An overview of space settlement possibilities: The expert guide to space colonies – BBC
In this issue’s President’s Corner, ISEC President Dr. Peter Swan challenges readers to provide input on why humanity wants and needs a space elevator. We also provide the first entry to this challenge, this from Art Dula of the Heinlein Prize Trust….
… This eNewsletter also lets you know about (not one but) two Kickstarter campaigns, aimed at raising money to finalize documentaries about the space elevator – we encourage you to visit the Kickstarter sites and financially support one or both of these worthy campaigns. And, due to popular demand, the ISEC reports are now available in electronic (pdf) format – this eNewsletter shows you how to order your own copies
Update: An item in the Wash Post discusses the state of the material science for making tethers capable of implementing a space elevator: The space elevator: Extreme science fiction that’s still a long way from science fact – The Washington Post
Via Universe Today comes this excellent time lapse video compiled with imagery from the Int. Space Station:
Sights in the night sky (plus a solar eclipse) for October are highlighted in this NASA JPL video:
Here is an infographic on lunar eclipses courtesy of astroshop.eu:
The latest trailer for the film Interstellar, which is scheduled for release on November 7th:
Cirque du Soleil and partners turn ten quadcopters into magic actors:
From the caption:
Cirque du Soleil, ETH Zurich, and Verity Studios have partnered to develop a short film featuring 10 quadcopters in a flying dance performance. The collaboration resulted in a unique, interactive choreography where humans and drones move in sync. Precise computer control allows for a large performance and movement vocabulary of the quadcopters and opens the door to many more applications in the future.
SPARKED: Behind the Technology: http://youtu.be/7YqUocVcyrE
Here’s a video on the making of the Sparked film:
NASA’s Cassini probe orbiting Saturn spots a feature on the moon Titan that has changed over time:
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is monitoring the evolution of a mysterious feature in a large hydrocarbon sea on Saturn’s moon Titan. The feature covers an area of about 100 square miles (260 square kilometers) in Ligeia Mare, one of the largest seas on Titan. It has now been observed twice by Cassini’s radar experiment, but its appearance changed between the two apparitions.
Images of the feature taken during the Cassini flybys are available at photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA18430
The mysterious feature, which appears bright in radar images against the dark background of the liquid sea, was first spotted during Cassini’s July 2013 Titan flyby. Previous observations showed no sign of bright features in that part of Ligeia Mare. Scientists were perplexed to find the feature had vanished when they looked again, over several months, with low-resolution radar and Cassini’s infrared imager. This led some team members to suggest it might have been a transient feature. But during Cassini’s flyby on August 21, 2014, the feature was again visible, and its appearance had changed during the 11 months since it was last seen.
Scientists on the radar team are confident that the feature is not an artifact, or flaw, in their data, which would have been one of the simplest explanations. They also do not see evidence that its appearance results from evaporation in the sea, as the overall shoreline of Ligeia Mare has not changed noticeably.
The team has suggested the feature could be surface waves, rising bubbles, floating solids, solids suspended just below the surface, or perhaps something more exotic.
The researchers suspect that the appearance of this feature could be related to changing seasons on Titan, as summer draws near in the moon’s northern hemisphere. Monitoring such changes is a major goal for Cassini’s current extended mission.
“Science loves a mystery, and with this enigmatic feature, we have a thrilling example of ongoing change on Titan,” said Stephen Wall, the deputy team lead of Cassini’s radar team, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to continue watching the changes unfold and gain insights about what’s going on in that alien sea.”
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and ASI, the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The radar instrument was built by JPL and the Italian Space Agency, working with team members from the United States and several European countries.
For more information about Cassini and its mission, visit:
An announcement from the National Space Society:
National Space Society Launches “Enterprise In Space”
Washington DC – September 24, 2014 – The National Space Society (NSS) is launching a new project called “Enterprise In Space” (EIS). This project will design, build, launch, orbit, re-enter, tour, and display a science-fiction-inspired satellite as a science education and technology demonstration project for all ages and as a tribute to the great visionaries of science and science fiction.
