Water Found on Extrasolar Planet

For the first time, scientists have found solid evidence of water on a planet outside our solar system. The planet in question is relatively close to Earth and clearly has water in its atmosphere. While the temperatures on the planet are way hotter than anywhere on Earth, they say water can survive in an amazing range of temperatures. We know water is mandatory for all we know about life, so that’s one criteria down!

GIS… .but in Space!

The good folks over at MIT are coming up with clever things again. They have developed what is essentially a route analysis to figure out the most effective paths/lanes for transporting goods and supplies between the Earth, the International Space Station, the Moon, and Mars. They have taken in account the average amount of supplies needed for X number of days, figured out the most efficient travel paths, and created a schedule for deliveries. All that’s left is to call UPS, I guess.

Via BoingBoing

Planning that trip to Mars? Now you can get hiking maps from the ESA!

Yes, for all those intrepid explorers out there who want to vacation on the Red Planet, the ESA is releasing the 1st “hiker’s maps” for Mars. Based on data from the ESA’s MarsExpress, researchers have also generated a series of HRSC Digital Terrain Models for portions of Mars as well.

No word on when you might be able to purchase the maps, but the sample images that accompany the article are quite pretty!

Can’t Wait for Google Universe? Try Wikisky.org!

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.

U.S. National Research Council releases report on remote sensing

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 States’ 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,…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

Via MSNBC

Indian Space Research Organisation will launch 4 satellites tomorrow

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!

Google wants to show us the universe

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.

Via WFMJ.com and PhysOrg.com

New Smithsonian Exhibition on Earth from Space

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.

Via CNN

Space Elevator Games – year 2

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.

The Space Elevator Blog