Science, Space, Health & Robotics News - Page 428
Tonight will be one of the last nights that you will be able to catch a trio of heavenly bodies hanging out in the night sky in the same neighborhood. This evening's sky watchers in the northern hemisphere will be treated to Saturn, Venus, and the Crescent Moon all within a few degrees of each other.
Tonight around 45 minutes after sunset, you will be able to look toward the southwestern sky and see the waxing crescent moon. To the lower right, you will see a very bright star which is actually the planet Venus. Above Venus, you will see another brightly lit star that will actually be the planet Saturn. The distance between the moon and Saturn will be roughly 5 degrees, which is equal to about half your fist or 3 fingers held at arm's length.
This will also be one of the last spectacular shows Saturn provides us for the year, because in just a few weeks, it will have dipped below the horizon and become visible to those in the southern hemisphere. For those of you with medium power binoculars or a telescope of at least 30-power, you would be able to view Saturn's rings tonight, even with it so close to the moon. I plan on taking out my telescope and imaging gear and getting a couple nice still shots of the trio. If you get any good shots, post them up in the comments and I will share them on our TweakTown Facebook Page.
It's that time again: it's Friday and that means more Science Friday news posts here at TweakTown! Today, a new report straight from NASA says the sun fired off an intense solar storm in the form of a Coronal Mass Ejection, or CME, that was aimed directly at the Earth early Wednesday morning.
The event took place around 1:24 AM EDT and sent billions of tons of charged particles steaming full speed ahead straight at Earth at a rate of 380 miles per second, or 1.3 million miles per hour. The storm is expected to reach the Earth on Saturday, however, do not let that scare you as our atmosphere will effectively block all of the harmful radiation that is headed our way. Those in the extreme north and south of both hemispheres can expect to see some awesome aurora over the next few days.
A statement from NASA confirmed that no one need to fear as this sort of event happens all the time. "These particles cannot travel through the atmosphere to harm humans on Earth, but they can affect electronic systems in satellites and on the ground," NASA officials explained in a statement. Head over to Source #2 to see an animated GIF of Wednesdays CME taking place.
What a treat! I get to write two SpaceTT posts in one day! Stargazers across the northern hemisphere are witnessing a rare occurrence happening right before our eyes. A nova in the constellation Delphinus has brightened over the last couple of days to a magnitude 5.0 and has allowed naked eye viewing of the astronomical phenomenon.
In the upper left-hand corner of the image above, you can see Nova Del 2013 appearing as a large star shining brightly in a sea of fainter stars. What you are actually witnessing is a binary star system in which the larger star is having its hydrogen stripped off by the much smaller white dwarf star. As is fresh layer of hydrogen grows thicker and more dense, the lower layers erupt in a runaway hydrogen-fusion reaction. As the reaction takes place, the star grows much hotter and brightens in the night sky.
To get an idea of how large this explosion is, one can simply imagine what a hydrogen bomb the size of the Earth would look like. The nova was discovered on August 14 by astronomer Koichi Itagaki of Yamagata, Japan, around 2PM EDT. It was originally listed as a magnitude 17 in brightness, and has since grown 100,000 times in brightness. The event will most likely only last for a few more days, so if you have clear, dark skies, you might just be able to see it with your naked eye. Tossing in visual aid from binoculars or a telescope will greaten one's chance at observing the nova.
News came in overnight that NASA has decided to call off all efforts dedicated to repairing its crippled Kepler Space Telescope. The 0.95-meter space telescope was launched four years ago with the task of discovering Earth-size planets orbiting nearby stars. The mission has widely been considered a success with hundreds of new planets now catalogued.
A few months back, the telescope's gyroscopic reaction wheels began failing, and this makes precisely aligning the telescope for stable long exposure shots impossible. Kepler resides in such a high orbit that even if we had a servicing robot or still flew space shuttles, we would simply not be able to reach it and as such, NASA has decided to end all efforts attempting to revive the telescope.
With Kepler gone and the Hubble space telescope quickly nearing its end of life, our only hope for outer space imaging sources now relies on the constantly threatened James Web Space Telescope. Unfortunately, it appears that every time our lawmakers start talking budgets, the James Webb is always the first to take the hit. I don't normally do this sort of thing, but if you like the images that the Hubble provides, and think hunting for new earth-like planets is a good thing, then please contact your local congressman and let them know that the James Webb space telescope is a good thing.
It has been 35 years since NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft blasted off from terra firma and headed into the final frontier. During this journey, the space probe has visited Saturn, Jupiter, and has even managed to leave our solar system. Well maybe it has left, or maybe it is still here. Not even NASA is sure whether or not Voyager 1 has reached interstellar space.
If you're a space buff like me, I know what you're thinking, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) announced last year that Voyager 1 has in fact left our solar system and is now streaking through interstellar space. Unfortunately, the original Voyager science team seems to think otherwise.
