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earth’s atmosphere

Startram is a proposed “space train” that could make cheaper journeys beyond Earth’s atmosphere and will allow 4 million people a year to travel to space by 2032, according to its designers.

Startram, designed by one of the inventors of the “magnetic levitation” trains in use in countries such as China, would be a railway driven by superconducting cables suspended in the air by magnetic forces.

Trains would shoot to orbit in seconds in an 80-mile sealed tube – and the scientists behind the $60 billion proposal claim it could revolutionize industry, allowing for cheap space-based solar power and generating unimaginable wealth from mines on asteroids.

“Startram is based on existing maglev technology and basic physics. A motivated nation could build a startram system capable of launching 300,000 tons of payload into orbit for less than $40/kg,” say the space train’s creators.

The system would “shoot” capsules into orbit, accelerating a sealed cargo capsule to a speed of 5 miles per second at 30G using high-powered electromagnets.

“The resources of our own solar system are vast. The energy from the Sun hitting our small planet everyday is roughly 10,000 times our current energy needs. The raw materials locked up in asteroids and comets could support economic growth for millennia to come,” say the scientists.

Startram is a proposed “space train” that could make cheaper journeys beyond Earth's atmosphere and will allow 4 million people a year to travel to space by 2032

Startram is a proposed “space train” that could make cheaper journeys beyond Earth's atmosphere and will allow 4 million people a year to travel to space by 2032

Startram’s creators say that it would be the “next great step” for human civilization – and would provide a “safety net” if life on Earth was threatened by wars or disaster.

“A cargo-only version would cost on the order of $20 billion to build and could be completed within 10 years. A people-capable version could be built for $60 billion and be completed within 20 years,” say Startram’s designers, physicists including Dr. James Powell, the co-inventor of “maglev” train systems.

NASA scientists have looked into the technology and pronounced it feasible.

“Human beings are at the dawn of a new age. Either we will become a true spacefaring people, or we will be trapped on an overcrowded, strife-ridden planet with ever-dwindling resources,” say Startram’s creators.

However, the physicists warn: “Startram will necessarily be an international program, otherwise the potential for a expensive and dangerous arms race between nations is too great. Therefore, the must come from you, the people. This is simply too important to leave up to individual nations and militaries.”


Today is the last chance to see the natural wonder of a total lunar eclipse in 2011.

The Earth passed between the moon and the sun this morning, treating early risers to a cosmic, rusty-red lunar light spectacular.

And additionally it was a rare chance to see an “impossible” eclipse, with the moon red and the rising sun in the sky simultaneously.

Unlike total solar eclipses total lunar eclipses are relatively common and happen on average every two years. This is because the moon is one-third smaller than Earth and so fits more easily into Earth’s umbral shadow.

Today’s total lunar eclipse’s best view is in most parts of western America, Hawaii, northwestern Canada, Australia, New Zealand and central and eastern Asia.

Those in western North America had the best views well before dawn, and viewers could still catch the eclipse until as late as 6:05 a.m. PST.

Unfortunately, sunrise and moonset stopped those in the eastern U.S. from watching the eclipse.

The eclipse began at 4:45 a.m. PST when a red shadow started to cover the moon.

Then as the sun and moon aligned with the Earth slipped in between them, our planet cast a temporary shadow on the moon darkening it and making it appear a deep coppery red, as it blocked the sun’s rays.

The sunlight was still able to pass through Earth’s atmosphere casting a mystical red glow on the moon.

The atmosphere filters out most of the blue light, leaving the red and orange hues that we see during a lunar eclipse.

This light is a projection of all the sunrises and sunsets happening on our planet at this time, combined into a halo around the planet.

The color of the lunar eclipse gives us a report card on the health of the earth's atmosphere; when it is coppery red it means everything is normal

The color of the lunar eclipse gives us a report card on the health of the earth's atmosphere; when it is coppery red it means everything is normal


The color of the lunar eclipse gives us a report card on the health of the earth’s atmosphere. When it is coppery red it means everything is normal. A black colored eclipse happens when there is a lot of volcanic dust in the atmosphere.

As opposed to a partial eclipse, total eclipses entail a perfect alignment of the three bodies- moon, earth and sun.

Most places in the United States and Canada were able to observe an unusual effect.

This occurs when both the rising sun and the eclipsed moon can be seen at the same time.

This was the second total lunar eclipse this year, the first was in June. The next total lunar eclipse will not be until 2014.

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The dead satellite fell into a part of the southern Pacific Ocean about as far from large land masses as you can get, NASA officials said on Tuesday.

NASA calculations put the 6-tonne satellite‘s death plunge early Saturday thousands of miles from northwestern North America, where there were reports of sightings.

Instead, the satellite plunged into areas where remote islands dot a vast ocean.

NASA says those new calculations show the 20-year-old satellite entered Earth’s atmosphere generally above American Samoa.

But falling debris as the satellite broke apart did not start hitting the water for another 300 miles to the northeast, southwest of Christmas Island, just after midnight EDT Saturday.

The satellite fell to Earth on Saturday morning, with debris landing in remote parts of the Pacific Ocean

The satellite fell to Earth on Saturday morning, with debris landing in remote parts of the Pacific Ocean

Experts believe about two dozen metal pieces from the bus-sized satellite fell over a 500-mile span.

“It’s a relatively uninhabited portion of the world, very remote,” NASA orbital debris scientist Mark Matney said.

“This is certainly a good spot in terms of risk.”

Scientists who track space junk couldn’t be happier with the result.

“That’s the way it should be. I think that’s perfect,” said Bill Ailor, director of the Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies at the Aerospace Corp.

“It’s just as good as it gets.”

Last Saturday, scientists said it was possible some pieces could have reached northwestern Canada and claims of sightings in Canada spread on the Internet.

However, NASA said Tuesday that new calculations show the satellite landed several minutes earlier than they thought, changing the debris field to an entirely different hemisphere.

“It just shows you the difference that 10 or 15 minutes can make,” said Harvard University astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, who tracks man-made space objects. On Saturday, he noted: “We were talking about, <<Wow, did it hit Seattle?>>”

NASA won’t say how it knows the climate research satellite came in earlier, referring questions to the U.S. Air Force space operations centre.

Air Force spokeswoman Julie Ziegenhorn said better computer model reconstruction after the satellite fell helped pinpoint where the satellite (Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite) returned to Earth.

After UARS was launched in 1991, NASA and other space agencies adopted new procedures to lessen space junk and satellites falling back to Earth. So NASA has no more satellites as large as this one that will fall back to Earth uncontrolled in the next 25 years, according to NASA orbital debris chief scientist Nicholas Johnson.

But other satellites will continue to fall. Late in October, or early in November, a German astronomy satellite is set to plunge uncontrolled back to Earth.

While slightly smaller than UARS, the German satellite is expected to have more pieces survive re-entry, said Jonathan McDowell, who worked on one of the instruments for it.

The German ROSAT satellite was launched in 1990, died in 1998 and weighs 2 ½ tons. The German space agency figures 30 pieces weighing less than 2 tons will survive re-entry. Debris may include sharp mirror shards.

The German space agency puts the odds of somebody somewhere on Earth being hurt by its satellite at 1-in-2,000 – a slightly higher level of risk than was calculated for the NASA satellite. But any one individual’s odds of being struck are 1-in-14trillion, given there are 7 billion people on the planet.

NASA’s decommissioned Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) hit the Earth last night.


NASA’s Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite UPDATES:The Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California said the satellite entered the atmosphere over the North Pacific Ocean, off the west coast of the United States. The precise re-entry time and location of any debris impacts are still being determined. NASA is not aware of any reports of injury or property damage.” NASA wrote at 2:37 p.m. EDT (6:37 p.m. UTC).

UPDATE:Because of the satellite’s orbit, any surviving components of UARS should have landed within a zone between 57 degrees north latitude and 57 degrees south latitude. It is impossible to pinpoint just where in that zone the debris landed, but NASA estimates the debris footprint to be about 500 miles [804.7 kilometers] long.”

UPDATE:We extend our appreciation to the Joint Space Operations Center for monitoring UARS not only this past week but also throughout its entire 20 years on orbit,” said Nick Johnson, NASA’s chief scientist for orbital debris, at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “This was not an easy re-entry to predict because of the natural forces acting on the satellite as its orbit decayed. Space-faring nations around the world also were monitoring the satellite’s descent in the last two hours and all the predictions were well within the range estimated by JSpOC.”

UPDATE:DoD’s Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg AFB, CA, has assessed that NASA’s Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite reentered the atmosphere sometime between 0323 and 0509 GMT on 24 September. During this period the satellite passed over Canada, the African continent, and the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The mid-point of that ground-track and a possible reentry location is 31 N latitude and 219 E longitude.”

The $750 million satellite, weighing six tons, first penetrated Earth’s atmosphere somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it all fell into the sea, said NASA and the U.S. Air Force’s Joint Space Operations Center.

NASA’s decommissioned Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite fell back to Earth between 11:23 p.m. EDT Friday [3:23 a.m UTC Saturday], Sept. 23 and 1:09 a.m. EDT [05:09 a.m. UTC Saturday] Sept. 24. The Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California said the satellite penetrated the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean. The precise re-entry time and location are not yet known with certainty,” NASA said.


NASA's satellite "penetrated the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean". Where the satellite landed is not known precisely yet.

NASA's satellite "penetrated the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean". Where the satellite landed is not known precisely yet.


NASA’s earlier calculations had predicted that the former climate research satellite, launched in 1991, would fall over a 500 miles (804.7 kilometers) swath and could include land.

The plummet began over the ocean and there was a lack of reports of people being hit, “gives us a good feeling that no one was hurt,” but officials didn’t know for certain, Steve Cole, NASA spokesman, told The Associated Press.

In the entire 50-plus-year history of the space program, no person has ever been injured by a piece of re-entering space debris. Keep in mind we have bits of debris re-entering the atmosphere every single day.” said Mark Matney,  orbital debris scientist at NASA.

There were hypotheses on the Internet and Twitter, much of them centered on unconfirmed reports and even video of debris over Alberta, Canada.

That was possible because the last track for the satellite included Canada, starting north of Seattle and then in a large arc north then south, Steve Cole said. The track continued through the Atlantic south toward Africa, but it is hard to belive that satellite got that far if it started falling over the Pacific.

The surviving chunks of the satellite  include titanium fuel tanks, beryllium housing and stainless-steel batteries and wheel rims.

No consideration ever was given to shooting it down,” NASA said.

The craft contains no fuel and so is not expected to explode on impact, and NASA also said on Twitter that talk of  “flaming space debris” was a “myth“.

Pieces of UARS landing on earth will not be very hot. Heating stops 36km up, cools after that,” NASA said. The satellite contains nothing radioactive but its metal fragments could be sharp.

The U.S. space agency has warned anyone who comes across what they believe may be the satellite’s debris not to touch it but to contact authorities for assistance.

Any pieces of UARS found are still the property of the country that made it. You’ll have to give ’em back to U.S.” NASA wrote on Twitter.

 “Should the public come across debris they believe to be from the downed satellite, they should alert the authorities, or the authorities may come after them.” said Robert Pearl, space artifacts expert .

Some lucky sky-watchers in Florida were able to catch a glimpse of the defunct satellite as it circled the Earth before its final descent.


NASA awaits more details from the Air Force, that was responsible for tracking debris, but where the satellite might have fallen, officials could never know precisely.


Most space debris is in the ocean. It’ll be hard to confirm,” Steve Cole said.


The chart shows the predicted entry of the satellite point, based on data from U.S. Strategic Command.(William Harwood/MacDoppler Pro)

The chart shows the predicted entry of the satellite point, based on data from U.S. Strategic Command.(William Harwood/MacDoppler Pro)


The satellite had 35 feet (10.7 meters) and some 26 fragments of the satellite representing 1,200 pounds (544.31 kilograms) of heavy metal had been expected to fall down. The biggest surviving chunk should be no more than 300 pounds (136 kilograms).

Space law professor Frans von der Dunk from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln told AFP that the US would likely have to pay damages to any country where the debris falls.

Liability for damage caused by space debris is regulated by a 1972 international treaty that the U.S. has signed on to,”NASA wrote on Twitter.

The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite is the biggest NASA spacecraft to crash back to Earth, uncontrolled, since the Skylab space station and the Pegasus 2 satellite (1979).

Russia’s 135-ton Mir space station hit the Earth in 2001, but it was a controlled dive into the Pacific.

No one had ever been hit by falling space junk and NASA expected that not to change. NASA put the chances that somebody somewhere on Earth would get hurt at 1-in-3,200, a person’s odds of being struck were estimated at 1-in-22 trillion, since there are 7 billion people on the planet.

The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite ran out of fuel in 2005, it was built and launched before NASA and other nations started new programs that prevent this type of uncontrolled crashes of satellite.

It was the first multi-instrumented satellite to observe numerous chemical components of the atmosphere for better understanding of photochemistry. UARS data marked the beginning of many long-term records for key chemicals in the atmosphere. The satellite also provided key data on the amount of light that comes from the sun at ultraviolet and visible wavelengths,” Beth Dickey and Steve Cole wrote.


A new post on NASA’s official Twitter account  said of the falling satellite: “Re-entry prediction now later than expected – tonight or late Saturday morning,” at just before noon Eastern Time.

It seemed that NASA’s earlier prediction of a landing late this afternoon was wrong. A second update from NASA said, “predicted re-entry moving later.”

Meanwhile, NASA official website reveals that the satellite‘s orientation has changed during its plunge – and that its rate of descent was “changing”, making it difficult for NASA computers to predict the time or place of landing.

“There is now a low probability debris that survives re-entry will land in the United States.”

The falling satellite is one of the thousands of objects in Earth orbit being tracked by NASA

The falling satellite is one of the thousands of objects in Earth orbit being tracked by NASA


The space agency says there is a one in 3,200 chance the falling satellite will hit someone.

The satellite, which has six tons, is being tracked by all available equipment including a giant radar at RAF Fylingdales on the North York Moors on its path towards Earth.

NASA admits that it cannot predict the time or place of re-entry with any certainty – “but predictions will become more refined in the next 12 to 18 hours.”

A period of “12 to 18 hours” seems unnervingly close to when the huge Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) will break up on entering the Earth’s atmosphere, throwing chunks of metal weighing up to 350 lb across hundreds of miles.

The space agency said it will only know 2 hours before impact where it will land and even that prediction will only be accurate to the nearest 6,000 miles.

The satellite landing could be anywhere between the 57th parallel north, which crosses Britain at around Inverness, and the 57th parallel south, which passes just below South America.

Worldwide interest in the satellite is growing: a website set up to “track” the falling satellite is constantly crashing under incredible demand, and an app for Android smartphones, Satellite AR, allows people to “see” where it is at any moment.

An amazing video captured the satellite earlier this week as NASA experts slowly narrowed down the area where it could strike.

Astrophotographer Thierry Legault’s clip, shot in northern France, shows the 20-year-old UARS satellite, appearing as a beaming mass of light as it careers to Earth.

The station at RAF Fylingdalers was originally built at the height of the Cold War to track any incoming ballistic missile attack – a role it still performs.

A RAF spokeswoman said:

“The Space Operations Room at Royal Air Force Fylingdales is manned 24 hours a day by specialist Royal Air Force and civilian personnel, and its operators will be working to track the UARS object as it returns to the atmosphere.

“The Solid State Phased Array Radar is being tasked by the United States Air Force and the Royal Air Force to concentrate its radar energy towards the object in order to track its final orbit.”

“This information will then be used by various different agencies to predict the path of re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.”

Initially, the satellite was expected to come crashing down through the atmosphere on Friday evening, GMT. On Thursday, the Aerospace Corporation in California predicted that re-entry will occur over the Pacific Ocean.

The satellite, which is 20-year-old, is the biggest NASA spacecraft to fall uncontrolled from the sky in 32 years.

The satellite is expected to break into more than 100 pieces as it enters the atmosphere, most of it burning up.

The heaviest metal parts are expected to reach Earth, the biggest chunk weighing about 300 lb (135 kg). The debris could be scattered over an area about 500 miles long.

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You can enjoy an online unique experience with Perseid meteor shower NASA web chat tonight!


Perseid meteor shower NASA web chat tonight

Perseids performed a splendid show in 2009. Let's enjoy Perseid meteor shower NASA web chat tonight too!

This meteor shower peaks annualy on August 12 approximately and it brings forth about 60 meteors per hour ore more. An observer could spot up to 100 meteors per hour on the peak night when there is no moonlight. This year the Moon is full at that moment and makes shooting stars harder to see.[googlead tip=”lista_mica” aliniat=”stanga”]

“The Perseids are considered the best meteor shower of the year by many, but with the full moon washing out all but the brightest meteors, rates will probably only be 20-30 per hour at most — weather permitting. ” Says NASA.

This year the Perseid meteor shower will reach a peak for overnight (Friday, August 12 into the early morning Saturday, August 13) and the space agency is broadcasting a live web chat.
This wonderful sky show is more visible from the northern hemisphere because of the Perseids radiant which doesn’t go up above the horizon.

[googlead tip=”vertical_mic”]Perseid meteor shower NASA web chat tonight begins at 11 p.m. EDT ( 03:00 UTC  GMT) and lasts until 5 a.m. EDT Saturday. Astronomer from the Marshall Space Flight Center Bill Cooke and his colleagues, Danielle Moser and Rhiannon Blaauw, will be online.

A light-activated  camera at the NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama turn on each evening. On a dark background you can see at night stars or white points.
Hearing the sounds (whistles, blips, pings) of passing through meteors it is possible, even before the camera activates.

“The meteors themselves don’t make sounds, but they ionize the air around them as they burn up. These ionized air molecules reflect radio waves back to our antenna.” Says NASA.


[googlead tip=”vertical_mic”]On the Perseid meteor shower NASA web chat tonight you can ask question about Perseid and talk to the astronomers.


The Perseids is a prolific meteor shower associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle, they seem to radiate from constellation Perseus. The name derives from Perseides, sons of Perseus and Andromeda in Greek mythology.
While the Earth passes through the comet’s debris, pieces of ice and dust (over one thounsand years old) burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Photo credit: fruitbit/flickr.com