Archive for the ‘Space Exploration’ Category

Taco Tuesday in Space!

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

Putting together a taco on the ISS is not a simple matter. With mackerel, leek cream, dried tomatoes and quinoa salad? Interesting.


Big Bang Monday: Huge Plasma Tubes

Monday, June 1st, 2015

When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

Sir Arthur Clarke

What Sir Arthur said many years ago is certainly true today. So many wonderful ideas come from younger generations of scientists, marketers, writers, etc., that we sometimes forget to open our minds to new ideas and ways of thinking. This was certainly the case in Australia.

As an undergraduate student in astrophysics at Sydney University, Cleo Loi came up with an idea for using radio telescopes to “see” something noone has ever been able to visualize.

Via Fairfax Media’s WA Today

A Sydney University student has for the first time used radio telescopes like a giant pair of electronic eyes to locate huge plasma tubes in the atmosphere that interfere with astronomy observations and which could affect some civilian and military navigation systems.

Scientists have long thought that the interaction of the earth’s magnetic field with energy from the sun would create huge tubes of plasma. But they have never been able to directly observe them over large scales or determine their shape. Until now.

While still an undergraduate, Cleo Loi, 23, used the Murchison Wide Field Array in the Western Australia desert in a way that no other radio telescope has been used before.

The wide field array consists of 128 antenna “tiles” over a seven-square-kilometre area. Ms Loi divided the array’s tiles into two halves using the western half like a right eye and the eastern half like a left eye. Similar to the way humans use sight, she used triangulation to build a three-dimensional dynamic map of the plasma tubes over a large area.

Ms Loi, who graduated in March, had to overcome the initial scepticism of senior colleagues who thought her observations were too good to be true.

Her undergraduate supervisor, Dr Tara Murphy, said: “It is to Cleo’s great credit that she not only discovered this but also convinced the rest of the scientific community. As an undergraduate student with no prior background in this, that is an impressive achievement.

“When they first saw the data, many of her senior collaborators thought the results were literally ‘too good to be true’ and that the observation process had somehow corrupted the findings. But over the next few months, Cleo managed to convince them that they were both real and scientifically interesting.”

The tubes are in the earth’s upper atmosphere, known as the ionosphere, which largely consists of ionised oxygen. The ionosphere is so called because photons from the sun dislodge electrons from otherwise neutral atoms in this layer of the atmosphere, creating a soup or plasma of electronically charged particles. This plasma interacts with the earth’s magnetic field, creating field-aligned ducts of the plasma.

The free electrons also interfere with astronomers’ observations and can potentially affect satellite navigation systems.


Putin: “I Fucking Hate Science”

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Chalk up another loss for space/launch insurance underwriters. A Proton/Briz M launch’s 3rd stage failed and lost MexSat-1 (a.k.a. Centenario) — a huge Boeing 702 intended for mobile and fixed services (L- and Ku-band).

What happened? Anatoly Zak gives the best, most-qualified explanation. Probably fuel line problems.

Add this to a Soyuz launch anomaly earlier this month and you would think this may be a pattern. Is it technical or is it systemic? Probably both.

One could argue there’s a lack of enthusiasm and a brain-drain of top Ukrainian engineering talent in the Russian space business. Or it could be the return of the “old Soviet work ethic,” where nobody really cares. People get promoted to positions of authority without really being qualified, just so they can be “controlled” by others at the Kremlin. That’s what I think is happening.

It goes back more than 10 years, around the time Putin started going after complete control of Russia. In 2006, Mario Lemme’s Space Transport Inc. was created to take control of International Launch Services, the joint venture created to market Proton and Atlas launches. Since then, the market for commercial launches has changed (thank you, SpaceX), but the prices for launch services has gone up. But the technical success helps further development of non-commercial and space-exploration systems. With the world still dependent on getting humans to/from the ISS using the Soyuz launcher, we’re in a spot of trouble.

Meanwhile, how are we to substitute our supply source for RD-180 engines? We need to make this a priority. Rather, the big boys in the U.S. are more concerned about corporate headcount (read about the “mothers day massacre”).

Science likes to explain things with facts. Political views tend to use some facts. But outright liars and social manipulators such as Putin and his fellow KGB remnants don’t get along with any facts they don’t like. They just want control. Control of people, money and probably access to space from Russian territory (hence the pressure to build Vostochny).

