Why many surveys of distant galaxies miss 90 percent of their targets

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(PhysOrg.com) — Astronomers have long known that in many surveys of the very distant Universe, a large fraction of the total intrinsic light was not being observed. Now, thanks to an extremely deep survey using two of the four giant 8.2-metre telescopes that make up ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) and a unique custom-built filter, astronomers have determined that a large fraction of galaxies whose light took 10 billion years to reach us have gone undiscovered. The survey also helped uncover some of the faintest galaxies ever found at this early stage of the Universe.

Full story here.

Though, I do have my own theory as to where they looked…


There it is! And it has my other sock!


The Scale of the Universe

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This is a very clever little bit of flash put together by someone whom I have no idea who they are.   All I know is that the site was blocked at work.  I went in and nabbed the SWF file and I’m going to place it on my blog.  You still have to endure the Newgrounds logo to see the animation.

[swfobj src=”http://www.ilovebeinghuman.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/525347_scale_of_universe_ng.swf” alt=”Scale of the Universe” width=”640″ height=”440″]

Use the keyboard to move left or right for a smoother experience.  The largest things in the Universe are mind boggling.  The really fascinating stuff is all of the tiny things that go into making the world around us.  You can see how small a neutrino is for instance; and why it passes unhindered through just about everything  (including entire planets!).

The music is very pleasant too. 🙂

NASA Gets a Quarter from Every Dollar

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First thing’s first: NASA does NOT get a quarter from every dollar. A quarter would be 25% of the entire Federal Budget.  Math isn’t hard.

That does get attention though doesn’t it?  Seems there is a misconception on how much money NASA actually gets.  I’m sure that if anyone reads this they have the intellect enough to google “NASA federal budget” and find out how much NASA really gets.  The answer just might shock most people.

I’ve known for years how much money NASA gets and it’s paltry.  Bad Astronomy has inspired me to blog about it myself.  Sure he gets more readers but in the name of science, every voice must be heard!  Also, I’m going to mooch some of the content of his blog.  Why invent the wheel twice?

This article talks about the perception of NASA and what it does, among other things.  The stunning part was where respondents were asked how much money NASA got.  24% was the number.  That would be 3% more than Defense.  This was in 2007.

So how much money does NASA get?  In 2007, 0.58% of the Federal Budget.  A little more than half a penny per dollar.  That’s pretty sad, eh?  We’re talking about an organization that put men on the Moon.  They put up a telescope that was a dud and then fixed it: in space.  They’ve done most of the heavy lifting in construction of the International Space Station.  They’ve sent probes all over the Solar System to study the planets.  Two rovers are still on Mars performing science well beyond their planned mission time.

I haven’t even scratched the surface.  That’s the stuff we hear about somewhat regularly but let it go, in passing.

Given that they can do so much with so little, I would be amazed to see what they could do if given a little more.  Keep in mind that at NASA there is still wasteful spending.  It’s a government organization, duh.  Even with that, they’re able to do such amazing things.  Not bad for being so low on the totem pole.

If you ever wonder why we haven’t done more or gone further in space, then wonder no more.  Shun the non-believers, shuuuuuunnnnnnn.

Space: The Final Frontier

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No truer words can ever be spoken.  The depths of the mind are indeed complex but not tangible.  Our oceans floors hold many secrets about life and the history of our planet.  Space is, for all intensive purposes, infinite.  This isn’t technically true, to our knowledge.  We estimate the true size of the Universe to be 93 Billion Light Years.   So vast, in fact, that light from one side will never reach the other.  This is why it is the pinnacle of exploration.

Eventually, one day, our destiny will lie somewhere in space.  Perhaps another planetary body in this solar system or even another star system.  That is, if we don’t blow ourselves up or suffer a cataclysmic set back.

The recent White House budget leaves me both concerned and yet I see an opportunity to be optimistic.  I’ve been reading forums to get people’s takes on this.  Mind you this is coming from people who work in the industry to plain people like myself.  It is inevitable that politics gets head-firsted into the mix.  I made that slang up.  Nice eh?  I guess there is no way around it but the degree of  “This was Bush’s fault!”; “This was Griffin’s fault”; “Obama sux!” is just a little much.

