Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Gravity waves from the Big Bang and other space and astronomy news

I concluded Floods in Colorado, the other top post for the third year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News, plus other climate news with a promise that I'm postponing keeping.
The next entry will document how another Peak Oil blogger, the Archdruid, has also been instrumental in improving my blogging.  Stay tuned.
That should have been the next entry in this series, as I'm not quite up to it tonight.  I'll probably post that one at 8 P.M. tomorrow night, just in time for Greer's next essay.  Tonight, I'm going to do something to honor Space News for the second and third year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News by posting this week's summary of space and astronomy news from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Gravity Waves from the Big Bang) on Daily Kos.  Yes, I'm repeating the lead story.  What do you expect?  I'm an environmentalist, I recycle.

Under my "if it moves, it leads" policy, Discovery News goes first with How We Know The Big Bang Actually Happened?

Earlier this week, astronomers announced that they directly observed gravitational waves. These waves are evidence for quantum gravity. How does this prove the Big Bang actually happened? Trace is joined by Ian O'Neill to explain this new, groundbreaking finding.
For more, here's LiveScience with Scientists Report Evidence for Gravitational Waves in Early Universe by Ben P. Stein, ISNS Director on March 18, 2014 12:44am ET.
In what would represent the most direct evidence of Albert Einstein’s last major unconfirmed prediction, as well as a powerful confirmation of a violently fast expansion of the early cosmos, scientists using a cutting-edge South Pole telescope announced evidence for the first detection of gravitational waves in the initial moments of the universe.

Outside experts reacted enthusiastically to the results, but cautioned that the data has unusual characteristics that may ultimately conflict with earlier observations and could require more complicated models for the universe’s early expansion than previously expected.

The announcement was made by the brawny-sounding BICEP2 collaboration, which actually translates into the brainier name of "Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization." The BICEP2 team announced their results today in series of scientific presentations and a news conference at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. The collaboration posted a preprint of their paper which has been submitted for publication and will undergo scientific peer review.
Follow over the jump for more space and astronomy news, including some energy and entertainment news that involves space.

NASA leads off this section with Administrator visits Aeronautics and Space Research Facilities on This Week @NASA.

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden visited aeronautics and space research facilities at Ames Research Center on March 17, including the laboratory for the volleyball-sized satellites called SPHERES, which are used onboard the International Space Station for space robotics and spacecraft navigation experiments. He also saw the high-fidelity airport control tower simulator called, "Future Flight Central", used by NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and other industry partners for joint research on next-generation air traffic management. Also, Rocket for Orion's flight test highlighted, Future explorer celebrated at KSC, NASA's new Chief Technologist, Coastal Flooding Challenge, Next space station crews, Hubble 24th anniversary image and more!
More from the ISS, as NASA Observes World Water Day.

On March 22, NASA will observe World Water Day. While our home planet is about 71 percent water, only 3 percent of that is available as fresh water. And many people do not have access to safe and clean water sources. On a water planet like Earth, "following the water" is a massive undertaking but one that is essential to predicting the future of our climate and the availability of water resources around the globe.
Science at NASA looks ahead to the next two years with ScienceCasts: A Tetrad of Lunar Eclipses.

A total lunar eclipse on April 15th marks the beginning of a remarkable series of eclipses all visible from North America.
Next, two stories about the planets even closer to the Sun than Earth from  First Active Volcanoes Revealed on Venus By Irene Klotz of Discovery News on March 18, 2014 11:27am ET.
Scientists have long suspected that volcanoes played a huge role in the evolution of cloud-shrouded Venus, the second planet from the sun.

Now, images from Europe's Venus Express orbiter are showing that volcanic eruptions may not just be a thing from the past.

Scientists discovered four transient bright spots in a relatively young rift zone known as Ganiki Chasma, which was observed 36 times by the spacecraft's Venus Monitoring Camera.
Next, Nola Taylor Redd, Contributor, reports Tiny Planet Mercury Is Shrinking Fast on March 17, 2014 06:26pm ET.
The surface of Mercury is shrinking faster than previously thought, photos from a NASA spacecraft orbiting the tiny planet reveal.

The first comprehensive survey of the surface of Mercury by NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft shows that planet's crust has contracted as it cooled by as much as 4.4 miles (7 kilometers), significantly more than previous estimates. The findings clear up a long-standing clash between scientists' understanding of the heat production and loss and the contraction of Mercury.

"These new results resolved a decades-long paradox between thermal history models and estimates of Mercury's contractions," said study lead author Paul Byrne of the Carnegie Institution for Science in a statement.
Next, Alyssa Danigelis of Discovery News brings some far-out energy news in Solar Power Array Could Orbit Earth from Mar 21, 2014 01:27 PM ET.
The U.S. Navy has a solar power plan that’s literally out of this world. The concept entails constructing an orbiting solar array in space that spans nine football fields.

U.S. Naval Research Laboratory spacecraft engineer Paul Jaffe is working on solar modules intended to be launched into space one at a time. Then robots would assemble them into an enormous array that converts solar energy into a radio frequency that gets beamed to receivers on Earth. Hat tip Inhabitat.
I wish.  Really, I do.

American University concludes this week's summary by reporting on Alum's 'Astronaut' on International Space Station.
Virginia high school student Blair Mason has wanted to be an astronaut since he was three years old. Filmmaker David J. Ruck, (SOC/MFA ’13) has already put Mason into orbit on board the international space station as the protagonist of Ruck’s film I want to be an Astronaut.

Ruck tells Mason’s story and highlights the importance of America’s space program in his new documentary, which began as his master’s thesis at American University. “This film draws attention to the importance of STEM education as it relates to our nation’s ability to remain on the cutting edge of science and technology ­ and where we might be headed if we fail to inspire young people to pursue these fields,” says Ruck.

From Facebook to Orbit

How do you snag a screening in earth’s orbit? Ruck used Facebook to share the Astronaut trailer with International Space Station Flight Engineer, Rick Mastracchio. Hours later, Ruck had a message in his inbox from the Astronaut ­ orbiting above the Earth on the International Space Station (ISS) ­ requesting to see the entire film. The film was uplinked to the ISS on Friday, March 7, and the “Orbital Premiere” will be screened during the astronauts’ time away from science experiments within the next few days.
See, Facebook isn't completely useless after all.

This completes this summary of the week's space news.  May it offer hope for a better future, like the past two years' top space news compendiums have.

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