Posts

July 22, 2014

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11:11 PM | Why Has the Sun Gone So Quiet?
Although the sun is our nearest star, we certainly don't have it all figured out. Continue reading →
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8:53 PM | Watch the Falcon 9 make a soft landing in the ocean!
After heavy seas swamped out a previous attempt to record video of a Falcon 9 test-landing in the Atlantic Ocean, SpaceX today released video of this month's trial.  After launching a series of satellites for ORBCOMM, the first stage of the rocket turned its engines back on for a controlled descent back to the surface.  The video, seen below, picks up partway through this return.  Once reaching the surface, the Falcon 9 gently touches down before tipping over into the sea. […]
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7:00 PM | 'Transformer' Pulsar is More Than Meets the Eye
Astronomers may have not yet found Cybertron but this "transforming" pulsar definitely has a shape-shifting double personality. Continue reading →
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6:28 PM | Apollo 11 Touches Down in the Oval Office: Big Pic
Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins met with President President Barack Obama today to commemorate the 45th anniversary since mankind first set foot on the moon. Continue reading →
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4:55 PM | Oso disaster had its roots in earlier landslides
The disastrous March 22 landslide that killed 43 people in the rural Washington state community of Oso involved the "remobilization" of a 2006 landslide on the same hillside, a new federally sponsored geological study concludes.
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4:07 PM | Planetary science review to be released soon
The long-awaited—apprehensively, in some quarters—senior review of NASA planetary science missions is effectively complete and will be publicly released in the next week or two, a NASA official said Monday. “The planetary senior review, from a scientific report standpoint, has just been completed,” said Jim Green, director of NASA’s planetary science division, in a presentation [...]
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3:57 PM | Women Working on Mars: Curiosity Women's Day
Just after completing the primary mission of 669 sols on Mars, Curiosity's managers planned a special day -- June 26, 2014 -- in which mostly women were assigned to the more than 100 different operational roles.
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3:53 PM | Diavoli di mare volanti avvistati in Liguria
Si chiama Mobula mobular, più nota con il nome di Diavolo di mare, ed è la prima volta, in oltre venticinque anni di attività di ricerca e monitoraggio dell'Istituto Tethys nelle acque del Santuario Pelagos, che vengono documentati avvistamenti di interi gruppi di queste mante del Mediterraneo. La Mobula mobular è un esponente della famiglia dei Mobulidi, caratterizzato da lunghe pinne cefaliche (può raggiungere i 5 metri di larghezza, anche se la maggior […]
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3:29 PM | Another Mind-Crushing Illusion: Straight or Curved Motion?
From the twisted mind of brusspup comes another brain-hurting illusion. This one is really, really convincing, so tell me: When you look at this video, you’re seeing a circle of eight dots rotating as it spins around inside a bigger circle, right? No, you’re not. As brusspup shows, each individual white dot is moving in a straight line! The trick here is two-fold: One is that the dots aren’t moving at constant velocity (you can see that in the video at the 0:44 mark), and that […]
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2:29 PM | Fisica: osservato un evento più raro del bosone di Higgs
A due anni di distanza dalla grandiosa scoperta, da parte degli scienziati del Cern, del bosone di Higgs - noto anche come "particella di Dio" -, la sfuggente entità che conferisce massa alla materia, i fisici dello U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, guidati da Marc-André Pleier, hanno appena tagliato un altro importante traguardo: l'osservazione di una collisione tra due particelle cariche, i bosoni W, che potrebbe […]
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2:23 PM | Rosetta: Once Upon A Time…
…there was a spacecraft called Rosetta. Rosetta had been traveling in space for 10 years, towards a comet called 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. In time, Rosetta was able to see the comet in the distance, there was only a little way to go now… Launched in March 2004, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft is just two weeks […]
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1:30 PM | No quick end for 2015 appropriations process
For a time this spring, it appeared that Congress would make quick work of fiscal year 2015 spending bills. The House, for example, passed its version of a Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) appropriations bill, which funds NASA, NOAA, and NSF among other agencies, in late May. Meanwhile, debate on the Senate version of the [...]
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1:00 PM | The cosmos laughs at our puny particle colliders
A while back, a few other science writers and I were chatting idly on Twitter about how common Higgs bosons might be in the cosmos. Not because they stick around very long — their lifetime is incredibly short — but because there are a lot of high-energy collisions near black holes, in supernova remnants, and […]
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12:24 PM | Plunging Deep into Colliding Galaxies
Roughly 50 million light years from Earth is the most spectacular example of galactic collision in the sky: the famed Antenna Galaxies, two huge spiral galaxies in the middle of a cosmic train wreck. Playing out over hundreds of millions of years, the gravity of the two galaxies has distorted their shapes, flung out streamers of stars a million light years long, and triggered a burst of star formation so intense that billions of new stars are being born in the galaxy’s hearts. As mighty […]
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11:31 AM | Astronauti, cavernicoli sulla Luna
La superficie della Luna non è solo piena di crateri, ma anche di buchi, rientranze che potrebbero rivelarsi davvero utili un giorno. Si tratta degli ingressi di caverne sotterranee che, secondo la Nasa, potrebbero un giorno essere utilizzate come ripari per gli astronauti in missione sul nostro satellite. Più di 200 di queste aperture nella superficie della Luna, denominate fosse lunari, sono state scoperte dal Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter della Nasa, e variano in dimensione da […]
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11:27 AM | July 22nd: Google Lunar X-Prize
Podcaster: Pamela Gay, Chanda Gonzales and Leo Camacho
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11:11 AM | Eterologa, arrivano le prime gravidanze
Il ministro Lorenzin, neanche due settimane fa, faceva sapere che perché la pratica della fecondazione eterologa diventasse effettiva sul suolo italiano (dopo la sentenza della Corte costituzionale che dichiarava incostituzionale il divieto imposto dalla legge 40) bisognava attendere le linee guida in materia. Ma l’Associazione Luca Coscioni rispondeva affermando che invece a breve avremmo avuto l’annuncio delle prime gravidanze ottenute con la donazione di gameti esterni […]
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10:34 AM | No, non usiamo solo il 10% del nostro cervello
Film di fantascienza, pubblicità, corsi per accrescere il proprio potenziale intellettivo e citazioni (inventate) attribuite a scienziati famosi hanno contributo alla diffusione di una credenza: utilizziamo solo il 10% della nostra materia cerebrale. Si tratta di un mito privo di fondamento, ma l’idea che potenzialmente potremmo imparare a far funzionare aree addormentate del cervello è indubbiamente affascinante. La verità però è che persino quando […]
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8:00 AM | Zoned Out
There a few moments in your childhood that stick with you the rest of your life. I don’t mean first kiss, prom, or that time you punched Kelly Weir in the stomach for stealing your bike (believe me, he had it coming). Those are big moments. I mean the little things – the things that […]
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7:10 AM | Come eliminare l'Hiv da una cellula
Quello dell’Hiv è un virus tenace, si sa. Lo dimostra purtroppo il caso della bambina del Mississipi sottoposta a poche ore dalla nascita alla terapia con anti-retrovirali, che aveva acceso le speranze della comunità scientifica rimanendo per due anni funzionalmente libera dal virus, e che proprio di recente è invece tornata a mostrarne traccia nell’organismo. Dalla Temple University però arriva oggi una novità promettente. In uno studio pubblicato […]
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5:21 AM | Some Thoughts about Apollo 11 and Beyond…
History Was Made, Will it Be Made Again? We watched the whole Moon walk sequence last night and it’s amazing what I remembered from the first time and what made a WHOLE lot more sense now. The thing that really surprised me was how much work the guys had to do in their 2+ hours […]
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4:00 AM | Burst radio veloci, un enigma astrofisico di origine cosmica
La scoperta di un burst radio veloce (Fast Radio Burst, FRB), durato cioè qualche frazione di secondo, ad opera degli astronomi che lavorano presso il radiotelescopio di Arecibo fornisce nuove evidenze sull’esistenza di impulsi ‘misteriosi’ che sembrano provenire dalle regioni più remote dell’Universo. Gli scienziati dell’osservatorio di Parkes in Australia hanno già registrato una manciata […]
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1:00 AM | Return to Earth: Rarely Seen Photos Inside Apollo 11
On July 21, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left the moon to begin their journey back to Earth with Michael Collins. Here are some photos inside the mission that are rarely seen.
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12:49 AM | Messier Monday: The Most Perfect Elliptical, M89 (Synopsis)
“We sail within a vast sphere, ever drifting in uncertainty, driven from end to end.” -Blaise Pascal By now, you’ve probably learned that Messier objects — and galaxies in particular — come in a huge, rich variety of types, structures and compositions. But sometimes, the simplest structure of all is the rarest. Think about it: most…
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12:26 AM | Chang'e 3 update: Both rover and lander still alive at the end of their eighth lunar day
Despite the fact that it hasn't moved for 6 months, the plucky Yutu rover on the Moon is still alive. Its signal is periodically detected by amateur radio astronomers, most recently on July 19. A story posted today by the Chinese state news agency offers a new hypothesis to explain the failure of the rover's mobility systems.

