29Apr2015

News Briefs – Breaking Stories – Oddities

News

A weekly addition of some of the more unusual stories and discoveries in space & astronomy from around the world. Updated daily for those wanting a quick update of current events so keep checking back for all the latest space news.


Brightest Comet Of 2018 To Light Up The December Sky In 

Image result for Brightest Comet Of 2018 To Light Up The Sky In December 
Just a few short days after the Geminid meteor shower peaks on December 13, star gazers will be treated to a special appearance by Comet 46P/Wirtanen — hailed as the brightest comet to light up the sky in 2018, according to Comet Watch. First spotted 70 years ago from the Lick Observatory in California, Comet 46P passes by our planet once every 5.4 years. But this year’s flyby promises to be particularly memorable. Here’s why.

The icy space rock will be making a very close approach to our planet in 2018, coming within 7.1 million miles (11.5 million kilometers) of Earth — or about 30 times the distance between Earth and the moon, notes EarthSky. Judging by comet standards, this is a particularly close encounter. By comparison, Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner — which is about to make an important entrance on September 10, as the Inquisitr recently reported — will be passing at five times the distance, approaching at 36.4 million miles (58.6 million kilometers) of Earth. (12/3) (Source: Physics-Astronomy.org)

Crewed Soyuz Returns to Service with Successful Launch to ISS (Source: Space News)
A Soyuz spacecraft is en route to the International Space Station after a successful launch this morning. The Soyuz rocket carrying the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 6:31 a.m. Eastern, placing the spacecraft into orbit nine minutes later. Soyuz MS-11, carrying Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, American astronaut Anne McClain and Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques, will dock with the ISS at about 12:35 p.m. Eastern. The launch was the first crewed mission for the Soyuz since the Oct. 11 Soyuz MS-10 launch that suffered an abort two minutes after liftoff because of a booster malfunction. Prior to the launch, the crew of this mission said they were confident in both the rocket and the spacecraft and were looking forward to a busy time in the coming months on the ISS. (12/3)

Space Force Could Be Part of Expanded Air Force (Source: Space News)
The Pentagon is considering establishing a Department of the Air and Space Force that would include a Space Force. A team of Pentagon officials led by Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan floated this idea to Vice President Mike Pence at a recent meeting. Under that proposal, the Space Force would be part of that department and include the space-related elements of existing military services, but not the National Reconnaissance Office or other parts of the intelligence community. Shanahan is leading development of a legislative proposal for creating the Space Force that will be included in the Pentagon’s fiscal year 2020 budget proposal in February. (12/3)

Karman Line Change Could Ensure Virgin Galactic Reaches “Space”(Source: Space News)
As Virgin Galactic nears space, what constitutes the boundary of space is being reexamined. Richard Branson said in an interview published Friday that he expects SpaceShipTwo to reach space for the first time “before Christmas.” Company executives haven’t endorsed that timeline, but said they expect the next phase of powered test flights to start in the near future. Virgin Galactic has been focused on reaching an altitude of 80 kilometers, the milestone used by NASA and the U.S. Air Force for awarding astronaut wings, rather than the 100-kilometer Karman Line used during the Ansari X Prize competition.

On Friday, though, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, the world air sports federation that maintains records for both aviation and spaceflight, announced it planned to work with the International Astronautical Federation on reexamining the Karman Line altitude, noting recent studies that suggested 80 kilometers was a more appropriate boundary. (12/3)

DOD Needs More Space Innovation (Source: Space News)
The Defense Department is not doing enough to innovate in space systems and other areas, some experts warn. A final report released last week by the National Defense Strategy Commission concluded that American military capabilities have “eroded to a dangerous degree” and that despite a recent buildup, the Pentagon has done little to show it has invested in technologies to counter China and Russia. In the area of space, one observer noted that the Defense Department is at a crossroads as it weighs how to capture innovation from the private sector and decides what it should develop in-house. (12/3)

InSight Working Well on Mars (Source: Space.com)
NASA’s InSight spacecraft is working well on Mars in the days since its landing last week. The solar-powered spacecraft set a record for the most electrical power generated in a single day last week, giving the spacecraft more than enough to carry out early checkout activities on the surface. InSight, which landed on Mars last Monday, is returning images of its landing site to help scientists and engineers determine the best locations to install its main instruments, a seismometer and heat flow probe. (12/3)

Alleged deGrasse Tyson Misconduct Investigated (Source: Variety)
Fox and National Geographic said this weekend they will investigate allegations of sexual misconduct by noted astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson. Two women, including one who worked as an assistant on the TV series “Cosmos,” came forward recently with claims of inappropriate behavior by Tyson, joining a woman who previously alleged that he raped her when they were graduate students decades ago. Fox and National Geographic, who are working on a second season of “Cosmos” to air next year, said they will conduct a “thorough investigation of this matter” and will “act accordingly” once it is completed. Tyson, in a Facebook post Saturday, defended his actions and said he welcomed the investigation. (12/3)

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