Leah Beeferman

Monitoring the architecture of science: a studious, imaginative investigation of space-bound and land-based far-traveling and distant-looking orbiting and non-orbiting structures

an ongoing weekly project distributed by e-mail running from February 2009 to February 2010.


On December 29, 2009, NASA plans to “pop off” the lens cap on its Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft, currently covering the mechanisms keeping the craft cold – including its coldest detector, now at an internal temperature of less than -447º F

The Cassini spacecraft, orbiting within the Saturn system since 2004, took images in July 2009 revealing significant periodical brightness variation in the planet’s rings; these variations, potentially caused by a collision with comet or asteroid in the 1980s, are characterized by “rippled” or “corrugated” areas that extend for up to 11,000 miles

NASA’s Mars Reconaissance Orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HIGHRISE) has captured images of the Phoenix lander on Mars’ northern plains, where it has endured a year of wintry conditions and is currently covered in carbon dioxide frost

NASA’s interstellar boundary explorer (IBEX) has recently completed the first all-sky map of the heliosphere – a huge “bubble” of magnetism surrounding the solar system – which reveals a previously unknown bright “ribbon”, glowing not from light but from its source particles

On October 12, 2009, NASA launches Operation Ice Bridge, a 158-foot long DC-8 airplane laboratory containing instruments to map changes in sea ice and ice sheets during up to 17 flights over Western Antarctica, the Antarctic Peninsula, and Coastal areas; its data will also provide insight into the shape of the terrain below the ice, something not easily observable by satellites in orbit

Observations made by NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) on the Indian Space Research Organization’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft showing the presence of water molecules in the polar regions of the moon have been confirmed by two other spacecraft, NASA’s Cassini and Epoxi; while the amounts of water were larger than predicted, levels are still extremely small

The Catalina Sky Survey (CSS) – three jointly-operated telescopes in Arizona, USA and Coonabarabran, Australia – will soon become the Catalina Real-Time Transient Survey (CRTS), a reorganization indicative of a shift in astronomy towards the search for objects that change on short timescales: for example, a star which dims by 7500% in just 10 minutes and fully recovers only 10 minutes later

Observations made with the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton X-ray observatory suggest evidence of a new type of black hold residing on the outskirts of galaxy ESO 243-49 and weighing over 500 times the mass of the sun

On June 29, 2009 at 11:45 GMT, one of NOAA’s eastern Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) documents the water vapor winds over the southern hemisphere – an ongoing image-taking process repeatedly performed every six hours

On June 17 2009, NASA plans to launch its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), a satellite programmed to maintain a polar orbit of the moon that will enable it to fly over dozens of past lunar landing sites – U.S. and Soviet, robotic and human – to investigate the effects of lunar time on the hardware left behind

As of 3:11pm PST on May 15 2009, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has run out of coolant – the liquid helium keeping its instruments cool – and entered its next phase of exploration: the so-called ‘warm mission

Cassini, NASA’s spacecraft orbiting and studying the Saturn System, makes a flyby of Titan – Saturn’s largest moon – on May 21 2009 to investigate Titan’s southern hemisphere dune field, referred to as ‘Shangri-La

On May 16, 2009, the Hubble Space Telescope’s 800lb COSTAR corrective optics package – installed in orbit in 1993 to compensate for the spherical aberration in the telescope’s primary mirror – was removed and replaced with the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS), an instrument designed to study interstellar medium, the space between stars, and the space between galaxies

TACSAT3, an experimental tactical satellite designed by the US Military towards integrating low-cost space technology onto “tactical battlefields”, is set to launch around 8PM on Tuesday, May 5, from Pad 0B at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Virginia

Drifting more than 4,461,000km from Earth and communicating with a round-trip light time of 29.7 seconds, the Kepler Space Telescope is turned on: it receives a 100 degree field of view containing 14 million stars, 100,000 of which are considered “ideal candidates” for Earth-sized planet-searching

Through a series of images taken over a seven year time period, the Hubble Space Telescope tracks changes in the brightness of a beam of hot gas – called HST-1 – emerging from a black hole in elliptical galaxy M87

Locating the production sites of the industrial team responsible for designing and building the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory, the largest ever infrared space observatory at the time of its launch, May 6 2009, part 2 of 2

The Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) – a pair of nearly identical space-based observatories, one ahead of the earth in its orbit, the other behind – continues beyond its two year mission to observe and document the sun and its coronal mass ejections (CMEs), powerful eruptions spewing up to 10 million tons of the sun’s atmosphere into interplanetary space at speeds up to 1 million miles per hour

By analyzing data from optical satellite instruments such as ASTER (Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer) – an imaging device flying on the Terra satellite launched in 1999 – GLIMS (Global Land Ice Measurements from Space) monitors over 52,000 of Earth’s glaciers