26 posts tagged NASA
When ships cross bodies of water, they leave behind visible “tracks” of pollution. NASA has been using satellite imagery to collect data on ship tracks, and the results are mildly disturbing.
The image above shows only nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions, and is a composite of data collected by the Ozone Monitoring Instrument on NASA’s Aura satellite from 2005 through 2012.
Nitrogen dioxide causes respiratory problems in humans in addition to creating ground-level ozone and fine particle pollution, and scientists are collecting data to see just how much shipping contributes to global NOx emissions. Right now, estimates are that shipping is responsible for between 15 and 30 percent, with the rest coming from sources as diverse as agricultural burning, oil drilling and even lightning.
In the image above, ship tracks can be seen in dark red. They’re concentrated around the most heavily trafficked and congested shipping routes, with the most prominent in the Indian Ocean between Singapore and Sri Lanka. Other visible tracks exist in the Mediterranean Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.
If you see areas without ship tracks, it isn’t necessarily because pollution is absent. In fact, it’s often quite the opposite: Ship tracks along the coasts of Europe, North America and China are obscured by existing pollution from offshore drilling and coastal cities. The Atlantic and Pacific oceans appear clear because they’re open enough for ship tracks to be widely dispersed, and weather prevents accurate data collection from the Arctic region. (via Satellite Image Shows Tracks of Shipping Pollution | Autopia | Wired.com)
Inflatable dwelling for astronauts to be tested on International Space Station
Prototype habitat, which is a just a third of the weight of a traditional capsule, to be roadtested in orbit in 2015
A low-cost space dwelling that inflates like a balloon in orbit will be tested aboard the International Space Station, opening the door for future free-flying outposts and deep-space astronaut habitats for Nasa. The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, nicknamed Beam, will be the third orbital prototype developed and flown by privately owned Bigelow Aerospace. The Las Vegas-based company, founded in 1999 by Robert Bigelow, owner of the Budget Suites of America hotel chain, currently operates two small unmanned experimental habitats called Genesis 1, launched in 2006, and Genesis 2, which followed a year later. Beam, about four metres in diameter when inflated, is scheduled for launch in mid-2015, said Mike Gold, director of operations for Bigelow Aerospace. “It will be the first expandable habitat module ever constructed for human occupancy,” Gold said. A successful test flight on the space station would be a stepping stone for planned Bigelow-staffed orbiting outposts that the company plans to lease to research organisations, businesses and wealthy individuals wishing to holiday in orbit. Bigelow Aerospace has invested about $250m (£156m) in inflatable habitation modules so far. It has preliminary agreements with seven non-US space and research agencies in the UK, the Netherlands, Australia, Singapore, Japan, Sweden and the UAE. (via Inflatable dwelling for astronauts to be tested on International Space Station | Science | guardian.co.uk)
How many planets are in our galaxy? Billions and billions of them at least. That’s the conclusion of a new study by astronomers at the California Institute of Technology, which provides yet more evidence that planetary systems are the cosmic norm. The team made their estimate while analyzing planets orbiting a star called Kepler-32 — planets that are representative, they say, of the vast majority of planets in our galaxy and thus serve as a perfect case study for understanding how most of these worlds form. “There are at least 100 billion planets in the galaxy, just our galaxy,” says John Johnson, assistant professor of planetary astronomy at Caltech and coauthor of the study, which was recently accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal. “That’s mind-boggling.” “It’s a staggering number, if you think about it,” adds Jonathan Swift, a postdoctoral student at Caltech and lead author of the paper. “Basically, there’s one of these planets per star.” M-dwarf study Like the Caltech group, other teams of astronomers have estimated that there is roughly one planet per star, but this is the first time researchers have made such an estimate by studying M-dwarf systems, the most numerous population of planets known. The planetary system in question, which was detected by NASA’s Kepler space telescope, contains five planets. Two of the planets orbiting Kepler-32 had previously been discovered by other astronomers. The Caltech team confirmed the remaining three, then analyzed the five-planet system and compared it to other systems found by Kepler. M-dwarf systems like Kepler-32′s are quite different from our own solar system. For one, M dwarfs are cooler and much smaller than the sun. Kepler-32, for example, has half the mass of the sun and half its radius. The radii of its five planets range from 0.8 to 2.7 times that of Earth, and those planets orbit extremely close to their star. The whole Kepler-32 system fits within just over a tenth of an astronomical unit (the average distance between Earth and the sun) — a distance that is about a third of the radius of Mercury’s orbit around the sun. The fact that M-dwarf systems vastly outnumber other kinds of systems carries a profound implication, according to Johnson, which is that our solar system is extremely rare. “It’s just a weirdo,” he says. (via Billions and billions of planets | KurzweilAI)
A study published in the journal PLOS ONE shows for the first time that exposure to radiation levels equivalent to a mission to Mars could produce cognitive problems and speed up changes in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
While space is full of radiation,…
Happy New Year! December 26, 2012 Happy New Year from the Cassini mission! For a higher resolution version, click here. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ (via Cassini Solstice Mission: Happy New Year!)
