Archive for March, 2010

A Traveler’s Guide to the Planets Episode 6

Today on Discovery Enterprise we come to the final leg our grand tour of the solar system explore the fridges of the solar empire and visit the uncharted icy wastes of Pluto, the Kuiper Belt and the realm of the comets the Oort Cloud.

A Traveler’s Guide to the Planets Episode 6 – Pluto and Beyond

Carl Sagan’s Last Interview

Today on Discovery Enterprise we present Carl Sagan’s final interview with Charlie Rose shortly before his death.

Not long before he died in 1996, Carl Sagan was interviewed by Charlie Rose and discussed the troubled state of scientific knowledge in America, and how it threatens our democracy. Sagan was always out there, making the case for scientific thinking, arguing that it let us make progress and keeps our republic vital. (Whether our republic actually remains vital at this point, it’s certainly hard to say.) We need more figures like Sagan, and we particularly need the American university system to care more about public engagement — an area where it depressingly comes up short. But we’ll talk more about that at some other point.

Carl Sagans Last Interview (1996)

The Universe – The Edge of Space

The great visionary and science fiction writer Robert Heinlein was once quoted as saying “Once you’re in low Earth orbit (LEO), you’re halfway to anywhere.” Today on Discovery Enterprise we explore this realm close to home which is the gateway to the rest of the solar system and beyond.

Low Earth Orbit, 120 miles (193 kilometres) above sea level, is where the majority of space exploration has occurred and new commercial endeavours are being developed.

It will also be staging ground for the next ultimate thrill of your life – Space Diving.

This 1,100 mile (1,800 kilometer) band around Earth is where – for a cool $20 million – any private citizen can take the vacation of his or her life on the International Space Station. Commercial prospects for LEO are huge; but dangers lurk for any individual willing to travel here – radiation, cosmic rays, and space debris numbering in the thousands threaten any spacecraft traveling in orbit. It’s the new frontier, or the final frontier… and the possibilities are endless if you are willing to travel to the edge of space.

The Universe – The Edge of Space

Thirty Nights of StarPeace

April, 2010 is Global Astronomy Month. This is an international project aiming to continue the unprecedented success of the International Year of Astronomy 2009.

On behalf of Oana Sandu, the public relations officer of this global event, I would like to encourage our readers to take an active part in this world wide event.

The Sky literally brings together the Earth during GAM—be part of a global peace chain!

Inspired by the idea of sharing the beauty of the sky across national borders, “Thirty Nights of StarPeace” is a worldwide-scale event that will join together astronomy groups in neighboring countries, one patch of Earth at the time, on successive nights during the month of April.

Using geographical longitude as a reference, we’ve divided the Earth into ten equal segments, each one spanning 36 degrees of longitude. Countries located in each of these 10 segments will have a period of three days to participate in the Thirty Nights of StarPeace project.

What you have to do is synchronize your group with an astronomy group across your national border, so that both groups observe the beauty of the sky at the same time. We will start at 180 degrees longitude (the International Dateline), and proceed westward in 3-day increments. Thus, countries located between 180 and 144 degrees east longitude will pick a night from April 1-3 for their public night of observation. Countries located between 144 and 108 degrees will have the April 4-6 time-slot, and so forth. In this way, through the month, the starry-night experience will progress around the globe westward in ten stages, creating a global star peace!

For More details of this month long event visit the Astronomers without Borders website.

Einstein’s Cosmic Messengers

Today on Discovery Enterprise we go in search of those enigmatic ripples in the fabric of space and time produced by violent events in the distant universe known as gravitational waves. Albert Einstein predicted their existence in 1916.

It has been only possible in the last twenty years, now that we possess the technology, to detect them and thus gain a unique insight into the dark side of the Universe. This technology is expressed most exquisitely in LIGO, a facility supported by more than 500 researchers in the world scientific community, and a vital member in a developing global network of gravitational-wave observatories. LIGO’s measurements illuminate the fundamental nature of gravity and throw open an entirely new window onto the Universe, affording views of previously inaccessible such as the coalescence of black holes and neutron stars.

Einstein’s Cosmic Messengers

Chemistry: A Volatile History Episode 2

Today on Discovery Enterprise we present the second instalment of a three part BBC documentary series entitled “Chemistry: A Volatile History” hosted by Professor Jim Al-Khalili.

In the second episode of this exciting series Professor Al-Khalili looks at the 19th century chemists who struggled to impose an order on the apparently random world of the elements. From working out how many there were to discovering their unique relationships with each other, the early scientists’ bid to decode the hidden order of the elements was driven by false starts and bitter disputes. But ultimately the quest would lead to one of chemistry’s most beautiful intellectual creations – the periodic table.

Chemistry: A Volatile History Episode 2 – The Order of the Elements

Amateur adventures in Near Space

This is a great story which shows you what an amateur explorer can do with minimal resources:

Robert Harrison launches his Canon camera into the Earth’s atmosphere with astounding results.

It’s not every day that your hobby becomes headline news, but when Robert Harrison decided to send a digital camera into the Earth’s atmosphere, that’s exactly what happened..

The amateur scientist was trying to get aerial shots of his home in West Yorkshire, England using a remote control helicopter, when he got the idea of launching a camera into the sky and subsequently into the edge of space. Since then he has sent several of his gadgets up to 35 kilometers above the Earth’s surface with stunning results, reports the BBC. “Just to be able to see the curvature of the earth, the earth’s atmosphere, the thin blue thin in which we live and breathe and of course the blackness of space — it’s unbelievable,” he said, adding with pride: “I’m chuffed to bits!”

Packing a standard Canon digital camera into a polystyrene (plastic) box, covered in duct tape, he uses a GPS tracking device linked to a radio transmitter (to find the device once it lands), wraps the contents in loft insulation bought from his local hardware store and attaches the box of goodies to a helium balloon. Launched from his back garden, the homemade contraption travels into the Earth’s atmosphere where it takes some really cool pictures before the balloon eventually bursts and the camera is parachuted safely back to Earth, where Harrison is waiting. Voila! Space mission complete.

His stunning pictures have even impressed the space agency NASA. “They had heard what was happening and wanted to know how I’d done it so cheaply,” the inventor told the UK’s Telegraph. “People think this is something that costs millions but it doesn’t.” In fact, each mission costs a budget-friendly $750, compared to the $450 million NASA spend on average per trip into space.

Harrison hopes that his success will inspire young people to get involved in science. “If I had done this at school, I would have remembered it forever and it’s well within the budgets of schools,” he said ever hopeful. For now though, he’s content with his achievement, in fact he’s pretty much over the moon