I try my damnedest to take a middle road approach.  I want science.  I want exploration.  I want a manned flight program (also termed HSF for Human Space Flight).  At the moment we have it with Shuttle.  In a few short months, it will be done and gone.  What happens after that?  We’re grounded, at least humans are.

Private companies are really getting into the mix of things which does excite me.  Thing is, they’re a ways off from manned flight.  It will happen, just not quite soon as we’d like.

Constellation is dead.  I’m sad and yet I can understand this move.  Some claim to have had the insight or ESP enough to know it was doomed from day one.  I think having a pessimistic attitude isn’t very healthy.  I don’t work in the industry, I follow it from a few rows back.  I can say that my interest is important, not as a single entity but gathered with the combined interest of persons just like myself.  Lack of public interest will kill a program deader than dead.  Apollo anyone?

So, I thought about the cancellation of that program and realized, ok, maybe this isn’t as bad as it seems.  I’m still icky feeling about not having the ability to put humans up but lets think this out.  The downfall of Constellation was reaching back to the past to sort of re-use older technologies or at least model from them.  What we need are newer technologies that are laced with our learnings of the past.

I think the biggest technological advance we need is in propulsion.  Chemical rockets are dandy at getting heavy vehicles off the ground and into space but once in space you need something else.  Something that’s less cumbersome, less prone to failure and has some oomph!  These technologies should be researched to make Moon and Mars missions faster.  Transit time to Mars is MONTHS.  With new propulsion you could get it down to weeks; or so I’ve heard.

So, new technologies and private companies.  I think I actually like the sound of that.  Will they deliver? The talk is there, the walk is yet to come.

More notes on the budget are promised robotics and planetary missions.  This is very exciting to me.  Rovers are great tools for science!  Just look at Spirit and Opportunity; they vastly outlived their planned mission time.  If we had a mission going up every other month, I’d be stoked.

A final note about canceling the Moon program.  Listen, we’ve been there before.  Yes, actual people walked on the actual Moon.  That program was initially a race; a race we would win.  After that, you had a group of giddy scientists drooling over the prospect of getting some precious samples back.  That came later and Apollo XVII was the final Moon-shot.  We never spent more than a couple of days there.  When we go back, we need to plan on STAYING for a length of time.  Weeks, not days.

China wants to go there.  Let them go, plant their flag and then come back.  It’s a great thing for a country.  I’d applaud them for it.  As the saying goes “been there, done that”.  It’s time we went a step ahead.  That way when countries are landing and planting their flags, we can wave at them from our cozy Moon habitats.  From that point we can build on and then eyeball Mars or even astreriods.

So, finally, it’s bittersweet for me.  I wanted to see Constellation work but ultimately I want to see anything work.  I’ll hold on the promise of some serious R&D and science missions.  I’ll hold on to private companies keeping us in orbit too.  It’s a big time shake up of things.  Perhaps it was needed.

Obama says we need to get young people into science and math.  I couldn’t agree more.  If he truly means this then he needs to deliver on this budget.  NASA has inspired generations of people.  Let’s keep it that way.

If this flops as a dud and our space program is left floundering for years, I’ll be one mad space cadet. >:o

LRO (Lunar Recon Orbiter) Strikes Back!

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Yes, I was too lazy to type reconnaissance, my bad.  And ok, it’s not “striking back” really as much as it is just doing its job.  The point is LRO has been busy! One objective is to thoroughly map the surface of the Moon.  A nifty side item is to photos of certain areas of interest.  What could be more interesting than the old Apollo sites?  Not a whole lot!  This is important to people like myself who try to combat the small, yet persistently stupid, sect of the population who believe man never went there in the first place.

A few months ago some preliminary photos were released of some of the Apollo sites.  I’ll admit, the resolution was small but it was there.  Also, the Sun has a way of either hindering or helping in bringing out certain details.  In an Apollo XII photo you can see the descent stage and the trails made by Al Bean and Pete Conrad.

