When the year 2012 is mentioned, one usually assumes the worst. Dave Reneke, an Australian astronomy lecturer and columnist, may have just given reason to vindicate some fears — but not as bad as the movie 2012 would have one suspect.
A giant black hole is putting on a spectacular show and scientists at NASA's Chandra X-ray observatory have captured the action. The black hole, located in galaxy M87, is blasting gas outwards, causing scientists to compare what they are seeing in deep space to the eruption of a volcano.
After a day's delay in liftoff due to a malfunctioning fire extinguishing system on the launchpad, on June 10 at 5:01 p.m. South Korean time, the Naro-1 satellite launcher lifted off from the Naro Space Center at Goheung on the south coast. It then exploded about two and a half minutes later. This was the second failure in as many tries for the multistage rocket. Controllers who were at first cheering, were dismayed 137 seconds later at seeing a bright flash on their screens transmitted from the camera mounted on the tip of the rocket. At that time, the Naro-1 would have been about 43 miles above the earth. Ahn Byong-man, the Minister of Education, Science and Technology, told reporters that officials assume the explosion took place at that point. It was during the first-stage ignition.
In the aftermath of President Obama’s decision to dramatically curtail NASA’s manned space program, many observers wondered what the future of America’s participation in the exploration of the heavens would look like. The successful launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 on June 4 may give us a first look at that future.