What’s Going on with These Sunspots? Are they from Solar Cycle 23 or 24?

Magnetic view of the new sunspots appearing at the Suns equator (credit: SOHO)

On posting the story “The Sun Bursts to Life: Sunspots, Flares and CMEs” on the Universe Today, something was strange about my source material. Although the Sun had started Solar Cycle 24 back in January of this year, the new sunspots recently observed were the “leftovers” from the previous cycle and not new ones from this cycle. Something is strange. Surely one cycle ends and another begins? Think again…
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Carnival of Space #47

In this weeks Carnival, we fly over to The Martian Chronicles for a Mars-themed look at the goings on in the Universe. Some really excellent articles have been posted this week, specifically “Artificial Gravity Via Bigelow Space Stations?” – a good question over at Colony Worlds, “The Science of the Brightest GRB” carries out a superb analysis of the recent gamma ray burst over at the aptly named Starts With A Bang and over at Bad Astronomy, Phil is honoured by having an asteroid named after him

I also submitted a rather “out there” story about all the things you can do with lasers and black holes – great fun! (But is that a white hole horizon or a black hole horizon? If you can’t tell, then what’s the point in worrying about it…?)

Building a Base on the Moon

Interconnecting modular-hangar based lunar habitat design. Image courtesy of Florian Ruess.

So mankind is beginning to reach into space. In the past, our efforts beyond the Earth’s atmosphere have been purely strategic and political. Now, scientific advancement is becoming a priority for government agencies and business opportunities are beginning to show themselves for private enterprise. So what’s the next step? If we are to make the ultimate push into space and actually live out there, we must use any natural resource to our advantage. Strategically speaking, the Moon is an ideal stepping stone for mankind to spread our influence beyond Earth. So where do we start?

Having just completed my “Building a Base on the Moon” series on the Universe Today, it is evident that we are gradually developing the right technology and moving in the right direction. But we have a long way to go before we accomplish the ultimate lunar habitat…
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How do you Build a Laser with a Black Hole?

The principal behind the lasing effect between the black hole and white hole horizons.
The principal behind the lasing effect between the black hole and white hole horizons.

Lasers. Very cool and exciting toys. They have also revolutionized science and technology. Through a comparatively simple process, photons are bounced backward and forward within an optical cavity. Stimulated emission from the quantum states of the material within the cavity causes more and more photons to be generated. Eventually a threshold is reached and laser emission results, producing a collimated beam of a defined wavelength.

So where do black holes come into all this? Well, it is theorized that black hole event horizons produce radiation. Hawking radiation, although not yet proven, is probably responsible for the only emission from a black hole. It may even cause the black hole to evaporate. But what if this radiation could be used in the ultimate laser cavity? Some Scottish researchers think it might be possible… in theory…
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Daily Roundup: The Mars Curse and the Biggest Explosion in the Universe!

The largest ever gamma ray burst observed. Image credit: NASA

This week has been an exciting week for astronomers. The largest explosion ever seen in the Universe was observed on Wednesday. This gamma ray burst, produced when a star collapses in on itself to create a black hole, is a record breaker. Not only is it the biggest explosion mankind has seen since records began, it is also the furthest and oldest “thing” we have ever observed…
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Carnival of Space #46

We’ve barely finished reading all the links on Carnival of Space #45 and the 46th edition comes out! In true carnival style, we have a huge variety of stories from a pile of space blogs hosted this time on Riding with Robots. We have stories ranging from a look into how the space elevator concept will work, how the solar observatory, STEREO, might be used to find exoplanets and as we still haven’t heard from those aliens out there, perhaps they’ve chosen to withhold their phone number

From astroengine.com, I’ve submitted another two stories, one about creating your own universe and another about quark nuggets


Daily Roundup: Astrium Spacecraft Mass Production, Saturn’s Rings and Quantum Communications

Astriums new concept for space tourism. Image credit: Astrium/Marc Newson. Source: BBC

It looks like things are really beginning to develop for the space tourism era. European rocket manufacturer Astrium has announced plans to develop the next generation of small space planes capable of sending 5 people into space. This design is different from the rest as it will take-off and land conventionally and will use jets for atmospheric flight but blast into space with a powerful oxygen-methane rocket. The promo video is also pretty exciting, documenting the two hour flight by means of a simulation…
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Primordial Quark Nuggets Disguised as Near Earth Asteroids?

The HST map of dark matter. Image credit: NASA/HST. Source: BBC

We know that dark matter is difficult to observe… in fact, we can only indirectly observe the stuff. Gravitational lensing and WMAP “Haze” are two possible ways to observe large-scale dark matter, but what about the small-scale stuff? New research suggests that some types of dark matter may be in the form of cold, primordial clumps of elementary particles and there’s a possibility we’ve been accidentally been observing them for years…
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When a Moon Makes a World of a Difference

Io and Jupiter - a dynamic pair…

The Earth’s Van Allen belts are the location for some of the most fearsome particles in space. Highly energetic particles from the Sun get trapped in the layers of the magnetosphere, setting them up for an injection of waves causing acceleration and heating. This naturally causes concern for astronauts and spacecraft passing out of the atmosphere and into this bubble of radiation only 200 miles above the surface. But spare a thought for any spacecraft passing through Jupiter’s magnetic field. The energetic particles there are far more powerful, plus one of the Jovian moons has a huge part to play, generating the plasma waves accelerating the particles even more…
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Carnival of Space #45

The Carnival of Space is a real celebration of astronomical efforts and space-related blogs. Archived on the Universe Today, the Carnival is now on its 45th edition hosted on the excellent Observations from Missy’s Window and I’m proud to have two stories on there: How do you catch a Supernova in the Act? Build a Neutrino Detecting, Early Warning Device and Could Mars Quakes, Seasonal Temperature Changes or a Chance Meteorite Impact Cause Mars Avalanches?.

There is a huge following of space blogs, like astroengine.com, following the developments of current space missions and new discoveries. Space blogs are different in that they present the news, but give a personal spin on what is going on. Far more exciting reading if you ask me, guaranteed to spark debate and awareness of mankind’s efforts in space…