This week Science Friday serves up some hot science news including a total solar eclipse happening today, a high-powered microscope for only $10, a lake discovered on Saturn’s moon Titan, NASA ‘tasting’ water on Mars, Virgin Galactic’s space tourism program, and our gadget of the week: “World’s First Practical Jetpack”!
Total Solar Eclipse Today, 10:21 UTC
Today, a total solar eclipse will be visible in parts of Canada, northern Greenland, the Arctic, central Russia, Mongolia, and China. A partial eclipse can be seen from about a quarter of Earth’s surface, including all of Asia, most of Europe, the Middle East, India, and the Maine corner of North America. If you live in one of those areas, get ready for fun. For the rest of us not so fortunate, tune into a live broadcast of the total eclipse from China from 10:30-11:30 UTC. Also learn more about eclipses at NASA’s eclipse website.
Time-lapse of the eclipse
High Powered Microscope On A Chip for Only $10
Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have turned science fiction into reality with their development of a super-compact high-resolution microscope, small enough to fit on a finger tip. This “microscopic microscope” operates without lenses but has the magnifying power of a top-quality optical microscope, can be used in the field to analyze blood and water samples for pathogens, and can be mass-produced for around $10.
The $10 microscope on a chip
Saturn’s Moon Titan Has Liquid Surface Lake
Scientists have confirmed that at least one body in our solar system, other than Earth, has a surface liquid lake. Using an instrument on NASA’s Cassini orbiter, they discovered that a lake-like feature in the south polar region of Saturn’s moon, Titan, is truly wet. The lake is roughly 20,000 square kilometers, or 7,800 square miles, just slightly larger than North America’s Lake Ontario.
A false color image of Titan
NASA really really has found water on Mars
NASA had already announced that the Phoenix lander on Mars had found ice, but yesterday they announced that they now know for sure that it is water ice, and they have ‘tasted’ the water after melting the ice in the on board ‘oven’ and detecting H20 in the resulting vapor. This result was one of the key goals for Phoenix and it will now move on to trying to detect if other building blocks of life are also present on Mars, leading to future missions to actually detect current or past life.
NASA…we really mean it this time
Virgin Galactic Unveils Plane To Send Tourists Into Space
Monday, British entrepreneur Richard Branson unveiled the double-hulled “mother ship” built to carry six wealthy tourists high into the stratosphere, from where a smaller ship would rocket to more than 60 miles above Earth. The dual-fuselage, all-composite plane is an improvement on the plane that won the X-Prize four years ago. No one knows when Virgin Galactic will fly, but about 100 people have already paid full price for the trip, which comes to $50,000 per minute for the four minutes the travelers will spend in weightlessness.
WhiteKnightTwo, the workhorse aircraft that will launch SpaceShipTwo into suborbital space
Gadget of the Week: “World’s First Practical Jetpack”
New Zealander Glenn Martin has created a jetpack with the power of personal flight for $100,000, lifting your terrified carcass aloft for 30 minutes at a time. Looks like a thrill. Martin’s personal flyer isn’t really a jet pack; it’s more like a couple of gasoline-fueled 200-horsepower fans with a human being strapped onto them, and it’s as loud as dynamite. Never mind all that noise — Martin says it’s the safest “jetpack” ever built, partly because it’s equipped with its own parachute. He’s been working on this raucous-sounding beast for more than a decade, and says the 250-pound machines will go on sale next year.
Glenn Martin’s Jetpack, only $100,000!
Here’s a warp-speed look at science tid-bits that didn’t quite make the cut, but nonetheless merit mention.
- Cloak blanket brings us closer to the dream of invisibility
- Golden scales used to weigh individual atoms and molecules
- Will the RoboTrac tend to Picard’s vineyards?
- NASA just released a ton of new space photos