Welcome to the 122nd Carnival of Space!
If you’re a Carnival regular, then you’ll know exactly what to expect, and you should feel free to skip this part and just scroll down and start reading this week’s entries. But if you’re a newcomer, directed here from another website or a Google search, or a friend’s recommendation, let me explain what’s going on here…
The internet is a big place, as you know. There are, by now, literally hundreds of thousands if not millions of space- and astronomy related websites on it. You’d think that was a good thing for people who are “into space”, but it can be quite the opposite. There are now so many space probes exploring other worlds, telescopes scanning the deep black for alien Earths and discoveries being made that tracking down accurate information and simply keeping up to date with all the news, all the discoveries, and all the exciting stuff that’s going on can be a daunting, even an impossible task. Oh, if only there was a way of hacking through all the cyber-undergrowth and finding just what you actually need to know..?!!
There is, and this is it – the weekly “Carnival of Space”! Every week a different blog or website hosts a collection of blog posts written during the previous week, submitted by their authors. The idea is that the Carnival not only provides people interested in spaceflight and astronomy with a quick and easy way of “catching up” with events of the previous week, but also offers them an opportunity to learn about new subjects and topics they might not come across otherwise.
This is the 122nd Carnival, and it’s good to have you here, whether you’re a Carnival regular or a first-timer!
Ok, on with this week’s Carnival!
Right. Can anyone guess what the most popular topic for our bloggers was this week? Hands up… yes… yes, that’s right – the discovery of “water” on the Moon. Hardly surprising, as the story got more news coverage than any other at the end of last week. Watching some of the breathless TV news reporting of the story you really would have thought that an ocean – full of plesiosaurs and mermaids, and criss-crossed by sleek, luxury lunar liners – had been spotted from space. The truth is, well, rather less dramatic or exotic, as our bloggers told their readers…
Brian Wang, over on the “Next Big Future” blog, looks at the “water story” from a different angle. Brian takes a look at some of the possible practical applications for the “water” found on the Moon, particularly for manufacturing fuel. definitely food for thought there, Brian…
If you’re a net-savvy space enthusiast/advocate/geek you’ll have the next three blogs bookmarked or favourited already for sure, they’re three of the biggest “big guns” booming on the web, so you’ll probably have read these posts already, but newcomers might not be aware of them. “Bad Astronomy” is the blog of “Bad Astronomer” Phil Plait, one of the loudest and clearest voices of reason on the internet. Phil is on a mission to ensure truth triumphs over stupidity, both on the internet and out in the real world, and he writes and broadcasts with great passion about science every chance he gets. So of course the “water story” caught his eye, and his post takes a look at it from his usual slightly irreverent, eyebrow-raised-like-Spock point of view.
“Universe Today” is, like “Bad Astronomy”, a website that demands daily – sometimes, if there’s a big story brewing or breaking, hourly - visits. If there’s something happening up or out there, it will be covered in depth on “UT”, and usually by Nancy Atkinson. Nancy wrote about the “water story” soon after it hit the streets, and you can find her typically thoughtful and eloquent post “Water on the Moon- what does it mean?” here.
The third of our “big guns” to take aim and fire at the “water story” is Emily Lakdawalla, who writes the popular blog for the Planetary Society. At the risk of embarrassing her I feel I have to say here that Emily’s blogging of astronomy- and space exploration-related stories is a masterclass of writing that puts the reporting of many so-called “professional journalists” to shame. She is so thorough and concise, her blog entries really should be required reading for anyone studying for a career as a science reporter. Emily covered the discovery of “water” on the Moon in a two part post that is crammed full of the facts and speculates about its true significance, too. You can read the first part of her coverage – “The water on the Moon hoopla!” – here, and from there you can go right on reading part 2!
(Oh, and I wrote about the discovery here on Cumbrian Sky, too. You can either scroll down the page to find it or just click here to go right to my rambings and rantings! You’ll find, if you didn’t know already, that there was another water-related announcement made last week, concerning Mars, a story that I (and many other people) think was actually much more exciting and important.. but you’ll have to go read the post for yourself to find out what it was, if you haven’t guessed already…)
Okay, okay, enough with the Moon, and water! What else did our bloggers find to write about last week?
Step forward Kimberley Kowal Arcand, who writes the ChandraBlog which is, as you probably guessed, the place to go to read and learn all about the fascinating work being done by the Chandra Telescope. In her post “Beginning Chandra’s next decade of Discovery”, Kimberley reports on a meeting of about 200 scientists in Boston, where they gathered to describe, discuss, and dissect the past ten years of Chandra science. As Kimberley reports, “The symposium, dubbed “Chandra’s First Decade of Discovery,” has some exciting happenings. Also, there will be ideas and discussions about what Chandra might be able to accomplish — both on its own and in concert with other telescopes — in the future.” Sounds fascinating, and I’m sure Chandra’s future will be very exciting!
