Sunday, February 28, 2010




Where Stars Are Born

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Warming World - Piecing Together The Temperature Puzzle

Global Warming: Each year, scientists at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies analyze global temperature data. The past year, 2009, tied as the second warmest year since global instrumental temperature records began 130 years ago.

Worldwide, the mean temperature was 0.57°C (1.03°F) warmer than the 1951-1980 base period. And January 2000 to December 2009 came out as the warmest decade on record.

Our warmest decade: NASA scientists unveil their latest findings on our warming world: 2009 is tied as the second warmest year since modern recordkeeping began, and 2000-2009 is the hottest decade ever.

Just 5 questions: On the record....about the temperature record. NASA climatologist Gavin Schmidt talks about the Earth's surface temperature record and the data behind it.

Sea change: The world's oceans are a mighty force. Their natural rhythms can sometimes hide global warming and sometimes accentuate it. NASA scientists say that ocean effects currently at play could well help make 2010 the warmest year ever.

It's snow joke: Do local bouts of cold weather mean global warming is over? No. Read more to learn why cold snaps + global warming do add up.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Unraveling The Mysteries Of Climate and Environmental Change

NASA Earth Science: Terra's 10th Anniversary - Unraveling The Mysteries Of Climate And Environmental Change.

Terra is a multi-national, multi-disciplinary mission involving partnerships with the aerospace agencies of Canada and Japan. Managed by NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center, the mission also receives key contributions from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Langley Research Center. Terra is an important part of NASAs Science Mission, helping us better understand and protect our home planet.

4.5-billion-year history is a study in change. Natural geological forces have been rearranging the surface features and climatic conditions of our planet since its beginning. Today, there is compelling scientific evidence that human activities have attained the magnitude of a geological force and are speeding up the rates of global changes.

For example, carbon dioxide levels have risen 25 percent since the industrial revolution and about 40 percent of the worlds land surface has been transformed by humans. Scientists dont understand the cause-and-effect relationships among Earth's lands, oceans, and atmosphere well enough to predict what, if any, impacts these rapid changes will have on future climate conditions.

Scientists need to make many measurements all over the world, over a long period of time, in order to assemble the information needed to construct accurate computer models that will enable them to forecast the causes and effects of climate change.

The only feasible way to collect this information is through the use of space-based Earth remote sensors (instruments that can measure things like temperature from a distance). Consequently, NASAs Earth Observing System has begun an international study of planet Earth that is comprised of three main components:

1) a series of satellites specially designed to study the complexities of global change;
2) an advanced computer network for processing, storing, and distributing data (called EOSDIS); and
3) teams of scientists all over the world who will study the data.

On February 24, 2000, Terra began collecting what will ultimately become a new, 15-year global data set on which to base scientific investigations about our complex home planet. Together with the entire fleet of EOS spacecraft, Terra is helping scientists unravel the mysteries of climate and environmental change.

If you want to learn more about other EOS missions, visit the EOS Missions Page. If you want to learn about new EOS science results, visit the Earth Observatory.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Born In The Wake Of A Supernova

Astronomers from NASA and ESA have found a new solar system that is forming after a star went supernova!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cosmic Collisions - Galaxies Gone Wild

Fifty-nine images of colliding galaxies make up the largest collection of Hubble images ever released together. As this astonishing Hubble atlas of interacting galaxies illustrates, galaxy collisions produce a remarkable variety of intricate structures.

Interacting galaxies are found throughout the Universe, sometimes as dramatic collisions that trigger bursts of star formation, on other occasions as stealthy mergers that result in new galaxies. A series of 59 new images of colliding galaxies has been released from the several terabytes of archived raw images from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to mark the 18th anniversary of the telescope's launch. This is the largest collection of Hubble images ever released to the public simultaneously.

Galaxy mergers, which were more common in the early Universe than they are today, are thought to be one of the main driving forces for cosmic evolution, turning on quasars, sparking frenetic star births and explosive stellar deaths. Even apparently isolated galaxies will show signs in their internal structure that they have experienced one or more mergers in their past. Each of the various merging galaxies in this series of images is a snapshot of a different instant in the long interaction process.

