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Last week I reported on a comet that was set to make an appearance in our twilight skies and even though it has dimmed past naked eye visibility, those with binoculars, telescopes and DSLR's can still view the spectacular Comet Pan-STARRS. Astronomers, astrophotographers and photographers across the US have captured some stunning images during it's week long visit and I want to share them with you.
First up is an image taken from Sumter, South Carolina by my good friend and fellow astrophotographer Hap Griffin (source #1). He captured the image which includes Pan-STARRS and the crescent moon in a single frame as they set behind a tree line near his home.
Up next is a breath-taking shot of Pan-STARRS that was taken by photographer Chris Cook (source #2) at First Encounter Beach, Massachusetts. The shot features Cook and his son standing on a hill gazing in wonderment at such a beautiful scene.
Scientist at the CERN research facility in Switzerland announced recently that they are "certain" that they have found the so-called "God Particle" known as the Higgs boson.
For years now scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) have been using the Large Hadron Collider to accelerate atoms to near the speed of light just for the purpose of smashing them together in hopes of seeing the elusive Higgs boson particle.
This week at a conference in Geneva, Switzerland, the scientists say that have their proof - or at least part of it:
"The preliminary results with the full 2012 data set are magnificent and to me it is clear that we are dealing with a Higgs boson, though we still have a long way to go to know what kind of Higgs boson it is."
This means that we have not only discovered the long theorized Higgs boson, but we have discovered that more than one type exists. One spokesperson said the particle they found has the "spin parity" of a "Standard Model Higgs boson", and that further tests will be needed to verify if that is indeed the case.
In the on-going news surrounding America's favorite space rover, NASA has confirmed that Mars was once suitable for life. These results come from the successful drilling of a rock by the Curiosity rover and subsequent analysis of the powdered rock.
John Grotzinger, Curiosity project scientist:
We have found a habitable environment that is so benign and supportive of life that, if this water had been around and you had been on the planet, you would have been able to drink it.
The rock contained sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and carbon. All of these elements are key to life and show that Mars could have once supported life.
David Blake, principal investigator for Curiosity's CheMin instrument:
I think this is probably the only definitively habitable environment [outside of Earth] that we have described and recorded
Previous results from the Opportunity rover, which was located on a different portion of Mars, found that the previous aqueous environment was extremely acidic and not suitable for life. With these results, it becomes even more likely and possible that extra-terrestrial life exists somewhere in the universe.
How do you feel about these results?
SpaceX is working on pioneering the exploration of the next frontier: Space. The private company has already had huge successes, winning the contract to deliver payloads to the International Space Station aboard its rockets. Now the company is working on developing a reusable Grasshopper rocket. You can see the latest test below:
It's not clear when SpaceX will make use of this rocket, as it comes with a somewhat peculiar design. The rocket is designed to take off and land vertically on its metal legs. The rocket has been undergoing testing since September 2012 and this latest test saw the rocket climb to 262.8 feet and hover before landing.
The 100-foot-tall rocket has a good distance to go before making it to space, but it seems to be well on its way. "The US is a country of explorers. People need to believe that [space travel] is not going to bankrupt them," stated Musk at his SXSWi keynote.
Whether you like Arduino or not, you have to admit that the small Italian company founded my Massimo Banzi has truly revolutionized the way the DIY world does things. Today Arduino released its next official product, the GSM Shield.
Arduino has paved the way for things such as cheap, easy to use development boards, all the way to DIY gaming controllers, and now they are looking to truly connect the internet of things wherever you may be. The GSM Shield partnered up with Telefonica Digital to "design a tool that is greatly simplifying the process of building Internet of Things applications based on the GSM mobile phone network".
The GSM Shield also includes a Telefonica SIM card that includes a worldwide data tariff which can be used anywhere there is a cellular signal. Features include the ability to have the Arduino send an SMS message when a sensor or data set reaches a specific threshold, or even send and receive voice calls directly to your Arduino based project.
A groundbreaking operation is being called a success this morning after doctors successfully replaced 75% of a man's skull with a 3D printed prosthetic. The replacement skull was created by an additive deposition 3D printing process.
Oxford Performance Materials in Connecticut then gained approval from US regulators earlier this week and had kept the procedure a secret until now. The company says that it is now able to provide bone-like replacements that are etched in a way that promotes real bone growth and skin adhesion.
Oxford Performance Materials says that more than 500 patients in the US monthly could benefit from this new type of surgery and that it can produce an implant within two weeks of receiving 3D scans of the damaged area. The patients name was not released nor was the name of the location that the surgery took place.
Google offer $20 million for the first privately-funded company to land a robot on the moon and send back high-def video
Google of all companies are offering a $20 million prize to the first privately-funded company to land on the moon, explore its surface by moving at least 500 meters, and send back high-definition video back to us here on Earth by 2015.
There's a second-place prize too, with $5 million to whoever completes the same mission. Bonus prizes are on offer for who can travel more than 5km, find water or discover any traces of man's past on the moon, such as the Apollo site. The possibilities are endless, and exciting for those of us who won't be involved with the trip.
High-def video from the moon? I'd love for a company to install a 4K-capable camera on the moon, live-streaming 24/7 - now that would be something.
2013 is being called "the year of the comets" and tonight, those of us in the northern hemisphere, will get our first glimpse of the long anticipated first performer of the year. Comet Pan-STARRS will be visible in the horizon in the northern hemisphere tonight at sunset.
Originating from the Oort cloud, Pan-STARRS is the first major comet of the year and has already been putting on quite a show for those living in the southern hemisphere. Visible for the next few days, the comet can be seen in the west at sunset just to the left of the sun.
Over the next few days, Pan-STARRS will appear to rise higher in the sky, with it aligning vertically with the moon on March 14th. I have included a few info-graphics in the gallery below to help you better find the passing visitor. If you manage to take a nice photo of Pan-STARRS, send them over to my email (charlesgantt at tweaktown dot com) with the title (Comet Pan-STARRS Images) and I will show them off in a later post right here on TweakTown!
Amidst massive budget cuts, and an overall reduction in funding, NASA somehow manages to continue to be able to wow us on a regular basis. This time the space agency has released the first full map of the planet Mercury's surface.
The first planet in our solar system has not received much scientific attention over the course of modern space science mostly because it is too close to the sun to properly observe from earth. NASA's Messenger spacecraft has managed to negate that issue and since 2011 has been hard at work mapping the surface of Mercury.
NASA's Mariner spacecraft had previously imaged the surface of Mercury, but only managed to capture less than half the surface during a flyby in 1974 and 1975. Messenger is the first spacecraft to orbit the closest planet to the sun and used modern technology to image the surface.
We reported yesterday that NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover hit a snag, and was forced into "safe mode" after an issue with its flash memory, but the Rover has now successfully come out of safe mode and will resume full operations next week.
NASA engineers still don't know why the primary system experienced a memory problem, but they do hope they can restore it to some working order. The Mars Science Laboratory Project Manager for JPL, Richard Cook, says:
One path of progress is evaluating the A-side with intent to recover it as a backup. Also, we need to go through a series of steps with the B-side, such as informing the computer about the state of the rover - the position of the arm, the position of the mast, that kind of information.