Label: Space

June 10, 2011

The best video of the week has to be the massive solar flare that erupted from the sun on Tuesday morning. Our friends at SpaceWeather.com wrote that "this recording of the blast by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory ranks as one of its most beautiful and dramatic movies (ever)." Click here to see the video.

"It looks like someone kicked a clod of dirt in the air," said solar physicist C. Alex Young of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in a YouTube video interview. "I’ve never seen material released in this way before - an amazing, amazing event."

People who live in the northern latitudes may see particularly beautiful auroras (northern lights) this week, as the CME (coronal mass ejection - a massive burst of solar wind and magnetic fields released into space) makes its way toward Earth.

Video: NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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

May 27, 2011

Did you ever get soap in your eye? It stings like crazy, and all you want to do is rub your eye and wash it out with clear water as quickly as you can.

So what happens if you are in the middle of a spacewalk, wearing a helmet that you cannot take off, and you get soap in your eye? Astronaut Andrew Feustel, a mission specialist on the Endeavour crew working at the International Space Station, ran into just that problem yesterday. "My right eye is stinging like crazy now," he radioed. "It’s watering a lot." It turned out that the soap-like anti-fogging solution that they spray onto inside of the astronauts’ helmets had gotten into his eye. Ouch. No way to reach up and rub your eye if you are floating in deep space!

For a few minutes, they thought that they would have to cut the spacewalk short and let him come back inside. Finally, he managed to rub his eye against a foam block in his helmet - normally used for clearing ears - and said that helped. He also noted that tears in space "don’t fall off of your eye ... they kind of stay there."

Kids (and adults) often wonder about how astronauts take care of simple things like having a drink when liquids float away. Same problem with brushing your teeth, or going to the bathroom. NASA had to figure out how astronauts would accomplish all of these things before we were ever able to send men and women into space. Yesterday’s incident was just one more example of things that we handle so easily here on Earth, but can become a real pain (in the eye) in space!

Photo: NASA 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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

May 26, 2011

If you were in the Atlanta, Georgia area last Friday night around 10:45 pm, you might have seen an object brighter than a full moon streak across the sky. People watching reported seeing bright blue-green flashes, luminous sparkles, and distinct fireball-shadows. If you thought you saw a UFO (Unidentified Flying Object), you did…. but it’s not "unidentified" any more.

 

According to Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, it was a disintegrating piece of comet. "This icy, fragile object was about 6 feet (2 meters) wide, hit the atmosphere at a speed of 86,000 mph (38.5 kilometer per second), and completely disintegrated about 75 miles (60 km) above the ground." The comet was recorded by a NASA fireball camera at the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville, GA, which is how he was able to tell us what it was. Bill Cooke says that "It was the brightest event we’ve seen in the three year history of our meteor network."

Here is the video. It is very short, but very bright, and comes to us courtesy of our Seymour Science favorite SpaceWeather.com website.

 

Click here to see video from Seymour Science.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: science news, space, Sky Watching   •  Permalink (link to this article)

May 20, 2011

When the space shuttle Endeavour blasted off this week, it was carrying an unusual cargo: baby Bobtail Squid (Euprymna scolopes). Squid are cephalopods, a group of relatively intelligent animals that also includes octopuses. These baby squid are the first celaphods to travel into space. 

NASA hopes the squid will help us understand how "good" bacteria behave in the microgravity of space. As Jamie Foster of the University of Florida in Gainesville, who is running the experiment, puts it: "Do good bacteria go bad?"

We already know that disease microbes ("bad" bacteria) grow faster and become more dangerous if they are sent into space. Salmonella bacteria were sent up on a space shuttle in 2006, and when they returned to Earth they were almost three times as likely to kill mice as normal.

So far, we have only studied harmful bacteria in space. This time, the astronauts are going to run experiments that will enable us to look at good bacteria.

The reason Foster chose these animals for his experiment is pretty interesting. Bobtail shrimp carry a whole colony of bacteria, called Vibrio fischeri in their bodies, stored in their "light organs." The squid use the bacteria to create light, which they shine out of their bodies and onto the ocean floor below. That way, they don’t have a shadow, which makes it harder for predators to see them. Isn’t that an interesting camouflage tactic?

The experiment is simple. Newly hatched squid that don’t yet have the bacteria in their light organs were placed in test tubes filled with seawater and sent up on the shuttle. Yesterday, an astronaut added the bacteria to their seawater. When they come back to earth, Dr. Foster and his research partners will study the squid and see if the bacteria grew normally, if they grew faster in a good way, or if there were problems.

People often think that the space program is only about exploration. Of course, that is an important part of why we travel to space. But an equally important aspect of space travel is the opportunity to do experiments that we cannot do here on Earth. Science that we learn in space has many spin-offs back on our home planet. We have learned all kinds of new technologies. We have learned things that have helped us to learn about diseases, to better understand the functioning of the human body (including what causes "malfunctions"), and to develop new vaccines. These little squid will take us one step further in our understanding of the nature of life, and the interaction between different species. 

Photo: GenomeNewsNetwork.org

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Oceans, space, Space Travel   •  Permalink (link to this article)

May 3, 2011

       

Today’s Cool Photo of the Week, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, is of two spiral galaxies bumping up against each other. The bigger galaxy (NGC 2207, on the left) has such a strong gravitational pull that it is pulling the smaller galaxy (IC 2163, on the right) in toward it.  Look at the long, white streak that looks like streamers, or a tail, on the right-hand side of the photograph. These are stars and gases, being pulled so strongly that they seem to stretch out across the light years.

NASA astronomers have calculated that the last time the two galaxies came this close was about 40 million years ago. However, IC 2163 does not have enough energy to escape the bigger galaxy’s gravitational pull, so they will continue to elbow each other as they travel through space, and billions of years from now they will probably merge into one big galaxy. It is believed that our own Milky Way galaxy was formed in just this way.

Don’t you love these Hubble photographs? The opportunity to see not only out into the universe but also back in time is still amazing to me. I never tire of looking at these magnificent images.

 

Photo: NASA/ESA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI)

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: Cool Photo, space   •  Permalink (link to this article)

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