Carnival of Space 316

1. Universe Today Free-floating rogue planets are intriguing objects. The leading theory on how these nomadic planets came to exist is that they were they ejected from their parent star system. But new research shows that there are places in interstellar space that might have the right conditions to form planets — with no parent star required.

Astronomers have found that tiny, round, dark clouds called globulettes have the right characteristics to form free-floating planets. The graph shows the spectrum of one of the globulettes taken at the 20-metre telescope at Onsala Space Observatory. Radio waves from molecules of carbon monoxide (13CO) give information on the mass and structure of these clouds. ESO/M. Mäkelä.

2. Discovery magazine has notes from the Starship Congress: If we become an interstellar race, what should we do if we run into extraterrestrial life?

3. Cheap Astronomy offers podcast on the how 3d printing might help humanity become a space-faring species.

4. The Outer Hoard has a post about designing a logo for the Amateur Astronomical Society of Kenya. It describes how the logo came to be designed, what the various components represent, and how it was shared with The Bad Astronomer on his Australian tour.

5. One Minute Astronomer – A review of the book “The Stardust Revolution”, which explains the new science at the intersection of astronomy and biology, and tells the story of how we can trace our heritage back to the stars themselves.

6. To correct for atmospheric turbulence, the Giant Magellan Telescope team developed a very powerful adaptive optics system that floats a thin (1.6 mm –1/16 of inch thick) curved glass mirror (85 cm across) on a magnetic field 9.2 meter above the big primary mirror of the telescope. This, so-called Adaptive Secondary Mirror (ASM) can change its shape at 585 points on its surface 1000 times a second. In this manner the “blurring” effects of the atmosphere can be removed, and thanks to the high density of actuators on this mirror, astronomers can see the visible sky more clearly than ever before. They can resolve objects just 0.02 arcseconds across—this is a very small angle—it is like resolving the width of a dime seen from 100 miles away, or like resolving a convoy of three school buses driving together on the surface of the Moon.

The VisAO camera and MagAO wavefront sensors at the focus of the 6.5m Magellan telescope (all optics inside dark ring) that were used to make the visible wavelength images. Dr. Jared Males (VisAO instrument scientist/NASA Sagan Fellow) and Professor Laird Close (MagAO project scientist) are shown for scale from left to right. Photo credit Dr. Katie Morzinski, NASA Sagan Fellow at the University of Arizona.

7. Nextbigfuture – The new camera and adaptive optics of the Giant Magellan Telescope are enabling the sharpest images of the night sky ever. This is just the start for the next generation of ground based telescopes. The Giant Magellan telescope still must be completed for its combined lens for 27 meter collecting area. Two other big ground based telescopes are the Thirty meter telescope and the European Extremely Large Telescope. They will have up to one hundred times the resolution of the Hubble Telescope and 20 times the collecting area.

European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT)

8. Nextbigfuture – Geoffrey Landis has proposed aerostat habitats followed by floating cities in the atmosphere of Venus. It is based on the concept that breathable air (21:79 Oxygen/Nitrogen mixture) is a lifting gas in the dense carbon dioxide atmosphere, with over 60% of the lifting power that helium has on Earth. In effect, a balloon full of human-breathable air would sustain itself and extra weight (such as a colony) in midair. At an altitude of 50 kilometers (31 mi) above Venusian surface, the environment is the most Earth-like in the solar system – a pressure of approximately 1 bar and temperatures in the 0°C–50°C range. Because there is not a significant pressure difference between the inside and the outside of the breathable-air balloon, any rips or tears would cause gases to diffuse at normal atmospheric mixing rates rather than an explosive decompression, giving time to repair any such damages.

9. Nextbigfuture – Sonny White is building on work by a Miguel Alcubierre who estimated that it would be possible to achieve this if an object had negative mass. The early work indicated a Jupiter mass or more of exotic matter was needed. He provided an update on his experimental and theoretical work to create and detect warping of space.

10. Urban astronomer – Gliese 637C is a nearby dwarf star with at least 6 planets. Three of these are super-Earths, and lie in the star’s habitable zone

11. If space settlements aren’t exactly in the news, they are in the movies, in particular in the recent film Elysium. However unrealistic that film may be, there are fascinating possibilities for building large habitats where people could live comfortably in space. There’s a cool article on one design in the current issue of NSS’s ad Astra magazine.

12. A bright SOHO comet plunges towards the Sun and vaporizes

13. The close appoach of NEO 1999 FC9

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