Welcome, come in to the 323rd Carnival of Space! The carnival is a community of space science and astronomy writers and bloggers, who submit their best work each week for your benefit. It’s my turn again, and it’s a bit special for it is to be the last article published on Urban Astronomer before we move hosts. I’m taking my time with the migration, as I want to get it right without losing any content (You realise there’s over 950 pages of stuff to read here? No wonder the lettering is all faded from my keyboard…), so things might be a bit silent for a few more days but when we’re ready you’ll be the first to know! Unless you don’t follow my twitter feed, in which case you might only notice days later.
But you’re here for the carnival:
First up to bat is Paul D. Spudis of The Once and Future Moon writing about the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) robotic explorer which recently arrived at the Moon. We all learned in school that the Moon is a dry and airless world, but it does still technically have an atmosphere, albeit one as thin as the vacuum outside the International Space Station. LADEE is on a mission to study this atmosphere, and how it reacts with the mysteriously floating clouds of dust that appear to be kicked up from the Lunar surface by electrostatic forces.
Next in line is Ken Kremer from Universe Today. Late last week, the Juno spacecraft did a fly-by of planet Earth, kicking it off on the final leg of its journey to Jupiter. Ken writes about the images of Earth snapped by Juno as it shot by, and the technical issues that plagued the probe for a few days after.
The next three submissions all come from Brian Wang of Next Big Future:
Robin Hanson discusses great filters in regards to the Fermi Paradox. Humanity seems to have a non-trivial chance of expanding to fill the universe with lasting life. But the fact that space near us seems dead now tells us that any given piece of dead matter faces an astronomically low chance of begetting such a future. There thus exists a great filter between death and expanding lasting life, and humanity faces the ominous question: how far along this filter[s] are we? The human population went down to about ten thousand breeding pairs back in 70000 BC. This may have been caused by the Toba Super-volcano. Supervolcanoes, asteroids and other events could disrupt the development of intelligent species on other planets if they are more frequent than our experience here on earth.
The latest research on rocky relics suggests a distant planetary system, now past its “death throes”, had very similar water ‘delivery system’ to our own – and consequently the potential to contain habitable exoplanets complete with water. Astronomers have found the shattered remains of an asteroid that contained huge amounts of water orbiting an exhausted star, or white dwarf. This suggests that the star GD 61 and its planetary system – located about 150 light years away and at the end of its life – had the potential to contain Earth-like exoplanets, they say. This is the first time that both water and a rocky surface – two “key ingredients” for habitable planets – have been found together beyond our solar system.
And then we hear about collaborations between Eastern space agencies: The Ukrainian space agency has always been short of funding. The Ukrainians used to work closely with the Russians as part of the Soviet program, but that stopped with the breakup of the soviet union. Currently Russia’s leader Putin has bad relations with the Ukraine. Ukraine has the Zenit rocket family. Ukraine had been working on the “lighthouse” project to make expanded rocket engines based on the Zenit engines. Previously it was believed that these were mostly paper studies. The Cyclone-4 engine should launch in 2014. China has money in its space program. China and Ukraine space agencies have a cooperation program. The combination will help China to accelerate technological catch up in space launch capabilities. China has its own teams and rocket designs and internally developed a liquid hydrogen upper stage, but there seems to be a speed up in rocket development by utilizing rocket engines that Ukraine has developed.
And that’s all for this short-but-dense Carnival of Space. See you again after the move!