Snippets

Dream Chaser set for a 2016 launch

The Sierra Nevada Corporation has set November 1, 2016, for the debut flight of its space shuttle replacement. Known as the Dream Chaser, the winged vehicle will launch atop an Atlas V from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. The Dream Chaser has  been designed to carry up to seven astronauts into low-Earth orbit. The maiden voyage, however, will be an unmanned, autonomous flight. The reusable ‘lifting body’ will spend about a day in orbit before returning to a landing strip on the US West Coast. If all goes well, SNC hopes to mount its first manned mission in 2017.

The nine- metre-long Dream Chaser is one of the three commercial human transportation systems currently being developed. The other two are more traditional capsule designs known as CST-100 and Dragon, from the Boeing and SpaceX companies respectively.NASA is likely to concentrate its resources on two, perhaps even only one, of these systems from late this year as it seeks to restore America’s capability to launch its own astronauts into space. This capability was lost when the shuttles were retired in 2011 and sent to museums.

Today, all US personnel travel to the International Space Station in Russian Soyuz capsules, with each seat costing US taxpayers about $60 million.

JONATHAN AMOSThe New York Times

It’s time to follow Comet Linear

This month, fix your eyes on the sky to watch Comet Linear, which will be visible in the Northern Hemisphere. Formally designated C/2012 X1, this is a non-periodic comet discovered by Lincoln Laboratory Near Earth Asteroid Research Project on December 8, 2012. On October 20, 2013, the comet experienced a huge outburst and brightened by five magnitudes. Many astronomers and sky gazers were fascinated by witnessing the pulchritude and effervescence of Linear. As of September 2013, it remained at magnitude eight, with a short, vague tail, visible telescopically to Northern Hemisphere observers in Hercules constellation. The images were obtained during a comet-hunting survey that Lovejoy has been conducting for over a year. Comets move in elliptical orbits like the planets. But while orbits of planets are nearly circular, the ellipses are highly elongated in the case of comets, with the orbit even becoming nearly parabolic.

Comet Linear had passed perihelion one month after the discovery, but was discovered about a day before its closest passage by Earth at 0.65 Astronomical Units. On February 21, 2014, Comet Linear reaches perihelion and is the right time to see it. There is a greater possibility of witnessing this comet through naked eyes. The widespread observations began at the end of December 2013.

Presently, the comet could be seen in eastern sky. Since it is referred to as the ‘morning comet’, it is usually seen at around 5.30 am in the eastern sky. Even with the help of small telescopes and binoculars, the comet is noticeable. But the best time to witness this periodic comet is around 5.40 am. It is visible from all parts of India. The various astronomical devices used to witness this particular comet are Celstron Nexstar11 telescope, Meade F3.3 focal reducer, and Stellacam II video camera.

S A MOHAN KRISHNA

Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi? Who will win the battle royale of the Lok Sabha Elections 2019


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