One of the hardest things for people to understand about the universe is just how big it is. There are three approaches typically used in describing its size. The first, the song, was pioneered by Monty Python (NSFWish, wireframe of naked woman) and then done just as masterfully by the Animaniacs. The second, the zoom method has been featured twice before here on the blue. The third method is the comparison method (skip to 1:30, unless you like looking at a image of the solar system with terrible distorted orbits), yielding some truly beautiful videos (this one found via the fantastic Bad Astronomy blog). These videos go, at most, as far as looking at the local cluster or the Virgo Supercluster. There are two videos that attempt to show the size of the entire universe, one unsuccessfully (although with great music) and one successfully. (Warning, all links except the first one, are to YT videos). [more inside]
"Workmanlike" astronomy: The Vatican Observatory, among the oldest astronomical centers in the world, brings a team of Jesuits to the papal summer residence. Its scientists play a large part in the church's efforts to reconcile faith with reason. [Previously.] [more inside]
"The arc of the Milky Way seen from a truly dark location is part of our planet's natural heritage," said Connie Walker, and astronomer from the U.S. National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson, Arizona. Yet "more than one fifth of the world population, two thirds of the U.S. population and one half of the European Union population have already lost naked eye visibility of the Milky Way." In these areas, people are effectively living in perennial moonlight. They rarely realize it because they still experience the sky to be brighter under a full moon than under new moon conditions. "Reducing the number of lights on at night could help conserve energy, protect wildlife and benefit human health," astronomer Malcolm Smith of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. One study found an increased risk of breast cancer for women living in areas with the most light pollution (abstract). Some communities are embracing their dark skies, such as the New Zealand community of Tekapo, possibly home to first "Starlight Reserve," waiting on UNESCO's official approval. Not sure where to look in the vast night sky? Follow some guidelines, or check the view in Chile, Queensland, Australia, or Texas.
The Millennial Project is a comprehensive plan for space development, beginning with the terrestrial cultivation of an environmentally sustainable civilization and Post-Industrial culture and culminating, far in the future, in the colonization of our immediate stellar neighborhood. The TMP2 project is specifically a project of the Living Universe Foundation community to continually update and revise the content of the original plan as described by Marshal T. Savage in his book The Millennial Project. [more inside]
In Starcom, a space-based action adventure game, you pilot a starship defending the galaxy from an encroaching enemy invasion with an increasingly powerful array of armaments and technologies. It's a hell of a lot of fun, so play and enjoy! [via mefi projects]
Go buy a helmet because Astronomers calculate there is a tiny chance that Mars or Venus could collide with Earth. [more inside]
The Haynes Workshop Manuals are a series of practical instructional repair manuals aimed at both the DIY enthusiast or shade-tree mechanic and the professional garage repairman. In that spirit, they offer the following guides to repair and service the following: The Spitfire Fighter (no, not that one), The Lancaster Bomber and the Apollo modules.
We previously lamented the lack of a real writer in space. Well, at least now we will have a poetic and social fire-eater.
A time lapse video of the night sky as it passes over the 2009 Texas Star Party in Fort Davis, Texas. The galactic core of the Milky Way is brightly displayed.
Atlantis. Hubble. And a big, yellow friend. Astrophotographer Thierry Legault managed to get amazing shots of Space Shuttle Atlantis approaching the Hubble Space Telescope during a transit of the sun. [more inside]
Images from The Complete Book of Space Travel illustrated by Virgil Finlay, including an analysis of the space-crew candidate.
At the mostly abandoned Moffett Field in an abandoned McDonald's, digital archeologists attempt to restore, recover and archive abandoned high resolution imagery and data from previous manned Moon missions, using an abandoned Ampex 2" tape drive found in a chicken coop - the last working machine in the world, restored by the last man alive capable of rebuilding the heads. This is likely only part of their weird story.
