Posts Tagged 'NASA'

The Earth Has a Tail! – SILOTI

Here’s Something I Learned on the Internet:

The Earth has a dust tail, and it could help us find Aliens! And by “us” I mean not me, because my job just isn’t that awesome.

Earth has a dust tail not because the planet itself is particularly dusty, but rather because the whole solar system is. Interplanetary space is littered with dusty fragments of comets and colliding asteroids. When Earth orbits through this dusty environment, a tail forms in the rear, akin to swaths of fallen leaves swirling up behind a streetsweeper.

“As Earth orbits the sun, it creates a sort of shell or depression that dust particles fall into, creating a thickening of dust – the tail – that Earth pulls along via gravity,” explains Werner. “In fact, the tail trails our planet all the way around the sun, forming a large dusty ring.”

Cool beans.

Enlightning Bolts – January 17, 2010

Church sign logic fail.

NASA solves the mystery of the giant ribbon at the edge of the solar system: “We believe the ribbon is a reflection,” says Jacob Heerikhuisen, a NASA Heliophysics Guest Investigator from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. “It is where solar wind particles heading out into interstellar space are reflected back into the solar system by a galactic magnetic field.” Wicked!

College Humour is brilliant: The Tetris God (YouTube).

Meryl Dorey, Australian anti-vaxxer, doesn’t want any part of her donation going to immunizing Haitians, in spite of this:

Diarrhoeal diseases would flourish as survivors struggled to find clean water and safe food, Dr Kirsch said. Measles outbreaks, which sometimes follow natural disasters, may spread in neighbourhoods of tightly packed courtyards where thousands of homeless residents are gathering.

Half of the children in Haiti are unvaccinated and just 40 per cent of the population had access to basic health care before the crisis, according to the WHO.

They need vaccines.

I gave a list of options for your Haiti donation the other day, now here’s one more (set up by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science): Non-believers Giving Aid is an attempt to quell the myth that atheists aren’t charitable as believers, but it also makes sure that 100% of your donation is given to the secular charities they are supporting (Int’l Red Cross & Doctors Without Borders). Richard Dawkins will personally cover any fees associated with making a donation, so you know that your full contribution will go straight to the people who need it.

Saturn’s Largest Ring Discovered

A new ring was discovered around Saturn by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope:

The new belt lies at the far reaches of the Saturnian system, with an orbit tilted 27 degrees from the main ring plane. The bulk of its material starts about six million kilometers (3.7 million miles) away from the planet and extends outward roughly another 12 million kilometers (7.4 million miles). It would take about one billion Earths stacked together to fill the voluminous ring. One of Saturn’s farthest moons, Phoebe, circles within the newfound ring, and is likely the source of its material.

Saturn's Largest Ring

It’s massive! The discover of this ring helps explain why one of Saturn’s moons, Iapetus, is darker on one side: it’s plowing through the dust in this ring.

When I hear about a story like this I’m always astounded at how much we don’t already know about our solar system. It really makes me appreciate the enormous scale of the universe when within the gravitational pull of our little star in one of the arms of our galaxy, which is just another of the billions of galaxies in the observable universe, we are constantly making new and surprising discoveries.

Milky Way Galaxy Sun

Water on the Moon

The big space news in the last couple of days has been the discovery of water on the surface of the moon, which I think is pretty freaking cool:

NASA scientists have discovered water molecules in the polar regions of the Moon. Instruments aboard three separate spacecraft revealed water molecules in amounts that are greater than predicted, but still relatively small. Hydroxyl, a molecule consisting of one oxygen atom and one hydrogen atom, also was found in the lunar soil. The findings were published in Thursday’s edition of the journal Science.

water on moon

People are saying that this makes colonizing the Moon more of a possibility because we would be able to mine the water, but it doesn’t seem to me that there’s all that much of it:

“The data from Cassini’s VIMS instrument and M3 closely agree,” said Roger Clark, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist in Denver and member of both the VIMS and M3 teams. “We see both water and hydroxyl. While the abundances are not precisely known, as much as 1,000 water molecule parts-per-million could be in the lunar soil. To put that into perspective, if you harvested one ton of the top layer of the Moon’s surface, you could get as much as 32 ounces of water.”

Maybe it’s enough, obviously I don’t know much about what the needs of a moon base would be, but I think this discovery is really awesome even if it makes the return of people to the moon just that much more within reach.

Perseid Meteor Shower Coming Up!

From the NASA website:

July 31, 2009: Earth is entering a stream of dusty debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, the source of the annual Perseid meteor shower. Although the shower won’t peak until August 11th and 12th, the show is already getting underway.

“Earth passes through the densest part of the debris stream sometime on August 12th. Then, you could see dozens of meteors per hour.”

