News From The “Final Frontier”

Sunday and the latest spacey stuff news……I always enjoy reading the new stuff about space……and it seems to be a continuing saga…..

For instance…….

Saturn’s moon Titan, which happens to be larger than the planet Mercury, is cold. Very cold. As in -290 degrees Fahrenheit is not out of the ordinary. These super low temps, combined with an atmosphere roughly 1.5 times as dense as Earth’s, have resulted in a few extraordinary bodies of liquid methane and ethane, reports Extreme Tech, and scientists are anxious to explore their depths. (In fact, Titan is the only body aside from Earth to boast liquid lakes on its surface.) So NASA is working up a (very early) model of a submarine drone that could do just that—one that CNET reports will likely be nuclear-powered, weigh a ton, and come equipped with a seafloor camera, sampling system, and other fancy futuristic robotic accoutrements.

But don’t get too excited just yet. First, this is a fully automated mission: “Even if it were possible for humans to go swimming in Titan’s seas,” notes CNET, it “would be something like swimming in a freezing ocean of liquefied natural gas.” Hence, NASA‘s goal of sending the “highly capable science craft” to Titan’s largest sea, Kraken Mare, around the year 2040, in what it calls “an unprecedented planetary exploration mission.” Many details remain to be sorted out, including how to get the craft to Titan (Boeing’s X-37 is a possibility), how to land it (parachute drop), and while there, how to communicate with Earthlings (planar phased-array antenna). (Something else on Titan has been stumping NASA.)

There is always something new about Mars…….

Amateur astronomers have made an unexpected discovery: massive plumes spouting up at least 125 miles from the surface of Mars. Two plumes, up to 620 miles wide, were spotted over the Terra Cimmeria area in the red planet’s Southern Hemisphere by at least 18 people over two 10-day periods in March and April 2012, Discovery News reports. A witness tells the BBC one plume looked like a “projection sticking out of the side of the planet.” They appeared to form during cold mornings and changed “from double blob protrusions to pillars or finger-plume-like morphologies,” according to a study in Nature. As to what’s causing them, “Frankly, I’m puzzled,” says a lead scientist. Clouds made of carbon dioxide and ice crystals have been spotted by the Hubble Space Telescope in the past, but they only reached 62 miles from the planet’s surface, CBS News reports. Clouds of dust reached just 37 miles high.

Scientists have two theories, but “both explanations defy our current understanding of Mars’ upper atmosphere,” they say. The plumes could be caused by “a reflective cloud of water-ice, carbon dioxide-ice, or dust particles,” the study author explains, but clouds shouldn’t be able to form at such altitudes where the atmosphere is so thin. Others note the plumes may be bright auroras “1,000 times stronger than the strongest aurora” on Earth, but that, too, is “highly unrealistic.” Whatever the cause, “this type of feature must be very rare, to have been observed only once out of all of the time that telescopic observers and spacecraft have been observing Mars,” a scientist says. NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft, now in Mars’ orbit, may be able to shed light on the mystery, researchers say.

Then there is the manned mission to Mars…..unfortunately it will most likely be a one way trip……who the Hell would choose to die on Mars?  Right?

From 202,586 to about 1,000 and now winnowed down to 100. That’s how many finalists are left competing for a one-way ticket to Mars in the highly publicized Mars One project. The finalists will now compete for one of 24 crew member spots, with the goal of sending those 24 to Mars to set up a settlement by as early as 2024, NBC News reports; the Dutch nonprofit hopes to make the competition into a reality-TV show. Fifty men and 50 women (hopefuls can check names on the finalists’ list here) have been selected after undergoing personal online interviews with Norbert Kraft, the project’s chief medical officer.

The remaining competitors will next be placed onto teams to see how well they handle group situations. “Being one of the best individual candidates does not automatically make you the greatest team player,” Kraft says, per a Mars One news release. Meanwhile, Mars One CEO Bas Lansdorp applauds the elite new group, saying, “The large cut in candidates is an important step towards finding out who has the right stuff to go to Mars.” But is the mission even really going to happen? As NBC notes, a 2014 MIT press release called some of the logistics “overly optimistic.”

There you have it…news from the edge of the cosmos……

Now go and enjoy thew rest of your weekend!

The Snow! The Horror!