Our own Milky Way contains the debris of the many smaller galaxies it has encountered and devoured in the past, and it is currently absorbing the Sagittarius dwarf elliptical galaxy. In turn, it looks as if our Milky Way will be subsumed into its giant neighbour, the Andromeda galaxy, resulting in an elliptical galaxy, dubbed "Milkomeda", the new home for the Earth, the Sun and the rest of the Solar System in about two billion years time. The two galaxies are currently rushing towards each other at approximately 500,000 kilometres per hour.


Hubblecast features news and Images from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST).

The space-based observatory is a collaboration between NASA and ESA. The observations are carried out in visible, infrared and ultraviolet light. In many ways Hubble has revolutionised modern astronomy.

The Hubble Space Telescope has made some of the most dramatic discoveries in the history of astronomy. From its vantage point 600 km above the Earth, Hubble can detect light with "eyes" five times sharper than the best ground-based telescopes and looks deep into space where some of the most profound mysteries are still buried in the mists of time.

Dr. J is a German astronomer at the ESO. His scientific interests are in cosmology, particularly on galaxy evolution and quasars. Dr. J's real name is Joe Liske and he has a PhD in astronomy.

Spaceship Spitzer: Subermassive Black Hole In Our Galaxy

Spaceship Spitzer: Enemy Mine. Journey to the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy.

IRrelevant Astronomy is a video podcast feed produced by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Unlike many other podcasts, it is set up more like a television network, with multiple series and stand-alone videos released on this single "channel."

To date, the content included on the feed has all incorporated animation in some manner, and generally tends to be comedic. The "IR" in the title stands for "infrared", meaning the title actually refers to "infrared-relevant astronomy."

On October 19, 2008, IRrelevant Astronomy was nominated for "Best Technology/Science Podcast" at the 2008 Podcast Awards. It was one of 10 finalists in this category following a nomination process that included 281,000 votes.

In October 2009, the IRrelevant Astronomy episode "Psych Out" was an official selection at the 2nd annual Imagine Science Film Festival.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Why Space Development Matters

Carl Sagan - Pale Blue Dot

Facts Of Evolution: Universal Common Descent


1. Does The Evidence Support Evolution?
2. Vitamin C And Common Ancestry
3. Are We Descended From Viruses?
4. Does The Fossil Record Support Evolution?
5. Where Are The Transitional Forms?


In evolutionary biology, a group of organisms have common descent if they have a common ancestor. All living organisms on Earth are descended from a common ancestor or ancestral gene pool.

Charles Darwin proposed his theory of universal common descent through an evolutionary process in his "On the Origin of Species" (1859), and later in "The Descent of Man" (1871). This theory is now widely accepted by biologists.

The last universal ancestor (LUA) (or last universal common ancestor, LUCA), that is, the most recent common ancestor of all currently living organisms, is believed to have appeared about 3.9 billion years ago.

In "The Ancestor's Tale", Richard Dawkins coined the word concestor, as a substitute for common ancestor or most recent common ancestor. This new word is very gradually entering scientific parlance.

Common biochemistry and genetic code: All known forms of life are based on the same fundamental biochemical organisation: genetic information encoded in DNA, transcribed into RNA, through the effect of protein- and RNA-enzymes, then translated into proteins by (highly similar) ribosomes, with ATP, NADH and others as energy sources, etc.

Furthermore, the genetic code (the "translation table" according to which DNA information is translated into proteins) is nearly identical for all known lifeforms, from bacteria to humans.

The universality of this code is generally regarded by biologists as definitive evidence in favor of the theory of universal common descent. Analysis of the small differences in the genetic code has also provided support for universal common descent.


The Cassiopeia Project - making science simple!

The Cassiopeia Project is an effort to make high quality science videos available to everyone. If you can visualize it, then understanding is not far behind.

An Atheist In Space

Question: How would you describe your own life stance today? How do you relate to God and religion?

Swedish Astronaut Christer Fuglesang: "Well, from about the age of ten I've been convinced that there is no God, there is nothing we can't explain with the physical laws."

Arne Christer Fuglesang (born March 18, 1957 in Stockholm) is a Swedish physicist and an ESA astronaut. He was first launched aboard the STS-116 Shuttle mission on December 10, 2006, at 01:47 GMT, making him the first Swedish citizen in space.

Married with three children, he is a Fellow at CERN and taught mathematics at the Royal Institute of Technology before being selected to join the Astronaut Corps of the European Space Agency in 1992.

As of 29 August, 2009, he has participated on two Space Shuttle missions and five spacewalks, and is the first astronaut outside of the United States or Russian space programs to participate in more than three spacewalks.


