Space

Just a couple of quick news stories:

In keeping with the theme of 2010, that humans should be ashamed of themselves, Stephen Hawking, it seems, is generally pessimistic about man. In a recently completed documentary series for the Discovery Channel, Hawking speculates about both the inevitable reality of alien life and what an encounter with advanced life would be like.
How often do you hear a song featuring Bill Nye? Well, often-- it's part of his shtick.  But to hear him remixed with 3 other science populist greats, that's a treat.  It's "We Are All Connected (feat. Sagan, Feynman, deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye)  from Symphony of Science (one of several original music vids there).  Excellent work with adding reverb, echo and autotune to make a nice bit of electronica.  Falters a little at the 2 minute mark, but ends strong.  Thanks to my friend Danny O'Neill for pointing this Earth Day treat!
Absolutely stunning photos are now being released from NASA's new telescope, the Solar Dynamics Observatory.
Over the course of its five-year mission, it will study the sun's magnetic field and also provide a better understanding of the role the sun plays in Earth's atmospheric chemistry and climate. The images the telescope captures provide clarity 10 times better than high-definition television and transmit more comprehensive science data faster than
previous solar spacecraft, according to NASA. - NPR
The exoplanet GJ 436b has left scientists confused after defying their assumptions about the composition of its atmosphere.

Neptune-sized planets as hot as 800 Kelvin -- about 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit -- should contain high levels of methane and very little carbon monoxide. Instead, the researchers found 7,000 times less methane than expected and plenty of carbon monoxide.

Using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, researchers measured the dimming of light as GJ 436b passed behind its star and re-emerged. The difference in the two light levels -- measured six times at different infrared wavelengths -- represents the light emitted by the planet itself.
The ESO's VISTA telescope has captured a stunning new image of the Cat's Paw Nebula - NGC 6334.

The view in the infrared is strikingly different from that in visible light. With dust obscuring the view far less, astronomers can learn much more about how stars in the nebula form and develop in their first few million years of life.

NGC 6334 is one of the most active nurseries of massive stars in our galaxy and lies toward the heart of the Milky Way, 5500 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Scorpius (the Scorpion).
I just received edition 1.1 of the "TubeSat Personal Satellite Kit Assembly Guide".  Rather than reprinting the entire 50-page instruction set, I decided to rewrite it as "Building Tubey, the Picosatellite", in faux children book style.

Welcome, kids!  Although Tubey the Picosatellite is very complex, we're going to build him with just a few steps.  Right now, we have his clothes-- a bare metal cylinder that Tubey has to fit into.  He'll get rid of his 'clothes' after launch, though.  Yes, Tubey flies naked!


A new study in the Journal of Geophysical Research suggest that solar wind may charge polar lunar craters to hundreds of volts as it flows over natural obstructions on the moon.

The findings are important for NASA scientists who are investigating the resources, including water ice, which exist in polar lunar craters. Solar wind inflow into craters can erode the surface, which affects recently discovered water molecules. Static discharge could short out sensitive equipment, while the sticky and extremely abrasive lunar dust could wear out spacesuits and may be hazardous if tracked inside spacecraft and inhaled over long periods.
With little fanfare, NASA released on online simulation of spacewalking, the ISS, and real science in space.  Real physics, real challenges, no sissified arcade-y action or twitch gaming.  Just you, physics, and a mission.  And they call it... "Station Spacewalk Game"


I read with interest and excitement a very lightweight preprint on the Cornell preprint arxiv this afternoon. Although I usually skip reading papers on subjects I know little about (Cosmology), the title startled me enough to plunge into it:

"Solution to the Dark Energy Problem".

Single author, Paul Howard Frampton. Hmmm. A thought crossed my mind at the very start. Was this the work of a crackpot, sneaked into the arxiv while nobody was looking ?