Sunday, February 28, 2010

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Chile Earthquake: Tsunami Travel Times

US Earthquake advisory service of Geological Associations USGS.

An image generated by NOAA West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Centre shows the projected tsunami travel times following an earthquake that struck Chile.

Picture: REUTERS

A Tsunami Advisory is in effect which includes the coastal areas of California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Alaska from the California-Mexico border to Attu, Alaska.

A Tsunami Advisory means that a tsunami capable of producing strong currents or waves dangerous to persons in or very near the water is imminent or expected. Significant, widespread inundation is not expected for areas under an advisory. Currents may be hazardous to swimmers, boats, and coastal structures and may continue for several hours after the initial wave arrival.

At 10:34 PM Pacific Standard Time on February 26, an earthquake with preliminary magnitude 8.8 occurred near the coast of central Chile . (Refer to the United States Geological Survey for official earthquake parameters.) This earthquake has generated a tsunami which could cause damage to coastal regions in a warning or advisory. The waves are expected to first reach La Jolla, California at 0:02 PM PST on February 27. Estimated tsunami arrival times and maps along with safety rules and other information can be found on the WCATWC web site.

Friday, February 26, 2010

NASA: James Webb Space Telescope website

FETTU: From Earth To The Universe: Video Preview

FETTU: From Earth To The Universe: Chandra

Andalusia, Spain
Alhambra monumental complex, Granada, Spain

One of the FETTU exhibits in Andalusia, Spain, by RECTA. Partial view of the installation in the crypt of the Palace of the Emperor Charles V, at the Alhambra monumental complex, Granada.
Note: the exhibition at the Alhambra monumental complex, concretely in the Rennaisance masterwork building known as Palace of the Emperor Charles V. It had the advantage of being at the very centre of the Alhambra complex, and the acess to it is free. -- David Galadi-Enriquez (Organizer)

NASA Announces 2010 Carl Sagan Fellows

NASA Announces 2010 Carl Sagan Fellows

NASA has selected seven scientists as recipients of Carl Sagan Postdoctoral Fellowships in exoplanet exploration for 2010. The Sagan Fellowships support outstanding recent postdoctoral scientists in conducting independent research broadly related to the science goals of NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program. That program's primary goal is to discover and characterize planetary systems and Earth-like planets around other stars.

"The Sagan Fellowship identifies and supports the most promising young scholars who are passionate about the scientific search for and study of planets beyond our solar system," said Charles Beichman, executive director of the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "These young scientists combine interest in the fields of astronomy, astrobiology or geophysics with expertise in theory, observation, or state-of-the-art instrumentation. They are following a trail blazed by Carl Sagan -- after whom the fellowship program is named -- that may one day lead to the discovery of life on worlds other than Earth."

The program, created in 2008, awards selected postdoctoral scientists with stipends of approximately $62,500 for up to three years, plus an annual research budget of $16,000. Topics range from techniques for detecting the glow of a dim planet in the blinding glare of its host star, to searching for the crucial ingredients of life in other planetary systems.

In addition to the Sagan Fellowships, NASA has two other astrophysics theme-based fellowship programs: the Einstein Fellowship Program, which supports research into the physics of the cosmos; and the Hubble Fellowship Program, which supports research into cosmic origins.

Read the full article here....

NASA: President Obama Neglects to Mention European Space Endeavours

Click on the picture to play the video

President Obama Neglects to Mention European Space Endeavours when celebrating the recent success of the Tranquility module.

Tranquility was made up of the Node 3 module and the nnow famous Cupola window module, bothe constructed by the European Space Agency and it's partners.

Scientists Build Gun to Mimic Meteorite Crash

Recreating how the seeds of life might have survived aboard an ancient meteorite that crashed to Earth is no small feat, but scientists have begun doing just that in a recent lab experiment. The project could help indicate whether life on Earth got its start from alien organic material that hitched a ride aboard space rocks.

Perhaps one of the likeliest building blocks of primordial life on Earth came in the form of amino acids, which are the basic components of proteins. And so a team of U.S. and European researchers focused on trying to replicate how well amino acids would fare when a meteorite slams into the ground.

"This study is the first which tested amino acid quantities similar to those found in real meteorites," said Marylene Bertrand, a biophysicist funded by the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France and lead author of the work published in the December issue of the journal Astrobiology.

More than 70 different amino acids have been found in meteorites that fell to Earth. Past studies have tested the survivability of many amino acids, but did not try to replicate the concentrations of organic molecules found in actual meteorites.

Bertrand's group also took the new step of testing the amino acids embedded inside saponite, a clay material found in carbonaceous chondrite meteorites that represents a possible signature of water.

Read the full article here..

Space Junk Mess Getting Messier in Orbit -- Space Junk Mess Getting Messier in Orbit

The already untidy mass of orbital debris that litters low Earth orbit nearly got nastier last month.

A head-on collision was averted between a spent upper stage from a Chinese rocket and the European Space Agency's (ESA) huge Envisat Earth remote-sensing spacecraft.

Space junk tracking information supplied by the U.S. military, as well as confirming German radar data, showed that the two space objects would speed by each other at a nail-biting distance of roughly 160 feet (50 meters).

ESA's Envisat tips the scales at 8 tons, with China's discarded rocket body weighing some 3.8 tons. A couple of tweaks of maneuvering propellant were used to nudge the large ESA spacecraft to a more comfortable miss distance.

But what if the two objects had tangled?

