For those of you who have participated in this weekly cosmic party, you know the drill, but if you’re a newcomer, prepare yourself for an experience beyond measure.
In a nutshell, Fraser Cain (founder, publisher and lord of the Universe Today) organizes the best and brightest of the space blogosphere to send in their favorite space blog post of the week. He then forwards all the entries to a new “host” each week. (If you run a space blog and want to get involved, have a read of this guide at the Universe Today.)
I’ve had the honor of hosting this little astro-shindig a few times over the years on Discovery News and my “other” blog, Astroengine.com. It’s always awesome, but also a little frightening as you realize everyone is blogging more than you are.
To mix it up a bit, I wanted to be clever and do a “theme” post this week, possibly based on the Oscars, but that wasn’t very original; my pal Ethan Siegel did that in 2008. But who said I had to be original? Besides, this is probably the first year that I actually sat down and watched all the Oscars without falling asleep, so I’m going to blatantly copy Ethan’s idea.
So here it is, the 144th Carnival of Space, Academy Award Style! (Without a single mention of Avatar. Sorry Cameron.)
In no particular order:
This honor goes to NGC 1068, a spiral galaxy 50 million light-years from Earth. The magnificent display of searing hot plasma being blasted out of the galactic nucleus at a speed of a million miles per hour is a sight to behold. The energetic performance of NGC 1068′s supermassive black hole will probably aid the evolution of this enigmatic galaxy’s future successes.
A century of photographic plates have been digitized by astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. This is an amazing feat considering there are half a million plates to process — certainly a job for a lowly understudy. But in doing so, the Harvard team have proven they are in class of their own by discovering an entirely new class of variable star.
Although the Bad Astronomer wants to abseil into this pitch black abyss, he’d better look out for those pesky mynocks that probably lie in wait in this epic horror set. This view of a “skylight” in the roof of a lava tube on the moon would make for a great location for a sci-fi horror flick.
It’s hard not to be inspired by the performance of ESO 306-17. This galaxy is fuzzy, beautiful, yet deadly. In this stunning (zoomable) portrait of the galactic cannibal, you can’t help but be moved by the terror it is inflicting on its unsuspecting neighbors, luring them in and gruesomely eating them whole. This is easily the best performance since Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs.
As we celebrate the exploration of the cosmos, it’s time to take a moment to remember one of the most celebrated space artists of our time:
Not satisfied with our own universe, a Berkeley physicist is contemplating the storyline of what could be the most epic movie ever. However, I doubt even Spielberg would want to take on the extra dimensions that could construct 10500 (that’s a one with 500 zeros after it) possible universes.
Volcanoes! And what makes volcanoes stand out from the crowd is that they don’t even need molten rock! If there’s some kind of pressure lurking underground, the volcano will “effuse” or “explode” with vigor. They are the epitome of planetary drama (and the centerpiece for so many disaster movies).
What do you get when you have a hi-tech robot the size of a small car and you try to land it on a planet millions of miles away? A rover called Curiosity touting a rock-burning laser of course! Hopefully, the rover formerly known as “MSL” will make its debut mission in 2012 to dominate the Red Planet (due to budget problems, this adventure has already been set back a few years). As Steve Nerlich says in his podcast: “And look Spirit and Opportunity are OK… but a giant rover that can fire laser beams? This is where the future of humanity should be heading. Let’s just do it people!”
Astronomers know it’s out there… or do they? Dark matter is one of those cosmic mysteries that keep on cropping up whenever there’s a galactic spin to explain or non-baryonic matter to find. There are also lots of fun acronyms to play with, sounding like the latest animated Pixar movie (WIMP, MACHO and MOND could make for some fun alien characters).
Want to measure the mass of a planet in grams? Go right ahead and use hellagrams! If there was ever a hellawesome unit of measurement, this would be it.
This award will eventually go to the moon base that survives the longest. Although the moon wont erode your solar panels with wind or rain, it’s the radiation and micrometeorites you’ll want to look out for. I wonder if Sam Rockwell noticed any extra wear on his visor?
Whether this award can be presented or not will depend on what happens in the next 5 years. Are we fast approaching the most transformative period of the century? Come back in 2015 to find out.
Has Jupiter’s moon Io been fooling us with all this “volcanic activity”? There could be a gassy plot twist in store for future Io explorers when they find out that all those emissions are in fact originating from subliming sulfur dioxide frost.
Prometheus and the Black Hole could be the title of an upcoming movie if this theory stands the test of time. One of Saturn’s moons, Prometheus, orbits the ringed gas giant within the Roche Limit, so the moon should be ripped to shreds. But it’s there, happy being an elongated potato-shaped moon. Is there a black hole inside, holding the thing together? I’m not quite sure how this plot will unravel…
I mean, who wouldn’t want to see Tumbleweed Rovers bounce around the Martian surface? Let’s just hope they don’t end up getting wrapped around the fenders of future Mars rovers.
As Alice In Wonderland is opening this week, it seems only appropriate that Alice’s AstroInfo should conclude with a few notes about what’s going on above our heads over the coming weeks (remember to say “hi” to M31, she’s an aging cluster, but she still has her sparkle).
Like with any good award show, there has to be a hellawesome (yes, I’m a nerd) afterparty! In this case, the party has some special presentations by the space bloggers who were obviously too busy blogging to make it to the main event.
So, first to take the podium is Nancy Atkinson, the Universe Today’s powerhouse senior editor, who discusses her experiences of getting a behind-the-scenes look at NASA TV. For those of you are too buzzed on free champagne (a.k.a. fizzy wine) and beer to focus on the slideshow, Nancy has an awesome podcast to listen to instead.
Next up is our very own ace space correspondent, Irene Klotz, who has a few sobering words about the future of manned spaceflight. She also points out that President Obama will be paying a visit to Florida to discuss the future of NASA. He is indeed a very, very brave man…
If you haven’t already, catch up with last week’s Carnival of Space hosted by Brian Wang over at Next Big Future.
If you don’t see yourself listed, and you should be, please drop me a comment and I’ll get you online ASAP.