Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mars, solar flares, and this month's stargazing in this week's space and astronomy news

Since I am still in an "I can't be all DOOM all the time" mood, I'm leading off with something optimistic, NASA's Path to Mars.

Get an inside look at NASA's next steps in deep space exploration -- from the space station, to an asteroid and on to the human exploration of Mars.
I am just waiting for this system to become operational to rub Greer's nose in his prediction that the U.S. age of manned space exploration is over.  I'll tell him "one of these days, the last U.S. manned spacecraft will lift off.  But it wasn't when the last shuttle launched and it probably won't even be today.  Neener!"  I got to write something similar last week, when a skeptic at Daily Kos commented "NASA's Path to Mars is a load of crap.  If SLS flies any mission worthy of the name, I'll eat my hat."  I responded by saying that I'd save the salt, pepper, butter, and gravy for him.

Next, an item more appropriately doomy--how the Earth nearly got hit by a crippling solar flare in 2012.  Science at NASA has the story in ScienceCasts: Carrington-class CME Narrowly Misses Earth.

Two years ago, an intense solar storm narrowly missed Earth. If it had hit, researchers say, we could still be picking up the pieces.
Yes, monitoring and preparing for solar storms are good ideas.

Follow over the jump for more of last week's news from NASA as well as a look ahead to sky events in May.

First, The Human Path to Mars on This Week @NASA

On Tuesday, April 29, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and other agency officials participated in a public exploration forum at headquarters, to showcase the path the agency has laid out to put humans on Mars. The stepping-stone approach will leverage all of NASA's exploration resources to support the agency's bold human missions to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars in the 2030s. Also, Senate Hearing, Seeking Concepts for Europa Mission, Tornado Outbreak Seen from Space, Spacecraft Stacked, Shuttle Carrier Aircraft Reaches Final Destination, Spinoffs 2013 and NASA Honors Shatner!
Next, JPL/NASA describes What's Up for May 2014.

What's up for May. Great views of Saturn and Mars all night long. And a possible new meteor shower.
For a more leisurely preview, Hubble Space Telescope presents Tonight's Sky: May 2014.

Backyard stargazers get a monthly guide to the northern hemisphere's skywatching events with "Tonight's Sky." May features the Eta Aquarid meteor shower, and could feature a meteor storm later in the month as Earth passes through the debris from Comet 209P/LINEAR.
As if that were not enough, Indiana University brings its monthly preview, Star Trak: May 2014.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- As evening twilight fades during May, bright yellow Saturn will appear in the southeastern sky. It will be highest in the south around 1 a.m. local daylight time.

On May 10 it will reach opposition (opposite the sun), when it will rise just before sunset and set just after sunrise. It will be closest to Earth in its orbit, so it will shine its brightest for the year. Saturn's rings will be tilted 22 degrees to our line of sight during May. Its largest moon, Titan, will be visible in any telescope.
Finally, back to something more in keeping with this blog's theme from Texas A&M: MFA student’s photos of alien worlds to be displayed in NY.
Hypothetical landscapes of distant worlds, photographed by Cassandra Hanks, a Texas A&M Master of Fine Arts student, will be exhibited at New York’s HERE Gallery, 145 6th Avenue, from May 29 – July 5, 2014.

In her “Alien Landscapes” series, Hanks uses scientific data to simulate planetary landscapes in a studio, which she photographs to reflect the myriad worlds and visual possibilities in our solar system.

“The terrain of our neighboring planets serves as a hypothetical landscape for what earth used to be, could have been, or what it might become,” said Hanks. “These photographs of synthesized planetary landscapes create prophetic possibilities of the impact of natural and human acts of destruction.”
Yes, space has plenty to teach humans about what could go wrong and how that would look.

That's it for the past week's space and astronomy news.


  1. I suspect Greer has locked himself so tightly into his little 'neolithic bubble' that he really has no clue as to what is actually going on out here.

    1. I'd call it a neomedieval bubble that his "holy hillbillyism" leads to, but I agree. He's so certain of his vision that he's insufficiently checking his predictions against reality.

    2. Or he has become so invested in said vision that he refuses to look.

    3. He's certainly looking where events are likely to confirm his view. Where there's contrary evidence he can't dismiss, not so much.

  2. ...and fuck all those sneering cunts on the comments.

    1. I agree, but it's too fun to mock the trolls.