‘NASA’s online contest to name a new room at the international space station went awry. Comedian Stephen Colbert won.
The name “Colbert” beat out NASA’s four suggested options in the space agency’s effort to have the public help name the addition. The new room will be launched later this year.
NASA’s mistake was allowing write-ins. Colbert urged viewers of his Comedy Central show, “The Colbert Report” to write in his name. And they complied, with 230,539 votes. That clobbered Serenity, one of the NASA choices, by more than 40,000 votes. Nearly 1.2 million votes were cast by the time the contest ended Friday.
NASA reserves the right to choose an appropriate name. Agency spokesman John Yembrick said NASA will decide in April, but will give top vote-getters “the most consideration.”‘
‘The bat, seen clinging to the external fuel tank of the Space Shuttle Discovery before its launch on Sunday, apparently clung for dear life to the side of the tank as the spaceship lifted off.
And what a ride.
The shuttle accelerates to an orbital velocity of 17,500 milers per hour, which is 25 times faster than the speed of sound, in just over eight minutes. That’s zero to 100 mph in 10 seconds.
Did it make it into space? No one knows yet. [..]‘
‘Astronauts aboard the ISS can add one more mission to their list: locate a spider that has disappeared.
When Space Shuttle Endeavour took off from Kennedy Space Center this month, the crew carried two spiders with them.
The spiders were sent in an enclosed box for a school science program. Students want to know if spiders can survive and make webs in space, but now only one spider can be seen in the container.
NASA isn’t sure where the spider could have gone.’
‘As if the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy weren’t vexing enough, another baffling cosmic puzzle has been discovered.
Patches of matter in the universe seem to be moving at very high speeds and in a uniform direction that can’t be explained by any of the known gravitational forces in the observable universe. Astronomers are calling the phenomenon “dark flow.”
The stuff that’s pulling this matter must be outside the observable universe, researchers conclude.’
‘Data from satellites and observatories around the globe show a jet from a powerful stellar explosion witnessed March 19 was aimed almost directly at Earth.
NASA’s Swift satellite detected the explosion – formally named GRB 080319B – at 2:13 a.m. EDT that morning and pinpointed its position in the constellation Bootes. The event, called a gamma-ray burst, became bright enough for human eyes to see. Observations of the event are giving astronomers the most detailed portrait of a burst ever recorded.
“Swift was designed to find unusual bursts,” said Swift principal investigator Neil Gehrels at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “We really hit the jackpot with this one.”
In a paper to appear in Thursday’s issue of Nature, Judith Racusin of Penn State University and a team of 92 coauthors report on observations across the spectrum that began 30 minutes before the explosion and followed its afterglow for months. The team concludes the burst’s extraordinary brightness arose from a jet that shot material directly toward Earth at 99.99995 percent the speed of light.’
They are the toughest animals on the planet – and now scientists have discovered that they can even survive in space.
The tiny creatures, known as tardigrades or water bears, are certainly strange-looking with their eight chubby legs, little claws and probing heads.
Some experts have compared their shape with jelly babies or moles but tardigrades they should not be judged by their ‘cute’ appearance. They are virtually indestructible – they will not die even if they are boiled, frozen, squeezed under pressure or desiccated.
In fact, they can be completely dried out for years – and then spring back to life as if nothing had happened.
Now researchers have revealed that tardigrades – which usually measure no more than a millimetre in length and live in moss – have withstood the airless extremes of space.’
‘What a day. Just after I’d hit the publish button on the blog below, musing about what the big news was that the Phoenix lander was rumoured to have discovered about the ‘potential for life’ on Mars, I received a NASA email suggesting Phoenix may have actually found a chemical that might harm life.
It seems that the lander’s wet chemistry lab, part of its MECA instrument, has detected what seems to be perchlorate, a highly oxidising substance, in two soil samples it has studied.
But so far it’s been difficult to confirm the detection with another onboard instrument called TEGA. A soil sample studied by TEGA on Sunday – taken from just above a layer of ice – found no evidence of the compound. But TEGA had found that an earlier sample of soil, taken from near the surface, was “consistent with but not conclusive of the presence of perchlorate”, said principal investigator Peter Smith in a statement.’
‘Aliens have contacted humans several times but governments have hidden the truth for 60 years, the sixth man to walk on the moon has claimed.
Apollo 14 astronaut Dr Edgar Mitchell, said he was aware of many UFO visits to Earth during his career with NASA but each one was covered up.
Dr Mitchell, 77, said during a radio interview that sources at the space agency who had had contact with aliens described the beings as ‘little people who look strange to us.’ [..]
Chillingly, he claimed our technology is ‘not nearly as sophisticated’ as theirs and “had they been hostile”, he warned ‘we would be been gone by now’. [..]
