The NewsDemon Blog
May 13th, 2010
Touring the outer reaches of our galaxy the Voyager 2 spacecraft has begun sending back messages to Earth that even scientists cannot interpret. Some experts online and on newsgroups believe it may be the work of aliens.
Voyager 2 and its twin, Voyager 1, were launched in 1977 to explore Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Three decades on, they are the most distant human-made objects in outer space. Voyager 2 holds various information about the human species, including sound recordings of children singing, waves crashing on the ocean, babies crying and the signatures of the President of the United States and UN Secretary General.
Voyager 1 is currently more than 8.5 billion miles from Earth. It will soon travel beyond the heliosphere – a bubble the sun creates around the solar system – into interstellar space, scientists say.
Both probes were installed with a Golden Record. Simultaneously a greeting card, map and time capsule, these devices contained images and sounds from Planet Earth and voice greetings in more than 50 languages. The records’ content describing our home was selected and assembled by the late USENET subscriber Carl Sagan, just in case someone out there might be listening as the Voyagers passed through.
Space related newsgroups report that while it tries to work out what’s going on, NASA has instructed the spacecraft to only send data on its own status, but says the problem can probably be fixed with a simple software patch. All NASA has said of the glitch is that Voyager 2 suddenly began transmitting data in a completely different format.
Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are investigating the cause of the change. The probe is 8.6 billion miles from earth and will eventually leave the solar system. NASA equipped the probe with music and multilingual greetings for any intelligent life it encounters.
Many on newsgroups believe it’s just a matter of the fact that after 33 years in the cold dark vacuum of space, the antiquated hardware may simply be malfunctioning. NASA scientists have, not surprisingly, not weighed in on the matter of aliens having hacked our space probe, choosing to keep collective nose to the grindstone in determining cause and solution.
March 2nd, 2010
Feeling behind as if time is working against you? You may be right. Due to the magnitude of the earthquake that hit Chile recently, it may have changed the planet’s rate of rotation and shortened our days. The 8.8 earthquake has been reported by NASA scientists on space related newsgroups that earth’s axis likely shifted by about 3 inches, shortening the day by about 1.26 microseconds.
USENET newsgroups have been covering this story and have been discussing on how moving hundreds of kilometers of rock underground can change the earth’s distribution of mass, and, in turn, change the planet’s rate of rotation. When an earthquake hits with the magnitude of the one in Chile, it moves this lot of rock under the ground which has caused the earth’s axis to slightly shift and shortening the day, as the rate of speed the earth spins is how we calculate how long the day is.
If you remember your physics, changes in rotating bodies affect its rotation. The huge 8.8 earthquake in Chile has affected our rotating Earth in just such a way, making it turn a bit faster and giving us 1.26 microseconds less of time.
Some changes may be more obvious, and islands may have shifted, according to Andreas Rietbrock, a professor of Earth Sciences at the U.K.’s Liverpool University who has studied the area impacted, though not since the latest temblor. She reports that Santa Maria Island off the Chilean coast may have been raised 6 feet because of the earthquake, if past quake patterns hold true.
This is not the first, or only, time an earthquake has had such an impact, USENET newsgroups notes. The magnitude 9.1 earthquake that generated the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami shortened the day by 6.8 microseconds. The consequences of both have also taken the lives of many. More than 700 people died in the Chilean earthquake, which struck on the 27 February. NASA experts have said the Chile predictions will likely change as data on the quake are further refined.
December 11th, 2009
If you missed out on last month’s Leonid meteor shower, don’t worry. Space and astronomy newsgroups report what very well may be the best meteor shower of the year will occur this coming Sunday and Monday.
Occurring in mid- December, the Geminid meteor shower is often the most reliable meteor shower of the year — you may see 30 to 60 meteors an hour. This year, newsgroups are reporting that the Geminid meteor shower’s peak is the night of December 13th and 14th of this year. According to NASA related newsgroups, the shower has intensified in recent years and researchers are curious if the trend will continue this year. There are many predictable meteor showers during the year, but most of them are not very spectacular, producing only a few more meteors than the background rate of five to 10 random meteors per hour.
As comets go around the sun, they also leave tiny grains of debris along their orbits. When the Earth crosses the orbit of a comet, it encounters this debris train, and we get a meteor shower. This year, the meteor shower appears during a new moon, so the sky should be dark and meteors should be easier to see.
The Geminids were quite weak when they were first identified in the late 19th century, but have intensified in those 150 years. In 2006, NASA astronomers observed at least five Geminid meteors crash into the moon. The shower derives its name from the fact that the meteors look like they are originating from the Gemini constellation.
October 9th, 2009
The big news on newsgroups is that NASA deliberately aimed a rocket into the Moon to expand the search for water. NASA has said the rocket and satellite strike was a success, kicking up enough dust for scientists to determine whether or not there is water on the moon.
Nothing exploded, although two spacecraft — one about the size of a bus, the other a subcompact car — did crash on the surface of the moon. For background on the whys and wherefores, you can read more about moon exploration and the reasons for the LCROSS mission here and on some of the space and technology newsgroups.
Mission scientists said they did spy a thermal flash and spotted an approximately 20 meter sized created by the impact. They were most excited about a tiny bump in brightness seen by a mission spectrometer, which could signal the presence of water that some think exists as ice in the bottom of the target crater.
“We have the data we need to address the questions we set out to address”, said Anthony Colaprete, principal investigator for the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite mission. At approximately 5.31pm IST on Friday, a rocket called LCROSS (for Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite), traveling at over twice the speed of a bullet, traversed the nearly 375,000 km from earth to Moon and slammed into the bottom of a lunar crater bathed in a permanent shadow.
The impact sequence was followed not only by telescopic eyes in space, such as LRO and the Hubble Space Telescope, but also by hundreds of telescopes, both professional and amateur, in North America, where the skies were mostly clear.
The one-two punch of crashing a booster rocket and its mother craft near the moon’s south pole didn’t kick up dramatic and visible plumes as hoped, but scientists reported that the mission had gathered enough data to tell whether the crater contains frozen water.
October 26th, 2008
After departing on October 12 to the International Space Station, with a round-trip ticket that cost him $30 million, famed videogame creator Richard Garriott returned safely back to Earth on Friday (via the Associated Press). It was a trip Garriott had been planning and preparing for since September, 2007.
“What a great ride that was,” Garriott said, after emerging from the capsule he and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergei Volkov returned in. Later, in televised comments, Garriott added, “I’m looking forward to some fresh food and to calling my loved ones. I’ve got my father here, but I’ve got other family back home I want to get ahold of.”
Interestingly, Garriott’s trip into space makes him America’s first second-generation space-traveler — his father, Owen Garriott, was an astronaut himself. Richard “Lord British” Garriott, of course, is the creator of the Ultima RPG series.
The AP story notes that while on the space station, Garriott “conducted experiments,” although what they entailed weren’t detailed. But there’s one thing we do know he did: ensure humanity’s immortality. As part of what Garriott called “Operation Immortality,” he delivered and stored digital human DNA data on the International Space Station, including data from none other than Stephen Colbert. The idea, we suppose, is that if humanity ever goes extinct, the data could be used by far more advanced alien civilizations to recreate our species.
You can follow this story, and many other topics involved with space exploration on Newsgroups. Check out:
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