Lost in Space: What really happened to Russia's missing cosmonauts? An incredible tale of space hacking, espionage and death in the lonely reaches of space. "There are those who believe that somewhere in the vast blackness of space, about nine billion miles from the Sun, the first human is about to cross the boundary of our Solar System into interstellar space. His body, perfectly preserved, is frozen at –270 degrees C (–454ºF); his tiny capsule has been silently sailing away from the Earth at 18,000 mph (29,000km/h) for the last 45 years. He is the original lost cosmonaut, whose rocket went up and, instead of coming back down, just kept on going." [Via]
Space-based Solar Power beamed down to earth sounds pretty far out, but the technology is further along than many suppose, the sun never sets in space, and space is a Saudi Arabia of unlimited energy for the nation with the technology to harness it. PG&E (California) in conjunction with SolarEn has announced a 200MW space solar project to be up by 2016.
SpaceTimeTV collects and lets you watch all the best educational videos online from full length documentaries (such as the 50 minute long Is There Life on Mars) to short video clips such as this one on glaciers and global warming. There are hundreds of videos on topics including history, space, technology, and nature.
"I said to myself, 'we are going to die.'" Space Shuttle commander Hoot Gibson on his reaction as he saw pictures from the Shuttle's robot arm of gouged and missing tiles along its underbelly. Shades of Columbia - but this was mission STS-27, over fourteen years earlier. Yet mission control discounted the reports from orbit, perhaps misled by the poor quality of the downlinked images that resulted from encryption demanded by the mission's secretive military profile. In the end, Atlantis made it back, but with visible damage along her right flank. But like most classified DoD missions of the time, little was reported, and NASA was arguably wary of drawing attention to the near-loss of only the second flight since the Challenger disaster. But if this near-miss had been better known, might NASA have been more concerned about indications of debris damage during the launch of STS-107?
Are plasma crystals alive? Cosmic dust can, in the presence of plasma, creates formations known as plasma crystals. An international team of researchers published a study in the Aug.14, 2007, issue of the New Journal of Physics (PDF here, abstract here) that indicates that these crystals may be more sophisticated than anyone realized. In simulations involving cosmic dust, the researchers witnessed the formation of plasma crystals displaying some of the elementary characteristics of life -- DNA-like structure, autonomous behavior, reproduction and evolution. [more inside]
A dot in the sky becomes a rock in the hand. An asteroid near miss (as opposed to the more recent near hit) is the first time an object first seen in space is brought back to the laboratory. [more inside]
Once dubbed the Picture of the Century, the first Earthrise, photographed in 1966 by NASA's Lunar Orbiter 1, presented "a stunning juxtaposition of planet and moon that no earthling had ever seen before." After initially inspiring awe, the original image was almost destroyed. In the mad rush of the space race, the pictures and data from early missions were warehoused and forgotten. Many at NASA believed that the original high-resolution images, stored on fragile tapes that could only be read by obsolete equipment, would be nearly impossible to retrieve, but one woman was determined to see them restored. Via.
I see your Great Recession, climate change, asteroid collision and super-volcano, and raise you a space storm!
Sick of worrying about the global financial crisis? Got global warming fatigue? Here's a whole new threat to worry about: NASA is warning that the world is ill-prepared for a Carrington event that wil melt electricity grids world-wide with 90 seconds notice. If it's any consolation, it's going to look real pretty
So you go to be spaceman. If the space race had taken a few different turns, we might have ended up with a historical exhibit that looked like the one cooked up by the American Dream Technical Institute. [more inside]
A space shuttle is fired to sky. People from all around the place gets a camera and shoots it. They publish the photos on Twitter. Result: Awesomeness.
Tonight NASA is scheduled to launch the Kepler Mission (named after planetary legislator Johannes Kepler) with the goal of finding Earth size planets in orbit around stars in the Cygnus-Lyra region of the sky. Over the next 3 and a half years it will maintain a nearly unblinking gaze on the approximately 100 thousand stars in the region. NASA expects it to find about 50 Earth size planets, as well as hundreds that are larger. You can watch the launch live on NASA TV. [more inside]
"They ran into each other. Nothing has the right of way up there. We don't have an air traffic controller in space. There is no universal way of knowing what's coming in your direction." An unprecedented collision of two orbiting satellites yesterday highlights the increasing threat of space junk.
