As I Live and Learn

Friday, November 13, 2009

We're Going Back To the Moon!

"NASA plans to return astronauts to the moon by 2020 for extended missions on the lunar surface."


Oh, yeah, and there's water there too.

NASA: LCROSS Impact Data Indicates Water on Moon

AOL News:
NASA Finds 'Significant' Water on Moon

CNN: NASA finds 'significant' water on moon



Monday, September 14, 2009

Beauty or Disgusting?

Even in space, everyday mundane tasks have to occur. Sometimes the strange and mysterious down here is just a routine water dump up there. :) Ewww!

Mystery Explained: Glow in Night Sky Was Astronaut Urine



Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Electron Video

From Science Daily over a year ago (I'm surprised I didn't get this posted then):

Okay, this is WAY COOL. Scientists finally were able to take a video of an electron. Look at it revolve! I TOTALLY understand how light is both a wave and a particle after watching this. The things acts like both! SEE? The center of it's orbit doesn't change as it oscillates with the wave.

What do I mean? The frekkin' thing is moving in a wave motion while moving as a particle! Look at the center (black) while looking at the orbits - the orbits move up and down like a wave in relation to the center while the center in turn is also moving but NOT in a wave motion (can't see that as the "camera" is "panning" with the movement).


Ah! I love science.

There's a looped version of the video at Live Science. It also has added sound, you may or may not want to mute for.

As a related aside, this site has a very good simple explanation of why the above is important. This article is also a good set up for getting into Quantum Physics. But remember "those who claim to understand quantum mechanics haven't heard a single word". (I tried to find the source of that quote, but to no avail.)



A Fisheye Lens and a Dark Clear Night ==

...More than I expected:

Galactic Center of Milky Way Rises over Texas Star Party from William Castleman on Vimeo.

Time lapse video of night sky as it passes over the 2009 Texas Star Party in Fort Davis, Texas. The galactic core of Milky Way is brightly displayed. Images taken with 15mm fisheye lens.



Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Top 10 Greatest Explosions

Some of the Top 10 Greatest Explosions were not a surprise to me. The Halifax Explosion, of course, and the first atom bomb. Can't forget the K-T Extinction Impact Event (when the dinosaurs were "wiped out").

And the honorable mention for #1 is cute. ;)

But #5... WOW and WOAH:
5 Mount Tambora

In 1815, Mount Tambora in Indonesia exploded with the force of roughly 1,000 megatons of TNT, the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history. The blast hurled out roughly 140 billion tons of magma and not only killed more than 71,000 people on the island of Sumbawa and nearby Lombok, but the ash it released created global climate anomalies. The following year, 1816, became known as the Year Without a Summer, with snow falling in June in Albany, N.Y., river ice seen in July in Pennsylvania, and hundreds of thousands of people dying of famine worldwide.

#2 was also surprising to me. Guess I need to bone up on my interstellar history.



Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sibling Planets!

The Lightest exoplanet yet discovered is Gliese 581 e, another planet in the same system as the first "super-Earth" planet that was found, Gliese 581 c. E is not quite twice the mass of Earth, making it the least massive planet found to date and "very likely, a rocky planet". While it doesn't lie in it's star's habitable zone (sad) another sibling planet - Gliese 581 d - does! It's 7 times as massive as Earth, but hey, why does that have to prevent the possibility of life?




Friday, April 17, 2009

Planets, planets, everywhere!

The first "super-Earth", Gliese 581 C

Strange New Worlds Outside of Solar Systems

10 Years of Planet Hunting - Founds and Learns

The Top 10 Exoplanets - According to them, I only found about half that interesting



Thursday, April 09, 2009

Our fist visually observed exoplanet - Awesome!

From BBC News images:

"Fomalhaut b, the first visually observed exoplanet, sits inside the giant disc of dust that surrounds the planet's parent star. (Paul Kalas/UC Berkeley; STScI)"

That means, the planet circled in the close up of the image above is the first planet outside of our solar system to actually be seen! (instead of only found by some scientific measurement) WAY COOOL!



Monday, March 16, 2009

Yay, Fusion!

We're On Our Way! It's about time we started working on viable fusion

Don't let the title of the article fool you. I wish they hadn't described it as replicating the sun. It's really not. It's replicating one of the processes that occur in the Sun!



Monday, March 09, 2009

We're In Search for Other Earths


From PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX on Fox Business:
"NASA's Kepler mission successfully launched into space from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II at 10:49 p.m. EST, Friday. Kepler is designed to find the first Earth-size planets orbiting stars at distances where water could pool on the planet's surface."

