lasting gift to humanity will be its archive of data. Long after the last bits of X-ray light have found their way to Chandra's detectors, scientists and curious amateurs will still be pouring over Chandra's archival data looking for their particular X-ray needle in the digital haystack.
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