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
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 WorldWideTelescope.org. [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
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
Here’s a warp-speed look at science tid-bits that didn’t quite make the cut, but nonetheless merit mention.
- Billions of electronics-eating ants invade Texas
- NASA’s non-warp capable Phoenix set to land on Mars
- “Iron Man” robotic suit could usher in super soldier era
- NASA faces rocket test delays for new spaceship