Such a space collision would have caused mayhem in the heavens, adding clutter to an orbit altitude where there are big problems already, said Heiner Klinkrad, head of the European Space Agency's Space Debris Office in Darmstadt, Germany.

It turns out, Klinkrad told, that 50 percent of all the close conjunctions that Envisat faces are due to the lethal leftovers from China's January 2007 anti-satellite test, as well as chunks of junk resulting from last year's smashup between an active U.S. Iridium satellite and a defunct Russian Cosmos spacecraft.

Klinkrad joined several orbital debris experts that took part in the 33rd Annual Guidance and Control Conference organized by the Rocky Mountain Section of the American Astronautical Society. The five-day meeting began Feb. 5.

Mammoth iceberg could alter ocean circulation: study

Mammoth iceberg could alter ocean circulation: study

An iceberg the size of Luxembourg knocked loose from the Antarctic continent earlier this month could disrupt the ocean currents driving weather patterns around the globe, researchers said Thursday.

While the impact would not be felt for decades or longer, a slowdown in the production of colder, dense water could result in less temperate winters in the north Atlantic, they said.

The 2550 square-kilometre (985 square-mile) block broke off on February 12 or 13 from the Mertz Glacier Tongue, a 160-kilometer spit of floating ice protruding into the Southern Ocean from East Antarctica due south of Melbourne, researchers said.

Some 400 metres (1300 feet) thick, the iceberg could fill Sydney Harbour more than 100 times over.

It could also disturb the area's exceptionally rich biodiversity, including a major colony of emperor penguins near Dumont d'Urville, site of a French scientific station, according to the scientists.

"The ice tongue was almost broken already. It was hanging like a loose tooth," said Benoit Legresy, a French glaciologist who has been monitoring the Metz Glacier via satellite images and on the ground for a decade in cooperation with Australian scientists.

The billion-tonne mass was dislodged by another, older iceberg, known as B9B, which split off in 1987.

Jammed against the Antarctic continent for more than 20 years, B9B smashed into the Metz tongue like a slow-motion battering ram after it began to drift.

Both natural cycles and manmade climate change contribute to the collapse ice shelves and glaciers.

Tide and ocean currents constantly beat against exposed areas, while longer summers and rising temperatures also take a toll.

"Obviously when there is warmer water, these ice tongues will become more fragile," said Legresy, who works at the Laboratory for Geophysics and Oceanographic Space Research in Toulouse, southern France.

ESA - Observing the Earth from Space: Iran's Neyriz Lakes

ESA - Observing the Earth from Space: Iran's Neyriz Lakes - images

Lakes Bakhtegan (centre) and Tashk (top), together known as the Neyriz Lakes, in the Fars Province in southern Iran are featured in this image acquired by ALOS, Japan's four-tonne Earth observation satellite, on 6 March 2009 with its Advanced Visible and Near Infrared Radiometer type-2 (AVNIR-2) instrument, which is designed to chart land cover and vegetation in visible and near infrared spectral bands with a resolution of 10 m. ESA is supporting ALOS as a Third Party Mission, which means ESA utilises its multi-mission European ground infrastructure and expertise to acquire, process and distribute data from the satellite to its wide user community.

Credits: JAXA, ESA

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Worldchanging: Bright Green: Information is Beautiful: When Sea Levels Attack

Worldchanging: Bright Green: Information is Beautiful: When Sea Levels Attack

Another day, another set of bewildering climate figures. Today, key climate scientists withdrew their predictions of a metre sea-level rise by 2100.

Other scientists meanwhile claimed the 1m figure was way too conservative anyway. They predict anything up to 2m sea level rises over the next century.

It's difficult to keep track of all this shifting research. And, in the midst of this reporting, there is one consistent but bewildering assumption made of us: that we understand what a one metre sea level rise means in reality.

A "1 metre sea level rise" is in the same domain as "1 ton of carbon" or "£1 billion." That is, it's meaningless without context or some link to our everyday lives.

So, in this diagram, I've tried to sum up all the current research on sea level rises. What will happen, when it will happen, and where the sea water is coming from. You can see the data and sources in this spreadsheet.

In an effort to make the information easier to relate to, I've also thrown in which key cities around the world will be most affected by the rises.

I hope it helps.

ESA: Third Generation of Meteosat

Since the launch of the first Meteosat in 1977, 33 years of imagery combined with increasing computer power have given meteorologists the tools to improve weather forecasting, with direct benefits for us.

Numerical weather prediction is improving with data from operational satellites, like Meteosat Second Generation (MSG). Today, thousands of daily measurements are the basis for numerical forecasts, making use of the world's most powerful computers. The MSG satellites are expected to provide operational services at least until 2015.

In order to have follow-up geostationary missions, ESA and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) plan the Meteosat Third Generation (MTG) satellite system. Intended for launch in 2015, MTG will provide a significant improvement over the capabilities of the current Meteosat satellites.

The finalisation of the selection process for the contract to build the MTG satellites is still under way. After careful evaluation of proposals received by industry, the Tender Evaluation Board (TEB) has made a recommendation to ESA's Director General. The Director General has asked the TEB for some clarifications on the detailed report.

These clarifications will be provided at the beginning of March. The announcement of the company with which negotiations will be initiated will, therefore, take place in early March in order to allow the EUMETSAT special Council, planned on 15 March, to approve the MTG Programme Proposal.

Weather satellites allow us to monitor large areas of the globe, compensating for gaps in the terrestrial or sea-surface meteorology data-gathering network.

