Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Closing Up The Universe

The universe is a magnificent place full of more that we could ever imagine. As for now though this blog will no longer be covering the news and ideas of the cosmos.

There is a lot to be learned from the world around us especially from space, unfortunately it seems not to be a goal of many of the current governments of the world, the risk is just too much for many and the foresight is lacking.

It is improbable that in the near future the idea of space exploration will advance much beyond where it is currently, still there is hope. There still seems to be a secret lust for space, a support of the planets. When Pluto was stripped of its planethood suddenly it became a meme within the mind of society, maybe the arrival of New Horizons in 2015 will strike a chord within the hearts of the world, but who knows.

We do have the resources in space right now to learn a lot, Kepler still runs, we have satellites heading off to other worlds, and soon the James Webb will be sent up to outshine the fledgling Hubble.

It will take many years of work for science enthusiasts and communicators to bring the wave of information that is approaching to the level of the public, but hopefully when it happens, we will see a new renaissance in the space sciences.

May the stars shine brightly in your skies!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Here's To Reason! (and not economics)

     So I was browsing my favorite webcomics this evening when I cam across the newest xkcd.

     It is a sad but true reality, the age of human space exploration is slowly dying off. Sure we have people up on the ISS, but what does that fully count for, that not as much exploration as it is experimentation.

     For those who have not messed around on xkcd ever, one of the features of the site is rollover text so I will just write it out here: "The universe is probably littered with one-planet graves of cultures which made the sensible economic decision that there's no good reason to go into space -- each discovered, studied, and remembered by the ones who made the irrational decision."

Let that sink in.

     I recognize that economic viability is smart to a degree, but what should it matter in the long run, think on a personal level, would you rather exist alone with money or would you rather have slight financial problems but have friends, fun , and constant potential for exploration.

May the stars shine brightly in your skies.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Little Outside The Realm Of Space Science

     Being a late night enthusiast not by choice but by my existence as a college student, I tend to catch a lot of fun stuff on late night television (yes I am old school and do watch television). I don't know why I neglected to mention the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on the night of February 11 in this blog, but upon being reminded of it by Phil Plait of BadAstronomy, as this is also a science communication blog I have decided to bring it up here.

     This interview with Jennifer Ouelette is positive fantastic as she has devoted her life at this point to communicating science on an understandable and interesting level, particularly by framing the perspective to gain interest. What is even more commendable is her position as a non-scientist communicating to other non-scientists. I have read a bit of her book The Calculus Diaries and I am glad that the world can have communicators like her.
     It is also important that as scientists and engineers we support and learn from people like Ouelette. To us what we research and pursue is interesting and to be honest, if somebody came up to me and said that they didn't see what was so cool about space, I would have a big problem approaching them.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Funky Worlds Within Our Own system

     It is easy to imagine worlds within our solar system as having at least some similarities to Earth. All planets have a gravitational field and would have some breath-taking vistas. Then there are some differences that are small, every planet with an atmosphere is capable of carrying sound, though each has their own different range due to atmospheric density.
     Where the study of planetary sciences gets fun is where the big differences come out, especially on the Pandora's box of weirdness, Saturn. Our ringed planet has already been discovered to have some cool features including continuous auroras and crazy storms.

It is truly a beautiful planet.
     Now on to features that Saturn has that no other planet has. Due to its spin, Saturn has a hexagonal storm at its North Pole (the answer to why has been solved hopefully) which along with those auroras probably makes for one of the most stunning sights in the whole universe.
     Still the planet gets weirder. Recently it was discovered that Saturn has an electron beam link between it and the icy moon of Enceladus. While it is not unheard of for planets to have some link with their moons (in Jupiter it happens all the time), to my knowledge electron beams are pretty much a new thing in the realm of Saturn. So far how they think it happens is the result of ice geysers on the south pole of Enceladus (why these happen is a much deeper mystery in planetary heat flow). When they eject the ice particles into the thin atmosphere, they become electrically charged creating an ionosphere. With the motion on Enceladus plus this ionosphere through the magnetic field of Saturn comes an electromagnetic reaction, which in this case is an electron beam.
     Not only is the universe filled with mysteries and elegant solutions, our own Solar System can unveil these as well. I sincerely doubt that this will be the last we hear from the gem of the Solar System.