LRO photo showing in detail the landing site of Apollo XII.

See the little squiggly lines emanating out from the descent stage.  Yes, those are trails from the footprints!

Well, the photos were amazing in their own right but what was more amazing is that the spacecraft was still in it’s elliptical (commissioning) orbit.  It wasn’t until the middle of September that the final orbit of 31 miles altitude was reached.  And so with that, the resolution of the pictures beamed back have increased.

Take a look at this pic below.  It’s from Google Earth/Moon.  It’s about as clear as mud.  You can kind of make out some blobs that are craters and it’s all grey and mushy.  Very uninteresting from a detail point of view.

This is the area where Apollo XVII landed, not much to see here.

Now, here is roughly the same area (ok it’s not spot on but it’s close enough, I was multitasking a few things).  Now, that is some fine detail.  The blobbiness is gone.  The grey mush gives way to a textured surface.  Right there in the middle is the Apollo XVII descent stage.  The resolution on this photos is about twice that of the previous Apollo sites.

Feast upon the fine detail below:

LRO views the landing site of Apollo XVII

This is more important than trying to rub Hoax Believers (or HBs as they’re known) face in it.  It shows that the camera works, and works well.  I do have to admit though that it’s nice to see this stuff and take to a HB and ask them to explain it.  The typical response is that it was doctored.  I digress, for some, there is no changing their minds.

The more important thing is to keep the people that really believe it was faked from poisoning the minds of others who are genuinely just looking for answers to questions.

Ultimately, it shows that as a human race we can continue to do truly inspiring things when we put our minds to it.  There is a lot more to LRO/LCROSS than fancy photos.  To learn more about the mission, you can read up on it here: http://lunar.gsfc.nasa.gov

Hubble Space Telescope – One Last Time

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Monday, May 11, 2009, Space Shuttle Atlantis will embark on a mission to give Hubble one last upgrade and servicing. Missions STS-125 is a veteran crew and a special mission in many ways. If you’ve followed this mission, then you know it’s the first since Columbia was lost (STS-107) that an orbiter will not be going to the ISS. This is special in that if a problem develops on Atlantis, the crew will need to be rescued as the ISS will not be available. Endeavour is on standby as a rescue vehicle, should it be needed. You will never see two space shuttles on the launchpad at the same time, ever again.

Two shuttles

The mission will be intense as the Hubble is old and stubborn. The crew wants no surprises but they train for them. Many eyes will be upon them as they replace cameras, gyros and other various electronics vital to its operation.

It is still hard to believe that it was initially one of NASA’s greatest embarrassments. Now Hubble is synonymous with success and wonder. After an incredibly difficult emergency servicing mission in 1993, the Hubble’s vision was corrected. Our understanding of the Universe from that day forward has never been the same.

A few Hubble facts:

  • Astronomers have used Hubble data to publish more than 7,500 scientific papers, making it one of the most productive scientific instruments ever built. In 2007 scientists published more than 700 journal articles based on Hubble data.
  • Hubble’s 18 years’ worth of observations have produced about 32 terabytes of data, equaling the content of about 9,600 digital feature-length films.
  • Hubble is nearly the size of a large school bus. It is 43.5 ft (13.2 m) in length and weighs 24,500 lb (11,110 kg).
  • In its 18-year lifetime, the telescope has made more than 100,000 trips around our planet. As a result, Hubble has racked up plenty of frequent-flier miles, about 2.5 billion. This distance is equivalent to traveling from Saturn to the Sun and back.
  • In its 18 years of observing the universe, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has made about 870,000 observations resulting in more than 560,000 images of celestial objects.

So I wish the crew of Atlantis Godspeed. Make Hubble able to bring us more breathtaking images and data. After the crew leaves, it’s likely no human hands will ever touch her again. It would be nice though, if one day, she was retrieved.

If I could one day take my grandchildren to a museum and say “that’s the Hubble telescope, your dad was named after Edwin Hubble” now that would be cool.

