March 28, 2015

Carnival of Space 399

1. Chandra Xray Space Telescope - In Hollywood blockbusters, explosions are often among the stars of the show. In space, explosions of actual stars are a focus for scientists who hope to better understand their births, lives, and deaths and how they interact with their surroundings.

2. Chandra Xray Space Telescope - Dark Matter is Darker Than Once Thought

3. Meridiani Journal - Cassini finds evidence for hydrothermal activity on Saturn’s moon Enceladus

Hydrothermal vent on the ocean bottom on Earth, an oasis for various life forms. Similar vents are now thought to exist in the ocean inside Enceladus as well. Photo Credit: NOAA/PMEL

4. Venus Transit - the solar eclipse was very partial from Israel. Only 6% percent at the greatest but an eclipse is still a great opportuniy for sidewalk astronomy so I took my scope and myself to the busy local mall at Friday noon.

5. Huffington Post - Light is one of those things that we almost inevitably take for granted. In fact, many of us might not realize the extent that we overlook its contributions to our lives, because it's hard to see - literally -- just how much it does.

6. Universe Today - Using 19th Century Technology to Time Travel to the Stars

7. On my latest astronomy trip to the Sahara in Southern Morocco, I met with many enthusiast people in astronomy. I had a blast doing many activities related to astronomy and learned a great deal about it. Follow the complete astronomy trip post series (9 in total) and enjoy the astronomy behind it.

8. Armaghplanet - With a ‘space-exploration CV’ big enough to eclipse the achievements of most of the other space probes in its class, the Cassini-Huygens orbiter has revealed much from one of our Solar System’s most fascinating planetary systems, Saturn. Cassini-Huygens’ fact-finding days are not over however, having recently sent back fresh data from Saturn’s largest moon, Titan…

9. Chandra Xray Space Telescope - Steve Hawley was the flight engineer on the STS-93 Columbia mission that carried Chandra into space in 1999.

10. Nextbigfuture - A pair of bright spots glimmering inside an impact crater on the dwarf planet Ceres, mystifying scientists, could be coming from some kind of icy plume or other active geological feature.

New images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft show the spots, known as ‘feature number 5’, at changing angles as the dwarf planet rotates in and out of sunlight. The pictures reveal the spots even when they appear near the edge of Ceres, when the sides of the impact crater would normally block the view of anything confined to the bottom. That something is visible at all in this circumstance suggests that the feature must rise relatively high above the surface.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA. The Dawn spacecraft captured this image of Ceres' twin bright spots on 19 February.

11. Nextbigfuture - The cheapest, smallest reactors will emerge from the so-called magneto-inertial fusion (MIF) parameter space. This physics regime is a hybrid between the low density magnetic confinement and beyond solid density inertial confinement. Many of the smallest proposed fusion propulsion systems are in fact MIF systems, consistent with this recent study. (The Case and Development Path for Fusion Propulsion by Jason Cassibry, Ross Cortez, Milos Stanic)

Among the various MIF confinement schemes, we observe that pulsed z-pinch based approaches have potentially solved many of the perceived problems associated with instabilities, and that breakeven systems may require only ~60 MA of current. Such a current level is only a factor of 3 away from current capabilities at the Sandia Z Machine and a factor of 30 away from a new pulsed power facility being reassembled at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in collaboration with NASA MSFC and The Boeing Company. We offer a potential development path to a TRL 9 flight system, including potential side experiments that can be done to help pay for the development and upgrades to facilites.

12. Nextbigfuture -
David Blair, a graduate student in Purdue's Department of Earth,
Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, led the study that examined whether empty lava tubes more than 1 kilometer wide could remain structurally stable on the moon.

"We found that if lunar lava tubes existed with a strong arched shape like those on Earth, they would be stable at sizes up to 5,000 meters, or several miles wide, on the moon," Blair said. "This wouldn't be possible on Earth, but gravity is much lower on the moon and lunar rock doesn't have to withstand the same weathering and erosion. In theory, huge lava tubes - big enough to easily house a city - could be structurally sound on the moon."

