Thursday, September 13, 2007

Step Right Up! Carnival of Space #20

Welcome to the Carnival of Space, where every week a few intrepid bloggers virtually gather to Think Big Thoughts of Spacefaring Civilizations, tinker with humanity’s backup plan, wish they were astronauts (or rationalize why they’re happy not to be astronauts), marvel at the Universe and at the fact that we manage to figure out some of it sometimes, or make fun of NASA. We boldly blog where many of us have blogged before. OK, I’ll just get on with number 20.

On September 10, Cassini passed through the closest encounter it will ever have with Iapetus, Saturn's "Yin-Yang" moon. Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society Blog assembled a bunch of the images into a crescent view of Iapetus from the approach phase of the flyby. Be sure to check out the rest of the blog for more Iapetus encounter images, including a really stunning one of Saturn, its rings, and almost all its moons, and this cool animation. (The new Iapetus image above is courtesy JPL.)

A Babe in the Universe also has news from the Ringed Planet, and says, “we had a new calculation of Saturn's day with yet another spectacular Cassini photo. The estimate of Saturn's day affects calculation of wind speed and whether those winds are travelling East or West.”

Astropixie reflects on how various human cultures through the ages have recognized and created unique stories for the same patterns of stars in the sky (known as asterisms, which are not necessarily the “classical” constellations, though some are). She gives examples of a few that are up in the northern skies right now!

Inquiring minds want to know: how did supermassive black holes form? Most astronomers think they began as very large stars that collapsed into black holes and started growing from there. Universe Today reports on a theory that they collapsed directly into black holes - and never were stars.

Speaking of stars, everyone knows that stars twinkle, and they probably know that this has something to do with the atmosphere. This week, Astroprof offers a fine explanation of what it actually means to “twinkle” (if you’re a star of the astrophysical variety) and why it happens.

And how will we get to the stars? No one really knows yet, but Centauri Dreams has looked at many ideas on this, including solar sails. Recent Progress on Solar Sails discusses an article that the team at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center put together on what is happening there. Paul reports that despite all the funding cuts, solar sail work continues, and issues that will define future missions are being worked out.

Before we get to the stars, we will probably get to some “local” planets and moons (at least I hope so!). This week Colony Worlds discusses some reasons for holding off for a while on urban planning for a number of bodies in our Sun’s neighborhood in Which Worlds Should Humanity Skip?

As “Educator Astronaut” Barbara Morgan begins touring the US to talk to children and their teachers about her recent experiences in space, Stuart Atkinson wonders what challenges and problems will face the teachers of the future, especially those given the responsibility for teaching young Martians about a bizarre, impossibly alien world called Earth...

And speaking of Mars and education, Catalogablog reports on a cool NASA-supported workshop called “Mars Inside and Out.” If you happen to be in Oklahoma City November 8 & 9, check it out! I’m sorry I won’t be able to make it.

Space For Commerce talks about efforts to find a new slogan for NASA, and as much as I respect the people and the accomplishments of NASA, I couldn’t help laughing at some of the examples he reports (“NASA: Keeping the Moon free of pesky humanity since 1972”). Digging deeper and more cynically into the subject (as usual), the Space Cynics blog draws some conclusions about why it’s easier to find a funny slogan than one that really fits the agency’s multiple personalities.

I’ve been focused on many Earthly concerns this week, but earlier this month I capped off a space-shuttle-and-ISS-obsessed summer with a discussion of my efforts to understand the construction of the orbiting Wonder of the Off-World that is the International Space Station. It really is amazing and there are some great resources on the web to help you understand it better.

In the private space sector, RLV and Space Transport News provided an early report on NASA terminating its COTS contract with Rocketplane Kistler. There are several follow-up articles in the last couple of days as well.

Finally, while it’s not the kind of “space blog” I usually read, the closest most people probably come to thinking about space is if they’re deciding what to do about satellite TV. Here’s help from the Satellite TV Guru.

I hope you enjoyed this week's festivities, and thanks to all the space cadets (and cadettes?) who contributed. Next week the carnival will be hosted by its founding father, Henry Cate at Why Homeschool.

But wait... this just in... Henry also submitted this cool late-breaking-entry on Hobbit galaxies and dark matter just as I was about to post-date my entry, click Publish Post, and try to finish the real work I was supposed to do while I was in a SolidWorks class all day!

7 comments:

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