To toss even more confusion into the mix, both the University of Maryland as well as Boston University both agree that Voyager 1 actually reached interstellar space on July 27, 2012, and for the moment, NASA has agreed to simply disagree and released a statement saying that they simply have no idea where Voyager 1 actually it.
August holds a special event for stargazers across the nation in the form of the annual Perseid Meteor Shower. This astronomical event occurs on an annual basis and produces more fireballs and "shooting stars" than any other meteor shower. During its peak, stargazers could see more than 100 meteors per hour with some streaking across the sky as bright fireballs.
"We have found that one meteor shower produces more fireballs than any other," Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office said in a statement. "It's the Perseid meteor shower, which peaks on August 12 and 13."
Cook and a team of scientists from NASA have placed meteor observing cameras across the southern United States in an effort to count the amount of fireballs produced during the Perseid event and between 2008 and 2013, the project logged 568 fireballs. This is significantly more than next largest meteor shower event, The Geminids.
The world's smallest re-creation of the Mona Lisa has been painted on a surface that is just 30 microns in width, which is roughly one-third as wide as a human hair. This tiny feat was accomplished by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and used a process known as ThermoChemical NanoLithography, which is similar to the process used to etch the circuitry on the silicon used in microprocessors.
The process uses a precise application of heat in a painstaking process that "paints" the image pixel by pixel. Varying the amount of heat allows for changes in in the darkness of the gray used to illustrate the image. For example, the more heat used in a single pixel, the darker that pixel will be. Likewise, less heat produces a lighter pixel.
"By tuning the temperature, our team manipulated chemical reactions to yield variations in the molecular concentrations on the nanoscale. We've created a way to make independent patterns of multiple chemicals on a chip that can be drawn in whatever shape you want," Jennifer Curtis, an associate professor in the School of Physics and the study's lead author, said in a statement.
Canada's Next-Generation Canadarm (NGC) have developed a new version of their robotic space arm that will help out with space exploration. The program itself is designed to support missions in both low-Earth orbit, and deep space.
The next-gen robotic arm will be used for jobs from repairing communications satellites to helping out on manned missions to the moon, asteroids, Mars, and other vast parts of the universe. Alain Ouellet, the Director of Space Exploration Development at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) said:
"With the retirement of the space shuttle, a new generation of crewed space exploration vehicles will soon become available. However, these new vehicles are much smaller in size compared to the space shuttle, and therefore there is a need to adapt the robotic arm technology developed for the shuttle and the International Space Station."
ScienceFriday: Hubble captures breathtaking image of Comet ISON, one of the greatest comets humans will ever see
It has been several months since I have made a Science Friday post here at TweakTown and I have been wanting to bring it back. So many of you have mentioned how much you enjoyed them, so I am going to attempt to make 1-2 science related posts every Friday. Today, NASA released a breathtaking image of Comet ISON taken with the Hubble Space Telescope back on April 30. The image shows ISON streaking through our solar system with many stars and faint galaxies in the background.
The image is comprised of five photos that the researchers at NASA stitched together to form such a wide field of view. "The result is part science, part art," Josh Sokol of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., which operates Hubble, wrote in a blog post last week. "It's a simulation of what our eyes, with their ability to dynamically adjust to brighter and fainter objects, would see if we could look up at the heavens with the resolution of Hubble."
Comet ISON, is a sungrazing comet discovered on September 21, 2012, by Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok. The discovery was made using a 0.4 meter--16 in--reflecting telescope. As the comet warms as it moves closer to the sun, its rate of sublimation (a process similar to evaporation in which solid matter transitions directly into gas) will increase. The comet will get brighter and its tail will grow longer. The comet is predicted to reach naked-eye visibility in November.
86 years ago, the University of Queensland in Australia began conducting an experiment in which the flow rate of a piece of pitch was measured. For those of you who may not know what pitch is, it's a highly viscous liquid which, for all intents and purposes, appears to be solid. Bitumen is the most commonly used form and at room temperature, this tar pitch flows at a very slow rate sometimes taking up to a decade or more for a single drop to fall.
The University of Queensland is not the only institution studying this phenomenon. Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland has also been conducting their own experiment since 1944. Finally after 69 long years, the first drop of pitch has finally fallen. The drop occurred on July 11, 2013 at 5 PM local time and webcams that were set up last April were on hand to catch this extremely rare occurrence.
While some of you may not understand the excitement, I find in things like this let me break down how many times human eyes have missed seeing this event take place. According to Prof. John Mainstone of the University of Queensland, he has missed several opportunities to witness the drop happening with his own eyes. First in 1979, Mainstone said that he skipped one of his usual Sunday campus visits and coincidentally the drop happened the same day. Then again in 1988, Mainstone left his lab to grab a snack and apparently missed the drop by just five minutes. Finally in 2000, fed up with missing the drop, Mainstone set up a camera but unfortunately a glitch at the moment of the drop prevented any video of the event occurring.