27 Sep

APOD – Flying over Planet Earth

Have you ever dreamed of flying high above the Earth? Astronauts visiting the International Space Station do this every day, circling our restless planet twice every three hours. A dramatic example of their view was compiled in the above time-lapse video from images taken earlier this month. As the ISS speeds into the nighttime half of the globe, familiar constellations of stars remain visible above. An aerosol haze of Earth’s thin atmosphere is visible on the horizon as an thin multi-colored ring. Many wonders whiz by below, including vast banks of white clouds, large stretches of deep blue sea, land lit up by the lights of big cities and small towns, and storm clouds flashing with lightning. The video starts over the northern Pacific Ocean and then passes from western North America to western South America, ending near Antarctica as daylight finally approaches.

via APOD – Flying over Planet Earth. Wow!

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.

03 Jan

Bad Astronomy – At the bottom of Earth’s orbit

Since last July, the Earth has been falling ever closer to the Sun. Every moment since then, our planet has edged closer to the nearest star in the Universe, approaching it at over 1100 kilometers per hour, 27,500 km/day, 800,000 km every month.

But don’t panic! We do this every year. And that part of it ends today anyway.

The Earth’s orbit around the Sun is not a perfect circle. It’s actually an ellipse, so sometimes we’re closer to the Sun, and sometimes farther away. Various factors change the exact date and time every year — you can get the numbers at the Naval Observatory site — but aphelion (when we’re farthest from the Sun) happens in July, and perihelion (when we’re closest) in January.

via Bad Astronomy – At the bottom of Earth’s orbit. Just a little bit of science for tonight.