The wide-area view provided by satellites can frame an entire weather system in a single optical or infrared image. MTG will be a European operational geostationary meteorological satellite system and is set to revolutionise weather forecasting and environmental monitoring.

Enceladus Heat radiation: Warm fissure of Saturn's icy moon

The right-hand image shows a dramatically improved view of heat radiation from a warm fissure near the south pole of Saturn's icy moon Enceladus. It was obtained by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during its Nov. 21, 2009, flyby of that moon. The fissure, named Baghdad Sulcus, is one of four so-called "tiger stripe" features that emit jets of water vapor and ice particles.

The tiger stripe runs from the upper left to the lower right of the image. The infrared map, obtained by Cassini's composite infrared spectrometer, is nearly 10 times more detailed than the image on the left, which was the best previous map of heat from the fissures. That image was obtained in March 2008.

The new data show that broad swaths of heat previously detected by the composite infrared spectrometer are confined to a narrow, intense region no more than a kilometer (half a mile) wide along the fracture.

The thermal image also reveals that the strength of the signal varies considerably along the length of this fissure segment. The composite infrared spectrometer data indicate that the temperature along Baghdad Sulcus reached more than 180 Kelvin (about minus 140 degrees Fahrenheit).

The new map shows how the surface glows at 10 to 16 micron wavelengths of radiation along a 40-kilometer (25-mile) length of Baghdad Sulcus. This covers a region about 10 kilometers to 5 kilometers (6 miles to 3 miles) in width, with the smallest features on the thermal map measuring less than 1 kilometer (half a mile) across.

NASA Shuttle Discovery Readied - Looking good for an old lady

Space shuttle Discovery will be attached to its external fuel tank and twin solid rocket boosters today in NASA Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building.

The shuttle is being prepared for its rollout to Launch Pad 39A, scheduled for March 2 at 12:01 a.m. EST.

At NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Discovery's STS-131 crew members will be reviewing administrative and Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, or MPLM, berthing and unberthing procedures today.

MPLMs are large pressurized modules flown in the shuttle's payload bay and attached to the International Space Station after docking. The MPLM can carry up to 16 large containers or racks of supplies, such as food, clothing, spare parts and research equipment. For this flight, the MPLMs will be filled with science racks that will be transferred to the station's laboratories.

Discovery's liftoff is targeted for April 5 at 6:27 a.m. EDT.

Europe adds to weight banning Bluefin Tuna

Tokyo (AFP) Feb 22, 2010 - Japan opposes plans to list the Atlantic bluefin tuna, which is highly prized in sushi and sashimi, as a most-endangered species and to ban its international trade, an official said Monday. The UN-backed wildlife trade agency supports a call to stop cross-border trade in the fish when 175 member nations to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meet next month in Doha, Qatar. Marine wildlife experts say that, despite fishing quotas, bluefin tuna stocks have plunged by 80 percent in recent decades in the Western Atlantic and Mediterranean, threatening the predator species with extinction.

Japan -- which consumes three-quarters of the global bluefin tuna catch from both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans -- says it opposes such a trade ban and prefers other mechanisms to make the catch more sustainable. Farm and Fisheries Minister Hirotaka Akamatsu said this month that Japan's answer to the proposed trade ban is "a clear no", and a fisheries official said Monday that Japan may "take a reservation" and ignore a ban if it is passed. "We have been saying that is one of our options," Shingo Ota, a senior negotiator for Japan fisheries, told AFP. "We are not saying we will definitely reserve it. We are doing our best so that it won't be adopted. Our final decision will come after the vote." The EU Commission was on Monday due to propose that the 27 EU governments ban commercial bluefin tuna fishing, at a meeting of farm and fisheries ministers in Brussels, sources have told AFP. France, the biggest producer of bluefin tuna for consumption, has spoken in favour of a ban, but for a limited duration and not for another 18 months. But Spain, Greece, Cyprus and Malta have opposed a ban.

Atlantic bluefin tuna, a metallic-blue hunter up to four metres (13 feet) long, roams the Atlantic but returns every spring to the warmer waters of the Mediterranean Sea, as well as the Gulf of Mexico, to spawn. In the hunt for the prized fish, industrial-scale fishing fleets have often used spotter aircraft and helicopters to locate tuna schools and scooped the fish up with giant drag nets. Many of the fish are fattened up in offshore cages to produce a low-cost version of "toro" or fatty tuna, which is highly valued in sushi and sashimi, mostly for export on freezer ships to Japan. As bluefin tuna has become more rare, its price has shot up, especially in East Asia. A single fish, weighing up to 650 kilograms (1,400 pounds), can fetch as much as 120,000 dollars, CITES has said.

DLR Portal - Progress in aerospace research - quieter flying with less environmental impact

DLR Portal - Progress in aerospace research - quieter flying with less environmental impact

One of the primary objectives of the aviation research team at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft und Raumfahrt; DLR) is to make flying quieter and to reduce its environmental impact. DLR came a step closer to this goal with the culmination of the FAGI (Future Air Ground Integration) project. In the future, a modified flight approach procedure with improved environmental credentials should help cut noise levels and save fuel.

