Monthly Archives: May 2013

Last Saturday the space telescope Swift detected the most powerful gamma ray bursts ever detected.

Last Saturday the space telescope Swift detected the most powerful gamma ray burst ever detected.

You can see the raw reports of the detection, followed up immediately by a host of other ground-based and space-based observations at this website. Click on the circulars for GRB130427A, starting with circular 14448. When this happened last Saturday I was out camping. When I got home there were dozens of circulars to look at. Based on the data here, this gamma-ray burst was relatively close for a grb, approximately 3.6 billion light years away.

Share

The lingering echo of Comet Shoemaker-Levy in the atmosphere of Jupiter.

The lingering echo of Comet Shoemaker-Levy in the atmosphere of Jupiter.

The Herschel observations, together with heat maps provided by NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility on Mauna Kea, showed the researchers that the Jovian stratosphere was 20° to 30°F (10° to 15°C) warmer than it would be if completely dry. One question is whether the stratospheric warming results from the gentle, continuous infall of interplanetary dust particles, which would be warmed by sunlight as they linger high up. Cavalié and his colleagues believe IDPs create some of the infrared emission but cannot explain it all. Further, a continuously supplied source would migrate to lower depths, yet most of the emission is too high up, at pressures less than 2 millibars. And while the amount of water is roughly constant across the southern hemisphere, the emission gradually weakens northward until it’s less than half as strong. It’s not simply that Jupiter’s bottom half is hotter — there’s just more water down there. As the researchers note, “At least 95% of the observed water comes from the SL9 comet and subsequent (photo)-chemistry in Jupiter’s stratosphere according to our models, as of today.

Taken together, they conclude, these observations offer “clear evidence that a recent comet … is the principal source of water in Jupiter. What we observe today is a remnant of the oxygen delivery by the comet at 44°S in July 1994.”

Share

The story of the youngest survivor of the Buchenwald concentration camp to be liberated by the Americans.

The story of the youngest survivor of the Buchenwald concentration camp to be liberated by the Americans.

At age seven, he was separated from his mother when she thrust him over to the men’s side during deportation. “Tulek, take Lulek,” she said, entrusting him to Naftali in the hope that the men were more likely to survive. Naftali smuggled him into the Buchenwald labor camp since a child his age would have been exterminated on the spot if discovered. Rabbi Lau thus became the youngest and smallest inmate in the camp. His survival over the next year was largely due to Naftali’s constant self sacrifice and protection.

You don’t have to be Jewish or even believe in God to agree with this man that miracles do happen every day.

Share

The Chinese national who had been arrested at Dulles airport as he left for China with a NASA laptop has been released after pleading guilty to one charge, having porn on the laptop.

The Chinese national who had been arrested at Dulles airport as he left for China with a NASA laptop has been released after pleading guilty to one charge, having porn on the laptop.

Investigators found no classified information on the computer. As part of the release agreement, however, the man must leave the U.S.

Though the man, Bo Jiang, was very careful to bring nothing secret with him when he tried to flee to China in March, the circumstantial evidence suggests that he should not have had access to this information in the first place, and that in the past he might have illegally funneled classified information to China.

Share

The robotic demonstration of remote satellite repair on ISS resumed this week.

The robotic demonstration of remote satellite repair on ISS resumed this week.

The latest round of demos follows a breakthrough round of ground-controlled activities in January using the 70-ft.-long Canadian robot arm/Dextre combination to sever lock wires and remove a mock fuel cap to flow 1.7 liters of ethanol fuel into the RMM.

The new tests will see if the robot arm can do even finer and more difficult tasks, such as unscrewing and storing a small screw.

Share

After four tries the Air Force X-51A Waverider test craft finally succeeded in achieving sustained, scramjet-powered, air-breathing hypersonic flight above Mach 5 in its final test flight on May 1.

After four tries the Air Force X-51A Waverider test craft finally succeeded in achieving sustained, scramjet-powered, air-breathing hypersonic flight above Mach 5 in its final test flight on May 1.

Share

A close study of human bones recently uncovered from Jamestown’s early “Starving Time” have revealed evidence of cannibalism.

A close study of human bones recently uncovered from Jamestown’s early “Starving Time” have revealed evidence of cannibalism.

This really isn’t news, since we have always had firsthand accounts suggesting cannibalism during that terrible winter of 1609. It is, however, the first empirical proof of that cannibalism.

Share

The European Space Agency is investigating the possibility that the Progress docking to ISS on April 26 might have damaged equipment needed by their ATV cargo ship.

The European Space Agency is investigating the possibility that the Progress docking to ISS on April 26 might have damaged equipment needed by their ATV cargo ship.

The damage, caused by the undeployed Progress antenna, appears to have involved a navigational aid needed for ATV-4 … the Laser Radar Reflector (LRR) target. The LRR is needed for the automatic docking of the European ATV during the last part of the rendezvous operations. If the damage is confirmed, the device, recently replaced during an EVA by the Russian crew due to contamination of the optical section, will need to be replaced again. In this event, the European cargo ship could potentially be delayed for several months. ATV-4, named Albert Einstein, has been already delayed from April to June because of a glitch in an avionics box.

Share

NASA revealed Tuesday that last April the Fermi Gamma-Ray Telescope barely avoided a collision with an abandoned Russian satellite.

NASA revealed Tuesday that last April the Fermi Gamma-Ray Telescope barely avoided a collision with an abandoned Russian satellite.

Fermi mission scientists first learned of the space collision threat on March 29, 2012 when they received a notice that the space telescope and Cosmos 1805 would miss each other by just 700 feet (213.4 meters). The mission team monitored the situation over the next day and it became clear that the two spacecraft, traveling in different orbits, would zip through the same point in space within 30 milliseconds of one another, NASA officials said.

They used Fermi’s thrusters to shift its orbit enough so the two spacecraft missed each other by 6 miles.

Share

Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada) says the federal government isn’t spending enough to implement Obamacare.

Gee what a surprise: Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada) says the federal government isn’t spending enough to implement Obamacare.

Even if the federal government was not spending money it doesn’t have and was in the black, there will never be enough money to fund this monstrosity. Too bad Reid and the rest of the Democrats couldn’t figure that out. (Or maybe they did and simply wanted the country to go bankrupt. I wonder.)

Share

In a NASA contest, a nine-year-old has named asteroid 1999 RQ36 after the Egyptian god Bennu.

A rose by any other name: In a NASA contest, a nine-year-old has named asteroid 1999 RQ36 after the Egyptian god Bennu.

1999 RQ36, or Bennu, is an important asteroid for two reasons. First, NASA is sending an unmanned sample return mission to it in 2016. Second, some calculations suggest the asteroid has a 1 in a 1000 chance of hitting the Earth in 2182.

In other naming news, the private space company Uwingu has launched its “Adopt-a-Planet” campaign.

This open-ended campaign gives anyone in the public—worldwide—the opportunity to adopt exoplanets in astronomical databases via Uwingu’s web site at www.uwingu.com. Proceeds from the naming and voting will continue to help fuel new Uwingu grants to fund space exploration, research, and education.

As noted earlier, they are ignoring the IAU’s stuffy insistence that only the IAU can name things in space.

Share
1 6 7 8