Dan Vergano, USA Today, reported on AOL News:
"Kepler, the space agency's long-awaited $591 million space telescope, opens a new era in planet detection. In its four-year mission, planetary scientists expect the spacecraft to discover roughly 1,200 planets, more than quadrupling the number of worlds spotted orbiting nearby stars since 1995."

"I call it our planet census-taker," say NASA's Jon Morse. "Its discoveries may fundamentally alter humanity's view of itself and our place in the universe."

Or maybe I should just go to the source, heh: Nasa's Kepler Mission! While the telescope isn't meant to find extraterrestrials, it sure can find where they might be!



Friday, February 27, 2009


I heard about this before it's closest pass last Monday, but only getting around to posting about it now:

Unusual Green Comet Set to Pass Earth - "An odd, greenish backward-flying comet is zipping by Earth this month, as it takes its only trip toward the sun from the farthest edges of the solar system. The comet is called Lulin..."

"...its appearance — the greenish tinge may be hard for many to discern. The color comes from a type of carbon and cyanogen, a poisonous gas."

While all the planets and most of the other objects in the solar system circle the sun in one direction, Lulin circles the opposite way. And thanks to an optical illusion due to the comet and Earth effectively being in the same plane, from Earth it appears as if the comet's tail is in the front as the comet approaches Earth and the sun!

Green "Two-Tailed" Comet Arrives



Friday, February 13, 2009

Google Mars!

It;s like Google Earth, but for Mars! You can go "exploring" the surface, see what's there!

I just can't figure out of the strip (when zoomed all the way out) means they only have part of Mars in there, or if they flattened the globe out into a rectangular strip.



Monday, February 02, 2009

Science In the News

Here are the science-type headlines that have me interested recently:

Newly Found Fault Could Cause US Quake - "A previously unknown fault in eastern Arkansas could trigger a magnitude 7 earthquake..." And here's the same article on yahoo, just in case.

A World Too Hot To Handle: On Oddball Planet, Temperatures Jump 1200 Degrees In Few Hours - "Astronomers have found a planet with a galactic case of hot flashes. In just six hours, this planet four times the size of Jupiter heats up by more than 1,200 degrees, according to a study published in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature. 'It's the first observation of changing weather' on a planet outside our solar system..."

The planet has been named HD80606b. The coolest part about this (pun intended ;) ), is that: "The star is visible from Earth near the Big Dipper. On Feb. 14, HD80606b will travel between the Earth and its star. There's a 15 percent chance that amateur astronomers using small telescopes could see it swing by, obscuring a tiny part of the star..."!

On an closer to home note:
Global warming hits Antarctica, study finds. Well duh. The interesting part is that Eastern and Western Antarctica have been behaving differently! One is freezing, as we knew, but the other is warming. Ahhh. So Antarctica is not balancing out the Artic melt-down. The article goes on the mention how the hole in the ozone layer that opens each Spring contributes to the cooling in East Antartica. So now we should stop trying to close the holes in the ozone layer? (snarkiness in there)

New Technology Could Display Your Dreams on Screen Take a step back from your computer when you look at the picture and you can really see the images!



Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Leap Second Tonight!

I just found out there's going to be a leap second tonight at 11:59.59pm. Cool! That means one second before midnight there will be two seconds!

A leap second is like a leap day in a leap day (that being February 29th). It's added into the "calendar" to align our time keeping with time as defined by the Earth's rotation on it's axis and it's rotation around the Sun. The Earth actually revolves on it's axis once every 23 hours 56 minutes 04.09053 seconds (according to the astrophysicists at NASA), and it revolves around the Sun every 365.24 days. So, every four years we get an extra day - the leap day - because of the extra nearly quarter of a day each year that accumulates. As some of you will notice, it's not actually a full quarter of a day, which is why every 100 years we do NOT have a leap year! Anyway, back to the leap second....

"Time" accumulates more or less than we measure it as because the Earth isn't in precise day, hours, or even minute rotations. So to realign the atomic clock with the time of the Earth/Solar system, we need an extra second this year, and the people who watch the official atomic clock in England are adding that second tonight just before midnight.

Happy New Year!



Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Health and Science

I found this very interesting knowledge about colds and flus:

"For those who aren’t sure of the difference between a cold and flu: A cold moves in slowly, usually over a couple of days. The flu comes on super-fast, even overnight. A cold affects you mostly from the neck up, causing sinus congestion, sneezing, and a runny nose. On the flip side, the flu hits mostly from the neck down. With severe aching, tiredness, and a cough."