A noise reduction of between three and five decibels and fuel savings of up to 500 kilograms per landing can be achieved, provided that pilots have access to an environment-friendly approach path during landing. In approaches of this kind, known as CDAs (Continuous Descent Approaches), the aircraft descends continuously - much like a glider – from its cruising altitude to final approach without interrupting its descent profile or applying more thrust. The pilot leaves the engines idle throughout the descent and only increases thrust slightly just before landing so that landing can be aborted if necessary. "This procedure demands a lot from the aircraft's systems because it must take important parameters such as flight pattern, altitude, airspeed and weather conditions into account," explains Alexander Kuenz, Project Manager at DLR's Institute of Flight Guidance in Braunschweig.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Future of Crash Helmets - Biomimicry

The Future of Room Thermostats

NASA Shuttle Endeavour Prepares for next flight

At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, work platforms are moved into position around space shuttle Endeavour in Orbiter Processing Facility-2, following its touchdown at the completion of the STS-130 mission to the International Space Station on Feb. 21.

Processing now begins for Endeavour's next flight, STS-134. The six-member STS-134 crew will deliver the Express Logistics Carrier 3 and the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the International Space Station, as well as a variety of spare parts including two S-band communications antennas, a high-pressure gas tank, additional spare parts for Dextre and micrometeoroid debris shields. STS-134 will be the 35th shuttle mission to the station and the 133rd flight in the shuttle program. Launch is targeted for July 29.

Image Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

ESA Mar's Moon Phobos - Ancient Spacestation

Phobos is doomed. It is gradually spiralling towards Mars and eventually could slam into the planet’s surface, leaving a large crater as its parting gift.

Believe it or not, this discovery led to the USA’s President Eisenhower being briefed in 1960 that Phobos could be a space station launched by an advanced Martian civilisation.

At the time, calculations showed that the moon’s orbit was decaying at around 5 cm per year. Phobos is in an unusually low orbit around Mars, and so it was thought that this drag could be caused by the upper atmosphere of the planet.

Russian astrophysicist Iosif Samuilovich Shklovsky set about calculating whether the atmosphere could indeed be responsible. What he found surprised not only him, but many others too.

For the atmosphere to be responsible, Phobos would have to be hollow, like an Easter Egg. If the moon were solid rock, the atmosphere would have little effect.

A hollow moon would be susceptible because it contained so much less mass. But if the moon were hollow, it could not be a natural object.

Dr S. Fred Singer, special advisor to President Eisenhower on space developments, briefed the White House on this matter, emphasizing that Phobos could be an ancient abandoned spacecraft.

That's no moon, it's a... no wait, it is a moon.

Credits: ESA/ DLR/ FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO): Aim for 2 Astronauts in Space

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) plans to send two astronauts to space within six to seven years, ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan said.

"ISRO plans to send two astronauts into space in six to seven years," he said after launching a mobile telemedicine unit at Muttom in Kanyakumari district.

He said India was among the leading countries in the world in space research, designing the most modern satellites in keeping with latest advances in technology

These satellites are very helpful in communication and distance, he said.

Radhakrishnan said the Nano satellites designed by students of Satyabama University, Chennai, would be installed in the PSLV rocket, to be launched in June or July.

Serious Macro-Photography on a Budget

I am a great fan of low-tech solutions and this one is remarkable. For more information and a full explanation click on the website link here

Monday, February 22, 2010

Panorama: Palm Oil endangers Urangutan Conservation efforts in Indonesia

The challenge of saving the orangutan - man's closest relative - from extinction is trickling down to the weekly shop.

Many of the biscuits, margarines, breads, crisps and even bars of soap that consumers pick off supermarket shelves contain an ingredient that is feeding a growth industry that conservationists say is killing the orangutans.

The mystery ingredient in the mix is palm oil - the cheapest source of vegetable oil available - and one that rarely appears on the label of most products.

Palm oil is grown on land that was once home to the vast rainforests of Borneo, and the natural habitat of the orangutan.

To read the full article on the BBC Panorama website click here.....

NASA Astronaut Soichi - Paris Picture from ISS

Stunning picture of Paris, France taken by NASA astronaut Soichi from the ISS new Cupola observation window.

Dalai Lama Talks to Neuroscientists

When the Dalai Lama Meets the Neuroscientists

More and more, the Dalai Lama has been developing an interest in what modern science has to say about human emotion — or, more particularly, how neuroscience makes sense of meditation and compassion. Partly as a result, Stanford University has launched The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, which is delving deeper into these questions. The clip above features Daniel Goleman, the bestselling science journalist (Emotional Intelligence and Destructive Emotions), talking about the Dalai Lama’s work on this front. You can find the full conversation with Goleman at, a good resource for thought-provoking video.

Free Tibet!

Greenpeace on trial for fighting unjustified whale slaughter

Greenpeace Executive Director, Kumi Naidoo, is in Japan and has been interviewed recently by the Sydney Morning Herald

"I think that this is not only about whaling, it is about actually going to the heart of the quality of democracy, human rights, freedom of assembly, association and expression," Dr Naidoo says.

ESA Planck Mission

ESA Planck scanning - Galactic, mollweide

The ring of sky which the Planck satellite scans at any one time is shown as a white ring. As it orbits the Sun, it maps out the sky, shown here as the sky as measured by the WMAP satellite (credit NASA/WMAP Science Team).

The map is shown in Galactic coordinates, aligned with the plane of our Galaxy, and projected in a "Mollweide" projection, meaning that entire sky is shown in one oval, just like in some maps of the world in an Atlas.

The solar system is tilted relative to the plane of the Galaxy, so the ring which Planck scans moves oddly around the sky in this view.

