Tag Archives: nasa

How to Watch Tonight’s Blue Moon Online

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Night sky observers around the world will have the chance to see a special full moon — one that has been dubbed a “blue moon” — on Aug. 31. But, even those who are thwarted by less-than-ideal conditions outside will be able to tune in online to see spectacular lunar views.

The web-based Slooh Space Camera, which showcases live views from various telescopes around the world, is hosting a special broadcast of the blue moon on Friday, beginning at 6 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT).

Slooh’s program will feature live shots of the moon from an observatory in the Canary Islands, off the coast of Africa and views of the sun from the Prescott Observatory in Arizona. The dual feeds will treat viewers to simultaneous real-time observations of the moon and sun in true color, Slooh officials said.

The broadcast will also pay tribute to the life of astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. Armstrong died on Aug. 25 at the age of 82, following complications from heart surgery.

Astronomer Bob Berman, Slooh editor and a columnist at Astronomy Magazine will be joined by Duncan Copp, the filmmaker and producer behind the acclaimed documentary In the Shadow of the Moon, to discuss Armstrong’s life and NASA’s Apollo moon program.

(SPACE.com)

“This Blue Moon that Slooh will explore Friday night is somewhat rare, but not as rare as the courage and talent of the late Neil Armstrong, the first human to set foot on our nearest celestial neighbor,” Berman said in a statement. “To honor him, Slooh will explore the Sea of Tranquility with its Canary Island 20-inch telescope, live, and have guests who will reveal some of the lesser-known secrets of that historic 1969 event. I think many of our visitors will be in for quite a surprise.”

The blue moon webcast can be accessed by visiting the Slooh Space Camera’s website. Viewers can also tune in on their IOS or Android mobile devices, according to Slooh officials.

This week’s blue moon will be the last one visible until July 2015, Slooh officials said. Interestingly enough, the term “blue moon” does not refer to the moon’s color, but rather has to do with it being the second of two full moons within the same calendar month.

The definition of a blue moon, as we use it today, was actually the result of a mistake. Long ago, the term “blue moon” was used to describe absurd happenings.

In 1946, amateur astronomer James Pruett misinterpreted the term as it was used in the Maine Farmers’ Almanac. Pruett penned a piece for Sky & Telescope magazine with the incorrect assumption that a blue moon refers to the second full moon of a month with two (rather than the third full moon in a season that has four of them, as was written in the almanac).

The first full moon of this month occurred on Aug. 1. Typically, blue moons occur every 2.7 years, and while they do not differ much from other full moons, the lunar views on Friday should serve as a fitting tribute to the legacy of Armstrong and the Apollo program.

Image courtesy of NASA.

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/31/watch-blue-moon-online/

Biggest Threat to the Economy Could Come From Outer Space

Spaceweather

Imagine waking up just after midnight to a sky so bright you swear it must be early morning. Imagine seeing the Northern Lights as far south as Cuba or Hawaii. Imagine that the same phenomena behind both has also generated electric fields in the ground strong enough to power small electronics. That’s what happened in 1859, when the earth was struck by the most severe geomagnetic storm ever recorded.

Forget asset bubbles, recessions, or hurricanes—space weather could prove far more economically harmful. A severe geomagnetic storm—a sudden, violent eruption of gas and magnetic fields from the sun’s surface—could prove particularly devastating. If the 1859 storm, known as the “Carrington event,” were to recur today it could cause trillions of dollars in economic damage and take years to recover from, according to estimates.

The sun would sneeze and the economy could shatter.

That’s a worst-case scenario, of course. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden was less dramatic at a space-weather conference hosted by the agency last week, though he did say such events can be “just as punishing as a tornado” and are “a problem that crosses all borders.” Magnetic storms can force Earth’s magnetic fields to go temporarily haywire, overwhelming power grids.

The 1859 event didn’t cause as much damage as it would today—electrical engineering was in its infancy—but it was globally felt. Here’s how a 2008 space-weather report from the National Academy of Sciences described that year’s storm:

From Aug. 28 through Sept. 4, auroral displays of extraordinary brilliance were observed throughout North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia, and were seen as far south as Hawaii, the Caribbean and Central America in the Northern Hemisphere and in the Southern Hemisphere as far north as Santiago, Chile.

