Posts Tagged ‘space’

Fomalhaut B

Posted: 13 November 2008 in Uncategorized
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Hubble has captured a visible-spectrum image of a planet revolving around Fomalhaut.  Previously planets had only been observed indirectly, such as when the planet passes between Earth and the star.  Fomalhaut is close enough that Hubble was able to catch a glimpse of the highly reflective giant planet, which is about three times the size of Jupiter and tens times as far from Fomalhaut as Saturn is from the sun.

Check out the video for more info.

Hubble captures first visible image of an extra solar planet

Hubble captures first visible image of an extra solar planet

Update:  I originally misspelled this is as “Formalhaut,” a mistake I’ve been making ever since I was a kid and always forget.


Mars Phoenix gets a lame-ass epitaph

Posted: 5 November 2008 in Uncategorized
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Well the Wired contest to come up with an epitaph for the Mars Phoenix lander has ended and the final choice blows, in my opinion.

Veni, vidi, fodi. (I came, I saw, I dug) 

The number three choice wasn’t so bad:

It is enough for me. But for you, I plead: go farther, still. 

My choice, as I mentioned before, was ranked at #4, so not too bad.  I scrolled down to the very end of the list and looked for the most hated epitaphs.  There were some real stinkers, to be sure, but also some funny ones.  Here are several of the turdiest:

  • this weather gives new meaning to the old saying, ‘blue balls in a nor’easter’
  • May he rest in peace ~~~Lance was here ’69~~~
  • Go to the light. Like great men and myths, (Elvis, Tupac, BigFoot, Nessie) your legend will live on after your tweetstream goes flatline.
  • Better Dead on Red. The First of what will be many efforts to raise us from the mire of our own making.

@MarsPhoenix is a twitter success story.  It’s also a NASA success story.  Oh and also a scientific success for all it has done on Mars.  As six months of night approach, the Phoenix probe was slowly shutting down systems to finish analyses.  A couple of days ago, a dust storm diminished the day time charging cycle enough that it caused the lander to go into hibernation.  NASA is going to try to revive the it this weekend, but the prospects are grim.  Even more grim are the chances that the probe will awake come spring.  Temperatures at the Martian poles go so low in the winter, they exceed the minimum tolerance for electrical circuits.

But back to the Twitter success story.  As of right now, @MarsPhoenix has 37,284 followers.  That makes it one of the most followed users on Twitter.  For the past few months, NASA has been posting updates posing as the probe.  The updates take the form of first-person snippets of information and answers to questions from users.  Overall, it has been great PR, keeping people up-to-date on space exploration in a completely new way.  We can’t exactly have a live feed from Mars, but by personifying the probe and getting people involved, NASA has really done a lot for improving public involvement in the mission.

NASA has expanded their twittering to a whole host of other missions.  Most notable (to me) amongst them are the Cassini probe (which is orbiting Saturn),  the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the Spirit and Opportunity rovers.  So if you twitter, they might be worth some of your time.

@MarsPhoenix posted the following earlier today:

I should stay well-preserved in this cold. I’ll be humankind’s monument here for centuries, eons, until future explorers come for me ;-)

In honor of its imminent passing, Wired is running a contest to find the best epitaph for Phoenix.  My current favorite is:  “Every robotic lander dies. Not every robotic lander truly lives.”  I’m getting a little choked up..

RedOrbit Blog of the Day

Posted: 6 June 2008 in Uncategorized
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RedOrbit Blog of the Day 2008-06-06

RedOrbit named me one of their blogs of the day today. Go me! I had come across them a time or two before. They are a space/tech news site. Not bad for that sort of thing and certainly less spammy and clunky than

The Bleak Blackness of Space

Posted: 22 March 2008 in Uncategorized
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How long could you survive in the vacuum of space?

Whenever I hear the word enormity used to describe how gi-freakin-normous something is, I always willfully misinterpret it to mean an act of extreme evil or extreme wickedness.  Now before you start screaming prescriptivist and throwing Kleenexes drenched in the snot of sociolinguistics at me — I’m not being a prescriptivist.  Of course people have the right to use enormity that way.  It is certainly the trend for that word and it probably will be within my generation that almost everyone forgets its original meaning.  I just so like the meaning of extreme wickedness that I want to be able to use it to mean that without being misinterpreted.  And a lot of people only know that word to mean gigantic.

So I was listening to a promo video (below) by Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic.  Branson opens up with this line:

 “Astronauts of the past 45 years have all returned to Earth struggling to convey the enormity of what they have discovered and with their perceptions clearly changed.”

And quite frankly, the sinister music blends with my interpretation of enormity far better.  Astronauts have all returned overwhelmed by the vast wickedness they encountered in space.  Awesome!  I totally wanna go now.  Actually, I’ve always wanted to go and probably would go even if I was told I had a 50/50 chance of making it back alive, so enormity just ups the thrill level.

This T-shirt just cracked me up:

Finders Keepers

Of course, it actually could have been this way. I think the US even had a defacto assumption that the moon was ours. This is very much not the case. With the recent Japanese and Chinese probes to the moon, the upcoming German probe, and rumors of more probes and missions to the moon, there are many claimants. There was a Moon Treaty that was supposed to hand control of all heavenly bodies over to the international community (that is, the UN). However, this useless piece of paper was only ratified by the likes of Mexico, France, India, Chile, Australia, and the Phillipines (and several other small countries), none of which have a manned space program.

The moon is potentially a gold mine (or rather, a helium-3 mine). What it is not, is a waste of time. If we ever do manned exploration of other worlds, a lunar base would be a great base of operations. For one, it’s good practice. For another, the lower lunar gravity could allow people to reside there longer with slightly reduced health effects while still providing an easy base to launch from. Of course, the moon has its dangers. NASA is planning a new lunar base on the lunar pole, where danger from solar radiation is diminished while still allowing for energy gathering from solar arrays.

It will be interesting to see how things turn out on the moon. Will there be borders and bases manned by robots and people from many different countries? Or will we see international cooperation as we have seen with the space station? At this point, it’s anyone’s guess.