Artificial Foot Recycles Energy For Easier Walking

University of Michigan researchers developed an artificial foot that recycles energy otherwise wasted in between steps. The device could make it easier for amputees to walk. Credit: Steve Collins

An artificial foot that recycles energy otherwise wasted in between steps could make it easier for amputees to walk, its developers say.

"For amputees, what they experience when they're trying to walk normally is what I would experience if I were carrying an extra 30 pounds," said Art Kuo, professor in the University of Michigan departments of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.

Compared with conventional prosthetic feet, the new prototype device significantly cuts the energy spent per step.

A paper about the device is published in the Feb. 17 edition of in the journal PLoS ONE. The foot was created by Kuo and Steve Collins, who was then a U-M graduate student. Now Collins is an associate research fellow at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. The human walking gait naturally wastes energy as each foot collides with the ground in between steps.

A typical prosthesis doesn't reproduce the force a living ankle exerts to push off of the ground. As a result, test subjects spent 23 percent more energy walking with a conventional prosthetic foot, compared with walking naturally. To test how stepping with their device compared with normal walking, the engineers conducted their experiments with non-amputees wearing a rigid boot and prosthetic simulator.

In their energy-recycling foot, the engineers put the wasted walking energy to work enhancing the power of ankle push-off. The foot naturally captures the dissipated energy. A microcontroller tells the foot to return the energy to the system at precisely the right time.

Based on metabolic rate measurements, the test subjects spent 14 percent more energy walking in energy-recycling artificial foot than they did walking naturally. That's a significant decrease from the 23 percent more energy they used in the conventional prosthetic foot, Kuo says.

"We know there's an energy penalty in using an artificial foot," Kuo said. "We're almost cutting that penalty in half."

China Aiming for Lunar Landing in 10 Years

China aims to land its first astronauts on the moon within a decade at the dawn of a new era of manned space exploration -- a race it now leads thanks to the US decision to drop its lunar programme.

US President Barack Obama earlier this month said he planned to drop the costly Constellation space programme, a budget move that would kill off future moon exploration if it is approved by Congress.

In contrast, China has a fast-growing human spaceflight project that has notched one success after another, including a spacewalk by astronauts in 2008, with plans for a manned lunar mission by around 2020.

The turnaround is viewed as yet another example of the Asian power's rising profile and technical prowess.

"Overall, China is behind the US in technology and in actual presence in space -- the US operates dozens of satellites, the Chinese only a few," said James Lewis, of the US-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

"The real concern is the trend: China's capacities are increasing while the US, despite spending billions of dollars, appears to be stuck in a rut."

The Americans have achieved the only manned lunar missions, making six trips from 1969 to 1972.

Prometheus: Violent History Of Saturn's White Whale Moon

Saturn's potato-shaped moon Prometheus is rendered in 3D in this close-up from Cassini. Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Like the battered white whale Moby Dick taunting Captain Ahab, Saturn's moon Prometheus surges toward the viewer in a 3-D image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

The image exposes the irregular shape and circular surface scars on Prometheus, pointing to a violent history. These craters are probably the remnants from impacts long ago.

Prometheus is one of Saturn's innermost moons. It orbits the gas-giant at a distance of about 140,000 kilometers (86,000 miles) and is 86 kilometers (53 miles) across at its widest point. The porous, icy world was originally discovered in images taken by NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft back in 1980.

Cassini's narrow-angle camera captured two black-and-white images of the moon on Dec. 26, 2009, and the imaging team combined the images to make this new stereo view.

It looks different from the "egg-cellent" raw image of Prometheus obtained on Jan. 27 because that view shows one of the short ends of the oddly shaped moon. In this 3-D image, the sun illuminates Prometheus at a different angle, making the moon's elongated body visible.

NASA Shuttle Endeavour Night Landing

With landing gear down, space shuttle Endeavour approaches the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida after 14 days in space, completing the 5.7-million-mile STS-130 mission.

Endeavour landed at 10:20 p.m. EST on Sunday, Feb. 21, after delivering the new Tranquility node and its seven-window cupola to the International Space Station.

Returning to Earth aboard Endeavour are Commander George Zamka; Pilot Terry Virts; and Mission Specialists Robert Behnken, Nicholas Patrick, Kathryn Hire and Stephen Robinson.

Credit: NASA

Sunday, February 21, 2010

NASA: Global Climate Change - A State of Flux

Nasa's new web portal on Global Climate Change and the State of Flux that we are putting our precious Earth through.

LATEST IMAGE: The retreat of Pedersen Glacier, Alaska. Left: Past - 1917. Present - Right: 2005.

NASA Shuttle Endeavour: Coming Home

This view of the port side of space shuttle Endeavour's cargo bay was recorded after separation from the International Space Station on Feb. 19, 2010, as the STS-130 astronauts prepared for a Feb. 21 landing, after spending over a week working in tandem with the Expedition 22 crew members aboard the station.

Other than the docking system hardware, the cargo bay is empty after delivering the Tranquility node and the new cupola to the orbital outpost.

Image Credit: NASA

Endangered Siberian Tigers Exploited by Chinese Authorities

A beautifil, rare and endangered species, the Siberian tigers, is compelled to sit up and beg for the amusement of dumb visitors. Part of an entertainment sideshow at a zoo on the second day of the Lunar New Year in Fuzhou, China.
China continues to treat endangered species with contempt and force them to perform humiliating acts for the amesement of an ignorant public.
This sends the completely wrong message; that these animals are put on this Earth for the exploitation and amusement of humanity.

