Astroengine Data Gathering

Astroengine needs your input
Astroengine needs your input has been in operation for a few years now, but since I began doing some serious space writing in late 2007 the site underwent a major facelift and became what you see today: A space science news blog. As time goes on I will be increasing the frequency at which I update Astroengine – it might be a lot of writing but it will be worth it. During my time researching space articles for Astroengine and my science writing for the Universe Today, I try to find as much original stuff as possible, but often settle of interesting news that is already out there. This is where you can help. If you have anything you would like me to write about, feel free to drop me a line. I recently did this for a regular Astroengine reader who wanted something written about the Higgs boson, a topic I hadn’t thought about addressing. The article was then Dugg like crazy, killing the server more than once! So if you have an idea and want to have a chance at overwhelming Astroengine with traffic, contact me with your idea and I’ll see what can be done.

So, after eight months of space news, I’d like to get your feedback about how Astroengine is shaping up and how you think it could be improved. After all, Astroengine is driven by you, so your views are very important…
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Poll: Should Pluto be Re-Instated as a Planet?

Snorg Tees advertisement: "Its okay Pluto, I'm not a planet either"

In 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) decided to re-classify what constituted a planet. Firstly the candidate must orbit the Sun. Secondly, it must be spherical (none of those asteroid-potato shapes please). Thirdly, it must clear its orbital path of junk. As soon as these three planetary characteristics were specified by the IAU (who is responsible for planet-naming and astronomy nomenclature), Pluto found itself orbiting without a planetary licence and promptly got demoted to a “dwarf planet.” This decision caused two years of arguing and public outcry until the IAU dubbed any Pluto-like bodies as “Plutoids.” This move by the IAU was seen as an affront to a member of the Solar System’s ninth planet, which had over 70 years of proud history (after all, it was thought to be the mysterious Planet X at one point). So next week, the world’s leading astronomers and planetary scientists are gathering in Maryland for a conference addressing the Pluto issue, voicing their frustration at the IAU’s controvercial decision and calling the “Plutoid” classification the Solar System’s “celestial underclass”…
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Phoenix, Government Intrigue, Possibility for Organics on Mars, Astroengine Falls into a Digg-Induced Singularity

The Phoenix Mars lander has thoughts too (NASA/JPL/UA)
The Phoenix Mars lander has thoughts too (NASA/JPL/UA)

Today, two of my Phoenix Mars Lander articles hit the front page of Digg knocking offline intermittently. The reason for the popularity? It would seem that after Aviation Week reported an undisclosed Phoenix team source’s views that an “even bigger” discovery (than the scientific proof of water) was to be announced this month, only after consulting with the US President’s science advisor. Naturally many readers of the articles are suspicious of this move, after all, why consult with government officials after two months of public transparent scientific study? Surely any discovery that supports the Phoenix mission objective to understand whether the Martian landscape could support past, present or future life forms should be discussed after a clear public statement? It would appear that both the TEGA and MECA instruments have been used to derive this new data, so what has Phoenix uncovered? Let’s hope it’s not a storm in a teacup…

Before reading on, join the fun on Digg:

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Poll: In Your Opinion, What Will be the First LHC Landmark Discovery?

Working on the LHC (CERN)

The first experiments to be carried out by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN are on the horizon. Some people are frightened by this historic particle accelerator, but the science community is abuzz with anticipation and excitement. Although some of the conditions of the Big Bang will be recreated, it is important to remember a second “Bigger Bang” will not be generated – although the LHC is powerful, it’s not that powerful!

There is a rich variety of experiments that will be carried out by a variety of LHC detectors in the 27 km circumference ringed accelerator. These experiments include ATLAS, CMS, ALICE, LHCb, TOTEM, and LHCf. All have their own specific goals, but a few possible discoveries stand out as being revolutionary for particle physics and cosmology alike. I’ve written a host of articles about the LHC and I have my own personal hopes for what could be discovered, but I’d be interested to get your views too…
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Poll: Should ESA Science Have a Political Agenda?

French President Nicolas Sarkozy

Recently, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced his vision for the future of the European Space Agency (ESA). To prevent ESA from becoming “obsolete” and overtaken by nations with fledgling space agencies (such as China, Japan and India), Sarkozy believes ESA should move away from a “science driver” and adopt a “political driver”. He is a huge advocate of NASA’s politically-driven direction and wants to adopt a similar model for Europe.

However, NASA’s political future is looking uncertain (budget cuts and job losses), is this a reliable model for ESA to adopt? Having said that, without a political incentive in the 1960’s NASA may never have landed man on the Moon. Perhaps politics can invigorate investment and space exploration.

I want to hear your view on this tricky subject, so for Astroengine’s first foray into online polls (true democracy over here!), please cast your vote on the question below and we’ll see what everyone thinks. If you want to share your views, please feel free to leave a comment!
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