March 20, 2014

How the Biggest Scientific Discovery of the Year Was Kept a Secret (Source: WIRED)
Great surprises in science don’t just happen–they’re engineered. When researchers announced earlier this week that they might have made what is essentially the scientific breakthrough of the year–echoes from the earliest fraction of a second after the Big Bang known as primordial B-mode polarizations–it seemed to come out of left field.

Similarly large announcements, like the discovery of the Higgs boson, generally have followed months of speculation, rumors, and even leaks. It’s standard practice for researchers to keep tight-lipped about their results. No one wants to cavalierly mention half-finished data to a colleague and give them the wrong impression or worse, tip off a rival project.

Yet scientists are human, and humans love to gossip. In this world of science blogs and Twitter, the BICEP2 collaboration maintaining secrecy so well is almost unheard of. The researchers didn’t use some sort of unhackable connection and they didn’t pass notes written in indecipherable code. They had to rely on each other to keep quiet until they could casually drop a major discovery on the world. Click here. (3/20)

Could Alien Life Cope with a Hotter, Brighter Star? (Source: Astrobiology)
The stars in the night sky shine in myriad hues and brightnesses—piercing blues, clean whites, smoldering crimsons. Every star has a different mass, the basic characteristic that determines its size, lifespan, light output and temperature (which we discern as a particular color).

Yet when it comes to the existence of life, we know with certainty of only a single star—a toasty, yellow-whitish one, our Sun—that has permitted the rise of life on an encircling world. Astrobiologists are quite convinced, though, that life can also develop on planets orbiting smaller, cooler stars.

But what about stars with light more intense than our Sun's? A new paper, accepted for publication in the International Journal of Astrobiology in May, examines some of the fundamentals for life arising around a class of slightly heftier, hotter stars known as F-type main-sequence stars. Click here. (3/20)

Scientists Home In On Earth-Sized Exoplanet (Source: Discovery)
Scientists are close to announcing the first Earth-sized planet in a habitable zone around its parent star. Astronomer Thomas Barclay, with NASA’s Ames Research Center in California, culled data collected by the Kepler space telescope to ferret out a five-planet system, the outermost of which circles toward the outer edge of its star’s habitable zone, according to astronomers.

The outermost planet has a radius that is estimated to be 1.1 times as big as Earth’s, Nick Ballering, an astronomy graduate student at the University of Arizona, and scientist Jessie Christiansen, with the Ames Research Center, wrote in separate posts on Twitter. The host star was not named, but was identified as an M1 dwarf, which is a small star that is dimmer than the sun. These types of stars, also known as “red dwarfs” comprise about 70 percent of the stars in the Milky Way galaxy. (3/20)

Hawking: Human Moon Colonies in 50 Years (Source: KTRH)
One theoretical physicist says humans will be living on the Moon in 50 years. Cosmologist Stephen Hawking spoke during a conference with astronauts on the Space Station. Hawking says history will remember this century as the age of space exploration. Gene Cernan who is the last human to walk on the Moon says if the U.S. waits another 50-years to put people on the Moon we will be leading from the back of the pack, "God I hope it's before 50 years, it depends on how you define living. I lived on the Moon for 75 hours, it was my home." (3/18)

Pharmaceutical Companies Do Protein Crystal Growth Experiment on Kibo (Source: JAXA)
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will begin the first experiment of the second series for the High-Quality Protein Crystal Growth Experiment using the environment on the Japanese Experiment Module "Kibo" of the International Space Station. Chugai Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. and Interprotein Corporation will participate in the experiment. 18 academic organizations including universities will also join the experiment. (3/20)

Lucky Escape! Fierce, Debilitating Solar Blast Missed Earth by Just NINE Days (Source: Daily Mail)
As the world was going about its business in July 2012, a solar storm of epic proportions was speeding through Earth's orbit. Researchers in California and China said a rapid succession of coronal mass ejections - intense eruptions on the Sun - that took place between 22 and 23 July caused a pulse of magnetized plasma to hurtle towards the planet.

A study has now revealed that if these eruptions had taken place just nine days earlier, this solar blast would have smashed into Earth, potentially wiping out power supplies, phone signals and satellite communication. The researchers added Earth would have been 'enveloped in magnetic fireworks matching the largest magnetic storm ever reported on Earth, the so-called Carrington event of 1859.' (3/20)

How America Can Lead the World Back (Source: FOX News)
The U.S. should strategically position itself to own the transportation system that takes humans back to the moon. He who owns this segment has the most leverage for how a lunar base is built ... and how it is used. The fact that we cannot currently launch our own astronauts to the ISS should be fact enough to make this case -- and current events in the Ukraine only amplify this concern.

