Another week, another Carnival of Space! Some neat things happening in the universe with some gorgeous pictures, so let’s get started. (This week’s fun and unrelated space image is Homer Jay Simpson, chasing down a rogue potato chip while an incensed Buzz Aldrin looks on. Homer was one of NASA’s heaviest astronauts weighing in at 239 pounds. Source.)
So your friend asks, not necessarily in a hostile manner but possibly in a hostile manner, “Can you tell me why the things people see in telescopes should mean anything to me? Why is it so important that we spend my money on it?” The ladies from Smaller Questions give us some good answers.
Most of us would probably say it’s worth looking at the sky because its awesome, and that’s just what the Spacewriter tells us about. She plans to celebrate the upcoming International Day of Awesomeness with some awesome stargazing.
Speaking of the night sky, ever wonder how astronomers know where to point their telescopes? The astronomy word of the week from Astrowow is “declination.”
From the why and the how of looking at stars, we move on to some amazing things to see.
Universe Today’s Nancy Atkinson talks with astrophotographer extraordinaire Thierry Legault about how he got started in the hobby that has made him famous.
Dear Astronomer presents us with a new Hubble Space Telescope image of Eta Carinae that provides a Supernova “preview.”
Photoblog brings us two stunning images this week. The sparkles of hidden stars are revealed in a picture of the Orion Nebula that shows off the colors of the infrared rainbow. A “crack” in Earth’s magnetic field opened the way for yet another thrilling display of the northern lights near the top of the world.
Astroblogger brings us an image of Comet C/2009 P1 Garradd near the galaxy C 6015. It’s not profound, just pretty.
The beautiful images of the cosmos bring with them a host of mysteries.
Astronomers are left scratching their heads over a new observation of a “clump” of dark matter apparently left behind after a massive merger between galaxy clusters. The dark matter is apparently collected into a “dark core,” which holds far fewer galaxies than expected. The discovery challenges current understandings of how dark matter influences galaxies and galaxy clusters. Universe Today has the details.
Rounding out our look at the stars this week, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory looks back on more than twelve years of science and trying to predict what it will find in the future. One thing is certain: we can expect the unexpected.
From stars to bodies in our own solar system, Discovery News tells us that far from being quiet, peaceful objects drifting through space, analysis of dust samples from asteroid 25143 Itokawa has shown that asteroids are violently sandblasted by micrometeorites.
Next Big Future brings us some more unsettling news about asteroids. The near-Earth asteroid 2011 AG5 currently has an impact probability of 1 in 625 for Feb. 5, 2040, according to Donald Yeomans, head of the Near-Earth Object Observations Program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
There are some amazing things to see right here on Earth as well. Planet Bye shares images and video of the evening triple conjunction of Venus, Jupiter, and the crescent Moon as seen from Norway immediately after sunset. For the stargazers out there, Venus and Jupiter will be bright in the sky in March.
Speaking of Venus, this is a big year for the second planet from the sun. In June, some observers on Earth will get a great view of Venus passing directly between the Earth and the Sun. The Venus Transit give us a short history of past Venus transits and how they helped to understand the true size of the universe.
This upcoming Transit of Venus, the last for a long time, is less than 100 days away. Links Through Space shares a video-teaser from Lightcurve Films who is doing a documentary on “our last transit of Venus”.
Moving on to ideas and developments in space technology, Next Big Future bring us some interesting news.
First, NBF shares details about the radiation problems if Alcubierre warp drive was feasible. Turns out, any ship using an Alcubierre warp drive carrying people would need shielding to protect them from potential dangerously blueshifted particles during the journey, and any people at the destination would be gamma ray and high energy particle blasted into oblivion due to the extreme blueshifts for P+ region particles.
NBF also tells us about the Startram concept, the GEN 1 idea that uses long, evacuated tunnels to accelerate unmanned payloads to orbital velocity for about $50 per kilogram. A more ambitious GEN 1.5 system would take longer and demand greater resources, but could put humans into orbit for a similarly low cost. Sander Olson interviews Startram visionary James Powell on why he believes that the concept is viable, and how it could be developed within twenty years for $40 billion.
Finally, NBF tells us that XCOR Aerospace announced that it recently closed a $5 million round of equity funding. This, combined with cash on hand plus anticipated and existing contracts, should fund the company through production of its Lynx Mark I Suborbital vehicle.
Rounding out this week’s carnival, Cosmic Log shares astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson explanation of why doubling NASA’s budget would yield big payoffs for America.
That’s it for this week. Happy sky watching!