Ultraviolet


Ultraviolet.

 

 

This mosaic of M31 merges 330 individual images taken by the Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope aboard NASA’s Swift spacecraft. It is the highest-resolution image of the galaxy ever recorded in the ultraviolet. Also known as the Andromeda Galaxy, M31 is more than 220,000 light-years across and lies 2.5 million light-years away. On a clear, dark night, the galaxy is faintly visible as a misty patch to the naked eye.

The irregular shape of the image results when the more than 300 images were assembled to make the final image.

NASA and Mary J. Blige partnership


Mary J. Blige is partnering with NASA with the objective to encourage girls and women of all ages to take up careers in science. Cited in a recent article.

NASA released two public service announcements featuring Blige and space shuttle astronaut Leland Melvin this week on NASA TV online. In addition, Blige, who cofounded the Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now in 2008, has made several television appearances in the last week to talk about the program.

The goal of the collaboration is to gather attention for NASA’s Summer of Innovation, a multiweek, intensive STEM program for middle school teachers and students during summer 2010. Coordinators hope the program, which is in support of the US President Barack Obama’s Educate to Innovate Campaign, will counter the “summer slide” (loss of academic skills over the summer) and other issues facing students who are underrepresented, underserved, and underperforming in STEM. SOI programs will take place in several states in the US including Idaho, Massachusetts, New Mexico and Wyoming, and students will learn about and develop projects involving wind turbines, weather stations, engineering in suborbital space, robotics, astrophysics, and space exploration. This, oneday should be made a global initiative!

The are a few things parents, teachers and society can do to encourage girls to pursue an interest in science.

Expose them to female role models. Find other women in science who can tell  them, what they did in science when they were young girls.

Use role models who can demonstrate that you can be attractive, wear nice clothes, have children, and get married–all while being successful in science. “That may sound a little bit sexist, but it turns out this is what little girls think about early on, and even the young girls you meet today in schools across the world [think you can’t be involved in science and still be feminine],” Quote “If you can expose them to role models who have these characteristics, it is positive reinforcement for them.”

Relate science to activities that girls, in particular, will understand. Tell and teach them about the chemistry involved in cosmetology or the scientific processes involved in cooking. There is an entire discipline of science devoted to food science. Show them that bread is made from yeast rising, that pickles are made as a result of the fermentation process, and explain to them the role of microorganisms in yogurt and cheeses. “Explain science so that children can see how it is used in their everyday experiences. Then it will help them to be more engaged and empower them.”

Build their math skills early. “Make sure they have a good foundation in math because math is fundamental to science,” If they have a good background in math, science will come easy.”

Space tourism could have big impact on climate


Space tourism could have big impact on climate

Space tourism could have major consequences for Earth’s climate. New computer simulations suggest soot emitted by the rockets could raise temperatures at the poles, significantly reducing seasonal ice cover there.

In the next few years, space tourism companies hope to start routinely flying passengers on suborbital space flights. Now, Martin Ross of the Aerospace Corporation in Los Angeles, California, and colleagues have performed the first detailed simulations of the flights’ effects on Earth’s climate.

They assumed a flight rate of 1000 suborbital trips per year, the number put forward in business plans for suborbital space tourism in 2020, and estimated the emissions from a rubber-burning engine like that planned for Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.

The researchers found that the effect of soot, which is incompletely burned fuel, would dwarf that of the carbon dioxide emissions from the launches. Soot readily absorbs sunlight, warming the atmosphere where it is abundant.

Above the weather

The 1000 annual launches would belch out about 600 tonnes of soot, or black carbon – less than today’s output from airplanes and other sources. But plane soot occurs at low enough altitudes for rain to wash it out of the atmosphere in just days or weeks. Rockets expel the stuff at altitudes three times as high – in the stratosphere more than 40 kilometres above sea level. There, well above the weather, it can remain for up to 10 years.

To study the effects of black carbon emissions, Ross’s team used a 3D simulation of Earth’s climate. They assumed that all the black carbon is emitted over Spaceport AmericaMovie Camera, a space tourism hub being constructed in New Mexico, US.

The researchers found that the black carbon caused temperatures to rise at the north and south poles. The increase was about 0.2 °C for most of the year, but peaked at around 1 °C during each hemisphere’s winter. The extra warmth caused sea ice at each pole to melt, especially in Antarctica, where the area covered by ice shrank by as much as 18 per cent in the summer.

Ozone connection

Team member Michael Mills of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, says the team is still trying to understand exactly why the black carbon emissions would cause warming at the poles.

But the soot should warm air in the stratosphere, and this could strengthen currents there that carry air from the equator to the poles.

That would reduce the amount of ozone over the tropics and increase it over the poles – an effect seen in the simulation. That increase in polar ozone might be responsible for the polar warming, Mills says, pointing out that the converse has been observed on Earth – polar cooling is associated with decreases in ozone over Antarctica. The connection is probably due to the way ozone interacts with radiation, he adds, though researchers are still trying to understand the exact mechanism.

“It’s not a pretty picture for the Arctic or Antarctic,” says Charles Zender of the University of California, Irvine, who says the new study was “very carefully done”.

Educated guess

Mills admits there is still uncertainty about the study’s findings. He notes in particular that the team lacked data on how much black carbon would be emitted per flight by space tourism vehicles. The team assumed that Virgin Galactic’s rubber-burning engine would emit 60 grams of black carbon per kilogram of fuel burned.

However, the team did not have access to measurements of black carbon emissions from Virgin Galactic’s engines, or those of other space tourism companies, which plan to burn other types of fuel, such as kerosene.

Kerosene-burning rocket engines not associated with space tourism emit 20 to 40 grams of black carbon per kilogram. Rubber is expected to burn less cleanly, but it is not clear by how much – the 60 grams is just an educated guess.

Jeff Greason, CEO of XCOR Aerospace, based in Mojave, California, which is developing a suborbital tourism vehicle called the Lynx, says his company’s engines emit far less unburned carbon than previous rockets, like those used to launch the Apollo moon missions. “We burn the fuel with very high efficiency in the chamber,” he says.