Submit a link Features Reviews Podcasts Video Forums More ▾

A gravity map of the Moon

Gravity isn't uniform. Denser planets and objects in space — that is, things with more mass to them — experience a stronger pull of gravity. But even if you zoom in to the level of a single planet (or, in this case, our Moon), gravity isn't uniform all the way around. That's because the mass of the Moon isn't uniform, either. It varies, along with the topography. In some places, the Moon's crust is thicker. Those places have more mass, and thus, more gravitational pull.

This map, showing changes in density and gravity across the surface of the Moon, was made from data collected by Ebb and Flow — a matched set of NASA probes that mapped the Moon's gravitational field before being intentionally crashed on its surface last December. By measuring the gravitational field, these probes told us a lot about how the density of the Moon varies which, in turn, tells us a lot about topography.

You can read more about the probes (and see some videos they took of the lunar surface) at the NASA Visualization Explorer.

A brief history of space monkeys and spies

In the late 1950s, American scientists very publicly readied a crew of monkeys for a series of trips into Earth orbit and back. As far as the researchers knew, Project Discoverer was an actual, honest-to-Ike peaceful scientific program. Naturally, they were wrong about that. In reality, their work was part of an elaborate cover-up masking a spy satellite program. At The Primate Diaries, Eric Michael Johnson reports on some fascinating space history. Maggie

To do this Sunday: astronaut Chris Hadfield's Reddit AMA

Chris Hadfield will be doing his first live Reddit AMA (ask me anything) Sunday, February 17 at 9:00 GMT/UTC (4 pm ET). The Canadian astronaut and current commander of the International Space Station will answer all your questions about life in space, and whatever else you care to ask. Recently, Hadfield spoke with fellow Canadian and space-lover William Shatner; their conversation is above.

Pizza and beer on Mars

Living on Mars time is making Katie Worth fat. The journalist is attempting to live, on Earth, as if she's operating in a Martian time zone and blogging about the experience for Scientific American. On the 15th day of her experiment, she writes about how Mars time has changed her eating habits ... and made her drinking habits a whole lot sketchier-sounding. Maggie

Russian Meteor Q&A with Smithsonian meteor expert, and a peek inside a meteor clean room

Marc Fries, a research associate in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, is doing a Reddit AMA to answer questions about meteorites. There's a briefQ&A on the Smithsonian Science website with Fries, too.

And while you're at it, check out this video with Smithsonian meteorite experts Cari Corrigan and Linda Welzenbach: a look inside the Smithsonian's new Antarctic meteorite storage facility in Suitland, MD., where all Antarctic meteorites in the national collection are kept under close security and tight airlocks.

Meteor explodes over Russia

A meteor has exploded over Chelyabinsk , a remote part of Russia 150km north of Kazahstan. The meteor's descent was captured by many video cameras (largely the ubiquitous Russian dashboard cams, it seems). There are no reports of deaths, but apparently there are now 400 reported injuries. At least one large building, a zinc factory, had its roof demolished by the explosion.

A witness in Chelyabinsk reported hearing a huge blast early in the morning and feeling a shockwave in a 19-storey building in the town centre.

The sounds of car alarms and breaking windows could be heard in the area, the witness said, and mobile phones were working intermittently. "Preliminary indications are that it was a meteorite rain," an emergency official told RIA-Novosti. "We have information about a blast at 10,000-metre altitude. It is being verified."

"I was driving to work, it was quite dark, but it suddenly became as bright as if it was day," said Viktor Prokofiev, a 36-year-old resident of Yekaterinburg in the Urals mountains.

"I felt like I was blinded by headlights," he told Reuters.

Meteorite explosion over Russia injures hundreds [The Guardian]

Astronaut duvet cover


€60 is a lot to spend on your kid's duvet cover, but there's no denying that this astronaut bedding from Snurk is pretty wonderful.

