Carnival of Space Number 360

Welcome to the latest edition of Carnival of Space. This week’s collection of articles looks into our political past, explores deep space and looks at what the future may hold for humans. Let’s get started.

First up is an article about the political history of the Apollo program:

A brief political history of the Apollo program.

Universe Today brings us our next trio of articles, starting with a look at supermassive black holes:

In a galaxy four billion light-years away, three supermassive black holes are locked in a whirling embrace. It’s the tightest trio of black holes known to date and even suggests that these closely packed systems are more common than previously thought.

NASA’s Curiosity rover celebrated a milestone anniversary today, June 24 – 1 Martian Year on Mars!

The violent blazer 3C 454.3 is throwing a fit again, undergoing its most intense outburst seen since 2010. Normally it sleeps away the months around 17th magnitude but every few years, it can brighten up to 5 magnitudes and show in amateur telescopes.

What does it mean to be human when considering long term spaceflight? , Next Big Future takes a in-depth look into just that question:

Transhumanism is overly fixated on technology for the individual. etting big technology like reusable space craft, Spiderfab robotic construction in space, cheap nuclear fission and nuclear fusion for energy and propulsion would enable the survival of humanity against any natural disaster.

A Kardashev 1.5 civilization (ie with nuclear fusion propulsion and molecular nanotechnology) could not be killed even by a sun going Nova. Spaceships and powered asteroids could move away from the star and use water and materials in asteroids and comets.

The Enhancement of people and plants for space and for long duration space travel would be what matters, not temporary status inequality or democratic systems.

In the long run, getting and using the technology for easy and cheap interplanetary movement and then having the resources of a solar system (trillions of times what is on Earth) is what is needed to enable going interstellar.

A solar system economy trillions of times larger is one where individuals can reach greater heights. Earth is like a tiny Pacific island and the World is the solar system. A spacefaring, super high technology economy is where we will need enhanced people and systems.

Being able to do this is what can make human civilization immortal.

Enhanced individuals need to be within a technological civilization in order to keep getting the treatments for longevity. They must be within an immortal (growing, thriving and learning) technological civilization.

Next up, the Chandra X-Ray website brings us a pair of intriguing stories to read:

A new study reporting evidence for a mysterious X-ray signal in galaxy clusters

Mysterious X-Ray Signal Intrigues Astronomers

Carolyn over at brings us a great article on Dark Matter:

Dark Matter 2014: The Latest on this Mysterious, Invisible Cosmic “Stuff”

Finally we close this week with an article from discussing an impact of galatic proportions:

What happens when two galaxies collide. Let’s take a look at the Antennae galaxy!

That wraps up this edition of the Carnival hosted here at Photos to Space. Tune in next week for another exciting edition.


Say hello to our little friend!

2012 VP 113, just to the right of center and shown in color to demonstrate motion.

2012 VP 113, just to the right of center and shown in color to demonstrate motion.

So here we are again, friends…sorry that it’s been so long since the last blog, but a lot has been going on lately and it’s had our attention on other things.

How many of you remember Arthur C. Clarke’s book (and movie) 2010: The Year We Make Contact?

It had 2 themes, as I recall – science (of course) and political relations.

As you most likely know by now, relations between the US and Russia are not the best right now. In fact, they’re not unlike the relations Clarke portrays in his writing. It’s also getting enough attention from other sources that I’m not going to delve into it any further here, except to say that scientists are supposed to be smarter than that.

So what does that leave?

Science (which is what scientists should be concerning themselves with in the first place). While we’ve not confirmed life on any of Jupiter’s moons, we did make a great discovery of another kind recently.

What was discovered?

That would be 2012 VP113, a dwarf planet like Pluto.

Personal side note: Pluto is still a planet by tradition – take that, Mike Brown!

Informally referred to as “VP”, it was discovered on March 26th, 2014 by Scott Sheppard and Chad Trujillo at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in northern Chile.

