Carnival of Space 333

The Carnival of Space 333 is up at Dear Astronomer.

Universe Today – ESA’s Gaia Mission Launches to Map the Milky Way

The Meridiani Journal – Has the first exomoon been found?

Nextbigfuture – On Saturday, a Chinese lunar probe made the first soft landing anyone’s made on the moon since 1976. The Chang’e-3 probe means that China is one of only three countries — joining the United States and the old Soviet Union — to accomplish such a feat. The probe includes an unmanned rover named Yutu that will spend several months exploring “”geological structure and surface substances and looking for natural resources.” But will China try to claim the ground it explores? Possibly.

October Sky author Homer Hickam was more excited. He wondered on Twitter if China might want to make a territorial claim on the moon, noting that the area the lander is exploring may contain an abundance of Helium-3, a potentially valuable fusion energy fuel that is found only on the moon. According to former astronaut/geologist Harrison Schmitt, China “”has made no secret”” of its interest in Helium-3. Schmitt observes, “”I would assume that this mission is both a geopolitical statement and a test of some hardware and software related to mining and processing of the lunar regolith.

Nextbigfuture – 1. There is a theory called “rainbow gravity,”. It posits that gravity’s effects on spacetime are felt differently by different wavelengths of light. Awad and his colleagues found two possible beginnings to the universe based on slightly different interpretations of the ramifications of rainbow gravity. In one scenario, if you retrace time backward, the universe gets denser and denser, approaching an infinite density but never quite reaching it. In the other picture the universe reaches an extremely high, but finite, density as you look back in time and then plateaus. In neither case is there a singularity—a point in time when the universe is infinitely dense—or in other words, a big bang. “”This was, of course, an interesting result, because in most cosmological models, we have singularities,”” Awad says. The result suggests perhaps the universe had no beginning at all, and that time can be traced back infinitely far.

2. Physicists have long predicted that the universe may one day collapse, and that everything in it will be compressed to a small hard ball. New calculations from physicists at the University of Southern Denmark now confirm this prediction – and
they also conclude that the risk of a collapse is even greater than previously thought.

Nextbigfuture – Within a year or two, the number of humans who have been to space may double to about 1100, says William Pomerantz of Virgin Galactic, the company who hopes to make that happen. Sometime in 2014, entrepreneur Richard Branson and his two children aim to be on the first commercial flight of SpaceShip Two, Virgin Galactic’s rocket for propelling eight people 100 kilometers above the Earth. To date, 542 people have been in space. Virgin has sold 660 tickets at $250,000 each, for its three-day experience which culminates in a two-hour flight, about four minutes of it floating in microgravity.

Nextbigfuture – Current techniques for estimating exoplanetary mass are limited. Radial velocity is the main method scientists use: tiny wobbles in a star’s orbit as it is tugged around by the planet’s gravitational force, from which scientists can derive the planet-to-star mass ratio. For very large, Neptune-sized planets, or smaller Earth-sized planets orbiting very close to bright stars, radial velocity works relatively well. But the technique is less successful with smaller planets that orbit much farther from their stars, as Earth does. Now scientists at MIT have developed a new technique for determining the mass of exoplanets, using only their transit signal — dips in light as a planet passes in front of its star. This data has traditionally been used to determine a planet’s size and atmospheric properties, but the MIT team has found a way to interpret it such that it also reveals the planet’s mass.

Nextbigfuture – Terrestrial energy is trying to develop integral molten salt nuclear fission reactors. These nuclear reactors would have about 20-200 times less volume than conventional nuclear fission reactors. The US, Europe and China are trying to develop supercritical carbon dioxide turbines that would have 100 times less volume than regular steam turbines. The 60 MW thermal IMSR would be the size of a fairly deep hottub. The Supercritical CO2 turbine would be about 8-10 cubic meters. The Supercritical CO2 could boost the electrical power to 33 MWe. 33MWe is 44,254 horsepower, which is about 30 times more power than the 1500 horsepower in current tanks. The 550 ton Russian Zubr hovercraft has 57000 horsepower. So a 170 ton nuclear fission (integral molten salt with supercritical CO2 turbines) could be designed with hovercraft capability.

An M1 Abrams tank weighs 67 tons and has an external volume of about 83 cubic meters. Internal volume is about 50 cubic meters. The Hammer’s Slammers Science fiction nuclear hovertank would be enabled with the two technologies that are under development (molten salt reactors and supercritical CO2 turbines.

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