Amazing! "The Hubble Space Telescope was launched in April 1990. After the problems with its main mirror were fixed, it started sending beautifully detailed images of space back to earth. Here are some of the best Staring across interstellar space, the Cat's Eye Nebula lies three thousand light-years from Earth. "
A machine to provide "all the answers to all the questions we have about the stars"
"It blows your brain. I remember when we went and asked for this stuff we just fell about laughing. We said: 'Well, let's try; let's see what happens. These engineers are smart'. And, boy, they're smart - they did it!"
Cambridge University's Gerry Gilmore says astronomers thought they were requesting the impossible when the spec was put forward in the early 1990s for a space mission to make a far-reaching census of the Milky Way.
The desire was to map very precisely the position, motion and properties of hundreds of thousands of the brightest stars all the way to the galactic centre and beyond.
If that could be achieved, the scientists argued, we could unlock remarkable information about the structure and history of our corner of the Universe.
Today, this mission impossible is built and ready to go.
On Friday, the European Space Agency's Gaia telescope will be flown to French Guiana to begin the preparations for launch on a Soyuz rocket in mid-November.
The satellite is going to make the ultimate map of the sky. For certain, its catalogues will underpin pretty much all of astronomy for decades to come.
Gaia will pinpoint about a billion stars and build a profile on each and every one, including:
And for about 150 million of these stars, the telescope will determine their velocity not merely across the sky but their movement either towards or away from us.
It's this part that blows my brain, because these three-dimensional markers then allow us to trace the evolution of the Milky Way, long into the future and deep into the past.
"It will be a time-lapse movie and we're going to watch it," says Prof Gilmore.
"We will see the remnants, the debris streams, of the first shards that became what is today the Milky Way. We can run the process right back to the first things that ever happened. We will see the entire history of the Milky Way unfolding before our eyes."
Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
The sun’s magnetic field will reverse polarity at some point in the coming weeks, sending ripples to the edge of interstellar space
The Sun is set to “flip upside down” within weeks as its magnetic field reverses polarity in an event that will send ripple effects throughout the solar system.
Although it may sound like a catastrophic occurrence, there’s no need to run for cover. The sun switches its polarity, flipping its magnetic north and south, once every eleven years through an internal mechanism about which little is understood.
The swap could however cause intergalactic weather fronts such as geomagnetic storms, which can interfere with satellites and cause radio blackouts.
Nasa said in August that the change would happen in three to four months time, but it is impossible to give a more specific date. Scientist won’t know for around another three weeks whether the flip is complete.
The impact of the transfer will be widespread as the sun’s magnetic field exerts influence well beyond Pluto, past Nasa's Voyager probes positioned near the edge of interstellar space.
The event will be watched closely by researchers at Stanford University’s Wilcox Solar Observatory, which monitors the sun's magnetic field on a daily basis.
Todd Hoeksema, director of the Wilcox Solar Observatory, said the polarity change is built up throughout the eleven year cycle through areas of intense magnetic activity known as sunspots which gradually move towards the poles, eroding the existing opposite polarity.
Eventually, the magnetic field reduces to zero, before rebounding with the opposite polarity. “It's kind of like a tide coming in or going out,” Hoeksema said. “Each little wave brings a little more water in, and eventually you get to the full reversal.”
One of the most noticeable effect on Earth will be a boost in the occurrence, range and visibility of auroras - the Northern Lights. “It’s not a catastrophic event, it’s a large scale event that has some real implications, but its not something we need to worry about,” added Hoeksema.
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I habent installed this app so I cant give my input on it, but its here for us if needed
Snowball’s chance in hell: Massive ice comet Ison to pass into Sun’s corona
It could be one of the most spectacular events in years – or it might fizzle out into nothing.
At about 6.30pm tomorrow, astronomers will see if comet Ison passes safely through the corona of the Sun or explodes in a giant cloud of superheated steam.
The 2km-wide (1.2 miles) ice ball is speeding towards the sun at 845,000mph, and will pass 1.15million km (720,000 miles) above the solar surface.
‘It is going to be encountering temperatures of nearly 2,800C at the hottest point, and we are talking about what is essentially an ancient snowball, so it’s going to be a bit of a shock for it,’ said Prof Andrew Coates, of the Mullard Space Science Laboratory.
‘It could mean we will be able to see a long straight line, or trails in the sky, but we just don’t know yet. However, even if it breaks up into several bits, it could still create a spectacle.
‘It could show in the first few mornings in December [to the south-east], or if people look west in the evenings it may also be visible then. It is not going to be near enough to us to pose any threat.
‘But people should avoid looking directly into the Sun when trying to spot it,’ said Prof Coates.
Ison has come from the Oort cloud, a belt of comets on the edge of the Solar System, where it has been for 4.6billion years. It’s tail is millions of kilometres long.
Prof Coates said the best website on which to view the comet is www.spaceweather.com
This cannot be undone and I am sure it will be greatly appreciated.