But wait! If it was discovered in 2014, why does it have a 2012 designation? Because it was observed for 2 years before scientists were certain of what it is. The initial observation actually occured on November 5th, 2012.

What sets VP apart, though, is the size of its orbital path. Right now, it’s about 83 AU’s from the Sun, giving it the largest orbit of any known object in the Solar System. That distance makes it a potential member of the Kuiper Belt, and definitely a Trans-Neptunian Object (TNO). Some scientists even speculate that it might be a captured Rogue Planet.

What I’m really hoping comes from this, however, is that it leads the IAU to reverse the previous ruling and give Pluto back planet status.

Wow, Steve…single-minded much?

Hey, now…leave me my dream!


Carnival of Space Number 346

Welcome to the Carnival of Space, Episode 346.

There is a lot going on in our corner of the universe this week so let’s get right to it.

We star with an article from Dear Astronomer about some potentially bad news. Frequent visitors to the NASA Live ISS Telemetry website ( ) have spotted an official notice stating the site will be shutting down in two weeks. Learn how you can show your support for this site, and try to help prevent its shutdown.

Some stars take a licking and keep on ticking. The Chandra X-ray website looks at a star that took a beating and lived to tell the tale. Hardy Star Survives Supernova Blast.

The Chandra site also has news about their new leader. Dr. Belinda Wilkes Chosen To Lead The Chandra X-Ray Center.

The Urban Astroner takes some reader questions and provides some awesome answers. A reader wrote to ask whether space is a hot place, or cold. Urban Astronomer explains how it can be both.

Now that is what I call MEGA Pixel. Or in this case super-duper-mega-pixel. A mosaic composed from over 10,000 images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The LRO team reveals a Gigapan view of the Moon.

CosmoQuest continues with a look at the happenings at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. Check out their MoonMappers results available at the site. CosmoQuest’s contributions to this week’s Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, plus where you can catch up on all the conference tweets.

Universe Today brings us a pair of near Earth articles. The first deals with the latest radiation findings in Earth orbit. Earth’s inner radiation belt displays a curiously zebra-esque striped pattern, according to the latest findings from NASA’s twin Van Allen Probes.

In space, life is a lot of hard work with a great view. But, when there’s a Dragon spacecraft coming your way at the International Space Station, you’d better be ready to grapple it with a robotic arm. For if there’s a crash, you will face “a very bad day. Universe today’s second article take at look at what goes into catching a Dragon.

The Meridian Journal takes a critical lens to the new Cosmos series. With all the hype surrounding it, does the show live up to its potential? Cosmos 2.0: a space science classic rebooted for the 21st century – a review.

Follow an Astronomy trip through the some of the most beautiful terrain on planet Earth. CAMBODIA POST #6 is the last in a series of 6 posts on Astronomy in Cambodia. Enjoy all the posts and pictures on Links Through Space.

Finally, we top of this week’s entries with another article from Urban Astronomer. This time an answer to a reader’s question about Blue Moons. The mystics and the prophets are making a lot of noise about Blood Moons. A reader wants to know what that is, and Urban Astronomer tries to figure it out.

That’s it for this edition. Be sure to look for more Carnival of Space – coming next week from a website near you!


Thanks, Vardhan!

300px-BH_LMCAnother request we’ve had recently for a blog entry comes from user Vardhan, who would like to know about an amazing phenomenon called a Black Hole.

The following, then, is an excerpt from Out There – A Small Guide to a Big Universe, a book written by our own Joe Latrell and Steve Shurtleff:

The Earth, along with all the other planets in our Solar System, revolves around the Sun because of gravity. This is the same force holding you to planet Earth. We also know that galaxies revolve around their cores because of gravity, and lots of it. So what is at the center of a galaxy that has so much gravity that it causes an entire galaxy to revolve around it?

