NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has found evidence that the 57 mile wide, 1.4 mile deep McLaughlin Crator once was filled with water that flowed from an underground source.
The evidence lies in the bottom of the crator where there are layered, flat rocks which contain carbonate and other minerals that form only in the presence of water. Small channels in the crator wall also resemble something you might find in a dried up lake bed here on Earth.
The findings were published in the latest edition of Nature Geoscience, and lend even more evidence that Mars could have once been a habitable planet. "This new report and others are continuing to reveal a more complex Mars than previously appreciated, with at least some areas more likely to reveal signs of ancient life than others," said Rich Zurek of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
A successful test of laser communication has just been complete by researchers at NASA according to Space.com. The agency tested laser transmission of data into space by beaming the Mona Lisa from earth to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter some 240,000 miles away.
The LRO, which has been orbiting the moon since 2009, was chosen over other space craft because it was already fitted with laser communication gear. The image of the Mona Lisa was subdivided into 150 x 200 pixel segments and then beamed to the LRO from the Goddard Flight Center at a rate of about 300 bits per second.
"This is the first time anyone has achieved one-way laser communication at planetary distances," said David Smith, a researcher working with the LRO's Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter. "In the near future, this type of simple laser communication might serve as a backup for the radio communication that satellites use."
Earlier this week, I reported on NASA's plans to add an inflatable habitat module to the International Space Station. Today the space agency has released photos and a simulation animation on how the module will connect to the ISS.
Officially named the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM for short, the module will test expandable space habitat technology. While early reports showed the module as being quite large, the photo above is said to depict the actual size of the module that will fly into space.
BEAM is scheduled to launch on SpaceX's eighth cargo resupply mission to the ISS, which has been contracted by NASA for some time in 2015. As seen in the video above, astronauts will use the stations robotic arm to install the inflatable BEAM module and a two year test of the module will commence.
A multinational team of astronomers have discovered the largest objects in the known universe. In research led by the University of Central Lancashire, the team recently observed a large quasar group comprised of dozens of highly energetic "star-like" objects.
Each object averages about 500 Megaparsecs, with the entire group being close to 1,200 Megaparsecs at its widest point. If that makes no sense to you, the distance between our Milky Way, and our closest neighboring galaxy, Andromeda, is about 0.75 Megaparsecs. If this new object was within 100 light-years of Earth, it would dominate the entire night sky. For those who are curious, 1 Megaparsec equals 3,261,633.44 light years.
This discovery will have huge implications on the study of cosmology. Einstein's Cosmological Principal states that the universe looks the same regardless of the observation point when viewed at a large enough scale. If you combine this principal with modern theories, we shouldn't be able to find objects larger than 370Mpc. This new quasar group is not the first to question Einstein's theory either. Other smaller objects have been discovered that add weight to the challenge.
CES 2013 - Walking the halls of the Consumer Electronics Show 2013 in Las Vegas last week, we came across a demo from HzO which was super impressive. They've developed a proprietary nanotechnology that uses nanocoating that gets applied to the internal components of a device.
After this, the device is put through a vapor deposition process and voila, your smart device is pretty much water proof. The demo involved dropping a smartphone into a bowl of beer and it survived. The phone was taken out of the beer, quickly dumped in some water, and had the battery reinserted. It was turned on in front of our eyes and it worked.
Can this be applied to all technology, yesterday? Thanks, HzO.
Fans of the end of the world will have to wait just a bit longer to start cheering. NASA has just released information that the world will not be ending in an explosion caused by an asteroid in 2029 or 2036. Previously, the Apophis asteroid was thought that it could hit the Earth in 2036, with a low chance of collision in 2029.
NASA's new data suggests that there is only a one in a million chance of the asteroid colliding with Earth in 2036, which is small enough for NASA to effectively rule out the collision. NASA says that interest in the Asteroid will now be purely scientific for the foreseeable future.
The asteroid will pass within 9.3 million miles of the Earth, which is a bit close for my comfort. However, it's far enough away that nobody will need to build bunkers. So, until the next space scare, put away your end of the world gear.
When we think of inflatables, we usually picture the moon bounce or giant slides often seen at amusement parks and children's birthday parties. NASA has other plans for the inflatable technology though, commissioning a $17.8 million inflatable space habitat.
A contract between Bigelow Airspace and NASA was just signed for the construction of an inflatable and expandable module for the International Space Station. Bigelow Airspace was chosen because they already have a few prototype habitats orbiting earth.
Last year Bigelow Airspace partnered up with SpaceX to launch its BA 330, seen above, sometime in 2015. It is unsure at this time if NASA will launch the new expansion module or if SpaceX will be handling the delivery. Further details on the new ISS expansion are due this Wednesday, and I will be covering the event, so stay tuned for more information.
Three students from the University of Toronto have designed a revolutionary new type of LED based light bulb that is orders of magnitude more efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs.