‘I’ve been in military and intelligence circles, who know that beneath the surface of what has been public knowledge, yes – we have been visited. Reading the papers recently, it’s been happening quite a bit.”
‘The moon was mistaken for a “bright, stationary” UFO which had been loitering for at least half an hour, by a confused local in South Wales who made a 999 call to the police.
Today officers released a transcript in order to highlight the time wasted by unnecessary 999 calls.
The bizzare conversation ran as follows: [..]‘
‘Though the moon has many seas, scientists thought it was dry.
They were wrong.
In a study published today in Nature, researchers led by Brown University geologist Alberto Saal found evidence of water molecules in pebbles retrieved by NASA’s Apollo missions.
The findings point to the existence of water deep beneath the moon’s surface, transforming scientific understanding of our nearest neighbor’s formation and, perhaps, our own. There may also be a more immediately practical application.
“Is there water there? That’s important for lunar missions. People could get the water. They could use the hydrogen for energy,” said Saal.
[..] a high-powered imaging technique known as secondary ion mass spectrometry revealed a wealth of so-called volatile compounds, among them fluorine, chlorine, sulfur, carbon dioxide — and water.’
‘”Flabbergasted” NASA scientists said on Thursday that Martian soil appeared to contain the requirements to support life, although more work would be needed to prove it.
Scientists working on the Phoenix Mars Lander mission, which has already found ice on the planet, said preliminary analysis by the lander’s instruments on a sample of soil scooped up by the spacecraft’s robotic arm had shown it to be much more alkaline than expected.
“We basically have found what appears to be the requirements, the nutrients, to support life whether past present or future,” Sam Kounaves, the lead investigator for the wet chemistry laboratory on Phoenix, told journalists.
“It is the type of soil you would probably have in your back yard, you know, alkaline. You might be able to grow asparagus in it really well. … It is very exciting for us.”‘
‘Drizzle once fell on Martian soil, according to a new geochemical analysis by Berkeley scientists, though the rain probably stopped several billion years ago.
Drawing on soil data from the five missions to Mars before the current Phoenix Lander and comparing it to information collected in Earth’s driest places, the scientists concluded that water must have fallen from above, not welled up from below, as has been thought. [..]
Amundson’s key observation is that Martian soil has a layer of sulfates sitting on top of chlorides. That’s a pattern consistent with water moving downward from the atmosphere to the regolith in places on Earth.
Though he can’t say for sure whether the precipitation on Mars fell as snow, sleet or rain, the evidence of reacting with rocks suggests that the water was liquid on the ground.’
‘For more than 400 years, astronomers have studied the sun from afar. Now NASA has decided to go there.
“We are going to visit a living, breathing star for the first time,” says program scientist Lika Guhathakurta of NASA Headquarters. “This is an unexplored region of the solar system and the possibilities for discovery are off the charts.”
The name of the mission is Solar Probe+ (pronounced “Solar Probe plus”). It’s a heat-resistant spacecraft designed to plunge deep into the sun’s atmosphere where it can sample solar wind and magnetism first hand. Launch could happen as early as 2015. By the time the mission ends 7 years later, planners believe Solar Probe+ will solve two great mysteries of astrophysics and make many new discoveries along the way.
[..] “To solve these mysteries, Solar Probe+ will actually enter the corona,” says Guhathakurta. “That’s where the action is.”‘
‘NASA spent $420 million to send the Phoenix Lander to Mars last year. Festooned with state-of-the-art detection equipment, the rover’s task was to scour the red surface in search of elusive Martian ice. And today, the NASA mission finally did uncover some extraterrestrial frost, and it did it with its simplest tool, a shovel.
The rover was digging a trench nicknamed Dodo-Goldilocks with its robotic arm when it hit some hard, refelective material. The scientists back on Earth who control Phoenix halted the digging, and spent the next couple of days taking photographs of the hole, trying to figure out what they were looking at in the ditch. Was the whitish material a kind of salt? But over those days of photography and scrutiny, something interesting happened to the marble-sized chunks. They evaporated. Long entombed beneath the iron-oxide surface of the red planet, the substance turns out to be part of a frozen layer of water just below the ground covered by Phoenix.’
‘The most complex, “mind-boggling” crop circle ever to be seen in Britain has been discovered in a barley field in Wiltshire.
The formation, measuring 150ft in diameter, is apparently a coded image representing the first 10 digits, 3.141592654, of pi.
It is has appeared in a field near Barbury Castle, an iron-age hill fort above Wroughton, Wilts, and has been described by astrophysicists as “mind-boggling”.
Michael Reed, an astrophysicist, said: “The tenth digit has even been correctly rounded up. The little dot near the centre is the decimal point. [..]‘
‘Astronomers have found some matter that had been missing in deep space and say it is strung along web-like filaments that form the backbone of the universe.
