Saturday, August 9, 2014

Perseids vs. Supermoon and other space and astronomy news

For the second time this summer, a Supermoon tops this week's space and astronomy news, this time in competition with another spectacular sky event, the Perseid meteor shower.  Several videos feature both events, but Science at NASA's ScienceCasts: Perseid Meteors vs the Supermoon gets to go first.

Which is brighter--a flurry of Perseid fireballs or a supermoon? Sky watchers will find out this August when the biggest and brightest full Moon of 2014 arrives just in time for the peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower.
Follow over the jump for more of the past week's space and astronomy news originally included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Ebola outbreak) on Daily Kos.

NASA: Preparing for Orion Recovery Test on This Week @NASA

NASA and the U.S. Navy were busy recently – preparing for tests scheduled off the coast of San Diego, California. Crews will run through the procedures to recover NASA's Orion spacecraft from the ocean, following its water landing from deep space missions. Kennedy Space Center, Johnson Space Center, and Lockheed Martin Space Operations are all involved in the recovery effort. Also, Mars 2020 rover and beyond, Opportunity: 25 miles and counting, Updated K-Rex rover, Automated Transfer Vehicle launch and NASA Technology Days!
DarkSyde has more general space and science news in This week in science: Think of the children! on Daily Kos.

Next, two videos about the month's stargazing events, both of which also include the matchup between the Perseids and full moon.

JPL/NASA: What's Up for August 2014

Go outside to see Venus and Jupiter at dawn, Saturn and Mars at dusk. No telescope required! Plus the annual Perseid meteor shower is in full swing now through the 17th. The shower peaks the night of August 12-13, but the bright moon that night will likely interfere with viewing some of the fainter meteors. The Perseid shower occurs each year when Earth travels through a trail of dusty particles left behind by comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle.
Hubble Space Telescope: Tonight's Sky: August 2014

Backyard stargazers get a monthly guide to the northern hemisphere's skywatching events with "Tonight's Sky." In August, planets drift together into a stately dance.
Now, the rest of the week's news.

Hubble Space Telescope: The X Factor: Behind the Webb

The James Webb Space Telescope is being tested at a number of facilities, including some operated by NASA. One of these locations is in Huntsville, Alabama, at the Marshall Space Flight Center. Engineers are repurposing a test chamber originally built to test another one of NASA's Great Observatories, the Chandra X-ray Observatory. 15 years ago, Chandra was launched into space and continues to be a vital contributor to our understanding of the universe. "Behind the Webb" host Mary Estacion takes us to Marshall to check out how Webb and Chandra share a common bond.
Discovery News: What Is Space Exploration Doing For You?

People ask all the time whether the money we put into space exploration actually helps us here on Earth. Is it worth the money we’re spending? Trace takes a look at a few recent projects that are helping people here on Earth as we speak!
Discovery News: Why Are Animals Having Sex In Space?

Last week, the Russian space agency Roscosmos lost contact with a satellite that contained geckos having sex! Why are we sending animals to space to mate? Dr. Carin Bondar joins Trace to discuss scientists’ reasons.
University of Michigan: The source of the sky's X-ray glow
July 27, 2014
ANN ARBOR—In findings that help astrophysicists understand our corner of the galaxy, an international research team has shown that the soft X-ray glow blanketing the sky comes from both inside and outside the solar system.

The source of this "diffuse X-ray background" has been debated for the past 50 years. Does it originate from the solar wind colliding with interplanetary gases within our solar system? Or is it born further away, in the "local hot bubble" of gas that a supernova is believed to have left in our galactic neighborhood about 10 million years ago?

The scientists found evidence that both mechanisms contribute, but the bulk of the X-rays come from the bubble. The solar wind, a stream of charged particles continuously emitted by the sun, appears to be responsible for at most 40 percent of the radiation, according to new findings published in the journal Nature.
University of Washington: Companion planets can increase old worlds’ chance at life
July 31, 2014
Having a companion in old age is good for people — and, it turns out, might extend the chance for life on certain Earth-sized planets in the cosmos as well.

Planets cool as they age. Over time their molten cores solidify and inner heat-generating activity dwindles, becoming less able to keep the world habitable by regulating carbon dioxide to prevent runaway heating or cooling.

But astronomers at the University of Washington and the University of Arizona have found that for certain planets about the size of our own, the gravitational pull of an outer companion planet could generate enough heat — through a process called tidal heating — to effectively prevent that internal cooling, and extend the inner world’s chance at hosting life.
Georgia Tech: More Room for Space in Georgia
July 30, 2014
Aerospace leaders from across the state gathered at the Georgia Tech Research Institute on July 29 to develop a plan to help expand the space industry within Georgia. The Georgia Space Leadership Summit included representatives from academia, industry, the state government and the investor community.

The aerospace industry presently generates $51 billion per year in economic impact for the state. Professor Robert Braun is director of the Georgia Tech Center for Space Technology and Research (C-STAR). He says, because things have drastically changed on the federal level, the time is right for Georgia to increase its contribution to the nation's space economy.

When I look at what’s going on in space, it’s a pivotal time for our nation. Big changes are taking place in the space sector, which is shifting more to a commercial market. Private companies are already transporting cargo to and from space. Someday soon, they will take people into orbit.
That's it for the past week's space and astronomy stories.  Time to start collecting this week's.

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