I'm a nocturnal geek, I spend as much of my free time in the middle of the night as I can, for the express purpose of avoiding the hated day-star. I'm an aspiring writer with a number of unfinished manuscripts waiting for me to stop procrastinating about them. I love books, not just reading them but the feel and smell of them, especially of older and antique volumes. I'm a hobbyist astronomer and lover of all things science and technology.
Meteors rain down on the earth every hour of every day. Most of these are hardly larger than a grain of rice or a pea. The majority are little more than particles of dust, 10 to 40 micrometers (0.0004-0.0016 inch) in size. The average one is scarcely a quarter of the width of a human hair. The atmosphere makes short work of the larger ones. The remainder of these small meteors—-called “micrometeorites”—-are perpetually sifting down to the surface. Ten thousand tons of them every day.
Amateur solar astronomer Andrew Devey was filming the surfacing of the sun when an airplane shot through his field of view. Incredible.
Amateur solar astronomer Andrew Devey has been making daily records of solar activity since 2005. His website, The Solar Explorer, could well be the most extensive roundup of jaw-dropping solar GIFS on Earth. Featured here is one of our favorites from his browser-crashing collection. “I was filming a large active region,” Devey writes, “when a plane shot through my field of view.”
“The universe is probably littered with the one-planet graves of cultures which made the sensible economic decision that there’s no good reason to go into space—each discovered, studied, and remembered by the ones who made the irrational decision.”
RIP Neil Armstrong
"The next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink." - Armstrong family statement.
Maria Mitchell (1818-1889) was born in Massachusetts, USA, to a mother who was related to Benjamin Franklin and a father who believed that studying the natural world was the best way to praise God. While working as a librarian, Maria helped her father complete star observations for the US Coast Guard in their home observatory, equipped with a four-inch telescope. She memorised the sky, so in 1847 when she noticed a new star above the Pole Star, she knew it was a comet. It was named “Miss Mitchell’s Comet”, and she received a gold medal from the King of Denmark for her discovery which read: Not in vain do we watch the setting and rising of the stars. After travelling Europe with novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne and his family, Maria became Professor of Astronomy at Vassar University. She studied sunspots, Saturn and its rings, the double nebulae in the Great Bear constellation, the 1869 solar eclipse, and the color variations between stars—correctly concluding that the colours were caused by their chemical compositions. Maria became the first woman member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, The Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Philosophical Society, and helped found the American Association for the Advancement of Women and served as its president from 1874–76. After her death in 1889, she was elected to the Hall of Fame of Great Americans, The Maria Mitchell Observatory in Nantucket was named after her, and so was the Mitchell crater on the moon.
SpaceUp is a space unconference, where participants decide the topics, schedule, and structure of the event. Everyone who attends SpaceUp is encouraged to give a talk, moderate a panel or start a discussion. Sessions are proposed and scheduled on the day they’re given, which means the usual “hallway conversations” turn into full-fledged topics.
This diagram shows the approximate relative sizes of the terrestrial planets, from left to right: Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. Distances are not to scale. A terrestrial planet is a planet that is primarily composed of silicate rocks. The term is derived from the Latin word for Earth, “Terra”, so an alternate definition would be that these are planets which are, in some notable fashion, “Earth-like”. Terrestrial planets are substantially different from gas giants, which might not have solid surfaces and are composed mostly of some combination of hydrogen, helium, and water existing in various physical states. Terrestrial planets all have roughly the same structure: a central metallic core, mostly iron, with a surrounding silicate mantle. Terrestrial planets have canyons, craters, mountains, volcanoes and secondary atmospheres.
I like this version of the diagram a little better, it includes the Moon and Ceres. Sure one is a moon, and the other a “dwarf” planet, but the geologies are still comparable between all large rocky worlds.
The Space Shuttle program may be over, but the International Space Station is still up and running. For now, U.S. astronauts will have to hitch a ride aboard the Russian Soyuz. But resupplying the station is about to become the responsibility of a company just outside the Beltway.
Orbital Sciences Corporation has been launching rockets and building commercial satellites for almost thirty years. It’s latest rocket, the Taurus II and its companion capsule, Cygnus, is designed to do much of what NASA’s space shuttle once did: bring supplies and cargo to the space station. Who better to be at the helm of this new spacecraft than a former shuttle astronaut.
"I’d rather be flying of course," said former NASA Astronaut Frank Culbertson, only half-kidding.
Culbertson is a veteran of three spaceflights and he’s spent more than four months aboard the space station. Today, he’s a Senior Vice President and Deputy General Manager of Orbital Sciences.
"It is exciting to still be part of the team and to still provide access to space for the United States," said Culbertson.
Orbital Sciences is one of only two companies contracted by NASA to resupply the space station. While the company’s ambitions are aimed at space, the payoff is already being felt here on earth with almost 2,000 jobs and counting in the D.C.-area alone.
"We like the fact that we’re a Virginia based company. We’re launching out of Virginia. A lot of our employees live in Virginia," said Culbertson."
The first test flight for the Taurus II is slated for this fall at the Wallops Island Flight Facility. If that’s a success, this Virginia company could be the first company to be in the resupplying business with the space station.
Orbital Sciences is competing for that title with another company - Space X. They’re based in Hawthorne, California.
Plasma from solar flares or coronal mass ejections travel along solar wind to ultimately produce aurora’s in Earth’s polar regions. This visually stunning explanatory video takes you on a journey from sun’s interior to the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Credit: NASA/University of Oslo/Arcticlightphoto
What happens if our poles switch? The magnetic fields would be reversed right? Does that mean that we’d have no protection from solar storms?
While the field lines would be different during a reversal, we wouldn’t be completely without protection. We can look at the historical record of reversals and see no great detriment to life. Though, obviously, there’s never been a reversal during a technological society, so its effect, and the effect of solar flares on the technology unknown.