The Nanolight is an LED based light bulb replacement that consumes just 12 watts of energy and produces 1600 lumens of light output. This is on par with a 100w incandescent bulb at almost 1/10th the power consumption. The new design claims to have solved the LED heat problem and has no need for an expensive aluminum heatsink.
The Nanolight has a lifespan of 30,000 hours and is estimated to cost a mere $50 in electricity over the full lifespan of the bulb. The company plans on producing a 10w Nanolight which would be equivalent to a 75w incandescent and cost even less to power.
Lego has announced that they will soon be offering up the next-generation of their Mindstorms line. The new system, which is the third-generation of its line, will be the EV3. EV3 sports a bunch of improved features in both hardware and software, where it's headed to the classroom and will also be used in Lego League competitions. Soren Thomsen of LEGO Education told Forbes:
We gathered information from teachers and coaches to meet their needs. This is a strong new kit that should last for a lot of years.
Some of the new features being built into EV3's kit include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, the ability to add memory to the units - which is something that the Lego League teams have been asking for - as well as the file sizes of the programs being streamlined. The new EV3 has a 3D instruction manual which should make it easier for users to see all the pieces from all angles, allowing them to design and construct their own robots.
The EV3 is available right now for preorder and will ship in the fall semester of 2013.
Every Friday, I like to end my week here at TweakTown with a science post, and this week I want to show you a stunning new image released by astronomers from the Gemini South Observatory in Chile. The "Cosmic Bullets" pictured below are roughly 1,500 light years away from the earth and were first discovered in 1992.
This image of "cosmic bullets" in the Orion Nebula (M42) was taken on the night of Dec 28th 2012 using a new adaptive optics system which is equipped with five laser guide stars and three deformable mirrors to correct atmospheric distortion. Each cosmic bullet is about 10 times the size of Pluto's orbit around our sun, which is roughly 3.67 billion miles.
The cosmic bullets are made up of enormous clumps of gas packed with iron atoms, and were ejected from deep within the Orion Nebula. They are most likely propelled by strong winds expelling gas at supersonic speeds from a region of massive star formation, outside and below this image's field of view.
Lego just announced a new Mindstorms kit that packs one heck of a punch. The EV3 kit is designed to introduce a younger generation to the joys of building and programming robots while still keeping things fresh for their existing Mindstorm fans.
The new EV3 kit is centered around the EV3 Intelligent Brick which features an ARM9 SOC, which includes more memory and a much more robust processor than previous Mindstorm bricks. Users can now remove the tether from their Mindstorm project and take advantage of the new "on brick programming" feature.
The EV3 is running on a new Linux-based firmware and can be programmed with a USB port and storage can be augmented by an on-board SD card slot. The EV3 kit will also include full Android and iOS app compatibility out of the box. Availability is set for the second half of 2013 and will carry a MSRP of $349.99
Captains Log, Star Date 90616.41: A petition to build a real life Starship Enterprise was sent to the White House by engineer BTE Dan. No surprises here but Dan is the author of detailed plans for constructing a life-size, flyable starship Enterprise as posted on his website last year.
The proposal was submitted to the White House's official "We the People" channel, which promises an administration response to any petition that gathers at least 25,000 signatures. "We have within our technological reach the ability to build the 1st generation of the USS Enterprise," BTE Dan wrote in the petition, viewable here.
This comes just a month after a petition to build a Death Star like the spherical spaceship in the movie "Star Wars" garnered that critical mass, and is currently awaiting its official response.
SpaceTT: NASA reportedly 'mulling over' mission to capture 550 ton asteroid and put it in lunar orbit
NASA may have shut the space shuttle down, but that does not mean that it is slowing down its ideas for space missions. The agency is said to be considering a mission to send a robotic craft to capture a 1.1 million pound asteroid.
Once captured, the asteroid would then be placed into lunar orbit and could be used to help "deflect" Earth-threatening asteroids. The craft would be launched on an Atlas V rocket and would cost an estimated $2.6 billion which is just a bit more than the Curiosity mission to Mars costed.
The proposed craft would travel to the target asteroid, measure and match its spin and speed, and then retrieve the asteroid using a 10 meter tall, 15 meter wide bag. Being a big proponent of NASA, I really hope this gets the funding and we see it happen in my life time.
I am a huge fan of all things Space and Space science. I am absolutely a sucker for good images of rocket launch photos and videos. Space.com has just released their list of the best launch images of 2012.
The list features launches from both the US and Russian space programs and the images are quite stunning. The image above was taken by my good friend and Astro Club buddy Hap Griffin during the Launch of NROL-15 aboard a Delta 4 Heavy in May 2012. Sadly it did not make the list, but it is by far my favorite launch photo from 2012.
Hopefully this coming year I will be able to travel down to the Kennedy Space Center to capture some astounding launch images myself.
Over the last 30 years Landsat 5 has orbited the earth a total of 150,000 times, and transmitted roughly 2.5 million images back to earths surface. Now, after a fatal gyro failure, the imaging satellite that was originally designed for a three year mission is finally being decommissioned.