Inspired by the classic science fiction writers of the 20th century including Heinlein, Clark and Roddenberry, the EIS project is a grassroots effort by a dedicated team of aerospace, information technology, and education veterans. The goal of the EIS project is to launch an orbital mission by 2019 that will carry 100 or more competitively selected student experiments from around the globe, and to test out new space technology. This is an opportunity for people to directly support something truly historic. EIS will reach out to people with interests in space, science, education, astronomy, cosmology, and science fiction.
A three-minute video explains the entire idea at the Enterprise in Space website (www.enterpriseinspace.org).
“The National Space Society is proud to launch the Enterprise in Space project to the world,” said National Space Society Senior Vice President Bruce Pittman. “This is an opportunity for people worldwide to come together to help transform this exciting concept into a remarkable reality. EIS is yet another example of the burgeoning free enterprise use of space.”
What began as a dream by Oregonian science fiction and space enthusiast Shawn Case four years ago is now a major NSS project. Case and his team have prepared a well-defined project plan to launch an orbiter dubbed “NSS Enterprise,” with its artistic design to be conceived by a public competition. The spacecraft will re-enter from orbit for retrieval, go on a tour along with the results of the student experiments, and ultimately be displayed in a major museum along with the names of all who helped fund it.
Case has assembled a professional team skilled in project management, aerospace, social media, and education to carry out the project. Case believes that giving each donor the opportunity to be a virtual crew member and get his or her name on an electronic chip to be carried aloft on this historic flight will greatly increase interest in the project and in space exploration.
Famed Apollo 11 moonwalker and NSS governor Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin endorses EIS: “There’s an exciting new project called Enterprise In Space that I want to tell you about. Together with the National Space Society, the Enterprise In Space project will launch an eight-foot Enterprise satellite into orbit and bring it back to Earth. This is an educational and inspirational tribute to all Enterprise ships in history, to science visionaries, and to the vision of the Great Bird of the Galaxy himself, Gene Roddenberry. My name has been to space and back. Now it’s your turn. Rendezvous with me and support the Enterprise in Space project. Help make history all over again.”
Proposals for experiments to be flown on the orbiter will be sought from students of all nations and ages, from kindergarten through university. Lynne F. Zielinski, a national award-winning educator, NSS Director and Vice President of Public Affairs, will head the EIS education team. “In my 32 years of teaching, I have worked with hundreds of students to send experiments aboard six space shuttle and nine NASA sub-orbital rocket flights,” Zielinski said. “Students really have a lot to offer. I’ve seen the potential of students when they’re excited about being a real part of space flight exploration. Age is no barrier. They quickly adopt cutting-edge ideas and technology.”
The project’s appeal to those interested in space, science, and education goes hand-in-hand with its appeal to science fiction fans, many of whom have a naturally optimistic view of the future and of humans living and working in space–the goals that NSS has promoted since its founding.
Great visionary science fiction writers created hopes that people would be on the Moon and on the way to Mars by now. Let’s help to turn science fiction into science reality, bridging the conceptual gap through education, imagination, and inspiration. Through real-world enterprise, the people of Earth will contribute to the vision of Enterprise In Space.
1. Monday, Sept. 29, 2014: 2-3:30 PM PDT (5-6:30 PM EDT, 4-5:30 PM CDT): No show today as I am out of town on a special business trip.
2. Tuesday, Sept. 30 , 2014:,7-8:30 PM PDT (10-11:30 PM EDT, 9-10:30 PM CDT): No show as I am returning from my special business trip.
3. Friday, Oct. 3, 2014, 9:30 -11 AM PDT (12;30-2 PM EDT; 11:30-1 PM CDT):TBD. Please check the website newsletter by the of the middle of the week for details for this program. See www.thespaceshow.com/newsletterfinal.html. .
4. Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014, 12-1:30 PM PDT (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT). OPEN LINES. All space and STEM topics welcome. First time callers are encouraged to give us a call.
The Space Show is a project of the One Giant Leap Foundation.
The panel included:
- Mae Jemison – an American physician and NASA astronaut.
- Richard Rhodes – the author or editor of twenty-four books including The Making of the Atomic Bomb
- Bill Nye – scientist, engineer, comedian, author, and inventor
- Dana Backman – director of SOFIA’s Outreach programs.
- Moderator: Adrian Brown – a planetary scientist at the SETI Institute
The world music ensemble BELLA GAIA provides
an unprecedented audiovisual experience that combines NASA satellite imagery of Earth, time lapse nature photography, and cultural heritage footage with stirring live performances of music and dance from around the world.
