Friday, April 28, 2006

Marching to the Moon

China to Launch Moon Probe, US Again to Set Foot on the Moon

China is set to launch its moon probe in April 2007. The spacecraft, named Chang'e I, after a mythological Chinese moon goddess, is designed to orbit the heavenly body. It will get 3D images of the lunar surface that will pave the way for further lunar exploration.

The United States is also set to return to the Moon. The US will be spending $104 billion to send astronauts to the surface by 2018.

Photo credit: NASA

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Quote of the Day

"It is obvious that elements of the comet's orbit, and correspondingly the ephemeris, will change after the explosion, which interferes with my astrology work and distort s my horoscope."

I got this quote from an old issue of Details magazine (ca.2005), and it was quoted from Marina Bali, a Russian astrologer who sued NASA for $300 million. Bali contended that when NASA crashed the Deep Impact craft on the comet Temple 1, the resulting explosion shifted the orbit of the said comet and affected the accuracy of her horoscopes.


Picture credit: NASA

Malaysia in Space

Malaysia is planning to send an astronaut to space by 2007. The Malaysian astronaut will hitch on a Russian Soyuz mission going to the International Space Station in October of next year. Four candidates are currently being screened, and they are on their way to Russia for the assessments, afterwhich one will have the honors of becomming the first Malaysian in space.

Malaysia will spend about $25 nillion for the program.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Hubble Telescope's 16th Birthday

Sweet Sixteen

The Hubble Space Telescope is now 16. To celebrate the launching of the HST 16 years ago, NAS A and the European Space Agency released a mosaic of the M82 galaxy, the image being the sharpest wide-angle view taken of the galaxy.

The image is available at

Astro Word of the Day: Meteor

Meteors are small rocks or particles from outer space that enter the atmosphere, the entry of which results to an observable luminous trail. Taken from Latin meteorum and Greek meteOros, high in air, from the roots meta- and aerein, to lift. Known as shooting stars or falling stars in common tongue, bulalakaw in Filipino.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

I'm Too Sexy for this Spacesuit

Space Couture Contest

Japan's Aerospace Exploration Agency is conducting a Space Couture Design Contest. To start things off the chair of the committe looking after the contest even designed a wedding dress that would look just as homey in the catwalk as it would in zero gravity (pictured).

If you are interested you can find the contest info here. Just keep your ideas grounded on Earth, will ya?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Armstrong Given Moon Rock

Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the Moon, was given a piece of moon rock by NASA last April 18. The 2-gram basalt rock was given to him as part of the Ambassadors of Exploration award he received from the agency, which was given to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the moon landing.

The crew of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions were also designated by NASA as Ambassadors of Exploration.

NASA Supercomputer Simulates Black Hole Merger

NASA used a supercomputer to simulate the collision of two black holes. The space agency is hoping it will be able to validate Einstein’s general relativity theory in the process. The task of simulating the merger of black holes fell to Columbia, the fourth fastest supercomputer in the world. Built by SGI, Columbia can reach the speed of 51.87 trillion floating-point operations per second.

The simulation is so far the largest astrophysical calculation performed on a NASA supercomputer, and it took Columbia’s 2,032 Intel Itanium 2 processors 80 hours to complete it.

Before NASA was able to run the simulation, it needed to translate Einstein’s theory, which uses tensor calculus, into something that the supercomputer can understand. Einstein has surmised that black hole collisions will produce ripples in space-time, akin to the wobbling of gelatin.

NASA story can be found here
List of Top 500 most powerful supercomputers

Photo credit: Henze, NASA

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

CIA sheds light on UFOs

I recently stumbled upon a CIA document online (through Defence Tech) that sheds light on the supposedly existence of unidentified flying objects (UFOs). The document claims that the sightings, especially in the period 1947-60s, can be attributed to flights of secret aircraft, such as U2 and SR-71 spy planes, and the CIA and US Air Force made deceptive and misleading statements about them to protect the existence of such. More than half of all UFO sighting can be traced to such flights. is also reporting that early U2 planes were painted with radioactive coatings (that can minimize its radar signatures). The coatings gave the aircraft a visible glow at night.

