Science Friday: From Novas To Dust, and Beyond

This week in Science Friday we bring you observations of Titan by Cassini’s radar, a possible visit to a killer asteroid, a new web app that brings the universe to your computer screen, the always stunning discoveries of the Chandra X-Ray observatory and the VLA, and why astronauts should be afraid of dust. All this plus our gadget of the week: the TUIST instrument. Check it out!

Cassini Watch: Cassini’s Radar Peers Through Titan’s Haze
Cassini completed a successful flyby of Titan on May 12, at an altitude of 1,000 kilometers (620 miles), for the first of two Titan northern hemisphere flybys that will wrap up the original four-year mission. Titan, the size of a terrestrial planet, has a dense atmosphere of nitrogen and methane and a surface covered with organic material. It is Titan that is arguably Earth’s sister world and the Cassini-Huygens mission considers Titan among its highest priorities.

Titan and the large, equatorial bright region at center called Adiri

NASA considering visit to potential killer Asteroid
Most agree that the near Earth asteroid dubbed Apophis will probably not wipe out all of mankind in 2029 when it heads our way, but it will get real close. Now, according to The Guardian, there is a plan being floated around NASA to visit this 40 meter wide rock as part of the Orion program. Rob Landis at the Johnson Space Center (the report’s author) states: "An asteroid will one day be on a collision course with Earth. Doesn’t it make sense, after going to the moon, to start learning more about them? Our study shows it makes perfect sense to do this soon after going back to the moon." Via The Guardian

NASA thinking of landing on this…if Bruce Willis is available

WorldWide Telescope
The final frontier seems closer all the time, but even the wealthiest space tourist may find it difficult to find a ride to somewhere like the Crab Nebula, the Trapezium Cluster or Eta Carinae, a star 100 times more massive than the Sun and 7,500 light-years away. But, with a little help from the WorldWide Telescope, a new system designed by Microsoft researchers, anyone can explore the cosmos on their computers through use of a web application that brings together imagery from the best ground- and space-based observatories across the world. Check it out and grab a quick download at [Thanks to “AJ” for the tip!]

M81 Galaxy. Just one of the astounding views in WorldWide Telescope.

Galactic Hunt Finds Most Recent Supernova
For many years, there has been something missing in the Milky Way galaxy: exploding stars. Supernovas are supposed to appear two or three times every century, but none have been seen since the year 1680. The most recent supernova in our galaxy has been discovered by tracking the rapid expansion of its remains. This result, obtained by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Very Large Array, will help improve our understanding of how often supernovas explode in the Milky Way galaxy.


Lunar Astronauts’ Health May Depend on Good Dusting

Lunar dust could be more than a housekeeping issue for astronauts who visit the moon. Their good health may depend on the amount of exposure they have to the tiny particles. To prepare for a return to the moon, researchers are evaluating how dust is deposited in the lungs in reduced gravity in order to assess the health risk of long-term exposure. The findings will influence the design of lunar bases and could provide benefits for healthcare on Earth, such as improved delivery of medications to the lungs. Via Science Daily
(and NSBRI)

Measuring aerosol deposition in the lungs during a lunar gravity portion of a Reduced Gravity Flight

Gadget of the Week: TUIST Instrument Makes Sweet Space Music
What do you get when you combine guitar, bass, drums, into some crazy electronica instrument? Either a really sweet trip or the TUIST (short for Transformable Uber Interface for Stardom) instrument — the video below could be indicative of either. This electronic instrument can be held like a guitar, upright base, or drum set. The noise that comes from the machine varies based on the way you hold it— you don’t have to press any buttons to change its settings. Don’t be a herbert, give it a look!

The TUIST in action

Science Quickies

Here’s a warp-speed look at science tid-bits that didn’t quite make the cut, but nonetheless merit mention.

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Decloaking . . .
Wouldn’t you just love to be sitting on the front bumper of Cassini and taking in all the sights? Man, I would.

How about that giant space potato. Or as a former Vice President once said: “Potatoe.”

Nice galaxy, and how about that 04:40 am First.

“…..and how about that 04:40 am First.”

Yes, and first you are. :)

I’d love to be on that bumper as well. What a ride it would be!

I always thought we’d see a modernized space shuttle. Like the concept X-33 space plane. I want to see one of those with the name Enterprise emblazoned on it. I find it rather ironic that the first shuttle was named Enterprise, but never actually blasted off a from a launch pad into space.

I guess one could say that it glided down from the stratosphere outstandingly. But to not have the old girl on an STS mission is just a shame.

But that’s just the 10 year old in me talking. The adult is going to look up photos of distant stars ‘blowin’ up real good’ and save them as wallpaper.

For ages 5 and up. Sarcasm not included.

Great stuff once again. It makes you realise how small you are in this huge cosmos as a little Earthling awaiting a certain Movie…life can be great.

My mind expands just a little every Friday with these fascinating roundups.

NASA thinking about landing on Apophis… if Bruce Willis is available… Good one, Kayla.

Hmm. Worldwide Telescope does not work on Mac. How predictable of microsoft. So 1984. sigh…

@ #4 – Thanks for that link. I had been wondering whatever happened to the venturestar project.

Great! They had to name the asteroid Apophis!

I found the link to the WWT site in my daily morning browse of the New York Times. Instead of reading about Clinton and West Virginia, I was catapulted to Andromeda.

There is still some work to do The “planet” tour does the suburbs of Seattle, Venus, Mars (uber-cool), Jupiter and moons, and then some surey of someone’s fractal planet before finishing. Has potential. If some bright spark threw the Enterprise into a photo as a joke, we’d all be there (hint, hint!)

Sorry, “survey.” ;-)

The TUIST is just step away from the electric bassoon, which I intend to create eventually. I love playing the bassoon.

Why don’t we send the Titan TO Titan. That would at least scratch behind Riker’s ears for a little while.

The Doctor
Seven of Nine

To all other candidates: RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.

@#7 AC – I have had some problems on my PC as well. It is a really sweet app, and looks fantastically pretty, but still has bug issues (reminiscent of Vista?) Their help site is bogged down with people’s complaints about viewing issues as well, so it seems to be a widespread problem. Still a great app, though, if you can get it to work! (Thanks for that, AJ!)

@#12 That One Guy – Electric bassoon. Sign me up. But no reeds. Ick.

Decloaking . . .
#13 Kayla,

How about an article on how frakking Vista is the start of the downfall of global civilization.