Die Beste Aller Zeiten

Going direct to heaven, going direct the other way

Category: Space (Page 2 of 2)

Gay civil righs activist gets own asteroid

Ha, did I cleverly deceive you with that headline – because, if course, said civil rights activist is propably better known for impersonating the character of Hikaru Sulu, Captain of the USS Excelsior and former Helmsman of the USS Enterprise under Captain what-was-his-name-again. And of course it should read: .. gets Asteroid named after him.

If the name ‘Sulu’ doesn’t ring any bells (which would mean that you are either quite young, have no access to a TV set or, more propably, that you are dead), I’m talking about actor and community activist George Takei (read his bio on his website). The IAU approved the re-naming of former 994 GT9 to 7307 Takei (which is about as official as it can get). Astronomy Professor Tom Burbine said he “suggested Takei’s name in part out of appreciation for his work with the Japanese American Citizens League and with the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign”.

I don’t think I’ll be able to see Takei in the sky due to the light pollution here in Berlin, so I rather look out for him in the SciFi series “Heroes” which is scheduled to start on October 10th in Germany.

    The most beautiful thing ever

    I’m usually somewhat focused on the achievements of the US-American and Russian space agencys – a habit from back then (forgivable I hope – I am, after all, a cold war kid) so I often forget what excellent work other countries do. Emilia Lakdawallas blog at the planetay society website reminded me of the japanese Kaguya mission that has launched about two weeks ago. Read about the Kaguya mission at the JAXA website, but before you do this click the preview photo below. Kaguya is the first spacecraft that carries a HDTV camera beyond near earth orbit, and the probe took this stunning picture of our home planet (click for the impressive version):


    This is earth. Looks kinda small, doesn’t it ? Perhaps we should handle it with care, and try not to break it.

      Science breakfast

      A couple of days ago I visited a friend to see her and my – what would be the secular equivalent to a godson? My “Darwin-Son”? or “Dawkins-Son”? – well, to see her and her son (of whom I’m obivously quite fond, he’s two and a half and a very bright and lovable child). After some hours of playing ‘Make the Funny Noises’ and ‘Help me Catch the Red Balloon” the child was laid to sleep and we perused my friends library of science fiction series on DVD. I finally fell asleep to an episode of Regenesis (which is acutally quite good, only you shouldn’t try to watch all of it at once).

      The next morning my friend invited her new neighbour for breakfast, which was even more fun than I’d initially thought, because said neighbour turned out to be an astrophysicist from Brazil – she does work on black holes and currently stays in Potsdam for some fellowship thing or something. So we talked about black holes during breakfast (actually I asked some naive or maybe genuinly stupid questions and got some clever answers, but that still counts as talking, right?) before she anncouned that she really wasn’t working on black holes at all – instead she said “I’m working on something really weird”.

      That really cracked me up, because a star collapsing into a singularity is already pretty high on the list of weird things and it was funny that she could easily top that (is it too late for me to become an astrophysicist? The weirdest thing I see in my job is the CSS rendering of IE 6, and that’s rather more annoying than interesting).

      The “really weird” thing is Gravastar Theory. I tried to read up a little on the theory – I read the original paper by Mazur and Mottola and naturally I didn’t understand a word (at least none with more than three letters), so I read another paper I’d found on the internet by two guys names Visser and Wiltshire, which (I think) discussed the merits and faults of the theory and which I didn’t really understand either, so I resorted to the Wikipedia entry which I mostly did understand but which is not particularly exhaustive and obviously lacking even by Wikipedias standards.

      It may be weird, but it’ still interesting (and frankly so was my lecturer) . I should try and get another invitaton for breakfast.

        Dawn of the pronounced dead

        Okay, so this is the worst pun ever, but the good news is that as of yesterday NASAs Dawn Mission is on it’s way. Dawn is a mission to the asteroid belt and more specifically to Vesta and Ceres, two really, really huge rocks in space ( 500 km / 1000 km across) that feature in many science fiction novels as the most likely place for human habitats in the asteroid belt. Oh, and I guess they are of some scientific interest, too. Dawn had been effectivly canceled, was reinstated, then delayed – NASA has a problem with its science budget (I don’t follow american fiscal politics that closely but it would seem that the overall budget woes are due to governmental pressure while the unwise distribution of the remaining funds is a self inflicted problem, but what do I know) – so it’s some relief that things finally got going.

        So on the following pages you will find the really interesting stuff about the dawn mission:

        My heart really belongs to manned space exploration, but I have to admit that at the moment unmanned probes provide better bang for the buck. And I’m really looking forward to learn more about the asteroid belt and Ceres and Vesta.

          Happy Birthday Voyager

          Voyager 1 was launched Sept. 5, 1977 atop a Titan rocket with a Centaur-6 upper stage. Still operational for 30 years, Voyager 1 is more than 103.2 astronomical units away from the Sun.

          Info at Wired: http://www.wired.com/science/space/multimedia/2007/09/gallery_voyager_30

          A mission that was supposed to last just five years is celebrating its 30th anniversary this fall. Scientists continue to receive data from the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft as they approach interstellar space.

          Info at NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/voyager/voyagerf-20070905.html

            Shuttle Endeavour launched safely

            As a child – a space junkie even back then – I used to watch space shuttle launches with religious zeal. Compared to non-reusable capsules like Apollo or Soyuz the Orbiter looked like the first real spacecraft (like, you know, one from those science fiction books) which very well may be one of the reasons it was built the way it was built (because engineers read science fiction, too).

            I broke the habit when Challenger exploded in 1986. I loved the Shuttle (still do) , but watching astronauts die in real time was a bit too unnerving for my taste, and with every new launch I was afraid that fatal accidents would happen again – as alas one did in 2003.

            Luckily NASA was less afraid. After a major overhaul (a.k.a Orbiter Major Modification period) Endeavour was launched yesterday at 6:36 p.m. (about 0.30 this morning here in Berlin), and this time I was watching again live on NASA TV. This was, after all, one of the very few remaining opportunities to see a Shuttle launch.

            One member of the Endeavour crew is Barbara Radding Morgan, who used to teach in elementary school and was the backup candidate for the NASA Teacher in Space Program during the Challenger Mission when her colleaugue Christa McAuliffe perished in the explosion.

            If anybody ever deserved to go to space it’s certainly her – Barbara Morgan absolutely rocks. She completed the necessary training to become a ‘real’ astronaut and has been assigned as a full-fledged mission specialist to the ST-118 Mission (go read the Interviews at the STS-118 Mission Pages). If the world absolutely needs heroes I think astronaut teachers are the best kind we can get.

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