The city of Philadelphia is shown inside a theoretical lunar lava tube. A Purdue University team of researchers explored whether lava tubes more than 1 kilometer wide could remain structurally stable on the moon. (Purdue University/courtesy of David Blair)

Downtown Philadelphia

13. Nextbigfuture - Ceres will be the main base and hub for future asteroid belt mining. NASA now has the Dawn spacecraft in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres.

Ceres has one-tenth of the total water in Earth's oceans. The solar irradiance of 150 W/m2 at aphelion, one ninth that on Earth, is high enough for solar-power facilities. The total volume of water on Earth is about 1.4 billion cubic kilometers, around 41 million of which is fresh water. If Ceres' mantle accounts for 25 percent of the asteroid's mass, that would translate to an upper limit of 200 million cubic kilometers of fresh water (5 times more fresh water than Earth).

14. Nextbigfuture - NASA examined revolutionary aerospace systems concepts for human space exploration of the solar system beyond Mars orbit and identified critical technology requirements for the realization of these systems concepts.

Due to its distance from Jupiter's powerful radiation belt, Callisto is subject to only 0.01 rem a day. When NASA carried out a study called HOPE (Revolutionary Concepts for Human Outer Planet Exploration) regarding the future exploration of the Solar System, the target chosen was Callisto. It could be possible to build a surface base that would produce fuel for further exploration of the Solar System. Callisto has long been considered the most suitable place for a human base for future exploration of the Jovian system.

- Callisto is the fourth moon of Jupiter: mostly outside of radiation belts
- About the size of the planet Mercury, surface at 1/8 G
- Most heavily cratered place in the solar system
- Covered with ice and asteroid dust

15. Nextbigfuture - Researchers from the Australian National University and the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen have calculated the probability for the number of stars in the Milky Way that might have planets in the habitable zone by analyzing Kepler data. The calculations show that billions of the stars in the Milky Way will have one to three planets in the habitable zone, where there is the potential for liquid water and where life could exist.

16. Nextbigfuture - Zaptec has a new plasma drilling technology which could achieve practical, affordable, and reliable deep drilling on the Moon, asteroids, Mars, and its moons. The drilling system comprises a freely advancing drill head tethered by a power cable to a power source topside and high voltage generator downhole. The drill advances by generating a high-energy density plasma at the drill head which breaks down and pulverizes the target rock. A key enabling technology is the system’s ability to deliver high energy plasma discharges via low mass, small volume power transformers located in the drill head section. Powder cuttings may be removed by circulating compressed CO2.

Zaptec on the Moon

On the Moon, the subsurface in the polar regions may be a repository of volatiles of value to science and as a potential resource for future human exploration. A Zaptec drill could be deployed on a future robotic lunar lander mission, such as Moon Express, or in the context of human missions. The mineral dust can then be used as raw materials for local manufacturing.

Zaptec on Asteroids, the Moons of Mars, and Other Rocky Small Bodies

On asteroids, the subsurface may yield pristine asteroidal materials and potential resources for human exploration as well. The moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos, are expected to present similar opportunities. Because the Zaptec approach does not require weight on bit, it is able to effectively drill into any rocky small body in microgravity. The Zaptec system is anticipated to reach 50 to 100 meter depths with less than 250 kg of gear topside and 1 kW of peak power.

Zaptec has developed a patented electronic transformer that enables transformation of high voltages and high currents in very small devices, reducing material usage by a factor of 100. Zaptec's transformer enables plasma lightning pulses to be generated and controlled in very compact, powerful drilling technology. Plasma drilling technology offers the potential to extract water ice at significantly lower power levels compared with traditional mechanical drilling systems.


16. Urban Astronomer - We are collision course with the Andromeda Galaxy, but we've got rather more than just a few decades to get our affairs in order, so I wouldn't worry too much just yet.

It is a slow process. Galaxies are so large that even if they were travelling at the speed of light, it would still take hundreds of thousands of years for them to pass each other by. Since they move a great deal more slowly than light, the entire process of colliding, deforming, swinging around each other and eventually coalescing into a larger elliptical galaxy takes many hundreds of millions of years.

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