Succeeding in space will further popularize Putin in Russia and that’s what he’s after. Fuck science: Russia’s space industry is failing due to “moral issues,” according to Rogozin.


Big Bang Monday: DNS Pulsar

Monday, May 4th, 2015

DNS in this case stands for “double neutron star” and a pulsar in the widest known orbit around another neutron star was discovered by two high school students.

In the summer of 2012, during a Pulsar Search Collaboratory workshop, two high-school students discovered J1930−1852, a pulsar in a double neutron star (DNS) system. Most DNS systems are characterized by short orbital periods, rapid spin periods and eccentric orbits. However, J1930−1852 has the longest spin period (Pspin∼185 ms) and orbital period (Pb∼45 days) yet measured among known, recycled pulsars in DNS systems, implying a shorter than average and/or inefficient recycling period before its companion went supernova. We measure the relativistic advance of periastron for J1930−1852, ω˙=0.00078(4) deg/yr, which implies a total mass (Mtot=2.59(4) M⊙) consistent with other DNS systems. The 2σ constraints on Mtot place limits on the pulsar and companion masses (mp1.30 M⊙ respectively). J1930−1852’s spin and orbital parameters challenge current DNS population models and make J1930−1852 an important system for further investigation.

A P–P˙ diagram showing all pulsars in DNS systems (stars/squares) and all other known pulsars (dots). Measured P and P˙ come from the ATNF Pulsar Catalog (Hobbs et al. 2004) and lines of characteristic age and surface magnetic field are shown with dot-dash and dashed lines, respectively. Recycled DNS pulsars (stars) appear between the normal and millisecond pulsar populations and are listed in Table 2. Despite its significantly longer spin period, J1930−1852 clearly belongs in the population of recycled DNS pulsars, unlike J1906+0746 and J0737−3039B (squares) – neither of which have undergone recycling.

With so many astronomers engaged in this type of work, it’s inspirational to find younger ones with no inhibitions and lots of hope continues to reap the rewards of discovery.

 

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A Message to Space

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

This is absolutely brilliant.

An astronaut’s daughter sends her father a message — physically, in writing — while he’s orbiting in the ISS.

It’s emotional, social and very cool. Good marketing on Hyundai’s part, too.

Hyundai made a little girl’s wish come true for the whole world to see.
A team of eleven Genesis cars united to create “the largest tire track image” on the Delamar Dry Lake in the Nevada desert, United States. (Image size : 5.55 sq. km.) This extraordinary message has made it to the Guinness World Records® 2015.

I hope they sell a bunch of cars to rocket scientists!


Orion EFT-1 Launch

Saturday, December 6th, 2014


Russian Lie of the Week: We Build Base on Moon

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

You will go and plant Russian flag. Rename it “Mootin.”

With all the sanctions in place against major industries in Putin’s Russian Empire, it’s become increasingly difficult to sell $65 million Proton launches. Add that to illusion of “Russian quality” in manufacturing, and you’ve got a direct route to failure.

So what’s psycho dickhead’s master plan for his space industry? Plan a manned mission to the Moon! Via ITAR-TASS, the drunk derelicts who can’t get a decent translator for their site…

Russia’s Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) plans to begin full-scale exploration of the Moon in late 2020s-early 2030s, Roscosmos chief Oleg Ostapenko said on Tuesday.

“At the end of the next decade, we plan to complete tests of a super-heavy-class carries rocket and begin full-scale exploration of the Moon,” he said at a government meeting chaired by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. “By that time, based on the results of lunar surface exploration by unmanned space probes, we will designate most promising places for lunar expeditions and lunar bases,” Ostapenko added.

Let’s hope it’s not another Foton-M 1 launch. That was “bloody hell.”

It’s probably a reaction to plug holes in the Russian brain bucket, which is leaking journalists and middle-class professionals. Pussy Riot confirmed this while visiting Harvard.


Aurora Space Vine

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Nice vine from Reid Wiseman. Here’s the full version…


Big Bang Monday: Comet of the Month

Monday, August 18th, 2014

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko activity on 2 August 2014. The image was taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS wide-angle camera from a distance of 550 km. The exposure time of the image was 330 seconds and the comet nucleus is saturated to bring out the detail of the comet activity. Note there is a ghost image to the right. The image resolution is 55 metres per pixel.

ESA’s Rosetta Mission is sending back some very interesting images, especially for those who were curious about what these big rocks look like. It’s the first spacecraft to rendezvous with a comet.

