12 Apr 2012

Tech-Stew Podcast Episode 13:  Tech Stew Unlocked, recorded on Thursday April 12th, 2012

Summary

North Koreas rocket blows up, skyrim gets Kinect support, the Sony SmartWatch, the Google Plus redesign, a working Nintendo controller coffee table, Facebook buys instagram for $1billion, Viking detected life on Mars and more.  

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12 Apr 2012

Viking 2 Lander, 1976 showing Utopia Planitia (Credit: NASA)

New analysis of 36 year old data from the Viking robots shows that NASA had found life on Mars in 1976.  This conclusion was published by an international team of mathematicians and scientists this week.

Even more, NASA doesn't need a human expedition to Mars to verify this claim, says neuropharmacologist and biologist Joseph Miller with the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine.  "The ultimate proof is to take a video of a Martian bacteria. They should send a microscope -- watch the bacteria move," Miller told Discovery News.  Miller goes on to say that "On the basis of what we've done so far, I'd say I'm 99 percent sure there's life there."

These statements are derived from the new study that has re-analyzed results from a life-detection experiment done by the Viking Mars robots in 1976.  

02 Apr 2012

An asteroid the size of a passenger jet zipped past Earth on Sunday April 1st.  The space rock did not pose a threat of hitting Earth, though it passed astronomically speaking at a hairs distance from Earth. 

The 150 foot wide (46 meter) Asteroid 2012 EG5 was closer to the moon when it flew by Earth at 5:32 a.m. EDT (0932 GMT) according to NASA.

This flyby was no joke even though it was April 1st.  Yet another example of how close we have come to near miss passes by asteroids.  2012 EG5 was 143,00 miles (230,000 kilometers) away from Earth at closest approach, about half the distance between the Earth and moon's orbit.  The moon is on average about 238,000 miles (382,900 km) from Earth.

Asteroid 2012 EG5 was the third small asteroid to zoom past the Earth in last seven days.  There were two smaller asteroids that passed the Earth on Monday March 26th.  This asteroid was discovered on March 13th by astronomers.  They also discovered asteroid 2012 FA57 which will pass by on April 4th at a range just beyond the orbit of the moon.

The Tech-Stew Take Home

Asteroid 2012 EG5 posed no immediate threat to Earth.  But, as we have mentioned before in our topics and podcasts, asteroid detection and ultimately asteroid deflection techniques should be a top priority.  With a two year turnaround to even do anything about an impending asteroid impact, these rocks that are discovered only days before they fly past Earth, make such work to detect and avoid asteroids even more important.

Source:  Msnbc.com


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01 Apr 2012

Tech-Stew Podcast Episode 12:  Science Spectacular, recorded on Sunday 04-01-12

Summary:  The Nokia Lumia 900 is coming, Google Drive becomes a reality, Best Buy to close 50 store-fronts, strange clouds on Mars, aliens land in Arizona, SpaceX can get us to Mars for cheap, billions of habitable planets in our galaxy, antibody kills cancer in mice and more  

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30 Mar 2012

Highlands Ranch, Co-  Colorado locals were a-buzz over a UFO seen hovering the the skies Wednesday night.  Suha and Mike Owens took video Wednesday from their home in Highlands Ranch.  In the video a light can be seen changing colors and moving from left to right and up and down.

Local news stations received several calls and emails around 8:45 p.m. from viewers who reported seeing a bright light in the western sky.

Chris Peterson, a researcher at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and Cloudbait Observatory said what they captured was most likely just a reflective balloon blowing around or a helicopter or other aircraft.  

28 Mar 2012

Artists impression showing a sunset seen from the super-Earth Gliese 667 Cc.  The brightest star is red dwarf Gliese 667 C part of a triple star system.  The other stars are Gliese 667 A and B.  Estimates show there are tens of billions of rocky worlds around faint red dwarf stars in the Milk Way.  (CREDIT:  ESO/L. Calcada)

A new study has shown that in our Milky Way galaxy alone, there should be billions of habitable, rocky planets around faint red stars called red dwarfs.  These red dwarfs are thought to make up about 80% of the stars in our galaxy.