The ethereal strands of hydrogen and oxygen atoms could account for up to half the matter that scientists knew must be there but simply could not see, the researchers reported on Tuesday.
Scientists have long known there is far more matter in the universe than can be accounted for by visible galaxies and stars. Not only is there invisible baryonic matter — the protons and neutrons that make up atoms — but there also is an even larger amount of invisible “dark” matter.
Now about half of the missing baryonic matter has turned up, seen by the orbiting Hubble space telescope and NASA’s Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer, or FUSE.’
‘First, the bad news: the inner solar system is unstable. Given enough time, Jupiter’s gravity could yank Mercury out of its present orbit.
Two new computer simulations of long-term planetary motion — one by Jacques Laskar (Paris Observatory), the other by Konstantin Batygin and Gregory Laughlin (University of California, Santa Cruz) — have both reached the same disturbing conclusion.
Says Laughlin, “The solar system isn’t as stable as we’d thought.” Both teams have found that Jupiter’s gravity can increase Mercury’s orbital eccentricity over time. Mercury’s path around the Sun is already nearly as elliptical as Pluto’s. But Jupiter can make Mercury’s orbit so out of round that it overlaps the path of Venus. A close encounter between them could send the innermost planet careening off wildly.
“Once Mercury crosses Venus’s orbit,” Laughlin says, “Mercury is in serious trouble.”
So is Earth.’
‘In what marks an important step towards helping lunar colonists grow their own food, a Ukrainian team, working with the European Space Agency, ESA, has shown that marigolds can grow in crushed rock very like the lunar surface, with no need for plant food.
The research was presented at the European Geosciences Union meeting in Vienna, by Dr Bernard Foing of ESA, director of the International Lunar Exploration Working Group, and father of the SMART-1 moon probe, who believes it is an important milestone because it does away with the need to bring bringing nutrients and soil from Earth.
He has worked with Natasha Kozyrovska and Iryna Zaetz from the Ukranian Academy of Sciences in Kiev, who planted marigolds in crushed anorthosite, a type of rock found on Earth which is very similar to lunar soil, called regolith.
They did not grow well until the team added different types of bacteria, which made them thrive; the bacteria appeared to leach elements from the rock that the plants needed, such as potassium.’
‘Attempts to salvage a wayward GEO comsat have come unstuck in the face of institutional disinterest and an aging patent of questionable validity.
The AMC-14 commercial geostationary satellite was launched in March by a Proton launch vehicle into space just short of its minimum geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). [..]
Following the failed launch, SES Americom looked into how they might salvage the satellite in a manner similar to the Asiasat-3 salvage in 1998.
However, SpaceDaily has now learned that a plan to salvage AMC-14 was abandoned a week ago when SES gave up in the face of patent issues relating to the lunar flyby process used to bring wayward GEO birds back to GEO Earth orbit. [..]
Industry sources have told SpaceDaily that the patent is regarded as legal “trite”, as basic physics has been rebranded as a “process”, and that the patent wouldn’t stand up to any significant level of court scrutiny and was only registered at the time as “the patent office was incompetent when it came to space matters”.’
‘According to the standard model of physics, matter and antimatter were created in equal quantities shortly after the Big Bang. The two types of particles should have thus cancelled each other out and the universe should be permeated by energy.
But as our existence attests, that did not happen. Experiments suggests the universe today is composed of about 75 per cent dark energy, 20 per cent dark matter, and five per cent matter/antimatter, with the overwhelming bulk of the latter consisting of normal matter.
A major mystery of modern physics is why normal matter particles are the building blocks of the observable universe. Why are we not made of antimatter? Or pure energy? Scientists speculate that a tiny imbalance in the early universe allowed a small fraction of normal matter – one particle for every one billion – to avoid annihilation and survive to form stars, planets, and humans.’
‘British science fiction writer Sir Arthur C Clarke has died in his adopted home of Sri Lanka at the age of 90.
The Somerset-born author achieved his greatest fame in 1968 when his short story The Sentinel was turned into the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
His visions of space travel and computing sparked the imagination of readers and scientists alike.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse paid tribute, hailing the writer as a “great visionary”.
Since 1995, the author had been largely confined to a wheelchair by post-polio syndrome.
He died at 0130 local time (2000 GMT) of respiratory complications and heart failure, according to his aide, Rohan De Silva.’
‘At least 50 people in Kottayam district have reportedly lost their vision after gazing at the sun looking for an image of Virgin Mary.
