Wikisky.org is a fascinating site that displays thousands and thousands of astronomical data in a Google Map-esque interface. The data is based upon the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), which seeks to catalog around a million galaxies and quasars. The Wikisky application is almost overwhelming with data and information. It’s worth a bit of time to look around. Like most map interfaces, zooming in will get you some pretty decently detailed images that are very beautiful. Check it out.
The National Research Council has released its report on the state of US Earth Observation satellite operations, which discusses the 29 current missions, including Landsat, and offers recommendations for continuing US earth monitoring capabilities into the next decade at least. I have only read the executive summary so far, but it paints a disturbing picture:
“As documented in this report, the United StatesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ extraordinary foundation of global observations is at great risk. Between 2006 and the end of the decade, the number of operating missions will decrease dramatically and the number of operating sensors and instruments on NASA spacecraft, most of which are well past their normal lifetimes, will decrease by some 40 percent. Furthermore, the replacement sensors to be flown on the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS), are generally less capable than their Earth Observing System (EOS) counterparts. Among the many measurements expected to cease over the next few years,Ã¢â‚¬Â¦include total solar irradiance and Earth radiation, vector sea surface winds, limb sounding of ozone profiles, and temperature and water vapor soundings from geostationary and polar orbits.”
You can read the full report, entitled Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond, online at the National Academies Press website
Yes, I am posting about a non-CES or Macworld event, the planned launch of the ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV C-7). The vehicle will be carrying 4 satellites, including CARTOSAT-2, the latest IRS sensor, and satellites for Indonesia and Argentina. ISRO’s previous mission, the launch of another vehicle, GSLV-F02 ended in failure back in July, so hopefully they can get everything safely into orbit and deployed.
Via The Hindu
Update: The launch was a success, and the satellites have been deployed!
It seems that Google Maps and Google Earth just aren’t enough for Google – they want to show us the universe! So, to accomplish that lofty goal, Google has joined the 19 organizations partnering to build a huge sky-scanning telescope, called the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. The project is already underway, with universities, national laboratories, and a number of other partners, and Google seems to be adding their support to the project mainly for the imagery. The goal is to provide public access to digital imagery of features in space, such as stars, galaxies, nebulae, supernovas…..you name it. There are few specifics as of yet, other than the telescope will be installed at a facility in a mountainous region of Chile, and will hopefully be online in 2013.
Sticking with my space theme this week, NASA imagery shows that there may still be flowing water, in spurts, on Mars. The images show new gullies between different image acquisitions dates. So who wants to build a rocket to Mars…
The National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian is debuting a new exhibit starting today entitled Earth from Space. The exhibit features a gallery of remotely-sensed images of the Earth, as well as showing how remote sensing data is gathered and some of the applications it is utilized for. The exhibit has been getting some news coverage this week ahead of the opening, and some of the previewed images are really amazing. I always love visiting the Air and Space Museum, but it doesn’t look like I’ll get there in the near future. But, if you’re in the Washington, DC area, definitely head over to the museum and check out the exhibit.
Sue hasn’t mentioned the Space Elevator Games yet this year so here goes nothing. The second year of the Space Elevator games can be described simply as impressive. The games are divided into two competitions: 1) tether strength and 2) climbing a tether. No one took home the cash ($200k) in either of the two competitions this year, though one team only missed the money on the climbing comp by a couple of seconds. The competition will heat up a bit next year as they raise the purse to $500,000.
The competition, which started last year, is planned to be an annual event until 2010.
Honestly, we just don’t know. Apparently the basis of most of our belief in the lack of life on Mars might be bad data. The Viking Mars Mission from 30 years ago flew close enough to Mars to see if it could remotely detect signs of life. Apparently scientists have reproduced the technology the Viking mission used and tested it in remote regions of Earth. Their findings show that Viking wouldn’t have found life on Earth using the technology it employs in similar climate regions when clearly there is life on Earth in those regions. Does that mean there is life on Mars? Nope, not necessarily. All we can say is that the Viking Mission employed techniques that wouldn’t have found signs if there were any life on Mars. Hopefully the 2009 mission will help decide once and for all this age old question.
Yeah, these are some of the coolest space images I’ve ever seen! The panoramic view of Saturn and its rings was created by combining a total of 165 images taken by the Cassini spacecraft’s wide-angle camera over nearly three hours on Sept. 15, 2006. Links to images are on the left side of the webpage, and they are just amazing.
From the website: “The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The imaging team consists of scientists from the US, England, France, and Germany. The imaging operations center and team lead (Dr. C. Porco) are based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.”
For more info on Cassini, check out the mission website