Welcome Back My Friends

to the Carnival that Never Ends!

Number 102

Welcome to this week’s Carnival of Space and my humble blog. I’m pleased to be your host again. The Big Top is bristling with great entries, so let’s get started.

Act I:

The Solar System

We start with a couple of “snow cone” entries focused on comets — those frozen explorers that so delight both amateur and professional astronomers. I spent several years in grad school studying comet plasma tails, so these wandering ice-and-dirt balls have a special place in my heart.

First, from Australia, Ian Musgrave answers the question “Where do comets come from?” and explores the science behind comet studies in his fine Astroblog entry.

At Robot Explorers, David S.F. Portree writes about a proposed second Giotto comet exploration mission that would have flown somewhere between 1988 and 1994 (but never got off the drawing boards, as well as the Stardust mission that was launched in 1999 and returned to Earth in 2006. Along the way, he gives us a fine retrospective on the Giotto mission that did visit Comet Halley in 1986 and really opened up our understanding of comets.

The Cassini mission keeps cranking out the discoveries in the Saturn system. Over at Meridiani Journal, Paul Scott Anderson presents a brief look at a recent finding that sodium exists in a plume of material shooting out from the moon Enceladus. This discovery has scientists excited about this place as a possible abode for life.

Here in the inner solar system, Cumbrian Sky has a great article called INCOMING! Tharsis — NOT a Good Place for a Mars Base It examines some images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and points out why the Tharsis region may not be a great place for a Mars base.

Act II:

Stellar Follies

The bright star Spica is the focus of Mike Simonsen’s entry over at Simostronomy this week. He explores what is really an exotic pair of stars, one of which is a variable. Check it out!

Jon Voisey, also known as the Angry Astronomer, gives us a look at two of his always-fascinating entries. The first is called Knowing our Cosmic Sperm Donor and looks at how astronomers are using the existence of some unstable elements to track down a mystery event that occurred and seeded the solar system’s birth cloud with those elements. In Another Rung on the Ladder, he talks about a recent paper on using ultra-long-period Cepheid variables to refine the values of cosmic distances.

Did you know that gamma-ray bursts are stellar phenomena? Some are from supernovae, others may be caused when two neutron stars collide; still others may be from flares on magnetars — highly magnetized neutron stars. To learn more, head over to Supernova Condensate and read Markus Hammonds’s 8 Reasons to be Amazed by Gamma Ray Bursts.

Act III:

A Brief Galaxy Diversion

Over at Astropixie, Amanda Bauer explores the violence that can occur as galaxies interact in a wonderful entry titled Crimes Against Galaxies.

Act IV:

Future Humans, Exploring the Universe,

and Examining Cosmic Mysteries

Antarctic tourism may be presaging a boom in earth orbit and lunar tourism. Over at 21st Century Waves, Bruce Cordell takes a look at how extreme tourism on Earth may be the precursor to humans taking trips to other near-Earth extreme places.

Exploring Mars is still very much on everybody’s radar screens, particularly as more missions are planned and built. In a nice essay on Music of the Spheres, FlyingSinger takes us to visit the Mars Science Laboratory, set for launch 2011. It’s being built at JPL, where the author had a chance to see the spacecraft during a JPL Open House.

In a fascinating entry called EGR: A ‘Hail Mary’ Pass to the Stars, Paul Gilster of Centauri Dreams examines the idea of sending an interstellar probe out to the stars, stuffed with frozen embryos. It’s not an entirely new idea — as I recall, embryo transfer by ship was the subject of at least one science fiction story — and it presents humanity with a way to extend itself across the galaxy.

Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer Himself, sends along an entry and link to a great video clip of him hosting a panel discussion called The Mysteries of the Cosmos in Pasadena last January. The video is Part I of a multi-part sequence hosted at Discover Magazine online. It’s about 15 minutes long and stuffed with great commentary about astronomy topics that fascinate people.

There are many mysteries to explore in the universe, some of them right here in our own solar system. Over at Astroengine, Ian O’Neill talks about the Pioneer Anomaly, an aberration in acceleration first noted in the Pioneer 10 and 11 probes. Now he’s wondering if Pluto is affected by this aberration.

Future exploration of the galaxy by humans is going to require some extraordinary technologies to get us “out there.” In an interview with Dr. Richard Nebel of the IEC/Bussard Fusion Project, Sander Olson at Next Big Future gives us a look at one of those up-and-coming technologies. In addition, in Nuclear Fusion and New Nuclear Fission Technology, Sander provides a glimpse at a few other technologies that look promising for future power generation for a variety of needs.

Act V:

Education, Amateur Outreach, and Politics

If you’re in the habit of teaching planetary science, you’re probably always looking for materials for your lectures. If so, David Bigwood suggests you check out the Discoveries in Planetary Science slide sets , made available through the AAS’s Division of Planetary Sciences.

The David Dunlap Observatory near Toronto, Canada, was all set to be mothballed and possibly demolished when a developer took over the property. That galvanized the amateur astronomy community, and ultimately led to the great news that the Toronto Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada has come to an agreement with the developer (Metrus) to operate this historic observatory. Mang’s Bat Page has the news and links to the full story.

Ever wonder if the new U.S. administration “gets it” when it comes to space exploration and NASA’s budget? Over at Free Space, Irene Klotz talks about this topic in NASA Getting Face Time with Obama.

The Moon Society blog has a look at lunar missions (with a side trip to Mars) in Dear NASA, It’s Luna or Nothing (And that Includes Mars, Too!). In particular, the entry focuses on why lunar missions are important in the larger scheme of exploration and why they’re not the only thing we should be doing.

Proposed return missions to the Moon have their political side, and it’s worth looking at historical precedents set by the U.S.’s first trips to the lunar surface. The Space Cynic presents a short commentary on and link to a larger essay called Lunar Supremacy and Lunacy. Interesting reading!

Finally, there’s my own story from this week’s panoply of SpaceWriter entries — focused on Citizen Astronomers and their contributions to science.

That’s our show for this week! Thanks for visiting and happy reading!


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