Sunday, April 6, 2014

Carnival of Space 348

Welcome to this week's Carnival of Space #348

Our intrepid astronomy bloggers bring us a round up of news, what is happening, key discoveries, thoughts and ideas for the future. There are some amazing events going on this month, from a total eclipse of the moon, Mars approaching opposition, the National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers (NACAA) and its Global Astronomy Month!

What's On!

If you are hesitant to try this observing feat on your own or would rather participate from the comfort of your home, Gianluca Masi from the Virtual Telescope Project has an event just for you: an online Messier Marathon.

The Spacewriter details many of April's skygazing sights.


Space Missions

The sudden and unexpected outage of a crucial tracking radar that is mandatory to insure public safety, has forced the scrub of a pair of launches planned for this week from Cape Canaveral, FL, that are vital to US National Security, United Launch Alliance, SpaceX and NASA.

Human hopes of reaching stars other than the Sun are currently limited by the maturity of advanced propulsion technologies. One of the few candidate propulsion systems for providing interstellar flight capabilities is nuclear fusion. In the past many fusion propulsion concepts have been proposed and some of them even explored in high detail (Project Daedalus), however, as scientific progress in this field has advanced, new fusion concepts have emerged that merit evaluation as potential drivers for interstellar missions. Plasma jet driven Magneto-Inertial Fusion (PJMIF) is one of those concepts. PJMIF involves a salvo of converging plasma jets that form a uniform liner, which compresses a magnetized target to fusion conditions. It is an Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF)-Magnetic Confinement Fusion (MCF) hybrid approach that has the potential for many benefits over both ICF and MCF, such as lower system mass and significantly lower cost.

Planning on colonizing a star system? According to Portland State University anthropologist Cameron Smith, any 2000 year long Worldship journey would have to carry a minimum of 10,000 people to secure the success of the endeavor. And a starting population of 40,000 would be even better, in case a large percentage of the population died during during the journey.

Next Big Future also reviews Adam Crowl's article detailing “Sail-Beam” or “Macron Beam” propulsion of humans in spaceships to about 4.5% of lightspeed. Other methods of propulsion: Quarter-wave sails made of Carbon Nano-Tubes (CNTs) can achieve high speeds by slingshotting near the sun and then pushed by the solar energy of the Sun. Dropping to 0.019 AU, the final velocity is 5.6% of light – dropping to 0.00465 AU (skimming the photosphere) would allow a speed of over 0.11c (11% of lightspeed), but the material might not be up to the beating. Crewed vehicles would not endure the extreme acceleration – 84,000 gee at peak – so the speeds that might be achieved by solar-sailing star-travelers would be limited to 1,000 year flights to Alpha Centauri, with just 17 gee peak acceleration.

My own blog AARTScope brings you a couple of interesting events from the OSIRIS-REx Target Asteroids Mission. There are a couple of really cool videos of asteroid appulse/occultations (passing in front of back ground stars). Watch as a 16th magintude star emerges from behind the bright Asteroid Polana.

Stars, nebulae, galaxies & solar system

Europa just became the third body in the Solar System that we've seen spraying geysers of water out of the ground, after Enceladus and Earth

The sea of Enceladus: Cassini confirms underground ocean on Saturn’s geyser moon


Learn about the gorgeous Butterfly Nebula and the story of how it came to be.

El Gordo is the most massive, the hottest, and gives off the most X-rays of any known cluster at its distance or beyond.

IMAGE CREDIT: NASA, ESA, J. Jee (Univ. of California, Davis), J. Hughes (Rutgers Univ.), F. Menanteau (Rutgers Univ. & Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), C. Sifon (Leiden Obs.), R. Mandelbum (Carnegie Mellon Univ.), L. Barrientos (Univ. Catolica de Chile), and K. Ng (Univ. of California, Davis)

A quick look at one of the newest members of the Kuiper belt, discovered a few days ago. That object would be 2012 VP113, a very cool place to be.

The new object was discovered through two years of research at the ESO's amazing La Silla observatory - our thoughts are with our Chilean friends after a challenging week with another large earthquake in the region.

IMAGE Credit: Diana Juncher/ESO

So that about wraps it up for this weeks Carnival of Space.

The Carnival of Space is a community of interest blog carnival bringing together the best and brightest Astronomy & Space Blogs at a single point in space and time (commonly referred to as a web address) each week. Previous episodes can be found here. If you run an astronomy or space science blog you can contact carnivalofspace @ to be added to the editorial circulation list.


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