Over the past 3 decades, if a natural disaster occurred, Landsat 5 photographed the from-space photos the public saw. It has malfunctioned in the past, but the malfunctions were always recoverable. In 2011 imaging was suspended due to a transmission error and now a gyro has failed permanently, rendering the satellite unfit for duty.
Landsat 5's death leaves the USGS with only one functioning bird in space, Landsat 7. Another USGS satellite is set to launch in February of 2013 though and has been named... you guessed it, Landsat 8.
NASA just released two free E-books on the Hubble Space Telescope and it's yet-to-launch successor the James Webb Space Telescope. Both E-books are packed full with interactive features that let readers watch such things as galaxy collision simulations, and manipulate a telescope model between pages.
The Hubble, which launched in 1990 is set to come to its end of life cycle in 2013. The space-based telescope has no doubt supplied us with some of the most interesting images ever seen by mankind. It's replacement, the James Webb is almost three times the size of the Hubble and will continue the tradition of bringing breath-taking images to us here on earth.
"These new e-books from NASA will allow people to discover Hubble and Webb in a whole new way - both the science and the technology behind building them," Amber Straughn, an astrophysicist on the Webb telescope project at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said in a statement. "They collect all of the amazing resources about these two observatories in an excellent product that I think people will really enjoy."
Commander Chris Hadfield, currently on the International Space Station, recorded a Christmas carol in space. While that alone is pretty awesome, the fact that he was able to make it sound good with all the background noise is the really impressive part. When he made a comment regarding the noise with his original post, people asked him just how loud it is on the ISS, so he made a recording.
As you can hear in the recording, there is quite a bit of noise. Most of it comes from the fans and ventilation system that is keeping the astronauts alive, so we doubt they are complaining too much. Besides, they have optional earplugs and noise cancelling headphones to keep it at bay.
Hundreds of thousands of children, as well as adults will receive a telescope on Christmas this year. In a strike of luck, the Moon and Jupiter will converge in the night sky on Christmas night and provide a stunning view for all to see. The duo will be so bright that even those in inner cities will be able to observe the celestial event.
Shining brightly to the upper left of the moon, naked eye viewers will see Juipter, our solar systems largest planet. Those with binoculars or small telescopes will be able to make out at least 3 of Jupiters moons as well. Sky-watchers with larger scopes are encouraged to try and observe Jupiters Great Red Spot which is shrinking.
As viewed from the eastern and central United States, the moon and Jupiter will appear closest together during the late afternoon or early evening hours on Tuesday (Dec. 25). From New York, they'll be closest together at 6:25 p.m. EST (2325 GMT); from Chicago, it'll be 5:18 p.m. local time (2318 GMT). The event is visible world wide though so grab your favorite warm beverage and head outside to view the special event.
Due to overwhelming response, the Rasberry Pi foundation has released a "Quick Start Guide" for the Raspberry Pi. Citing that many people will find one under the tree or in a stocking this Christmas, the foundation wanted people to easily be able to get their new Pi boards up and running.
The guide covers setting up the Pi for the first time. Users unfamiliar with how to connect the Pi to monitors, keyboards and a network are presented with a nice diagram. The guide gives step by step directions on installing an operating system and booting the Pi for the first time.
We are sure that this guide, although quite basic, will be an immense help to those receiving the Pi as their first development board. Do you have a Raspberry Pi, or are you expecting to find one under the tree? Let us know in the comments. If you would like to download the Quick Start Guide, just follow this link.
Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX has released images and video of the company's new Grasshopper rocket design taking a test flight. A six-foot tall mannequin dressed as a cowboy, was on board for test flight which ascended to 131 feet, hovered for a few seconds and then proceeded to land back on the launchpad in its original position.
The new rocket is currently in development and just entered it's testing phase last month. SpaceX is developing the grasshopper to hopefully have a lift stage that is reusable, and will land itself back in the upright position. This will significantly cut down on waste, material cost and the expense of having to send a ship to "rescue" the rocket from an ocean splash down.
SpaceX designs, manufactures, and launches the world's most advanced rockets and spacecraft. The company was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk to revolutionize space transportation, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.
Sometime around 2015, NASA will incorporate a next-generation spacesuit that has a bunch of new features, but most noticeably, a new design. The new Z-1 NASA spacesuit will arrive in 2015 and offers a bunch of new advantages compared to the current and previous designs.
The biggest change would be the rear-entry hatch which lets an astronaut put the suit on from the back, and when finished, they just have to close the rear hatch. The current astronaut wear, the Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) spacesuit, which has been in use since 1982, requires the wearer to put the pant and top portions on separately, and then connect them together.
Jumping into the spacesuit makes more sense, with its hatch being very handy for quick in-and-out experiences in the spacesuit. There's also a new suit port. Usually stored internally, the suit could attach to the exterior of the space vehicle, and the astronaut could easily enter the suit from inside the vehicle.