NASA & ESA Celebrate Success of Cupola Installation on ISS,

Astronaut Nicholas Patrick participates in extravehicular activity as construction and maintenance continue on the International Space Station.

Friday, February 19, 2010

NASA Analysis: Road Transportation is Key Driver of Climate Warming

The on-road transportation sector releases significant amounts of carbon dioxide, black carbon, and ozone—all substances that cause warming.

In contrast, the industrial sector releases many of the same gases, but it also tends to emit sulfates and other aerosols that cause cooling by reflecting light and altering clouds. Credit: NASA GISS/Unger

For decades, climatologists have studied the gases and particles that have potential to alter Earth's climate. They have discovered and described certain airborne chemicals that can trap incoming sunlight and warm the climate, while others cool the planet by blocking the Sun's rays.

Now a new study led by Nadine Unger of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York City offers a more intuitive way to understand what's changing the Earth's climate. Rather than analyzing impacts by chemical species, scientists have analyzed the climate impacts by different economic sectors.

Each part of the economy, such as ground transportation or agriculture, emits a unique portfolio of gases and aerosols that affect the climate in different ways and on different timescales.

"We wanted to provide the information in a way that would be more helpful for policy makers," Unger said. "This approach will make it easier to identify sectors for which emission reductions will be most beneficial for climate and those which may produce unintended consequences."

Unger's model finds that in 2020 (left), transportation, household biofuels and animal husbandry will have the greatest warming impact on the climate, while the shipping, biomass burning, and industrial sectors will have a cooling impact.

By 2100 (right), the model finds that the power and industrial sector will become strongly warming as carbon dioxide accumulates. Credit: NASA GISS/Unger

In a paper published online on Feb. 3 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Unger and colleagues described how they used a climate model to estimate the impact of 13 sectors of the economy from 2000 to 2100. They based their calculations on real-world inventories of emissions collected by scientists around the world, and they assumed that those emissions would stay relatively constant in the future.

Unger's analysis is one of the first of its kind to incorporate the multiple effects that aerosol particles can have on clouds, which affect the climate indirectly. Credit: NASA's Johnson Space Center

Personalised Blood Test for Cancer DNA

A personalised blood test that can identify tumour DNA could be the first step towards a long-promised revolution in the way cancer is treated.

In the short term, the test - reported by Victor Velculescu of Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore, Maryland, and his colleagues in Science Translational Medicine - could be used to spot cancer recurrence before tumour growth shows up on scans, meaning that treatment could be started earlier.

The test detects genetic rearrangements that distinguish cancer cells from normal cells. Eventually it might also pave the way for more personalised cancer treatments tailored to the genetic signature of individuals' tumours.

Doctors already classify cancers by some of the genes that get switched on by the disease, and use this to guide treatment in some cases. For example, breast cancers are often divided into those that express oestrogen receptors on their surface and are therefore likely to respond to the drug tamoxifen, and those that don't.

Genes have also been identified that predict whether a variety of cancers are resistant to radiotherapy and certain drugs, and might therefore need a different sort of treatment. It is also possible to stratify cancers into aggressive and non-aggressive subtypes according to their genetic make-up.

But that's just the beginning. In the future, pretty much all cancers are likely to be defined by the genetic pathways that drive their growth, rather than where in the body they manifest themselves. And because cancers mutate as they grow, it should be possible to track these changes and tailor patients' therapies accordingly.

Velculescu's test is a step towards this. The real breakthrough will come when such blood tests become sophisticated enough to reveal how tumours are changing over time, rather than simply spotting that they have come back. That should truly revolutionise cancer treatment, enabling the most effective combinations of drugs to be tailored to individual patients - and without the need for painful tissue biopsies.

Atlas V Breaking through the Sound Barrier

Perched on top of an Atlas V rocket, on February 11 the Solar Dynamics Observatory launched into space. About a minute after leaving the Earth, the rocket did two things: it passed the speed of sound, and screamed past a sundog, a rainbow-colored optical effect in the sky caused by ice crystals.

And when it did, well, it was incredible. What’s below is just about the coolest video I have ever seen. And I mean that seriously. Click the "720" button and pay close attention at the 1:50 mark. You won’t miss it, the crowd in the audio will alert you…

NASA WiSE Vision: The Magnificent and Beautiful Andromeda Galaxy

The immense Andromeda galaxy, also known as Messier 31 or simply M31, is captured in full in this new image from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. The mosaic covers an area equivalent to more than 100 full moons, or five degrees across the sky.

WISE used all four of its infrared detectors to capture this picture (3.4- and 4.6-micron light is colored blue; 12-micron light is green; and 22-micron light is red). Blue highlights mature stars, while yellow and red show dust heated by newborn, massive stars.

Andromeda is the closest large galaxy to our Milky Way galaxy, and is located 2.5 million light-years from our sun. It is close enough for telescopes to spy the details of its ringed arms of new stars and hazy blue backbone of older stars.

Also seen in the mosaic are two satellite galaxies, known as M32, located just a bit above Andromeda to the left of center, and the fuzzy blue M110, located below the center of the great spiral arms. These satellites are the largest of several that are gravitationally bound to Andromeda.

The Andromeda galaxy is larger than our Milky Way and contains more stars, but the Milky Way is thought to perhaps have more mass due to its larger proportion of a mysterious substance called dark matter.

Both galaxies belong to our so-called Local Group, a collection of more than 50 galaxies, most of which are tiny dwarf systems. In its quest to map the whole sky, WISE will capture the entire Local Group.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

NASA: Underwater Astronaut Training Tank

NASA: Pictures from ISS - Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls & Arabian Desert

NASA: Retro Pics - John Glen and Friendship

Astronaut John Glenn inspects artwork that will be painted on the outside of his Mercury spacecraft, which he nicknamed Friendship 7.

On Feb. 20, 1962, Glenn lifted off into space aboard his Mercury Atlas (MA-6) rocket to become the first American to orbit the Earth.

After orbiting the Earth 3 times, Friendship 7 landed in the Atlantic Ocean, just East of Grand Turk Island in the Bahamas.

Glenn and his capsule were recovered by the Navy Destroyer Noa, 21 minutes after splashdown.

Image Credit: NASA

NASA Tranquility and Cupola Opening Ceremony: A Window on the Earth

A simple ceremony to open the Tranquility and Cupola for business. They took the opportunity to make a moving tribute to astronaut Charles Lacey Veitch and the others responsible for it's construction.

Video Myles o'Brian - What's Next for NASA?

Veteran space news reporting team takes you inside the world's space programs: private, public, military and civilian

Star Birth and Gemini Multi-Object Spectograph Hawaii

Sharpless 2-106 as imaged by the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph on the Gemini North telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawai‘i.

This color composite image shows the nursery of a massive star (hidden within the cloud) obtained with four narrow-band optical filters available for Gemini users at both Gemini North and South.

Credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA/Travis Rector (U. Alaska Anchorage)

NASA Shuttle Endeavour Prepares for Departure

NASA's Space Shuttle Endeavour awaits it's crew and is readied for departure.

The astronauts have delivered and installed the Tranquility module, comprising ESA's Node 3 and Cupola.

This picture of Endeavour was taken through the newly installed Cupola, the 'window on the Earth.'

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Multiple Craters; Both Young And Old In Sirenum Fossae

Elevation of the Sirenum Fossae region in the Southern Highlands of Mars. The image shows the region centred at about 28 degrees S, 185 degrees E.

It extends some 230 by 127 kilometres and covers 29,450 square kilometres, roughly the size of Belgium. For more images please go here.

The High Resolution Stereo Camera, operated by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) on board the Mars Express orbiter has imaged craters, both young and old, in this view of the Southern Highlands of Mars.

Part of the Sirenum Fossae region in the Southern Highlands, the area in this image is centred at about 28 degrees S, 185 degrees E. The image captures an area to the north of the Magelhaens Crater. It extends some 230 by 127 kilometres and covers about 29,450 square kilometres, roughly the size of Belgium. The image resolution is approximately 29 metres per pixel.

Sirenum Fossae extends more than 2500 kilometres to the southwest of the Tharsis volcanic region, which houses Olympus Mons, the highest volcano in our Solar System.

Sirenum Fossae is system of grabens, formed by stresses placed on the crust during the uplift of the Tharsis region. A graben is visible as two sets of parallel lines running from top to bottom to the left of centre.

The Southern Highlands are older than the Northern Lowlands, based on the larger number of impact craters seen covering the region. Craters 50 kilometres in diameter are common in this area and have usually suffered from erosion, indicating they were formed during ancient times.

Cassini captures new close-up of Saturn's Moon Mimas

Cassini captured this image of Mimas' giant Herschel Crater, which measures about 140 kilometers (88 miles) wide, during its Feb. 13, 2010, flyby of the Death Star-like Saturnian moon. Image credit:
NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.

Cancer Home Detection Kit

Small Liquid Sensor May Detect Cancer Instantly, Could Lead To Home Detection Kit - What if it were possible to go to the store and buy a kit to quickly and accurately diagnose cancer, similar to a pregnancy test?

A University of Missouri researcher is developing a tiny sensor, known as an acoustic resonant sensor, that is smaller than a human hair and could test bodily fluids for a variety of diseases, including breast and prostate cancers.

"Many disease-related substances in liquids are not easily tracked," said Jae Kwon, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at MU. "In a liquid environment, most sensors experience a significant loss of signal quality, but by using highly sensitive, low-signal-loss acoustic resonant sensors in a liquid, these substances can be effectively and quickly detected - a brand-new concept that will result in a noninvasive approach for breast cancer detection."

Kwon's real-time, special acoustic resonant sensor uses micro/nanoelectromechanical systems (M/NEMS), which are tiny devices smaller than the diameter of a human hair, to directly detect diseases in body fluids. The sensor doesn't require bulky data reading or analyzing equipment and can be integrated with equally small circuits, creating the potential for small stand-alone disease-screening systems.

Kwon's sensor also produces rapid, almost immediate results that could reduce patient anxiety often felt after waiting for other detection methods, such as biopsies, which can take several days or weeks before results are known.

"Our ultimate goal is to produce a device that will simply and quickly diagnose multiple specific diseases, and eventually be used to create 'point of care' systems, which are services provided to patients at their bedsides," Kwon said.

"The sensor has strong commercial potential to be manifested as simple home kits for easy, rapid and accurate diagnosis of various diseases, such as breast cancer and prostate cancer."

Researchers Chart Genomic Map Spanning Over 2 Dozen Cancers

An international team of researchers has created a genome-scale map of 26 different cancers, revealing more than 100 genomic sites where DNA from tumors is either missing or abnormally duplicated compared to normal tissues.

