Here’s a SETI Institute video of a panel discussion on the topic of accurately depicting exoplanets: Artists Imaging Exoworlds-Getting It Right (SETI Con 2)
From the caption:
- Lynette Cook – most widely known as an out-of-this-world space artist, Cook has enthralled others with the wonders of the cosmos via her depictions of planets discovered outside our solar system. Published worldwide in books, periodicals, and documentaries, these renderings have been featured on ABC7 News and in USA Today.
- Danielle Futselaar – owner of ArtSource Graphic Design Studio in the Netherlands. Artist/Illustrator and Graphic Designer. Her clients include UNICEF, TNT and AS Watson. Danielle is also the SETI Institute’s TeamSETI Volunteer Captain of Creative Design where she has illustrated and created complete graphic design packages for fundraising campaigns and SETIcon II. She also created the official artist impression of Asteroid Minerva and its Two Moons discovered by SETI Institute’s Franck Marchis.
- Eric Hanson- A visual effects designer specializing in the creation of digital environments and effects for feature films, Eric Hanson has worked with noted visual effects houses such as Digital Domain, Sony Imageworks, Dream Quest Images, and Walt Disney Feature Animation. His credits include The Fifth Element (1997), Bicentennial Man (1999), Cast Away (2000), Hollow Man (2000), Mission to Mars (2000), Spider-Man (2002) and Atlantis as well as many special-venue films.
- Mark Showalter – Showalter is rabid about rings. While everyone knows about Saturn’s spectacular ring system, it’s often forgotten that Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune are also encircled by fainter and narrower rings. Each of these systems interacts closely with a family of small, inner moons. Showalter works on some of NASA’s highest-profile missions to the outer planets, including Cassini, now orbiting Saturn, and New Horizons, which flew past Jupiter en route to its 2015 encounter with Pluto. He has even searched for the rings of Mars, although so far with no success. Known for his persistence in planetary image analysis, Mark’s work on the earlier Voyager mission led to his discovery of Jupiter’s faint, outer “gossamer” rings and Saturn’s tiny ring-moon, Pan.
- Franck Marchis – Dr. Franck Marchis is a Planetary Astronomer at the Carl Sagan Center of the SETI Institute and also an associate astronomer at the Observatoire de Paris. Our solar system is characterized by considerable diversity of its constituent bodies. Franck Marchis’ first involvement in the study of this diversity started in 1996 while working at the UNAM Astronomy Department in Mexico City. He made the first ground-based observations of the volcanoes on the jovian moon Io, using the first Adaptive Optics (AO) systems available on the European Southern Observatory (ESO) 3.6 m telescope in Chile. After a brief stay in London and four years in Chile at ESO, he completed in 2000 his PhD in France. Since then, he has been studying asteroids with large telescopes and he discovered in 2005 the first triple using the Very Large Telescope in Chile. His work consists in using and developing adaptive optics on current and future 30m telescopes dedicated to the study of the solar system and extra solar planets.
An amazingly beautiful aurora image by James Woodend wins the Royal Museum Greenwich‘s contest for the 2014 Astronomy Photographer of the Year. See the top images at Earth & Space : 2014 winners : Exhibitions : What’s on : RMG
Aurora over a Glacier Lagoon by James Woodend, UK
9 January 2014
Canon 5D Mk III camera; 33mm f/3.2 lens; ISO 1000; 10-second exposure
What the photographer says…
Although this is not a strong aurora, they sometimes make the best reflection shots. The water was very still – you can see the icebergs floating in the lagoon and their reflections. In the background is the Vatnajökull Glacier.
What it shows…
The pale-green glow of the aurora comes from oxygen atoms high in the atmosphere, energized by subatomic particles blasted out by the Sun. The particles are funnelled down towards the north and south poles by the Earth’s magnetic field, which is why these spectacular light shows are so often juxtaposed with the frozen scenery of the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Here the photographer has skilfully captured the delicate, icy colouration of land, water and sky.
