Cliff Meinhardt

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NASA Inspects Ion Engine Prototype For Asteroid-Hauling Rocket

A look at possible propulsion for NASA's plan to bring an asteroid home for study.<p>When NASA sends a rocket out to tow an asteroid into Earth orbit, it'll be ion propelled.<p>Ion propulsion engines harness magnetic fields to create thrust, instead of depending on chemical explosions the way chemically …

APOD: Horsehead: A Wider View (2013 May 03) Composition and Processing: Robert Gendler Image Data: ESO, VISTA, HLA, Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap130503.html Explanation: Combined image data from the massive, ground-based VISTA telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope was used to create this wide perspective of the interstellar landscape surrounding the famous Horsehead Nebula. Captured at near-infrared wavelengths, the region's dusty molecular cloud sprawls across the scene that covers an angle about two-thirds the size of the Full Moon on the sky. Left to right the frame spans just over 10 light-years at the Horsehead's estimated distance of 1,600 light-years. Also known as Barnard 33, the still recognizable Horsehead Nebula stands at the upper right, the near-infrared glow of a dusty pillar topped with newborn stars. Below and left, the bright reflection nebula NGC 2023 is itself the illuminated environs of a hot young star. Dense clouds below the base of the Horsehead and on the outskirts of NGC 2023 show the tell-tale far red emission of energetic jets, known as Herbig-Haro objects, also associated with newborn stars. http://www.robgendlerastropics.com/HH-HST-ESO.html Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page http://asterisk.apod.com/discuss_apod.php?date=130503 Starship Asterisk* • On This Day in APOD http://asterisk.apod.com/view_retro.php?date=0503

APOD: Tails of Comet Lemmon (2013 May 06) Image Credit & Copyright: Gerald Rhemann http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap130506.html Explanation: What caused the interestingly intricate tails that Comet Lemmon displayed earlier this year? First of all, just about every comet that nears the Sun displays two tails: a dust tail and an ion tail. Comet Lemmon's dust tail, visible above and around the comet nucleus in off-white, is produced by sun-light reflecting dust shed by the comet's heated nucleus. Flowing and more sculptured, however, is C/2012 F6 (Lemmon)'s blue ion tail, created by the solar wind pushing ions expelled by the nucleus away from the Sun. Also of note is the coma seen surrounding Comet Lemmon's nucleus, tinted green by atomic carbon gas fluorescing in sunlight. The above image was taken from the dark skies of Namibia in mid-April. Comet Lemmon is fading as it now heads back to the outer Solar System. http://www.astrostudio.at/ Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page http://asterisk.apod.com/discuss_apod.php?date=130506 Starship Asterisk* • On This Day in APOD http://asterisk.apod.com/view_retro.php?date=0506

APOD: Messier 109 (2013 May 23) Image Credit & Copyright: Bob Franke http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap130523.html Explanation: Beautiful barred spiral galaxy M109, 109th entry in Charles Messier's famous catalog of bright Nebulae and Star Clusters, is found just below the Big Dipper's bowl in the northern constellation Ursa Major. In telescopic views, its striking central bar gives the galaxy the appearance of the Greek letter "theta", ?, a common mathematical symbol representing an angle. Of course M109 spans a very small angle in planet Earth's sky, about 7 arcminutes or 0.12 degrees. But that small angle corresponds to an enormous 120,000 light-year diameter at the galaxy's estimated 60 million light-year distance. The brightest member of the now recognized Ursa Major galaxy cluster, M109 (aka NGC 3992) is joined by three spiky foreground stars strung out across this frame. The three small, fuzzy bluish galaxies also on the scene, identified left to right as UGC 6969, UGC 6940 and UGC 6923, are possibly satellite galaxies of the larger M109. http://bf-astro.com/ Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page http://asterisk.apod.com/discuss_apod.php?date=130523 Starship Asterisk* • On This Day in APOD http://asterisk.apod.com/view_retro.php?date=0523

North Korea agrees to return to nuclear talks under pressure from China

North Korea has offered to renew nuclear disarmament talks, according to the Chinese state media.<p>At a meeting on Thursday between vice-marshal Choe …