Christer Fuglesang, ESA Astronaut

PERSONAL DATA: Born 18 March 1957 in Stockholm, Sweden. Married to the former Elisabeth Walldie. They have three children. Christer enjoys sports, sailing, skiing, frisbee, games and reading.

EDUCATION: Graduated from Bromma Gymnasium, Stockholm in 1975 and received a Master of Science in engineering physics from the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Stockholm, in 1981. He received a Doctorate in experimental particle physics in 1987 and became a Docent in particle physics in 1991 at the University of Stockholm. He was appointed Affiliated Professor at KTH in 2006.

SPECIAL HONORS: Honorary Doctorate from Umeå University, Sweden (1999). Honorary Doctorate from the University of Nova Gorica, Slovenia (2007). NASA Space Flight Medal (2007). H.M. The Kings Medal (Stockholm, 2007).

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Saturn's Stunning Aurorae

Hubblecast 33: Saturn's stunning double show.

In January and March 2009, researchers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope recently took advantage of a rare opportunity to record Saturn when its rings are edge-on, resulting in a unique movie featuring both of the giant planets poles.

Saturn is only in this position every 15 years or so and this favourable orientation has allowed a sustained study of the two beautiful and dynamic aurorae, Saturns own northern and southern lights.

It takes Saturn nearly 30 years to orbit our Sun, so chances to image both poles are rare. Hubble has been snapping pictures of Saturns aurora since 1990, but 2009 brought the unique opportunity for Hubble to image Saturn with its rings edge-on and both poles in view, allowing for spectacular shots of its active aurorae. As Saturn was approaching its equinox, both poles were equally illuminated by the Suns ray.

An enormous and grand ringed planet, Saturn is certainly one of the most intriguing bodies orbiting the Sun. Hubble has now taken a fresh look at the fluttering aurorae that light up both of Saturns poles. These recent observations go well beyond just a still image and have allowed researchers to monitor the behaviour of both Saturns poles in the same shot over a sustained period of time.

The movie they created from the data collected over several days during January and March 2009, has aided astronomers studying both Saturns northern and southern aurorae. Given the rarity of such an event, this new footage will likely be the last and best equinox movie that Hubble captures of our planetary neighbour.

Despite its remoteness, the Sun is still Saturns parent star and, as we all know, a parents influence is far reaching. The Sun constantly emits particles that reach all the planets of the Solar System as the solar wind. When this electrically charged stream gets close to a planet with a magnetic field, like Saturn or the Earth, the field traps the particles, bouncing them back and forth between its two poles.

A natural consequence of the shape of the planets magnetic field, a series of invisible "traffic lanes" exist between the two poles along which the electrically charged particles are confined as they oscillate between the poles.

The magnetic field is stronger at the poles and the particles tend to concentrate there, where they interact with atoms in the upper layers of the atmosphere, creating aurorae, the familiar glow that the inhabitants of the Earths polar regions know as the northern and southern lights.

At first glance the light show of Saturns aurorae appears symmetrically at the two poles. However, analysing the new data in greater detail, astronomers have discovered some subtle differences between the northern and southern aurorae, which reveal important information about Saturns magnetic field.

The northern auroral oval is slightly smaller and more intense than the southern one, implying that Saturns magnetic field is not equally distributed across the planet; it is slightly uneven and stronger in the north than the south. As a result, the electrically charged particles in the north are accelerated to higher energies as they are fired toward the atmosphere than those in the south. This confirms a previous result obtained by the space probe Cassini, in orbit around the ringed planet since 2004.

These dramatic light shows observed by Hubble on Saturn are not only charming features, but they might teach us something about our own planet and its magnetic field.

Quantum Entanglement - The Weirdness of Quantum Mechanincs

Green Bomber Worms

Meet Swima Bombaviridis, a newly discovered species found at great depths of the Pacific Ocean. They drop green bioluminescent bombs to evade predators

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Orion In A New Light

The Orion Nebula reveals many of its hidden secrets in a dramatic image taken by ESOs new VISTA survey telescope. VISTA — the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy — is the latest addition to ESOs Paranal Observatory. It is the largest survey telescope in the world and is dedicated to mapping the sky at infrared wavelengths.

The telescopes huge field of view can show the full splendour of the Orion Nebula and VISTAs infrared vision also allows it to peer deeply into dusty regions that are normally hidden and expose the curious behaviour of the very active young stars buried there.

