WorldWide Telescope was designed with rich interactivity in mind. Guided Tours, which are especially popular among educators and astronomy enthusiasts, offer scripted paths through the 3D environment, enabling users to view and create media-rich interactive stories about anything from star formation to the discovery of the large-scale structure of the universe.
On July 14, more than a quarter-century later, his dream will finally be fulfilled. Around noon on that date, after a nine-year, 3 billion-mile journey, NASA’s 1,000-lb., grand-piano-size, $700 million New Horizons probe will streak past tiny Pluto at a blistering 31,000 m.p.h. The spacecraft is so remote now that radio communications–traveling at the speed of light–require a nearly nine-hour round-trip. Ultimately, New Horizons will come to within just 6,000 miles of the icy world, furiously snapping pictures and recording data on the temperature, structure and composition of Pluto, its five known moons and anything else that might be there–more moons, perhaps, or a system of rings.
But it’s Pluto that’s the real prize. The little world has intrigued astronomers since it was first discovered more than 85 years ago. Until Pluto showed up, all the outer planets were known to be gas giants. What was this pip-squeak doing out there all alone? What was it made of? Why did it even exist?
I spent a couple of hours at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. The highlight was the IMAX, 3D documentary Journey to Space. It is impressive how in less than an hour they brought out highlights from the Apollo moon shots, the Space Shuttle/International Space Station/Hubble telescope era and the next phase of Orion rockets and the goal to reach Mars.
These have been stepping stones for each others – how the inflexibility of the Apollo generation space suits is helping design the next-gen, how Apollo era rockets are guiding design of the much more powerful Orion rockets, how long term stays on the ISS are helping plan for physical and mental health on the much longer Mars shot, how the innovative Bigelow expandable Kevlar type space module and solar arrays will facilitate the long journey, the robotics like the Rover which will precede humans, the audacious attempt to redirect an asteroid into a stable orbit around the moon, where astronauts can explore it and return with samples.
And then you walk out and see the exhibits of the Mars Rover and the Apollo lunar module and various rockets and like me you likely get goosebumps. A manned Mars shot is likely in the next two decades – and I mean a round trip.
Most of the armchair aliens shared a demographic, the young-man Marsophile: guys with tattoos across their necks and arms, goatees and mustaches, variations on the Weird Al look. But there were also older women in the room, and kids too young to drive. What brought them together was an abiding belief in Lansdorp’s central message, that humans should be expanding onto other planets, and they should do so now. A few years ago, President Obama announced that the U.S. would put astronauts in orbit around Mars by the mid-2030s, but budget cuts and sequestration have slowed the project down, if not killed it outright. Even if NASA gets the mission back on track, the agency has said it will only send humans to Mars if it can also bring them back—a maddening bit of bureaucratic circumspection for the crowd assembled in Washington, D.C. “The technology to get you back from Mars simply doesn’t exist,” Lansdorp said, stirring up his audience, and it may not exist even 20 years from now. “We need to do this with the stuff that we have today, and the only way we can do that is by going there to stay.”
Philae has successfully landed on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko and reported back to European Space Agency Mission Control. The team in Darmstadt, Germany broke into applause when they started receiving data.
The Philae lander sent back telemetry information that confirmed it was on the surface, which was relayed from the overhead Rosetta spacecraft to Earth. The signal takes a bit more than 20 minutes to travel from Rosetta to Earth, a distance of 316 million miles.
Though this is just a test, paid for by a campaign on Kickstarter, a crowdfunding website, and launched gratis by NASA, SpaceX’s customer for the resupply mission, Mr Manchester thinks clouds of sprites could have real applications. Swarms of magnetometer-armed sprites might, for example, be a cheaper and more comprehensive way than existing satellites of monitoring the ebb and flow of charged particles that constitute space “weather”, which sometimes interferes with telecommunications back on Earth.
For non-astronomers, stargazing may seem simple: Just plop down a scope, and peer toward the heavens. It’s usually not quite that easy. Scopes can be tricky to set up and celestial objects elusive. The Celestron Cosmos 90 GT uses a Wi-Fi connection with a smartphone to do the hard work for you. To align it, users point it at any three bright objects in the sky; the scope uses them to triangulate its precise location. Through an app, users then select the celestial body they want to see from Celestron’s 120,000-entry database. Motors in the base position the scope in seconds.
Technology at the UK company which has gained notoriety during the search for MH370...
“Each Global Xpress satellite costs about $400m and is the size of a London bus. The new generation can run 100 times faster than the old technology and the potential size of new markets is said to be worth $3bn a year across maritime, aviation, energy, government and commercial fields.
In aviation, where Inmarsat's broadband service is already on 5,000 planes, it could mean high-quality 3D pictures being received by passengers on planes. Business people flying across China could be able to join video conferences hosted in the US. "That's the era that's coming," says Pearce.
The new technology will also be capable of streaming critical positioning and cockpit data from aircraft in real time, reducing the urgency of finding the black box in cases like MH370. “
In the past 15 years or so, astronomers have discovered more than 4,200 potential exoplanets—planets orbiting distant stars—and confirmed the existence of more than 1,050 of them. In a galaxy with 300 billion stars, there are surely untold billions of other planets out there. Is anyone home on any of them?
Few astronomers are approaching that question as creatively as Lisa Kaltenegger, 36, an exoplanet investigator who is a lecturer at Harvard University and leader of a research group at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, in Heidelberg, Germany. The focus of her work is not discovering exoplanets, most of which have been detected by the Kepler space telescope. Rather, she and her team are modeling them—hoovering up massive amounts of data from Kepler, the Hubble Space Telescope and various ground telescopes and processing it through computer models to determine which worlds could harbor life. These days, so-called Big Data is inescapable, from algorithms that predict what you'll buy to government surveillance. Now it seems Big Data may also be the key to finding extraterrestrial life.