Happy leap day and welcome to a special “leap-edition” of Science Friday! This week we bring you a new Cassini watch, how to book your next space shuttle flight, the key to fighting reptilian captains, mysterious space anomalies, and a new gadget of the week! Also check out our Science Quickies for some extra science tid-bits which we feel deserve honorable mention.
Cassini Watch: New Theories about Enceladus’s Water Geysers
Not too long ago, Cassini provided scientists with amazing images of Enceladus, Saturn’s sixth-largest moon, violently shooting plumes of liquid water into space. Ever since then, interest in the small rocky body has sky-rocketed, especially for astrobiologists since the existence of liquid water is thought to be a prerequisite for life. The erupting plume on Enceladus is ejected by geyser-like volcanic eruptions from deep, “tiger stripe” cracks on the moon’s south pole. The numerous cracks, which can be hundreds of meters deep, are narrower at some points. At these points temperature and pressure of vapour drop drastically down, causing condensation of vapour into icy grains and hence the formation of the dust-vapour mixture which erupts from the moon. New theories emerging about this astronomical phenomenon are helping us to learn about Enceladus and the nature of its interior. Visit the CICLOPS website for all your Cassini updates.
Enceladus’s tiger stripes. Meow.
Space Tourism by 2010?
Got $800,000? You’re in luck! This new lower price (down from $20million) for a seat on a journey into space is leading researchers to believe that space tourism will be in high demand by 2010. Plenty of us have dreamt of rocketing into the “final frontier”, and this sub-orbital space flight takes you one step closer. While the shuttle-goers don’t actually make it into orbit, they do clear the atmosphere enough to be technically in space and would get to experience weightlessness along with a spectacular view of the Earth. The step beyond this is being able to stay in space hotels, currently being designed and engineered. Researchers say that this is likely to come into play by 2025, although SPACE.com reports that “Galactic Suites” is slated to open by 2012.
NASA worried about anomaly
For the last couple of decades scientists at NASA have been noticing that something out there is messing with our spacecraft. Whenever spacecraft swing by the Earth they tend to speed up slightly beyond what the usual forces should account for. They call it the “flyby anomaly” or sometimes the "pioneer anomaly" after the effect it had on Pioneers 10 and 11. Now according to a new study from The Planetary Society the anomaly is “too large to be explained by known effects related to Einstein’s general theory of relativity.” They still don’t know what it is, but some think that the laws of physics may need to be rewritten…or they need to find the cloaked ship out there messing with all our probes. Read more at the Planetary Society.
Someone find Janeway…she loves anomalies
Spotting Diamonds in the Sky
Diamonds — which hold high value for their rarity, beauty and Gorn-blasting abilites — may be hard to find here on Earth, but it looks like they are quite abundant in space. Unfortunately, DeBeers won’t be getting in on the action, as the space diamonds tend to be about a nanometer (a billionth of a meter) in size, not nearly big enough for an engagement ring. But astronomers believe that these tiny particles could provide valuable insights into how carbon-rich molecules, the basis of life on Earth, develop in the cosmos. Using NASA’s super-sensitive Spitzer Space Telescope, scientists should be able to see the celestial diamonds by looking for their unique “infrared fingerprints.”
Gorn in the sky with diamonds
Gadget of the Week: Carbon Hero
It may sound like a video game, but Carbon Hero is a new device which aims to reduce global warming by allowing its users to calculate their carbon footprint. Regional prize winner in the 2007 European Satellite Navigation Competition, the device uses satellite navigation technology to track journeys. It determines the carbon footprint of travellers using different modes of transport by using satellite navigation data to measure the distance, identify the type of transportation and calculate the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere through travel. It may cause you depression, however, as all it really serves to do is follow you around and constantly remind you that you are destroying the planet. Party foul. See Science Daily.
*Carbon footprint not included
Here’s a warp-speed look at science tid-bits that didn’t quite make the cut, but nonetheless merit mention.
- Gravity Powered Lamp, designed by student, could provide as much light as 40 Watt bulb
- NASA plans to smash spacecraft into the moon Scientists are priming two spacecraft to slam into the moon’s South Pole to see if the lunar double whammy reveals hidden water ice.
- MSNBC explores past, present, and future tech gadgets inspired by our favorite science fiction stories. Sci-fi travels from imagination to reality
- NASA’s latest "Scarab" concept vehicle is meant to go way, way off-road. NASA’s Newest Concept Vehicles Take Off-Roading Out Of This World
Early Scarob tests show this thing can go anywhere