Astronomers making a detailed, multi-telescope study of a nearby galaxy have discovered a magnetic field coiled around the galaxy's main spiral arm. The discovery, they said, helps explain how galactic spiral arms are formed. The same study also shows how gas can be funneled inward toward the galaxy's center, which possibly hosts a black hole.
"This study helps resolve some major questions about how galaxies form and evolve," said Rainer Beck, of the Max-Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy ( [...]
The International Space Station got an orbital boost this morning after a docked Russian resupply craft fired its engines for four minutes and eight seconds. One more reboost is scheduled for July 10 when the station will be at the proper altitude for a new Soyuz crew to dock at the end of July.
The crew onboard the orbital laboratory conducted a wide array of experiments today looking at such things as radiation, liquid crystals and life science. The trio of station residents also continued [...]
Hitching a ride to low Earth orbit, LightSail A accomplished a challenging test mission, unfurling its 32 square meter mylar solar sail on June 7. This dramatic image from one of the bread loaf sized spacecraft's fisheye cameras captures the deployed sail glinting in sunlight. Sail out and visible to Earthbound observers before its final orbit, LightSail A reentered the atmosphere last weekend.
Its succesful demonstration paves the way for the LightSail B spacecraft, scheduled for launch in [...]
New Haven, Conn. - When galaxies collide, bright things happen in the universe.
Using the Hubble Space Telescope's infrared vision, astronomers have unveiled some of the previously hidden origins of quasars, the brightest objects in the universe. A new study finds that quasars are born when galaxies crash into each other and fuel supermassive, central black holes.
"The Hubble images confirm that the most luminous quasars in the universe result from violent mergers between galaxies, wh [...]
Astronomers have used the Hubble Space Telescope’s infrared vision to uncover the mysterious early formative years of quasars, the brightest objects in the universe. Hubble’s sharp images unveil chaotic collisions of galaxies that fuel quasars by feeding supermassive central black holes with gas.
“The Hubble observations are definitely telling us that the peak of quasar activity in the early universe is driven by galaxies colliding and then merging together,” said Eilat Glikman of Mid [...]
ESA’s Venus Express has found the best evidence yet for active volcanism on Earth’s neighbour planet.
Seeing the planet’s surface is extremely difficult due to its thick atmosphere, but radar observations by previous missions to Venus have revealed it as a world covered in volcanoes and ancient lava flows.
In a study published in 2010, scientists reported that the infrared radiation coming from three volcanic regions was different to that from the surrounding terrain. They interp [...]
This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows a gathering of four cosmic companions. This quartet forms part of a group of galaxies known as the Hickson Compact Group 16, or HCG 16 — a galaxy group bursting with dramatic star formation, tidal tails, galactic mergers and black holes.
This quartet is composed of (from left to right) NGC 839, NGC 838, NGC 835, and NGC 833 — four of the seven galaxies that make up the entire group. They shine brightly with their glowing golden centres [...]
Beyond Earth, Jupiter’s moon Europa is considered one of the most promising places in the solar system to search for signs of present-day life, and a new NASA mission to explore this potential is moving forward from concept review to development.
NASA’s mission concept -- to conduct a detailed survey of Europa and investigate its habitability -- has successfully completed its first major review by the agency and now is entering the development phase known as formulation.
“Today we [...]
This big, bright, beautiful spiral galaxy is Messier 64, often called the Black Eye Galaxy or the Sleeping Beauty Galaxy for its heavy-lidded appearance in telescopic views. M64 is about 17 million light-years distant in the otherwise well-groomed northern constellation Coma Berenices. In fact, the Red Eye Galaxy might also be an appropriate moniker in this colorful composition.
The enormous dust clouds obscuring the near-side of M64's central region are laced with the telltale reddish glow [...]
It appears I missed a trick on the Lunar fueled post. If two units of volatile mass are launched from the moon to sling around the Earth in opposite directions, they can theoretically impact each other with a closure rate of 22.4 km/s. 11.2 escape times two. If they impact behind the pusher plate of a vehicle in sub orbit, they release energy equivalent to a rocket exhaust of 22,400 m/s, or an ISP of 2,285. Since only half of the material would impact the plate, the Isp would be half that before subtracting various efficiency losses. A net of around 800 seems likely with a water based volatile impactor.