You will NOT believe the news!  It is Winter and it is snowing in the Northeast US……told you!  The news made me stagger!  Personally, I wish that these turns of events would have left some reporters speechless…….I guess that is a bit much to ask……

Anyway we will hear all about the financial costs of the unusual snow event…..and maybe some will point to climate change or whatever the politically correct term is these days…..

Did you know that a hard winter may not be as bad as a steamy summer……I know….I know….HUH?

Read!

 

Hot days are worse than cold ones, and this economics research proves it – Vox.

If You’re Happy and You Know It — So Does Your Dog | WIRED

It happens every week!  The weekend begins and I search for interesting stuff that has little to do with the major stories of the past week…….

My readers know I am a dog person…..my two friend are Baby Girl and Little Man…..and I swear they they can read my mind at times….they know I am about to do something before I do……any way I saw this article and my first reaction was….well duh!

 

If You’re Happy and You Know It — So Does Your Dog | WIRED.

Caught In A “Poonado”!

My last day of ignoring the mind numbing news and try to track down something unusual to write about……I think I found the perfect situation…….

The SyFy channel has all kinds of campy “nado” movies….tornadoes, meteor storms, Ice nados, …..but here was a real life “nado” that was just too good to pass……

Have you ever been caught up in a “Sh*t Storm”?

This guy can say that he has…….

As octopuses shoot out ink as a defense mechanism, so sperm whales blast threats with poop. At least that’s the theory explained by a diver to the BBC. Keri Wilk and three fellow divers were engulfed in what he describes as a “poonado” let loose by one such whale off the coast of Dominica. Wilk wasn’t using scuba gear, since that can bother whales, the New York Daily News reports. That means he had little protection: “I had poop in my eyes, mouth, wetsuit, everywhere,” he tells the BBC. “I was soaked in it from head to toe.”

He described the cloud of feces as being some “30 or 40 meters in diameter,” or about 100 feet. The whale was diving, and the animals often poop while diving, Wilk said. But this time, it stopped mid-dive. “And then it started to evacuate its bowels, and didn’t stop for several minutes.” It even seemed to try to wave the feces toward the divers with its tail. “But, after leaving the cloud, it quickly washed away and didn’t leave a smell on us,” he says. The group got some rather alarming photos of the whole thing. (Whales, it seems, aren’t so into being watched.)

The moral of this story is……every animal deserves its privacy.  Or Sh*t Happens!…..

Could It Lead To Designer Babies?

There is a movement to use a woman’s eggs to rid the fetuses of impurities…….but could all this lead to a shadow industry of designer babies?

British lawmakers in the House of Commons voted today to allow scientists to create babies from the DNA of three people—a move that could prevent some children from inheriting potentially fatal diseases from their mothers. The vote in the House of Commons was 382-128 in favor. The bill must next be approved by the House of Lords before becoming law. If so, it would make Britain the first country in the world to allow embryos to be genetically modified. The controversial techniques involve altering a human egg or embryo before transferring it into the mother. British law currently forbids any such modification and critics say approving the techniques could lead to the creation of “designer babies.”

Defects in the mitochondria can result in diseases including muscular dystrophy; heart, kidney, and liver failure; and severe muscle weakness. The techniques would likely only be used in about a dozen British women every year who have faulty mitochondria, the energy-producing structures outside a cell’s nucleus. To fix that, scientists remove the nucleus DNA from the egg of a prospective mother and insert it into a donor egg from which the nucleus DNA has been removed. This can be done either before or after fertilization. The resulting embryo would end up with the nucleus DNA from its parents but the mitochondrial DNA from the donor. Scientists say the DNA from the donor egg amounts to less than 1% of the resulting embryo’s genes. Last year, the US FDA held a meeting to discuss the techniques and scientists warned it could take decades to determine if they are safe.

Am I just worrying for nothing or is this a possibility?  Knowing the scruples are in short supply in the medical profession and are non-existent in the research realm…..what are the chances of a designer baby coming from this issue?

Could this violate some religious tenet?  I mean altering an egg should be a crime against God’s intention, right?  Would not this be tantamount to killing the child that God “gave” the parents?  I really would like a religious person to step up and go on record by answering those question for everyone.

Thoughts please………

Earth 2 Found!

It is the weekend and the world is waiting smiling at the outcome of the stand off in France…..

But I will go off in a different direction……back in the 90’s there was an obscure sci fi show called Earth 2……humans go off the colonize a new Earth-like planet….it was pretty mundane most of the time but there were a few cool twists here and there……I bring this up because of the space news that came out recently…….