Though alarmed health authorities have installed a signboard to counter the rumour that a solar image of Virgin Mary appeared to the believers, curious onlookers, including foreign travellers, have been thronging the venue of the ‘miracle’
St Joseph’s ENT and Eye Hospital in Kanjirappally alone has recorded 48 cases of vision loss due to photochemical burns on the retina. “All our patients have similar history and symptoms. The damage is to the macula, the most sensitive part of retina. They have developed photochemical, not thermal, burns after continuously gazing at the sun,” Dr Annamma James Isaac, the hospital’s ophthalmologist, said. [..]
The health department has now put up a signboard at the hotelier’s house near Erumeli, where the divine image is said to have appeared, warning people against exposing their eyes to sunlight.’
‘Who really know what I’m lookin’ at, you know what I’m sayin’?’
(3.3meg Flash video)
see it here »
‘Scientists have discovered immense oil resources in Titan, which is a moon of Saturn. The oil reserve of Titan is estimated to be several hundred times greater than that of earth. [..]
Titan has several hundreds times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the available oil and natural gas reserves on Earth, said the European Space Agency (ESA).
In Titan, the ethane and methane falls from the sky in the form of rain, forming massive lakes and seas. It is believed that complex organic molecules called tholins are responsible for Titan’s oily dunes, said the ESA.
“Titan is just enclosed in a carbon covered material. It is a giant factory of organic chemicals,” said scientist Ralph Lorenz.’
‘The U.S. Navy succeeded in its effort to shoot down an inoperable spy satellite before it could crash to Earth and potentially release a cloud of toxic gas, the Department of Defense said Wednesday.
The first opportunity for the Navy to shoot down the satellite came about 10:30 p.m. ET Wednesday. The plan included firing a missile from the USS Lake Erie in the Pacific Ocean west of Hawaii to destroy the satellite.
“A network of land-, air-, sea- and space-based sensors confirms that the U.S. military intercepted a non-functioning National Reconnaissance Office satellite which was in its final orbits before entering the Earth’s atmosphere,” a Department of Defense statement said.’
Followup to Disabled spy satellite threatens Earth.
‘A Japanese astronaut plans to throw a boomerang inside a space station to test how it can fly in zero gravity, an official said Wednesday.
Astronaut Takao Doi, 53, is set to travel on a US shuttle in March to the International Space Station, where he will be in charge of construction of a Japanese scientific testing room.
It is believed gravity is needed for a boomerang to fly back to the throwing spot, but no one has tried in zero gravity.
“Mr. Doi said he will personally carry a paper boomerang for the upcoming mission and we presume he will try it when he has spare time,” said an official of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.’
‘Iran launched a research rocket and unveiled its first major space center, state television reported Monday, the latest steps in a program many fear may be cover for further development of its military ballistic missiles.
State television showed live images of the event, with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad issuing the launch order.
Iran has long declared a goal of developing a space program, but the same technology used to put satellites in space can also be used to deliver warheads. The country’s space program, like its nuclear power program, has provoked unease abroad. [..]
Despite concern over Iran’s space program, it is not clear how far along it is, or whether the latest launch actually reached the internationally agreed-upon beginning of “space,” set at 60 miles above the earth.’
‘So what happens if you have two mobile phones, and you use the first phone to ring one garda station and the second phone to ring another garda station and you hold the two phones together to “talk” to each other?’
(1.8meg Flash video)
see it here »
‘In a hypothetical future scenario, the U.S. and China are poised to clash — likely over Taiwan.
The democratic Republic of China, commonly called Taiwan — which America backs and the communist People’s Republic of China considers part of its territory — frequently irritates Chinese leaders with calls for greater independence from the mainland. But while the American military mulls its options, Chinese missiles hit runways, fuel lines, barracks and supply depots at U.S. Air Force bases in Japan and South Korea. Long-range warheads destroy American satellites, crippling Air Force surveillance and communication networks. A nuclear fireball erupts high above the Pacific Ocean, ionizing the atmosphere and scrambling radars and radio feeds.
This is China’s anti-U.S. sucker punch strategy.’
‘A large U.S. spy satellite has lost power and could hit the Earth in late February or March, government officials said Saturday.
The satellite, which no longer can be controlled, could contain hazardous materials, and it is unknown where on the planet it might come down, they said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the information is classified as secret. [..]
Such an uncontrolled re-entry could risk exposure of U.S. secrets, said John Pike, a defense and intelligence expert. Spy satellites typically are disposed of through a controlled re-entry into the ocean so that no one else can access the spacecraft, he said.
Pike also said it’s not likely the threat from the satellite could be eliminated by shooting it down with a missile, because that would create debris that would then re-enter the atmosphere and burn up or hit the ground.
Pike, director of the defense research group GlobalSecurity.org, estimated that the spacecraft weighs about 20,000 pounds and is the size of a small bus. [..]‘
These sorts of satellites often have plutonium based radioisotope thermoelectric generators. Fun.