AstroBlog Follow Friday & Weekly Stumbles For 2012-06-01

This week I recommend to follow @NiteSkyGirl for news from an amateur astronomer who still observes the night sky with her backyard telescopes. For more Twitter follow suggestions see our astronomy list @TheAstroBlog/astronomy

Weekly Stumbles:

NASA's Spitzer Sees the Light of Alien 'Super-Earth'NASA’s Spitzer Sees the Light of Alien ‘Super-Earth’
NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has detected light emanating from a “super-Earth” planet beyond our solar system for the first time. While the planet is not habitable, the detection is a historic step toward the eventual search for signs of life on other planets. “Spitzer has amazed us yet again,” said Bill Danchi, Spitzer program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The spacecraft is pioneering the study of atmospheres of distant planets and paving the way for NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope to apply a similar technique on potentially habitable planets.”

Could Helium-3 really solve Earth's energy problems?Could Helium-3 really solve Earth’s energy problems?
If you watched the movie Moon, you remember Helium-3 as the substance Sam Bell was sending back to Earth, during his onerous three year tenure on the Sarang lunar base. Helium-3 is not a piece of science fiction, but an isotope of helium that really could provide for all of our energy needs in the future. With absolutely no pollution. Helium-3 is slightly different than the gas that fills birthday balloons.

This Is Lunarcrete, a Building Block for Moon ColoniesThis Is Lunarcrete, a Building Block for Moon Colonies
So, you are on the moon and need to build a new structure. As one of the first lucky colonists there, what are you going to use? Lunarcrete of course. Lunarcrete is a mixture similar to concrete that could be created using the loose layer of dust and rock covering the surface of the moon. Creating structures from lunarcrete will be one of the keys to cutting colonization costs and increasing self sufficiency of colonies.

Looking for Earths by Looking for JupitersLooking for Earths by Looking for Jupiters
In the search for Earth-like planets, it is helpful to look for clues and patterns that can help scientist narrow down the types of systems where potentially habitable planets are likely to be discovered. New research from a team including Carnegie’s Alan Boss narrows down the search for Earth-like planets near Jupiter-like planets. Their work indicates that the early post-formation movements of hot-Jupiter planets probably disrupt the formation of Earth-like planets.

New Research Brings Satellite Measurements and Global Climate Models CloserNew Research Brings Satellite Measurements and Global Climate Models Closer
One popular climate record that shows a slower atmospheric warming trend than other studies contains a data calibration problem, and when the problem is corrected the results fall in line with other records and climate models, according to a new University of Washington study. The finding is important because it helps confirm that models that simulate global warming agree with observations.

Secretive Blue Origin Reveals New Details of Spacecraft PlansSecretive Blue Origin Reveals New Details of Spacecraft Plans
The curtain of secrecy is being raised by Blue Origin, a private entrepreneurial space group designing both suborbital and orbital vehicles. Backed by Amazon.com mogul Jeff Bezos, the Kent, Wash.-based Blue Origin group has completed wind tunnel testing of its next-generation craft, simply called the “Space Vehicle.” It would transport up to seven astronauts to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station.

One Supernova Type, Two Different SourcesOne Supernova Type, Two Different Sources
The exploding stars known as Type Ia supernovae serve an important role in measuring the universe, and were used to discover the existence of dark energy. They’re bright enough to see across large distances, and similar enough to act as a “standard candle” — an object of known luminosity. The 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded for the discovery of the accelerating universe using Type Ia supernovae. However, an embarrassing fact is that astronomers still don’t know what star systems make Type Ia supernovae.

Hubble Sees the Eye of the Storm in Galaxy ClusterHubble Sees the Eye of the Storm in Galaxy Cluster
A new image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope could seem like a quiet patch of sky at first glance. But zooming into the central part of a galaxy cluster — one of the largest structures of the Universe — is rather like looking at the eye of the storm. Clusters of galaxies are large groups consisting of dozens to hundreds of galaxies, which are bound together by gravity. The galaxies sometimes stray too close to one another and the huge gravitational forces at play can distort them or even rip matter off when they collide with one another.