Even after daybreak, when the aurora was no longer visible, its presence continued to be felt through the effect of the auroral currents. Magnetic observatories recorded disturbances in Earth’s field so extreme that magnetometer traces were driven off scale, and telegraph networks around the world—the “Victorian Internet”—experienced major disruptions and outages…. In several locations, operators disconnected their systems from the batteries and sent messages using only the current induced by the aurora.

In other words, they literally ran the telegraphs from the electrical fields generated by the storm.

The 1859 event may be an extreme case, but there are more-recent examples of such space weather: In March 1989 a geomagnetic storm took down northeastern Canada’s Hydro-Quebec power grid in just 90 seconds, leaving millions without power in the cold for up to nine hours. And a set of “Halloween” solar storms between October and November of 2003 sparked a National Academy of Sciences-led meeting on the societal and economic impact of space weather, which served as the basis of the report.

But it’s not just scientists who are concerned about space weather. Lloyd’s of London, the giant insurer, issued a report on the issue in 2010. In the foreword to the report, Lloyd’s Tom Bolt warned of a scientist-predicted spike between 2012 and 2015. “In terms of cycles, we are in late autumn and heading into winter,” he wrote then. A severe space-weather event could prove devastating, according to the Lloyd’s report.

In the worst case it can permanently damage transformers. In most cases, systems protecting power grids will detect problems and switch off before serious damage occurs. However, this may lead to a cascade effect in which more and more systems are switched off, leading to complete grid shutdown. In these situations it will take many hours to restore grid operation, causing disruption to operations and services, and potential loss of income.

The 1989 storm permanently damaged a $12 million New Jersey transformer. In 1921, a storm 10 times as bad struck. Today, that storm would permanently damage roughly 350 transformers, causing blackouts that would affect as many as 130 million people, according to a Metatech estimate.

An outside analysis conducted by Metatech for the Electromagnetic Pulse Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency found that the effects of a severe geomagnetic storm would not only be widespread, but long-lived. Such an event has “not only the potential for large-scale blackouts but, more troubling … the potential for permanent damage that could lead to extraordinarily long restoration times,” Metatech’s John Kappenman told the NAS report’s authors.

In a globalized world, all kinds of sectors would be impacted by a power failure. Fuel, food, water, sanitation, communications, medical/health, finance, and transportation would all feel cascading effects. Many businesses rely solely on satellite navigation for transportation on land and sea, and cell phones would be vulnerable to interference.

“Impacts would be felt on interdependent infrastructures, with, for example, potable water distribution affected within several hours; perishable foods and medications lost in about 12-24 hours; and immediate or eventual loss of heating/air conditioning, sewage disposal, phone service, transportation, fuel resupply, and so on,” the NAS report found.

Hurricane Katrina caused roughly $80 billion to $125 billion in damage, according to the report. A future geomagnetic storm like the 1859 event could cost 10 to 20 times as much and take up to a decade to fully recover from, according to Metatech’s estimates.

Image courtesy of NASA

This article originally published at National Journal
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/06/13/threat-economy-outer-space/

Radar Probes Titan’s Seas and Magic Islands

The Cassini Space Probe has measured the depth of a 40-kilometer-long stretch of Kraken Mare, the largest sea on Saturn’s moon Titan.

Shortly before capturing the first images showing Titan’s hydrocarbon seas with sunlight bouncing off of them, Cassini used radar to measure a strip of Kraken’s eastern side. Depths varied from 20 to 35 meters, but NASA cautions that these may be far from the deepest parts of the sea. 

The area studied during the August flyby is near the mouth of what on Earth would be considered a flooded river valley. Even though Titan’s rivers and seas are filled with hydrocarbons, probably methane and ethane rather than water, it is thought the processes of erosion and flooding are similar.

The study was part of a 200 kilometer sweep across the breadth of Kraken, but for the majority of this the results came back blank. NASA concluded that, “For the areas in which Cassini did not observe a radar echo from the seafloor, Kraken Mare might be too deep for the radar beam to penetrate.” An alternative possibility is that the still unknown make up of Titan’s seas varies, and the blank stretches represent more absorbent liquids.

The land around parts of the Kraken sea is quite steep, and if this continues beneath the surface, some sections might be deep enough to host the mythical beasts after which it is named.