Here’s a series of videos about the contest leading up to the winners:
For the recent Burning Man event, the “Desert Wizards of Mars” brought their Black Rock Observatory. Funded via a Kickstarter, the project include two domed-covered 21 inch telescopes and the Mars Rover Art Car.
Here’s an article about the project : Bringing Space Science Education to Burning Man–and Beyond – Co.Create.
And their Kickstarter video:
With the revived Kepler space observatory once again looking for planets orbiting other stars, the citizens science program Planet Hunters is graduating to Planet Hunters 2.0: A Brand New Planet Hunters – Planet Hunters
On December 16, 2010, the Zooniverse launched Planet Hunters to enlist the public’s help to search for extrasolar planets (exoplanets) in the data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft. Back then we didn’t know what we would find. It may have been the case that no new planets were discovered and that computers had the job down to a fine art. The project was a gamble on the ability of human pattern recognition to beat machines just occasionally and spot the telltale dip in a star’s brightness due to a transiting planet that was missed by automated routines looking for repeating patterns.
Nearly four years later, Planet Hunters has become a success beyond anyone’s expectation. To date 8 published scientific papers have resulted from the efforts of nearly 300,000 volunteers worldwide. Planet Hunters has discovered 9 planet candidate co-discoveries with the Kepler effort, over 30 unknown planet candidates not previously identified by the Kepler team, a confirmed transiting circumbinary planet in a quadruple star system (PH1b), a confirmed Jupiter-sized planet in the habitable zone of a Sun-like star (PH2b), and identified the 7th planet candidate of a 7 planet star system.
Today in collaboration with JPL’s PlanetQuest, the Planet Hunters science team and the Zooniverse are proud to announce the launch of Planet Hunters version 2.0. We’ve taken your feedback and the lessons learned over the past 3.5 years to build a fast new interface that we think will take the project to the next stage. Using the Zooniverse’s latest technology, Planet Hunters 2.0 is built specifically with the next generation of transiting exoplanet surveys in mind, including the new K2 mission, which repurposes the Kepler spacecraft.
Kepler had been monitoring ~170,000 stars for the signatures of transiting exoplanets over the past 4 years in the Kepler field located in the constellations of Cygnus and Lyra. The new-two wheel Kepler mission dubbed ‘K2‘ will have Kepler observing brand new sets of 10,000-20,000 stars every 75 days. These stars are different from the sources that Kepler had been monitoring in the past. Your eyes will be one of the first to gaze upon these observations. Most of the K2 target stars will have never before been searched for planets, providing a new opportunity to find distant worlds. K2 observations will be made available by NASA and the Kepler team to the entire astronomical community and the public shortly after being transmitted to Earth and processed. We aim to get them on Planet Hunters 2.0 as fast as we can.
- Welcome to the Era of K2 – Planet Hunters – May.16.2014
- A Sunny Outlook for NASA Kepler’s Second Light – NASA – explanation of the new K2 operating mode
This week’s Space to Ground video report on activities aboard the Int. Space Station focuses on preparations for the upcoming arrival of a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft with two and a half tons of cargo. The Dragon is currently set to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Saturday morning at 2:16 am EDT.
Looks like the pass of the comet Siding Spring by Mars on October 19th will not in fact bring along a dust cloud of fast moving particles thick enough to damage the spacecraft orbiting the planet:
By the middle of this summer, published estimates (based on new images and additional modelling) were indicating a flux of around 10-6 particles per m2, which, for Mars Express, very roughly equates to a 1-in-300,000 chance of being hit. It’s starting to look like our comet C/2013 A1/Siding Spring will manifest itself as a more friendly passer-by than initially thought and that it won’t be hurling clouds of large particles at unthinkable speeds towards Mars and its man-made satellites.
- One plan becomes two plans – Mars Express
- Comet Siding Spring Mars encounter: One Mars Express plan becomes two – The Planetary Society
- Comets: Siding Spring (C/2013 A1) – Mars Exploration Program
An image of the comet Siding Spring
A diagram illustrating the relative closeness of the pass of comet Siding Spring to Mars vs going by the Earth:
Rick Boozer posts the second installment of his tutorial on photometry with the AIP4WIN software package:
- Astro Maven: Photometry with AIP4WIN: A Tutorial – Part 2
- Astro Maven: Photometry with AIP4WIN: A Tutorial – Part 1
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.
