Carnival of Space Week 51

A view from Space Shuttle Endeavour STS-118 of the station and Earth (NASA)

Hello and welcome to the 51st edition of the Carnival of Space! My name is Ian O’Neill, UK solar physicist and writer for the Universe Today. I am honoured to be hosting the Carnival, so thank you Fraser for letting me loose on seven days-worth of excellent space related news from the growing blogosphere. Astroengine is my online home, delving into the inner workings of the cosmos, so it’s good to freshen the site up with news from a superb cross-section of space blogs.

There is a huge breadth of topics this week with no particular trend, but as Earth Day was on April 22nd, I’ll kick off with the some of the stories a little closer to home (and then end up somewhere in the proximity of the Big Bang, 13.7 billion years ago). As said by the great Yuri Gagarin, “I see Earth! It is so beautiful!” I begin with our Blue Planet…

Is tampering with our planet’s weather systems a bad thing? What if we could prevent a hurricane from threatening Florida, or “seed” clouds to rain on the arid Australian crops? Nancy L. Young-Houser discusses historic examples of weather manipulation and concludes that scientists should not be allowed to play with rainfall, as there will always be a loser.

Stephen Hawking in Washington DC, Mars settlement advocate (NASA)

From deliberately playing with weather, to damaging Earth; Stephen Hawking spoke out at NASA’s 50th birthday bash in Washington D.C. stating NASA’s budget should be increased ten-fold to deal with the preservation of mankind before we run out of resources on Earth, and/or destroy ourselves. Bruce Irving over at Music of the Spheres addresses the fact that we are indeed running out of natural resources, and the only way to survive is to push into space. It turns out Hawking is a big advocate of Mars settlement too. I’m a big fan.

On a lighter note, CollectSPACE reports that you will be able to request that Richard Garriott (entrepreneur and son of astronaut Owen Garriott) take a photo of Earth, of a location of your choosing, from orbit. Garriott will be launched in October 2008 to spend some quality photography time on the International Space Station. Whilst you’re waiting for Richard to dust off his camera, check out the Earth Portraits website.

In honour of Earth Day, David Portree at Altair VI showcases his award-winning article on Flagstaff’s battle for dark skies. Light pollution is a huge problem for many astronomers, so this makes for interesting reading. He also needs your help in a vote on space missions

The SpaceX supply capsule - a possible answer to station re-supply (SpaceX)

Moving on from Earth Day, it’s time to get down to business and talk politics. John Benac at Political Action for Space reports on some of the measures NASA is taking in preparation for the Space Shuttle fleet retirement. It seems that NASA is working hard to improve industrial partnerships, not only benefiting space travel, but using the US tax dollar more efficiently. The Space Cynics are a little more, well, cynical about the current state of ISS and shuttle planning. They sent their representative cynic to the House of Representatives hearing this morning, will be very interesting to find out what happened.

Also, news about a vote in New Mexico: The new spaceport will be taxed. Clark S. Lindsey at Space Transport News argues that this is a great opportunity for the port to support the local economy. Just imagine the benefits should the NM Spaceport get as busy as Heathrow…

Some sad news from Mangs Bat Page. The David Dunlap Observatory at the University of Toronto is closing down its tour operations. So if you are in the vicinity of Toronto before April 30th, be sure to get to this historic site before it is closed for good (after all, the telescope did confirm the existence of black holes). Mang also has some invaluable advice about using powerful laser pointers – useful for teaching astronomy, but dangerous in the wrong hands.

Titan AE poster (20th Century Fox)
Intermission: We’re about a third of the way through the Carnival, so it’s time for a well-deserved video break with Space Feeds. This weeks featured video is Don Bluth’s Titan A.E., 90 minutes of superb sci-fi animation.

Finished? Enjoy the film? Let’s crack on…

In an announcement from science writer Will Gator, the BBC Sky At Night magazine website has just launched a regular podcast feature. Episode 1 was recorded in Belfast where Will covered the 2008 Royal Astronomical Society’s National Astronomy Meeting. On the subject of conferences, Steinn Sigurðsson from Dynamics of Cats was lucky enough to attend AbSciCon ’08 in Santa Clarita, California (I wanted to go, but couldn’t make it). Run by the SETI Institute, the conference focused on the origins, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe. Steinn sat in on the “Super-Earth” session which proved to be very interesting (even if the coffee did run low).

Talking of life on other planets, Ryan Anderson at The Martian Chronicles starts a series of articles documenting our facination with finding life on Mars. Life on Mars has occupied astronomers and sci-fi writers alike and the search continues…

An ant. Carrying a leaf. Could be useful in space (University of Minnesota)

Oddly enough, this week we have a clutch of space food stories. Starting with Darnell Clayton over at Colony Worlds, he ponders the need for ants in space. Ants in space? There is actually a really good explanation for this. To grow food here on Earth, plants need to be pollinated. Bees do the pollinating; without bees, plants won’t grow. So future self-sustaining colonies will need to take bees with them, right? Wrong. Bees need planetary magnetic fields to navigate; Mars and the Moon have no magnetic field. This is where the ants come in

Keeping with plants, can they be grown on the Moon? (Assuming the colonists packed their tin of ants.) As Ken Murphy investigates over at Out of the Cradle, the question as to whether Moon dust can be used as a good enough compost is open to debate. In part III of the series, a comprehensive review of growing food on the lunar landscape is discussed.

So you’ve grown the food, who’s going to cook it? Ralph Buttigieg at The Discovery Enterprise discusses the importance for a Mission Nutrition Specialist (i.e. a cook). After all, good food means happy astronauts; a happy astronaut means mission success (hopefully).

Which star would you name?

