Simon writes, "I recently got a chance to interview and profile the people behind a collaboration between Smithsonian and the Harvard College Observatory who are crowdsourcing the transcription of logbooks for thousands of photographic plates. It's a massive undertaking that will give scientists access to a hundred years of astronomical data." Read the rest
"In a vast disc of dust and gas, dark rings are clearly visible," reports the BBC's Jonathan Webb. "Gaps in the cloud, swept clear by brand new planets in orbit. Read the rest
Can we "bootstrap" a solar system civilization by making what we need in space from stuff we find in space? BB pal Tom Kalil in the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy, interviewed former NASA research physicist Dr Phillip Metzger about this very idea. From the White House blog:
In a recent article, you and your co-authors called for “affordable, rapid bootstrapping of a solar system civilization.” What do you mean by “bootstrapping” in this context?
If we want to want to create a robust civilization in our solar system, more of the energy, raw materials, and equipment that we use in space has to come from space. Launching everything we need from Earth is too expensive. It would also be too expensive to send all of the factories required to manufacture everything necessary to support a solar system civilization.
Ultimately what we need to do is to evolve a complete supply chain in space, utilizing the energy and resources of space along the way. We are calling this approach “bootstrapping” because of the old saying that you have to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. Industry in space can start small then pull itself up to more advanced levels through its own productivity, minimizing the cost of launching things from Earth in the meantime. Obviously, this isn’t going to happen overnight, but I think that it is the right long-term goal.
A new study of satellite data by scientists at NASA and University of Michigan One shows that one small “hot spot” in the American Southwest produces the greatest concentration of the greenhouse gas methane in the United States.
MIT researchers are developing a "second skin" space suit lined with tiny coils that contract when switched on, tightening the garment around the body. Read the rest
The Soviet space program inspired some of the great space-themed tchotchkes of the 20th century, including a whole line of cigarette packs from Russia and surrounding nations. Read the rest
(photographer unknown): India's Mangalyaan satellite attained Martian orbit on Wednesday; at $74m, it's "staggeringly cheap" for an orbiter.
Becky writes, "Shrinking Space productions have transformed the vast and dilapidated market building at Circus St in Brighton, UK into an audiosphere representing the entire solar system."
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When you enter "Mind's Eye" you are given headphones and a ready-tuned hand-held radio. Then, as you drift around the building, you are pulled into the orbit of the various interviews being broadcast in different parts of it, each featuring a scientist or space explorer whose knowledge of the planet or star they are describing often represents a lifetime's work. The effect is bewitching, like floating through space itself, with only the occasional transmission back to earth for company. I went to see it last Saturday and loved it."