The one from 7 August 20014 gave us a pretty good close-up…

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko imaged by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow angle camera on 7 August from a distance of 104 km.

Not as exciting as we’d expect, yet it’s most fascinating.

So how big is this comet? Thanks to @quark1972, now we now. Here’s the comet next to Los Angeles.


Big Bang Monday: The White Hole

Monday, August 11th, 2014

Check out this abstract

While most of the singularities of General Relativity are expected to be safely hidden behind event horizons by the cosmic censorship conjecture, we happen to live in the causal future of the classical big bang singularity, whose resolution constitutes the active field of early universe cosmology. Could the big bang be also hidden behind a causal horizon, making us immune to the decadent impacts of a naked singularity? We describe a braneworld description of cosmology with both 4d induced and 5d bulk gravity (otherwise known as Dvali-Gabadadze-Porati, or DGP model), which exhibits this feature: The universe emerges as a spherical 3-brane out of the formation of a 5d Schwarzschild black hole. In particular, we show that a pressure singularity of the holographic fluid, discovered earlier, happens inside the white hole horizon, and thus need not be real or imply any pathology. Furthermore, we outline a novel mechanism through which any thermal atmosphere for the brane, with comoving temperature of 20% of the 5D Planck mass can induce scale-invariant primordial curvature perturbations on the brane, circumventing the need for a separate process (such as cosmic inflation) to explain current cosmological observations. Finally, we note that 5D space-time is asymptotically flat, and thus potentially allows an S-matrix or (after minor modifications) AdS/CFT description of the cosmological big bang.

Got your head wrapped around it yet? Probably not. Our friends at Science Daily explain it a little more…

What we perceive as the big bang, they argue, could be the three-dimensional “mirage” of a collapsing star in a universe profoundly different than our own.

“Cosmology’s greatest challenge is understanding the big bang itself,” write Perimeter Institute Associate Faculty member Niayesh Afshordi, Affiliate Faculty member and University of Waterloo professor Robert Mann, and PhD student Razieh Pourhasan.

Conventional understanding holds that the big bang began with a singularity — an unfathomably hot and dense phenomenon of spacetime where the standard laws of physics break down. Singularities are bizarre, and our understanding of them is limited.

“For all physicists know, dragons could have come flying out of the singularity,” Afshordi says in an interview with Nature.

The problem, as the authors see it, is that the big bang hypothesis has our relatively comprehensible, uniform, and predictable universe arising from the physics-destroying insanity of a singularity. It seems unlikely.

So perhaps something else happened. Perhaps our universe was never singular in the first place.

Their suggestion: our known universe could be the three-dimensional “wrapping” around a four-dimensional black hole’s event horizon. In this scenario, our universe burst into being when a star in a four-dimensional universe collapsed into a black hole.

In our three-dimensional universe, black holes have two-dimensional event horizons — that is, they are surrounded by a two-dimensional boundary that marks the “point of no return.” In the case of a four-dimensional universe, a black hole would have a three-dimensional event horizon.

In their proposed scenario, our universe was never inside the singularity; rather, it came into being outside an event horizon, protected from the singularity. It originated as — and remains — just one feature in the imploded wreck of a four-dimensional star.

The researchers emphasize that this idea, though it may sound “absurd,” is grounded firmly in the best modern mathematics describing space and time. Specifically, they’ve used the tools of holography to “turn the big bang into a cosmic mirage.” Along the way, their model appears to address long-standing cosmological puzzles and — crucially — produce testable predictions.

Of course, our intuition tends to recoil at the idea that everything and everyone we know emerged from the event horizon of a single four-dimensional black hole. We have no concept of what a four-dimensional universe might look like. We don’t know how a four-dimensional “parent” universe itself came to be.

But our fallible human intuitions, the researchers argue, evolved in a three-dimensional world that may only reveal shadows of reality.

They draw a parallel to Plato’s allegory of the cave, in which prisoners spend their lives seeing only the flickering shadows cast by a fire on a cavern wall.

“Their shackles have prevented them from perceiving the true world, a realm with one additional dimension,” they write. “Plato’s prisoners didn’t understand the powers behind the sun, just as we don’t understand the four-dimensional bulk universe. But at least they knew where to look for answers.”

Still interested? I bet you are! Read more here. Relax: there’s a video on the Perimeter Institute site.