Now we wade into the controversy surrounding star naming. Tammy Plotner with the Universe Today approaches the question Name a Star – Real or Ripoff? The answer is fairly balanced: do it if you like, but realise it won’t be officially recognized. Stuart Atkinson with Cumbrian Sky on the other hand concludes that star naming is actually misleading and damaging. A very interesting debate, what’s your view?

From buying stars to travelling to them, we have a few space-flight stories this week. Starting with Brian Wang at Next Big Future, a new solar sail concept invented by the Finnish Meteorological Institute is investigated. The Finnish design will use solar wind particles as propulsion, rather than the traditional radiation pressure method. This spacecraft will have a huge number of applications and Brian delves into the possibilities.

The KySat Cube - grass roots space exploration (KySat)

In an exciting project, KentuckySat (KySat) is building their own satellite and development is fully under way. Check out (Blue)Grass-roots Space for a rundown of the KySat Cube, being developed by university students and academic advisers from colleges and universities in the commonwealth of Kentucky. An awesome concept!

In work attempting to understand the Pioneer anomaly, Emily Lakdawalla with The Planetary Society investigates the progress from thermal modelling attempts. It would appear the thermal emissions from Pioneer 10 and 11 may account for a large portion of the anomalous behaviour of the probes launched in the 1970’s. Engrossing research.

Rounding up this week’s carnival are some cool cosmology and astrophysics articles. Writer and journalist Paul A. Gilster at Centauri Dreams discusses the possibility that a “hot Jupiter” may have once wrecked havoc in the early history of our solar system. Is there evidence to support a gas giant orbiting close to the Sun in the past? Possibly.

A hot Jupiter, too close to its star (NASA)

From our solar system’s past to 83 Leonis’ present. Is there evidence for a planetary transit around this star system? Looking at STEREO data, it seems possible that the first observational evidence for a Saturn-sized planet may have been found. Or has it? Ian Musgrave’s Astroblog investigates this possibility and concludes that it might be an exoplanet, but it could just be observational error…

One of the Carnival’s most extreme stories comes from our Babe In the Universe, Louise Riofrio. It appears that the observational evidence for the inflation period immediately after the Big Bang simply isn’t adding up. Could it be that the speed of light has changed? Take a look at Louise’s intriguing argument as to why inflation is sinking

However, Starts With A Bang! writer Ethan R. Siegel wants to use the Big Bang and inflation for evil. He ponders what it would take to destroy the Universe. All you need is a particle accelerator with a radius that would span 1014 kilometres (or from Earth to the nearest star system). Ethan seems to know an awful lot about creating Big Bangs, so keep a close eye on this guy

The reflecting Milky Way (Tony and Daphne Hallas)

Before we end, I leave you with a captivating piece of astrophotography as reported by Astropixie Amanda Bauer. This stunning image was created by Tony and Daphne Hallas and is called “Surgar Pine Star Party”, the Milky Way reflected off a lake. Astropixie also shows of a superb image of spiral galaxy M62

As for Astroengine, I’ve been happy watching galaxies smashing into one another, after all, who doesn’t enjoy a bit of galactic cannibalism!

So that’s it for another week! I hope you enjoyed this mammoth edition. Remember that next week’s Carnival of Space will be even bigger. To celebrate Week 52, the Carnival’s one-year birthday, find your best leads and get typing; I can’t wait to see next week’s collection from the space blogosphere…

Cheers, Ian

31 thoughts on “Carnival of Space Week 51”

  1. I will be interested to hear the Space Cynics take on the Hearing. I can
    bet that they are going to take issue with Lampson’s comments that if
    the X-33 hadn’t been canceled out problems might go away. In any case, I
    have posted a transcript of the questions and answers at that anyone can read. Please forgive my
    typography skills and chime in with your thoughts on the interchange.
    There was interesting information on the Soyuz incident.

  2. Tut, tut, Fraser. “with a week’s worth of writing that will take you a week to read.” – Ouch! Fortunately, otherwise excellent 🙂

  3. Hi Ian,
    With regard to the extra-solar planet stuff on STEREO, I went to EGU ’08 in Vienna a week or so ago and my understanding was that the nearest they have yet come to detecting an extra-solar planet with the HI instrument is possibly a new eclipsing binary star system. I could be wrong on this one but either way I think it is only a matter of time. They might even find one before Kepler launches in 2009, that would be something. The HI images are definetly worth a look if you have not yet seen them, purely from an aesthetic viewpoint they really are quite spectacular. Cheers,


  4. I strongly recommend that you turn the No Follow off in your comment section.

    I’ll watch Google Webmaster Tools, and if the links don’t show up after a couple of weeks — I won’t go back to that blog again.

    Another suggestion: you should have a Top Commentator widget installed.

    Do Follow and Top Commentator will ensure that you have a successful blog with lots of readers!

  5. Hi there!I found your article very interesting. I'm into this kind of subject too. By the way, about weather manipulation, is there really such thing? Is this an actual science? Can we create thunders and typhoons? Just wondering if this are true.

  6. The earth is beautiful. I wish more people actually cared about preserving it.I find, in these arguments I have with people re: global warming, which are not very productive, is to just say, regardless of the existence or non-existence of climate change, we need to take care of the earth. That seems to shut them up.

  7. All you need is a particle accelerator with a radius that would span 1014 kilometers (or from Earth to the nearest star system). Ethan seems to know an awful lot about creating Big Bangs, so keep a close eye on this guy…

  8. While black space exploration is relatively new, the roots of the black space experience date back some 8,500 years. The history of this science is rich and growing. The stories of the pioneers involved are courageous and inspirational for people of all races, ages, genders, and nationalities.

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