Swallowing a planet

A star with an appetite: Astronomers have used the Chandra X-Ray Observatory to take a closer look at an engimatic star in the constellation Pisces and found that the dust cloud that surrounds it as well as the unusual and enormous jets that shoot from it probably originated when the star evolved, expanded, and swallowed an orbiting companion, either a giant planet or companion star.

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Journolist scandal-Tucker Carlson editorial

Tucker Carlson, the editor-in-chief of the Daily Caller, has written a lengthy essay on his organization’s series on the scandal surrounding the defunct liberbal Journolist listserv. Key quote:

We’re not contesting the right of anyone, journalist or not, to have political opinions. (I, for one, have made a pretty good living expressing mine.) What we object to is partisanship, which is by its nature dishonest, a species of intellectual corruption. Again and again, we discovered members of Journolist working to coordinate talking points on behalf of Democratic politicians, principally Barack Obama. That is not journalism, and those who engage in it are not journalists. They should stop pretending to be. The news organizations they work for should stop pretending, too.

Read it all.

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Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of makng the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

 
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.


He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

 
Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.
 

Genesis cover

Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, and includes a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

 
The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.

 
The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.
 

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs." --San Antonio Express-News

Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar to the right or below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

Exploring Mars from Earth

Want to poke around on Mars? Since it might be a while before you can actually go there, I suggest you instead make frequent visits to the images page for the HiRise camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The pictures that appear here are routinely breath-taking. Below is a cropped image showing the flat top of a mesa in Coprates Chasma. The full image shows detailed layers down the side of the mesa as well as rippled dunes on the mesa top. Everything is remarkably reminescent of something you’d see if you visited the Grand Canyon. Only on Mars, this grand canyon is many times larger and deeper.

Mesa top on Mars

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Senate moves towards House NASA plan

In a blunt rejection of the Obama proposals for NASA, the Senate Appropriations Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee today reworked the NASA plan — handed to them last week by the committee that authorizes NASA’s budget — so that it more closely matched the House version. These changes cut in half the money for private commercial space while adding $3 billion to continue the development of the Orion capsule and the heavy lift version of the Ares rocket.

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An update on the Dept of Energy’s hold on monies to East Anglia

This story about the Department of Energy’s decision in May to suspend payments to the University of East Anglia because of the climategate scandal might very well be a Potemkin village. The story notes that they are placing a hold on $200k. However, Anthony Watts notes that DOE has probably provided East Anglia significantly more funds, in the millions. The suspension in funds then is only about one specific and not very large contract, with nothing said about the other funding. Note also that the hold was placed in May, pending the results of East Anglia’s own investigation. Since that investigation was a whitewash, I expect DOE to release these funds in near future.

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Journolist, part 2

Freedom of speech alert. And the danger comes not from the government but from reporters of all things! Leaked emails from a now closed leftwing listserv for journalists reveal an incredible and almost frightening hatred for the right as well as an astonishing willingness by these journalists to use the government to silence opposing opinions. Key quote:

Jonathan Zasloff, a law professor at UCLA, suggested that the federal government simply yank Fox off the air. “I hate to open this can of worms,” he wrote, “but is there any reason why the FCC couldn’t simply pull their broadcasting permit once it expires?”

The article is astonishing. Read the whole thing.

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very big stars

Using the Very Large Telescope in Chile, astronomers have identifed a number of stars with masses thought to range from 150 to as much as 300 times the mass of our Sun. Fun quote from the press release:

Within [star cluster] R136, only four stars weighed more than 150 solar masses at birth, yet they account for nearly half of the wind and radiation power of the entire cluster, comprising approximately 100 000 stars in total.

Stars this gigantic are believed to end their life in an explosion so intense it destroys the star entirely, leaving nothing behind but an expanding debris cloud, from which other stars and planets (and even life) can form.

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Footage of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon

An evening pause: Since it is the anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing, let’s watch it as it happened on July 20, 1969. This footage, in a single continuous shot, shows the view out of the lunar module window, beginning when the spacecraft was approximately 40,000 feet above the lunar surface. The key quote as they drop to less than 100 feet off the surface is a voice that first says “60 seconds,” than later “30 seconds.” This is astronaut Charlie Duke, the capsule communicator (capcom) in mission control, telling Neil Armstrong exactly how much time he has left before running out of fuel. Despite these warnings, Armstrong took a careful, almost deliberate look at the surface, realized they were heading for a crater and decided he needed to reposition the landing site. As a result he used almost all the fuel in his tanks, which had people in mission control going nuts as they watched.

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NAACP leader arrested trying to attend school board meeting

Freedom of speech alert: the head of a local North Carolina NAACP chapter was arrested when he tried to attend a local school board meeting to protest its actions. He had been arrested for trespassing at a previous board meeting, and it is unclear if his attempted appearance this time was a trespass as well.

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Journolist evidence, part 1

More evidence has been uncovered showing that many journalists cared less about reporting the news during the 2008 Presidential campaign than helping Barak Obama get elected. Worse, these reporters were willing to smear their opponents in the worst possible manner, without evidence. Key quote:

In one instance, Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent urged his colleagues to deflect attention from Obama’s relationship with [Reverend] Wright by changing the subject. Pick one of Obama’s conservative critics, Ackerman wrote, “Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.”

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The space war heats up

It appears the space war is heating up again. This analysis of the NASA authorization legislation issued by the House yesterday notes that it has serious differences with the Senate bill. The article notes that the House bill does not fund an additional shuttle mission while insisting that the government continue the construction of some variation of the Orion capsule and Ares rockets. See also this article from the Orlando Sentinel.

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