A system comprising NASA's Orion capsule, SpaceX heavy lift rockets and a special third stage are the planet's best bet for getting back to the moon -- and it's a U.S. system through and through... The biggest obstacle to returning to the moon is we the people and our government. Congress and the administration worry annually about the cost of a lunar program and agency. They like to have consistent year-over-year funding with small, predictable increases for inflation.

But life doesn’t work that way. With a new project, costs start off slowly and ramp up to a peak year before trailing off at the end of design. The government must be willing to ramp up funding in the peak design years or risk carrying a standing army of design engineers in the early years. Click here. (3/20)

Exoplanet Paper Wins National Academy of Sciences Prize (Source: University of Hawaii)
A paper co-authored by University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa astronomer Andrew Howard and visiting graduate student Erik Petigura has won the Cozzarelli Prize from the National Academy of Sciences. Their paper titled The prevalence of Earth-size planets orbiting Sun-like stars was judged the top physical and mathematical sciences paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2013. (3/19)

Spring Space Sales: Space History Artifacts for Auction (Source: Collect Space)
You never know where you're going to find space history for sale. From a Madison Ave. gallery to the U.S. Marshals Office, artifacts and memorabilia from some of the most historic space missions are now, or soon hitting the auction block. And that's just the start of the "spring space sale season," which also includes a chance to bid for an astronaut's time in support of student scholarships. Click here. (3/19)

Watch This Space (in Australia) for More Milestones, Says NASA Chief (Source: Canberra Times)
Canberra's Deep Space Communication Complex has followed Neil Armstrong's first walk on the moon, the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars and Voyager's transition into interstellar space - and this year will celebrate its 50th year in operation. To mark the anniversary, the head of NASA and former astronaut Charles Bolden visited the complex on Wednesday, and outlined the space agency's plans to put humans on Mars by the 2030s.

The DSCC at Tidbinbilla, operated by CSIRO on behalf of NASA, is one of three deep-space network stations in the world, and the only one in the southern hemisphere, with Mr Bolden highlighting the communications role it will play in the coming years, including with any human mission to Mars. (3/19)

Thinkfactory Media Shopping Mars Exploration Reality Series (Source: Deadline Hollywood)
There is a second reality series project devoted to chronicling a mission to the Red Planet. Leslie Greif’s Thinkfactory Media has partnered with The Mars Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to the exploration and settlement of the Red Planet, on an unscripted TV project that would document Mars Society’s year-long Mars simulation in the Canadian Arctic.

Thinkfactory had been working with the Mars Society on the project for the past four months. It took the series out to networks last week, with two outlets interested and currently in discussion with the production company. Tentatively titled Mission To Mars, the series is one of two Mars colonization reality projects in the marketplace, along with Lionsgate TV’s untitled series done in collaboration with Lansdorp’s Mars One, the international Mars mission backed by Dutch billionaire entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp. (3/19)

New York to Host NASA Space Apps Challenge (Source: NY Business Journal)
New York City has been designated the "global main stage" for the third annual Space Apps Challenge, a two-day, space travel and exploration innovation challenge sponsored by an arm of NASA. The Space Apps Challenge made the announcement on  its website Tuesday evening. The event will be held April 12-13 at AlleyNYC in Manhattan. (3/19)

Proposed SEC Rules Would Boost Space Crowdfunding (Source: Space News)
New U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules expected to be published this spring that would allow startups to raise as much as $1 million a year by sharing equity with hundreds or thousands of individual investors could bolster space-related startups, but will not prevent companies with more ambitious goals from seeking traditional sources of financing, industry officials said.

“Space in general has a very strong public appeal,” said Joe Landon, managing director of the Space Angels Network, a group that seeks financing for fledgling aerospace and aviation firms. “The space industry is poised to take disproportionate advantage of equity crowdfunding versus other industries.” Click here. (3/19)

One-Time Congressional Skeptic Embraces Asteroid Redirect Mission (Source: Space News)
The ranking Democrat on the House Science space subcommittee said March 18 she is having a change of heart in favor of NASA’s proposal to send astronauts to a small asteroid by 2025. “It’s no great secret that I haven’t been the biggest fan of the whole idea,” Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) said in a speech to NASA employees and contractors here at a Maryland Business Roundtable luncheon.

But recently, Edwards saw NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on television describing the asteroid mission to a group of students. The account Bolden gave was “riveting,” Edwards said. By the end of it, the three-term lawmaker said, she was “onboard” with NASA’s plans. “So I very quickly sent [Bolden] a text message,” Edwards said. “I said ‘Charlie, I was totally mesmerized by your description of the asteroid retrieval mission and how that could fit in some of the other things that we’re doing.’” (3/19)

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