Inspired by astronauts who spoke of the life changing power of seeing the Earth from space, director-composer Kenji Williams’ award winning BELLA GAIA successfully simulates the Overview Effect from space flight, by using NASA supercomputer data-visualizations to explore the relationship between humans and nature through time and space, with a “message of oneness amidst a deeply moving and shimmering soundscape that combines sacred dance with gorgeous sets and stunning imagery” (Blog Talk Radio).
They will release their debut album, BELLA GAIA – Beautiful Earth, on November 11th. Find more about the album and performance plans in their latest newsletter: World renowned cosmic world music ensemble releases new single
Here is the track Biosphere Pulse:
You can listen to the entire album at BELLA GAIA – Beautiful Earth on SoundCloud.
Here is a video from BELLA GAIA:
Rick Boozer on his Astro Maven blog has posted the third installment of his Photometry with AIP4WIN: a Tutorial, which is aimed at astronomers both amateur and professional:
From Part 1:
The science of photometry can be used by both amateur astronomers and professionals for some very advanced scientific work. You can detect the light changes caused by eclipsing binary stars, plot the changes in luminosity of a variable star and even detect an exoplanet orbiting another star. This tutorial will be your step-by-step guide on how to employ the powerful Magnitude Measurement Tool that comes with the renowned astronomical imaging software known as AIP4WIN by Richard Berry and Robert Burnell. Special thanks to Mr. Berry for giving me permission to include screen images and extensive operating details from AIP4WIN.
Here’s this week’s NASA video report on activities related to the International Space Station:
A new NASA sponsored contest:
Registration is open for the 2015 NASA Centennial Challenges’ Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) Prize, which will take place April 7-12, 2015. The competition carries a prize purse of $50,000 and will be held in Huntsville, Alabama, in conjunction with the NASA Student Launch event, an academic engineering design challenge that provides resources and experiences for students and faculty.
The Mars Ascent Vehicle Prize will aid NASA in advancing technologies that could be used to return samples from Mars in the future. The challenge focuses on simulating the collection of samples from the Martian surface, placing them into Mars orbit for collection and returning them to Earth. This new challenge is open to both academic and non-academic teams to demonstrate technologies that may be relevant to potential future NASA Science Mission Directorate Mars missions. This challenge has no relation to NASA missions currently in development such as the Mars 2020.
“The MAV Prize is an opportunity for us to team up with an established academic competition and invite teams of all kinds to work in parallel on technologies that will aid in future Mars exploration,” said Sam Ortega, Centennial Challenges program manager.
The Challenge requires reliable, autonomous sample insertion into the rocket, launch from the surface, and deployment of the sample container. Innovative technology from this competition could be considered in future planning for a Mars exploration mission.
Centennial Challenges will award prizes for successful demonstration of an end-to-end autonomous operation to sequentially accomplish the following tasks: picking up the sample, inserting the sample into a single stage solid-propellant rocket in a horizontal position, erecting the rocket, launching the rocket to an altitude of 3,000 feet, deploying a sample container, and landing the container safely while following the National Association of Rocketry guidelines.
The first-place award is $25,000; second-place is $15,000; and third-place is $10,000. Competing teams will be eligible for prize money only after the successful completion of all the required tasks.
Interested teams may apply for the challenge by submitting a registration proposal to the Student Launch project office. Details for submitting the proposal and complete rules may be found in the handbook.
The Centennial Challenges program is part of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is innovating, developing, testing and flying hardware for use in NASA’s future missions. It is managed out of Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
For more information about the MAV Prize, visit: www.nasa.gov/mavprize
For more information about NASA Student Launch, visit: go.usa.gov/dW9w
An announcement from NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope program:
Smallest exoplanet ever found to have water vapour
Astronomers using data from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and the Kepler Space Telescope have discovered clear skies and steamy water vapour on a planet outside our Solar System. The planet, known as HAT-P-11b, is about the size of Neptune, making it the smallest exoplanet ever on which water vapour has been detected. The results will appear in the online version of the journal Nature on 24 September 2014.
