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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dark Side of the Sun

Soon we may get the first ever glimpse of the dark side of the sun.

Well, no, there's no actual dark side of a luminous ball of burning gas, but there is an effective dark side, as in, the side of the sun we can't see at any given time.

Scientists aren't content to get just half of the picture, so they've launched the STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatories) mission, a pair of NASA spacecraft that will orbit the sun simultaneously to provide a complete view of all sides of the star at once.

"Then there will be no place to hide and we can see the entire sun for the first time," STEREO project scientist Michael Kaiser of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center told

The perfect spherical view will come on Feb. 6, 2011. Right now the satellites, which were launched in October 2006, are about 90 degrees apart, which allows a picture of about 270 degrees of the sun — the fullest view yet.

"The who goal of all of this is to try to get a better handle to try to predict solar storms, which cause cell phone disturbances, and disruptions to communications and power." Kaiser said. "We'd like to be able to predict these things as far in advance as possible to give us a longer warning time."

Solar storms are magnetic disruptions on the sun that release violent sprays of charged particles into space. These storms can produce magnificent displays of the Northern Lights. But some past storms have also cost airlines and satellite communications industries millions of dollars, and have led to large scale power blackouts (including one across the entire province of Quebec, Canada). Being able to reliably forecast these tempests in advance could make a huge difference in preventing disturbances on Earth.

Predicting solar weather is also important for the future of manned spaceflight. If astronauts are exposed to the intense radiation from solar storms while traveling beyond the protective magnetic field of the Earth, they could suffer serious harm. Even astronauts close to home who venture out for a spacewalk during a storm are put in danger.

"For future missions going to the moon and Mars, that's very important," Kaiser said. "Some of these solar storms can be very intense. If the astronauts were completely exposed to one of these storms the radiation could be high."

The STEREO mission also aims to improve our basic scientific understanding of the dynamics within the sun, which could shed light on the workings of stars in general.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 26 (Bernama) -- About 2,000 people thronged the National Planetarium here at about 3pm to view the country's first partial solar eclipse for this year that lasted for two-and-a-half hours.

The planetarium's research officer, Lau Chen Chen, said visitors got to see the moon obscuring the sun up to 82.6 per cent.

"The solar eclipse would happen during a new moon and when the moon passes between the sun and the earth and this causes the sunlight to be partially or wholly shut out," she said when met by Bernama here today.

The solar eclipse was seen beginning at 4.34pm when the moon passed the fringe of the sun and this was the 'first contact' to begin the partial solar eclipse.

"Observers cannot detect the contact at this time because of the strong sunlight. They were given special spectacles to view the phenomenon. The eclipse can only be seen safely after the moon blocks the sunlight gradually to create a crescent until the maximum blockage was attained at 5.50pm," Lau said.



The partial solar eclipse ended at 6.55pm when the sight of the moon disappeared gradually and sunlight returned. The last time such an eclipse happened in Malaysia was in 2002.

Beside that various activities were planned at the planetarium including the film 'SOS Planet' at the Space Theatre at 5pm and a laser show called 'The Legend of the Night Sky'.

Meanwhile, the Head Imam of the National Mosque, Tan Sri Syaikh Ismail Muhammad, called on Muslims to use the occasion to reflect on the greatness of God. Earlier he had delivered a sermon on strengthening faith through the solar eclipse at the Federal Territory Mosque where about 3,000 Muslims gathered.


Saturday, January 3, 2009

Amazing: Separation Of STS-124 SRB Camera!

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