Science Friday: Phoenix Preview and Give-away Edition

This week here at TrekMovie, we are celebrating the upcoming landing of the Phoenix Mars mission with information about where to watch the events unfold live, a special Phoenix Mars Lander giveaway, and a sweet video! Also, we’ve got a new Cassini watch, a supernova seen in action for the first time, the truth behind the “crystal skulls”, and our gadget of the week: The Telectroscope.

Phoenix to Land on Mars!
In just two days on Sunday May 25th, the NASA Phoenix Lander will be touching down on the surface of Mars. Its mission: to study the history of water and look for complex organic molecules in the ice-rich martian soil. Phoenix will enter the top of the Martian atmosphere at almost 13,000 mph. In seven minutes, the spacecraft must complete a challenging sequence of events to slow to about 5 mph before its three legs reach the ground. The mission is hosted by the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ where a Mission Landing Celebration will take place this Sunday from 3:00-8:00pm. Even if you’re not in Tucson, you can enjoy the festivities in your state, or watch events unfold online.

Special Phoenix Mission Contest Giveaway!
In honor of NASA’s Phoenix Lander Mars Mission, TrekMovie is giving away 8 Phoenix Lander posters straight from the Mars Space Flight Facility in Arizona. All you have to do is answer our three trivia questions:

1. On what date did Zephram Cochrane launch his warp-ship, also named Phoenix?

2. What is the name of the largest volcano in the solar system, located on Mars?

3. How long is a Martian day, known as a Sol?

Send in your answers to contest [at] trekmovie [dot] com with the subject ‘PHOENIX CONTEST. Include a name and address. The first 8 people to correctly answer will be sent our super awesome prize! NOTE: Do not use the comments section below to answer, send the email.

Seven Minutes of Terror: Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL)

Cassini Watch: Images Provide Guidepost for Future Explorers
Paving the way for Trek’s stellar cartographers, scientists working with images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft of Saturn’s icy airless moons have carefully crafted detailed maps that one day may guide future explorers across the surfaces of these remote bodies. Earlier this week, the Cassini Imaging Team released an atlas of carefully controlled, detailed maps of the surface of the Saturnian moon, Dione. This is third in its series of atlases which will map all of Saturn’s icy moons. See them at

A section of the newly released map of Dione

Scientists See Supernova in Action
Up until now, a star had never been just before and during its initial supernova explosion. But, a satellite telescope by the name of Swift, which happened to be gazing at the star’s galaxy, recorded an unexpected burst of X-rays 100 billion times as bright as the Sun. In the following hours and days, as most of the big telescopes on Earth and in space watched, the star erupted into cataclysmic explosion known as a supernova, lighting up its galaxy and delighting astronomers who had never been able to catch an exploding star before it exploded.

A star goes supernova and lights up its galaxy

New Indy Movie Loosely Based on Real Crystal Skulls
Our favorite archaeologist is on the big screen again, in a movie loosely inspired by an ancient Mesoamerican legend that 13 widely dispersed crystal skulls will yield unprecedented powers when united. In real life, several purported crystal skulls are housed in museums around the world, though archaeologists doubt their ancient provenance and mystical powers. Instead, these skulls are primarily seen as fakes sold by 19th-century antiquities dealers. Via MSNBC. More on real crystal skulls at

Real Crystal Skull at the British Museum

Gadget of the Week: Telectroscope Lets You See From New York to London
Don’t get too excited — that image you see to the right isn’t actually a transatlantic telescope. Rather, it’s a transatlantic broadband network “rounded off on each end with HD cameras.” Still, the 11.2- x 3.3-meter Telectroscope is a real marvel to look at, and it actually does enable viewers in New York and London to peer at each other in real-time. The creation will be on display and open to the public around the clock in both cities until June 15th. More at CNN.

The telectroscope!

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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re: Telectroscope.

So now people in New York can give people the bird in London in real time in brilliant HD!

That’s a monster telescope…….

correction, monster telectroscope. Very nice piece of technology.

I remember seeing a thing about those real Crystal skulls a long time ago.

I always remember one of the stills in the original opening for “In Search Of…” that Nimoy hosted in the 70s had Crystal Skulls in it… that show creeped me out. lol

What happens when there’s a crystal skull held aloft at both ends of this 2D Telectroscope? Will it reverse the global melt-down?


Actually, the British equivalent to “flipping the bird” is “flicking the V.” Essentially, you hold out your index and middle fingers and “flick” them towards you. It’s essentially the same as the Bird, but with two fingers and motion.

Plus, if you want to do this to someone, you might also want to consider the 5 hour time difference between New York and London. When you tick someone off, the timing of it can be essential.

Anyways, the actual technology in and off itself is a fine piece of work. I have friends in England, so who knows? Maybe I’ll see them one day in the Telectroscope.

Indy 4 = AMAZING. Go see it. Then wait for ST XI.

So why don’t they test the theory and get all the crystal skulls from around the world together and see what happens? That would dispel (or confirm) that myth pretty fast.

Forgive me for taking your attention away from this article. I think you ought to check this good article about humpback whales below:

Check first comment under the news article. :)

Decloaking . . .
Mighty fine work Kayla. I’m enjoying having “Science Quickies” with you more and more. In fact, they are turning into marathon sessions as I probe further and deeper into hard science . . . ugh, I didn’t mean that the way it come out . . . sorry. Keep it up! Ooops, I’d better . . .

SPACE GEEK ALERT!!! The Science Channel begins live coverage of the Phoenix Mars landing attempt on Sunday at 7pm EST. Miles O’brien will host a special on the event at the same time on CNN.

Hey did anyone else go to the Planetary Society’s Planetfest 08 Phoenix landing countdown (at the Hilton in Pasadena)? Tim Russ was there as one of the speakers.

Wow was it cool to see those first photos come in.

@12 : Tim Russ? That sounds neat! I was here in AZ at Arizona State University watching events unfold. The first pictures to come in were pretty neat. I hope there’s some interesting stuff right under the lander considering that it can’t rove around.

It was amazing how smoothly the whole thing went. Even the mission control guys were astounded how incredibly well it went.

Reminds me I went to the Planetfest 81′
Where I met both Nichelle Nichols and Gene Roddenberry in person.

Gene was waiting in line for something on this hot Pasadena day.
Although I was a bit starstruck, he looked very thirsty so I went over and talked to him and offered to go get him and his companion (could have been Majel Barrett, or maybe an assistant, damn I can’t recall) a Coke.
I was sort of like the kid out of the the Joe Green Coke commercial.
“Hey Gene you want (my) coke?”
He was thankful, although thankfully he didn’t throw a sweaty jersey at me.

I’m glad I met the man :-)