Canon to discontinue Astro Camera

With the introduction of the new EOS 30D model, Canon will discontinue the astrophotography camera EOS 20Da. The camera, which is a modified 8.2-megapixel 20D model but installed with an infrared filter, will be phased out after April 21.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Meteorite sold for $93k

The "Valley of the Sky" meteorite (see previous post) was sold at the New York auction for $93 thousand. In the same auction, a 2-gram piece of a moon rock was also sold for $4,250.

Space Shuttle is now 25

Today, April 12, is the 25th anniversary of the first flight of the Space Shuttle. Space shuttle Columbia was the first to be flown to space, piloted by John Young and Bob Crippen. The flight, called STS-1, was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Photo credit: NASA

Tenth Planet Xena Larger than Pluto

NASA is reporting that 2003 UB313, the 'tenth planet' of the Solar System, is about 30% larger than Pluto. Dubbed Xena, the planet has a diameter of 1,490 miles, which is bigger than Pluto's 1,422 miles. The Hubble Space telescope was used to measure the planets' diameters.

Photo credit: NASA, ESA and A. Schaller (for STScI)

Monday, April 10, 2006

On to Venus

The European Space Agency's Venus Expres will arrive on Venus on Tuesday. The 1,200-kg craft, launched by a Soyuz-Fregat rocketlast November 9, 2005, will study Venusian atmosphere. It is the first mission to the planet by the ESA.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Space rocks for sale

If you think diamonds are the only rocks that can set you back thousands of dollars, think again. Auction house Bonhams will auction a number of meteorites on April 16, including the "Valley of the Sky" iron meteorite (pictured) found in Argentina, valued at $40,000.

The meteorites to be auctioned belong to the Macovich collection

Encrypting messages with quasars

New Scientist reported that Japanese scientists developed a method of encrypting messages using quasars. Quasars, thought to have been powered by matter accreted onto blackholes, emit strong radio waves. Scientists from Japan's National Institute of Information and Communications Technology propose of using the quasar's radio signals as a source of randomness for encrypting messages, much like one-time pads. Two parties will only have to agree on which quasar to utilize, and use that quasar's radio signals to add randomness to the cipher.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Piña colada in Space

Jodrell Bank Observatory in the UK has reported that it discovered a huge patch of interstellar cloud made up of alcohol. The cloud, stretching over a distance of 460 billion kilometers, was discovered by the MERLIN radio telescope in the W3(OH) area of our galaxy.

MERLIN's site can be found here.

The Ring of Uranus is Blue

Astronomers have announced that the newly discovered outer ring of Uranus is blue. Made up of small particles (which explains why it looks blue, the same reason why the Earth' sky is blue - tiny particles in the atmosphere scatter light as blue) , the ring also has a moon companion called Mab, the same setup with Saturn's A ring and its moon, Enceladus.

Imke de Pater, a professor of astronomy at the University of California Berkeley, led the team that studied the rings. The study was published recently in Science.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

How Flying to Boracay and Cow Fart will Affect Astronomy

Aircraft condensation trails and global warming will obscure the skies

A study by New Scientist concluded that by 2050 ground astronomy will be next to impossible due to aircraft condensation trails and global warming. The two factors will increase cloud cover, rending ground-based telescopes blind. "Contrails increase global warming, and global warming helps larger contrails form," the study claims.

Celestial Oddity

At some point in time yesterday, April 5, 2006 occured a celestial oddity. At exactly 1:02:03 am on that day, the time would have read 01:02:03 04-05-06.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Got $20 million to spare?

Be a Space Tourist for $20 million

One former Microsoft executive is set to spend some time at the International Space Station as a tourist in 2007. Charles Simonyi, who was responsibe for the development of software such as the Microsoft Excel, will pay Space Adventures $20 million to train him and facilitate the flight. The company previously brokered the flight of Dennis Tito, the first space tourist to ever have a vacation in space.

For a suborbital flight, the company charges only $102,000, and a cosmonaut training program will set you back another $66 grand.

So if you have 20 million dollars lying around somewhere, you too can have the priviledge of gallivanting in zero gravity. You can contact the the company here.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

NASA in Porn Probe

According to Smoking Gun, NASA became part of an ongoing probe into a child pornography case recently when one of its executives was caught trading child porn over the Internet.

More about the case here