Andromeda, our clearest view to date

Friday, 23 January, 2015

Andromeda galaxy section, by NASA, Hubble

A copy, assembled from photos taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, of the sharpest large composite image of a section of the Andromeda galaxy. Enjoy the view while you can, eventually, as in four billion years time, Andromeda will merge with our galaxy, the Milky Way.

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Project Blue Book, the truth is out there (maybe)

Wednesday, 21 January, 2015

Project Blue Book was the name given to an investigation carried out by the US Air Force from 1952, through to 1970, into Unidentified Flying Objects, or UFOs.

So, was it conclusively established that extraterrestrials had in fact visited Earth? I think we all know the answer to that, but don’t let that stop you from reaching your own conclusions, by way of the Project Blue Book Collection, a digitised archive of the reports produced by the project’s investigators.

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If you could X-ray the Sun, what would you see?

Thursday, 15 January, 2015

Photo by NuSTAR

If you took an x-ray photo of the Sun, what might you see? The above image, taken by NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), is actually taken in “high-energy x-rays”, so not the sort of x-ray picture we might usually be familair with, but impressive nonetheless.

See a super-sized version here.

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Alien intelligence could well be artificial intelligence

Monday, 12 January, 2015

If we’re ever going to encounter intelligent life off the Earth, it will likely be an artificial intelligence of some sort, this according to Susan Schneider, a University of Connecticut professor:

The reason for all this has to do, primarily, with timescales. For starters, when it comes to alien intelligence, there’s what Schneider calls the “short window observation” – the notion that, by the time any society learns to transmit radio signals, they’re probably a hop-skip away from upgrading their own biology. It’s a twist on the belief popularized by Ray Kurzweil that humanity’s own post-biological future is near at hand. “As soon as a civilization invents radio, they’re within fifty years of computers, then, probably, only another fifty to a hundred years from inventing AI,” Shostak said. “At that point, soft, squishy brains become an outdated model.”

I wonder if the term artificial intelligence is correct though. If we somehow evolve, or develop technology, that one day allows us to transfer our consciousness as it were, into robotic like devices, wouldn’t that still be intelligence, rather than artificial intelligence?

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Movies set in space, take a bow

Tuesday, 16 December, 2014

Set to the music from the Interstellar soundtrack, “Mountains” by Hans Zimmer, and the words of Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go gentle into that good night”, recited by Anthony Hopkins, Max Shishkin has produced an impressive tribute to movies set in space.

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And beyond this world, the worlds of the solar system

Tuesday, 9 December, 2014

Wanderers, a short film by Erik Wernquist, depicting humanity’s future possible exploration of the solar system, featuring narration by Carl Sagan. Some of the sequences, especially on the moons of Jupiter, and what looks to be Neptune, are incredible.

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Would you believe Kickstarter might put a probe on the Moon?

Wednesday, 26 November, 2014

Is there anything that Kickstarter doesn’t do? The idea behind Lunar Mission One is to send a probe to the Moon that will bury a time capsule, containing a record of life on Earth.

It’s not entirely about preserving memories though, in drilling below the Lunar surface to place the capsule, the probe will also extract rock, offering scientists access to materials they’ve not previously had an opportunity to study.

We’re going to use pioneering technology to drill down to a depth of at least 20m – 10 times deeper than has ever been drilled before – and potentially as deep as 100m. By doing this, we will access lunar rock dating back up to 4.5 billion years to discover the geological composition of the Moon, the ancient relationship it shares with our planet and the effects of asteroid bombardment. Ultimately, the project will improve scientific understanding of the early solar system, the formation of our planet and the Moon, and the conditions that initiated life on Earth.

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How many satellites are in Earth orbit? Short answer, a lot

Tuesday, 25 November, 2014

We all know that there are any number of satellites circling overhead, going about their trek around the Earth, as we go spinning our way through the cosmos. Some are active, some stopped functioning decades ago. Some are small, while others, such as the International Space Station, are larger.

But did you have any idea just how crowded that space above our heads is? Here’s hoping the laws of celestial mechanics continue to keep on doing what they’ve been doing so far…

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Photos from the surface of the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet

Friday, 21 November, 2014

Landing a probe, or a craft with a human crew, on another planet or moon, is hard enough, so imagine the know-how required to set down on a comet. Still, that’s what the European Space Agency succeeded in doing last week, when its Rosetta mission landed a probe on the surface of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Needless to say, the photos collected by the probes concerned, during the approach to the comet, and then the landing, are spectacular. To say the least.

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Do you really want to live on Mars? Then read this first…

Friday, 21 November, 2014

If you’re a regular visitor here, then the Mars One project will require no introduction. In short, the idea is to send people to Mars, on a way ticket, to establish a human colony there.

Make no mistake, living on, or more to the point, under Mars, as conditions on the surface are far from hospitable, won’t be easy though. In fact anyone considering signing up ought to have a read of this blunt assessment of the prospect

“They’re going to be living like moles,” Willson says. “I don’t think that the people who volunteered really appreciate that they’re going to spend the rest of their lives living in a submarine.” The first colonists would likely spend most of their time repairing the equipment that is keeping them alive. “Replacing parts and replacing a toothbrush, having toilet paper – there are some things that modern society expects and does and there would be significant degrading of your lifestyle on Mars,” says Willson.

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