If you’re sick of Earth and have a spacecraft capable of traveling hundreds of light-years, astronomers have spotted the most promising destination yet. Kepler-438b is a newly-confirmed potential “Earth twin” detected by the Kepler Space Telescope, the BBC reports, one of eight confirmed new exoplanets. The planet, about 470 light-years away in the Lyra constellation, is the most Earth-like ever spotted outside our solar system. It’s only slightly larger than our planet, sits in the “Goldilocks zone” where the temperature is right for liquid water to flow, and probably has a rocky surface, researchers say. Its dwarf star gives it around 40% more heat than our planet receives from the sun, and its years are just 35 days long.

The latest find brings the number of confirmed worlds spotted by Kepler—including Kepler-186f, the previous most Earth-like find—to just over 1,000, with more than 3,000 still to be vetted, reports Scientific American. To search for clues that life may exist on Kepler-438b and other planets, researchers plan to examine Kepler data for signs of moons, which help stabilize orbits and temperatures, and for gas giants in the same solar system, which reduce the odds of catastrophic asteroid hits, the Guardian reports. (Last month, Kepler data revealed a possible water world, or “mini-Neptune,” 180 light-years away.)

Could it be life imitating art?

More Space Sciencey Stuff

It is the weekend after Xmas…..and it is time for me to do what I always do….give you stuff that is not your everyday posting on the internet…..I am a space geek since the days of Buster Crabbe as Buck Rogers in the Saturday Serials……

First, the space telescope Kepler…….and its newest findings…….

The Kepler spacecraft has had its shares of ups and downs since its 2009 launch. The downs have included a 2013 mechanical failure that left Kepler supposedly “beyond repair”. The ups have included a “resourceful strategy” that made use of pressure from sunlight to allow Kepler to be repurposed for a “K2 mission” announced a little more than a year ago. And that K2 mission has arrived at its first success: the confirmed discovery of an Earth-like planet, the New York Times reports. Kepler’s directive is to seek out new planets by basically staring at stars all day and watching for “transits,” those blips on the screen when a planet passes in front of its parent star. The newly discovered planet, called HIP 116454b, is said to be 2.5 times the size of our planet, 12 times the mass, and about 180 light-years from Earth, Universe Today reports.

“Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Kepler has been reborn and is continuing to make discoveries,” says Andrew Vanderburg, who led the team behind the find. Kepler sighted HIP 116454b during a February test run (the K2 mission officially began in May), and its existence was verified with ground telescopes and Canada’s MOST satellite. Astronomers are calling it a possible “water world or a ‘mini-Neptune,’ with a small core and a billowing gaseous atmosphere,” as per the Times. Because of its close, 9.1-day orbit around its star, the planet would be too hot to be habitable, scientists say. Still, Kepler’s mission continues. “K2 is uniquely positioned to … further define the boundary between rocky worlds like Earth and ice giants like Neptune,” a Kepler/K2 project scientist says in a NASA press release. (Astronomers think they found their first “exomoon” hovering around an exoplanet last year.)

Next is the Martian Rover…..it keeps finding groundbreaking stuff……its newest finding…..Mars is farting!

The Mars rover has delivered what a NASA scientist calls an “oh my gosh moment”—it detected methane on the red planet, reports the New York Times. The discovery is making headlines because the gas had to originate somewhere, and one possibility is that the source is some form of microbial life, reports the Guardian. “That we detect methane in the atmosphere on Mars is not an argument that we have found evidence of life on Mars, but it’s one of the few hypotheses that we can propose that we must consider,” says scientist John Grotzinger of the Curiosity team. The rover picked up spikes in the levels of methane that disappeared in a matter of weeks.

The source, however, could be geological rather than biological, explains National Geographic: “Interactions between water and rock could produce methane, as could sunlight cooking off meteorite debris on the Martian surface.” It’s also possible that even if microbes did create the methane, the bugs are long gone, reports the BBC. The gas could have been trapped underground eons ago, and it surfaces periodically because of thermal disturbances. The best hope for real answers is if Curiosity happens to detect a large amount of the gas that can be properly analyzed. Today’s news is all the more surprising because NASA announced just last year that the rover could find no methane at all.

Every year we expand our knowledge of the universe……and soon we will have confirmation of life beyond our little third rock from the sun…..