After two decades of satellite observations, an international team of experts brought together by ESA and NASA has produced the most accurate assessment of ice losses from Antarctica and Greenland to date. This study finds that the combined rate of ice sheet melting…
NASA reports that a community of bacteria has been uncovered from some 65ft below the icy surface of Lake Vida, the largest of several unique lakes found in the McMurdo Dry Valleys. Why is this so exciting? Lake Vida contains no oxygen, is mostly frozen and possesses the…
A few months ago, physicist Harold White stunned the aeronautics world when he announced that he and his team at NASA had begun work on the development of a faster-than-light warp drive. His proposed design, an ingenious re-imagining of an Alcubierre Drive, may eventually result in an engine that can transport a spacecraft to the nearest star in a matter of weeks — and all without violating Einstein’s law of relativity. We contacted White at NASA and asked him to explain how this real life warp drive could actually work. The above image of a Vulcan command ship features a warp engine similar to an Alcubierre Drive. Image courtesy CBS. The Alcubierre Drive The idea came to White while he was considering a rather remarkable equation formulated by physicist Miguel Alcubierre. In his 1994 paper titled, “The Warp Drive: Hyper-Fast Travel Within General Relativity,” Alcubierre suggested a mechanism by which space-time could be “warped” both in front of and behind a spacecraft.
Red dust swirls from the surface, blue sea salt is tossed within cyclones, green smoke rises from fires, and white sulphate particles stream from volcanoes and fossil fuel emissions. It’s just another day in the life of our planet, as pictured by NASA’s Discover supercomputer. This simulation shows the various types of aerosols - particles and liquid droplets - suspended in the Earth’s atmosphere. It was created using the Goddard Earth Observing System Model, a global atmospheric simulation designed at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The model aims to study the climate system. The Discover computer built this stunning high-res image at a 10-kilometre resolution, but it’s capable of even more detail - as fine as 3.5-kilometre resolution, the highest available for a global climate model. (via Short Sharp Science: Supercomputer portrait reveals Earth’s swirling veil)
Parts for the rocket engines of NASA’s Space Launch System will be created using a method of 3D-printing known as selective laser melting. The space agency is taking advantage of new technology to help improve safety and save money as it builds the SLS — a heavy-lift launch vehicle intended to facilitate long-duration deep space exploration, including trips to near-Earth asteroids and, ultimately, to Mars. “It’s the latest in direct metal 3D printing — we call it additive manufacturing now,” says Ken Cooper, leader of the Advanced Manufacturing Team at the Marshall Centre. “It takes fine layers of metal powder and welds those together with a laser beam to fuse a three-dimensional object from a computer file.” Although not all of the rocket parts can be generated using the current SLM process, it can be used to improve the overall safety of the system by creating the geometrically complex pieces which would normally require a lot of welding. (via 3D-Printed Rockets Help Propel NASA’s Space Launch System | Wired Design | Wired.com)