The answer is a rather scary object called a Black Hole. A Black Hole is an area of space where there is so much mass in such a small area that its gravity sucks in everything nearby, including light. Because of that, we can’t see a Black Hole directly, but we can tell that it’s there because of the effect it has on the space around it, the same way we can’t see the wind but we can see tree branches sway back and forth because of it. A Black Hole creates very dark areas surrounded by lots of radiation as matter twists and collides with itself as it falls farther and faster into the center.

If an astronaut was to travel toward a Black Hole, he or she would first notice that they were accelerating toward a very dark area, surrounded by things that started to appear more and more distorted. Even time would start to do weird things as they got closer. At some point, they would cross an invisible line called the Event Horizon, which is the point at which they wouldn’t be able to escape the Black Hole’s pull. Think of it as a hole that you can’t climb back out of. As the astronaut got closer still, their spaceship, and eventually they themselves, would begin to get stretched into a long, thin strand, kind of like a noodle, which in time would vanish into the center of the Black Hole, a very small point that scientists often call a Singularity. In fact, some scientists refer to this process of getting stretched as “spaghettification.” It sounds like a goofy and strange thing to have happen, but some scientists even think it might be fun, though they’d only get to try it once.

So is the Earth in danger from a Black Hole? Will we get turned into a massively long string of spaghetti? No, not really. Scientists estimate that the nearest Black Hole, called V404 Cygni, is about 7,800 light-years from Earth, far too distant to be a threat to us here on Earth.

And Black Holes are only one type of many wonders that await us.

Would you like to know more?

Check out…and dream!


Carnival of Space Number 341

Welcome to the Carnival of Space. Each week we explore the universe around us from Earth to the Moon and beyond. This week brings us many great and diverse articles from around the globe.

Sit back and enjoy the show!

First up we have a pair of articles from Universe Today discussing different aspects of Mars. One looks at the people daring to take a one way trip, the other looks at the evidence regarding a specific meteor impact.

Who Wants A One-Way Trip To Mars? Meet Three People Applying For Mars One

Experts Question Claim Tunguska Meteorite May Have Come from Mars

Moving on, we have a trifecta of space information provided by The Next Big Future. Two of the articles look at Escape Dynamics and their work. The third article looks at Elon Musk’s dream of getting to Mars.

Details on Escape Dynamics and their microwave power beaming approach to launching spacecraft single stage to orbit.

Escape Dynamics and their presentation at Google Solve for X.

Elon Musk describes his plans for a large Mars colonization rocket in about 2024. “Then we need to develop a much larger vehicle which would be sort of what I call a large colonial transport system. This would really be – we’re talking about rockets on a scale, a bigger scale than has ever been done before, that make the Apollo Moon rocket look small. And they would have to launch very frequently as well.”

There has been a lot of talk about water having once flowed on Mars. Rovers currently on the planet have discovered many places showing that water once flowed. The Meridian Journal looks at the evidence for water flowing on Mars right now.

New evidence for possible flowing water on Mars

Continuing the water theme, has a great article on the tantalizing evidence for water on worlds very far away.

Hubble Space Telescope observations have been used to find water on five different distant exoplanets

Despite the many advances in science and education, it seems some people still have trouble with basic facts. The Space Writer looks at some sobering facts.

TheSpacewriter asks how it is people don’t know Earth orbits the Sun?

The beauty of the night sky can be viewed by practically anyone, anywhere on this wonderful planet of ours. The web site Links Through Space brings a collection stories aout their clubs travels.

Follow our Astronomy club Toutatis in our travels through Cambodia. A series of 6 posts on 6 different topics related to Astronomy. Great posts and great pictures.

The concept of exploration is, as far as we can tell, a uniquely human trait. Kimberly Kowal Arcand of the Chandra X-ray Center brings us a blog entry showcasing student exploration.

The Clearwater Valley High School Library & Grangeville High School Library in Idaho hosted the Here, There & Everywhere exhibit for January 2014. Specifically focusing on how physics relates to our everyday world, the hands-on activities were the biggest hit with students and adults.