Astronomers using the European Southern Observatory telescope observed 102 of the most common stars, red dwarfs, in our galaxy over six years.  They came up with an estimate of the planets in the habitable zones around each star.

About 40 percent of the red dwarfs have super-Earths.  These are planets with masses between one and ten times the mass of Earth.  These planets exist in the "just right zone" where they aren't too close or too far from their host star and where liquid water can exist. 

160 billion red dwarfs, the fainter and cooler/longer lasting stars than the Sun exist in the Milky Way according to research team leader Xavier Bonfils.  Bonfils is of the University of Grenoble in France.  He stated, ''Because red dwarfs are so common this leads us to the astonishing result that there are tens of billions of these planets in our galaxy alone."  There are probably 100 of these super-Earths within 30 light years of Earth, he said.

The problem with red dwarfs is that they have eruptions and flares.  The x-rays and ultraviolet radiation released by these stars may reduce the chances of life existing there, the researchers indicated.

One planet in the study, is closest to our own, that of Gliese 667 Cc.  Gliese 667 Cc is about four times the mass of the Earth.  The new findings will be described in the a paper published in an upcoming issue of the journal of Astronomy & Astrophysics.

The Tech-Stew Take Home

Over the course of 16 years, astronomers have now detected 763 extra-solar planets (outside our solar system), many of them have massive planets like Jupiter or Saturn, more than 100 times the size of Earth.  These planetary giants, however, are rarely found around red dwarfs.

Now that we have identified these potential life harboring planets, the next step is to use instruments to determine the compositions of the atmospheres on these alien worlds.  These findings continue to change how we look at our small blue globe in this very large universe.

Source:  smh.com.au, space.com


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27 Mar 2012

Surface of Saturns moon Enceladus.  The south polar terrain has blue fractures and many folds and ridges.  This view taken from many false-color frames on the Cassini spacecraft.  (Credit:  NASA/JPL)

NASA's Cassini spacecraft is about to make its lowest pass over the south polar region of Saturn's moon Enceladus, entering an area where icy particles and water vapor spray out from its surface.  At the closest approach at 11:30 a.m. PDT (2:30 p.m. EDT) March 27, it will be about 46 miles (74 kilometers) in altitude.

Cassini will attempt to sample particles from the jets using its ion and neutral mass spectrometer.  Scientists will use these tools to analyze the data to learn more about the composition, density and variability of the plume.  NASA was able to revive the Cassini plasma spectrometer, now they can analyze Saturn's magnetic and plasma environment near Enceladus and sample the plume material as well.  The team will use the composite infrared spectrometer to look for hot spots on Enceladus and the cameras will take pictures. 

26 Mar 2012

A collection of images showing asteroids and comets that have been inspected by spacecraft as of 2010  (Credit:  Emily Lakdawala)

In what is yet another example of an asteroid close encounter, 2 small asteroids zipped between the moon and Earth and were only discovered last weekend.  They came by one after the other.  One early in the day March 26th, the second at 1:09 p.m. EDT (1709 GMT), according to astronomers with the NASA's Asteroid Watch program.  Both were small, under 10 meters and posed no risk.

Asteroid 2012 FP35 came within 96,000 miles (154,000 km) of Earth.  It is just under 30 feet (9 meters) wide, the size of a tour bus.

The second one called 2012 FS35 came within 36,000 miles (58,000 km) as it zoomed by.  This asteroid is nearly 10 feet (3 meters) wide, or the size of a small car.

They both came within the orbit of the moon, which circles the earth at around 238,000 miles (382,900 km).

Due to their small size and the fact they wouldn't survive going through the Earth's atmosphere they were quickly dismissed as threats.

The Tech-Stew Take Home

So once again another set of asteroids zip between the Earth and moon, only detected at a time when it would be too late to do anything about it, if they were a real threat.  In a recent topic about a possible comet threat in 2013 (2012 DA14), it was determined if the comet were to become a threat, it would take 2 years to ready a spacecraft to do anything about the issue.  This certainly shows the importance of an early warning system, particularly one deployed in space and also the space program in general.  It's only a matter of time, if we don't put these systems into place and get necessary funding, before a close call becomes a direct and unavoidable hit.

Source:  space.com


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