Carnival of Space Week 72 – Twisted Physics (Discovery)

Twisted Physics Logo
Twisted Physics Logo

It’s that time of the week, time for the rampaging hoard of space writers to voice their views across the blogosphere. This week, we are presented with a great variety from my fellow bloggers dotted over the planet by Jennifer Ouellette at Twisted Physics. She had the misfortune to be called for jury duty, but had the fortune to be selected as this weeks CoS host, so at least she had some entertaining reading to do whist in court! For Astroengine this week, I entered the exciting news that our Sun is alive! Well, it has shown off a Cycle 24 sunspot anyway


Carnival of Space Week 71 – .Astronomy

.Astronomy logo
.Astronomy logo

Somehow I missed a week of the CoS, so I’ll have to track down where Week 70 went… but first, here’s Week 71, hosted over at .Astronomy (dot-astronomy) by Rob at the University of Cardiff, Wales. Once more, there is a great selection of space news from the blogosphere, I’m looking forward to reading through all of them.

In keeping with my LHC addiction, I posted a story on the Greek hacker attempt on the facility at CERN…

Meet Mrs Astroengine

Deb and I in the Vegas sunlight on Saturday (Image by Colette O'Neill)
Deb and I in the Vegas sunlight on Saturday (Image by Colette O'Neill)

In case you were wondering why I was being a little quiet on Astroengine and the Universe Today recently, it’s because I got married on the weekend! Those of you who know me personally, you’ll know Deb, but if you don’t, I wanted to introduce her. So this is Debra O’Neill, my soul mate and love of my life.

We had a rather spontaneous wedding, but fortunately most of the family was able to make it, including my own from the UK. Friends as far afield as New York were able to change their plans and make it to Vegas. Thank you to everyone who made the event so special; it was a fun, entertaining and an emotional roller-coaster. Also a big thanks goes to my best man and fellow physicist, Mario, who made sure everything went smoothly (if you ever need anything organized, Mario is your man!).

So, I’m off to enjoy married life, but I’ll be sure to post more pictures of the weekend once I sort through the thousands that were taken!

Viva Las Vegas!

Astroengine is Now Bulletproof: Upgrade to WordPress 2.6.2

WordPress released a minor upgrade today for any blog running version 2.6. Although it’s not a huge deal, it is worth doing if your WordPress installation allows open registration. Although this isn’t necessarily a security risk, there is the possibility that a hacker could exploit a WordPress function to reset admin passwords to a randomly generated one, therefore freezing the administrator out of their website. The hacker doesn’t know the new password either, so this loophole is more of a frustration than anything else. Still, it would be a bugger if that happened, so Astroengine is now bulletproof with v2.6.2…

Once again, I used the automatic upgrade plugin created by Keith Dsouza and it performed flawlessly, backing everything up and then installing the whole lot over the top. Superb.

Carnival of Space Week 69 – Free Space (Discovery)

This week’s Carnival of Space is being hosted by Irene Klotz over at the Discovery blog Free Space. There’s a great format this time, going from A-Z of all the submitted stories from across the space blogosphere, so be sure to check it out!

I was really slack this time and neglected to enter any of my articles (*slaps wrist*), but I’ll be sure to get back on task in time for Week 70!

Listen to “10 Mysteries of the Solar System” With Captain Jack on Paranormal Radio

Paranormal Radio with Captain Jack logo
Paranormal Radio with Captain Jack logo

The recording of the September 1st Paranormal Radio show featuring Captain Jack and myself is now available for your listening pleasure. The show was entitled “Ten Mysteries of the Solar System” and it related to an article of the same name I wrote for the Universe Today on August 18th. It was great to be asked back to the show for the fourth time, and it looks like I might have a regular slot! As Jack said toward the end of the show, I am rapidly becoming PR’s resident “myth buster” – I am very honoured to have been given this task! Hopefully I’ll be appearing monthly to discuss the weird and wonderful goings on in our Universe, and Jack is a fantastic host, so we often go off on a tangent (as can be witnessed in this 3-hour show, I think it took me an hour just to talk about the first two mysteries of the ten!).
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Last Look at GOCE Before Being Sealed Inside Rockot