At the same time, two bright features were seen in Kraken Mare that had not been visible on previous flybys. These may be related to the mysterious feature dubbed “magic island” that was spotted with a radar in Ligeia Mare last July before disappearing again a few days later. 

This time, however, both the Cassini radar and Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) were focused on the right location, bolstering the opportunity to identify what causes these bright spots. Patches of waves or some form of debris are currently the favored explanations, with some alternatives such as fog or submarine icebergs having been ruled out.

The findings were presented to a workshop at the Planetary Sciences Division of the American Astronomical Society.

In January, NASA plans to do another radar sweep of Punga Mare, the smallest of the three bodies large enough to be designated seas. The same pass will provide an opportunity for researchers to study Ligeia for further clues as to the nature of these intermittent bright spots. This will be the last attempt to study Titan’s seas and sea floors before Cassini makes its final dive into Saturn to collect as much data as it can on the atmosphere of our solar system’s second largest planet before being crushed to oblivion.

H/T Space.com

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/radar-probes-titans-seas-and-magic-islands

These 15 GIFs Prove Science Is More Amazing Than Fiction

Warning: Don’t try some of these things at home.

1. This is what happens when you cut a water droplet using a superhydrophobic knife on a surface that doesn’t get wet.

Arizona State University/Sploid / Via journals.plos.org

2. This is the view from the Soyuz capsule, the spacecraft that takes astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS), as it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere.

NASA / Via youtube.com

3. This is what vibrating guitar strings look like up close (captured using a rolling shutter effect).

Andy Nicolai / Via youtube.com

4. This is how Astronaut Koichi Wakata rides a flying carpet in space.

AFP News / Via youtube.com

5. This is what happens when you light a CD and blow on it.

Science Videos / Via youtube.com

6. This is what happens when you stuff an orange full of fireworks.

Michael Hession/ Slo Mo Lab / Via youtube.com

7. This is what happens when cardinal fish eat ostracod plankton. Ostracods produce bioluminescence so that the fish spits them out.

BBC / Via bbc.co.uk

8. This is what happens when you mix Russell pit viper snake venom with human blood.

BBC / Via youtube.com

9. These Neodymium magnets spark when they collide in a blender.

Blendtec / Via youtube.com

10. These Astronauts put a GoPro camera inside a floating ball of water in space.

NASA / Via youtube.com

11. These magnets can attract cereal.

Omar Kardoudi / Via sploid.gizmodo.com

12. This is what you see when a GoPro is strapped to the back of a lioness while she’s hunting prey.

GoPro / Via youtube.com

13. This is what happens when you crack an egg 60 feet below the surface of the ocean.

Live Science / Via youtube.com

14. Airplanes look like shooting stars in this time lapse of an airport.

Milton Tan / Via youtube.com

15. This bot fly from Belize emerges from a scientist’s skin after he let them incubate inside of him.

Piotr Naskecki / Via thesmallermajority.com

Read more: http://www.buzzfeed.com/natashaumer/these-15-gifs-prove-science-is-more-amazing-than-fiction

See Carl Sagan’s Childhood Vision of Space Exploration

Sagan

Carl Sagan’s passion for astronomy made him one of the most respected and celebrated space geeks of the 20th century. The science legend’s enthusiasm for exploring worlds beyond our own began as a child growing up in Brooklyn.

At age 5, Sagan began frequenting the New York Public Library to browse books that could give him a better understanding of the stars. He later reflected on the what he discovered: “There was a magnificence to it, a grandeur, a scale which has never left me. Never ever left me.” The experience got him hooked on outer space.

Sagan’s fixation continued and as a pre-teen he sketched his vision for the future of interstellar space exploration. The drawing featured newspaper headlines he predicted would happen in the future.

The Library of Congress recently shared a digital copy of the drawing, along with a couple other gems you can view in the gallery below.

Tropical Storm Isaac as Seen From NASA Satellite

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Tropical Storm Isaac will hit the Gulf Coast on Wednesday this week, and forecasters say it’s gaining enough speed to reach hurricane status by that time. Eerily enough, Isaac is set to make landfall in New Orleans on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

NASA just released an animation of satellite observations from Aug. 25-27, which shows Tropical Storm Isaac moving past Cuba and the Florida Keys and into the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Created by the NASA GOES Project at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, the visualization shows how quickly the storm evolved over the weekend.