This is an artist’s concept of the silhouette of the extrasolar planet HAT-P-11b
as it passes its parent star. The planet was observed as it crossed in front of its star in order to learn more about its atmosphere.
In this method, known as transmission or absorption spectroscopy, starlight filters through the rim of the planet’s atmosphere and into the telescope. If molecules like water vapour are present, they absorb some of the starlight, leaving distinct signatures in the light that reaches our telescopes. Using this technique, astronomers discovered clear skies and steamy water vapour on the planet.
The discovery is a milestone on the road to eventually finding molecules in the atmospheres of smaller, rocky planets more akin to Earth. Clouds in the atmospheres of planets can block the view of what lies beneath them. The molecular makeup of these lower regions can reveal important information about the composition and history of a planet. Finding clear skies on a Neptune-size planet is a good sign that some smaller planets might also have similarly good visibility.
“When astronomers go observing at night with telescopes, they say ‘clear skies’ to mean good luck,” said Jonathan Fraine of the University of Maryland, USA, lead author of the study. “In this case, we found clear skies on a distant planet. That’s lucky for us because it means clouds didn’t block our view of water molecules.”
This image, taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3, shows the star HAT-P-11.
Not visible here is a Neptune-sized planet named HAT-P-11b which orbits the star. Astronomers have discovered clear skies and steamy water vapour on the planet. It is the smallest planet ever for which water vapour has been detected.
The small bright object next to the star is not the planet in question; in fact it is not a planet at all, but another star.
The reason for the graininess in this image is that it is a very short exposure. The star itself is so bright that it is saturated, it would otherwise be a small dot like the faint star next to it. The rings and the cross are caused by the diffraction — the bouncing of light — inside the telescope.
HAT-P-11b is a so-called exo-Neptune — a Neptune-sized planet that orbits another star. It is located 120 light-years away in the constellation of Cygnus (The Swan). Unlike Neptune, this planet orbits closer to its star, making one lap roughly every five days. It is a warm world thought to have a rocky core, a mantle of fluid and ice, and a thick gaseous atmosphere. Not much else was known about the composition of the planet, or other exo-Neptunes like it, until now.
Part of the challenge in analysing the atmospheres of planets like this is their size. Larger Jupiter-like planets are easier to observe and researchers have already been able to detect water vapour in the atmospheres of some of these giant planets. Smaller planets are more difficult to probe — and all the smaller ones observed to date have appeared to be cloudy.
The team used Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 and a technique called transmission spectroscopy, in which a planet is observed as it crosses in front of its parent star. Starlight filters through the rim of the planet’s atmosphere and into the telescope. If molecules like water vapour are present, they absorb some of the starlight, leaving distinct signatures in the light that reaches our telescopes.
“We set out to look at the atmosphere of HAT-P-11b without knowing if its weather would be cloudy or not,” said Nikku Madhusudhan, from the University of Cambridge, UK, part of the study team. “By using transmission spectroscopy, we could use Hubble to detect water vapour in the planet. This told us that the planet didn’t have thick clouds blocking the view and is a very hopeful sign that we can find and analyse more cloudless, smaller, planets in the future. It is groundbreaking!”
Before the team could celebrate they had to be sure that the water vapour was from the planet and not from cool starspots — “freckles” on the face of stars — on the parent star. Luckily, Kepler had been observing the patch of sky in which HAT-P-11b happens to lie for years. Those visible-light data were combined with targeted infraredSpitzer observations. By comparing the datasets the astronomers could confirm that the starspots were too hot to contain any water vapour, and so the vapour detected must belong to the planet.
The results from all three telescopes demonstrate that HAT-P-11b is blanketed in water vapour, hydrogen gas, and other yet-to-be-identified molecules. So in fact it is not only the smallest planet to have water vapour found in its atmosphere but is also the smallest planet for which molecules of any kind have been directly detected using spectroscopy . Theorists will be drawing up new models to explain the planet’s makeup and origins.
Zoom in on the star:
Although HAT-P-11b is dubbed as an exo-Neptune it is actually quite unlike any planet in our Solar System. It is thought that exo-Neptunes may have diverse compositions that reflect their formation histories. New findings such as this can help astronomers to piece together a theory for the origin of these distant worlds.