The advantages of this are that the impacts could follow the vehicle all the way to orbital velocity without losing much Isp. And all the Isp comes from Lunar material with no need to carry on board propellant. Other than the pusher plate, the rest of the vehicle is payload. A ton of Lunar fuel provides the energy to orbit a ton of payload.
Clever orbits would seem capable of exceeding escape velocity for outbound vehicles.
This plot shows the masses and sizes of the smallest exoplanets for which both quantities have been measured. The solar system planets (shown in red) are for comparison.
The three Kepler-138 planets (shown in orange) are among the four smallest exoplanets with both size and mass measurements. Kepler-138b is the first exoplanet smaller than Earth to have both its mass and size measured. This significantly extends the range of planets with measured densities.
By measuring both the mass an [...]
Thanks to the extraordinary sensitivity of the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA), astronomers have detected what they believe is the long-sought radio emission coming from a supermassive black hole at the center of one of our closest neighboring galaxies. Evidence for the black hole's existence previously came only from studies of stellar motions in the galaxy and from X-ray observations.
The galaxy, called Messier 32 (M32), is a satellite of the Andromeda Galaxy, our own Milky Way's gian [...]
The three-member Expedition 44 crew is conducting biomedical science today to study the effects of living in space on a crew member’s body. The International Space Station will raise its orbit tomorrow to allow another trio of space residents to join the orbiting residents at the end of July.
Commander Gennady Padalka and One-Year crew members Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko took part in the Ocular Health study today. They looked at the interior of each other’s eyes with a tonometer and [...]
VLT discovers CR7, the brightest distant galaxy, and signs of Population III stars.
Astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope have discovered by far the brightest galaxy yet found in the early Universe and found strong evidence that examples of the first generation of stars lurk within it. These massive, brilliant, and previously purely theoretical objects were the creators of the first heavy elements in history — the elements necessary to forge the stars around us today, the planets t [...]
In helping Jon complete the post a day for a month celebrating 10 years of selenian boondocks, I found I’m not very good at nonspontaneous writing. When I have an idea that I’m passionate about and I write it up during the enthusiasm of developing it, it’s a lot of fun. Trying to create a post a day is the first time I’ve ever written to a deadline. It’s very definitely a different atmosphere. It seems to me the posts are less convincing and probably less fun for the reader.
One reason for less enthusiasm now is I’m not really doing anything physical to move spaceflight forward. I tend to be a participant in things I’m interested in and hardly ever a spectator. Like I tell people about watching porn or sports, that ain’t you so why bother. I want my epitaph to read participant not spectator, and I tend to of been more of a spaceflight spectator than not over the last several years. Finances tend to control ability to participate in space as well as anything else, and since the recession my finances have been quite limited for anything other than keeping my business operating and living my life.
Of the many ideas that I have about propulsion, spaceflight, and making it all happen, virtually all of them require seed money that exceeds what I have readily available. So my focus has been on my business with the idea that if I develop the financial capability I can push some of these ideas forward. Is not a tremendous amount of money to develop demonstration prototypes in the aerospace world, but still considerable to an individual.
I will still write up a few ideas when they occur to me and I’m in the mood and have the time to write, but it is unlikely that I will try to maintain any type of set pace for publication.
Thank you everybody that put up with my latest fumbling around.
June 16th this year was the 10 year anniversary of starting Selenian Boondocks. It’s been a great 10 years. We’ve had a lot of good contributors, including myself, Ken Murphy, Kirk Sorensen, and last but definitely not least, John Hare. We’ve discussed a lot of fun topics. We’ve even started, built, or perpetuated several space policy or technology memes. And we’ve had a lot of fun without taking ourselves too seriously along the way.
In celebration of this anniversary, we did a blog post a day over the past month. In a way that was unintentionally “meta”, this started out with me blogging up a storm, and then when my life got too busy for a few days (I’ve been on a family vacation in Yellowstone and the Pacific Northwest), John Hare picked up the slack with several days of his blog posts.