When Isaac reaches maximum sustained winds of 74 mph, it will be classified as a category one hurricane. As of 11 a.m. Eastern on Monday, Isaac’s cloud extent is about 480 miles in diameter, as tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 240 miles from the center, according to NASA’s Atmospheric Infrared Sounder. Isaac is moving at a speed of about 14 mph, but it’s expected to slow down tomorrow as it approaches the Gulf Coast, which could make it a stronger storm.

How are you keeping up with Tropical Storm Isaac?

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/27/tropical-storm-isaac-nasa/

NASA Visualization of Solar Winds Reaching The Solar System’s Depths

Solar winds stream through the vacuum of space at an awesome 400 kilometers per second (over one million miles per hour). To help understand the effect of these gusts on the space environment, NASA developed this hypnoticvisualization.

The sun is continually producingsolar winds, although they can vary in strength, temperatureand consistency. They consist of charged particles of electrons and protons that are thrustforward by the thermal energy and magnetic fields of the Suns atmosphere. The effect of the Aurora Borealis (or the Northern Lights) is the result of solar winds as they hit the Earths atmosphere. The swirling shape of the winds you see in the video comes from the rotation of the Sun.

Scientists at NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, made this visualizationusing data fromNew Horizons and models of solar winds.As you can see by the little date and clock on the bottom right, these solar winds can take months and months to reach Pluto despite their stunning speeds.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/nasa-visualization-solar-winds-reaching-solar-systems-depths

Warp Drive May Be More Feasible Than We Thought

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A warp drive to achieve faster-than-light travel — a concept popularized in television’s Star Trek — may not be as unrealistic as once thought, scientists say.

A warp drive would manipulate space-time itself to move a starship, taking advantage of a loophole in the laws of physics that prevent anything from moving faster than light. A concept for a real-life warp drive was suggested in 1994 by Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre, however subsequent calculations found that such a device would require prohibitive amounts of energy.

Now physicists say that adjustments can be made to the proposed warp drive that would enable it to run on significantly less energy, potentially brining the idea back from the realm of science fiction into science.

“There is hope,” Harold “Sonny” White of NASA’s Johnson Space Center said at the 100 Year Starship Symposium, a meeting to discuss the challenges of interstellar spaceflight.

Warping Space-Time

An Alcubierre warp drive would involve a football-shape spacecraft attached to a large ring encircling it. This ring, potentially made of exotic matter, would cause space-time to warp around the starship, creating a region of contracted space in front of it and expanded space behind.

(SPACE.com)

Meanwhile, the starship itself would stay inside a bubble of flat space-time that wasn’t being warped at all.

“Everything within space is restricted by the speed of light,” explained Richard Obousy, president of Icarus Interstellar, a non-profit group of scientists and engineers devoted to pursuing interstellar spaceflight. “But the really cool thing is space-time, the fabric of space, is not limited by the speed of light.”

With this concept, the spacecraft would be able to achieve an effective speed of about 10 times the speed of light, all without breaking the cosmic speed limit.

The only problem is, previous studies estimated the warp drive would require a minimum amount of energy about equal to the mass-energy of the planet Jupiter.

But recently White calculated what would happen if the shape of the ring encircling the spacecraft was adjusted into more of a rounded donut, as opposed to a flat ring. He found in that case, the warp drive could be powered by a mass about the size of a spacecraft like the Voyager 1 probe NASA launched in 1977.

Furthermore, if the intensity of the space warps can be oscillated over time, the energy required is reduced even more, White found.

“The findings I presented today change it from impractical to plausible and worth further investigation,” White told SPACE.com. “The additional energy reduction realized by oscillating the bubble intensity is an interesting conjecture that we will enjoy looking at in the lab.”

Warp-Drive Laboratory Tests

White and his colleagues have begun experimenting with a mini version of the warp drive in their laboratory.

They set up what they call the White-Juday Warp Field Interferometer at the Johnson Space Center, essentially creating a laser interferometer that instigates micro versions of space-time warps.

“We’re trying to see if we can generate a very tiny instance of this in a tabletop experiment, to try to perturb space-time by one part in 10 million,” White said.

He called the project a “humble experiment” compared to what would be needed for a real warp drive, but said it represents a promising first step.

