Skip to comments.Astronomy Picture of the Day 01-01-04
Posted on 12/31/2003 10:35:59 PM PST by petuniasevan
Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2004 January 1
Explanation: Shells and arcs abound in this false-color, multiwavelength view of supernova remnant N63A, the debris of a massive stellar explosion. The x-ray emission (blue), is from gas heated to 10 million degrees C as knots of fast moving material from the cosmic blast sweep up surrounding interstellar matter. Radio (red) and optical emission (green) are brighter near the central regions where the x-rays seem to be absorbed by denser, cooler material on the side of the expanding debris cloud facing the Earth. Located in the neighboring galaxy known as the Large Magellanic Cloud, the apparent age of this supernova remnant is between 2,000 and 5,000 years, its extended glow spanning about 60 light-years. The intriguing image is a composite of x-ray data from the orbiting Chandra Observatory, optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope, and radio from the Australia Telescope Compact Array.
Status report on Beagle:
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2003
1623 GMT (11:23 a.m. EST)
Mars Odyssey made another attempt to detect the Beagle 2 lander this morning. But like all the previous tries, this one was also unsuccessful.
It took several hours for officials to confirm the results of the orbiter's overflight of the landing site because the Deep Space Network on Earth was occupied by NASA's Mars Exploration Rover and Stardust projects.
In the planned communications session with an orbiting spacecraft, Beagle switches into "listening" mode for 80 minutes. During the pass over the landing site Mars Odyssey sends out a series of 'hails' which, if picked up by Beagle, will enable the lander's receiver to lock onto the signal from the orbiter and activates the lander's transmitter and communications can proceed.
"Scientists took the opportunity this morning to upload another command to Beagle 2 to try to reset its internal clock," the Beagle 2 project announced. "This time, however, the instructions were embedded in the 'hail' command. This is designed to initiate the contact sequence with Beagle 2 and doesn't require a response from the lander to confirm the data have been received.
"No initial result was achieved during this pass of Odyssey but it is hoped that the command may bring success in a future communication slot."
The next opportunity for retrieval of a signal from Beagle 2 will be with Mars Express in early January. Officials said the specific date and time of the next attempt is still being assessed.
NASA has Mars missions planned through decade
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
Posted: December 31, 2003
An artist's concept of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Photo: NASA/JPL
NASA plans to follow the 2003 rover missions with launch of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in August 2005, a 1,900-kilogram (4,200-pound) spacecraft loaded with nine state-of-the-art instruments and cameras that are "truly an order of magnitude beyond that which we've done with Odyssey and MGS," said James Garvin, NASA's chief Mars scientist.
In 2007, NASA will launch a so-called Scout mission. Four such missions currently are under consideration: A lander built with spare parts left over from the scrapped 2001 mission; a rocket-powered airplane; an orbiter to look for trace gases in the atmosphere that are indicative of biological processes; and a mission to bring a sample of the martian atmosphere back to Earth for detailed analysis.
An artist's concept of SCIM. The mission would collect millions of dust particles and about a quart of atmospheric gas from Mars during a fast flythrough of the martian atmosphere for return to Earth. Credit: University of Arizona
"We believe there is missing carbon and once we understand it, what it's like, where it came from, we'll understand more about the possibilities of life, or at least of there having been life on Mars at at least one extremely high priority site."
Following the 2009 launch, NASA will either press ahead with a sample return mission or additional missions to further refine potential landing sites. Ultimately, Garvin hopes, humans will follow.
"We think we have a hell of a program," Garvin said. "It's going to be exciting. I think we're going to find some remarkable stuff."
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