Caught for the first time: the early flash of an exploding star
The brilliant flash of an exploding star’s shockwave—what astronomers call the “shock breakout”—has been captured for the first time in the optical wavelength or visible light by NASA’s planet-hunter, the Kepler space telescope.
An international science team led by Peter Garnavich, an astrophysics professor at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, analyzed light captured by Kepler every 30 minutes over a three-year period from 500 distant galaxies, searching some 50 trillion stars. They were hunting for signs of massive stellar death explosions known as supernovae.
In 2011, two of these massive stars, called red supergiants, exploded while in Kepler’s view. The first behemoth, KSN 2011a, is nearly 300 times the size of our sun and a mere 700 million light years from Earth. The second, KSN 2011d, is roughly 500 times the size of our sun and around 1.2 billion light years away.
Industry frustrated with slow adoption of hosted payloads
Despite the schedule and cost savings promised by flying government hosted payloads on commercial satellites, industry and former government officials expressed frustration, directed largely at government agencies, with the difficulties they’ve encountered in trying to fly such payloads.
During a panel session about hosted payloads at the Satellite 2016 conference here March 7, one former government official said he recently left the Air Force after seeing several proposals for hosted payloads be rejected by the service.
How smartphones helped NASA to build tiny satellites you can hold in your hand
The same advances in electronics that bring us ever more powerful smartphones are helping NASA become more nimble in exploring the universe.
Engineers are taking advantage of the low-cost, highly integrated components developed for phones and using them to build satellites that are small enough to hold in your hand. They’re easier to build and cheaper to launch than conventional satellites, and provide a testing ground for other technologies used in space.
The technology allows for “fast, affordable, transformative missions. We can try new things more quickly, take risks that we might not take with a much larger spacecraft, and we’re using it as platform to develop and test new technologies that might be useful for spacecraft of any size,” said Andrew Petro, who heads the small satellites program at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
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