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A busy week in space exploration

Jesper de Jong
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Joined: Aug 16, 2005
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  18

I love everything that has to do with space and astronomy. Are there any other space enthusiasts here?

This week was a busy and amazing week. On Monday, the Space Shuttle Atlantis was launched on mission STS-125, the fourth and final mission to service the amazing Hubble Space Telescope. The launch was live on the web on NASA TV, where you can still follow the work being done by the astronauts the coming days. Yesterday two astronauts did the first space walk to replace Hubble's main camera with a new one and replace a computer on the Hubble. There will be four more space walks the coming days. It's amazing that you can follow it all live on the web as it happens, with the video coming right from the helmet cameras of the astronauts! With the new instruments, the Hubble will be better than ever and we can expect to get more great science and amazing images from the universe in the coming five to eight years.

Yesterday the ESA (European Space Agency) launched two space telescopes, Herschel and Planck, on one rocket from French Guyana. The launch was also live on the web. Herschel and Planck are now on their way to Lagrange point 2, a place "behind" the Earth, 1.5 million kilometers away. Herschel is an infrared telescope and Planck will measure the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation, which is the afterglow of the Big Bang.

I find it all fascinating.


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Maneesh Godbole
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Joined: Jul 26, 2007
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    8

My daughter is currently enjoying her summer vacations and as a holiday project we are building a home telescope. She is not that enthusiastic about space shuttles and technology for now. Her favorite pastime is identifying different stars and constellations.

Star gazing is truly amazing and fun experience. Recently I had stellarium installed for her. Its awesome!


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Jesper de Jong
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Joined: Aug 16, 2005
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  18

Wow Maneesh, that's great! Did you know that this year is the International Year of Astronomy (as declared by the UN)? I listen to the 365 Days of Astronomy podcast, they have a 10-minute episode every day of the year.
Maneesh Godbole
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Joined: Jul 26, 2007
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    8

Oh yes.
Pune, where I stay, also is the home for IUCAA and they conduct star gazing programs, especially for kids.
Unfortunately, man has managed to pollute the skies too with the lights which makes star gazing difficult because of the glare.
Yesterday and today was a shadowless day for us ~12:30 hrs. The sun was absolutely on top of us and that cast no shadows! It was fun (and also blistering hot, with temp ~40 degrees C)
Jesper de Jong
Java Cowboy
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Joined: Aug 16, 2005
Posts: 14144
    
  18

North-Western Europe is unfortunately also one of the worst places with regard to light pollution... I can see the major stars and planets from my home, but anything dimmer is almost impossible to see from here. I also have family in the countryside in Denmark, where it is a lot darker than here, so a lot more is visible. But I only go there at most once a year or so.
fred rosenberger
lowercase baba
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Joined: Oct 02, 2003
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  16

Phil Plait, the "bad astronomer", was tweeting about the Hubble capture yesterday. It was neat to see/read what was happening, and just as neat to see how clearly excited he was about the whole thing.


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Maneesh Godbole
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Joined: Jul 26, 2007
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    8

@Fred. Thanks for mentioning Phil.
Found this
Now I can truly say, I have seen everything!
Sameer Jamal
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Joined: Feb 16, 2001
Posts: 1870
Maneesh Godbole wrote:@Fred. Thanks for mentioning Phil.
Found this
Now I can truly say, I have seen everything!


Thats an amazing photograph.
Jesper de Jong
Java Cowboy
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Joined: Aug 16, 2005
Posts: 14144
    
  18

Yes, I saw that photo of the sun and the shuttle and Hubble too - amazing!

At this moment, four of the five space walks on the Hubble servicing mission are completed. The first and third went smoothly, but there were some problems on the second and fourth space walks. On yesterday's space walk (the fourth) there was some trouble with a hand rail that they had to remove but which couldn't come off because there was a bad screw that could not be unlocked. In the end, astronaut Mike Massimino yanked it out by force. Because of the trouble the space walk took eight hours instead of the planned six hours and thirty minutes, and they had to skip one of the tasks: installing new outer shielding on the telescope.

Later today the fifth and final space walk will begin, and because of the trouble yesterday they had to reschedule some of the activities.

Fortunately, it looks like all the instruments that they have replaced and repaired on the Hubble are working well. Hopefully everything gets finished well and then Hubble will be better than it has ever been until now.
 
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