Thursday, July 5, 2012

Space and astronomy news: Shenzhou 9 returns plus video extravaganza

The lead story from the space and astronomy news included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (PPACA upheld! edition) is that Shenzhou 9 has returned to Earth. From ITN on YouTube: Chinese astronauts return to Earth.

China's Shenzhou 9 spacecraft returns to Earth, bringing to a close a space mission which saw the country's first woman in space. Report by Mark Morris.
Much more news, beginning with This Week @NASA and continuing with news from deep space to here on Earth, after the jump.

NASA Television on YouTube: Wallops Hosts Antares Tour on This Week @NASA

Senator Barbara Mikulski, chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, was joined by officials from NASA, Orbital Sciences Corporation and others at the Wallops Flight Facility for an update of Orbital's Antares rocket and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport's new pad, from which the vehicle will launch. Also, EFT-1; vacuum test; Farmer Don's space sprouts; Bolden lectures; smart about station; and more!
Speaking of "Farmer Don's space sprouts," there will be more about space food at the end of this post. on YouTube: Milky Way Black Hole Eats Gas Cloud - Coming 2013

A giant gas cloud is on a collision course with our galaxy's supermassive black hole. This will give scientists the ability to watch the spaghetti-fying destruction of the cloud in real time. on YouTube: Stellar Flare Vaporizes Part Of Alien Planet's Atmosphere

The Hubble Space Telescope has seen a burst of evaporation in the upper atmosphere of exoplanet HD 189733b following a intense flare from its parent star - leading scientists to believe that the extreme x-ray radiation from the flare is the culprit.
Next up, the second biggest news of the week after the landing of the Shenzhou 9. on YouTube: Private Foundation Gets Into Hunting Asteroids Business

The B612 Foundation - a mash mix of astronomers, astronauts and tech pioneers - aims to launch their Sentinel Program to discover and map most of the larger and some of the smaller asteroids in the Earth 'threatening' neighborhood.
This follows up on the next video, which is from May. on YouTube: Asteroid Threat Becomes A Promise: New Space Venture Launches

X Prize's Peter Diamandis, Space Adventures' Eric Anderson, NASA astronaut Tom Jones, and Mars mission manager Chris Lewicki, backed by visionary investors James Cameron, Larry Page, Ross Perot want to develop our Solar System's natural resourc[es.]
The above video was used by and MSNBC to accompany the following story, which is why it made it into this week's news summary. via MSNBC: Space mining could reap riches and spur exploration
Private firms try to meld know-how of mining and space industries to make it happen
By Leonard David
June 26, 2012
GOLDEN, Colo. — Mining the plentiful resources of the moon and near-Earth asteroids could alter the course of human history, adding trillions of dollars to the world economy and spurring our species' spread out into the solar system, a new breed of space entrepreneur says.

A number of private companies — such as the billionaire-backed asteroid-mining firm Planetary Resources — aim to start making all of this happen. But it won't be easy, as hitting extraterrestrial paydirt requires melding the know-how of the space and mining communities.

A Space Resources Roundtable meeting was held here June 4-7 to talk about the future of extraterrestrial resource extraction — its promise as well as the challenges involved.

The conference was convened by the Planetary and Terrestrial Mining Sciences Symposium, in collaboration with Colorado School of Mines and the Lunar and Planetary Institute.
Magnifico at Daily Kos posted that one of the popular bumper stickers around CSM in Golden was "Earth First! We'll strip mine the other planets later." I told him that they were only half kidding. The next week, this item appears. Looks like the CSM students weren't kidding at all!

Daily Kos: This week in science: All these worlds are yours except Winguttia, attempt no landing there

DarkSyde built his post around the video Challenges of Getting to Mars: Curiosity's Seven Minutes of Terror, which I included in last week's post.

NASA Television on YouTube: ScienceCasts: Hidden Magnetic Portals Around Earth

A NASA-sponsored researcher at the University of Iowa has developed a way for spacecraft to hunt down hidden magnetic portals in the vicinity of Earth. These portals link the magnetic field of our planet to that of the sun. on YouTube: DARPA To Salvage Satellites For Scrap?

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Pheonix program hopes to develop small satellites to scour the junkyard of dead space birds to re-use components such as usuable antennas - thus bringing down the price of launch for all new satellites.
This story reminds me of the anime series Planetes, which is about cleaning space junk out of Earth orbit. on YouTube: Western U.S. Wildfires Seen From Space

A camera aboard the International Space Station captured footage of the fires raging in Colorado and other states in June 2012.
There is no sound with this video. Also, I'm likely to recycle this post, as I have more material about the Colorado wildfires.

Nature (UK): Ancient text gives clue to mysterious radiation spike
Eighth-century jump in carbon-14 levels in trees could be explained by "red crucifix" supernova.
Richard A. Lovett
An eerie "red crucifix" seen in Britain's evening sky in ad 774 may be a previously unrecognized supernova explosion — and could explain a mysterious spike in carbon-14 levels in that year's growth rings in Japanese cedar trees. The link is suggested today in a Nature Correspondence by a US undergraduate student with a broad interdisciplinary background and a curious mind.

A few weeks ago, Jonathon Allen, a biochemistry major at the University of California, Santa Cruz, was listening to the Nature podcast when he heard about a team of researchers in Japan who had found an odd spike in carbon-14 levels in tree rings. The spike probably came from a burst of high-energy radiation striking the upper atmosphere, increasing the rate at which carbon-14 is formed (see 'Mysterious radiation burst recorded in tree rings').
Commenters at Daily Kos were not convinced by the evidence that this was a supernova explosion.

Remember that I promised you a space food story? Here it is.

Cornell University: 'Gastronauts' practice Martian cooking techniques for deep-space delicacies
By Joyanna Gilmour
June 25, 2012
How hard would it be to cook on Mars? Nine "gastronauts" tried to answer that question during a four-day Cornell workshop June 12-15. Using only shelf-stable, dehydrated foods, they learned how to make such deep-space delicacies as seaweed salad, curry chicken crepes, Puerto Rican-style white bean stew, and chocolate pudding with raspberries.

Members of the NASA-funded Hawaii Space Exploration Analogue and Simulation (HI-SEAS) research team, selected from 600 applicants, are developing menus and techniques for cooking healthy, tasty foods in a deep-space environment. The HI-SEAS project is led by Jean Hunter, associate professor of biological and environmental engineering; Bruce Halpern, professor of psychology and neurobiology and behavior; and Kim Binsted, associate professor in the University of Hawaii's Information and Computer Sciences Department.

Rupert Spies, senior lecturer at Cornell's School of Hotel Administration, took charge of the hands-on portion of the workshop in a Martha Van Rensselaer Hall kitchen, teaching how to be creative using dehydrated fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses. Participants came up with menus, including a paella made of dried shrimp, shelf-stable chorizo and dehydrated vegetables; coffee granita; and a fruit smoothie using yogurt prepared from dried milk.
That's it for last week's news in space and astronomy. I'll be back with more next week.

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