This week’s Science Friday brings you another Cassini Watch in preparation for the March 12th Enceladus flyby. Also, a Martian avalanche, tabletop black holes, a possible close-by plnaet, a bit of science politics, and a very special “Gadget of the Week” which features a top ten list of the best Trek Tech ever to come into existence thanks to Star Trek The Original Series . Plus we have some new Science Quickies for even more science fun!
Cassini Watch: Flyby of Enceladus on March 12th
Cassini has its sensors set on Enceladus this week in preparation for the March 12th flyby. A mere 50km above the moon’s equatorial region, this will be the closest flyby ever done by the Saturn-orbiting spacecraft. Moving north to south, the craft will pass through the famous south solar plume (the water geysers we’ve been talking about.) Scientists hope to come away with a deeper understanding of the composition of the plume, as well as accurate measurements of ammonia and some simple organic compounds. See more about this upcoming adventure at CICLOPS, and check out this video released by the Cassini team:
Avalanche on Mars!
The High Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE), a spacecraft orbiting Mars, took the first ever image of a Martial avalanche. The image released on March 3rd, shows dusty clouds billowing away from the foot of a towering slope, where ice and dust have just cascaded down. “It really surprised me,” said HiRISE mission scientist Ingrid Daubar Spitale. “It’s great to see something so dynamic on Mars. A lot of what we see there hasn’t changed for millions of years.”
Look out below!
Artificial Black Holes Created in a Laboratory
Black holes rank among the greatest mysteries of the universe. They have gravitational pulls so powerful that nothing, even light, can escape after falling past a border known as the event horizon. Direct experiments on real black holes would be difficult due lack of any near Earth, not to mention how difficult these warps in space-time would be to work with. Now, scientists can use intense, brief laser pulses inside an optical fiber to recreate singularities on a table top. We have seen artificial black holes (aka gravitational singularities) in Star Trek used to power Romulan ships as well as natural ones which cause those pesky space-time anomalies. See Space.com for more.
The singularity caused a rift in the space-time continuum throwing the Enterprise into a causality loop!
Earthlike planet at Alpha Centauri?
According to Star Trek Alpha Centauri, our nearest celestial neighbor, will be the home of a colony (and Zefram Cochrane) as well as possibly one of the founding members of the Federation. This would require a habitable planet and new research suggests there may actually be a spot for us to set up camp. According to new research there is a "good line of evidence" that a planet has formed in the ‘habitable’ zone around Alpha Centauri B. Astronomers also believe that extended observations would actually be able to detect an Earth-like planet around the star which is just over four light years away.
Alpha Centauri…our next giant leap?
Future NASA Missions at Stake Due to Budgetary Issues
If we are going to ever get to Alpha Centauri (and form the Federation), we might actually need a space program. NASA is taking its budget issues to congress in the upcoming March 13th congressional hearing. NASA administrator Alan Stern currently has a cap on NASA’s over all budget, which may cost us some future missions, specifically in the Mars exploration program. Congress will vote on what the FY09 NASA budget will look like, and this decision will greatly influence what future missions we get to see happen. If you have a minute, I urge you to take time out of you day to write to your congressman (or woman) and stress the importance of the further exploration of space.
Today NASA. Tomorrow the UFP!
Gadget of the Week: Star Trek Tech
This week, we bring you a special report by Space.com on Star Trek Tech featuring the top ten technology contributions from TOS. Here are the top ten items which they feel make the cut:
10. The Cell Phone “Enterprise to Captain Kirk”
9. Handy Medical Tools Hypospray, anyone?
8. Translators Helps cover obvious plot holes
7. Space Money That tribble’s gonna cost you 10 credits!
6. GPS Targeting Scanners?
5. Scanning Devices a la the Tricorder
4. Non-Invasive Surgical Techniques a la Bones
3. Transparent Aluminum (Save the whales!)
2. Phasers The kind that don’t “set for stun”
1. Life Detectors Life forms! You precious little life forms…
What about Spock’s mysterious blue light thingy?
Here’s a warp-speed look at science tid-bits that didn’t quite make the cut, but nonetheless merit mention.
- Danger on the Pad! Astronauts practice emergency procedures.
- World’s Most Powerful Telescope Boots Up, Takes Great Pictures
- Ultra-efficient LED, Developed By Student, Will Vastly Improve LCD Screens, Conserve Energy
- Doctors “Read Minds” with brain scans…Artificial mind melding, if you will.