Saturday, October 6, 2012

Streambed on Mars and other space and astronomy news

Just like last week's space and astronomy news, I've been procrastinating posting the most recent installment. So, without any more ado, here is the space and astronomy news from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Streambed on Mars discovered edition) on Daily Kos. This week's lead story, as you can see from the similarity in subject lines, is the same both here and on Daily Kos, Mars Rover finds evidence of water on Mars from CNN.

NASA rover Curiosity finds what appears to be an ancient riverbed on Mars. CNN's Chad Myers has more.
The discovery is such a good example of one of the assumptions of science, that scientific laws and the features that result from them being the same at all times and places, which is the basis of uniformitarianism, that I've already included in the slideshow for this coming week's lecture on sedimentary rocks. That it also does a good job of explaining how the clasts in conglomerate are rounded is a bonus.

The JPL video about this discovery also composes the second segment of Dragon Awaits on This Week @NASA.

October 7 is the launch date for SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft on the first commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station. This will be the first of 12 contracted flights by SpaceX to resupply the space station under the Commercial Resupply Services contract and will restore an American capability to transport cargo to and from the orbiting laboratory. Also, Curiosity Finds Streambed; New ISS Crew; Endeavour in L.A.; Extreme Hubble; Webb's Mirrors; Milky Way's Halo; and more!
This was such big news that there were two diaries on Daily Kos about it, DarkSyde's This week in science: Water is thick enough and LeftOfYou's On Mars: Sol 52 Update.

More stories from black holes to the ancient Earth after the jump.

University of Arizona: Looking Into the Abyss of Space and Time
Scientists have observed what happens to matter as it spirals into a black hole 6 billion times the mass of our sun and 50 million light years away. The discoveries mark another step toward understanding the most bizarre objects in the universe, which include our very own black hole at the center of the Milky Way.
By Jennifer Chu/MIT and Daniel Stolte/UANews
September 27, 2012
The point of no return: In astronomy, it’s known as a black hole – a region in space where the pull of gravity is so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape.

At the heart of most galaxies may reside black holes that can be billions of times more massive than our sun. Such supermassive black holes are so powerful that activity at their boundary can ripple throughout their host galaxies.

Now, an international team including University of Arizona researchers has for the first time measured the edge of a black hole at the center of a distant galaxy. Also called the event horizon, this edge is the closest distance at which matter can approach before being irretrievably pulled into the black hole.
Indiana University: IU Astronomy, Pervasive Technology Institute get 'big picture' with collaboration on new camera
Bigger, sharper images to be refined, processed, stored at IU
Sept. 26, 2012
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Recording light from millions of light years away and then sending it to the Indiana University Data Center at the corner of 10th Street and the State Road 45/46 Bypass, a new camera at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona's Sonoran desert will image an area of sky five times that of the full moon, yet still focus at the equivalent of seeing a baseball from 30 miles away. via MSNBC: Scientists add 3-D twist to pictures from moon probe
Artificial stereo images provide better perspective on lunar surface structure
updated 9/25/2012 8:00:51 PM ET
Scientists are creating eye-popping new views of the moon in 3-D with the help of a prolific NASA lunar probe currently orbiting Earth's nearest neighbor.

The new 3-D moon pictures were assembled from photos snapped by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been snapping high-resolution views of the moon's surface from lunar orbit since 2009. The spacecraft does not have a stereo camera aboard to take 3-D anaglyph images of the moon, but scientists were able to stitch together photos of the same region— taken from different angles and orbits — to artificially create the three-dimensional lunar views.

“Anaglyphs are used to better understand the 3-D structure of the lunar surface,” said Sarah Mattson, a scientist with the University of Arizona and Arizona State University team that invented the new moon photo technique, in a statement. “This visualization is extremely helpful to scientists in understanding the sequence and structures on the surface of the moon in a qualitative way.”
NASA Television on YouTube: ScienceCasts: The Sound of Earthsong

A NASA spacecraft has recorded eerie-sounding radio emissions coming from our own planet. These beautiful "songs of Earth" could, ironically, be responsible for the proliferation of deadly electrons in the Van Allen Belts.
There is a related story from via CBS News.