The announcement in 1996 that a multi-billion year old meteorite from Mars showed signs of ancient microbial life attracted tremendous public attention but the results were subsequently discounted, though never completed refuted, by the studies of other groups. For a summary of the Allan Hills 84001 meteorite controversy, see Life on Mars? – Smithsonian – May.2005.
An electron microscope image from the Allan Hills 84001 meteorite
Back in February of this year there came a study by a team of scientists from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Texas and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California that reported signs of “biological processes” in a Mars meteorite that would have occurred hundreds of millions of years ago : Mars Meteorite Structures: Optimism for Alien Life? – Discovery News.
This week comes a study of a 1.3 billion year old meteorite with electron microscopes that sees cell-like structures that resemble fossilised biological cells seen in old earth rocks : Martian meteorite yields more evidence of the possibility of life on Mars – The University of Manchester.
Chemical maps of the ovoid structure obtained with an electron microprobe.
Chatzitheodoridis Elias, Haigh Sarah, and Lyon Ian.
Astrobiology. August 2014, 14(8): 651-693. doi:10.1089/ast.2013.1069.
More such results probably won’t change the dominant view that inorganic processes can’t be ruled out as the creators of these tiny structures. It will take studies on Mars, or more appropriately, below the surface of Mars, to prove whether or not there is life on the Red Planet now or that it existed sometime in the distant past.
A video from the European Space Agency (ESA):
ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst gives an overview of some of the science he has performed during his Blue Dot mission on the International Space Station so far. From robotic surgery to vaccines and accurate thermometers, research in space is bringing benefits for humans on Earth.
Watch as Alexander takes you through some of the highlights of his mission.
Read more about his Blue Dot mission here http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Hum…
Follow Alexander here: http://alexandergerst.esa.int/
A report from the European Southern Observatory (ESO):
New observations explain why Milky Way-like galaxies are
so common in the Universe
For decades scientists have believed that galaxy mergers usually result in the formation of elliptical galaxies. Now, for the the first time, researchers using ALMA and a host of other radio telescopes have found direct evidence that merging galaxies can instead form disc galaxies, and that this outcome is in fact quite common. This surprising result could explain why there are so many spiral galaxies like the Milky Way in the Universe.
An international research group led by Junko Ueda, a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science postdoctoral fellow, has made surprising observations that most galaxy collisions in the nearby Universe — within 40–600 million light-years from Earth — result in so-called disc galaxies. Disc galaxies — including spiral galaxies like the Milky Way and lenticular galaxies — are defined by pancake-shaped regions of dust and gas, and are distinct from the category of elliptical galaxies.
It has, for some time, been widely accepted that merging disc galaxies would eventually form an elliptically shaped galaxy. During these violent interactions the galaxies do not only gain mass as they merge or cannibalise each-other, but they are also changing their shape throughout cosmic time, and therefore changing type along the way.
Computer simulations from the 1970s predicted that mergers between two comparable disc galaxies would result in an elliptical galaxy. The simulations predict that most galaxies today are elliptical, clashing with observations that over 70% of galaxies are in fact disc galaxies. However, more recent simulations have suggested that collisions could also form disc galaxies.
To identify the final shapes of galaxies after mergers observationally, the group studied the distribution of gas in 37 galaxies that are in their final stages of merging. The Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array (ALMA) and several other radio telescopes  were used to observe emission from carbon monoxide (CO), an indicator of molecular gas.
The team’s research is the largest study of molecular gas in galaxies to date and provides unique insight into how the Milky Way might have formed. Their study revealed that almost all of the mergers show pancake-shaped areas of molecular gas, and hence are disc galaxies in the making. Ueda explains:
“For the first time there is observational evidence for merging galaxies that could result in disc galaxies. This is a large and unexpected step towards understanding the mystery of the birth of disc galaxies.”
Nonetheless, there is a lot more to discover. Ueda added:
“We have to start focusing on the formation of stars in these gas discs. Furthermore, we need to look farther out in the more distant Universe. We know that the majority of galaxies in the more distant Universe also have discs. We however do not yet know whether galaxy mergers are also responsible for these, or whether they are formed by cold gas gradually falling into the galaxy. Maybe we have found a general mechanism that applies throughout the history of the Universe.”
1. Monday, Sept. 15, 2014: 2-3:30 PM PDT (5-6:30 PM EDT, 4-5:30 PM CDT): We welcome back DR. ERIK SEEDHOUSE regarding his new book, Beyond Human: Engineering Our Future Evolution.
2. Tuesday, Sept. 16 , 2014:,7-8:30 PM PDT (10-11:30 PM EDT, 9-10:30 PM CDT): We welcome back DR. MIKE GRIFFIN, former NASA Administrator and current CEO of Schafer Corp.
3. Friday, Sept. 19, 2014, 9:30 -11 AM PDT (12;30-2 PM EDT; 11:30-1 PM CDT): We welcome STEWART MONEY to discuss is new best selling book, Here Be Dragons: The Rise of SpaceX and the Journey to Mars“.
4. Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014, 12-1:30 PM PDT (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT). We welcome back noted space and science writer MICHAEL BELFIORE. Check out his website at http://michaelbelfiore.com.
The Space Show is a project of the One Giant Leap Foundation.
The Spaceship Earth Grant program opens today with a spaceflight contest:
Spaceship Earth Grants Launches Global Crowdfunding Spaceflight Contest
Early applicants can also compete to win a weightless/parabolic flight
Spaceship Earth Grants Launches Global Crowdfunding Spaceflight Contest Early applicants can also compete to win a weightless/parabolic flight SAN DIEGO, CA (September 15, 2014) – Childhood dreams are now within reach and a unique approach to changing the world is underway as Spaceship Earth Grants (SEG) launches a new program to send private citizens to space. With its mission of enabling as many people as possible to have the spaceflight experience, the SEG crew is proud to launch its first contest to crowdfund an open number of spaceflight awards.
“Space is thrilling; however, this is not just about creating thrill rides for people. There are aspects of spaceflight that can generate shifts in perspective to positively and profoundly influence the way people behave and think about our world” said former NASA Astronaut Leland Melvin, President of Spaceship Earth Grants. “We want to facilitate that positive impact by awarding space travel to enthusiastic individuals who will be influential ambassadors by sharing their new insights with others in a compelling and inspiring way.”
The contest, presented by Star Harbor Space Training Academy, begins today and is very unique. SEG will initially award one space flight for each 50,000 applications, but will increase the number of awards given per 50,000 applications as the number of applicants grows. This unique approach of offering ever-increasing odds will encourage applicants to share the contest opportunity enthusiastically among their family members, friends and communities worldwide, knowing their own chances of being selected increase as the more people apply.
The SEG Council (judge’s panel) is made up of former NASA astronauts, industry experts, space enthusiasts, celebrity artists, musicians and other influential people representing a wide variety of interests who share our mission of tapping the world’s love of space exploration to benefit our planet, #SpaceshipEarth.
- Create a Basic Profile: September 15 – December 31, 2014
- Must be 18+
- Pay the Application Fee: Application fee is $15 – 90 USD
- The fee is adjusted according to the relative wealth of the applicant’s home nation, providing opportunities for all of Earth’s citizens to participate.
- Complete Application: Must be complete by December 31, 11:59:59 EST, 2014
- Full application to include a short written summary
- 90 second video answering the question “How will you use this experience to better yourself, your community or our planet?”
- Applications may be in English, Spanish, French, Japanese, Arabic, Russian or Mandarin
- Social Media Rally Period: January 5 – February 28, 2015
- During this phase applicants are encouraged to leverage their social media networks to garner wider attention and support for why they should be chosen.
- List of Finalists Announced by SEG Council: March 20, 2015
- The primary selection criteria will be the applicants’ demonstration of a clear ability to communicate and a desire to convert their spaceflight experience into a planetary benefit upon their return.
- Additional selection criteria will also include the level of the applicant’s engagement in the campaign as well as the engagement of the globe with the applicant.
- Consideration will be given to applicants on a regional basis in an effort to ensure winners represent the diverse geographic locations of the applicant pool.
- Grant Winners Announced by SEG Council: April 12, 2015
- On the 54th anniversary of the first human spaceflight, winners of the largest
effort to propel humanity into space will be announced.
- On the 54th anniversary of the first human spaceflight, winners of the largest
Award Packages include:
- A trip aboard the winner’s choice of spaceflight providers currently available at time of award announcement
- Spaceflight Training package from Star Harbor Space Training Academy
- Travel expenses including coach airfare to/from home country, food/housing and ground transportation
PARABOLIC FLIGHT AWARDS for EARLY APPLICANTS
- For the first 5,000 profiles created, 1 in every 100 will be selected for a total of 50 Parabolic Flight Awards (full application must be complete by 11:59:59 Dec 31, 2014 to qualify – same selection criteria applies)
A percentage of funds generated will be granted to outstanding organizations around the world that share our mission of creating a world that works for everyone. Initial grants will be made to partner organizations: Fragile Oasis, The Overview Institute, The Planetary Society and Project Nominate. SEG looks forward to launching its organization and project grant program next year after individual winners of the contest are selected.
For more information and full contest terms and conditions, visit spaceshipearthgrant.com.
About Spaceship Earth Grants: Spaceship Earth Grants Corp. (SEG), a Public Benefit Corporation, is committed to making the space experience accessible to as many people as possible. SEG offers applicants a chance to travel to space while helping to fund efforts and organizations that are making a significant positive impact on planet Earth. SEG will be providing grants to individuals and organizations that are likewise committed to bettering their communities. For more information, visit spaceshipearthgrants.com.
About Star Harbor Space Training Academy: Star Harbor Space Training Academy will be the first-in-the-world publicly accessible, fully comprehensive and environmentally immersive space training academy. The Star Harbor team is led by CEO Maraia Hoffman and includes former NASA Astronauts Leland Melvin and Ron Garan. More information about Star Harbor will be announced in October.
A new video series titled Xploration Outer Space Online is opening on Hulu for free viewing:
Host Emily Calandrelli, Harvard scholar and former Nasa employee, takes viewers on incredible journeys through space. She visits various NASA facilities as we search for answers about our universe. Xploration Outer Space is part of the Xploration Station two hour syndicated block airing on Fox stations throughout the country.
Here’s the first episode – Prepping for Mars – Hulu:
Rob Godwin, the owner and founder of Apogee Space Books. was on the Space Show Friday and discussed the book, 2001: The Heritage And Legacy Of The Space Odyssey, published by www.apogeeprime.com and written by the late Fred Ordway and Godwin: Rob Godwin, Friday, 9-12-14 – Thespaceshow’s Blog
Listen to the audio:
The earth has been hit with a couple of large coronal mass ejections (i.e. solar flares) from the sun in the past couple of days and this is creating some spectacular auroral displays.
- Spaceweather.com Realtime Image Gallery – lots of beautiful images
- Spaceweather.com – Sept.14.14
- AuroraMAX – The Northern Lights Live – High Definition – Canadian Space Agency
- Aurora Forecast – Astronomy North
- Solar storm’s impacts to spacecraft should be limited – Spaceflight Now
As predicted, a pair of CMEs hit Earth’s magnetic field in quick succession on Sept. 11th and 12th. The result was a G3-class geomagnetic storm, the most intense of the year so far. At the peak of the storm on Sept 12-13, bright auroras ringed the Arctic Circle and spilled down over several northern-tier US states.
Here’s a great shot by Harald Albrigtsen:
And here is a photo from ” John Stetson [taken] on September 12, 2014 @ Quaker Ridge, Casco, Maine facing north towards the Presidential Range in [New Hampshire]”:
The sunspot number held close to steady in August: The solar maximum lingers on – Behind The Black
Latest plot of sunspots in the solar cycle: