Tuesday, 22 July, 2014
NASA’s New Horizons space probe is now only one year out from its scheduled encounter with former planet Pluto, in the outer reaches of the solar system.
While astronomers have gleaned much information about the distant dwarf planet from Earth based telescopes, it is likely a fair bit of what we know, or think we know, will be turned on its head as New Horizons draws closer. In fact, far from coming up with answers, the abundance of new data brought forth will likely only pose even more questions.
New Horizon’s Pluto visit will transform the science of this small body in a matter of weeks, and it will likely take a long time before all of the data it provides will be unpacked. The only thing that would truly surprise the science team at this point would be if they find no surprises on Pluto, said Stern. It’s a safe bet to assume the probe probably won’t be definitively answering scientific questions so much as raising interesting new problems and providing researchers with many decades of mysteries.
science, solar system, space exploration
Thursday, 17 July, 2014
If the images collected by the Hubble Space Telescope were taken with a camera with a tilt-shift lens, this is what they might look like.
astronomy, photography, space exploration
Monday, 14 July, 2014
As a people we be must seen as excessively keen to establish colonies on other planets in the solar system if a case is being made to do so on the anything-but-habitable Venus. Of course a base wouldn’t be on the surface, but rather some forty or so kilometres above, in a floating city no less, where conditions are said to be “Mediterranean”.
The second planet from the Sun might seem like a nasty place to build a home, with a surface temperature hot enough to melt lead and an atmosphere so dense it would feel like being submerged beneath 3000 feet of water. But the air on Venus thins out as you rise above the surface and cools considerably; about 30 miles up you hit the sweet spot for human habitation: Mediterranean temperatures and sea-level barometric pressure. If ever there were a place to build a floating city, this would be it.
science, space exploration, Venus
Wednesday, 9 July, 2014
Always good to know where one can locate some terra firma, so to speak, around the solar system… thanks to this surface area graphic from xkcd.
astronomy, illustration, space exploration
Monday, 23 June, 2014
In 1835, The Sun, a New York newspaper, published a number of articles about the various lifeforms residing on the Moon.
Apparently it took several weeks until the series was exposed as a hoax.
While those hopeful of encountering an intelligent civilisation beyond the Earth must have been disappointed, the article series did bring forth a pleasing collection of illustrations depicting this… life on the Moon.
illustration, Moon, space exploration
Monday, 23 June, 2014
If you’re an extrovert, and wish to travel to Mars, it may be best to make the journey in hibernation, as your need to constantly socialise on the long voyage, in a what would be a relatively confined space, may grate upon the less out going members of the crew.
Lead researcher and DePaul University psychologist Suzanne Bell recently told an American psychological science conference other voyage participants may find extroverts too demanding and intrusive. “Their level of warmth may be undesirable in a confined setting,” Dr Bell said. “You’re talking about a very tiny vehicle, where people are in very isolated, very confined spaces. Extroverts have a little bit of a tough time in that situation.”
It doesn’t seem right that an entire crew consist only of introverts though, and I think more thought needs to be given to catering for differing personality types on long voyages in space.
Mars, personality, psychology, space exploration
Wednesday, 18 June, 2014
I’m always on the look out for reasons to move to Mars, in Mars One style, but to date there aren’t too many items on the list. The snowboarding may be ok, if there’s enough dry ice about, but that hardly makes for a compelling case for setting up base on the red planet.
And while Mars is much cooler than Earth, at least in its pre-terraformed state, it turns out there is next to no wind chill, so if you’re a snowboarder that may prove to be a bonus.
At Mars’s surface, atmospheric pressure is less than 1% that of air pressure on Earth at sea level. That’s about the same pressure as Earth’s atmosphere at an altitude of 32 kilometers – or about 2.5 times the cruising heights of jet aircraft, Osczevski says. But air that thin doesn’t do a good job of carrying heat away, even when the winds are blowing at 100 kilometers per hour (as they sometimes do in the Red Planet’s global dust storms). In other words, he notes, on Mars the wind chill – the added cooling effect generated by air sweeping heat away from a body warmer than its environment – is almost nonexistent.
Mars, space exploration, weather
Wednesday, 4 June, 2014
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that some astronomers think that what is thought to be a massive black hole at the centre of the galaxy may in fact be a wormhole. Wormholes, if they actually exist, allow travel from one point in space to another, far more distant, place.
So if such wormholes are for real, what then might travel through one of them be like? The Wormhole Actualization Machine, as built by Texas based software engineer Alan Watts, might give us an indication…
science, space exploration, technology
Thursday, 15 May, 2014
All things considered, the Voyager deep space probes, as designed and built in the 1970s, stand as remarkable feats of space age technology, given any standard smartphone about today probably packs far superior computing power.
If though we were to build the Voyager probes today, how much better – or, who knows, not – would twenty-first century versions be? Over to Reddit then…
Well the camera would be significantly better. Voyager had 800×800 pixels (0.64 megapixel). Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has resolution up to 160 megapixels. The transmission speed is the big difference. Voyager transmits at 160 bits/second vs 6,000,000 bit/s for MRO.
science, space exploration, technology
Thursday, 8 May, 2014
Not a threat so much, as perhaps an ominous harbinger of sorts…
In short because we’re finding planets beyond the solar system that appear to be capable of hosting life, potentially intelligent life, but are finding no signs, whatsoever, of said life, even though the galaxy must be teeming with habitable planets, suggests intelligent life eventually finds a way to extinguish itself.
astronomy, science, space exploration