12 Apr

Spaceflight Now – Discovery heads into retirement

Technicians in bay No. 2 of Kennedy Space Center’s Orbiter Processing Facility remove shuttle Discovery’s forward reaction control system (FRCS) on March 22 as part of the ship’s transition and retirement processing. The FRCS will be completely cleaned of all toxic fuel and oxidizer chemicals, which are used for the steering jet system while a shuttle is in orbit. NASA says the FRCS will then be put back into Discovery to help prepare the shuttle for future public display.

via Spaceflight Now – Discovery heads into retirementt. Incredibly cool photographs and just a little bit sad.

06 Mar

Bad Astronomy – Has life been found in a meteorite?

Richard Hoover, an astrobiologist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, thinks he may have found bacteria in a meteorite.

Yes, you read that right. The question is, is he right?

I don’t know. Dr. Hoover has published his findings in the online Journal of Cosmology (see below for more about this journal), and it was reported today by Fox News (thanks to Sheril at The Intersection for the tip).

Basically, Hoover found structures inside a rare type of meteorite — the Orgueil meteorite which fell in France in 1864 — that look very much like microbes of some sort

So, to conclude: a claim has been made about micro-fossils in a meteorite. The claims are interesting, the pictures intriguing, but we are a long, long way from knowing whether the claim is valid or not! We’ve been down this road before and been disappointed. As with any scientific claim, skepticism is needed, and in the case of extraordinary claims, well, you know the saying.

via Bad Astronomy – Has life been found in a meteorite?. So has it, maybe, but it seems like the answer is leaning more towards no, as opposed to the yeses being heard in the media.

23 Jul

APOD – The Crown of the Sun

During a total solar eclipse, the Sun’s extensive outer atmosphere, or corona, is an inspirational sight. Subtle shades and shimmering features that engage the eye span a brightness range of over 10,000 to 1, making them notoriously difficult to capture in a single photograph. But this composite of 7 consecutive digital images over a range of exposure times comes close to revealing the crown of the Sun in all its glory. The telescopic views were recorded from the Isla de Pascua Easter Island during July 11’s total solar eclipse and also show solar prominences extending just beyond the edge of the eclipsed sun. Remarkably, features on the dim, near side of the New Moon can also be made out, illuminated by sunlight reflected from a Full Earth.

via APOD – The Crown of the Sun. What you wind up with is a remarkably beautiful image.