Here’s an interesting tidbit that came across my radar today: A very illusive and rare meteor shower may flare up tonight for the first time since 1930! On June 11th of that year, a small group of astronomers reported a short-lived meteor shower that was sought out in subsequent years, but never seen again. Now an astronomer named Peter Jenniskens with NASA and SETI has suggested that Earth is passing through the same comet trail it did back in 1930, and thus we could see this rare outburst, called the Gamma Delphinids, again- TONIGHT. Fortunately the moon will have set several hours before the expected peak between 2:30 and 4:30am CDT, leaving only the weather to stand in the way of getting to witness this rare event. I must point out, however, that scientists aren’t nearly as certain about this meteor shower as they are about the more reliable yearly showers such as the Leonids, Geminids, Perseids, etc… So if you’re a fan of meteor showers and have the will power to get up in the wee hours and sit outside to watch, tonight could reward your efforts with a show not seen in 83 years. (Via Universe Today and the American Meteor Society)

In other science news, more evidence of normal, habitable water on the ancient Mars surface was discovered recently. You’re probably thinking this discovery came from the Curiosity rover, but it actually came from Opportunity, one of the twin rovers that landed on Mars in 2004. Opportunity’s team sent her to investigate an interesting rock outcropping, and they found evidence of certain clay minerals that could only have formed in water that would be habitable to life as we know it. This discovery is right in line with Curiosity’s findings from February, and strongly supports the theory that Mars once had running water on the surface, and might have even supported microbial life! As Curiosity keeps trekking toward Mount Sharp, the rover will keep looking for these same minerals to help paint a clearer picture of Mars’ watery past. (Via New Scientist)

Credit: NASA

Space Shuttle Discovery is ready for launch later today (4:50pm Eastern/3:50 Central) on its final trip to space. This mission has been delayed extensively- it was originally scheduled to launch in November of last year, but fuel leaks and then tiny cracks discovered on the external fuel tank caused major delays. The shuttle had to be returned to the massive vehicle assembly building (VAB) for repairs that took several months. But so far all is good for the launch today. The shuttle is carrying an additional storage module (essentially a storage closet in space) to the ISS, along with an external logistics platform and a humanoid robot called Robonaut 2. Robonaut 2, known as R2 (ha!) is basically an experiment to allow engineers to determine how the robot will work in space, and how to best control it from inside the ISS. The end goal is to have a humanoid robot that can venture outside the space station and assist spacewalking astronauts with repairs and upgrades. The robot will be controlled by an astronaut inside the space station via some sort of virtual reality-like interface.

As I said, this is the last flight of Discovery. The only confirmed remaining flight is that of Endeavour, scheduled for launch in April. This mission will carry a very important piece of scientific equipment called the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the ISS. The AMS will help physicists answer some of the most daunting questions in cosmology. An additional flight of Atlantis is likely, though not 100% confirmed. It would launch in June and be the absolute final flight of the Space Shuttle program.

I’m not going to attempt to rundown all the party possibilities for tonight in Nashville. Just head over to the Nashville Cream and check out their NYE flow chart. There’s really nothing better for determining your course of action for tonight. Whatever you do, be safe and if you plan on drinking, arrange for a DD or a cab or Zingo or SOMETHING.

Instead of creating or linking to any “best of” lists about 2010, I thought I’d round up a couple of articles about what to expect in the science world in 2011.

Discovery News: The Biggest, Boldest, and Baddest Space Missions of 2011

Live Science: The Top Science Breakthroughs That 2011 May Bring

That’s it. I’m out. See you in 2011.

Screenshot from NASA Tech virtual tour

So yesterday’s post was a bit of a downer… in some ways. Let me now point you in the direction of something totally awesome: a virtual tour of Space Shuttle Discovery on launch pad 39A. With the final liftoff of Discovery scheduled for tomorrow, I thought it perfect today to share this website I discovered via Universe Today. NASA’s Jim O’Connor runs the NASA Tech website and does 360 degree hi-resolution photographic virtual tours, and they’re nothing short of amazing. While virtual tours are nothing new, getting this kind of view (and from as many viewpoints) of a space shuttle is as close as most of us will ever get to actually seeing the full assembly up-close and in-person. It really helps you grasp how big the whole thing is… as much as one can without actually being there. Right now there are several different views of the space shuttle, all of which can be rotated a full 360 degrees. While the website itself is rather hideously designed, the awesome views offered by the virtual tours make up for it. I’d say my favorite is the one from under the orange external fuel tank.

In other news: GET OFF YOUR ASS AND VOTE TODAY!

 

Credit: Lynette Cook/NSF

 

Planet hunting is a delicate and tedious science. A very strong emphasis is placed on multiple teams of astronomers being able to replicate the results of the first team to announce any kind of discovery. If another team is unable to replicate the findings of the first, it casts a serious shadow of doubt on the validity of the initial findings. That’s exactly what is happening with the Gliese 581g exoplanet that was announced just last week. Sadly, a team that works directly with the HARPS detector on the 3.6m telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile has been unable to confirm the existence of Gliese 581f or g. They have access to more data than the team who initially announced the discovery, and they can’t find a clear enough signal in the background “noise” of the observations to confirm this planet. As more teams run computer models and look at observations from other telescopes with radial velocity planet-finding instruments, maybe we’ll get a clearer picture of whether these two planets actually exist. (Via Universe Today via Dynamics of Cats blog)

Don’t worry though, the Kepler mission will undoubtedly start popping out earth-twin discoveries in another year or so, mark my word.

Lot’s of quick-hitters today. I have too much crap to do at work and a bunch of preparation for SXSW. The main thing to note today is that I’ve finally joined the Twitter party. Follow me and I’ll follow you!

Strobist has a cool post about a fascinating mouse trap devised by PocketWizard inventor/engineer Jim Clark. It first captured images of the mouse in action, then captured the mouse’s descent into the humane trap devised by Mr. Clark. He then kept the mouse as a pet during the winter months, and freed it in the spring. Awww…

For some more “awwww-ness,” check out Oddee.com’s post about 10 amazing dogs.

Hipster Runoff tells you exactly what SXSW is gonna be like. SRSLY.

THE MCGANGBANG. Enough said.

Apparently a bat tried to hitch a ride on the Space Shuttle’s external fuel tank just before launch Sunday. It posed no threat since it was on the side opposite the shuttle. In case you live under a rock, Discovery did finally blast off Sunday night and is now on its way to the ISS to put the final major US component in place.

And finally…. LESBIAN VAMPIRE KILLERS!!!!

New comet/Fairey arrested

February 9, 2009

Science first today, people.

A new comet has been discovered and will be visible at least with binoculars and maybe even the naked eye for people in rural areas over the next few weeks. It was discovered by a 19 year-old student named Quanzhi Ye at the Lulin Observatory in Nantou, Taiwan on July 11, 2007. Be on the lookout for it over the next few weeks. I’m sure Universe Today or Bad Astronomy will post something about the exact location in the night sky, and when they do I’ll be sure to post it here. Via Live Science.

Space Shuttle Discovery’s launch has been pushed back again, to no earlier than Feb. 22nd. Engineers are still testing those new hydrogen flow valves to make sure they’re safe.

Do you own a cat? Do you know if it’s plotting to kill you in your sleep? Here’s a quick quiz to find out…

Shepard Fairey has been arrested for tagging property with graffiti. He was on his way to a kickoff event for his first solo exhibition. Shitty timing!

Did you you know the grammys were this past weekend? Yeah, me niether. I actually did know, I just forgot about them. They seem to be pretty forgettable these days. Brooklynvegan has a listing of all the awards.

Various people in London decided to use the opportunity nature gave them in the form of recent snowfall to make a bunch of giant snow-penises around town. Reminds me of a few years ago when Nashville got a few inches of snow and some Vandy kids made several snow phalli around campus. The final button in the dailogue box to post a photo on this blog is “insert into post.” Huh… huh huh…. Via Vice Magazine blog. (I promise I’m not really this immature…)

Today the science is the top story! You can only imagine how giddy I was to hear about the French COROT satellite’s latest find- an exoplanet only twice the size of earth! That’s UNPRECEDENTED, people. Unfortunately, we don’t know much about it besides its size. COROT looks at other stars and watches for the slight dimming by a planet transiting in front of it. It’s sensitive enough to detect the miniscule dimming caused by this comparatively tiny planet, but that’s all it can do. In order to know what it’s made of, we have to know its mass, and the only way to know that is to watch how much the planet tugs on its parent star as it orbits, and since the planet is so small, the tug is also VERY small. We just don’t have anything capable of detecting such a tiny doppler shift…. yet. This planet is also orbiting so close that it’s practically touching the surface of its parent star, so it is VERY HOT, and thus completely uninhabitable. In fact, it’s very possible that if it has a rocky or metal surface (which is almost certain given its size), then its surface is molten. All this and more info can be found on the Bad Astronomy post from which this information was taken. Dr. Plait even goes so far as to say that we might find an earth twin (a planet roughly the same size as earth, in roughly the same orbit around a sun-like star) in the next few years. But again, we won’t be able to know much about it for several more years, until we get more sensitive telescopes operational.

Space Shuttle Discovery’s launch got delayed until at least Feb. 19th due to issues with a control valve that regulates the flow of hydrogen from the external tank into the orbiter’s engines during liftoff.

Credit: Jared Lazarus/Miami Herald

The economic slump has claimed its first music festival victim of 2009, the Langerado Festival, which is normally held in southern Florida. (This year it was slated to take place in Miami.) According to this Billboard.com article, artists confirmed to play included Death Cab for Cutie, Broken Social Scene, Ryan Adams & the Cardinals, The Faint, The Pogues, Girl Talk, Black Kids, and many others. The promoters cited poor ticket sales as the sole cause of the cancelation. I have a sick feeling this may happen to some of the other smaller festivals that have popped up in recent years. People are much more hestiant to spend money on entertainment right now. The sticker shock of $100 or more for a ticket to your favorite yearly music festival is hard to overcome in times like these. More details can be found in this Miami Herald article.

In my last post I listed the Bonnaroo lineup for 2009. Bonnaroo is arguably the nation’s biggest outdoor music festival, and I definitely don’t think it will suffer the same fate as Langerado. It’s in a different class altogether. I also think that the inclusion of Phish in the lineup pretty much makes it recession-proof. If there’s any band out there that can bring in thousands of obsessively dedicated fans who will literally scrape the bottoms of their wallets to see them, it’s Phish. If you know me, you know that I hate jam bands and can’t stand most of their fans, but I think getting Phish to headline (along with Springsteen of course) was probably the smartest thing they could’ve done to counteract the dismal economy’s influence on ticket sales. I can hear the hippies now…. “duuuude… the economy like, totally blows… but duuuude, PHISH is rockin’ two nights at the ‘roo this year! We GOTTA find the money! Even if it means buying less weed!”

Zooey Gibbard? Yep.

December 30, 2008

Jensen Sutta

Photos: Jensen Sutta

I’m not one for celebrity gossip, but WTF?!?!?!?!?!? How did I miss out that Ben Gibbard and Zooey Deschanel were dating? Two of my top 25 or so musicians… and I hadn’t a clue. Well, according to Stereogum and several other sources, they’re engaged! Honestly, I can’t think of a better match. It’s a total indie rock cuteness-warm-fuzzy-gasm. They just need to write some songs together already! Ok ok… I know I’ve mentioned ZD in like, all of the last few posts… but she just keeps popping up on my radar… not that she’s ever really below it anyway. Yes, I have a girlfriend, but even SHE has a crush on ZD.

Not sure what to do in Nashville this New Year’s Eve? Here’s a list of some good things going on.

How I Became the Bomb, The Privates, And The Relatives @ the Basement, 21+

JEFF the Brotherhood, Meemaw, Turbo Fruits @ the End, 18+

Selloutpresents.com and Club Sportag present “Return to Whatever” @ the Warehouse, 901 6th Ave South, 21+

The Protomen, Makeup & Vanity Set, Beta Macks @ Springwater, 21+

Autovaughn, Cage the Elephant, Hollywood Kills, Gone City, and Leslie @ 12th and Porter, 21+

Charles Walker & the Dynamites @ Exit/In, 21+

There are some other things going on, but those are the biggest ones in my book. I haven’t seen JEFF or Meemaw since Next Big Nashville, so I’m guessing I’m due for another dose of Infinity Cat.

Science tidbits for the day:

Livescience’s top 5 incredible science discoveries of 2008.

The Obama administration will hopefully help to bring America back to the forefront of science and technology. Under the Bush administration’s morality-based politics, we’ve slowly lost our grip on being the world leader in these fields, and reality in general. Livescience talks about the optimistic new outlook for science and the democratization of knowledge.