Carnival of Space: 203

It’s Carnival time in the Gutter again! We’re hosting this week’s round-up of space and astronomy blogging news. If you’d like to find out more or get involved yourself check out the Carnival’s homepage over at Universe Today.

We’re kicking off this week with the massive Solar flare that exploded from the Sun on 7th June. The Chandra blog explains what they had to do to protect the satellite from the incoming radiation. If you didn’t see any of the movies of the flare, or if you’re unsure just how big this eruption was I strongly recommend the following, courtesy of Matt Parker:

Next up is the Pan-STARRS1 project which has discovered a new comet in the outer Solar System which could reach naked eye visibility in March 2013. One of the astronomers who discovered the comet Richard Wainscoat outlines how it was found and what we know about its orbit.

Virtual telescopes such as Google Sky, World Wide Telescope and Wiki Sky have allowed people to explore the sky in great detail at many different wavelengths, and look for their own mysterious sky objects. However, if you don’t have some understanding of what you’re looking at you can end up with misidentifications, such as the ones discsussed by the Astroblog for comet Elenin and the mythical planet Nibiru.

If you want to know more about why astronomers use many different wavelengths for their observations check out the first of Cheap Astronomy’s two part podcast series on astronomy across the electromagnetic spectrum.

Over to Mars now. Vintage Space looks at the challenges in designing and testing the parachutes that slow the descent of the landers that are sent there. Once they reach the surface the pictures they send back can seem very familiar – head over to The Meridiani Journal to see an excellent example of “mud polygons” or mud cracks on Earth, and their striking similarity to the bedrock terrain seen by Opportunity in Meridiani on Mars.

Could Saturn’s moon Enceladus have a salt-water ocean? NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has already confirmed that there’s liquid water below the surface, but now it may also have detected salt grains in the plumes of icy spray shooting up from its surface. Both Discovery News and Weirdwarp have the full story.

Next Big Future brings news of a new supersonic business jet concept, the SonicStar, which was unveiled at the Paris airshow. It promises flight times from Paris to New York of under 2 hours thanks to its revolutionary engine design. If you want to travel a little further though, they also have an interview with writer Keith Henson about his ideas for cheaper space launches using a combination of Skylon rocket planes and concentrated lasers.

There’s two slightly more offbeat offerings to end on. First, shhh, don’t tell anyone but Universe Today has been spying on spy satellites, thanks to the skill of astrophotographer extraordinaire Thierry Legault. Check out the post if you want to know how he does it.

Finally, could the forthcoming movie Iron Sky have any basis in fact? Everyone knows that WW2 Germany developed rockets far in advance of the Allies, but some argue that in 1945 the Third Reich was on the verge of developing a space program. Armagh Planetarium’s Astronotes finds out more.

Well, that’s it for this week. Hope you’ve enjoyed this somewhat surprising journey from solar flares to spies and Nazis!

Carnival of Space 178

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Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s Carnival of Space. If you’ve not been to one of these before it aims to be a handy round up of all the astronomy blogging that’s been buzzing round the internet in the past week. And if this week’s news isn’t enough for you head over to the Carnival Homepage for the full archive.

First up, zombie microbes at Discovery News! The idea that life on Earth was spawned by cometary hitchhikers isn’t new, but were they dead when they arrived? On a similar theme, Weird Sciences discusses a new project which aims to find out whether life on Mars (if it exists) is related to life a lot closer to home.

Sticking with Mars, 21st Century Waves talks about astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s recent book and his ideas about martian colonization. Universe Today assesses the chances the hibernating Spirit rover might wake up (fingers crossed) or whether it truly is lost for good. On a more positive note Spirit’s twin Opportunity is still going strong even if it has no time to stop and enjoy the scenery, much to The Road To Endeavour‘s disappointment. Next Big Future has a solution that would allow future rovers to harvest gas from the Martian atmosphere to give them a rocket-propelled boost.

The stuck Spirit rover, as imagined by Universe Today

Moving further out, the Urban Astronomer continues an interesting series on the planets with the seventh, Uranus, whilst The Martian Chronicles recounts the troubles the Hayabusa probe encountered in successfully returning asteroid dust to Earth. Still on the space travel theme, Cheap Astronomy‘s podcast this week is on the best way to power deep space missions.

Time for some much more distant planets now. The big news this week has been HIP 13044b, though you may know it better as ‘The Planet From Another Galaxy’. Dynamics of Cats, Astronotes and Centauri Dreams all cover the story. On a similar theme, Weird Warp discusses a new way of finding other exoplanets using their dust tails.

The star HIP 10344 from the Aladin database. There's a planet around it and it's from another galaxy...

Stars are the topic for the next couple of posts. First, Science Backstage discusses how pulsars could be used to detect Earth’s motion. Next, definitely head over to Starry Critters to see the death throes of a star as a beautiful space jellyfish. A more explosive type of stellar death is concerning Simoastronomy – do puny white dwarfs make wimpy supernovae? These explosions make heavy elements; you can find out more about this over at the interestingly-named Lounge of the Lab Lemming.

I think we’ve established there are lots of fascinating things out there but can we ever go and visit them? Weird Sciences is trying to find out, whilst Next Big Future is trying to make the journey safer.

Finally, AstroWoW has started a new project to explore the Universe, one word at a time. This week’s word (thanks to some cheeky hyphenation) is Light-year. Head over there to find out more.

A proper carnival needs a firework at the end, so here’s a massive one – the Firework Galaxy (NGC 6946) as seen by the Gemini Telescope:

A carnival needs fireworks so how about a giant one - the Firework Galaxy (NGC 6946) as seen by T. Rector with the Gemini Telescope

A little light reading

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Finished reading Niall’s post on weird things seen by Kepler? Still need somewhere to go to extend that procrastination a little bit further? How about this week’s Carnival of Space, hosted this week by the Noisy Astronomer? If that’s not enough, Neurotopia lists the 50 best science posts published in the Open Laboratory over the past year. Phew, reading that lot should keep anyone busy for a while.

Merry Christmas Carnival

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Firstly, mustn’t forget to mention that the Carnival of Space has gone festive this week over at Cumbrian Sky.

Now, in the spirit of the season, I thought I’d bring you a Christmas star. Well, a Christmas star-forming region in the constellation of Aquila in fact – it’s one of the ‘wow’ pictures presented last week at the Herschel First Results Meeting in Spain (a place for all the astronomers working on the different Herschel projects to get together to show off their data!)

It’s a composite image, made up of data from both the PACS and SPIRE instruments. The fluffy-looking orange and red filaments are cool dust clouds, whilst the bluer areas show where the gas and dust has come together under gravity to make new stars.

Hang on, though. That’s a lovely picture, and the red and gold look very festive, but surely there’s some way of making it, well, more Christmassy…

Ahhh, that’s better 🙂

Just one more thing, don’t forget to track Father Christmas tonight over at NORAD (as I write this, he’s passing over Russia apparently)!

Hope you all have fun tomorrow whatever you’re doing and see you in the New Year.

Carnival of Space 125

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This week’s Carnival of Space is now up at the always interesting Orbiting Frog. Hot topics this week include the misunderstandings surrounding NASA’s LCROSS mission, an impressive view of the Martian landscape and a new way to see one billion dollars. Oh, and a mysterious header image which looks astronomical but turns out to be from much closer to home.