We close this week with a look out into deep space. Namely, how do we hope to get there? Photos To Space takes a reader suggestion and looks at the future of deep space transport.

What kind of starships will take us beyond the solar system? We take a look at some of the technology beinf developed to create engines that will drive future spacecraft.

The Carnival of Space is brought to you by a dedicated group of space enthusiasts. Check out previous issues and visit the host sites regularly. There is a lot going on in the Universe. The Carnival is a good way to keep up.

Until next time…


To the Moon, Alice!

A Les Bossinas concept impression of a wormhole

A Les Bossinas concept impression of a wormhole

It’s mesmerizing, isn’t it?

The rocket standing there on the pad, a great number of eyes watching it in anticipation. The occasional glances at the sky to make sure the weather cooperates. The sound of the Flight Director’s voice as he or she counts down to the moment the engines fire and the craft begins to ascend.

Ironically, this also is a reminder of our greatest limitation pertaining to space travel. Current rocket engines just won’t do for long-distance exploration.

Now, as you know, Photos to Space recently extended an open invitation to all of our readers to suggest ideas for blog topics, and our first suggestion comes to us from Timothy York, who wants to know about ideas for overcoming this snag.

So what are some of the methods on the drawing board to take us into deep space?

The Diametric Drive: Negative Mass particles would be used to create higher gravity in front of a spacecraft than exists behind it, causing the craft to move towards the area of higher gravity.

Pitch Drive & Bias Drive: Similar to the Diametric Drive, though the gravitational displacement would be generated from fixed points rather than aboard the craft itself.

Alcubierre Drive: Not unlike the Warp Drive presented on ‘Star Trek’, Alcubierre Drives use Negative Mass to “contract” space in front of a spacecraft and “expand” space behind it, propelling the craft forward at what would appear to be faster-than-light travel.

Differential Sail: Similar to the sail on a seagoing vessel, the Differential Sail would use manipulated changes in vacuum pressure to drive a spacecraft.

Wormholes: Though hypothetical (for now), a wormhole is a sort of secret passage through space and time that would allow great distances to be covered with relatively little motion.

Woodward Effect: Postulated by James Woodward, this theorizes that changes in the mass of particles in a closed loop can be utilized to serve as a sort of never-ending fuel supply.

Reactionless Drives: An entirely theoretical means of propulsion that would allow for thrust with no energetic reaction, but would violate known laws of physics.

EmDrive: Another theoretical system that uses electricity to generate directed microwaves from a magnetron to induce thrust.

Photon rocket: In a twist on a standard rocket, the fuel is converted into a directed stream of photons to propel a craft.

There are other drive systems being proposed and modeled, of course.

While they all have the potential to be the means for us to get to other planets in our own solar system, and maybe even end up being the method by which we get to other stars, in reality only one of them needs to work for us to venture past our little corner of the neighborhood.

So how did the scientists who propose these systems get these ideas?

The same way you could.



Brace for impact…eventually.

Andromeda_Collides_Milky_WayIt’s very easy to forget that there is no such thing as “standing still”. Sure, we can choose not to go anywhere at any given moment, but that lack of motion is relative only to the patch of ground we may be standing on. Though we may not be actively moving, the Earth is spinning at about 1,000 mph.

Also, as we know, the Earth isn’t standing still, it’s orbiting the Sun at just over 67,000 mph.

You may have heard the expression that “we may never pass this way again”. It’s true.

Everything in the Universe is moving in some way or another, and even whole galaxies are in constant motion. And even though the Universe is mostly empty space, collisions can and do happen.

In fact, we’re headed for a rather large collision right now.

Ok, so maybe it won’t be a collision so much as a dramatic and somewhat catastrophic merger, but the Milky Way galaxy and Andromeda, the nearest spiral galaxy, are going to become one – about 4 billion years from now.