The Triway into Space DeclarationThe Triway into Space Declaration
In the space advocacy community there has been a “tri-polarization”: some advocates interested only in the Moon, others only in Mars, still others only in asteroids. The Moon-focused contingent is convinced that the Moon’s proximity and resources could lead to clean space-based solar power and a platform to develop the rest of the solar system. The Mars-focused contingent is keen on seeing that the planet becomes a “second basket” into which to place humanity’s eggs.

NASA Conducts Tests On Orion Service ModuleNASA Conducts Tests On Orion Service Module
Engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center are testing parts of the Orion service module to ensure the spacecraft can withstand the harsh realities of deep space missions. To date, Marshall has completed two structural loads tests, and another is under way. Structural loads tests prove the structural performance or material behavior of a design as weight is applied to it. Most of the time, the allowable weight is exceeded to test the material at extreme conditions to verify the tolerance of the material or design.

Overfed Black Holes Shut Down Galactic Star-MakingOverfed Black Holes Shut Down Galactic Star-Making
The Herschel Space Observatory has shown galaxies with the most powerful, active black holes at their cores produce fewer stars than galaxies with less active black holes. The results are the first to demonstrate black holes suppressed galactic star formation when the universe was less than half its current age. “We want to know how star formation and black hole activity are linked,” said Mathew Page of University College London.

Secret Air Force X-37B Space Plane Mission a Spectacular SuccessSecret Air Force X-37B Space Plane Mission a Spectacular Success
The U.S. Air Force’s secretive robotic X-37B space plane mission continues to chalk up time in Earth orbit, nearing 430 days of a spaceflight that — while classified — appears to be an unqualified success. The space plane now circuiting Earth is the second spacecraft of its kind built for the Air Force by Boeing’s Phantom Works. Known as the Orbital Test Vehicle 2, or OTV-2, the space plane’s classified mission is being carried out by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office.

NASA Dawn Spacecraft Reveals Secrets of Giant Asteroid VestaNASA Dawn Spacecraft Reveals Secrets of Giant Asteroid Vesta
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has provided researchers with the first orbital analysis of the giant asteroid Vesta, yielding new insights into its creation and kinship with terrestrial planets and Earth’s moon. Vesta now has been revealed as a special fossil of the early solar system with a more varied, diverse surface than originally thought. Scientists have confirmed a variety of ways in which Vesta more closely resembles a small planet or Earth’s moon than another asteroid.

EnhancedView's cloudy futureEnhancedView’s cloudy future
On Friday, commercial satellite remote sensing company GeoEye surprised many in the industry when it announced an unsolicited takeover offer of its chief rival, DigitalGlobe. GeoEye offered $17 per share, split evenly in cash and stock, to acquire DigitalGlobe, valuing the company at $792 million. The deal represented a 26 percent premium on DigitalGlobe’s stock price at the close of trading Thursday, although by Friday the stock soared to close at $16.44 a share.

VISTA Views a Vast Ball of StarsVISTA Views a Vast Ball of Stars
A new image of Messier 55 from ESO’s VISTA infrared survey telescope shows tens of thousands of stars crowded together like a swarm of bees. Besides being packed into a relatively small space, these stars are also among the oldest in the Universe. Astronomers study Messier 55 and other ancient objects like it, called globular clusters, to learn how galaxies evolve and stars age.

Mission to Mars: Why Russia & US Should Tag Team Red PlanetMission to Mars: Why Russia & US Should Tag Team Red Planet
Russia is ready and willing to partner with the United States for a manned mission to Mars, a senior Russian space official said recently. And while NASA has not yet entered into any formal agreement to pursue the Red Planet, the agency’s chief agrees that international cooperation is the way to do it. “I have to say that currently there is no country that could organize a manned spaceflight to Mars and a safe return,” said Sergey Saveliev, the deputy head of Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos).

