Full Regenerations panel now available!

This half-hour panel, filmed last November at the Doctor Who Celebration convention as part of the November 23rd festivities, features Sylvester McCoy, Colin Baker, Peter Davison, and Tom Baker, interviewed by Nicholas Briggs about their tenures as the Doctor.  It’s well worth a watch!

http://www.doctorwho.tv/whats-new/article/exclusive-video-four-doctors-discuss-50-years-of-doctor-who

For a brief taste, here’s a clip of Peter Davison discussing his regeneration scenes:

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Geomagnetic storm in progress; second CME expected shortly

UPDATE: The storm is now subsiding, having never reached G2 level.  However, auroras remain possible at high latitudes.

A CME struck the Earth’s magnetosphere earlier today, triggering a G1 geomagnetic storm, which is mild but enough to create auroral displays in Arctic countries.  A second one emerging from the same sunspot group is still coming, and NOAA is predicting a 75% chance of a G2 class storm, which is considered moderate.  This could trigger some disruptions in service at high latitudes, but mostly will trigger more auroras — possibly as far south as the 45th parallel.  So if weather permits and you’re up late, take a peek to the north.  ;-)  Or at least check spaceweather.com for live updates on conditions.

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Watching a Dragon in the sky

The incomparable Thierry Legault, spacecraft photographer extraordinary, has captured this astounding video of the Dragon spacecraft passing overhead, as seen near Paris, France.  (Just seeing anything in the sky near Paris is impressive, but to make out detail on the spacecraft is something else.)

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And as Dragon goes up, LADEE goes down….

Actually, it went down late last night.  But RIP LADEE, NASA’s latest lunar mission.  LADEE’s mission was always meant to end this way, a consequence of the low orbit it required to conduct its mission passing through the moon’s lumpy gravitational field and extremely tenuous atmosphere, and gradually easing lower to get ever more sensitive measurements.  NASA does not yet know exactly where it came down, but have a general idea, and expect they’ll find the impact site by searching through LRO imagery over the next few weeks.  LADEE survived the eclipse last Tuesday, but ultimately succumbed to the inexorable pull of gravity.  It was actually predicted to impact Sunday or MOnday, so it actually came down a little ahead of schedule.  But the Moon’s mascons make lunar navigation difficult, especially as you get close, so a precise date was never possible.

Now comes the next part of the mission: analyzing the data it returned!

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Dragon’s CRS-3 mission is on its way!

SpaceX has successfully launched the CRS-3 Dragon capsule towards the ISS!  High seas prevented recovery of the flyback stage, but they got good telemetry during its descent showing that not only were the landing legs not a problem, the stage was able to halt its spinning, which is what had destroyed the first stage on the last attempt at a flyback test.  SpaceX will continue to analyze the data on the flyback.  But one thing is for sure: the launch was fully successful, putting Dragon on course to meet the ISS on Easter.

SpaceflightNow also has a lovely set of launch photos by Walter Scriptunas.

After deployment of Dragon, the rocket was scheduled to deploy a cubesat called KickSat loaded with 104 postage-stamp sized satellites called “sprites” that are little more than a microprocessor, some tiny solar cells, and two wires to act as antennas.  They transmit messages, with the idea being to substitute size with quantity.  At 104, this sets a record for quantity of subsatellites deployed.

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Earth Two — For Real?

Scientists working with NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope program are continuing to pore over the mountain of data the spacecraft, and probably will for years to come.  And now they’ve announced a major result: the first confirmed Earthlike planet that is close to Earth’s size and in the habitable zone of its parent star.

The new planet is Kepler 186f, less than 10% larger than Earth, and it orbits a small star about half the size of our own Sun.  Since its star (Kepler 186) is so much smaller than the Sun, the habitable zone is also smaller; Kepler 186f orbits in just 180 days.  There are also at least four planets inwards from Kepler 186f, but they are too close to the star to be habitable.

This system is much too far away to colonize in the near future; it’s 500 light years away, in the constellation Cygnus.  But it’s a tantalizing taste for what awaits as the search for extrasolar planets continues.  ;-)

Kepler-186f, the first Earth-size Planet in the Habitable Zone

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Saturn is growing a new moon!

PIA18078_modest

Astronomers working at Queen Mary University of London were going through the treasure trove of data returned by the Cassini mission when they spotted something strange: a lump in one of the rings.  Well, lumps in the rings aren’t all that unusual, but this one looked more like a newly discovered moonlet.  So they computed an orbit for it and looked for it in other images.  And they found it — but in a way that suggests it may actually be very young (in astronomical terms) and still in the process of formation, accreting from the icy debris in Saturn’s rings.  The moon has been provisionally nicknamed Peggy, but if confirmed and recognized by the IAU will likely get a mythological name in line with the existing sorts of names around Saturn.

The Cassini team, meanwhile, is hoping to get a better look at “Peggy” when the next phase of the mission brings the spacecraft closer to the rings.

Cassini Mission: NASA Cassini Images May Reveal Birth of a Saturn Moon

Bad Astronomy: Cassini May Have Witnessed the Birth of a New Saturn Moon!

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