25 December 2008

Chandrayaan 2 Design Complete

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said the design for the second moon mission, 'Chadrayaan 2' is completed on December 24th, Wednesday. The mission is supposed to carry a lander/rover whereas the mother spacecraft will orbit the Moon. Chandrayaan 2 is said to be launched on 2012.

ISRO has collaborated with Russia for building the rover. The rover will have a soft landing on the moon unlike the MIP probe of Chandrayaan 1 which had a hard landing. The rover will collect the soil and rock samples from the moon, do in-situ tests and send the data to Earth through the orbiter. The estimated cost for Chandrayaan 2 is said to be Rs. 425 crore (US $ 90 million).

ISRO is currently earning about Rs 10 billion (Rs 1,000 crore) annually from its commercial wing. Chandrayaan is expected make it grow at 20 percent per year.

Anyways, I forgot to mention this in my previous post. The previous one was my 50th post. :)

21 December 2008

W2M Satellite Launched

Another achievement by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) as the satellite "W2M" was successfully launched Sunday morning at Kourou in French Guyana.

Ariane - 5 before launch

Ariane-5 (rocket) was launched on sunday bearing two satellites, "W2M and Hot Bird 9". The space craft W2M, weighing 3463 kg was built by ISRO. This is the heaviest satellite ever built by ISRO and its capable of operating over 15 years. W2M is a communication satellite built on a commercial basis in partnership with EADS-Astrium of Europe.

18 December 2008

Picture Of The Month - December 2008

This is not a very clear image but it is an astonishing one of the crescent Moon and Venus. This was viewed right here at Chennai on May 21st, 2004. It may be old but I would never forget this incident where the Moon forms a magical lamp with Venus brightly light at the end. This image was published in "The Hindu" on the next day. Ever since I started this blog I wanted to post this image but I never found it. By mere luck I found the old newspaper with this image and using its date I found the image in "The Hindu" website. I now hold the newspaper cutting (where the image is clear) as a possession. Click Here to read the article.

A Halo!

I remember my friend Kavin, who use to ask me repeatedly, "What is an Halo and how it is formed?". I had no answer to this question except that I knew it occurs quite regularly. So finally I decided to check on what an Halo is, and this is what I found.

Halos are nothing but a dim circle of light that is formed around the Sun or the Moon or any bright source of light for that matter (eg. a street lamp). These halos are formed due to ice crystals that are found in the clouds. These ice crystals acts as a lens reflecting and refracting the light.

A picture of the Sun's Halo

A Moon Halo

17 December 2008

Geminids Experience

It is the day of Geminids. I had a very long, horrible day throughout. The worst day of my entire life had a happy ending with about 5 meteors. Click here to read the experience of my day. Due to various reasons I reached home as late as 11 pm. I went straight to my terrace at around 11:15 only to find most of the sky covered in clouds. I realized that the clouds were moving very fast and within 10 mins they must clear. Just as I thought the sky was cleared in 10 mins making the sky, around Gemini, clear. The Moon was very bright and I was sure to miss out lots of meteors. I positioned myself such that I could see all around Gemini especially the western part of the sky.

11:39 - South-west, 80 deg from the horizon, a short meteor. Not the brightest.

11:48 - This one was a little to the west from zenith (exactly over-head). It was very quick and very short. It was very quick and also being short, it disappeared less than a second.

11:55 - About 60 deg from the northern horizon, moving towards west. It was a little bright and longer than the previous two.

This was when a bunch of clouds came in. Had to wait a long time for it to clear.

12:15 - About 45 deg from the western horizon. It was less bright but it was quick.

12:30 - About 60 deg from south-west horizon. This one was bright and it moved slowly, about the normal speed with all others being too quick.

The long tiring day started to take over me and I realized I almost dozed at the terrace. I decided to get back into the house and sleep. But it was a good experience.

I hope atleast one of my friends had caught one.

9 December 2008

Geminids 2008

Yet another Meteor Showers. This one is called Geminids. These meteors appear to out of the constellation Gemini, just as Leonids did from the constellation Leo. It can be viewed between December 8th till December 17. But it peaks on December 13-14.

Best time to look out for Geminids is from 9pm on December 13th till sunrise on December 14th. It peaks at about 100 meteors an hour. On non-peak days, you may only spot about 10 an hour. Geminids are one of the best shower of the year. These meteors originated in a mysterious object called 3200 Phaethon, which looks like a cross between an asteroid and a burned-out comet. Each time Earth reaches this point in space, the debris falls into the atmosphere causing the meteors.

Where to look? Look at the entire sky during the time. It can appear anywhere. Its direction would be away from Gemini. For those who feel safe to know the location of Gemini, the constellation is exactly where the moon is on December 13th. And yes! Its a full moon. The bright full moon may block most of the meteors. Hence, you can only see the bright meteors. All the dull meteors will be shunt by the bright light of the moon. So look at the entire sky, best being around the moon.

Click Here to see the position of the moon over Gemini and also how the meteors appear from the constellation. The red "X" on the picture is the radiant of the shower. Radiant is a point from where the meteors appear to move from. No meteor will be visible at the radiant. It only appears to move away from it.

Images Of Venus-Jupiter-Moon Smile

Here are some of the images of the Smile created by Moon, Venus and Jupiter in the sky on 1st December, 2008. Venus and Jupiter forms the eyes and the crescent Moon forms the mouth. The brighter eye to the left is Venus and the one of the right is Jupiter.

The beautiful sky smile over the city of New York.

Through the clouds.

Close-up Shot

It looks perfect here.

This image is hours after the smile. Moon has moved past Venus and Jupiter.