And other scientists stressed that even outlandish-sounding ideas, such as the warp drive, need to be considered if humanity is serious about traveling to other stars.

“If we’re ever going to become a true spacefaring civilization, we’re going to have to think outside the box a little bit, were going to have to be a little bit audacious,” Obousy said.

Image courtesy of Harold White

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/09/17/warp-drive-may-be-more-feasible-than-we-thought/

Scott Kelly To Retire From NASA After Spending A Year In Space

There are many impressive ways to bow out of your job, but perhaps breaking the record for the longest single U.S. spaceflight and becomingone of the first two humans to spend a year aboard the International Space Station (ISS) tops them all.

Yes, NASA has announced that one-year crew member Scott Kelly, 52, will retire from being an astronaut with the agency as of April 1 this year. He will still take part in research related to his year-in-space mission, namely the Twins Study in partnership with his brother Mark, but his days of actually going to space are now over.

This year-in-space mission was a profound challenge for all involved, and it gave me a unique perspective and a lot of time to reflect on what my next step should be on our continued journey to help further our capabilities in space and on Earth, Kelly said in a statement.

Kellys career was glittering, to say the least. In total, he spent 520 days in spacethe most for any American astronaut (so far), across four missions. It was his latest mission that really threw him into the limelight, though, where Kelly became known not only for his prolific tweetingfrom space (700 in total), buttogether with his Russian counterpart Mikhail Kornienko, he alsobecame the first to spend 12 months on the ISS. Previous missions lasted just six months.

Missions like this are a vital step towards sending humans to Mars, and NASA has more plans for similar (oreven more ambitious) missions on the ISS in the future. Our universe is a big place, and we have many millions of miles yet to explore, Kelly said in a personal blog post onFacebook.

Kelly is seen here during a spacewalk on November 6, 2015. NASA

His 520-day record wont last forever, though, as NASA astronaut Jeff Williams is set to launch to the ISS on March 18, and on this mission he will reach a total of 534 days.

Nonetheless, Kellys achievements, particularly with regards to setting humans towards Mars, will not be forgotten. When honoring Kelly, perhaps NASA Administrator Charles Bolden summed it up best:

When the first Americans set foot on Mars, they will be following in the footsteps of one of the finest astronauts in the history of the space program, my friend, Commander Scott Kelly. After spending an American record 520 days in space including his Year in Space I can think of no one more deserving of some well-deserved rest and time on the same planet as his family and friends.

Photo Gallery

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/scott-kelly-retire-nasa-after-setting-humanity-course-mars

See the Rare Photo of Neil Armstrong on the Moon

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There is only one photograph of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, and in it, he has his back to the camera.

The first man to set foot on a planetary body other than Earth was not camera shy. It was just that for most of the time he and Buzz Aldrin were exploring the moon in July 1969, the checklist called for Armstrong to have their only camera.

When the news broke Saturday that Armstrong, 82, had passed away, it is likely that many people’s memories of the first man on the moon were of black and white television images or color film stills. If they did recall a photo captured during the Apollo 11 moonwalk, it was almost certainly one of Aldrin, whether it was of him saluting the flag or looking down at his bootprint.

In fact, perhaps the most iconic photo taken of an astronaut on the surface of the moon is also of Aldrin. A posed shot, he is facing the camera with the reflection of his photographer, Armstrong, caught in Aldrin’s golden helmet visor.

Of course, there were photographs taken of Neil Armstrong at other points during the moon flight, and on his previous mission, Gemini 8. Cameras were ready when he was named an astronaut seven years before walking on the moon, and were more than ever present after he returned to Earth as a history-making hero.

A few of those other photos ran alongside obituaries in the numerous newspapers that told of Armstrong’s death in their Sunday editions. But they — the photos, not necessarily the obituaries — only told part of the story. A great many lesser seen photos capture Armstrong as the research pilot, astronaut, engineer and, as his family described in a statement, “a reluctant American hero.”

To help illustrate that record, collectSPACE.com asked RetroSpaceImages.com to search its extensive archives of NASA photographs and pick out those that showed the Armstrong that the public didn’t always get to see. The three dozen photos they chose have been presented chronologically, with one exception: The gallery begins with the rare photo of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. Where are space shuttle Atlantis’ launch director and mission management team today? Continue reading at collectSPACE.com.

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/27/rare-photo-neil-armstrong/