Dwarf Galaxy With a Bright NebulaDwarf Galaxy With a Bright Nebula
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has made detailed observations of the dwarf galaxy NGC 2366. While it lacks the elegant spiral arms of many larger galaxies, NGC 2366 is home to a bright, star-forming nebula and is close enough for astronomers to discern its individual stars. The starry mist streaking across this image obtained by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope is the central part of the dwarf galaxy known as NGC 2366.

Space merchants and planetary miningSpace merchants and planetary mining
The exhaustibility of mineral resources on Earth and their almost infinite deposits, b comparison, on the different planetary bodies in our solar system is fast leading to the development of a whole new industry spearheaded by exploratory-entrepreneurial visionaries. These space merchants, like the British who prospected America as a tobacco plantation, have conceived that the outer space holds the prospects for some of the world’s most valuable minerals that could be exploited for usage here on Earth and beyond.

NASA's Space Launch System Carries Deep Space PotentialNASA’s Space Launch System Carries Deep Space Potential
NASA’s Space Launch System is on track to give America the launch vehicle it will need to send humans deeper into space than ever before, the program’s manager said May 8. Speaking to the National Space Club during a luncheon near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Todd May, SLS program manager, said an uncrewed test flight of the Orion spacecraft in 2014, SLS mission in 2017 and a 10- to 14-day mission with astronauts going to the moon and back in 2021 will leave the nation in a position to explore as far as it wishes.

Planet X? New Evidence of an Unseen Planet at Solar System's EdgePlanet X? New Evidence of an Unseen Planet at Solar System’s Edge
A planet four times the size of Earth may be skirting the edges of the solar system beyond Pluto, according to new research. Too distant to be easily spotted by Earth-based telescopes, the unseen planet could be gravitationally tugging on small icy objects past Neptune, helping explain the mystery of those objects’ peculiar orbits. The claim comes from Rodney Gomes, a noted astronomer at the National Observatory of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro.

Ultra-Cool Companion Helps Reveal Giant PlanetsUltra-Cool Companion Helps Reveal Giant Planets
An international team of astronomers led by David Pinfield of the University of Hertfordshire has found a brown dwarf that is more than 99% hydrogen and helium. Described as ultra-cool, it has a temperature of just 400 degrees Celsius and its discovery could be a key step forward in helping astronomers distinguish between brown dwarfs and giant planets. Brown dwarfs are star-like objects with insufficient mass to ignite hydrogen fusion in their cores.

New Telescope to Take First-Ever Black Hole PhotoNew Telescope to Take First-Ever Black Hole Photo
A group of astronomers are meeting this week to plan out an ambitious and unprecedented project β€” capturing the first-ever image of a black hole. The researchers want to create an Earth-size virtual instrument called the Event Horizon Telescope, a worldwide network of radio telescopes powerful enough to snap a picture of the supermassive black hole at the heart of our Milky Way galaxy.

Free-Floating Planets in the Milky Way Outnumber Stars by Factors of ThousandsFree-Floating Planets in the Milky Way Outnumber Stars by Factors of Thousands
Researchers say life-bearing planets may exist in vast numbers in the space between stars in the Milky Way. A few hundred thousand billion free-floating life-bearing Earth-sized planets may exist in the space between stars in the Milky Way. So argues an international team of scientists led by Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, Director of the Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology at the University of Buckingham, UK.

Asteroid Vesta Looks Like a Little Planet, Complete With Craters, Mountains and LandslidesAsteroid Vesta Looks Like a Little Planet, Complete With Craters, Mountains and Landslides
When UCLA’s Christopher T. Russell looks at the images of the protoplanet Vesta produced by NASA’s Dawn mission, he talks about beauty as much as he talks about science. “Vesta looks like a little planet. It has a beautiful surface, much more varied and diverse than we expected,” said Russell, a professor in UCLA’s Department of Earth and Space Sciences and the Dawn mission’s principal investigator.

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