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Expedition 30 astronaut and chemical engineer Don Pettit continues his ongoing “Science off the Sphere” series with this latest installment, in which he demonstrates some of the peculiar behaviors of thin sheets of water in microgravity. Check it out — you might be surprised how water behaves when freed from the bounds of gravity (and put under the command of a cosmic chemist!)
Several times a year, the International Space Station needs to perform Debris Avoidance Maneuvers to dodge the ever-growing amount of space junk hurtling around in Earth orbit. Additionally, our increased dependence on satellites for communications and navigation is threatened by the risk of potential collisions with space debris. The existing system for finding and tracking objects, the Air Force Space Surveillance System, or VHF Fence, has been in service since the early 1960s, and is sorely out of date. But a prototype system called Space Fence has now been tested in a series of demonstrations, and successfully tracked more and smaller pieces of debris than the current system.
“The current system has the ability to track about 20,000 objects,” Lockheed Martin spokesperson Chip Eschenfelder told Universe Today, “but there millions of objects out there, many of which are not being tracked. Space Fence will find and catalog smaller objects than what are not being tracked now.”
Read the rest of Radar Prototype Begins Tracking Down Space Junk (364 words)
The enormous sunspot region responsible for all the recent fuss and flares was easily visible from Earth yesterday… easily visible, that is, with the help of a natural filter provided by a New Mexico dust storm!
Read the rest of Giant Sunspot Seen Through Dusty Skies (130 words)
Leave it to Mr. Wizard, a.k.a. astronaut Don Pettit on board the International Space Station, to give a detailed demonstration to explain how physics works in space, including demonstrating trajectories in microgravity by catapulting an Angry Bird through the space station. The video coincides with the release of a new Angry Birds game, “Angry Birds Space,” and the game’s developers have incorporated concepts of human space exploration into the new game to provide a little education along with the latest version of the popular
time-waster game, which was produced in cooperation with NASA. From the weightlessness of space to the gravity wells of nearby planets, players can use physics as they explore the various levels of the game set both on planets and in microgravity.
Read the rest of The Physics of Angry Birds In Space (26 words)
Astronaut Don Pettit posted this beautiful image on his Google+ page showing a view from the space station reminiscent of science-fiction. Of course, that’s the constellation Orion off in the distance, but there’s a bit of a debate going on at Pettit’s post whether the diffusion of light seen emanating from the ISS is just light from inside the space station windows (it appears to be the Cupola) spreading out into total darkness, or if the effect is actually from a reboost of the ISS for a Debris Avoidance Maneuver that was performed around the time this image was taken. The only clue Pettit provided is the title he gave the image, “Orion in the headlights,” which would point to the effect coming from the light shining from the Cupola windows. But the The DAM took place at 10.12 GMT (5:12 a.m. EST) on February 29, 2012 and as commenter Peter Caltner points out, “the scenic lighting effect ends exactly in [the series of images that Pettit took] at the end of the 76 seconds of the burn duration.” The original can be found here on the NASA Gateway to Astronaut Photography website, and here’s another image in the sequence.
OK, all you imaging experts out there: until Pettit gives us the real scoop, what are your thoughts?
Thanks to Elyse David for the heads up!
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