What the International Space Station lacks? Coffee. But not for long

Thursday, 23 April, 2015

Crew of the International Space Station will soon be able to brew a real cup of coffee, and the “ISSpresso” machine no less, a collaborative design effort, is to soon to be installed on the station. There’s no excuse for staying on Earth now…

The espresso maker is dubbed ISSpresso – ISS standing for International Space Station. Italian coffee giant Lavazza joined forces with the Turin-based engineering company Argotec and the Italian Space Agency to provide a specially designed machine for use off the planet. NASA certified its safety.

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A WOW! signal for the new millennium?

Thursday, 9 April, 2015

I wasn’t going to let a story like this slip through unlinked.

A number of radio telescopes across the world have since – what do you know – 2001, been detecting mysterious signals from somewhere outside the galaxy. Sure, radio waves are a dime a dozen in this cluttered universe, many celestial objects naturally emit radio signals, but these transmissions stand out as they are seemingly adhering to a mathematical pattern.

Then there’s this:

No one knows what causes them, but the brevity of the bursts means their source has to be small – hundreds of kilometres across at most – so they can’t be from ordinary stars. And they seem to come from far outside the galaxy.

The WOW! signal was a radio signal detected in 1977 by Jerry R Ehman, on the no longer in use Ohio State University Radio Observatory, as part of a sweep of the sky for the SETI project.

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Mars, the best views we have from the ground, so far

Wednesday, 1 April, 2015

There’s a couple of high definition images of the surface of Mars to seen here… what do you think, the best view we’ll have of the ground of the red planet this side of Mars One? Come to think of it, these just might be the best views, full stop.

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Giving names to the features we’re about to discover on Pluto

Monday, 30 March, 2015

Pluto and Charon, artist's impression

In mid July, NASA space probe New Horizons makes its closest approach to Pluto. If past experience is anything to go, the encounter, which will offer astronomers and scientists access to data hitherto only dreamed of, is likely to re-write much of what we know, or thought we knew, of this distant member of the solar system.

To say nothing of the photos we should soon be seeing. Instead of the current blurred, pixelated, images of the (dwarf) planet, we will possess high definition pictures of an actual, real world, plus its largest moon, Charon, ready to have its featured named as we see fit.

Needless to say, this will be no small task, and NASA, together with the International Astronomical Union, are interested in hearing your suggestions for such names. Get going though, submissions close on 7 April.

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A day on Mars may be just a little too long for humans

Friday, 13 March, 2015

A day on Mars, or to be more precise, a complete planetary rotation, lasts about forty minutes longer than it does on Earth. You’d think that would make the red planet ideal for human settlement, if we can look passed the numerous difficulties of setting up camp there of course.

After all, who doesn’t want more hours in the day, even if it’s only not quite one full hour? It would appear that things aren’t quite that simple however. So wired are humans to an exact twenty-four hour day, the additional forty minutes provided daily on Mars would actually prove to be rather exhausting for us:

It turns out if you’re on Earth, that extra time wears thin pretty quickly. If you’re on Mars, or at least work by a Mars clock, you have to figure out how to put up with the exhausting challenge of those extra 40 minutes. To be exact, the Martian day is 24 hours, 39 minutes, and 35 seconds long, a length of day that doesn’t coincide with the human body’s natural rhythms. Scientists, Mars rover drivers, and everyone else in the space community call the Martian day a “sol” to differentiate it from an Earth day. While it doesn’t seem like a big difference, that extra time adds up pretty quickly. It’s like heading west by two time zones every three days. Call it “rocket lag.”

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A catalogue of space probes in flight

Tuesday, 3 March, 2015

With Pluto bound space probe New Horizons rapidly approaching its destination, and who knows, about to turn all we know of the solar system’s best known dwarf planet on its head, Spaceprob.es allows us to check in on the numerous other active craft that are trawling interplanetary and interstellar space, on our behalf.

Leading the charge is Voyager 1, at a distance of almost twenty billion kilometres, or eighteen hours and seven minutes light travel time, from Earth, while the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is virtually above our heads, some 372,000 kilometres away.

By the way, if you’re interested in checking out Voyager 1’s approximate location in the night sky, give or take a few light minutes, here are some directions.

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There are no souvenir shops on the Moon as Neil Armstrong learnt

Friday, 20 February, 2015

Neil Armstrong’s widow, Carol, recently found a bag of bits and pieces that the late astronaut had brought back from his Apollo 11 flight to the Moon, that he had kept stowed away for decades, in a cupboard at their home.

Of the seventeen items Armstrong had souvenired, it is perhaps the camera that recorded his first steps on the lunar surface, that is of the most interest:

Inside the bag were 17 objects from the Apollo 11 mission including Armstrong’s waist tether, utility lights, and emergency wrench. Most importantly, it contained the 16mm data acquisition camera (DAC) used to film footage of the final approach to the moon on July 20, 1969. The camera was also used to record Armstrong going down the ladder and taking his famous “one small step,” the planting of the flag and other footage of Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the lunar surface.

I guess if I was the first person to set foot on the Moon, or any person to set foot on the Moon come to that, I’d want a few keepsakes as well.

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How to tell best the world we’ve encountered extraterrestrial life

Thursday, 5 February, 2015

It seems there may in fact be the potential for cultural shock and social disorientation, so any public announcement regarding the discovery of extraterrestrial life would have to be thought through carefully:

In 1938, Orson Welles narrated a radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds” as a series of simulated radio bulletins of what was happening in real time as Martians arrived on our home planet. The broadcast is widely remembered for creating public panic, although to what extent is hotly debated today. Still, the incident serves as an illustration of what could happen when the first life beyond Earth is discovered. While scientists might be excited by the prospect, introducing the public, politicians and interest groups to the idea could take some time.

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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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