Carnival of Space #59
Greetings, and welcome to this week’s Carnival of Space! Before getting to the astro-goodness, Will has a question: How many of you get your astronomy news directly from the press release?
Planets and Plutoids
Everyone likes Mars, which means everyone’s attention is on Phoenix and its oven. At the Planetary Society blog, Emily Lakdawilla interviews Phoenix mission manager Barry Goldstein. Turns out, recent data-handling problems actually mean we’ll get more data back from Phoenix:
[But] because we were in this anomalous state, we requested, and received, a bunch of contingency passes from MRO and Odyssey. So what ends up happening is: we told the science team ‘you can do whatever you want, because the only thing we are worried about was flash, we just are not going to save it to flash when we turn off.’ And we then told them we have all these [downlink] passes. So as it turns out, what the science team is planning is the most data-rich sol we’ve had to date, because we have all these extra passes. I was joking with Peter [Smith, the principal investigator] that he should pray for these things more often because he gets more data.
Meanwhile, Spirit and Opportunity soldier on, but someone needs to go blow the dust off Spirit’s solar panels.
Everyone also likes Titan (quiet, you punks in the back! Titan is awesome!). Catholic Sensibility gives a brief history:
Titan was left unnamed for the first two centuries of its Earthling acquaintance. Luna Saturni was enough for the Dutch astronomer. When other moons were discovered, Titan was given a roman numeral, first II and then IV. For the early 1800′s, it was known as Saturn VI. The numbering convention was I for the innermost moon, and everything else lining up in order. Not very imaginative. And a pain when astronomers kept discovering moons closer in and re-numbering the whole lot.
Sadly, not everyone likes Pluto. Stuart, a self-confessed “Pluto-hugger”, discusses how Pluto’s changing status affects his outreach work:
For people like me, who have to communicate science concepts and discoveries to the public, [the debate over Pluto's status is] a bit more personal because it is something I know in advance will need explaining and justifying at some point in the evening every single time I fire up my laptop and projector to do an Outreach talk. And when you’re faced with a roomful of people who are genuinely baffled by the decision, and who now think astronomers are all squabbling, loony scientists, like the wild-haired “Doc Brown” in the Back to The Future films, or the buck-toothed bespectacled uber-geeks in the Larson cartoons, well, you see it differently.
A newly-discovered trio of extra-solar, several-Earth-mass bodies 42 light-years away definitely merit the label of “planet”. Centauri Dreams comments that the discovery is a credit to improving instrumentation, and more are sure to follow.
Rocks… in Space!
[S]cientists studying the Murchison meteorite have determined that the purines and pyrimidines — specifically, uracil and xanthine — have a non-terrestrial origin. In other words, the molecules in this meteorite, so crucial for life, were actually formed in outer space and fell to Earth.
… and then he throws cold water all over our panspermiac nerdgasms. Yeah, thanks.
Some of the rocks in space are the result of anthropogenic astro-bioturbation; the main characters in the sci-fi anime series Planetes are responsible for cleaning up this orbiting debris before it causes problems. Space Feeds shows us the first episode. I’d comment on it, but my connection is too flaky to actually watch more than the first 30 seconds.
If you need more planetary carnival action or a trip back to Earth, the latest edition of the Accretionary Wedge is out, covering the intersection of geology and art.
Below the fold: the stars!
However, the familiar solar eclipse should be more correctly referred to as an occultation rather than an eclipse. As our Moon moves in front of the Sun, it is blocking out a portion or the whole solar disk. Hence the Moon is occulting the Sun and not eclipsing the Sun. Anyway, that name is stuck so we have to go along with it.
Science… in Space!
Orbiting Frog gets my vote for coolest post of the carnival: What should gravity waves sound like? Note that with the exception of the last one, this isn’t real data, just theoretical predictions… but still, black holes go “bweep!”
As Steinn points out, NASA maintains quite a few blogs, including a new one for the GLAST (Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope) mission. The introductory post reports that
Things are going very well thus far, and there is much more to do (we have not opened the champagne yet!).
A Bad Astronomy reader caught an error in a Hubble image.
Never doubt the power of the blogosphere. We can even change the heavens themselves.
The Lunar and Planetary Institute Bulletin has just released issue #114, which includes an article celebrating the Institute’s 40-year history. Hurrai, hurrai, for LPI!
Big deal, what’s a change of between 10-40% going to do? Oh, right. Boil the Earth.
18) Extreme sports
Imagine bicycle races at 250 kph. Imagine regoboarding the southside of Copernicus. Imagine flying in a large underground cavern. Imagine high-jumping in 1/6th G. Or long-jumping.
With the decision to retire the current space shuttles, NASA faces a quandary: How to get stuff up into space before the next solution is ready? A Babe in the Universe proposes sending a shuttle up one last time, and then scuttling it from space:
Columbia showed us what would happen next. Uncontrolled, the Shuttle would glide in as far as ground control would take it. At a certain point she would tumble out of control and break up. Like Columbia or Captain Kirk’s Enterprise, her death would be a spectacular event seen from Earth.
Victims of my super-flaky Internet connection include David Portree on gravity assists, Missy on lunar concrete, and Irene Klotz on makeshift space bathrooms. Also, did you think CBS was gullible? Try venture capitalists! Apparently they’ll believe anything.