Label: Exploration

December 1, 2011

Thursday is COOL VIDEO OF THE WEEK day on the Seymour Science blog. Since we’ve been talking about Mars all week long, we thought our video should continue that theme.

This video is a little different than the ones we usually choose. In this case, you have to look really hard to spot a tiny light, moving quickly upward through the night sky (in the center of the screen).

See it?

This video shows the newest Mars explorer craft departing Earth shortly after its launch on November 26. 

The spacecraft is carrying a car-sized robot rover named Curiosity. Scientists hope that information sent back by Curiosity will help them learn a lot more about Mars. They will also be getting critical information that will help them plan for an eventual human mission to the Red Planet.

I love watching the sky and seeing manmade spacecraft passing overhead. Every time I see the International Space Station (ISS) move across the night sky, I applaud as it exits my field of vision. The thought that there are brave human beings far overhead, exploring space and the possibilities of our Solar System, just thrills me. Do you think that one day that we’ll be able to look up in the sky and know that there are humans on their way to Mars? I hope so!

By the way, if you are as interested as I am in seeing the ISS and other satellites in orbit, SpaceWeather.com has an easy-to-use page where you enter your zip code and get schedule for when you can spot these magnificent flybys. You don’t even need a telescope - just clear skies and your own two eyes! 

Video: Gerhard Dangl

Photo: An artist’s concept illustrates what the Mars rover Curiosity will look like on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Video, space, Exploration, Space Travel, Space Weather   •  Permalink (link to this article)

September 12, 2011

Just after school started, I received a question from a fifth grade study group asking me: "Is the moon just a big rock?" Of course, that is exactly what the moon is, but being a former teacher, I never give a simple answer like that. Instead, I asked them if they would please do some research and write back to me with interesting information that they learned about the moon.

Well, they did a great job! I received this email from Angela, Diana, Martin and Andres, who are a science study group in Mrs. Williamson’s Fifth Grade class at Wolf Canyon Elementary School, in California.

Dear Seymour Simon:

Our science group found two great, interesting facts about the moon.

1)    The moon is the fifth largest satellite in the solar system.

2)     It is thought to be formed some 4.5 million years ago.

Thank you for your great science books!

Good work by Mrs. Williamson’s science group! They did their homework and found some very interesting facts about the moon.

 

Soon, we are going to learn all sorts of new information about the moon. On Saturday, NASA launched a new moon research mission called GRAIL (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory). We are not sending human beings this time - there won’t be any new footprints on the moon - but we are using advanced photography techniques to learn much more about how the moon was formed. And in particular, we are going to get a much clearer look at the "dark side of the moon," which faces away from our planet Earth.

 

GRAIL consists of two satellites, which will separate from the rocket that is carrying them into space and become lunar orbiters (satellites that orbit around the moon). They will photograph the surface of the moon as they pass over it, and scientists will be able to accurately measure various formations and moonscapes based on how far apart the satellites are. The project will study how the moon was formed, what its interior consists of, and why the side seen from Earth looks so different from the lighter-colored "far side." We know that the far side is covered with hardened rock from lava flows, but there is much more we can learn.

Most exciting to me is that for the first time, NASA has put a camera onboard that is strictly for classroom use. Called the MoonKAM, teachers can register their classes and middle-school students can request photography of lunar targets for classroom study. Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space, is heaing up the project. Imagine, allowing students to take their own pictures, so that they can study the surface of the moon. I wish that opportunity had happened when I was a middle school science teacher!

 Photos: NASA

 


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Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: science news, space books, Kids Write, moon, space, Exploration   •  Permalink (link to this article)

October 4, 2010

 

Happy World Space Week! In 1999 the United Nations General Assembly decreed that every year from October 4-10 should be the largest annual space event on our Planet Earth!

 What can you do in your home or your school to celebrate World Space Week? Well, the most important thing is to simply take the time to look at, read about, and celebrate the wonders of our Universe. Years ago, I published a book of poetry called STAR WALK, 

in which I juxtaposed color photographs of space with poems by a range of authors. (As we all know, poetry doesn’t sell. The book is long out of print, although you may find it in your library). I wrote this in the introduction to the book:

As far back as early Native Americans such as the Passamaquoddy, and even before that, people have looked to the stars in wonder and appreciation. They wrote stories and poetry about the fixed stars and the wandering planets, the bright Sun and the changing shapes of the Moon…..the glowing comets and streaking meteors. They also drew pictures of what they had seen and, in more recent times, photographed the amazing sights of space.

Take some time and look at the night sky this week. Jupiter remains the brightest “star” in the sky, other than the moon, and is visible to the west every night. If you look through binoculars, you may even see one or more of its moons.

Look up at the millions upon millions of stars that make up the Milky Way. To the naked eye, our galaxy looks like a hazy band of light that stretches across the night sky. The longer you look and allow your eyes to adjust to the dark, the more stars you will see. But still, we only see a fraction of the stars that are out there. After all, Alpha Centauri, the closest star to us after the Sun, is 4.3 light-years, or 25-trillion miles, away. Even a spaceship traveling ten miles per second would take more than seventy-thousand years to get to Alpha Centauri!

We are part of a vast, fascinating Universe, and with advances like the Hubble Space Telescope and other emerging exploration technologies, we are just at the beginning of a golden age of discovery.

I’m going to leave you with the words of one of my heroes, the great scientist and astronomer Sir Isaac Newton.

 

I seem to have been only a boy playing on the seashore,

and diverting myself in now and then

finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary,

whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

 

Happy World Space Week to all my readers!

—- Seymour 

 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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October 1, 2010

NASA has annnounced that a team of planet hunters including scientists from the NASA Astrobiology Institute’s teams has discovered a planet with three times the mass of Earth orbiting a nearby star at a distance that places it squarely in the middle of the star’s “habitable zone,” an area where liquid water could exist on the planet’s surface. If confirmed, this would be the most Earth-like exoplanet yet discovered, and the first strong case for a potentially habitable one.

What is a "Goldilocks" planet? A planet that is not too hot, not too cold, but JUST RIGHT for life as we know it to exist. This is the first exoplanet discovered that is just right!  This is very exciting news because it means that Goldilocks Planets may be very common in the Milky Way Galaxy. Just think: Science Fiction authors may have been right all along in their stories about life on distant stars. 

The large planet in the foreground of this artist’s image is the newly discovered GJ 581g.  Image Credit: Lynette Cook/NASA

 

 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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May 11, 2010

Many of us were dismayed when President Obama recently announced cuts to NASA’s budget. Although everyone understands the need for austerity in these troubled economic times, I am always in favor of invention and exploration  - one of the best attributes of American culture.

This Friday, the space shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to make its final launch, undertaking a 12-day mission to the International Space Station to replace solar panel batteries, install a backup antenna and attach a Russian module filled with supplies. After the Atlantis mission, the other two shuttles - Discovery and Endeavour - are each going to make one more flight, and then all three will be retired.

Maybe it’s because I was an impressionable 8 years old when President Kennedy gave his stirring "We will go to the moon….." speech. Or because I used to set my alarm to get up and watch the shuttle launch when my friend, Navy Captain and astronaut Dan Bursch flew one of his four missions. Danny shares the U.S. space endurance record with astronaut Carl Walz - 196 days in space! (his kids still remember this milestone because he missed Christmas and several birthdays - even an astronaut is still just "Dad" when he gets home). So, despite its flaws, limitations, and several tragedies, I felt very sad when I heard the Shuttle program was being discontinued.

The good news, reported in today’s Science Times, is that we’re continuing to train astronauts for exploration of other planets…..we’re just not doing it in space!

Yesterday marked the beginning of the 14th NEEMO (NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations) mission. A crew of six, led by Col. Chris A. Hadfield, a Canadian astronaut who flew two shuttle missions, descended 65 feet to an underwater laboratory off the coast of Florida, where they will practice the skills required for setting up a habitat on another planet.

 By adjusting the buoyancy of the diving suits, the aquanauts can go about their work feeling as if they are walking in the one-sixth gravity of the Moon or the three-eighths gravity of Mars.  And, they have set up a 20-minute time lag in communications with their mission controllers on the surface, just as they would have if they were trying to get advice or help in solving a big problem while on Mars.

Click here to read the entire story about how these aquanauts are developing the skills we will need for future space exploration. It’s not over yet!

 

             

Photo: NEEMO 13, courtesy NASA

   

 

   

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Oceans, Exploration, Space   •  Permalink (link to this article)

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