New content at GAS … Earthrise …

EarthSet from Kaguya Lunar ProbeBy Lyle Bateman
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

I’ve been a space geek ever since I was an 8 year old kid, and spent a summer inside glued to the TV watching the Apollo-Soyuz linkup in in July 1975. I’m a little too young to have watched any of the moon landings … the last one was 1972, when I was 6, and at that time, our family didn’t have a TV set. But after catching the bug from Apollo-Soyuz, I spent the next few years learning everything I could about space travel and the Apollo program. Since that time, I’ve been a confirmed space geek, fascinated by any new developments. (continued at GAS)

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Dark matter or dark confusion?

Dark Matter ObservationsAwhile back, I wrote a couple of posts about an interesting observation from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory that seemed to indicate the existence of dark matter. The picture to the left is a false colour image of a collision between galactic clusters. The pink regions show jets of super-heated gas shooting out from the clusters, while the blue regions show the gravitational “footprint” of the clusters as determined through the process of gravitational lensing. This is seen as evidence of dark matter, because in theory, the gravitational footprint should match the “observable matter” in the clusters. Instead, we see a footprint that doesn’t match the observable matter at all, and supporters of existing cosmological models see this as evidence of dark matter, which doesn’t interact with other matter in any way beyond gravitationally and therefore isn’t slowed down by interactions with other particles. They claim this “proves the existence” of dark matter.

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50 years of space @

Scale model of Sputnik 1, from the Muzeum Tekniki, Warsaw, PolandBy Lyle Bateman
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

Today marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most significant events of the 20th century. Technology never exists in a vacuum … no matter what technical advancement we think of, there are always social, political, and ideological currents swirling around it as well as the technical currents. But, from time to time, a technical achievement happens that is so significant, it makes others pale in comparison. Such is the story of Sputnik 1, the first human object ever to orbit the earth.

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The race to Mars

I’ve just added a new entry over at Geeks are Sexy, discussing the current climate surrounding a manned mission to Mars. I’ll post an excerpt below, and head on over to GAS to read the full text of the article.

Sand dunes on MarsIt makes for very good science fiction. Mankind has been fascinated by the red planet for millenia … ancient people told stories about the God of War when watching Mars transit the skies, and more recent thinkers have speculated on ancient civilizations living and dying on Mars. Even in the most recent times, when we have accepted that the red planet is probably lifeless, and at best only contains the most basic microbial life, Mars continues to fascinate humans.

Read the whole article at Geeks are Sexy

The Grand Time Machine

Time TunnelOne of the lesser understood concepts in astronomy for lay-people is the notion that we can never see what is happening in the universe right now. Instead, when we point a telescope sky-ward, we are looking back in time. Because light is a property in the physical universe, it moves at a finite speed … it takes time for the light that reflects, or is emanated from, any object to reach our eyes. In the tiny distances we are used to on earth, the time differences are infinitesimal, but space is a different story all together. Even looking at our own moon, the light we see has taken 1.3 seconds to reach our eyes after it reflects from the moon’s surface. That means when we see the moon, we are actually seeing what it looked like 1.3 seconds ago, not a live shot.

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Onwards and downwards

Victoria Crater, MarsReturning to space geek mode again, I wanted to draw everyone’s attention to a recent shot from Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD). The shot on the left is a composite image pieced together from pictures taken by the Martian rover Opportunity, looking down a slope into the base of Victoria Crater, the largest impact site that either rover has come across in their journeys on Mars.

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Mars will NOT look as big as the moon this month …

I haven’t actually received this email recently (though I have in the past), but I heard today that a local radio DJ got sucked in by the hoax and made an on-air announcement about it. He corrected himself in short order, but I thought in the interest of clarity and accuracy I’d make a debunking post here as well, since I have seen this one before, and its a classic example of bad pop-science.

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