Cool Things Happening on the Space Front

Recently, I learned of exciting things happening in the world of space exploration – and thought you might enjoy them too. But first, to get you properly in the mindset, I present two images from space. Aren’t these gorgeous!

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The above image is of the Carina nebula from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. The central star is Eta Carinae and is one of the most massive stars in the galaxy. The clouds swirling around it like intricate lace are actually evidence that the star is sculpting and destroying the surrounding nebula. Beautiful but deadly.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltch

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltch

This image shows evidence of black holes buried within galaxies. The purple color is X-ray data from NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR). On the right, is a galaxy called IC751. The purple blob on the left is a newly discovered galaxy that I guess they didn’t name yet.

I miss the days when they used to name the heavenly bodies after Greek and Roman dieties. Numbers and letters are just so boring.

* * *

This summer, scientists watched as an exoplanet (not of our solar system) passed in front of its parent star. This was important because it’s the first time it’s happened since we’ve been able to observe exoplanets and the first time the actual color of a planet could be determine.

This gas giant, called HD189733b (those damn letters and numbers again!), is bright blue due to silicate particles scattering the blue light in its atmosphere. It’s 63 light years from Earth with temps reaching 1000 degrees C and glassy hail whips around on 7000kph winds.

Here is the press release from NASA describing it in greater detail and here is a Guardian article.

Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/K. Poppenhaeger et al; Illustration: NASA/CXC/M. Weiss

Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/K. Poppenhaeger et al; Illustration: NASA/CXC/M. Weiss

This image is actually a composite. According to NASA, “The main figure is an artist’s impression showing the HD 189733 system, containing a Sun-like star orbited by HD 189733b, an exoplanet about the size of Jupiter…Also in the illustration is a faint red companion star, which was detected for the first time in X-rays with these observations.”

* * *

Just this week, NASA learned that Voyager 1, the space probe launched in 1977 (the one with the “golden record” of greetings in all human languages and sounds of Earth) finally reached interstellar space. This is the farthest point in the universe that something human-made has traveled and it’s still working! Well, maybe not all it’s sensors are functional, and that’s explained in the following video, but it’s sending info back. This is so cool:

* * *

Did you know NASA and the Jet Propulsion Lab are on YouTube and Flickr? They’ve been on these social media sites for quite a while apparently, but I just discovered them. They have lots of wonderful videos and photos from space and the International Space Station, launches and landings, astronaut training, award ceremonies, and other behind-the-scenes stuff.

Unfortunately, due to the non-commercial and/or all rights reserved licenses, I can’t show the images from Flickr here. I got the images above from a different source. But click on these links to see them yourself: NASA on Flickr and JPL on Flickr

Personally, I love that we have these amazing, wonderful images and videos available to us. I have an old Time Life book of the first Hubble images that I pored over for days and weeks but that’s nothing compared to the sheer volume of material available now on the internet.

* * *

Have you heard of Mars One, a non-government organization that plans to colonize Mars? Again, this is something that’s been in the works for some time and I’m just now finding out. (Apparently, I need to be more vigilant about these things!)

According to its website,

The Mars One Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation that will establish a permanent human settlement on Mars in 2023.
A reliable surface habitat will be set up before the first crew lands; more settlers and cargo will follow every two years.
Our plan is realistic because the technology needed already exists and can be purchased from the private space industry.
The first footprint on Mars will fascinate and inspire generations; it is this public interest that will help finance this human mission to Mars. Join our global effort by sharing our vision with your friends, supporting us and perhaps becoming a Mars astronaut yourself.

I first learned about it from National Geographic’s Twitter feed. Here’s the article: One-Way Ticket to Mars The thing I love best about this? They have thousands more applicants than they will ever need. While this isn’t something I’m interested in even considering for myself, this shows that there is, indeed, a hunger to explore space, something I worried was getting bred out of our species.

This has given me a lot to think about. What about you? Would you be willing to be a Mars colonist?

What keeps pinging in my brain is all those great classic scifi novels by Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clark, and Robert Heinlein. It’s been so long, I’ve forgotten many of the details. Maybe it’s time for a reread.

As if my TBR pile wasn’t big enough!


5 comments on “Cool Things Happening on the Space Front

  1. Diane says:

    Yes, it is both interesting and exciting to learn of the new technology that shows us what is happening a long way away from our small corner of the galaxy.
    I read the Daily Galaxy posts every day and get some great plot bunnies from thinking “what if” in each article. 🙂 Ideas abound!

    I am also learning of the new space suits being tested that are skin tight rather than the large bulky ones now being used. Of course, I take what is now “cutting edge” and expand further for my stories, and I love writing about them even if my fiction is just that, fiction.

    Also, they are testing engines somewhere in England that might be used to drive spaceships faster than light (ftl) in the future, even if humans would disintegrate on board the ships. 🙂

    As for a Mars settlement, no, I am much too comfortable in my office writing stories, and too old to bother with all the demanding hard work of setting up a colony on Mars. 🙂

    All fascinating and exciting. Who knows where human ingenuity will take us.


    • E.K. Carmel says:

      Lol, I’m with you – let the next generation do the heavy lifting! But, honestly, I’m just glad to see people still taking the initiative despite the severe cut-backs in funding in the last two decades. All the “new” stuff to us has been quietly in the works for a long time.

      The new space suits are interesting. About time, considering the new, stronger fabrics and other materials available now.

      You know, I love reading about all the advances in science and love reading science fiction, but I just don’t feel the pull to write scifi myself. Maybe someday. But right now, I’m glad there’s folks like you who do!


  2. […] Cool Things Happening on the Space Front. […]


  3. I know it’s weird but I feel sad for Voyager being all alone as it travels into the unknown. I watch the rovers on Mars and feel the same. I enjoy reading about them and the information they share but I keep thinking of them as beings. I also name my cars and create back stories for the dolls and stuffed animals that I collect. Mmn. Definitely weird.

    Ten years ago I’d be on board to go to Mars but too old to go today unless they do an ‘Old Man’s War’ and then I’m in. 😉


    • E.K. Carmel says:

      Lol, my sister-in-law and Thing2 are the same way! My sister-in-law names her cars and Thing2 talks about inanimate objects as if they were alive and had feelings. You aren’t alone!

      Kudos to you for being the intrepid, explorer type, even if it was a while ago! That just has never been me, but I appreciate there are folks like you out there. As for Old Man’s War, I really need to read it. It’s been on my TBR list for ages.


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