Astro News: 11th November 2011

11 November 2011 by Philip James Ma...

In the news this week: a close encounter with asteroid 2005 YU55, E-ELT edges closer to being funded, and 6 men who survived an unusual space mission.

A Close Encounter with Near Earth Asteroid 2005 YU55
Big enough to cause a pretty major extinction event, 2005 YU55 missed the Earth (as expected) by 200 million miles or so. That’s closer than the moon - but not close enough to have been worried! Do follow these links: Bad Astronomy and Stuart Lowe’s Astronomy Blog are both very good - as is BJ Fulton's LCOGT telescope camera-work!

Nature: Megatelescopes look for support
As the big astronomy projects in the US make plans to cope with the prospect of American science funding cuts, the European Extremely Large Telescope project is looking for ways to raise the money it needs - maybe from the 14 countries already involved, or maybe from welcoming more international partners. Niranjan Thatte and his Oxford Astrophysics instrumentation group are watching out for the approval of the E-ELT construction phase by the ESO Council with particular interest. This is currently planned for March 2012, although a few things (like a road to the site in Cerro Armazones) will be put forward for approval in December 2011. Once the E-ELT has the go-ahead for the construction phase, we hope that a contract to build HARMONI (under Oxford leadership) will follow soon after.

Mars-500 Experiment A Success
In Russia, 6 volunteers emerged blinking into the daylight (and fresh air) after spending 520 days in a specially-designed simulation of a manned mission to Mars. The “Marsonauts” (all men) emerged in good spirits, pleased to have shown that cabin fever should not be a problem for future long space flights. However, the team leader did say that he, for one, had “really missed being in traffic jams.” There’s a whole feature on the Mars-500 experiment in New Scientist.

Categories: news | mars | asteroids | E-ELT | thatte