The last look at GOCE before it is packed away inside the rocket two half-shells (ESA)
The last look at GOCE before it is packed away inside the rocket two half-shells (ESA)

As you probably know, I am a huge fan of the Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) as it is the sleekest, most aesthetically pleasing spacecraft I have ever seen. Rather than looking like a generic satellite, GOCE has been constructed in the shape of an aerodynamic spaceship as its orbit is so low that atmospheric drag will be a factor. Adding to the wow! factor is the GOCE ion engine giving a small but steady thrust to make sure GOCE doesn’t lose altitude during its Sun-synchronous orbit. Combine all these factors with the incredibly advanced science it will be carrying out during its 20 month lifetime, this is about as advanced as a terrestrial satellite can get.

So, ahead of its launch on September 10th, GOCE has been packed safely inside the Breeze-KM Upper Stage at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia. Next time the craft sees light will be three-minutes after launch in six days time…
Continue reading “Last Look at GOCE Before Being Sealed Inside Rockot”

Listen to the July 29th Discussion with Walter Wagner on Paranormal Radio

Paranormal Radio with Captain Jack logo
Paranormal Radio with Captain Jack logo

Over a month ago, I was asked to be a surprise guest over on Paranormal Radio with Captain Jack. And what was the discussion? Walter Wagner was on air discussing his “Doomsday Suit” against the US partners of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and I had the great opportunity to put some questions to him. Critically for me, at about 99 minutes into the three-hour show (as I make my entrance), I ask Walter about his previous attempts at suing other particle accelerators (such as the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider – RHIC – back in 1999). From that point on I believe the validity of the current LHC lawsuit seemed purely academic, but it certainly made for some great discussion.

Walter put across his views in a coherent and knowledgeable way and I made a point that scientists need to be challenged so the LHC can be fully justified (but I did also point out that filing a lawsuit might have pushed it a little too far). Although enjoyable, Walter didn’t convince me to change my views

(Listen out for how many times I say “speculative”…)

CryoSat-2, a Satellite that Looks Like a Shed, Doing Science in the Freezer

Cryosat-2. Resembles something Da Vinci would design (ESA)
Cryosat-2. Resembles something Da Vinci would have designed (ESA)

ESA Cryosat-2 is set for launch in 2009 and it is the second attempt at getting the technology into orbit. Back in 2005, the original CryoSat was lost after a rocket malfunction caused it to fall short of the desired orbit, but much like the Phoenix Mars Lander story (i.e. it rose from the ashes of the lost Mars Polar Lander mission, recycled spare parts and reassembled the robot), Cryosat will fly once more. So what makes this mission so important? Well, it will carry out an essential three-year survey, measuring the thickness of global ice sheets.

But why am I really mentioning it? Like many ESA missions, the designs of their satellites and robots are so cool, and Cryosat-2 is no different. From some angles it looks like a sturdy intergalactic battleship, from others it looks like it was painstakingly designed by Da Vinci. Sometimes it even looks like a flying shed. In my books, that’s one interesting satellite. The science isn’t bad either…
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An Intimate View From the Space Shuttle Garage

"So what do you do?" "Oh, I have the boring job attaching rocket engines to the Shuttle..." (NASA/Kim Shiflett)
"So what do you do?" "Oh, I'm just the Shuttle rocket engine crane operator..." (NASA/Kim Shiflett)

If you thought that Shuttle launches were easy, think again. Preparing each Shuttle launch is a laborious task, taking several months and thousands of NASA employees. Pictured above is one of Atlantis’ Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs) being installed back on June 11th at Kennedy Space Center’s Orbiter Processing Facility bay 1, and I think this image epitomizes what space flight is all about. Rocket science is complex, we know that, but when I see just how big these things are, I gain a better respect for how far we have come. Best thing is, this is an image of a 23 year old space vehicle, just imagine what the future Ares V will look like…
Continue reading “An Intimate View From the Space Shuttle Garage”