Chris Hadfield has conquered space. Now he’s conquering the Internet, too.
A video of the Canadian astronaut singing David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” from the International Space Station has been zipping around the Web at light speed since it was posted Sunday. The five-minute clip features Hadfield singing a modified version of the tune and strumming an acoustic guitar while floating through a space module, more than 200 miles above the Earth.
By Monday morning, it had more than 1 million views on YouTube, 3,000 comments on Reddit and was being widely shared across social networks.
Hadfield already was something of a social media star, with 260,000 fans on Facebook and more than 825,000 followers on Twitter. During his five months aboard the International Space Station, he has posted numerous photos and videos of himself preparing meals, brushing his teeth and explaining how to vomit in space.
But the elegant “Space Oddity” video, reportedly months in the making, may rocket him into a higher orbit. Hadfield’s earnest voice and unique perch in space brings a moving immediacy to Bowie’s verses, and when he sings, “I’m floating in a most peculiar way” while actually floating, it’s a powerful moment.
Because Hadfield’s vocals and guitar were recorded on the space station (and mixed with supporting tracks by Emm Gryner, a Canadian musician who once sang backup for Bowie), some observers are calling it the first music video made in space.
Commenters on Reddit praised the video’s simplicity and genuineness.
“The floating guitar is really floating, it’s not some computer animation or trickery. The Earth turning behind him in the windows is the real deal. That’s us, that’s our blue dot, not some stock image, or animation …,” wrote one Redditor. “The video has none of the Hollywood fakery we are used to. Its power comes from this authenticity.”
Hadfield took a few liberties with the lyrics of the 1969 Bowie song, which became a hit upon its 1973 rerelease. In the original song, Ground Control loses radio contact with the astronaut, Major Tom, implying that the mission has failed. But Hadfield omits that part.
Bowie himself acknowledged the video, tweeting, “CHRIS HADFIELD SINGS SPACE ODDITY IN SPACE!”
The 53-year-old Hadfield launched aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft in December and in March became the first Canadian to lead a spaceship as commander of the International Space Station. The video clip is a farewell of sorts: He is due to depart the space station Monday night and return to Earth.
Archive for the ‘Space’ Category
Posted by Xeno on May 13, 2013
Posted by Xeno on May 12, 2013
Space is a dangerous place. It’s not just the lack of oxygen or gravity; the biggest threat, at least in low Earth orbit, is micrometeorites and other debris that circle our planet at very high speeds.
At several kilometers (miles) per second, or faster, even small objects pack a punch, so much so that they can pierce through the International Space Station.
There is so much debris and micrometeorites floating around in space that impact is inevitable. In fact, one just hit the ISS though, thankfully, it just pierced through the solar panels. ISS Commander Chris Hadfield provided the Twitter evidence.
It did leave a bullet hole though as a reminder of what might happen if one were to hit the hull.
Luckily, the ISS’ hull is made up of multiple layers designed to contain and slow down debris so that it doesn’t pierce through. The ISS also navigates around areas where large quantities of debris are known to exist.
Posted by Xeno on May 9, 2013
Never peer directly at the sun – even through clouds – at any time. The sun is so blindingly bright that, unless it’s completely blocked by the moon during a total solar eclipse, it can permanently damage your eyes. The eclipse happening today (May 9 for those east of the International Date Line; May 10 for those west of it) is essentially a partial eclipse in that the sun will not ever be completely covered by the moon. Instead, at mid-eclipse, a thin ring of the sun’s outer surface will appear in a circle around the silhouetted moon, to those standing along the eclipse path running through Australia and the Pacific Ocean. You will need to watch online or use a safe filter or projection technique, to view the May 9-10 solar eclipse.
Posted by Xeno on May 8, 2013
Mars One is a private space mission that hopes to send a group of people to Mars in a decade and leave them there to foster the first human colony. It has received endorsement and support from the likes of Gerard ’t Hooft, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. But it has also been criticized on several counts, including treating a serious life-threatening scenario as a reality show for the purposes of monetization and seeking funding while being glib about nearly all the practical details.
Before applicants even get to see the application, they must pay an application fee of around $38 USD (the price varies depending on country of residence). They fill out a public-facing profile and answer several private questions about achievements and awards, incidents that have frightened or stressed them out and how they dealt with them, personality types they find difficult to handle, and how they deal with cultures other than their own. To date, 30,000 other Red Planet hopefuls have applied.
“I want to see the sun rise over a completely new horizon, in a completely new sky. I think that’s worth any price,” wrote Erica Meszaros, another Mars One applicant, in her personal essay.
Meszaros is a software developer by trade and interned with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. She states that astronauts are traditionally chosen “from the Air Force” or—more recently, with the success of $200,000 per flight projects like Virgin Galactic—from “those with deep pockets.”
Part of Mars One’s pitch has been that much of the technology for traveling to and maintaining residence on Mars already exists; it’s just a matter of marshaling resources and initiative to get there. Both Hamm and Meszaros echoed this sentiment. Despite being publicly vague on the details, Mars One leaders maintain that they know the cost of the mission ($6 billion) and that it can all be assembled and launched in 10 years.
All applicants make a video as part of their public facing profile discussing, in brief, why they want to or are suited for a mission to Mars. “I have a great sense of humor, so I really get along with everybody,” said Francisco, a 32 year-old Argentinian man who works in “the commercial area at a plastic containers factory.”
“I’ve got a feeling that I don’t belong here, but out there,” said Anders, a 51-year-old Swedish man who has the most popular profile on the site. “What makes me the perfect candidate? Well, I’m single. I’m flexible.”
“I believe that the challenge that I’m putting up with everybody… If anybody can challenge me with the knowledge and all the things that I can do, then I give up, but if not, I would like to be the first one to go,” said Vasile Sofroni, a 54-year-old Romanian man with the second most popular profile.
Posted by Xeno on May 8, 2013
Russian physicists Alex Gurevich and Anatoly Karashtin claim, in a paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, they have found more evidence to support their idea that lightning is caused by cosmic rays. The notion was first proposed by Gurevich back in 1992, and has been a source of debate ever since.
No one really knows what causes lightning to form and strike—the prevailing view is that it comes about as a result of collisions between ice crystals in clouds and hail stones. But because clouds and the lightning they produce are unpredictable and hard to pin down, no one has been able to prove this theory. Another theory, proposed by Gurevich twenty years ago, says that lightning is formed from the collisions between cosmic rays and water droplets present in thunderclouds. Now he and a colleague claim to have found evidence to support this idea.
Gurevich suggests that cosmic rays entering thunder clouds cause the air in them to be ionized, resulting in a lot of free electrons floating around. The electronic field already present in the cloud, he continues, leads to the free electrons being boosted to higher energies. When the electrons present in the air collide with water atoms, more electrons are released, setting off what he describes as an avalanche of high-energy particles that eventually give way to a “runaway breakdown”—a discharge that is witnessed as a lightning strike.
As with other theories regarding the origins of lightning, Gurevich’s ideas haven’t been proved. But he hasn’t been sitting still. In this new effort, he along with Karashtin have been measuring and analyzing radio waves in storm clouds as lightning occurs. The idea is that if such strikes are due to interactions with cosmic rays, there should be measurable amounts of radio waves given off.
Gurevich and Karashtin set up equipment to monitor storm clouds over Russia and Kazakhstan—recording radio waves emitted during 3,800 lightning strikes. In analyzing the data, they found that hundreds, and perhaps even thousands of short radio wave pulses occurred just as a bolt of lightning was about to form. Perhaps more importantly, they matched the models Gurevich had built years before. There was on hitch however, the amount of energy delivered by the cosmic rays in the model don’t happen often enough in the real world to cause lightning strikes in most every thunderstorm.
Gurevich and Karashtin say the discrepancy can be explained by the addition of energy into the system by free electrons passing near hydrometeors (bits of hail or water droplets). When that happens, very small discharges result, adding to the total charge. Taken together they say, enough energy is added to cause the cascade that leads to lightning formation.
Posted by Xeno on May 3, 2013
A record-setting blast of gamma rays from a dying star in a distant galaxy has wowed astronomers around the world. The eruption, which is classified as a gamma-ray burst, or GRB, and designated GRB 130427A, produced the highest-energy light ever detected from such an event.
“We have waited a long time for a gamma-ray burst this shockingly, eye-wateringly bright,” said Julie McEnery, project scientist for the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “The GRB lasted so long that a record number of telescopes on the ground were able to catch it while space-based observations were still ongoing.”
Just after 3:47 a.m. EDT on Saturday, April 27, Fermi’s Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM) triggered on eruption of high-energy light in the constellation Leo. The burst occurred as NASA’s Swift satellite was slewing between targets, which delayed its Burst Alert Telescope’s detection by a few seconds.
Fermi’s Large Area Telescope (LAT) recorded one gamma ray with an energy of at least 94 billion electron volts (GeV), or some 35 billion times the energy of visible light, and about three times greater than the LAT’s previous record. The GeV emission from the burst lasted for hours, and it remained detectable by the LAT for the better part of a day, setting a new record for the longest gamma-ray emission from a GRB.
The burst subsequently was detected in optical, infrared and radio wavelengths by ground-based observatories, based on the rapid accurate position from Swift. Astronomers quickly learned that the GRB was located about 3.6 billion light-years away, which for these events is relatively close.
Gamma-ray bursts are the universe’s most luminous explosions. Astronomers think most occur when massive stars run out of nuclear fuel and collapse under their own weight. As the core collapses into a black hole, jets of material shoot outward at nearly the speed of light.
The jets bore all the way through the collapsing star and continue into space, where they interact with gas previously shed by the star and generate bright afterglows that fade with time.
If the GRB is near enough, astronomers usually discover a supernova at the site a week or so after the outburst.
“This GRB is in the closest 5 percent of bursts, so the big push now is to find an emerging supernova, which accompanies nearly all long GRBs at this distance,” said Goddard’s Neil Gehrels, principal investigator for Swift.
Ground-based observatories are monitoring the location of GRB 130427A and expect to find an underlying supernova by midmonth. …
Posted by Xeno on May 2, 2013
The existence of gravitational waves, or ripples in space and time, has long been predicted, but the elusive phenomenon has eluded scientists for decades. Now researchers are proposing a new method to detect these cosmic wrinkles that relies on the quantum nature of atoms.
Gravitational waves are a consequence of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which posits that massive objects warp the space-time around them, causing other objects, and even light, to travel along curved paths when they pass nearby. Objects with very strong gravitational fields, such as black holes or dense stars orbiting in binary pairs, should create gravitational waves so powerful they are detectable here on Earth.
However, no experiment has yet found definitive proof that gravity waves exist. A group of physicists led by Stanford University’s Peter Graham hopes to change that, though, with a new detection method they call “atom interferometry.” [The Search for Gravity Waves (Gallery)]
“No one’s yet seen a gravitational wave, but that’s not the reason most of us are really excited about it,” Graham told SPACE.com. “We’re all basically certain gravitational waves are there. But you could build a gravitational wave telescope and use gravitational waves to look at the whole universe.”…
To get around the problem of laser noise, Graham and his colleagues want to use atoms instead of lasers. Instead of splitting a laser beam in two, the scientists plan to essentially split an atom — a prospect made possible by quantum mechanics. According to this theory, particles are less like tiny marbles and more like hazy clouds of probability described by equations called wave functions. They don’t definitively exist in a certain place at a certain time unless pinned down by direct measurements.
Splitting the atom
For atom interferometry, the wave function of an atom is split. “The atom is in a weird quantum mechanical combination of here and there,” Graham said. “If a gravity wave flies through this interferometer, then the two halves of the atom will accelerate with respect to each other because of this gravity wave.”
To measure this acceleration, the experiment would use lasers, potentially introducing the laser noise problem all over again. To avoid this difficulty, the researchers want to launch two atom interferometers on two satellites that would orbit a set distance apart. “If you shine the same laser beam simultaneously on the two atom interferometers, then you get the same noise read into both of the atoms, but the gravitational wave signal is not the same at the two spots, so that’s the key,” Graham said, adding that the laser noise can be compared and subtracted out of the signal.
The experiment works best on spacecraft, rather than on the ground, because the normal vibrations and shaking of the Earth could contaminate measurements made in ground-based detectors. …
Posted by Xeno on April 25, 2013
NASA’s high-tech Curiosity rover may be getting a little cheeky over there on Mars.
In a photo of Curiosity’s track patterns, published on the robotics section of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory site, the Mars rover appears to have traced out a very phallic design on the Red Planet’s dusty surface.
The rover’s picture went viral after being posted to Reddit’s r/funny subreddit page Tuesday, earning close to 40,000 “upvotes” in a matter of a few hours. According to The Huffington Post UK, NASA’s website crashed due to increased traffic as word of the “drawing” spread.
The car-sized rover landed on Mars last August with a mandate to explore the planet and analyze whether or not Mars could have supported life forms. Curiosity is controlled by a team of NASA engineers, who send two sets of instructions to the exploratory craft each day, according to Space.com.
Some of the tracks made by Curiosity’s six wheels can be seen from space and were documented by the HiRise camera of NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in January.
Oh grow up.
Posted by Xeno on April 20, 2013
What do you do with 6,000 tons of space junk traveling at thousands of miles an hour? Harpoon it of course. It might sound like a scenario straight off the pages of a science fiction novel but it is a suggested solution to an increasing and potentially costly problem in space — that of debris littering low earth orbit. The harpoon plan is one of a range of options being discussed by scientists at a forum in Germany next week, and aimed at finding a way of tackling space debris that threatens commercial operations. Engineer Jaime Reed, who is leading the harpoon project for the space technology company Astrium, explains that if a rogue satellite hits another, not only does it ruin the mission but it creates more debris and propagates the problem. This run-away scenario is often called the Kessler Syndrome, named after NASA’s Don Kessler who first highlighted the risk.
“There’s a lot of space debris — 6,000 tons in orbit — that could pose a threat,” said Reed.
“Perhaps unwittingly, the average person relies a lot on space — GPS in their phones, telecoms, TV, weather forecasts — they are things people expect to have,” he said.
“Space debris could very easily take out some of those satellites — it would have a real impact on people’s lives.”
Astrium’s plan to tackle defunct satellites is to use an unmanned chase spacecraft to get in range, fire a barbed harpoon into the body of the rogue hardware and then use a smaller propulsion unit attached to a tether to tow it back towards the atmosphere where it will burn up safely on re-entry.
“Because the harpoon we are using is very light and the chase satellite more than a ton, momentum is very tiny… it’s a small recoil,” said Reed.
The harpoon system has been tested in the laboratory in the UK and Reed will present findings at the conference on Wednesday. Reed estimates that the system could tackle 10 targets per mission and says simulations show that if five to 10 objects were removed each year then that would “stabilize the debris population.” He said he hoped the next step would be a demonstration mission to capture something small. So how big is the problem? Reed warns that if space junk is not removed it could mean that low-earth orbit might eventually become unusable. …
Video animation here. Great idea. It is extra interesting due to the possibility that a harpoon system could be used on working enemy satellites, not just junk, thus making it a space based weapon. Do most satellites have thrusters for repositioning that would be able to fight off a harpooning that tried to drag them down to Earth?
Posted by Xeno on April 20, 2013
Image: Astronomers have used NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to photograph the iconic Horsehead Nebula in a new, infrared light to mark the 23rd anniversary of the famous observatory’s launch aboard the space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990.
Looking like an apparition rising from whitecaps of interstellar foam, the iconic Horsehead Nebula has graced astronomy books ever since its discovery more than a century ago. The nebula is a favorite target for amateur and professional astronomers. It is shadowy in optical light. It appears transparent and ethereal when seen at infrared wavelengths. The rich tapestry of the Horsehead Nebula pops out against the backdrop of Milky Way stars and distant galaxies that easily are visible in infrared light.
Hubble has been producing ground-breaking science for two decades. During that time, it has benefited from a slew of upgrades from space shuttle missions, including the 2009 addition of a new imaging workhorse, the high-resolution Wide Field Camera 3 that took the new portrait of the Horsehead.
The nebula is part of the Orion Molecular Cloud, located about 1,500 light-years away in the constellation Orion. The cloud also contains other well-known objects such as the Great Orion Nebula (M42), the Flame Nebula, and Barnard’s Loop. It is one of the nearest and most easily photographed regions in which massive stars are being formed.
In the Hubble image, the backlit wisps along the Horsehead’s upper ridge are being illuminated by Sigma Orionis, a young five-star system just out of view. Along the nebula’s top ridge, two fledgling stars peek out from their now-exposed nurseries.
Scientists know a harsh ultraviolet glare from one of these bright stars is slowly evaporating the nebula. Gas clouds surrounding the Horsehead already have dissipated, but the tip of the jutting pillar contains a slightly higher density of hydrogen and helium, laced with dust. This casts a shadow that protects material behind it from being stripped away by intense stellar radiation evaporating the hydrogen cloud, and a pillar structure forms.