Any moon base plan is a good plan in my books (unless it’s that silly Domino’s Pizza (Moon) Base plan).
Things we love: The Sound Burger portable record player (1980s).
Backyard Science: How You Can Make a Difference
It’s a great time to be an amateur astronomer! Nowadays, “backyard” astronomers armed with affordable CCD imagers, high-quality tracking mounts, inexpensive PC’s and the internet at their fingertips are making real contributions to Astronomy science.
How are people in their backyards contributing to real science these days?
Consider that in 1991, the Hubble Space Telescope launched with a main camera of less than 1 megapixel. (HST’s array was 800×800 pixels – just over half a megapixel). Currently, “off-the-shelf” imaging equipment available for a few hundred dollars or less easily provides 1 megapixel or more. Even with a “modest” investment, amateurs can easily reach the ten megapixel mark. Basically, the more pixels you have in your imaging array, the better resolution your image will have and the more detail you’ll capture (sky conditions notwithstanding).
With access to fairly high resolution cameras and equipment, many amateurs have taken breathtaking images of the night sky. Using similar equipment other hobbyists have imaged comets, supernovae, and sunspots. With easy access to super-precise tracking mounts and high-quality optics, it’s no wonder that amateur astronomers are making greater contributions to science these days.
Mars Rover Spirit’s Entire Journey on Mars
Take a hike on the Red Planet without even leaving Earth. Plus, it comes with its own soundtrack! Can’t wait to go back next year and see what we find.
Pretty much everyone can rattle off the names of our solar system’s eight (formerly nine) planets, but ask the average person to list some moons and you’ll be lucky if they can tell you more than two or three.
Now, you obviously can’t expect people to remember the name of every single satellite in the solar system (after all, they outnumber the planets by around 20 to 1), but if you have even the slightest interest in astronomy, it wouldn’t kill you to be familiar with at least an even ten. So with that in mind, we’ve assembled this reference guide to ten of the solar system’s most noteworthy moons.
There could be tens of billions of planets in the Milky Way that exist within the habitable zones of their parent red dwarf stars.
About 40 percent of red dwarf stars may have Earth-sized planets orbiting them that have the right conditions for life.
Red dwarfs – which are smaller and cooler than our sun – are extremely common, making up 80 percent of stars in the galaxy. Their ubiquity suggests that there are tens of billions of possible places to look for life beyond Earth, with at least 100 such planets located nearby.
The new estimate comes from a team of astronomers using the European Southern Observatory’s HARPS planet-hunting telescope to look at a sample of 102 nearby red dwarfs over a six-year period. The telescope checked for a characteristic wobble from the star, indicating that at least one planet was tugging on it while orbiting around.
The search found nine planets with between one and 10 Earth masses, including two in the habitable zone, possibly giving them the right temperature to have liquid water. Because red dwarfs don’t produce as much heat as our sun, their habitable zones occur much closer to the star.
Watery science ‘jackpot’ discovered by Curiosity
The Curiosity rover hit the science “jackpot” and has discovered widespread further evidence of multiple episodes of liquid water flowing over ancient Mars billions of years ago when the planet was warmer and wetter, scientists announced. The watery evidence comes in the form of water bearing mineral veins, cross-bedded layering, nodules and spherical sedimentary concretions.
Delighted researchers said Curiosity surprisingly found lots of evidence for light-toned chains of linear mineral veins inside fractured rocks littering the highly diverse Martian terrain – using her array of ten state-of-the-art science instruments. Veins form when liquid water circulates through fractures and deposit minerals, gradually filling the insides of the fractured rocks over time.
Shortly after landing the team took a calculated gamble and decided to take a several months long detour away from the main destination of the towering, sedimentary mountain named Mount Sharp, and instead drive to an area dubbed ‘Glenelg’ and home to ‘Yellowknife Bay’, because it sits at the junction of a trio of different geologic terrains. Glenelg exhibits high thermal inertia and helps put the entire region in better scientific context. The gamble has clearly payed off.
The Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument found elevated levels of calcium, sulfur and hydrogen. Hydrogen is indicative of water. The mineral veins are probably comprised of calcium sulfate – which exists in several hydrated (water bearing) forms.
Curiosity will be instructed to drive over the veins to try and break them up and expose fresh surfaces for analysis. Then she will drill directly into a vein and hopefully catch some of the surrounding material as well.
“This will reveal the mineralogy of the vein filling material and how many hydrated mineral phases are present. The main goal is this will give us an assessment of the habitability of this environment.”
Image credit: NASA