“We are working our way down the line, from hot Jupiters to exo-Neptunes,” said Drake Deming, a co-author of the study also from University of Maryland, USA. “We want to expand our knowledge to a diverse range of exoplanets.”
The astronomers plan to examine more exo-Neptunes in the future, and hope to apply the same method to smaller super-Earths — massive, rocky cousins to our home world with up to ten times the mass of Earth. Our Solar System does not contain a super-Earth, but other telescopes are finding them around other stars in droves and the NASA/ESA James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in 2018, will search super-Earths for signs of water vapour and other molecules. However, finding signs of oceans and potentially habitable worlds is likely a way off.
This work is important for future studies of super-Earths and even smaller planets. It could allow astronomers to pick out in advance the planets with atmospheres clear enough for molecules to be detected. Once again, astronomers will be crossing their fingers for clear skies.
 Molecular hydrogen has been inferred to exist in many planets, including planets smaller than HAT-P-11b, but no molecule has actually been detected, using spectroscopy, in a planet this small, until now.
In this show, Amanda Bush talks about the following topics:
01:08 – 03:12 NASA picks its Rocket Rides to the ISS
03:13 – 05:16 Jeff Bezos brings a Rocket Engine to Washington
05:17 – 06:46 Maven reaches Mars, MOM to follow
06:47 – 07:36 Curiosity reaches Mount Sharp Base Camp
07:37 – 09:30 Rosetta checks out its Comet
Previous Virtual SpaceTV 3D shows are available on the HobbySpace Youtube Channel.
These videos are intended as educational programs and as demonstrations of an experimental technique for generating animated presentations. The show was generated autonomously by software according to a text script. The project is described in the Virtual Producer whitepaper (Release 1.1, Oct.2013, pdf). For further information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
An announcement from ESA/Hubble:
Hubble snaps what looks like a young galaxy in the local Universe
Astronomers usually have to peer very far into the distance to see back in time, and view the Universe as it was when it was young. This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image of galaxy DDO 68, otherwise known as UGC 5340, was thought to offer an exception. This ragged collection of stars and gas clouds looks at first glance like a recently-formed galaxy in our own cosmic neighbourhood. But, is it really as young as it looks?
Astronomers have studied galactic evolution for decades, gradually improving our knowledge of how galaxies have changed over cosmic history. The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has played a big part in this, allowing astronomers to see further into the distance, and hence further back in time, than any telescope before it — capturing light that has taken billions of years to reach us.
Zooming in on dwarf galaxy DDO 68
Looking further into the very distant past to observe younger and younger galaxies is very valuable, but it is not without its problems for astronomers. All newly-born galaxies lie very far away from us and appear very small and faint in the images. On the contrary, all the galaxies near to us appear to be old ones.
DDO 68, captured here by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, was one of the best candidates so far discovered for a newly-formed galaxy in our cosmic neighbourhood. The galaxy lies around 39 million light-years away from us; although this distance may seem huge, it is in fact roughly 50 times closer than the usual distances to such galaxies, which are on the order of several billions of light years.
By studying galaxies of various ages, astronomers have found that those early in their lives are fundamentally different from those that are older. DDO 68 looks to be relatively youthful based on its structure, appearance, and composition. However, without more detailed modelling astronomers cannot be sure and they think it may be older than it lets on.
Elderly galaxies tend to be larger thanks to collisions and mergers with other galaxies that have bulked them out, and are populated with a variety of different types of stars — including old, young, large, and small ones. Their chemical makeup is different too. Newly-formed galaxies have a similar composition to the primordial matter created in the Big Bang (hydrogen, helium and a little lithium), while older galaxies are enriched with heavier elements forged in stellar furnaces over multiple generations of stars.
DDO 68 is the best representation yet of a primordial galaxy in the local Universe as it appears at first glance to be very low in heavier elements — whose presence would be a sign of the existence of previous generations of stars.
Panning across DDO 68
Hubble observations were carried out in order to study the properties of the galaxy’s light, and to confirm whether or not there are any older stars in DDO 68. If there are, which there seem to be, this would disprove the hypothesis that it is entirely made up of young stars. If not, it would confirm the unique nature of this galaxy. More complex modelling is needed before we can know for sure but Hubble’s picture certainly gives us a beautiful view of this unusual object.
The image is made up of exposures in visible and infrared light taken with Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys.