A group of South African astronomers announced on Saturday the discovery of more than a thousand galaxies never before known to have been seen or recorded by human beings. The astronomers “were showing off the first taste of the ultimate cosmic feast of what is to come, at least as seen from this particular dusty crumb called Earth,” writes Dennis Overbye at the New York Times:
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When it’s done, sometime around 2030, the Square Kilometer Array, as it is known, will be the largest telescope ever built on our planet. It will consist of thousands of radio antennas that will collectively cover a square kilometer (hence the name), spread out in mathematically intricate patterns in South Africa and Australia.
The telescope is being built by an international collaboration with its headquarters at the University of Manchester in England. The first phase, to be completed in 2023, will cost 650 million euros.
Astronomers estimate that it will pull some 35,000-DVDs-worth of data down from the sky every second. So much that it would take 2 million years to play on your smartphone.
For now the bounty consists of the radio glow of some 1,300 distant galaxies spotted in a patch of sky about 20 times the size of the full moon, where only 70 galaxies had been counted before.
Having successfully slipped into orbit around Jupiter, Juno sent its first image back to Earth.
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NASA on Tuesday released an image taken by the satellite on Sunday from a distance of 2.7 million miles; it even shows the Great Red Spot, though the famous storm has been shrinking in recent decades and may not be as great as it once was.
“We’re quite pleased that we survived going through Jupiter orbit insertion,” said Candice Hansen-Koharcheck, a scientist at Planetary Science Institute in Tucson who is responsible for the operation of the camera. “The fact it’s a beautiful image is already a good thing.”
Though the code for Apollo 11's "Apollo Guidance Computer" has been online since 2003, when Ron Burkey rekeyed it from the scans that Gary Neff had uploaded, ex-NASA intern Chris Garry's posting of the code to Github last week has precipitated a widespread interest in the code, along with close scrutiny of the code itself. Read the rest
In the early 1970s, Princeton University physicist Gerard O’Neill became a space activist touting plans to build human colonies in outer space. He argued that humans could escape (while helping alleviate) the environmental damage we are causing on Earth by migrating to space habitats housed in cylinders that would be suspended 250,000 miles from Earth at LaGrange Point 5, a spot where the gravitational forces enable objects to just hang there. O'Neill's ideas, while controversial, were mostly sound from a scientific and engineering perspective.
After the New York Times published a front page article about O'Neill, he became a media sensation and quickly developed a very vocal following of space geeks, (some) environmentalists, heads, and future-minded scientists. NASA even jumped in, supporting studies based on O'Neill's research and commissioning the incredible illustrations seen here. O'Neill's specific concepts influenced countless science fiction books and movies and were the seed of bOING bOING patron saint Timothy Leary's plan for humanity's future, SMI2LE (Space Migration, Intelligence Increase, Life Extension.)
His book The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space is still in-print and captures the wonder and sense of possibility that permeated our culture after the first moon landing and into the 1970s. It's my hope that today's myriad private efforts to make space accessible will re-ignite that desire in everyone to explore and experience what lies beyond our home planet.
The fantastic podcast 99% Invisible told O'Neill's story in an episode titled "Home on Lagrange":
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This picture provides a vivid illustration that Jupiter's atmosphere has more color contrast than any other atmosphere in the solar system, including Earth's. Data obtained from these and other New Horizons images taken during the encounter will provide valuable insight into the processes occurring on this gas giant.
Designer Art Donovan writes, "I'm always looking for new and unique inspiration for my lighting commissions and the latest, cutting edge scientific devices offer a boatload of great design inspiration. From the cool, new 'James Webb Space Telescope' to the myriad of complex details in the L.H.P.C. at Cern- it's a cornucopia of rich imagery." Read the rest
It's hard to fund space exploration research -- the commercial applications are speculative and far-off -- but there's never been a better time to study super-efficient, closed-loop botany of the sort that will someday accompany human interplanetary missions, thanks to the need to develop better grow-ops for the burgeoning legal weed market in Canada. Read the rest
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Science isn’t the only concern at Arecibo. In fact, the majority of people at the meetings discussed the role the observatory plays in inspiring and training Puerto Rican students, some 20,000 of whom visit the site every year.
Though it’s hard to quantify, the value of inspiration and education is not insignificant, especially considering how underrepresented Hispanic students are in the sciences.
As evidence, several students involved in the Arecibo Observatory Space Academy spoke about how important their time at the observatory was, and how this pre-college program gave them hands-on research experience that continues to affect their lives.
“I can say that AOSA has had a great impact on my life,” said Adriana Lopez, a 14-year-old space academy alum. “Always, in my life, I’ve been fascinated with space, and it has led me to join several camps, but none of them have affected me like AOSA.
Hey Jupiter, I hope you're ready for your close-up.
Recently, I was granted the rare privilege of stepping inside one of the largest cleanrooms at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratories. I was there to learn about this year's blockbuster space mission, Juno, and chat with some super smart science and engineering people who worked on the project.