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Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Apollo archive pictures available, more on NASA's discovery missions, and pulsars that speed themselves up...

Thousands of Apollo pictures available on Flickr

The full archive of photographs taken by Apollo astronauts on the Moon has been made available on Flickr (follow the link above) - it's a really great chance to get a feel for these historic missions first hand.

No, this is not what 'really happened'. Cool as that would have been.

More information on the contenders for NASA's next discovery mission:

NASA is gearing up to select one or possibly two new Discovery class missions - relatively cheap exploration missions to scout out new and interesting locations and test technologies. I've mentioned this before but with a bit more time I've been able to dig up some more facts on these potential missions:

  • VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR Topography and Spectroscopy)
    Paper on VERITAS
    If it gets selected the mission objectives for VERITAS would be:
    Origin and Evolution: How did Venus diverge from Earth?
    • Determine if tesserae (tectonically deformed land) are remnants of an earlier wetter past
    • Search for past tectonic or cratered surface beneath the plains

    Venus as a Terrestrial Planet: What processes shape the planet?
    • Determine how and when Venus was resurfaced
    • Estimate lithospheric thickness variations with time
    • Identify sources and rates of recent and active volcanism
    Above, A colour coded view of Tesserae terrain, with red the highlands and blue the lowlands

  • Lucy, which would tour five Trojan asteroids: Strange, dark little worlds which follow the orbit of Jupiter either ahead or behind the giant planet. “We’ve never been able to study them,” says principal investigator Hal Levison, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. The mission would would launch in 2021 and arrive in 2027.
  • NEOCam (Near Earth Object Camera), which aims to discover near-Earth objects than have been discovered to date; and has it's own website (here).
  • DAVINCI (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging), would just drop through the Venusian atmosphere and study the chemical composition as it fell. The team has been very quiet, and all we've really got is a hint on DAVINCI's sensors via Internet scuttlebutt.
  • Psyche, a mission to explore an asteroid that could be made up almost entirely of iron and nickel, also called Psyche. Principal investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University, Tempe says the body, which appears to be 90% iron and nickel, may be the core of a planetesimal that was stripped of its mantle and crust by an impact. “This is the only way that humankind will ever be able to visit a core,” she says.  Psyche is also suspected to be strongly magnetic, “like a little fridge magnet in space.” The mission would launch in 2020 and arrive in 2026 for a year of science.

Pulsars speed up by taking energy from their own cores :

Above: The radiowave 'sound' of a pulsar. Courtesy of Ten Vin.

Pulsars are the ultra fast spinning, radiation and radio wave spewing, corpses of long dead stars. Their rate of spin is so stable that it rivals most atomic clocks, but over time the pulsar looses energy as radiation and the spin slows... except when they occasionally speed up again for no obvious reason. Now it seems that the key may be the matter in their cores, which exists in an incredibly bizarre state known as a superfluid.

Odd orbits for odd missions:

A nice little breakdown on of how orbits don't have to be circular - and how we can use unusually shaped orbits to do some interesting science missions.

'Facebook Satellite' to bring internet to remote parts of Africa.
Mark Zucherberg, the founder of Facebook, is teaming up with French sateillite builder Eutelsat to launch a constellation of satellites that would bring interent access to remote parts of Africa. 

Above: An artists impression of the 'Facesat'. I'm not sure about all that blue stuff. it looks like laser beams to me....

"We're going to keep working to connect the entire world -- even if that means looking beyond our planet," Mark Zuckerberg said. But some businesses were angered by the news, saying that Zucherberg was trying to gain an unfair advantage in developing internet markets.

Think the world climate's not changing? Hurricane Joaquine just dropped a meter of rain on to South Carolina.

The downpour, which should only occur once in a thousand years, was caught by NASA's GPM satellite. See the video below for how GPM works, and follow the link above for a full write up on Universe Today.

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