When the time comes, it’s unlikely any stars from our galaxy will impact any Andromedan stars just based on the distances between them, which is why they’ll most likely just come together to form one large elliptical galaxy. Scientists even believe that a 3rd galaxy, M33, may even begin to orbit the resulting galaxy, though it’s possible that it also will be absorbed, meaning that the 3 largest galaxies in our Local Group would become one.

So what will happen to our solar system when the time comes?

It appears most likely that the Sun and its planets will end up in a higher orbit of the new galactic core than it has now, but there’s also a chance that our solar system could be ejected altogether and begin to drift away on its own.

However, there’s no reason for us to be concerned.

The merger will take place so far in the future that humans as we are now won’t exist – we will either have evolved into something completely unknown, we will have moved beyond the Earth, or we will have long since become extinct.

That may sound bleak, but keep in mind that the Universe is constantly changing. Maybe not very quickly, but nothing stays the same forever.

For now, though, all we have is educated speculation.

What do you think will be the end result?



“I could have been a big star!”

800px-Sun_and_VY_Canis_Majoris_svgNot to state the obvious, but Sol isn’t the only star out there. However, it is the one we’re most familiar with, which makes sense, given how completely we depend on it. And it doesn’t matter where on the planet you are, it’s true for all humans, despite how different most people are from one another.

Stars can make the same claim. There’s a vast difference between them, and while they have some common traits, no two are completely identical.

In fact, some stars couldn’t be any more different from our Sun.

For example, VY Canis Majoris, which is about 3,900 light years from Earth, and is the largest known star to date.

We know that about 1.3 million planets the size of Earth would fit inside our Sun. Well, about 6.8 billion Suns would fit inside VY Canis Majoris. If VY Canis Majoris was to take the place of our Sun, it would envelope all the planets out to, and including, Saturn.

Put another way, VY Canis Majoris has a radius that’s about 1,800 larger than Sol’s.

It’s also unusual in that it’s atypically bright for a star that large.

But it’s in that way that it fits right in with the rest of the Universe. If there’s one thing nature does well, it’s present us with the strange and exotic.

Maybe stars like VY Canis Major are the embodiment of the dreams of the cosmos.

Let that inspire you as well.



First contact

YSAWhen I came to work for Photos to Space, a little over a year ago, I honestly had no idea what I would be doing. I knew that Joe was already involved in it, and what the purpose of PtS is, but I didn’t know how I would fit in, or what I could offer.

At first, it was mostly research, gathering data, and doing some light proofreading. After a few weeks, though, he asked if I wanted to give some writing a try, to which I agreed, despite not knowing how well it would turn out.

It met with enough approval that we decided to start writing a book which eventually became ‘Out There’, which became available for sale back in August.

We wrote ‘Out There’ mostly with kids in mind, though we wanted it to appeal to all ages.

It didn’t occur to me that it would lead to any public speaking, but it did.

Last Friday (January 10th), I had the chance to speak to some youngsters at a private school in Colorado Springs. I had some time to prepare in advance, so Joe saw to it that I had a good supply of stickers and posters to give away, and had a few copies of ‘Out There’ to hand out as well.

I made sure that I had an outline of topics to go over, but once the talk began, the kids were so sharp that it soon turn very free-form, and the guide was mostly set aside. It became easiest just to listen to them and respond, letting them run the show. After all, this was about inspiring them, not just rambling at them.

Besides, I’ve always been far more inclined to listen than talk anyway.

In the end, it was a great way to spend an afternoon. Naturally, some of the children were more interested in space than others, but everyone, including me, got something out of the experience.

Needless to say, there’s a good chance it won’t be the last time.

So what is it I really hope the kids got from it and will get in the talks to come?

A dream.


Carnival of Space Number 336

This week’s Carnival of Space is an abundant source of space goodness this week with no less than 18 great articles! There is so much to read about. Let’s get to it.

First up is a Spanish story about a soon to be supernova found by Hubble.

Using the Hubble Space Telescope, it has been discovered a star that will be a supernova in the future. It name is SBW1. The article speaks about it and the supernovae. The article is written in spanish.