And, woo! We're getting better at looking for another Earth all the time! Even though it's a gas giant, it's still a step in the right direction:

First detection of carbon dioxide in an exoplanet



Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Mars Mission Ends for Phoenix Spacecraft

Poor thing. We'll miss you!

"Unlike its hardy twin rover cousins Spirit and Opportunity, which are approaching their fifth year near the red planet's more hospitable equatorial region, Phoenix's days were numbered from the outset."

Still, sad.



Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Space: Atmosphere, Moon, and Star

Here's a bunch of space science stuff that's been backlogging, waiting for me to post it. Figure It'd do it all in one!

The Smell of Space:
"Then I noticed that this smell was on their suit, helmet, gloves, and tools. It was more pronounced on fabrics than on metal or plastic surfaces. It is hard to describe this smell; ... The best description I can come up with is metallic; a rather pleasant sweet metallic sensation. It reminded me of my college summers where I labored for many hours with an arc welding torch repairing heavy equipment for a small logging outfit. It reminded me of pleasant sweet smelling welding fumes. That is the smell of space."

So it seems Space, in its infinite emptiness, has a smell. But as I had to remind people, Space is not actually empty. There's background radiation and other forms of energy moving around all over the place, even when there's no matter. So like electricity only has an after-smell when it affects something, I'm thinking the same is true of all that stuff flying through space. My Dad (I think it was) said it was probably just that some of the Sun's radiation had affected just enough of the metallic protective coatings to leave the smell. Makes sense to me, the author did say it was a metallic smell like when he had been welding. Either that, or I figure the Earth's atmosphere extends further than people realize, and it's an after smell of something like ozone.

Mysterious Haze Discovered on Venus:
There's a new weather pattern in Venus's Southern hemisphere! And it's BIG, as in covering 1/3 of the planet it sounds like. Why is this a surprise? Haven't we been studying Venus for decades? Don't we know about the same amount about Venus as we do Mars? I don't get why this is a mystery. If it really is a new thing, then... what's significantly changed? It's either exciting, or scary.

Private Race to the Moon Takes Off
Cool! It's awesome to see corporations supporting (read: sponsoring) things like this. And of course it's Google! They get to do such fun and cool stuff.

Is This the Real Death Star?:
Wow, just wow. It would suck, but what a way to go! It'd actually be surprised if Earth was in the exact direct line of fire. Space is very large, and despite the size of the beam that star will give off when it blows, it's still going to be just a beam and not a globe. And given the size of space and the distance between that star and Earth, the beam will relatively be a pencil thin line. Plus, taking into account the motion of the heavens we may not even be aligned with it at that time!



Thursday, December 27, 2007

Near / Far

Closer Yet (to Star Trek):
Mersive 360-Degree High-Definition Humvee Simulator Brings the Holodeck One Step Closer

Further and Further Away:
Neutron Star Seen Hurtling Out of the Milky Way

Has a cool picture you should zoom in on. But if the star is going out, and the material is going the opposite way... where is that high speed stellar explosion material going?

This star isn't the object traveling so fast it has a bow shock wave in front of it. I can't remember if I posted about that one or not. It was also a cool picture.



Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Uh oh?

Originally posted 9/18:
A meteorite has struck in Peru. Which isn't special in and of iteself, but a nearby village is experiencing a mass sickness, which officials assume is a result of the meteorite strike.

Meteorite makes villagers ill

Hope for the best.

The sickness was caused by arsenic in the local water supply that was evaporated when the meteorite hit, causing the population to be exposed to dangerous levels of the arsenic.

Meteor Crash in Peru Caused Mysterious Illness



Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Old Data - New Information

Last year my co-worker Nick and I first heard about scientists that split a particle and watched both halves behave exactly the same even though the two were not in contact and one was messed with! Since then we have been talking about the possibility of instantaneous communication between (infinitely) distance points since. The only real problem I see in which, is getting the "receiving" particle(s) to the other end. All the rest is just technical details that should be on their way to getting solved.

Today we found that last year was not when this marvel of quantum physics was discovered. In fact, it has been 25 years! So much for considering "radically new views of reality." My question is, why has it taken so long for this to be further researched and confirmed in the scientific community? The implications of it being true are huge, and potentially highly beneficial! Humans can be so stupid.

This one is more immediately in your face than the above. Apparently we may have had evidence since 1976 - when Viking landers arrived at Mars - of microbial life in the soil on Mars! It's not all that similar to commonly found microbial life here, which is how it was overlooked. Supposedly it is based on hydrogen peroxide, which would act as cellular anti-freeze. But since the discovery of new kinds of bacteria and lichen in Antarctic permafrost, an extreme environment in which it was thought no life could survive, the idea that life could exist in extreme environments elsewhere in the solar system has resurfaced. We'll know more after the Phoenix Mars Lander reaches the planet.

But this wouldn't be the first time we've "known" a significant answer to a question about Mars before it was widely realized. Turns out we knew Mars has water on it - in the form of ice and well below the surface - before the recent revelation by one of the rovers. The debate has actually been if there is liquid water on Mars anywhere. :p



Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Space and Science

Okay, a few updates on this topic.

Speeding-Bullet Star Leaves Enormous Streak Across Sky
Not a comet, a Star streaking through space! It'd be unreal, except it isn't.

"What causes a star to hurtle through space at such a speed that it has a bow-shock wave front?" -Nick

A very good... and scary question.

AIST develops 3D image projector
Ooo. Not solid images, but a start. One step closer to a Holodeck!

"More like the first season imaging thing above the table, or a Star Wars type hologram" -Nick

11th Star Trek Movie
Is gonna be bad. First, they're doing a prequel. Which we've learned means they are going to rewrite established history. Kirk and Spock did not meet and become friends at the Academy. And, as Paramount learned with Enterprise, we fans do not take well to that. Second, Russel Crowe has been cast to play the bad guy. *CRINGE* Not a good move. This director is making mistakes before the movie has even started filming! Third, they've cast someone who looks nothing like Scotty did to play young Scotty. *sigh* Why wasn't James Doohan's (Scotty) son good enough?



Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Rovers Update: A-OK

It seems things worked out over the weekend for the rovers. Yay! Though from the sound of this article I'd say they aren't out of the woods yet, but at least they're seeing the light of day! Literally.

Mars rovers are staying alive despite storms - "As weather improves so does NASA's outlook on their survival"

Excerpts of this article:

Steve Squyres of Cornell University, the lead scientist for the Mars Exploration Rovers project, said that both Spirit and Opportunity are in "excellent shape" based on a radio transmission received this morning.

The amount of sunlight penetrating the dust-choked Martian atmosphere has increased slightly in recent days, and the batteries of both rovers are fully charged, said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for the Mars Explorations Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Even though the rovers were not designed to weather dust storms of this magnitude, Meyers said mission scientists and engineers are optimistic the rovers will survive the dust storms, which have been raging for nearly a month now. All scientific observations and driving ... remain suspended, for now, to conserve power.

Mission scientists will "wait and make sure that the storm doesn't kick back up," Meyers said. "They're going to wait it out a few more days to make sure."

"Right now, we're just keeping both vehicles safe, and we've been very successful with that so far," Squyres said. "We'll just wait and see what Mars does."



Monday, July 23, 2007

Rovers On the Defensive

Well, the Mars rovers have outlived their designed lifespan more than 10 fold (expected to last only 90 days, they've been operating well over 1100)! But now both may be hunkering down without knowing if they will be able to wake up again:

The End of the Rovers?

Opportunity is smack in the middle of a dust storm so bad it's almost getting no sunlight, which is what powers the rovers. Even when "off", the rovers still need a little power to run a heater that keeps temperature sensitive parts from breaking due to the freezing cold. So it's going try to ride out the storm on batteries... hopefully its got enough and the storm is short enough. Opportunity is still waking once a Solar day to report in, but if its battery reserves get too much lower NASA will be preventing even that little daily communication.

Spirit's okay for now, but in anticipation of dust storms on Mars going around the globe they'd better keep a close eye out for it.



Friday, June 29, 2007

Shuttles, To Go

NASA has three space shuttles left: Atlantis (built 1985), Discovery (built 1983), and Endeavour (Challenger's replacement, built 1991). By 2010 they will all be decommissioned. The new fleet of shuttles is supposed to be ready no later than 2014, but hopefully as early as 2011. It'd be bad to not be in space for three years.

Atlantis is going away this year. That's because it's scheduled this year for a maintenance that takes two years, and so by the time it's back in service it'll be nearly time to decommission it!

NASA had five space shuttles in the fleet, though not all at the same time. The other two in addition to the above three are Columbia (1979 - 2003) and Challenger (1979 - 1983).

Also, Challenger was originally STA-099 (1972 - 1978), one of two test vehicles for the Space Shuttle program. The other test vehicle was supposed to be named Constitution, but a write in campaign got it named Enterprise! Though that one never was converted for space flight.



Friday, June 22, 2007

Poor Pluto

"Poor Pluto just keeps getting downgraded."

It's not even the biggest Dwarf Planet anymore. Aww.



Thursday, June 07, 2007

Amazing Discovery!

The first crop circle has been found on Mars!

Of course, there are no crops on Mars....



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