Behold the mundane wonders of the space age. NASA offers a four-part hi-def tour of the International Space Station. [via] Cynical-C [more inside]
On Truth and Reality. Despite several thousand years of failure to correctly understand physical reality (hence the current postmodern view that this is impossible) it is actually very simple to work out how matter exists and moves about in Space. The rules of Science (Occam's Razor / Simplicity) and Metaphysics (Dynamic Unity of Reality) require that reality be described from only one single source existing, as Leibniz wrote: "because of the interconnection of all things with one another." [more inside]
A British tabloid claims that NASA will today announce the probable presence of life on Mars. Planetary and atmospheric scientists from NASA's Mars program will address a press conference at 2PM EST, apparently about concentrated methane
plumesthat bloom and dissipate [pdf]. There was a false alarm about a similar briefing a few months ago; is this the real deal?
Friday Flash Fun: Evacuation is a puzzle game about explosive decompression. Save the crew! Eject the aliens into space by opening the spaceship's doors! The catch: doors of the same color all open together. [more inside]
Space elevator just broke? Wondering what's going to happen? Wonder no more!
A perfect space storm, which happens about every century, like the one that occurred in 1859, could cause "catastrophic social and economic disruptions", according to a new study by the National Academy of Sciences on behalf of NASA. "Potable water distribution affected within several hours; perishable foods and medications lost in 12-24 hours; immediate or eventual loss of heating/air conditioning, sewage disposal, phone service, transportation, fuel resupply and so on," the report states. Outages could take months to fix, the researchers say. Banks might close, and trade with other countries might halt. The next peak in solar activity is expected around 2012.
NASA releases the Columbia shuttle disaster report. Space shuttle Columbia broke up during re-entry in 2003 as a result of damage sustained to its thermal protection system. This report details the possible lethal incidents and the investigation board's recommendations based on their findings. [more inside]
Where did Venus’s water go? Water may have once been as abundant on Venus as it is on Earth. New data from the Venus Express suggests that the planet's lack of a magnetic field has allowed water in the atmosphere to be stripped apart and carried into space by the solar wind.
Rethinking Earthrise. On the 40th anniversary of the NASA's Apollo 8 mission [caution: weird JFK animation], which answered Stewart Brand's epochal, LSD-inspired question "Why haven't we seen a photograph of the whole Earth yet?" with an unforgettable image of a seemingly fragile and isolated blue planet, Nature editor Oliver Morton -- author of a new book on photosynthesis called Eating the Sun -- disputes the notion that the Earth is fragile and isolated. "The fragility is an illusion," he writes. "The planet Earth is a remarkably robust thing, and this strength flows from its ancient and intimate connection to the cosmos beyond. To see the photo this way does not undermine its environmental relevance -- but it does recast it."
Martian maps and a few others in good quality PDF.
Video and audio from a camera mounted on one of the side solid rocket boosters during the launch of STS-124. As the camera is initially facing the main booster, there's not that much to see (except water vapor collecting on the lens and interesting-looking changes in the main booster's surface) until around 1:50, when the booster rocket is jettisoned. After that, enjoy the ride from space to splashdown, but watch out for flying debris! Here's the view from the other booster, without sound. More onboard STS cameras, previously. [N.B. -- Adjust volume accordingly, it gets loud! Looks even better in high-quality and full-screen modes.]
The Carpenters... Space Encounters. Just what it sounds like! Parts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. [more inside]
Source Of Geysers On Saturn's Moon Enceladus May Be Underground Water. Earlier this year the Cassini spacecraft detected organic material in the geysers of Enceladus. The question now is, how's the fishing?
The Little Fox has gas. Giovanna Tinetti using the Hubble Telescope says (in Nature - subscription required) there's Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere of the Jupiter sized, hot, extrasolar planet HD 189733b. Scientists have also found methane clouds in its atmosphere, as well as water vapor. Tinetti (who looks a bit like Kari Byron from mythbusters if you squint) also found evidence of methane.
Fire in the sky - a meteor burns up somewhere over Western Canada. Really impressive video here, another video, TV news with more footage here.
At a cost of $20,000 a pound (google search prices vary). You have to wonder how much this cost. Poor Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper dropped her tool bag But don't worry, NASA tracks NEOs. And then there is the missing spider. Lastly, throwing in a gratuitous link to APOD (because it's cool and I can't wait to see the tool bag show up).