The Orion Nebula lies in the sword of the famous celestial hunter and is a favourite target both for casual sky watchers and astrophysicists alike. It is faintly visible to the unaided eye and appeared to early telescopic observers as a small cluster of blue-white stars surrounded by a mysterious grey-green mist.

The object was first described in the early seventeenth century although the identity of the discoverer is uncertain. The French comet-hunter Messier made an accurate sketch of its main features in the mid-eighteenth century and gave it the number 42 in his famous catalogue. He also allocated the number 43 to the smaller detached region just above the main part of the nebula.

Later William Herschel speculated that the nebula might be the chaotic material of future suns and astronomers have since discovered that the mist is indeed gas glowing under the fierce ultraviolet light from young hot stars that have recently formed there.


VISTA — the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy — is the latest addition to ESOs Paranal Observatory. It is the largest survey telescope in the world and is dedicated to mapping the sky at infrared wavelengths. The large (4.1-metre) mirror, wide field of view and very sensitive detectors make VISTA a unique instrument. This dramatic new image of the Orion Nebula illustrates VISTAs remarkable powers.

The Orion Nebula is a vast stellar nursery lying about 1350 light-years from Earth. Although the nebula is spectacular when seen through an ordinary telescope, what can be seen using visible light is only a small part of a cloud of gas in which stars are forming.

Most of the action is deeply embedded in dust clouds and to see what is really happening astronomers need to use telescopes with detectors sensitive to the longer wavelength radiation that can penetrate the dust. VISTA has imaged the Orion Nebula at wavelengths about twice as long as can be detected by the human eye.

As in the many visible light pictures of this object, the new wide field VISTA image shows the familiar bat-like form of the nebula in the centre of the picture as well as the fascinating surrounding area.

At the very heart of this region lie the four bright stars forming the Trapezium, a group of very hot young stars pumping out fierce ultraviolet radiation that is clearing the surrounding region and making the gas glow. However, observing in the infrared allows VISTA to reveal many other young stars in this central region that cannot be seen in visible light.

Looking to the region above the centre of the picture, curious red features appear that are completely invisible except in the infrared. Many of these are very young stars that are still growing and are seen through the dusty clouds from which they form.

These youthful stars eject streams of gas with typical speeds of 700 000 km/hour and many of the red features highlight the places where these gas streams collide with the surrounding gas, causing emission from excited molecules and atoms in the gas.

There are also a few faint, red features below the Orion Nebula in the image, showing that stars form there too, but with much less vigour. These strange features are of great interest to astronomers studying the birth and youth of stars.

This new image shows the power of the VISTA telescope to image wide areas of sky quickly and deeply in the near-infrared part of the spectrum. The telescope is just starting to survey the sky and astronomers are anticipating a rich harvest of science from this unique ESO facility.


Credit: ESO. Acknowledgments: J. Emerson/VISTA. Visual design and editing: Martin Kornmesser. Editing: Herbert Zodet. Web and technical support: Lars Holm Nielsen and Raquel Yumi Shida. Written by: Eric Schwartz and Richard Hook. Narration: Dr J. Music: John Dyson (from the album darklight) and movetwo. Footage and photos: ESO. Directed by: Herbert Zodet. Executive producer: Lars Lindberg Christensen.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

ISS Tour- Welcom To The International Space Station

The International Space Station (ISS) is an internationally developed research facility, which is being assembled in low Earth orbit. On-orbit construction of the station began in 1998 and is scheduled for completion by 2011. The station will remain in operation until at least 2015, and likely 2020.

With a greater mass than that of any previous space station, the ISS can be seen from the Earth with the naked eye, and, as of 2010, is the largest artificial satellite orbiting the Earth.

The ISS serves as a research laboratory that has a microgravity environment in which crews conduct experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy and meteorology.

The station has a unique environment for the testing of the spacecraft systems that will be required for missions to the Moon and Mars. The ISS is operated by Expedition crews, and has been continuously staffed since November 2000—an uninterrupted human presence in space for the past nine years.

The ISS is a synthesis of several space station projects that includes the American Freedom, the Soviet/Russian Mir-2, the European Columbus and the Japanese Kibō. Budget constraints led to the merger of these projects into a single multi-national programme.