July 21, 2014

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11:20 PM | Clouds of climate change
I don't normally seek out space news that's this close to home; instead, I tend to lean towards powerful black holes and distant galaxies. But this topic happened to weird me out enough to merit a thorough investigation.Noctilucent clouds.  (Image credit: "Noctilucent clouds over Stockholm" by Kevin Cho (Kee Pil Cho) - Own work.) When I first started learning about these guys, they reminded me of the northern lights - a beautiful but elusive atmospheric […]
Editor's Pick
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10:27 PM | Harvey's Voyage
Dr. Harvey Tananbaum at the Smithsonian's Castle Library in May 2006. (Credit: Jim Moran) On April 20, 2014, Harvey Tananbaum stepped down after 23 years as director of the Chandra X-ray Center (CXC). This event was duly noted in various press releases, but its significance may not have been widely appreciated. By almost any measure Harvey has been one of the most outstanding directors ever of a major astrophysical observatory. He was director of Chandra for longer than any other […]
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10:03 PM | Week 8: Of Angles and Astrophysics
The CHIPS neutrino detector in the lab. All photos by author. Us men are forever looking for a clandestine domain to call our own. Batman has the Batcave, Superman has his Arctic Fortress of Solitude, and supervillians seem to be forever finding secluded islands on which to build their secret lairs. And while one could [...]
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9:17 PM | Our Galaxy's Black Hole Does NOT Have the 'Munchies'
In 2011, astronomers were getting excited for what promised to be a spectacular cosmic event. Sadly, it looks like it's turned out to be a galactic damp squib. Continue reading →
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8:31 PM | Chandra, me, and the number 23
A month or two after Chandra launched in July 1999, I was asked at a Chandra X-ray Center (CXC) senior staff meeting how long I actually expected Chandra to operate. I spontaneously responded: "23 years". Now that is a number not heard very frequently, so there were lots of quizzical looks indicating that an explanation was in order. Shortly after the launch, Pat Henry – an old friend and colleague from the 70's work on the Einstein Observatory – had written a congratulatory […]
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