Thursday, July 24, 2008

Welcome to Carnival of Space #64

Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space.
-Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Of course I knew space was big, but after metaphorically flying around for a few hours with a couple dozen space and astronomy bloggers who are just all over space, I had to pull up Adams’ quote for some perspective. Welcome to the 64th Carnival of Space. It may not be the biggest ever, but it sure has grown since I hosted a few of the early and middle carnivals way back in 2007.

Starting out in the depths of galactic space, Bad Astronomy asks how you can weigh a supermassive black hole in the center of some distant galaxy? Turns out there’s a clever new method – you take its temperature.

What’s in a name? Star Stryder brings up active galactic nuclei as an example of astronomical objects that have many different names, which can sometimes cause problems. And in what may be a case for Galactic CSI, Free Space reports on a galaxy where something has been killing organic molecules!

Moving into stellar range, Simostronomy tells us of three astronomers who worked with variable stars and who had an unusual and impressive common thread. And Centauri Dreams (approaching its fifth anniversary!) thinks about how to keep a blog about reaching the stars alive until someone actually reaches one, among other issues in communicating with the future.

OK, back in the solar neighborhood. You know the sun is a star, but do you know what type it is? Astroengine tells us what it is and why. Cosmic Ray talks about Ceres and whether this largish dwarf planet in the asteroid belt might be an escapee from the distant Kuiper belt. Dawn may provide some clues when it visits this intriguing place in 2015. And Universe Today offers an interesting post about the possibility of colonizing Venus with floating cities!

Several of this week’s bloggers wrote about the Moon, a few inspired by the 39th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on July 20, 1969. Stuart at Cumbrian Sky looks back at that day, wishing that the history had been better documented (no pictures of Neil Armstrong on the surface?). But he found out later that it was documented a bit better than he thought. Gumby the Cat wrote a nice Apollo 11 post, comparing NASA then and now (he thinks it was better then). I missed July 20 but compensated by remembering another historic event – the first launch of a human spacecraft from a body other than Earth on July 21, 1969. Naturally I used Orbiter and AMSO to simulate it and take a picture that Neil and Buzz couldn’t have gotten if they tried (see above).

There were a few non-Apollo Moon posts, including Babe in the Universe who talks about the impressive video of the Moon transiting Earth, shot from the Deep Impact (now EPOXI) spacecraft. And My Dark Sky was blown away by the you-are-there high-def imagery of Tycho crater from Japan’s Kaguya Moon orbiter. Ken Murphy at Out of the Cradle discusses some 24 Moon-related children’s books from the 50’s and 60’s. I must have gotten some of those from the library way back then!

Coming down to Earth, we have a few posts on observations and technology. Astroblog gives a progress report on building an orrery, a physical (not software) model of the solar system. Chris writes from Space Across the Pond on the Top Ten Telescopes. The selection and ranking are a bit arbitrary, but you can’t argue with Galileo (the dude, not the spacecraft) and Hubble (the spacecraft, not the dude). Visual Astronomy discusses astronomy software, including one of my freeware favorites, Stellarium. And in a case of “some bloggers have all the luck” (though not necessarily in gradeschool), Space Disco’s Dave Mosher will get to view the solar eclipse of August 1 from an airplane high above the Northern Arctic. There are no obscurations up there, except for the journalist in the window seat.

Speaking of the Earth and dreidels (weren’t we?), Starts With A Bang! has a great little lesson on how days on this spinning Earth are getting (very gradually) longer. And if you’ve got a spinning Earth, why not toss up a few carbon nanotube (CNT) fibers from the equator and make a space elevator? Next Big Future says that CNT fibers as long as 30 centimeters have been reported, with 1 meter possible soon. This bodes well for the eventual practicality of space elevator CNT ribbons, though there is still a long way to go (technologically and otherwise). Riding with Robots compares Mars and Earth, and they come up looking pretty similar (at least if you’re in Utah looking at rock formations).

OK, we’ve got just a few more posts. CollectSpace offers several posts related to animals in space and/or in movies (mainly animated, except for a live Buzz Aldrin cameo). The animals in question are chimps, flies, and dogs (sounds like a Carnac punch line). Kentucky Space reports on a new documentary, Apollo’s Orphans, about a group of American and Russian space officials who tried to save the Mir space station.

Finally, a note about exploration. In an article in The Space Review this week, Rand Simberg asks “are we driven to explore?” His conclusion: normally not. He goes on to say that while some restless people do explore, with regard to space, exploration isn’t a very good reason to go. He suggests some better reasons, like fear and greed, that will get us there eventually. He makes some very good points. But there’s also a very interesting post this week from a blog that’s new to me, 21st Century Waves. “What is it about space, anyway?” makes a case for exploration and closes with these lines:

Survival comes first, but exploration is like a long-term societal “life insurance” policy — economically, technologically, and even spiritually. That’s probably why Harvard philosopher Alfred North Whitehead once said, “Without adventure society is in full decay.”

Wow, that was a pretty long carnival! I hope you enjoyed this guided tour of some of the week’s space and astronomy blogging. To learn more about the Carnival of Space, visit Universe Today.


Sean Welton said...

Haha, I love The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, so I like the Douglas Adams quote! If you really want to appreciate the size of space, you might want to use the Infinite Perspective Vortex! (Gotta read it to get it..)


dmosher said...

Loved your carnival Bruce!

And the note about the only obscuration being the other journalist in the window seat: nice touch :)