The ISS project began in 1994 with the Shuttle-Mir programme, and the first module of the station, Zarya, was launched in 1998 by Russia. Assembly continues, as pressurised modules, external trusses and other components are launched by American space shuttles, Russian Proton rockets and Russian Soyuz rockets.

As of November 2009, the station consisted of 11 pressurised modules and an extensive integrated truss structure (ITS). Power is provided by 16 solar arrays mounted on the external truss, in addition to four smaller arrays on the Russian modules.

The station is maintained at an orbit between 278 km (173 mi) and 460 km (286 mi) altitude, and travels at an average speed of 27,724 km/h (17,227 mph), completing 15.7 orbits per day.

Operated as a joint project between the five participant space agencies, the station's sections are controlled by mission control centres on the ground operated by the American National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Russian Federal Space Agency (RKA), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and the European Space Agency (ESA).

The ownership and use of the space station is established in intergovernmental treaties and agreements that allow the Russian Federation to retain full ownership of its own modules, with the remainder of the station allocated between the other international partners.

The cost of the station has been estimated by ESA as €100 billion over 30 years, and, although estimates range from 35 billion dollars to 160 billion dollars, the ISS is believed to be the most expensive object ever constructed. The financing, research capabilities and technical design of the ISS programme have been criticised because of the high cost.

The station is serviced by Soyuz spacecraft, Progress spacecraft, space shuttles, the Automated Transfer Vehicle and the H-II Transfer Vehicle, and has been visited by astronauts and cosmonauts from 15 different nations.

HiRISE 3-D: New Amazing Mars Flyover

Friday, February 5, 2010

Tranquility - Room With A View

The Theory of Evolution in 2 Minutes

Jupiter's Moons

"Jupiter's Moons" with Jane Houston Jones at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

Jupiter has 63 confirmed moons, giving it the largest retinue of moons with "reasonably secure" orbits of any planet in the Solar System.

The most massive of them, the four Galilean moons, were discovered in 1610 by Galileo Galilei and were the first objects found to orbit a body that was neither Earth nor the Sun.

From the end of the 19th century, dozens of much smaller Jovian moons have been discovered and have received the names of lovers, conquests, or daughters of the Roman god Jupiter, or his Greek equivalent, Zeus.

The Galileans are far and away the largest objects in orbit around Jupiter, with the remaining 59 moons and the rings together comprising just 0.003 percent of the total orbiting mass.

Jupiters largest moons were first seen 400 years ago in early 1610. On the seventh of January, 1610 in Padua, Italy, Galileo looked up above the constellation Orion. He aimed his telescope at the well-known starry wanderer, the planet Jupiter, which was near Orion that night.

What he saw through his telescope startled him and marked the beginning of modern astronomy.Jupiter was not just one object, as he wrote and drew in his journal. There are three stars in the heavens moving about Jupiter, as Venus and Mercury around the sun, he wrote.

Galileos January 7 observation showed three stars. The one star to the west was Ganymede. And to the east there were two objects.One was the moon Callisto. And the other was a tight pairing of Io and Europa. Io and Europa appeared so close together they looked like one object in Galileos modest telescopic view.

On January 8 he saw a different lineup altogether. There were three stars on one side of the planet. Io was the moon closest to the planet, followed by Europa and Ganymede. Two cloudy nights and two additional observations later, on January 13 Galileo identified a fourth object orbiting Jupiter.

The arrangement this night turned out to be Europa on the east and Ganymede, Io and Callisto on the west. On January 15 all four stars were seen on one side of the planet. Everyone who aims a modest telescope, or even binoculars, at Jupiter will see the same view that Galileo did.

The views of tiny moons orbiting the king of the planets will surprise and delight all who look up. [ Jupiter is hard to see in the evening sky this month. But northern hemisphere observers may see Jupiter and Venus close together, low on the southwestern horizon, on Valentines Day.

Then it will be a few months wait until Jupiter becomes visible in the morning sky. By August you can once again view Jupiter and the four Galilean moons after dinner or as soon as the sun sets and the stars come out. NASAs Galileo Mission, which ended in 2003, changed the way we look at our solar system.

It found evidence of subsurface saltwater on Europa, Ganymede and Callisto and intense volcanic activity on Io. NASAs JUNO Mission will launch in 2011 on a mission to study Jupiter. And the Europa-Jupiter System Mission, a joint mission of the European Space Agency and NASA, is slated to launch in 2020.It will primarily study Jupiters moons Europa and Ganymede and Jupiters magnetosphere.