Friday, May 16, 2014

Holodeck in the making

Summary: This article is for all my fellow Trekkies. Star Trek has inspired many of the technologies we enjoy now, but it seeks that the show hasn't stopped inspiring. One scientist has created his own holodeck to enjoy. Using Kinects and a head mounted camera he created a virtual reality for himself.
There are still glitches in the program but he is proud to say it feels real. I am constantly amazed by what people have been able to create with these Kinects cameras and I look forward to traveling to Middle Earth on my personal holodeck. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

A few Updates regarding Mars and Space Travel

Martian Fashion:
Because eventually humans may colonize Mars (despite that one Doctor Who episode that clearly warned us against it), NASA has begun planning what its astronauts would need to wear. And they are trying to make it fashionable. Personally, they look like Cybermen from the '70s but I suppose as long as they keep our scientists safe, I'm okay with it.

BBC News

The rover has begun drilling into the surface of Mars again. Just as a test right now,  but this does mean more data is on its way down to us.

BBC News

The Future of Space Travel:
The UK government has backed plans that would expand its space industry four-fold. This includes possible plans of a bigger space tourism industry. Already the ESA have had a major part to play in outer space exploration, but with more money being available, their part should expand and more can be accomplished. It seems to be good news for everyone.

BBC News

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Secret of the Super Bright Supernova

Summary, almost four years ago, astronomers found a supernova, PS1-10afx, that was 30 times brighter than any other of it's class. They didn't see any abnormalities that would account of this huge magnitude difference and were confused. However, this mystery has now been solved. Then Dr Robert Quimby and his team had an idea that proved fruitful. They looked to see if we were seeing this supernova through a gravitational lens. As it turns out, there was an entire galaxy directly in from of the supernova that was bending the light around it and magnifying it. PS1-10afx is just a normal Type 1A supernova. 

This is will be useful knowledge for measuring cosmic distances since objects of known brightness like Type 1A supernovae are a good constant against which we can measure other objects in the night sky.

BBC News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Infant Moon of Saturn

Summary: Hiding in the images of Saturn's outermost rings, a new moon is being formed. Or at least it looks like it might be a new moon. It's only a slight bump in the images but it does give hints of being a new moon. It's not inconceivable either. The rings are made up of many particles of ice and rock which can start to clump and form a new moon. While it has not been officially confirmed as the start of a new moon yet, the object has been nicknamed Peggy.

Astronomers hope that Cassini's final orbit in 2016 will be able to get higher quality images to verify if it is indeed the beginnings of a new moon. If so, we then just have to cross our fingers to see if it will survive it's infancy. If it stays within the rings, it will have a constant barrage or rocks that could break it apart while it is still forming. If it moves out beyond the rings, Peggy will have to dodge the larger moons.

Even if it does not end up becoming a fully fledged moon, it is still a great opportunity to observe the creation of a new celestial object.

BBC News

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Two New Discoveries in the Solar System

There's not too much to say about these. The first one is an asteroid that has been discovered to have it's own rings. This is the first asteroid we have found that has its own ring system.

BBC News

The second one is a new dwarf planet that has been discovered outside of Pluto's orbit. There's two main theories on its formation, but it has still yet to be officially confirmed.

BBC News

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Cosmic Waves of Discovery

Summary: Scientists at the BICEP2 collaboration at the South Pole have detected signal that confirm theories of the rapid expansion of the universe immediately after the big bang. If validated by other experiments (which is likely to happen as the signal found is actually stronger than predicted) this confirms a super-rapid expansion within the first instants of the universe before "slowing down" to rapid expansion. What they found were twists in Cosmic Radiation Background that could have only been produced by gravitational waves.

So what does this mean? These signals tell astronomers that gravity was present during this time in which quantum effects dominated the, then very tiny, universe. This gives us greater hope that the Four Fundamental Forces can be one day combined into a unified Theory of Everything which could better describe conditions at the big bang.

BBC News
Minute Physics video explaining the discovery
Discussion on background and implications
Video of the founding scientists hearing the news

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

First Gaia Telescope Image

Summary: The telescope Gaia has released its first test image of a star cluster in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). This is only a test image though, Gaia's real job is to track and characterize points of light moving across its big detector. These points of light could be anything from a star, an asteroid, or even flashes of light caused by explosions such as supernovae. The test image simply verified that all the electronics are working and communicating with each other properly.

Gaia will be making a 3D map of a small area of the sky over five years. Ideally, at the end of the mission, it will know the coordinates of the brightest stars to within an error of seven micro-arcseconds. This angle is the same angle as viewing a small coin like a euro on the surface of the moon from earth; incredibly small! Currently, the best precision is to within 1%, and as astronomers try to measure stars farther away, this error will become more noticeable. Gaia will double check our current methods of measurement and help limit the amount of error when measuring other stars. This means that our future measurements can be more accurate and we will be able to, hopefully, have a more accurate estimate of how fast our universe is expanding.

BBC News