Space/Astronomy

Mission Diminished: Flag USGS faces potential cuts

Mission Diminished: Flag USGS faces potential cuts

For almost 50 years, the U.S. Geological Survey Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff has played a critical role in NASA missions. The group’s scientists help NASA identify landing sites, design and program equipment, and then use mission data to publish groundbreaking new findings on everything from Mars to icy moons. It’s their job to...

Less than full orbit: The history of Flagstaff’s moon tree

Less than full orbit: The history of Flagstaff’s moon tree

There’s a small Douglas fir just uphill from Frances Short Pond. Since 1976, it’s grown slowly alongside what was once Flagstaff Junior High School. And beneath it is a fading, wooden sign. The sign reads: “This seedling was grown from the very seeds that journeyed to the moon and back on board Apollo 14.”...

Astronomers fight back against electronic billboards

Jeff Hall, director of Lowell Observatory, is concerned about statewide loosening of regulations concerning electronic billboards. (Josh Biggs/Arizona Daily Sun)

Astronomy is big business in Arizona. And it also protects national security interests. That’s the case the state’s astronomy community is making against HB2757, which would lift the state ban on electronic billboards and let local jurisdictions take responsibility for them. The astronomy sector supports more than 3,000 jobs with a total capital investment...

Cosmic rays fuel next big astronomy project

Cosmic rays fuel next big astronomy project

Every second of every day, the Earth is bombarded with cosmic-rays — high-energy particles soaring in from the outer reaches of space at nearly the speed of light. When such a particle enters the atmosphere, it sets off a fireworks show invisible to the naked eye. The cosmic ray collides with molecules in Earth’s...

Giant ice volcano may have been found on Titan

Giant ice volcano may have been found on Titan

Astronomers have announced the discovery of a potential new ice volcano on Saturn’s moon Titan. Named Sotra, the volcano is more than 3,000 feet (1 kilometer) tall and has a 1-mile-deep (1.2-kilometer) pit alongside it. Surrounded by giant sand dunes, it is thought to be the largest in a string of several volcanoes that...

What holds the world together? The Cheerios effect

Pictures Depot

Have you ever noticed how the last bits of cereal in the bowl always seem to cling to one another, making it easy to spoon up the remaining stragglers? Physicists have — and they’ve given it a name: the “Cheerios effect.” This effect isn’t exclusive to breakfast cereals, however. It also reveals itself in...

Mars landing: ‘7 minutes of terror’

NASA

Landing on Mars is no easy task. Of all the spacecraft sent by NASA to the red planet, only one in three did so successfully. And yet, NASA needs its newest rover, the $2.5 billion Mars Science Lander, to land and execute its mission flawlessly tonight. The agency’s budget and the future of the...

Mapping the night’s starry skies

Different mounts for telescope line the array at the Naval Observatory's interferometer on Anderson Mesa. (Josh Biggs/Arizona Daily Sun)

Six telescopes spread over several acres focus in on the same star from the U.S. Naval Observatory’s site on Anderson Mesa south of Flagstaff. Each telescope collects the starlight with a small mirror, and then passes it along through hundreds of yards of vacuum-sealed tubes before it reaches a central location. There, the light...

NASA practices for a visit to Mars in deserts of Southwest

NASA practices for a visit to Mars in deserts of Southwest

What’s it like to be on an alien planet? According to NASA, it could be pretty similar to a trip to the Grand Canyon. For many first time visitors to the southwestern United States, the high deserts between the magnificent Grand Canyon and the spires of Monument Valley in northern Arizona seem like an...

Taking the longer view

Brian Skiff of Lowell Observatory poses in the museum at the facility. Mr. Skiff discovered a new asteroid with a tighter orbit than any that had been observed before. Josh Biggs/Arizona Daily Sun

The sun has sunk below the Flagstaff horizon, and for most of the city’s residents, that means the work day is coming to an end. Brian Skiff is just getting started. Skiff is preparing to study the suns of the nighttime sky. In the warm confines of the 42-inch John S. Hall Telescope control...