Today universe

Building a Base on the Moon: Challenges and Hazards

The 1989 Inflatable Moon Base concept (credit: NASA)
So, we want to go to the Moon. Why? Because the Moon is an ideal “staging post” for us to accumulate materials and manpower outside of the Earth’s deep gravitational well. From the Moon we can send missions into deep space and ferry colonists to Mars. Tourists may also be interested in a short visit. Mining companies will no doubt want to set up camp there. The pursuit of science is also a major draw. For what ever reason, to maintain a presence on this small dusty satellite, we will need to settle there. Be it for the short-term or long-term, man will need to colonize the Moon. But where would we live? How could we survive on this hostile landscape? This is where structural engineers will step in, to design, and build, the most extreme habitats ever conceive.

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Could Nitrogen Pollution Give Tropical Flora a Much Needed Boost?

Could nitrogen pollution promote plant growth? (Credit: Ian ONeill)
Global warming and subsequent climate change is directly linked with human activity on our planet. The greenhouse effect is amplified by our need for energy, burning fossil fuels and pumping vast quantities of CO2 into our atmosphere. To make things worse, the plants that form the Earth’s “lungs” in the tropics are being destroyed on a massive scale, so less carbon dioxide can be scrubbed from the air. However, it’s not all bad news. Industry and agriculture also generate large amounts of excess nitrogen pollution and scientists now believe that this nitrogen (a main ingredient for fertilizer) may help to increase tropical plant growth by up to 20%…
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Researchers Explain Enceladus’ Icy Plume

Enceladus. Image credit: NASA/JPL/SSI
Yesterday I blogged about how particles jetting from Enceladus find their way to Saturn’s A-Ring. Now there’s a new report that models how ice and vapour come pouring out of cracks on Enceladus’ surface in the first place.
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Review: Infinity 125 mW Green Laser

Green laser
Have you ever tried to point out the constellations to a friend? You huddle up close, point your arm out, and both of you try to locate the star you’re looking at. “See that star? Right there? Now down a little, no, not that one. It’s on the left… never mind, there’s the Moon over there.” I had a chance to play with a green laser pointer from, and let me tell you, that problem goes away once and for all.
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Dark Matter and Dark Energy… the Same Thing?

Dr. Zhao
I’ve said it many times, but it bears repeating: regular matter only accounts for 4% of the Universe. The other 96% – dark matter and dark energy – is a total mystery. Wouldn’t it be convenient if we could find a single explanation for both? Astronomers from the University of St. Andrews are ready to decrease the mysteries down to one.
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Terrible Weather Will Probably Delay Atlantis Launch

Atlantis on the launchpad. Image credit: NASA
People in the southeast United States are cleaning up from a powerful weather front that unleashed a series of devastating tornadoes across the landscape. At least 48 people are dead, and hundreds more are injured. And as you can probably guess, this weather could have an impact on tomorrow’s launch of the space shuttle Atlantis.
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Astrosphere for February 6, 2008

Solar System by Rumples Riot
Your image for the day is a montage of the Solar System (well, the Sun and 3 planets) captured by Rumples Riot in the forum. This is really cool. Does anyone have a more complete montage they’ve photographed?

Science journalist Will Gater has updated his website with a brand new blog and an RSS feed. His latest post, about the density of Mercury is pretty great too.

And while I’m mentioning new blogs, check out Starts With a Bang! by astrophysicist Ethan Seigel. I had a chance to meet Ethan at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Austin and he’s a great guy – and his blog is awesome. Here’s a sample post about the difference between centripetal and centrifugal force.

Becky spots a weather balloon floating over New Mexico. It’s easy to see how someone might think that’s a UFO.

APOD has a great photograph of the Sun. What is this Sun thing they’re talking about? We’ve still got clouds and more clouds here in Vancouver.

Keith Cowing at NASA Watch wonders who whines for Mars.

And finally, Astroprof looks at the Moon’s southern pole. A nice place to visit?

Do you have a space/astronomy blog? Let me know and I’ll subscribe to your news feed. Write something cool and I’ll link to it.

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Stream of Hydrogen Connects the Milky Way and the Magellanic Clouds

If you live in the southern hemisphere, the Magellanic Clouds are a familiar sight. These are the closest, brightest examples of dwarf galaxies we can see from the Milky Way. Radio astronomers have discovered a tenuous stream of hydrogen connecting our galaxy together with the Magellanic Clouds. This stream will help astronomers calculate the motion of the Clouds. Have they been here for a long time, or are they just passing by.
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Astrosphere for February 5, 2008

Star trails above Costa Rica. Image credit: Tim S. Jones
Here’s a beautiful picture of star trails above Costa Rica captured by Tim S. Jones. Doesn’t it look like it’s raining stars?

Centauri Dreams searches for a double sunrise.

It’s boring work, but somebody’s got to do it. The Planetary Society Blog analyzes what’s good and bad in the new 2009 NASA budget. Alan Boyle calls it a comeback for big science. Yes, I’m putting off writing an article of my own. Can’t… stay… awake.

Remember Asteroid 2007 WD5? That was the one that might have hit Mars in late January, 2008. Maybe it hit, maybe it didn’t… I guess we’ll never know.

Wouldn’t it be convenient if dark matter and dark energy were the same thing? Then I could just call it dark manergy, or maybe dark eneratter.

CNN has joined the science/technology blog space with their new blog… SciTechBlog. Hey CNN, don’t forget to link over here once in a while.

Pamela reports on an interesting discovery about the multiple sources for gamma ray bursts.

Chris Lintott is back in Hawaii, trying to make his way up to the snowy summit to play with telescopes, but nature is denying entry.

Finally, the folks at Astronomy Magazine have reviewed Universe Today writer Tammy Plotner’s new book, the Night Sky Companion.

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Enceladus is Supplying Ice to Saturn’s A-Ring

One of the biggest discoveries made by Cassini is at Saturn’s moon Enceladus, where great plumes of icy material were seen spewing from its southern pole. Now scientists think that this material is traveling all the way inward to get trapped into Saturn’s A-ring

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