Everyone is aware now, I think, that the space shuttle flight is going to be retired in the not-too-distant future. The first shuttle flew in 1981 (yes, 1981!!! That’s almost thirty years ago!) and now, after serving Mankind faithfully for a generation, launching satellites and space probes, deploying and delivering repair (sorry, ‘servicing’) crews to Hubble, and helping us to build a beautiful space station, retirement is looming, and there are only a handful of missions left to fly. What will happen to the beautiful, sleek orbiters when they’re banished from space and replaced – maybe, we’ll have to wait and see – by the (in my opinion) pug-ugly, snub-nosed, less-versatile Orion capsule? Well, Robert Pearlman over at collectSpace.com discusses this very topic in his contribution to this week’s Carnival, which looks at how NASA is offering museums and schools the first choice of space shuttle artifacts.
( Personally I’ll be sad to see the shuttles retired. For all their financial and technical shortcomings they are stunningly beautiful spacecraft, and I hate the idea of our brave astronauts plummeting back to Earth strapped into tin cans like sardines again, I thought we’d evolved past that, and I think they deserve better, but hey, what do I know…? :-( )
And while we’re on the subject of the space shuttle, everyone’s favourite “Babe In The Universe“, Louise Riofrio, has some thoughts on the imminent retirement of the shuttle fleet, and about its past too, in “Shuttle reconsidered”.
With the remaining members of the shuttle fleet due to be packed off to a care home soon, other spacecraft are starting to take over their roles. Over at Ian O’Neil’s Astroengine, there’s a fascinating post describing how a skilled Dutch astrophotographer, who had already taken stunning images of the ISS with his telescope, managed to take a picture of Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle, HTV-1 as it closed in on the ISS recently.
Paul Glister, who writes the thought-provoking Centauri Dreams blog, took another look at solar sails last week. Solar sails are being looked at very seriously by many people as a way of propelling the spacecraft of the future, so you should read this post – and keep an eye on the blog – if you want to keep up with what’s going on in that field.
I’m sure many of you are tired by now, after all that reading, so let’s take a break. Go and put the kettle or coffee-maker on, open a packet of biccies (or “cookies” if you live across the pond) then come back, put your feet up and listen to a podcast from Steve Nerlich’s Cheap Astronomy blog, which will tell you all about the famous HR Diagram. What? You don’t know what the HR Diagram is? Well, download the podcast and find out!
Time to – literally – come back down to Earth now, with a visit to Steve’s Astrocorner, where Stephen Tilford is waiting to tell us all about the great time had during a visit to the planetarium attached to Southern Cayuga Central School, near Ithaca in New York. Sounds like you had a wonderful time there, Steve, and I hope your blog post inspires many more people to visit the planatarium, too.
Next, we’ll wander over to Mike Simonsen’s blog, Simostronomy, where he has an enlightening interview with South African amateur astronomer, Berto Monard, who has had, as Mike puts it, “an amazing string of supernovae discoveries.” I really enjoyed reading this interview – Berto is quite a character! – and I’m sure you will, too.
On his blog Commercial Space, which focusses on ‘Canadian money-making activities high above the skies’, Chuck Black is waiting to tell you all about “The Difference Between Butter Knives and Bayonets”. No, I’m not going to try and explain that post title, you’ll have to go and check it out for yourself. But I’m a little worried for the safety of anyone going to Chris’ house for dinner, if he’s writing something like that…
If you want to read a blog that not only makes you think, but makes you think “Hmm, the future might not be so bad after all!”, then Bruce Cordell’s 21stCentury Waves is the place to go. Although Bruce doesn’t have a crystal ball he has a window on the future of a different kind. I’ll let Bruce explain on his blog, I’ll just mess it up if I try. For this week’s Carnival he has provided a link to his post that looks forward to the forthcoming, much-anticipated crash of LCROSS into the Moon. An opportunity for a party? Bruce thinks so!
Peter Lake – who describes himself as “an Australian amateur astronomy nut with a keen interest in Web 2.0 technologies” – writes a blog called AARTScope Blog, (“AART” stands for Australian Amateur Research Telescope ), and for this week’s Carnival this accomplished observer of variable stars invites us all to consider the effects of weather on observing campaigns. I’ve always admired variable star observers – that field of astronomy requires so much patience, commitment and dedication I know I simply couldn’t contribute anything even remotely useful to it – and reading “When you wish upon a star” on Peter’s blog just made me admire them even more…
Thanks To Cosmic Web blogger Olaf Davis for contributing to this week’s Carnival! Olaf’s very enjoyable post – looking at portrayals of astronomical subjects in art – got lost in the cyber-ether somewhere, so I’m happy to be able to add it here…
Finally, to close this Carnival with something just a little different, I’d like to invite you all to drift over to my own “Barsoom Tales” blog to read “Descent“, my latest short story inspired by those amazing Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. The rovers are still exploring, studying and photographing Mars, long, long after they were supposed to have perished on the dusty, frigid plains of Barsoom, and I’m convinced that their greatest, most startling discoveries are yet to come. I’m also convinced that in future centuries, when Mars is a colonised world, with thriving settlements across its surface, native martian children sitting at their school desks will listen to their teacher telling them all about ” Spirit and Opportunity – the Lewis and Clark of Mars”…
And that’s it for this week’s Carnival! Thank you to everyone who contributed (bloggers – if I didn’t receive your entry in time, email me and I’ll try to add it), and an even bigger thank you to you for stopping by.
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