I'm sitting at "Beyond the Decade: The Future of International Astronomy", a conference today at the National Academies.  The conference is small (53 people so far) but rich in material, providing a crunchy look at where astronomy is heading.
I now own half a satellite... and in a way, you do to.  The Scientific Blogging "Project Calliope" satellite order has been placed!  Thanks to Hank's SB contribution, we have the 'science' half covered.  The other half of the satellite is up to the music community, and I'll let you know as soon as that's signed, sealed and delivered.

Half is crucial.  WIth half, we are 'go' for construction.  With our first half payment, we get:
  1. the actual hardware
  2. all the detailed tech specs
  3. a slot on the launch schedule
Moon Crash

Moon Crash

Oct 07 2009 | 1 comment(s)

Want a chance to see the water on the moon in real life? Wake up early Friday morning (if you live in the Americas), and get out your telescope.

NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) is being crashed into the moon, on purpose, along with the now empty 2.2-ton rocket that launched it this past June. The rocket will crash first, around 7:31am EDT, into the crater Cabeus in the south polar region. It should produce a plume of debris over 6 miles high. That plume is what you might be able to see with your telescope.
Just why do we have a space station, anyway? That's a question of relevance, because it turns out we might not have one after 2015. The International Space Science Station (ISS) is a football-field sized structure able to support six people 220 miles above us. It is a symbol of international cooperation, a marvel of technology, a new site for tourism and, to some, a project to be terminated in 2015.

What we've gotten from it? Some intangibles, some useful stuff.

  • advancing our space capability

  • increasing our limits on how long people can live in orbit

  • keeping nuclear scientists from going rogue after the breakup of the Soviet Union

  • research that benefits Earth

An article in this week's edition of Nature adds to the mysteries surrounding 'dark matter'. Should we abandon this enigmatic concept of invisible matter that exerts gravitational attraction but is otherwise undetectable? Could it be that we simply do not understand the long-range behavior of gravity?

Galaxy NGC 4414
Is 'dark energy', the mysterious unidentified thing that would be a nice explanation for a lot of universal questions, physics or religion?  Maybe baryon oscillations can tell us.  

Baryon oscillations began when pressure waves travelled through the early universe.   An ambitious attempt to trace the history of the universe, called the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS),  has seen first light.  BOSS, a part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III), took its first astronomical data on the night of September 14th.
There's drama in two galaxies in the Virgo Cluster, NGC 4522 and NGC 4402.    An extremely hot X-ray emitting gas known as the intra-cluster medium lurks between galaxies within clusters and, as galaxies move through this intra-cluster medium, strong winds rip through galaxies distorting their shape and even halting star formation - a process known as "ram pressure stripping".

Result: Peculiar looking galaxies.

Ram pressure is the drag force that results when something moves through a fluid — much like the wind you feel in your face when bicycling, even on a still day — and occurs in this context as galaxies orbiting about the centre of the cluster move through the intra-cluster medium, which then sweeps out gas from within the galaxies.
Here's an experiment.  Prepare for 3 days of hiking.  Pack light-- sleeping bag, tarp, knife, matches.  Bring protein bars and rice for food.  And then pick up 3 gallons (11 liters) of water and start walking.  What's the heaviest part of your gear?  Of course it's the water.

If we're going to get anywhere in this solar system, we need to go where there is water.  Everything else can be dehydrated, miniaturized, made more portable.  You can even make oxygen from water, just by adding some electricity (such as from solar power).  But water-- which also makes up most of our body-- is the one item we so desperately need, but can't mimic.
Take a decently sized housecat. Let's say a cat that is well-fed and weights 7.5 kilograms. We can all comprehend such a mass. It's not too small, neither too big. A cat is something we can pick up and lift in earth's gravitational field.

A cascade of powers of six-and-a-half billion
New research says that sunspots provide an incomplete measure of changes in the sun's impact on Earth over the course of the 11-year solar cycle - good news for global warming proponents concerned that lower temperatures (and higher ones) may correspond to solar activity.

The study led by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the University of Michigan found that Earth was bombarded last year with high levels of solar energy at a time when the sun was in an unusually quiet phase and sunspots had virtually disappeared.