The study, the largest of its kind, finds that most of these genetic abnormalities are not unique to one form of cancer, but are shared across multiple cancers. The work appears in the February 18 issue of the journal Nature.

"Our findings show that many genome alterations are universal across different cancers. Although this has been known for some types of changes, the degree to which so many alterations are shared was pretty surprising to us," said senior author Matthew Meyerson, a professor of pathology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and senior associate member of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT.

"It suggests that, in the future, a driving force behind cancer treatment will be common genomic alterations, rather than tumors' tissue of origin."

Today, cancers are characterized largely by their symptoms: the organ in the body in which they first arise and the appearance of tumour cells under a microscope.

Although this information is valuable, it fails to highlight cancers' molecular underpinnings, which could be used in the laboratory to discover new, more effective cancer therapies and in the clinic to improve diagnosis and treatment.

A goal of modern biomedical research is to fill this knowledge gap and describe all cancers based on what drives them - that is, the genetic aberrations that initiate and maintain tumor growth.

NASA MARS Rovers: Mojave Crater

Mars Rover Picture of Mojave Crater

A digital terrain model generated from a stereo pair of images provides this synthesized, oblique view of a portion of the wall terraces of Mojave Crater in the Xanthe Terra region of Mars.
This view, in which the vertical dimension is exaggerated three-fold compared with horizontal dimensions, shows the ponding of material backed up behind massive wall-terrace blocks of bedrock.
Hundreds of impact craters on Mars have similarly ponded features with pitted surfaces. These "pitted ponds" are thought to result when material melted by the crater-causing impacts is captured behind the wall terraces.

Mojave Crater is approximately 60 kilometers (37 miles) in diameter, centered at 327.0 degrees east longitude, 7.5 degrees north latitude. The portion of its northwestern edge shown here spans about 3.5 kilometers (about 2.5 miles) in width halfway between the bottom and top of the image. The view is toward the north.

Mojave is one of the freshest large craters on Mars. A survey of its features indicates very few overprinting craters on them, and an analysis of that infrequency suggests the crater may be as young as about 10 million years, very young for a crater of this size. The depth of the crater -- about 2.6 kilometers (1.6 miles) -- also demonstrates that Mojave has experienced little infilling or erosion.

Mojave gives us a glimpse of what a very large complex crater looks like on Mars. In a sense, it is a "Rosetta Stone" of craters, given that it's so fresh and most others -- especially this size -- have been affected by erosion, sedimentary infilling and overprinting by other geologic processes. Such fresh craters give insight into the impact process: ejecta, melt-generation, deposition, etc.

Atomic Fountain reveals 'Gravitational Red Shift'

Atomic fountain reveals 'gravitational red shift' - New Scientist

YOUR watch runs a tiny bit faster at the top of Everest, where Earth's gravity is slightly weaker, than it does at sea level.

This difference is dubbed the "gravitational red shift" (GRS) and is one of the trickiest predictions of general relativity to measure because the effect is so small.

Now the accuracy of measurement has been improved by a factor of 10,000. Holger Müller at the University of California, Berkeley, decided to reanalyse a decade-old experiment.

In the 1990s, a team led by Nobel laureate Steven Chu made an "atomic fountain" of caesium atoms, launching them 30 centimetres into the air.

A pulse of laser light struck the atoms as they neared their zenith, which kicked them into a two-state quantum superposition. One of the states was given extra momentum, causing it to rise to a slightly higher altitude than the other state before falling.

Müller realised the atoms and their very rapid oscillations could be treated as tiny "clocks" and so could be used to measure GRS. The team compared the difference between the two states and discovered that the state that climbed slightly higher had oscillated ever-so-slightly faster than the lower state.

With an accuracy of 7 parts in a billion, this measurement is 10,000 times as accurate as the previous one (Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature08776).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Everything in TV and Film is Green Screened

Pictures taken through the ISS Cupola Windows

Icy Aral Sea picture taken by ISS Astronaut Soichi through the new Cupola window installed on the Node 3 Tranquility module.

Picture of Sakura-jima, Kagoshima, Japan. An active volcano!

You can connect to Astronaut Soichi and other NASA astronauts via Twitter. @Astro_Soichi

ESA Mars Express: New Season of Fly-bys start with Phobos

Today Mars Express began a series of flybys of Phobos, the largest moon of Mars. The campaign will reach its crescendo on 3 March, when the spacecraft will set a new record for the closest pass to Phobos, skimming the surface at just 50 km. The data collected could help untangle the origin of this mysterious moon.

The latest Phobos flyby campaign began today at 06:52 CET (05:52 UT), when Mars Express drew to within 991 km of Phobos’ airless surface. The flybys will continue at varying altitudes until 26 March when Phobos moves out of range. They offer prime chances for doing additional science with Mars Express, a spacecraft that was designed to study the red planet below rather than the grey moon alongside.

Mars Express in its polar orbit
“Because Mars Express is in an elliptical and polar orbit with a maximum distance from Mars of about 10 000 km, we regularly pass Phobos. This represents an excellent opportunity to perform extra science,” says Olivier Witasse, Mars Express Project Scientist.

Back in 2009, the mission team decided that the orbit of Mars Express needed to be adjusted to prevent the closest approach of the spacecraft drifting onto the planet’s nightside. The flight control team at the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, presented a number of possible scenarios, including one that would take the spacecraft to just 50 km above Phobos. “That was the closest they would let us fly to Phobos,” says Witasse.

ESA Phobos fly-by blog