The Google translation can be found here:

A little closer to Earth is a nice article about comet Siding Spring:

Astroswanny checks in on the progress of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring, and finds it sporting a nice little tail at Mag 14-15. Comet Siding Spring was the first comet discovered in 2013. The first Asteroid discovered in 2014 also made the headlines.

A pair of articles from Universe Today have a diverse set of offerings. One post covers an unusual stellar group while the second looks at NASA’s ISS extension.

If you’re looking for something truly unique, then check out the cosmic menage aux trois ferreted out by a team of international astronomers using the Green Bank Telescope (GBT). This unusual group located in the constellation of Taurus includes a pulsar which is orbited by a pair of white dwarf stars. It’s the first time researchers have identified a triple star system containing a pulsar and the team has already employed the clock-like precision of the pulsar’s beat to observe the effects of gravitational interactions.

NASA announced today that the Obama administration has approved NASA’s request for an extension of operations for the International Space Station for an additional four years to 2024. This means work on board the orbiting laboratory will continue at least for another decade.

Next Big Future provides the cosmic (comic) relief this week with a great article about some political encounters. It all sounds completely alien to me.

On a more serious note, NBF completes a quintet of articles covering advancements from Orbital, Golden Spike and SpaceX.

There has not been enough comedic material coming from the Crack Smoking mayor of Toronto Rob Ford in the last few days. So former Canadian politician Paul Hellyer is picking up the slack. It is also still being broadcast from Toronto. Former Canadian Defence minister Paul Hellyer went on television and declared that not only do aliens exist but that they walk amongst us and are responsible for some of our modern technology. Among these tech gifts are the microchip, LED light and Kevlar vest.

Hellyer, who served as Canada’s Minister of National Defence in the 1960s, went on Russia Today’s program SophieCo to speak more about extraterrestrials.

Hellyer’s claim that we don’t have more alien technology because we treat each other poorly. Hellyer claims that there are about 80 alien species with representatives on Earth.

Orbital Sciences successfully launched a resupply mission to the space station on Jan 9.

Golden spike is working on robotic lunar rovers

SpaceX had its second successful commercial launch in 35 days

Golden spike has details mission plans and cost estimates for returning to the moon using existing technology for about $6.4 billinon to replicate the Apollo 11 mission and $1.5 billion for the equivalent of each of the Apollo 12, 14, 15, 16, 17 missions.

And the specials at the Carnival just keep coming. This article details the power of black holes. Get it while it’s hot!

2-for-1 blog special! Peter Maksym and Davide Donato talk about evidence for a black hole ripping a star apart in a dwarf galaxy.

This next article covers a bit of innerspace and how we humans see patterns.

The phenomenon where our brains find seemingly significant patterns in images or sounds.

Could there be more than one Earth in the cosmos? Scientists may be closer to finding out.

‘Super-Earth’ exoplanets may be more Earth-like than previously thought

As we draw near to the close of the Carnival, Urban Astronomer has a pair of great articles for us.

The Dark Enrgy Survey, a project to map out the universe’s ancient structure in unprecedented detail to provide clues to the nature of Dark Energy, was recently launched.

Astronomers recently discovered another mystery: why do bipolar planetary nebula within the Milky Way’s galactic bulge tend to align along the same axis?

After a bit of a dry spell, sunspots are back in the news. This article take a close look at the latest one.

Sunspot AR 1944 is the largest sunspot to grace the face of the Sun for some time, it was visible without telescopic magnification. This post presents a portrait of the changing face of AR 1944 using simple amateur equipment.

Finally we have a pair of articles from our very own Steve Shurtleff at Photos To Space.

What does the consumer side of space look like once we have established a commercial presence in space?

We take a look back at the year 2013 for Photos To Space and what that means for the future.

That’s it for the Carnival this week. We hope you enjoy the variety of reading materials from around the globe. Remember the Carnival of Space runs weekly. Tune in next week for another dose of Space based goodness.

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