Next space observatory, Stephen Hawking to roll out SpaceShipTwo and strong magnetic fields in majority of stars

wfirst-print-3785-1080-640x360NASA has begun working on its next great space observatory

Thanks to an infusion of Congressional funding, NASA has accelerated development of a telescope that could answer some of the most fundamental questions about both the universe and nearby exoplanets. At the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society on Monday, NASA’s Paul Hertz said the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) project will formally begin this year instead of 2017.

Hertz, who directs NASA’s astrophysics division, made the announcement after Congress increased funding for the new flagship telescope project to $90 million for fiscal year 2016, far above the president’s $16 million budget request. The telescope’s 2.4-meter mirror is designed to measure light from nearly 400 million galaxies and 2,600 exoplanets during its primary, six-year mission.

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Stephen Hawking will help Virgin Galactic roll out second SpaceShipTwo on Feb. 19

More than a year after the first SpaceShipTwo rocket plane was destroyed in a fatal test flight, Virgin Galactic says the second SpaceShipTwo is ready for its California rollout on Feb. 19 – and famed British physicist Stephen Hawking is invited.

Scores of other VIPs, officials and journalists are invited as well: The date for the rollout was disseminated in advisories that went out this afternoon.

Next month’s event, like the debut of the first SpaceShipTwo in 2009, will unfold at Mojave Air and Space Port in California. It should mark a significant step in Virgin Galactic’s harder-than-expected effort to carry tourists as well as researchers and their payloads on suborbital trips to the edge of outer space.

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Strong magnetic fields discovered in majority of stars

strongmagnetStrong magnetic fields discovered in majority of stars—Finding to impact understanding of stellar evolution

An international group of astronomers led by the University of Sydney has discovered strong magnetic fields are common in stars, not rare as previously thought, which will dramatically impact our understanding of how stars evolve.

Using data from NASA’s Kepler mission, the team found that stars only slightly more massive than the Sun have internal magnetic fields up to 10 million times that of the Earth, with important implications for evolution and the ultimate fate of stars.

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