Newly discovered asteroid orbits in union with Earth

Newly discovered asteroid follows the Earth as it orbits the Sun, and has been doing it for a quarter million years.

Currently, three other horseshoe companions of the Earth are known to exist but, unlike 2010 SO16, these linger for a few thousand years at most before moving on to different orbits. Also, with an estimated diameter of 200–400 metres, 2010 SO16 is by far the largest of Earth’s horseshoe asteroids. The team has already used the Las Cumbres Observatory’s Faulkes Telescope in an on-going campaign to track the object and refine its orbit further. “It is not that difficult to spot with a medium-sized professional telescope”, says Dr Asher. “It will remain as an evening object in Earth’s skies for many years to come.”

Caving in Druid Cave, Cheat Canyon, West Virginia

An evening pause: Caving in Druid Cave, Cheat Canyon, West Virginia. The caver is David Riggs. The videographer is caver Aaron Bird. The caver who arrives at the end with the ATV is caver Brian Masney. All are world class cavers, with whom I’ve had the honor of caving.

The video is nicely done, and gives an excellent and accurate feel for modern cave exploration and techniques. Watch especially how the rigging allows David to climb past the waterfall while on rope and hardly get wet.

Hot time on the ol’ Sun tonight!

After literally years of inactivity, well below all initial predictions, the Sun truly came to life this past month. Below is the March monthly update of the Sun’s sunspot cycle, published by NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center. The red curve is the prediction, while the dotted black line shows the actual activity.

As you can see, the Sun’s sunspot activity shot up precipitously. Though I don’t have the data from past years, the March jump appears to me to probably be one of the fastest monthly rises ever recorded.

Does this mean the newest prediction from the solar scientists at the Marshall Space Flight Center calling for a weak solar maximum in 2013 is wrong? Probably not, though of course in this young field who knows? I would say, however, that the overall trend of the data still suggests the next maximum will be very weak.

Stay tuned! The next few months should finally give us a sense of where the next maximum is heading.

March Sunspot graph

Ann Barnhardt vs Lindsey Graham

This woman bluntly, clearly, and without apology explains freedom, the first amendment, and the difference between peaceful protest and violence to Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina).

Make sure you watch part 2 of her oration, where she goes through the worst quotes from the Koran (bookmarked with bacon strips!) and burns those pages.

SpaceX Unveils Plan for World’s Most Powerful Private Rocket

SpaceX unveils its plan for the Falcon 9 Heavy, what would be the world’s most powerful private rocket.

The new rocket will be able to carry about 117,000 pounds (53,000 kilograms) of cargo to orbit – about twice the payload-carrying capability of the space shuttle. The Falcon Heavy would launch more than twice as much weight as the Delta 4 heavy, currently the most powerful rocket in operation. Only NASA’s Saturn 5 moon rocket, which last launched in 1973, could carry more cargo to orbit, SpaceX officials said.

Musk said the rocket should lower the launch cost of cargo to about $1,000 per pound, about one-tenth the cost per pound on NASA shuttle launches.

Russia Speeds Up Moon, Mars Plans as U.S. May Cut Spending

Russia is accelerating its space program.

“It is the first time that the government has allocated decent financing to us,” Anatoly Perminov, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, said in a phone interview on April 2. The agency’s $3.5 billion budget for 2011 has almost tripled since 2007, reaching the highest since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. “We can now advance on all themes a bit,” Perminov said.

Unlike 50 years ago, when beating the U.S. into space marked a geopolitical victory in the Cold War, Russia is focusing on the commercial, technological and scientific aspects of space travel. President Dmitry Medvedev has named aerospace one of five industries the government plans to nurture to help diversify the economy of the world’s largest energy supplier away from resource extraction.

For Some Entrepreneurs, Moon Is Money

Software engineers to the Moon!

Crazy? Absolutely! Impossible? Probably not! There are a growing number of people who believe that with federal funding for our space program getting scarce, the future lies in private-public partnerships. Entrepreneur Elon Musk’s third job (after leading electric car company Tesla and acting as the Chairman of solar installer SolarCity) is heading up SpaceX, which was the first private company to successfully launch, orbit and recover a rocketship. Virgin’s Richard Branson has a similar private space venture.

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