Missions and Experiments, Galore
With the end of the final servicing mission to HST coming up, it’s comforting to know that HST will serve our astronomy needs for years to come. It’s a grand machine and we will get lots of good science from it. Makes me glad! It was a stunning mission to watch from the comfort of my desktop computer.
But, life (and science) marches on, and there’s always another mission coming up for launch, another set of science experiments to perform, and not just in astronomy and space science, but in every corner of the science community. But, for right now, let’s look at a roundup of the news that crossed my desk since early this week.
The Kepler mission to find Earth-like exoplanets, for example, is in calibration and testing now that it’s in space and returning its early data. The Spitzer Space Telescope is beginning a new “warm” phase of its operations, largely because its liquid helium coolant has run out and the detectors it was keeping cool have been warming up. They can still do good science, just not the science that requires coolant to keep the detectors chilled enough to see some of the infrared wavelengths seen before.
The Herschel and Planck missions to study the birth and evolution of the universe were launched last week, and seem to be running nicely, so far. Moon missions are in planning, and at Mars, the handlers for the Spirit rover are working on ways to get it moving again from its dust pit location. SETI institute is celebrating 10 years of SETI@Home – the massive distributed computing project that is searching for signals from elsewhere that might indicate intelligent life elsewhere. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory announced the discovery of a double star system that seems to be birthing one of the fastest-spinning pulsars yet seen. University of Chicago scientists have a new gravity-wave probe that will begin taking data in June, and astronomers in California and France are developing new ways to use the intrinsic brightness of certain types of supernovae to determine cosmic distances more accurately. Finally, the NSF is using the popularity of the movie Angels and Demons to talk about the science of the Large Hadron Collider at the particle physics laboratory at CERN.
Science is ongoing; it’s part of our lives, and we’re part of it. Fascinating, as Spock would say.