Astronaut (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

1967: The year we thought we made contact

What would happen if scientists suddenly stumbled upon a message from outer space? There's not actually a formal plan. No international body has ever decided whether we reply or not, and, if so, how we do it and what we say. But in 1967, we did get a dry run at a close encounter and, in the process, worked out a system of how confirm and report an alien communication that's still used today. Technology review has the story. Maggie

To watch: NOVA's "Earth From Space"

The PBS science program NOVA aired a two-hour special last night with space-based visions of our planet. "Earth From Space" was produced in consultation with NASA scientists, and transforms data from earth-observing satellites into "dazzling visual sequences, each one exposing the intricate and surprising web of forces that sustains life on earth." livescience.com has a Q&A with Executive Producer Paula Apsell. It'll be out on blu-ray in April.

Astronaut and Barenaked Ladies sing together

Members of the Barenaked Ladies performed their song 'I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing)' over a video-link with Chris Hadfield, who is on the International Space Station:

Watch the video above as astronaut Chris Hadfield, from aboard the International Space Station, performs "I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing)" with Ed Robertson, the rest of the Barenaked Ladies and the Wexford Gleeks from Wexford Collegiate School for the Arts, who were all at the CBC studios in Toronto.

The song, which was written by Hadfield and Robertson in partnership with Music Monday, CBC Music and the Canadian Space Agency, explores what it's like to look down on the Earth from outer space. It will also be the official song for the 2013 edition of Music Monday, which takes place on May 6.

blog post Space jam: watch the premiere of 'I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing)'

Freaky face on the International Space Station

In space, no one can hear the pareidolia scream. (NASA footage of the International Space Station.)

Hello Kitty launched into space by 7th grader

12-year-old Lauren Rojas and her dad, Rod, built a balloon-lofted Hello Kitty space-capsule for her science fair project in Antioch, CA, and launched it 17 miles above the Earth's surface, recording its journey with video cameras and various sensors. The video is spectacular, especially the moments right before and right after the balloon burst and the parachutes deployed.

“We spent about one month planning and executing it,” he said. “We used a company called High Altitude Science in Colorado to get the equipment, the weather balloon and flight computer.”

Lauren and her father mounted small video cameras on their rocket-shaped gondola to record Hello Kitty’s journey. The balloon reached an altitude of 93,625 feet (17.73 miles), Rojas said. There, the air was so thin that the balloon burst, sending Hello Kitty from the sky. It landed in a tree 47 miles from the launch site, according to Rojas.

Girl Launches Hello Kitty Doll Into Space [Katie Kindelan/ABC]

(via IO9)

Watch Astronaut Chris Hadfield chat William Shatner live from space

On Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, Astronaut Chris Hadfield will speak with William Shatner live from space. The webcast will be here. Hadfield sounds pretty stoked! Xeni

Patent drawing for an X-Wing


Avi Solomon popped this patent-drawing for a hypothetical X-Wing fighter patent into the Boing Boing Flickr pool.

If Star Wars was a patent: X-Wing Fighter

3D printed moon-base


The European Space Agency is contemplating 3D printed moon-bases:

By using the Moon’s loose rocks (regolith) as a base for concrete, robots based on Monolite’s D-Shape 3-D printer will be able to build up a structure that uses as many local materials as possible. The idea is that with a shell made of moon rocks to act as a shield against micro-meteors and similar hazards, the living quarters for moon colonists could be inflatable envelopes protected by these shells.

3-D printing concrete in a vacuum is very, very different from printing it on earth. The teams have been experimenting with simulated moon rock material in vacuum chambers to find methods of construction that work. The problem being that concrete relies on applying liquids and unprotected liquids boil away when there’s no atmosphere. They discovered that by inserting the 3-D printer’s nozzle underneath the regolith, capillary forces kept enough liquid in place long enough to set properly.

This is also the premise of a novella I'm writing for Neal Stephenson/Arizona State University's Heiroglyphyics project. Nice to see reality clipping along!

3-D Printed Buildings Coming Soon to a Moon Near You [Tim Maly/Wired]