For sky watchers in North America, the watch begins after nightfall on August 11th and continues until sunrise on the 12th. Veteran observers suggest the following strategy: Unfold a blanket on a flat patch of ground. (Note: The middle of your street is not a good choice.) Lie down and look up. Perseids can appear in any part of the sky, their tails all pointing back to the shower’s radiant in the constellation Perseus. Get away from city lights if you can.

I know I’ll be heading out of the city  for this!

Perseid Meteor Shower

Here’s a little background on the Perseids, which have been observed for over 2000 years:

The Perseids are a prolific meteor shower associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle. The Perseids are so called because the point they appear to come from, called the radiant, lies in the constellation Perseus. Meteor showers occur when Earth moves through a meteor stream. The stream in this case is called the Perseid cloud and it stretches along the orbit of the Comet Swift-Tuttle. The cloud consists of particles ejected by the comet as it passed by the Sun. Most of the dust in the cloud today is approximately a thousand years old. However, there is also a relatively young filament of dust in the stream that boiled off the comet in 1862. The rate of meteors originating from this filament is much higher than for the older part of the stream.

Forty Years Ago Man Was on the Moon

It’s been forty years since one of mankind’s greatest accomplishments: putting a human on another world. How freaking cool was that?! I wish I was around to see it live, and as you can tell by reading this list, I hope I’m around to see it happen again.

My eyes welled up when I read NASA’s take on the 40th anniversary, so I’m just going to quote them:

Forty years ago, Apollo astronauts set out on a daring adventure to explore the Moon. They ended up discovering their own planet.

It was Christmas Eve, 1968, the close of one of the most turbulent, fractured years in U.S. and world history. The picture offered a much needed new perspective on “home.”For the first time in history, humankind looked at Earth and saw not a jigsaw puzzle of states and countries on an uninspiring flat map – but rather a whole planet, a fragile sphere of dazzling beauty floating alone in a dangerous void. There was a home worthy of careful stewardship.

The late nature photographer Galen Rowell described this photo as “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken.”

In a fitting tribute to the 40th anniversary of the moon missions, the LRO has sent back some pictures of the moon landing site. Head over to this site to have a look, they’re really cool to see. You can see the LM and it’s shadow, and even the paths taken by the astronauts across the surface.

Things I Want to See Before I Die (Part 1)

For some reason I’ve been thinking about my mortality a lot lately, maybe because I recently celebrated a birthday. Since I abandoned my wishful thinking of an afterlife I’ve become more okay with death.  I don’t have irrational fears of hell, I can just shut my eyes and that will be the end.

But the thought that the end is truly the end is also a really sad thought, because we live a time of so much innovation, and I would like to be around to witness it.

I decided that I’m going to make a list of discoveries and advancements that I’d like to see in my lifetime. I hope I can check some of them off soon, and I’ll try to update the list as I think of things…which is why I’m calling this post Part 1.

Here’s the list so far:

  1. The discovery of the Higgs-Boson particle
  2. Humans back to the Moon
  3. Discovery of alien life, hopefully intelligent but bacteria would be cool too!
  4. Figuring out what the heck dark matter is
  5. Space tourism
  6. Nuclear power to replace coal
  7. AIDS vaccine

I’ll start off with 7, that’s a pretty ambitious list! Unfortunately I won’t be taking part in discovering or implementing any of these things, but I will idolize the scientists who do so. And I do hope to take part in some space tourism in my lifetime, how awesome would that be?!

What would be on your list?

Going to the Moon, 40 Years Later

Here’s something cool…

On July 20th, 1969, humans first set foot on the moon. Now you can follow what happened leading up to the mission via Twitter as if it were happening today.

Go to: https://twitter.com/ApolloPlus40

NeilArmstrong

[Follow me on Twitter @EnlightningLinZ]

Phantom Torso Returns to Earth

For the last 4 months, until May 27th, an armless, legless torso has been aboard the International Space Station, so that scientists could learn more about the space radiation that presents a challenge to having a human presence in space.Torso

The torso provided a real-world confirmation that the computer models previously used to look at space radiation  were accurate, so now they can be confident in using the models to plan future space missions.

What does it all mean?:

“Short lunar missions are fine,” [Francis] Cucinotta [of NASA's Johnson Space Centre] says, “but living in a lunar habitat for 6 months starts to be problematic. We’re going to have to do a really good job with radiation shielding and perhaps medical countermeasures to have 6-month missions.”

Mars will be even tougher, these models suggest. Some scenarios call for missions that would last 18 months or more. “Right now there’s no design solution to stay within safety limits for such a Mars mission,” Cucinotta says. “Putting enough radiation shielding around a spacecraft would make it far too heavy to launch, so we need to find better lightweight shielding materials, and we probably need to develop medical techniques to counteract damage to cells caused by cosmic rays.” He notes that one of the biggest obstacles to progress in this area is “uncertainty in the types of cell damage deep cosmic ray exposure can cause. We still have a lot to learn.”

Space Shuttle has Landed Safely

Via Twitter:

Atlantis Landing

Welcome home!


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