Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, CA is having an open house from 9 AM - 5 PM this weekend, Sat. May 3rd and Sun. May 4th. JPL does some pretty amazing stuff, so it should be a lot of fun. For more information, go here.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
In honor of its 18th birthday (18 years since launch), Hubble recently released 59 images of interacting galaxies, available here. In addition to being gorgeous (and I don't even work on interacting galaxies at all), these images provide a crucial view on how smaller galaxies merged in the early universe to make the big galaxies we see today. Hope you enjoy!
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
The April 23rd edition of this show is now online and available here. This show kicked out a "Tour of the Universe" series of sort. During the recently completed series on research at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, there were lots of Astronomical news and results which I didn't have time to talk about, so last week, this week, and upcoming weeks will be devoted to filling you in on the lasting discoveries. I've decided to no do this chronologically but by "distance", start with the Sun, than the inner planets, outer planets, galactic astronomy, extragalactic, cosmology, etc. This week for the first episode in this series, and I talked about:
- News: NASA announces plans to develop a massive multi-player educational online game, go here for more info; NASA announces that, despite announcements to the contrary, the asteroid Apophis still only has a 1-in-45000 chance of hitting the Earth when it passes by in 2036; the 4.1 m diameter primary mirror the ESO's VISTA telescope has been delivered to Cerro Paranal in Chile, VISTA is planned to do a large survey of the Southern sky at near-infrared wavelengths; congratulations to Commander Peggy Whitson and cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko for their success return to Earth after 192 days in space on the International Space Station, Commander Whitson broke the US record for most cumulative time in space with 377 days (link); Russian space shuttle Busan II arrives Speyer Technik Museum in Speyer, Germany for eventual permanent display; new exhibit highlighting pictures taken by the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn begins April 26 at the American Museum of Natural History, runs through 2009 March 29 - for more info, go here, and for more info on Cassini check out this audio podcast and this video podcast; instruments being integrated on NASA's next moon mission, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO; link); NASA announces plans to send in 2011 a spacecraft to the Moon to study moondust (link)
- Calendar of upcoming Astronomy and science events in greater Poughkeepsie / New York City area
- The Sun: The Sun is a mass of incandescent gas, meaning it doesn't have a hard surface like the rocky planets such as Earth. The light we see from the Sun comes from a layer called the "photosphere", which is surrounded by an "atmosphere" of sorts called the "corona" - a very hot (several hundred times hotter than the Sun's core) but low density (too low for fusion to take place) region responsible for the solar wind, coronal mass ejections, solar flares, etc. Our understanding of this region, and how it interacts with the rest of the Sun is very poor, and understanding the Sun's corona is area of very active research. Some recent results are - previous identification of waves in the corona might be wrong (link), a new technique based on CAT scans has been developed to image the Sun's corona (link), slow (only 1 million mph) component of solar wind might be produced from the magnetic field of two regions of hot gas in the corona which have collided connecting together (link; small solar flares which only produce very hot gas as opposed to hot gas and fast moving particles detected (link); huge fountains of gas observed in the Solar corona, believed to be produced by rearrangements of the Sun's magnetic field (link); tsunami observed in Sun's lower atmosphere resulting from a coronal mass ejection (link); solar flares observed to cause "starquakes" on Sun resulting in ripples which pass through the entire Sun, similar to earthquakes on Earth (link); data from sun-monitoring SOHO satellite being used to predict when high-energy particles ejected during solar flares may interact with the Earth, causing damage to satellites and other objects in orbit.
Posted by You'd Prefer an Astronaut at 10:00 AM
Monday, April 28, 2008
This Wednesday, from 1:15 PM - 2:00 PM , the astronauts who will be flying on a space shuttle mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope for a final time will speak to middle school students across America simultaneously from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. To watch go here.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Want to improve your French? Between the ages of 7 and 18? Enjoy science? (I hope the answer to this one is "yes", otherwise you probably don't enjoy this blog very much.) Looking for a summer camp? This summer camp might be the right thing for you.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Available here is the interview I did with Dr. Ann Hornschemeier of Goddard Space Flight Center, who is Deputy Project Scientist of Constellation-X, the leading candidate for NASA's next generation X-ray satellite, the successor to the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Dr. Hornschemeier was kind enough to talk to about the science goals of Constellation-X, how it is being designed to achieve them, and the technology required to do this. I, personally, am very excited about this mission and, for more information on this project, please check out this webpage. As always, please email me or leave below any questions, comments, or concerns you might have.
This is the last interview on research at Goddard Space Flight Center, though I hope to have on as guests later others researchers at Goddard since this series really only covered the tip of the iceberg on all the work that goes on there. I'll post a summary of the interviews later, but I really hope you enjoyed this series. I had a lot of fun putting it together since it gave me an opportunity to speak to a lot of scientists whose papers and presentations I've enjoyed discussing projects I hope you found as interesting and exciting as I did. Thank you for listening.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
John Tierney, one of the senior science jounralists at the NY Times, has an astronomy quiz on his blog, TierneyLab. I'm embarrased to say this, but I only got 7 out of 10 right - though two of the questions I got wrong I'm not surprised I got wrong (you can probably guess which ones those were.). How do you do? Feel free to discuss below...
Sorry for the delay, but the April 16th radio show is now online and available here. This show marked the end of our ongoing series on Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), which I hoped you enjoyed listening to as much as I enjoyed compiling. On this program discussed:
- Calendar of upcoming science events in the greater Poughkeepsie / New York City area.
- Interview with Dr. Ann Hornschemeier of GSFC on Constellation-X, the proposed successor to current X-ray satellites Chandra and XMM.
- News: European Space Agency recruiting new astronauts, apply here; congratulations to Dr. Michael Luther for being promoted to head of NASA's Programs Office in Science Directorate; congratulation to the Stardust team for the multiple awards they have won, and good luck to them on Stardust-NExT which will flyby Comet Tempel 1 on Feb. 2011; congrats to the Cassini team for having their mission extended by two years to July 2010, and may it be extended many more times; flight path of NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander adjusted in preparation for its May 25th landing on Mars (link); final pieces of GLAST being assembled on Delta II rocket in preparation for May 16th launch; HiRISE came of NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter takes color and 3D image of Mars's moon Phobos, available here; NASA launches new science website; Stephen Hawking to speak at lecture series honoring NASA's 50th birthday; call for Italy to invest more in science and technology.
- Neutron Stars: Bursts of X-ray emission detected from a radio pulsar never seen before from a radio pulsar but similar to that observed quite often from a "magnetar," a class of young neutron stars whose emission is powered by the decay of extremely strong magnetic fields (10^14 G, Earth has a magnetic field of 0.3 G) as opposed to the loss of rotation energy believed to power the emission of "normal" radio pulsars like the Crab Pulsar. Why this radio pulsar is now behaving like a magnetar is not known, but suggests that maybe some radio pulsars can evolve into magnetars (link, paper).
Monday, April 21, 2008
Friday, April 18, 2008
My interview with Dr. Dave Thompson, multi-wavelength coordinator of the upcoming Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) is now online and available here. As he discusses, multi-wavelength observations are going to be critical in understanding the physical properties of the different types of gamma-ray sources (discussed here), as well as vital in determining the nature of unidentified gamma-ray sources, which GLAST will almost surely discover many (discussed in some more detail here).
As always, please email me any questions, comments, or concerns you might have or leave them below. Thank you for listening!
On Monday (April 21st), at 3 PM US Eastern Time Stephen Hawking will be presenting a lecture titled "Why we should go into space" as part of a lecture series honoring NASA's 50th anniversary. To you watch it live, go here.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Sorry for the delay, but the April 9th radio show is finally available for download here. On this program, I covered:
- Calendar of upcoming science events in the Poughkeepsie/New York City area
- Interview with Dr. Dave Thompson of Goddard Space Flight Center on multi-wavelength studies and GLAST
- News: Major shake-ups in NASA's administration - 2006 Nobel Prize Winner Dr. John Mather to focus his efforts on the James Webb Space Telescope (for more info on the successor to Hubble, listen to this.), Dr. S. Alan Stern resigns as Science Chief due to disputes with Administrator Michael Griffin over cuts to Mars rovers to fund overruns in cost of upcoming Mars Science Laboratory; NASA announces "Cassini Scientist for a Day" competition, more info available here; NASA hosted its 2008 Great Moonbuggy Race in Huntsville, AL - congratulations to all the teams who entered; Italy to help Kenya develop an Earth-observing satellite; Chinese Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fiber Spectroscopy Telesope (LAMOST) observatory approaches final technological hurdles before attempting to do an even larger and deeper survey of the sky than the extremely successful Sloan Digital Sky Survey; "Dark Matter" the movie in theaters on April 11 - science is a pretty accurate representation of Astronomical thought at the time, and character portrayals interesting for the first 2/3 of the movie.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Sorry for the lack of updates this weekend, but I was away and unable to post things online. Here is the last pre-GSFC series interview for your enjoyment:email them to me. Thank you very much for listening!
Thursday, April 10, 2008
As I mentioned on April 2nd, the University of Toronto is currently planning on selling the David Dunlap Observatory - Canada's largest optical telescope - and surrounding area, which is due to the necessity of maintaining dark skies for the telescope, is a wildlife reserve. This decision, not surprisingly, has generated a fair bit of controversy. I recently received some more information on the issue from people opposed to the sale, which you can read about here and here. I'd be very interested to hear your opinions on the matter, please post them below.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Using data collected by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, JPL scientists have made a color, stereo image of Mars's smaller moon Phobos, available here. Time to break out your pair of red and blue 3D glasses to get the full effect!
My interview with Dr. Julie McEnergy of Goddard Space Flight Center is now online and available here. Dr. McEnery is one of the top scientists on NASA's Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST), and she discusses some of the science goals of GLAST. Given how poorly the high-energy sky is understood - approximately 50% of all known gamma-ray sources are unidentified, and this isn't including the many questions remaining concerning gamma-ray bursts with Dr. Neil Gehrels talked about - GLAST will likely revolutionize our understanding of the most powerful sources in the universe. No hyperbole (I think). For more on GLAST, also check out:
- NASA's official website.
- NASA's educational webpage for GLAST.
- Introduction to gamma-ray astronomy
- History of gamma-ray astronomy.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
The April 2nd edition of this radio show/podcast is now online and available here. On this week, I covered:
- Calendar of upcoming events in the greater New York City / Poughkeepsie area (link)
- Interview with Dr. Julie McEnery of Goddard Space Flight Center on the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST), NASA's next-generation gamma-ray observatory
- News: University of Toronto plans to sell David Dunlap Observatory to fund a new one, some faculty protest; European Science Foundation studying plans to build a laboratory to study stellar evolution (link); a new spacecraft designed for space tourism might be ready for testing soon, hope of first take-off in 2010 (link); the guest quarters at the Very Large Telescope - four large optical telescopes operated by ESO located in Cerro Paranal, Chile - to be featured as the villian's hideout in the next James Bond movie, "Quantum of Solace"; debate continues over International Astronomical Union's definition of a planet; three new sunspots with the magnetic field orientation of the OLD sunspot cycle detected.
- Cosmic Rays: Re-analysis of the High-Resolution Fly's Eye cosmic ray telescope confirms the GZK cutoff observed in the detected rate of the highest energy cosmic rays detected by Pierre Auger (link); Integral detected hard X-ray emission from nearby massive star binary Eta Carinae, believed to be produced by very high energy electrons accelerated where the stellar winds powered by these two massive stars collide.
Monday, April 7, 2008
Tomorrow night, a 12% crescent Moon will be side-to-side with a young stellar cluster called the Pleiades (known in Japanese as "Subaru", and the namesake of the car company). Should be a very pretty sight indeed. For more info, go here and here.
Cassini is a NASA spacecraft which has been making amazing images and measurements of Saturn, its moons, and its rings since 2004. On June 10, Cassini will image Saturn's moons Rhea and Enceladus, and a region of Saturn's rings that includes the tiny moon Pan. JPL is now sponsoring a contest where you (if you are an elementary or high school student) write an essay describing which of these images you would like to analyze and why. Winners will be invited to discuss their essays with JPL Cassini scientists via teleconference, which should be pretty cool. For more info, go here, and if anyone of you have any questions concerning your own entry, feel free to email me. Good luck!
Saturday, April 5, 2008
Michael Bank was kind enough to talk to us about the Mid-Hudson Astronomical Association, an extremely active amateur astronomy group based in Poughkeepsie!.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
The interview with Dr. Neil Gehrels of Goddard Space Flight Center is now available for your listening pleasure. In this interview, Dr. Gehrels talks about Swift, an extremely successful satellite which was designed to study the gamma-ray, x-ray, and ultraviolet/optical emission from gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) and has been instrumental in furthering our understanding of what these mysterious explosions are. For more information on his research, Swift, and GRBs, check out:
- Homepage of Dr. Gehrels
- Main webpage for Swift, which also contains information on how it studies GRBs
- An introduction to GRBs courtesy of NASA
Courtesy of Prof. Max Tegmark at MIT, an expert in this field and many, many others:
The lyrics to this song are available here, and the YouTube link is here. For his estimate on how soon the world will end (no, I'm not joking), click here. I find it a very interesting read, written by an incredibly smart person.
Hope you enjoy.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
No, this isn't an April Fool's Joke, here is the March 26th show in mp3 format for your listening pleasure. On this show, I discussed:
- Calendar of upcoming events in the greater Poughkeepsie/New York City area, available here.
- Interview with Dr. Neil Gehrels of Goddard Space Flight Center (NASA), discussing studying Gamma-ray Bursts (GRBs) with Swift, the first satellite specifically designed to study these mysterious flashes of very high-energy photons.
- News: Congratulations to Katherine Bedkowski, Pargya Kakani, and Yvette Leung, winners of a Vail Scholastic Achievement Award given by the Custer Institute and Observatory for the Astronomy science projects they presented at this year's Long Island Science and Engineering Science Fair, to former particle physicist Dr. Bill Foster for being elected to the House of Representatives, to Dr. G. Wayne Clough for being appointed head of the Smithsonian Institute which runs the Smithsonian Astronomical Observatory - one of the largest Astronomical research centers in the world, and to Vanguard I - the first American satellite - which has been observed the Earth for 50 years as of March 17th; Cassini flyby of Saturn's moon Enceladus on March 12th occurs with only a minor hitch; UK astronomers going to maintain some access to the Gemini telescopes; Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona now operational (link); sunshield for James Webb Space Telescope passes preliminary design review (related interview,link); NASA says Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer - an anti-matter detector intended to be attached to the International Space Station which has already been built - may be too expensive to launch; orientation of Saturn's rings relative to Earth causing them to disappear for a short period time.
- Interview with Dr. Neil Gehrels of Goddard Space Flight Center on gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) and the Swift satellite, the first NASA satellite dedicated to studying these mysterious flashes of high-energy radiation at all wavelengths
- Gamma-Ray Bursts: Long duration GRB detected on March 19th whose optical emission was so bright it was seen with the naked eye even though it took place 7.5 billion light years (4x10^22 miles) away; short GRB - believed to be the result of two neutron stars merging, observed occuring when the universe was only 7 billion years old (half of the current 14 billion years), earlier than expected.