AstroBlog Follow Friday & Weekly Stumbles For 2012-02-03

This week I recommend to follow @ScienceNewsOrg for daily news of science advancements including physics and astronomy. For more Twitter follow suggestions see our astronomy list @TheAstroBlog/astronomy

Weekly Stumbles:

Scientists Help Define Structure of ExoplanetsScientists Help Define Structure of Exoplanets
Using models similar to those used in weapons research, scientists may soon know more about exoplanets, those objects beyond the realm of our solar system. In a new study, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists and collaborators came up with new methods for deriving and testing the equation of state (EOS) of matter in exoplanets and figured out the mass-radius and mass-pressure relations for materials relevant to planetary interiors.

Stellar Nursery: A Pocket of Star FormationStellar Nursery: A Pocket of Star Formation
A new view shows a stellar nursery called NGC 3324. It was taken using the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile. The intense ultraviolet radiation from several of NGC 3324’s hot young stars causes the gas cloud to glow with rich colours and has carved out a cavity in the surrounding gas and dust. NGC 3324 is located in the southern constellation of Carina roughly 7500 light-years from Earth. It is on the northern outskirts of the chaotic environment of the Carina Nebula, which has been sculpted by many other pockets of star formation.

The need for real "rocket science" to solve Russian spaceflight setbacksThe need for real “rocket science” to solve Russian spaceflight setbacks
Whenever something looks too complicated for everyday life, it’s humorously referred to as “rocket science”. But when a real spaceflight mystery — for example, the true story of the doomed Russian probe “Phobos-Grunt” — sparks controversy and confusion, the only way through the complicated mystery may be to apply real “rocket science” to the puzzles, and see if it provides insights and answers not reachable by any other means. How could top Russian space officials be so badly advised by their experts?

Mars-Bound Instrument Detects Solar Burst's Effects: RAD Measures Radiation from Solar StormMars-Bound Instrument Detects Solar Burst’s Effects: RAD Measures Radiation from Solar Storm
The largest solar particle event since 2005 hit Earth, Mars and the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft traveling in-between, allowing the onboard Radiation Assessment Detector to measure the radiation a human astronaut could be exposed to en route to the Red Planet. On Sunday, a huge coronal mass ejection erupted from the surface of the sun, spewing a cloud of charged particles in our direction, causing a strong “S3” solar storm.

GOP Candidates Clash Over US Space Exploration FutureGOP Candidates Clash Over US Space Exploration Future
Newt Gingrich defended his ambitous spaceflight goals against attacks from the other three contenders for the Republican presidential nomination during Thursday night’s (Jan. 26) debate in Florida. Gingrich said his plan to establish a manned moon base by 2020 would help reassert American dominance in space, spur the growth of a vibrant commercial spaceflight sector and encourage kids to study science, engineering and math. However, the other three candidates onstage with Gingrich in Jacksonville generally dismissed the onetime Speaker of the House’s bold space proposals as too expensive and too impractical.

NASA Study Solves Case of Earth's 'Missing Energy'NASA Study Solves Case of Earth’s ‘Missing Energy’
Two years ago, scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., released a study claiming that inconsistencies between satellite observations of Earth’s heat and measurements of ocean heating amounted to evidence of “missing energy” in the planet’s system. Where was it going? Or, they wondered, was something wrong with the way researchers tracked energy as it was absorbed from the sun and emitted back into space?

Bus-Size Asteroid Buzzes Earth in Close FlybyBus-Size Asteroid Buzzes Earth in Close Flyby
A small asteroid the size of a city bus zoomed between Earth and the moon’s orbit Friday (Jan. 27) just days after its discovery, but it never posed a threat to our planet, NASA says. The asteroid 2012 BX34 passed within 36,750 miles (59,044 kilometers) of Earth when it made its closest approach at 10:30 a.m. EST (1530 GMT). The space rock is about 37 feet (11 meters) wide and would have broken apart in Earth’s atmosphere long before it reached the ground, if it had reached the planet at all, NASA scientists said.

