Saturday, December 8, 2012

Wheaton, Shatner, and Lockhart praise NASA spinoffs and other space and astronomy news

I concluded yesterday's post with "The next one in the series should be about space.  It's been three weeks since I last posted one of those."  As promised, here it is.  All stories originally used in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Obamafish edition) on Daily Kos.

The three video public service announcements about NASA's spinoff technologies narrated by Wil Wheaton, William Shatner, and June Lockhart together compose this installement's featured story.

NASA Television on YouTube: Wheaton Steps Up for NASA Spinoffs

Wil Wheaton, the actor who played Wesley Crusher on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," is host of a new public service announcement about how much of the technology we rely on daily was developed by NASA for space exploration and then adapted or enhanced for use here on Earth.
Similar PSAs are hosted by William Shatner and June Lockhart, both of whom also portrayed space explorers on TV and the silver screen. Wheaton, who also has a large social media following, explains how many of these technologies have found their way into our schools, homes, cars, computers and American industry.
Here are the other two PSAs.

NASA Television on YouTube: William Shatner's NASA Spinoff PSA

Actor William Shatner, who portrayed "Star Trek's" Captain James Kirk on TV and in film, hosts a video highlighting how NASA's outstanding accomplishments in space are used to improve life on Earth.
NASA Television on YouTube: NASA Spinoffs Lauded by Lockhart

Actress June Lockhart hosts this public service announcement about how NASA's outstanding accomplishments in space are used to improve life on Earth.
More space news over the jump.

NASA Television on YouTube: Two Picked For Year-Long Stay On ISS on This Week @ NASA

Astronaut Scott Kelly has been selected by NASA to begin a one-year mission aboard the International Space Station in 2015. Joining Kelly on the ISS will be Russian cosmonaut, Mikhail Kornienko. The pair will launch aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in spring 2015. Their 12-month stay aboard the world's only laboratory in microgravity will provide new data about how the human body reacts and adapts to the harsh environment of space. That information will help scientists assess crew performance and health, and develop better ways to reduce the risks of long-duration spaceflight. Also, Training Continues for Next Expedition Crew, NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft confirms water ice on Mercury, NASA Administrator visits Rocket Maker, J-2X tests continue, Curiosity Rover Report and more!
DarkSyde on Daily Kos has more general space and science news in This week in science: Red Rover, Red Rover, nothing new to send over?

NASA Television on YouTube: ScienceCasts: Rock Comet Meteor Shower

The Geminid meteor shower peaks on Dec. 13th and 14th when Earth runs through a stream of debris from a strange object that some astronomers are calling a "rock comet."

New data from NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft reveal bright spots (shown in yellow) on Mercury that are almost certainly ice (Text from Science News).

Caption: New data from NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft reveal bright spots (shown in yellow) on Mercury that are almost certainly ice. Credit: NASA, Johns Hopkins Univ. Applied Physics Laboratory, Carnegie Institution of Washington, National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, Arecibo Observatory
Science News: First rock from the sun turns out to have ice
Frozen material at the planet’s poles likely came from comet or asteroid impacts
By Tanya Lewis
Web edition: November 30, 2012
The sun-scorched surface of Mercury may be the last place you’d expect to find ice. But NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft has found the strongest evidence yet of frozen water — and carbon-rich material — on the planet closest to the sun.

While Mercury itself couldn’t support life, the findings provide clues about how water and other vital ingredients ended up on Earth, perhaps delivered by comets or asteroids. “Studying this stuff elsewhere in the solar system is really relevant for the origin of life,” says UCLA planetary scientist David Paige.

He and other scientists describe the findings in three studies published online November 29 in Science.
This would have been the top story for Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Obamafish edition) until I ran into the Obamafish one.

Nature: Small galaxy harbours super-hefty black hole
Over-massive black hole at the centre of NGC 1277 challenges theories about how galaxies evolved.
Ron Cowen
28 November 2012
A newly discovered black hole appears to be too big for its britches, contradicting a widely accepted view about the growth of galaxies. The finding, part of a study reported this week in Nature1, suggests that instead of growing in lockstep with its home galaxy, some of these gravitational monsters might have packed on the pounds earlier.

Although the newfound black hole tips the scales at the mass equivalent of 17 billion Suns, it lies at the centre of the compact galaxy NGC 1277, whose diameter is only about one-quarter that of the Milky Way, says study co-author Remco van den Bosch of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany.

The team used archival data from the Hubble Space Telescope and observations from the Hobby-Eberly Telescope in Fort Davis, Texas, which focused on the most massive galaxies in the nearby Universe, reveal that the black hole is about 59% as massive as the galaxy’s central bulge of stars, a much higher per centage than expected.
Scientific American: Solar System's Moons May Have Emerged from Long-Gone Planetary Rings
Ancient, Saturn-like ring systems may have acted as assembly lines for natural satellites
By John Matson
"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch," as Carl Sagan once said, "you must first invent the universe." And if you wish to make a moon from scratch, according to new research, you must first create planets with rings (after inventing the universe, of course).

Earth’s moon may have emerged from a long-vanished ring system, much like the rings still encircling Saturn – and the same goes for many of the satellites orbiting the other planets. The bulk of the solar system’s regular satellites—those moons that stick close to their planets in roughly equatorial orbits—formed this way, rather than taking shape simultaneously with the planets as a direct result of planet formation, French astrophysicists have concluded. The researchers reported their findings in the November 30 issue of Science.

“It’s fundamentally the same process that gave birth to the moon and to the satellites of the giant planets, and that’s the spreading of rings,” says astrophysicist Aurélien Crida of the University of Nice–Sophia Antipolis and the Observatory of Côte d’Azur in France, who co-authored the study with Sébastien Charnoz of the University of Paris–Diderot.
Nature: Microsatellites aim to fill weather-data gap
Commercial network would use radio-sounding system.
Eric Hand
28 November 2012
Some orbiting satellites look up at the stars. Most point down towards Earth. But the satellites of the Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate (COSMIC) look sideways, across the curving horizon. There, dozens of satellites that are part of the Global Positioning System (GPS) pop in and out of view at the edge of the planet. By tracking their radio signals, COSMIC can provide atmospheric data that enhance weather forecasts and climate models.

But the fleet, launched six years ago at a cost of US$100 million, is nearing the end of its life, with one satellite of the original six already defunct. At a three-day workshop last month at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, researchers hailed the US–Taiwanese COSMIC as a pioneer and discussed plans for a commercial successor: a network of 24 micro­satellites dubbed the Community Initiative for Cellular Earth Remote Observation (CICERO). Researchers say that the programme could help to address a gap in atmospheric data as the United States struggles to meet a 2016 launch date for the first spacecraft in its expensive Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS). The radio-sounding technique that both COSMIC and CICERO use is a “disruptive technology”, says Rick Anthes, a COSMIC scientist and former president of UCAR. “The impact is huge — especially the impact for the cost.”

GPS radio signals, picked up by Earth-bound receivers in everything from mobile phones to missiles, yield precise position information. But COSMIC puts them to a different use. The signals travel at a known rate, but skimming through the planet’s atmosphere and back out to space bends the signals and delays them; COSMIC uses the length of the delay to measure the atmospheric density, which can provide information on changing characteristics such as temperature and moisture levels (see ‘Bending for data’). It makes many hundreds of these radio-occultation measurements each day.
I know, I've used this before.  What can I say?  I'm an environmentalist.  I recycle.

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