Tonight I just wanted to post links to several of my favorite Selenian Boondocks posts or series from over the years. This is far from an exhaustive list, but these are the blog posts I think of the most when I think of what we’ve done over the years.
Orbital Access Methodologies: This was probably our most popular blog series, where I discussed a range of approaches for doing reusable launch vehicles, including Air-launched SSTOs (ala Dan DeLong’s Orbital Spaceplane), and a range of various TSTO options including “pop-up TSTO” (ala The Rocket Company or many of John Carmack’s old concepts), “glideback TSTO“, and my two current favorites: “Boostback TSTO” (similar to what SpaceX is trying to do with F9R, and what Masten, Blue Origin, and several others have looked at for reusable orbital vehicles), and “Air-Launched Glide-Forward TSTO” (first suggested to me by John Hare, and then expanded upon in my still uncompleted Boomerang TSTO RLV series).
Venus ISRU Series: This was another popular series, which is also unfinished. Venus just doesn’t get much love in space settlement circles, and this series was my attempt at trying to discuss the potential of Venus as a destination for human settlement. My favorite posts in this series were: this post where I describe what materials we have to work with, Venusian Rocket Floaties where I discuss the counterintuitive realization that most rockets would actually float like dirigibles in the Venusian atmosphere, these two posts describing ways of extracting and separating condenseable species and gas-phase species from the Venusian atmosphere, and one of my all-time favorite humor posts about Venusian Acid-Cooked Turkeys (thanks to George Turner for restoring some faith in the value of having a comments section).
A few other more minor posts of mine that I think are still interesting (I could probably list 20-30 of these, but will only list a few):
My “Transitions” blog post about having formally taken the plunge to start my own space company–Altius Space Machines. My blogging has never fully recovered from that decision, but I’m still glad I made it.
Thrust Augmented Nozzles–a cool technology that Aerojet hasn’t done much with since I wrote about it. If someone ever makes a useful SSTO RLV, it’ll probably be using some variant on this technology. The good news is that if Aerojet doesn’t do anything with the technology, the patents on it run out in another 5-6 years.
A post discussing the importance of technology maturation funding before the mission architecture has been laid out. Waiting until after you’ve picked the mission architecture to start spending on applied technology maturation efforts is often too little, too late if you want to avoid massive cost overruns.
My favorite concept for an exploration-class propellant depot that doesn’t require a ton of on-orbit assembly.
A blog post about my stance on the Iraq War (based on pre-Selenian Boondocks “proto-blog” posts I wrote in 2003) at the time it started.
Sorry if that list is almost entirely my own posts. John, Kirk and Ken have all done many great posts, I just have an easier time remembering my own posts. In the comments, I’d love to see recommendations for other good posts we’ve done, including ones done by John, Kirk, and Ken Murphy.
Looking forward to continuing interesting discussions during the second 10 years of Selenian Boondocks!
The Strategic Exploration of Exoplanets and Disks (SEEDS, Note 1) team of astronomers, led by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ), has found a close-in ring-like gap in the protoplanetary disk of gas and dust around the nearby sun-like young star, TW Hydrae (TW Hya). New Subaru Telescope images of the gap, including an earlier ring-like gap found by Hubble Space Telescope, suggest that ongoing planet formation is occurring in the disk, and provides a good picture of how the ear [...]
Scientists have imaged a cluster of stars, heavily obscured by material in our galaxy, where stars are so densely packed that it is likely a rare environment where stars can collide. “It’s a bit like a stellar billiards table; where the probability of collisions depends on the size of the table and on the number of billiard balls on it,” said Francesco R. Ferraro of the University of Bologna (Italy), one of the team members who used the Gemini Observatory to make the observations.
Have you ever seen the Pleiades star cluster? Even if you have, you probably have never seen it as dusty as this. Perhaps the most famous star cluster on the sky, the bright stars of the Pleiades can be seen without binoculars from even the depths of a light-polluted city. With a long exposure from a dark location, though, the dust cloud surrounding the Pleiades star cluster becomes very evident.
The featured exposure took over 12 hours and covers a sky area several times the size of the ful [...]