IBEX Spacecraft Measures 'Alien' Particles from Outside Solar SystemIBEX Spacecraft Measures ‘Alien’ Particles from Outside Solar System
Using data from NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) spacecraft, an international team of researchers has measured neutral “alien” particles entering our solar system from interstellar space. A suite of studies published in the Astrophysical Journal provides a first look at the constituents of the interstellar medium, the matter between star systems, and how they interact with our heliosphere. The heliosphere is formed by the interaction between the solar wind, flowing outward from the Sun, and the interstellar medium, which presses up against it.

How the Apollo 1 Fire Changed Spaceship Design ForeverHow the Apollo 1 Fire Changed Spaceship Design Forever
NASA’s first major disaster, the Apollo 1 fire that killed three astronauts 45 years ago today, marked a dark day for the space agency. But it also marked the beginning of NASA’s continual process of learning from its own mistakes. And what a costly mistake it was. On Jan. 27, 1967, Virgil ‘Gus’ Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee, the first crew of America’s manned moon program, Apollo, were suited up and strapped inside their new space capsule for a dress rehearsal of their upcoming launch — a mission to fly the Apollo capsule to Earth orbit to test the vehicle for moon flights.

Scientists See 'Sloshing' Galaxy ClusterScientists See ‘Sloshing’ Galaxy Cluster
A Naval Research Laboratory scientist is part of a team that has recently discovered that vast clouds of hot gas are “sloshing” in Abell 2052, a galaxy cluster located about 480 million light years from Earth. The scientists are studying the hot (30 million degree) gas using X-ray data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and optical data from the Very Large Telescope to see the galaxies. “The X-ray images were amazing. We were able to see gas sloshing like liquid in a glass” explains NRL’s Dr. Tracy Clarke.

NASA to Solicit Private Space Taxi Proposals Feb. 7NASA to Solicit Private Space Taxi Proposals Feb. 7
NASA plans to solicit proposals Feb. 7 for the third round of its commercial crew program and award at least two funded Space Act Agreements this summer that will run through 2014 and prepare competing astronaut transportation concepts for production. NASA has rebranded this initiative as the “Commercial Crew integrated Capability” program, according to a procurement notice posted online Jan. 23. It was formerly known as the Commercial Crew Integrated Design Contract.

NASA Mission Returns First Video from Moon's Far SideNASA Mission Returns First Video from Moon’s Far Side
A camera aboard one of NASA’s twin Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) lunar spacecraft has returned its first unique view of the far side of the moon. MoonKAM, or Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students, will be used by students nationwide to select lunar images for study. GRAIL consists of two identical spacecraft, recently named Ebb and Flow, each of which is equipped with a MoonKAM. The images were taken as part of a test of Ebb’s MoonKAM on Jan. 19.

City Lights at Night: Astronaut's Amazing View from SpaceCity Lights at Night: Astronaut’s Amazing View from Space
A remarkable nighttime panorama taken from the International Space Station captured a dazzling cobweb of city lights as the orbiting complex flew roughly 240 miles (386 kilometers) overhead. The captivating picture of Earth from space was taken on Jan. 22. The image shows the space station in the foreground, with the lights of Belgium and the Netherlands shining at the bottom center. The British Isles are slightly blocked by the station’s solar array panels on the left, according to NASA officials.

Sun Delivered Curveball of Powerful Radiation at EarthSun Delivered Curveball of Powerful Radiation at Earth
A potent follow-up solar flare, which occurred on Jan. 17, 2012, just days after the Sun launched the biggest coronal mass ejection (CME) seen in nearly a decade, delivered a powerful radiation punch to Earth’s magnetic field despite the fact that it was aimed away from our planet. According to University of New Hampshire scientists currently studying and modeling various aspects of solar radiation, this was due to both the existing population of energetic particles launched by the first CME and a powerful magnetic connection that reeled particles in towards Earth from the Sun’s blast region, which had spun to an oblique angle.

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