Sounds of space: NASA records audible "chorus" beyond Earth
By Elizabeth Howell
September 25, 2012, 9:48 AM
A NASA spacecraft has made the clearest record yet of choruses of noise in the Earth's magnetosphere.

The chirps and whoops were captured by one of NASA's two recently launched Radiation Belt Storm Probes spacecraft, whose mission is to understand more about space weather.

"My wife calls it 'alien birds,'" joked experiment principal investigator Craig Kletzing, an astronomer at the University of Iowa.
Time to get down to Earth.

University of Arizona: Study: Better Odds That Life Crashed to Earth From Space New findings provide the strongest support yet for the idea that basic life forms are distributed throughout the universe via meteorite-like planetary fragments cast forth by disruptions such as planet and asteroid collisions.
By Morgan Kelly/Princeton University and Daniel Stolte/UANews
September 24, 2012
Chunks of rock laced with ingredients for life or early life forms could have traveled among our solar system and others much more frequently than previously thought possible, an international team of researchers including Renu Malhotra in the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory has discovered.

The researchers report in the journal Astrobiology that under certain conditions, there is a high probability that life came to Earth – or spread from Earth to other planets – during the solar system's infancy when Earth and its planetary neighbors orbiting other stars would have been close enough to each other to exchange lots of solid material.

The findings provide the strongest support yet for "lithopanspermia," the idea that basic life forms are distributed throughout the universe via meteorite-like planetary fragments cast forth by disruptions such as planet and asteroid collisions. Eventually, another planetary system's gravity traps these roaming rocks, which can result in a mingling that transfers any living cargo.
Finally, one story that isn't about space or astronomy, except that it features an astronaut.

University of Massachusetts, Amherst: Massachusetts Academy of Sciences Names 2012 Fellows
September 25, 2012
AMHERST, Mass. – University of Massachusetts Amherst alumna and astronaut Catherine “Cady” Coleman is among the new class of Fellows of the Massachusetts Academy of Sciences (MAS) elected by their peers to its prestigious community of scientists, engineers, research physicians and others who are deeply concerned about science and science education in the Commonwealth.

University of Massachusetts Amherst biology professor Peg Riley, president and founder of MAS, announced the academy’s latest fellows. In addition to Coleman, they include Irving Epstein of Brandeis University, Robert Dorit of Smith College, Ward Watt of Stanford University, Mandana Sassanfar of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Junior Academy of Sciences, Megan Rokup of the Broad Institute, James Hamilton and Paul Trunfio of Boston University and Riley of UMass Amherst.

Riley says, “Each year, the Massachusetts Academy of Sciences honors distinguished individuals through its fellowship awards. They join an elite group of professional scientists and science educators who are recognized for extraordinary scientific accomplishments and service to the science community and the public. The academy is thrilled to welcome these stellar individuals to its elite group. They are crucial to the future success of the academy and it is an honor to announce their commitment and involvement.”
That's it for last week's space and astronomy news from campuses on the campaign trail. Time to start collecting this week's!


  1. Crazy Eddie - I recall reading "The Mote in God's Eye" in the early '80s. Love that book - but I can't figure out the connection with your choice of net identity. Care to elucidate, I hope? (Also IP address? Are you an American living here in NZ? I'm in Dunedin and know quite a number of US types, mainly at University of Otago. Mike King

    1. Read the very first post "Why this blog?" for an explanation of why I chose the name for this blog. It has to do with the futile struggle of the Moties against the collapse of their civilizations from overpopulation and resource depletion.

      As for the domain, you must be reading a mirror of this blog in your country. I'm in Detroit, Michigan, USA, and the domain here is .com.