Posts Tagged ‘Hubble Space Telescope’

Pluto is a planet with moons after all

July 4, 2013

I grew up in a solar system which had nine planets.

And then poor Pluto was stripped of the honour of being a planet and we had only eight.

But then the “dwarf planets” were defined and Pluto joined this group of 5.

… the International Astronomical Union (IAU) defines a dwarf planet as a celestial body in direct orbit of the Sun that is massive enough for its shape to be controlled by gravitation, but that unlike a planet has not cleared its orbital region of other objects.

The IAU currently recognizes five dwarf planets in the Solar System: Ceres, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris.

It is suspected that another hundred or so known objects in the Solar System are dwarf planets.

And we now have at least 13 known planets. Pluto is not only a dwarf planet it also has at least 5 moons and the last 2 have just been named. The 5 are Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos and Hydra.

Pluto and its moons: IAU


The International Astronomical Union (IAU) is announcing that the names Kerberos and Styx have officially been recognised for the fourth and fifth moons of Pluto, which were discovered in 2011 and 2012. The names were submitted to the IAU by the leader of the team responsible for the discovery, who had called for the help of the general public in an open contest that attracted a substantial number of participants.

The IAU is pleased to announce that today it has officially recognised the names Kerberos and Styx for the fourth and fifth moons of Pluto respectively (formerly known as P4 and P5). These names were backed by voters in a recently held popular contest, aimed at allowing the public to suggest names for the two recently discovered moons of the most famous dwarf planet in the Solar System.

The new moons were discovered in 2011 and 2012, during observations of the Pluto system made with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope Wide Field Camera 3, and increasing the number of known Pluto moons to five. Kerberos lies between the orbits of Nix and Hydra, two bigger moons discovered by Hubble in 2005, and Styx lies between Charon, the innermost and biggest moon, and Nix. Both have circular orbits assumed to be in the plane of the other satellites in the system. Kerberos has an estimated diameter of 13 to 34 kilometres, and Styx is thought to be irregular in shape and is 10 to 25 kilometres across.



Son of Hubble may not launch till after 2015

November 11, 2010

Earlier this year it became clear the the son of Hubble the James Webb Space Telescope, was late and over budget. Costs had ballooned to 5 billion dollars (from the earlier 3.5 billion dollars) and launch was expected in 2014. It has now been acknowledged that costs will be not less than 6.5 billion dollars and launch even in 2015 is optimistic. The management is now being changed and reorganised.

The BBC has the story:

The scale of the delay and cost overrun blighting Nasa’s James Webb Space Telescope has been laid bare by a panel called in to review the project. The successor to Hubble will probably cost at least $6.5bn to launch and operate, and may get into orbit by September 2015.

But even that assessment is optimistic, say the panel members. The head of the US space agency has accepted that “cost performance and coordination have been lacking”. Charles Bolden has ordered a reorganising of the project and has changed the management at its top. Estimates for JWST’s total cost to build, launch and operate have steadily increased over the years from $3.5bn to $5bn. Along with the cost growth, the schedule has also eroded.

The most recent projected launch of 2014 has looked under pressure for some time. The independent panel chaired by John Casani of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, believes it to be unrealistic. The group was convened to examine the root causes of JWST’s problems. It found the original budget for the project to be insufficient and poorly phased, and blamed the management for failing to pick up and deal with the issue.

“This is a very large complex project and to estimate something with any real degree of precision that’s never been done before is a tough job,” John Casani told reporters. “But the bottom line is that there was never enough money in the budget to execute the work that was required. The panel did however commend the technical success of the project. Mr Casani said the technology on JWST was in “very good shape”. The telescope was always regarded as major undertaking. Its primary mirror is 6.5m (21ft) across – close to three times wider than Hubble’s. The huge reflector will sit behind an even more expansive sun shield, the area of a tennis court. This structure will protect the observatory from radiation from the Sun and the Earth. Whereas Hubble sees the Universe mostly in visible light, JWST will observe the cosmos at longer wavelengths, in the infrared. It will see deeper into space and further back in time, to the very first population of stars.

When it is finally built, it will be launched on Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket and sent to an observing position 1.5 million km from Earth. It is expected to have a 10-year lifespan. Its distance from Earth means the telescope cannot be serviced by astronauts, as was the case with Hubble.

Herschel (BBC)

Son of Hubble — getting expensive

September 18, 2010

Successor to Hubble, the James Webb Space Telescope is now slated for launch in 2014. The $5 billion mission is once again plagued by cost overruns.

Science News reports:

How can astronomers advise NASA on how to trim the costs of developing missions if no one will tell them how much the costliest mission of all, the James Webb Space Telescope, is running over budget?

That’s what Alan Boss, chair of the independent NASA Astrophysics Subcommittee, would like to know. When the subcommittee met in Washington, D.C., on September 16 and 17, Boss and his colleagues already knew that the $5 billion infrared space observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope’s successor now set for launch in 2014, was once again in need of a monetary transfusion.

What Boss wanted to know was how much. But no one in room 3H46 at NASA headquarters was willing to talk dollars and sense — when Boss, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., asked if anyone in the room could cite a dollar figure, his question was met with a silence as deep as any in the vast empty reaches of intergalactic space.

Fear of making a huge and embarrassing error like the one that produced Hubble Space Telescope’s infamously misshapen primary mirror may be causing JWST scientists and engineers to go overboard and do too much testing, Weiler said. The comprehensive report on JWST due next month, led by John Casani of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., will cite instances where engineers on the mission may be overzealous in testing equipment.

JWST gobbles up about 40 percent of NASA’s astrophysics science budget.

%d bloggers like this: