I was talking about the planets with my 5-year-old daughter the other day. I was trying to explain how taking a summer vacation to Mars in the future will be a much bigger undertaking than a trip to Palm Springs (though equally as hot). I kept trying to describe the distance using metaphors like “if the earth was the size of a golf ball, then Mars would be across the soccer field” etc., but I realized I didn’t really know much about these distances, besides the fact that they were really large and hard to understand. Pictures in books, planetarium models, even telescopes are pretty misleading when it comes to judging just how big the universe can be. Are we doing ourselves a disservice by ignoring all the emptiness?
Not that pixels are any better at representing scale than golfballs, but they’re our main way of interpreting most information these days, so why not the solar system?
NASA Science News has the scoop on a telescope that, believe it or not, is bigger than a galaxy.
… At the January 2014 meeting of the American Astronomical Society, researchers revealed a patch of sky seen through a lens more than 500,000 light years wide.
The “lens” is actually a massive cluster of galaxies known as Abell 2744. As predicted by Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, the mass of the cluster warps the fabric of space around it. Starlight passing by is bent and magnified, much like an ordinary lens except on a vastly larger scale.
Lately, the Hubble Space Telescope, along with the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory, has been looking through this gravitational lens as part of a program called “Frontier Fields.”
“Frontier Fields is an experiment to explore the first billion years of the Universe’s history,” says Matt Mountain from the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. The question is, “Can we use Hubble’s exquisite image quality and Einstein’s theory of general relativity to search for the first galaxies?”
The answer seems to be “yes.” At the AAS meeting, an international team led by astronomers from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias and La Laguna University discussed Hubble and Spitzer observations of the Abell 2744 cluster. Among the results was the discovery of one of the most distant galaxies ever seen—a star system 30 times smaller yet 10 times more active than our own Milky Way. Bursting with newborn stars, the firebrand is giving astronomers a rare glimpse of a galaxy born not long after the Big Bang itself.
Overall, the Hubble exposure of Abell2744 revealed almost 3,000 distant galaxies magnified as much as 10 to 20 times larger than they would normally appear. Without the boost of gravitational lensing, almost all of those background galaxies would be invisible.
Abell 2744 is just the beginning. Frontier Fields is targeting six galaxy clusters as gravitational lenses. Together, they form an array of mighty telescopes capable of probing the heavens as never before.
Would you want to travel to Mars and never come back? Mars One Way introduces us to five hopefuls who want to be part of project Mars One.
There were 200,000 people who applied to participate in a project called Mars One. It’s a private enterprise to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars and film a reality show along the way. The idea is to go in crews of four starting in 2024. The thing is, right now the technology can only get them there. “Mars One Way” documents the thoughts and theories of Five hopeful Mars One astronauts as they contemplate the reality of leaving planet Earth forever, for a new home on Mars.
Although we’ve seen various shirts for measuring biometrics in the sports and fitness industries, it appears aerospace is another use. The Canadian Space Agency is currently working with Carré Technologies, creator of Astroskin, according to Mother Nature Network.
Astroskin, a prototype device to monitor astronaut health, is a garment that fits over a person’s upper body and is embedded with wireless sensors. From the ground, doctors can see an astronaut’s vital signs, as well as how well the spacefarers are sleeping and how they are moving.
The shirt needs rigorous testing to ensure that it is space ready, so arrangements have been made to test the product in Antarctica.
Crew members of the the XPAntarctik expedition, while spending 45 days in a previously unexplored region of the continent, are beaming their medical information back to civilization while wearing Astroskin. The expedition, which kicked off on Feb. 2, is quite a workout for the eight-person team, which has vowed to use no motorized vehicles. This means the suit is getting tested during skiing, walking and climbing Antarctica’s jagged peaks and glaciers.
This video not only shares information about the use of the shirt, but also shows some of the extreme locations that astronauts use for their playground.
Although this shirt is well suited for astronauts, it also has uses for other communities — telemedicine.
“The great thing about this technology is since it’s wireless, it can be monitored at a distance,” CSA chief medical officer Raffi Kuyumijian said in a new video released by the agency.
“People who live in remote communities, for example, will have an easy access to a doctor,” Kuyumijian added. “They can have these shirts on them all the time. It can trigger alarms if something wrong is happening, and alert the doctors following at a distance.”
At some point, we all have a cardio check-up with messy gel and stick-on sensors. It’s no wonder that shirts are becoming the next great solution. Perhaps in the future we will have embedded technology transmitting this data to our doctors. In the meantime, you can have your own biometric fun with our heart rate badge.
The nine chapters in the book each focus on a different celestial body. The chapters include a description of the body, questions and answers and a page about an AOSS researcher who studies that topic.
For example, the Mars chapter has a page on Associate Professor Mike Liemohn. A student wrote: “Would you like to live on Mars?”
“No. The atmosphere is very thin and very cold, so you would have to be inside or totally covered in a space suit,” Liemohn answered. “Plus, going outside means being exposed to harmful cosmic rays, which are not shielded away from the surface by a magnetic bubble and thick atmosphere like they are on Earth.”
The book also includes activities for teachers to try in class. These activities were tested in workshops for local students held at the 826michigan headquarters and Green Baxter Court Community Center. The workshops were the starting points for each chapter.
“My favorite part about putting the book together was working with the students themselves,” Mihalka says. “It was especially interesting to see what kind of fun creative stories they would come up with…I distinctly remember a student asking Earth if the moon was his girlfriend.”
Gershman agrees the best part of working on the book was helping with workshops.
“At each location we got to work with a lot of the same students, so we got to share several different activities/planets with them.”
Mihalka says she thinks the workshops introduced the students to science in a unique way…
Each Tuesday is EducationTuesday here at Adafruit! Be sure to check out our posts about educators and all things STEM. Adafruit supports our educators and loves to spread the good word about educational STEM innovations!
NASA is developing robots made from a tensile system of interlocking rods and cables that can transform from flat components into a ball shape then tense and flex to roll around the surface of planets
Researchers at the Intelligent Systems Division of NASA’s Ames Research Center in California designed the Super Ball Bot robots as a more flexible and robust alternative to conventional probes, which can be damaged by the impact of landing on a planet’s surface.
“Current robot designs are delicate, requiring combinations of devices such as parachutes, retrorockets and impact balloons to minimise impact forces and to place a robot in a proper orientation,” said the research team led by Vytas SunSpiral and Adrian Agogino.
“Instead, we propose to develop a radically different robot based on a ‘tensegrity’ built purely upon tensile and compression elements.”
Constructed from a network of rods and cables that surround and protect the scientific payload at its centre, the lightweight collapsible design is developed using the principles of tensegrity pioneered by American architect and engineer Buckminster Fuller in the 1960s.
Instead of employing wheels or tracks, the robots move by using a system of motors to shorten and lengthen cables connecting the rods, which changes the balance of tension in the structure and causes it to jerk and roll across the ground.
Astronaut Mae Jemison is a true inspiration for women everywhere and her message from the MAKERS Conference on women leadership is one that is powerful and resounding. Via the next web.
At the MAKERS Conference on women leadership this week, Google[x] VP Megan Smith, astronauts Cady Coleman and Mae Jemison and Harvey Mudd President Maria Klawe took the stage to discuss the importance of increasing the number of women in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields.
Jemison, who is the first African-American woman to go to space, emphasized that, as women become a greater part of STEM education and industries, it’s important for women to be in the room “helping to make the choices.”
She talked about her involvement with the 100 Year Starship project, which aims to send humans on an interstellar journey in the next 100 years, and how an endeavor of that magnitude must be a team effort.
“We can’t do this with just half the population,” she said.
Jemison continued with a quote from authors Will and Ariel Durant: “The future never just happened. It was created.”
“We have an opportunity to create the future and decide what that’s like,” Jemison added.
The multi-center Morpheus Team successfully completed Free Flight7 (FF7) at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) on Monday, February 10, 2014. FF7, the 5th free flight of the Bravo vehicle, flew to 467 feet (142m), altitude and then traversed 637 feet (194m) in 30 seconds before landing in the hazard field. Initial data indicated a nominal flight meeting all test objectives. The vehicle flew its pre-planned trajectory flawlessly, reaching a max ascent velocity of 13 m/s, and landing with no appreciable deviation from its intended target 74 seconds after launch. The Morpheus Team again demonstrated engineering and operational excellence, relying upon training, discipline and experience to ensure today’s success.
There’s an interesting post via Geek.com about Sir Isaac Newton’s first telescope.
For more than 300 years, the Royal Society in London has watched over the device you see above. It’s Sir Isaac Newton’s first telescope, which he built around 1668.
That was about 60 years after German spectacle maker Hans Lipperhey patented his original design. Lipperhey’s invention was a refracting telescope. Newton’s, on the other hand, was a reflector and it used a convex mirror made of a very special alloy to refocus light.
That metal is speculum, so called because it’s the Latin word for mirror. It was a good choice for making mirrors in the 17th century, though it’s a bit heavy by today’s standards. Speculum is a mixture of (roughly) two parts copper and one part tin — both very dense metals.
There are a couple other problems with speculum, too. It tends to tarnish rather easily, and it only reflects about two thirds of the light that hits it. Still, it provided a serviceable component that allowed Newton to begin exploring his theories.
It’s the speculum mirror that interests University of Nottingham chemistry professor Martyn Poliakoff most. He notes that there’s a particular “sweet spot” that has to be found when making the alloy. Too much copper in the mix imparts a red tinge; too much tin and it goes blue.
A pinch of arsenic is added to ensure that the finished surface accurately reproduces the colors it’s reflecting. That’s actually what Newton was hoping to investigate — he wasn’t specifically preparing to gaze at the heavens. He believed that refracting telescopes like Lipperhey’s distorted the colors of objects because they didn’t focus the light they captured precisely enough.
As Poliakoff enthusiastically notes, it’s very cool that at the heart of Newton’s telescope — an instrument that proved important to the future of physics — was a little bit of chemistry.
Shannon Lucid’s upcoming induction to the Astronaut Hall of Fame will make her the 7th female astronaut to achieve this honorguardianlv.
Shannon Lucid Added to Astronaut Hall of Fame
Added by Lian Morrison on February 9, 2014.
Saved under Lian Morrison, NASA, Science
Tags: shannon lucid
It was announced this week that Shannon Lucid will be inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame in May 2014, along with former NASA member, Jerry Ross. This will increase the number of inductees to 87, seven of which are women. It is also a major step forward for women astronauts, as they are severely underrepresented in the space industry.
Shannon Lucid, with a Ph.D. in Biochemistry, has completed five space missions, and in 1996 received the Space Medal of Honor for her work on the Russian space station, Mir. She was the first woman in history to achieve this award and remains the only woman to have ever worked on Mir. Lucid worked 188 days on Mir as Board Engineer 2 on life and physical science experiments.
During her career, Lucid became Chief Scientist at NASA headquarters. Afterward she served as a CAPCOM in Mission Control, communicating with a team of astronauts in space and aiding them in their missions. Lucid retired from NASA after a life filled with accomplishments in January 2012.
BBC News Asia has a great profile on Minal Sampath, an engineer working on India’s mission to Mars.
For two years, Minal Sampath, a systems engineer working on India’s mission to Mars, worked flat out in a windowless room, often for 18 hours a day, to be ready for the country’s most ambitious space project to date.
“We had a great team and there [was] an understanding between us that we [had] to get the work done to meet the deadline,” she says. “The launch date [was] fixed and we could not miss it.
That day finally came on 5 November last year when the Mars Orbiter Mission took off at 09:08 GMT from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on the east coast of India.
It also marked the moment that India joined the short list of nations capable of launching such a mission…
Ms Sampath is one of the few women working at the Indian equivalent of Nasa.
Despite that, she says she has never felt that she is treated any differently.
“I forget I am a woman sometimes, working in such an organisation,” she says.
“Maybe it’s because we spend a lot of time working in clean rooms with full suits on, so you can’t tell who is male or female,” she says, laughing.
But as only one in 10 of the scientists is female, Ms Sampath says this is something she wants to change. “I want women to imagine that they can do this.”
With her work firmly supported by the traditional extended Indian family structure, the prospect of much higher wages abroad has no appeal for her.
“I want to become the first woman director of a space centre,” Ms Sampath says, and she would love to go into space herself, although she says she is likely to leave that to the next generation.
This week I came across a brilliant kickstarter project looking for funding, it’s the international space station alarm that will alert you to the international space station going overhead at 17000mph and about 500km away.
The space station takes around 90 minutes to orbit the earth and is the size of an American football pitch. I was lucky to see it a few years ago camping with the Russian space cargo shuttle tailing it and was lucky to see it at dusk with it very close to the earth and directly overhead.
Since then I’ve always been interested in it, it certainly brightens up evenings when camping around a campfire and with many phone apps why would someone want this?
Well for one you can plug in most add ons, piglow, ledborg, blink stick and adafruit 16×2 rgb screen. Kids will love the excitement as the lights come to life as the ISS approaches, flies over and then the lights go as the ISS disappears.
The ISS can be visible if it passes us by close to sunset or sunrise. If it’s going to be visible look for the pass type of “visible”. Not all passes are as good as another. If you want to see the space station you will want to find a visible pass where the ISS is predicted to be very bright. Look at the Brightness column- you want the lowest number dislayed there. A good number would be -3 or lower. That would mean the ISS is as bright or brighter than the planet Venus in the sky (which is often the brightest thing in the night time sky other than the full moon).
Adafruit RGB Negative 16×2 LCD+Keypad Kit for Raspberry Pi – This new Adafruit Pi Plate makes it easy to use an RGB 16×2 Character LCD. We really like the RGB Character LCDs we stock in the shop. (For RGB we have RGB negative and RGB positive.) Unfortunately, these LCDs do require quite a few digital pins, 6 to control the LCD and then another 3 to control the RGB backlight for a total of 9 pins. That’s nearly all the GPIO available on a Pi!
With this in mind, we wanted to make it easier for people to get these LCD into their projects so we devised a Pi plate that lets you control a 16×2 Character LCD, up to 3 backlight pins AND 5 keypad pins using only the two I2C pins on the R-Pi! The best part is you don’t really lose those two pins either, since you can stick i2c-based sensors, RTCs, etc and have them share the I2C bus. This is a super slick way to add a display without all the wiring hassle. Read more.
Ever wanted to know what it’s like to be on Mars? This incredible panorama might be the closest experience you can get! Via Wired.
NASA’s Curiosity rover recently climbed atop a dune in an area nicknamed “Dingo Gap” on Mars and peered into the valley beyond. This stunning 30,000-pixel-wide panorama — made from 101 images — is what it saw.
The incredible mosaic is best viewed by clicking on the full-screen button in the upper left. It comes to us courtesy of Estonian photographer Andrew Bodrov, whose work we’ve featured several times before. The panorama shows off the spot that Curiosity is pausing at before rolling on to the base of Mount Sharp. There, it will search for signs of ancient life on Mars and try to figure out how the planet changed from a warm, wet one to a cold, dry one. In the distance, you can see the mountainous rim of Gale Crater, over which the rover has photographed some amazing images of the Earth in the night sky.
Engineers had originally planned to reach Mount Sharp using a fairly direct route. But after concerns that the rough terrain was bunging up the rover’s wheels too much, they sought an alternate path. A few days ago Curiosity reached Dingo Gap, beyond which satellite images show much smoother goings. A 1-meter sand dune, featured prominently in the panorama above, stands at the gateway to Dingo Gap. On Feb. 3, it seemed likely that the rover would take this easier route, though a final decision is still pending.
In his series “The Rehearsal of Space and the Poetic Impossibility to Manage the Infinite,” Edgar Martins gives us a comprehensive and compelling look inside the European Space Agency’s numerous facilities and test centers, via slate:
Photographer Edgar Martins has long been fascinated by space. So, in 2012, when he read a blog post by the communications director of the European Space Agency explaining the need of his organization to engage with the public, Martins jumped at the opportunity. He sent a proposal to produce the most comprehensive photographic survey of ESA ever conducted. The agency agreed. “There is an increasing awareness on ESA’s behalf of the importance to connect with the public and make them aware of the important work they are doing,” Martins said via email. “NASA has always promoted its image through the arts, particularly cinema, so I think ESA realized what a wonderful platform this was to connect to an audience that it would not ordinarily reach,” Martins said.
Unlike NASA and European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Martins said, ESA does not have an artist residency program. It was a big leap, therefore, for the agency to grant Martins access to its entire staff, programs, technology, and facilities, including 20 test centers, robotics departments, jet propulsion laboratories, space simulators, astronaut training centers, and launch centers across the world. But even though he had the green light to visit highly restrictive areas, Martins said he was in a constant state of negotiation to get access to specific spaces. “Most of ESA’s previous contact with image-makers was with journalists and photojournalists who go, for example, to photograph a launch, or they’re taken to specific press areas where they usually peer through a window. My approach was different. I had to be within touching distance,” he said in an interview.