September 20, 2015

Mexico’s Space Mountain (Source: Physics World)
As you drive through the sleepy countryside of the Pico de Orizaba national park, passing by farmland and herds of sheep, it is not obvious that you are nearing what is arguably Mexico’s premier scientific site. The extinct Sierra Negra volcano in the state of Puebla is home to two world-class astronomy facilities, both bi-national projects run jointly by Mexico and the US.

At its peak, some 4600 m above sea-level, sits the Large Millimeter Telescope (LMT), which sweeps its gaze across some of the coldest regions in the universe. Nestled 500 m below is a spooky-looking array of 300 giant barrels of water that constitute the High-Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) gamma-ray observatory. (9/18)

The Final [Evangelical] Frontier (Source: PE News)
Bill Galus, pastor of the church in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh, considered fundraising options such as walkathons and lock-ins. "Let's do something that's really out there," Galus told the church board and youth pastor. You might say even say Interstellar: He's become a pastornaut.

After preaching his Sunday Sept. 13 sermon, Galus entered the mock capsule parked on the church grounds where he's living for seven days, eating freeze-dried meals like astronauts do. He'll end his stay on Sept. 20, just before the Sunday service. (9/18)

Experts Urge New Messages From Earth to Aliens Which Focus More on Diversity (Source: Good)
For nearly as long as humans have looked up to the skies, there have been those who wondered whether there were, perhaps, others beings out there doing the exact same thing back at us. The idea that we might someday make contact with a race of extraterrestrials is one which has captivated the minds of scientists, astronauts, authors, and ordinary people, alike.

And so, coinciding with the advent of high powered radio telescopes and unmanned deep space probes, efforts were made to share a bit of who we are as a species, by beaming and blasting messages about the human race into unknown regions of the cosmos, on the off-chance that someone out there was listening. Many of those, like the Arecibo message, or the Pioneer 10 plaque are likely familiar in image, if not in name.

Now, decades after those messages were first shot toward listeners unknown, a team of scientists have begun calling for a new round of intergalactic communications, still designed to introduce our species to any open-eared aliens out there, but which also more accurately represent the diversity and equality of the human race. (9/18)

Australian Student's “New Kind of Ion Space Drive” Outperforms NASA’s (Source: Futurology)
An Australian university student has reportedly developed a new kind of ion space drive that absolutely obliterates NASA's current fuel efficiency record.Ion drives are propulsion systems that basically work by throwing particles backwards really, really fast in order to propel a spacecraft forward.

NASA's current record holder for fuel efficiency is its High Power Electric Propulsion, or HiPEP, system, which allows 9,600 (+/- 200) seconds of specific impulse, which is pretty impressive. But the new drive developed by University of Sydney PhD student Paddy Neumann has achieved up to 14,690 (+/- 2,000), according to a Australian student newspaper Honi Soit. (9/19)

Challenger Learning Center opens in Las Cruces (Source: KFOX)
Starting Friday, sixth-graders at Las Cruces Public Schools will be traveling to infinity and beyond thanks to a new learning center. The Challenger Learning Center is a high-tech teaching tool that allows students to simulate missions into space. LCPS used money generated from the Spaceport tax earmarked for education to build the new center, which is the only one of its kind in New Mexico and one of 46 in the world.

“The Las Cruces Challenger Learning Center presents tremendous opportunities for STEM education in New Mexico,” said Christine Anderson, CEO of Spaceport America Spaceport America. "Spaceport America and our STEM team look forward to supporting this exciting new program.” (9/18)

Cafe Worker at NASA Glenn Does Not Have Legionnaire's Disease (Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer)
Further testing of a cafe worker at NASA Glenn Research Center shows he does not have Legionnaire's disease, according to Glenn officials and the worker's employer. The unidentified man who is employed by Sprout Cafe at NASA Glenn initially was diagnosed with Legionnaire's but follow-up testing proved negative, said Sprout co-owner Michael Smith and Lori Rachul, Glenn's news chief. (9/18)

What Does Space Taste Like and Why Does It Matter? (Source: Eater)
The thing that grounds space for me, and for many others, is that thing that unites us all: food. Everybody eats. Everybody experiences food. Nobody (well, basically nobody) experiences space. So we obsess over food as it relates to the final frontier. What do astronauts eat when they’re floating hundreds of miles above the Earth’s surface? A lot of dehydrated and thermostabilized items, but also shelf-stable products you can buy at the grocery store.

Does food taste the same in space? Not totally, but that’s because your sinuses get all screwed up in zero gravity. What does space taste like? In 2009, astronomers were able to identify a chemical called ethyl formate in a big dust cloud at the center of the Milky Way. Ethyl formate happens to be responsible for the flavor of raspberries (it also smells like rum). Space tastes like raspberries! What a downright delightful thing for space to taste like. It’s a reminder that even in deep space, there’s some small, delicious semblance of life as we know it. (9/17)

New Director Appointed to Vatican Observatory (Source: ICN)
Pope Francis on Friday named Brother Guy Joseph Consolmagno, SJ as the new director of the Vatican Observatory. Jesuit Br Consolmagno is the current President of the Vatican Observatory Foundation, as well as curator of the Vatican meteorite collection in Castel Gandolfo, one of the largest in the world. His research explores the connections between meteorites and asteroids, and the origin and evolution of small bodies in the solar system.

Br Guy Consolmagno SJ was born in 1952 in Detroit, Michigan. He obtained his Bachelor of Science in 1974 and Master of Science in 1975 in Earth and Planetary Sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his PhD in Planetary Science from the University of Arizona in 1978. From 1978-80 he was a postdoctoral fellow and lecturer at the Harvard College Observatory, and from 1980-1983 continued as postdoc and lecturer at MIT. (9/18)

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