Atlantis is set to lift off on May 11, 2009 at 2:01pm EDT. For more info on this mission go here

What annoys a web designer: Part XI

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When you tell a client:

“Yes, here’s the rough design.  I still need to make a few changes and some tweaks but this is basically what it will look like”

And the client responds with:

“Yeah, well we need to change this and that and this and oh that too and this isn’t finished and these links don’t work.”

Then I restate myself.

Then they say:


Moral of the story?

If I’m still working on it.  It isn’t done!

What can you do in 10 seconds?

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Some time ago I came across a video that mesmerizes me even now.  I had this thing up on my MySpace page for a long time but I think it deserves a more permanent home here.  I’m going to copy/paste the information from YouTube and not take credit for writing it up at all.  The thing to remember is that all of this happens from T-10 seconds to T-0.  Just 10 seconds. (The sparklers start at T-10 by the way)

Closeup, slow motion of SSME (Space Shuttle Main Engine) startup (no audio).

Several things to note (if you care):

* The “sparks” are igniters meant to burn off excess hydrogen gas during engine start but before mainstage (full power) operation. Without these, a large cloud of explosive hydrogen and air could form under the Shuttle. If it exploded, it could damage the Shuttle structure or knock off tiles. These sparks DO NOT “ignite” the rocket engines. Engine ignition is accomplished by an internal “blowtorch” of fuel and oxidizer in each engine, which is ignited with sparkplugs!

* Notice that the engines start in a sequence which is about 120 milliseconds (a touch more than 1/10 second) apart. They do not start at the exact same time.

* At engine start, the engines are moved (gimballed) away from each other because they jump around during start. If they were too close, they might collide.

* The engine steering hardware is hydraulically “disconnected” from the engines during start so that the engines can bounce around without breaking the “steering linkages”.

* During engine start, before full power is reached, the exhaust (flames) disconnect or separate from the nozzle interior, causing violent thrust vector movements and misalignments. This is what makes the engines jump and wobble during startup.

* After the engines are fully started and running, the hydraulic steering is re enabled and the engines are steered toward proper liftoff angles.

* Once the engines are started, the Space Shuttle tips forward several feet, then springs back. When it is sprung back to true vertical (and if the 3 engines are OK), the two large solid rockets are started, hold down nuts are blown off with explosives and it’s LIFTOFF!

* For comparison, all THREE Space Shuttle Main Engines (not counting the two large, tall tubular solid rockets) generate about as much thrust as only ONE first stage moon rocket engine (the F1) did.

* The propellants for the Space Shuttle Main Engines are all contained in the big central “external tank”. Oxygen on the top 1/4 and hydrogen on the bottom 3/4. The fuel (hydrogen) is so cold it would freeze AIR into a solid “ice” which means fuel lines must be free of all air (they are purged with helium).

God Bless NASA and our Astronauts, for they are doing difficult and potentially dangerous work in order that their research and findings may make all of our lives better through new and improved technology.

Think about that if you feel NASA gets “too much money”.

The budget for NASA is 0.7% of the entire Federal Budget.  That’s 70 cents for every 100 dollars.

Hubble Servicing Mission

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Does anyone remember when Hubble was launched?  Remember how we all waited to see those brilliant images come down?  As they started to beam down to earth we all looked at each other thinking “that’s good, right?”  Those in the know immediately knew it wasn’t right.  Hubble was near-sighted.  The most expensive telescope ever built didn’t work.

Two years later a daring plan was set into motion to fix hubble.  Essentially it would be given glasses and other hardware would be upgraded as well (solar panels, gyros, etc).   Astronauts worked feverishly on Hubble until all the repairs were made.  Would they work?  Could NASA redeem itself?

The answer is a resounding “yes”.  Not only redemption but triumph.  As the new images came in, it was clear the mission was a success and our view on the Universe would never be the same again.  Chances are that you’ve seen a photo taken by Hubble.  To be more clear, if you’ve seen a picture of space in the last 15 years, it’s a good chance Hubble took it.  Sure there are scopes that are larger and gather more light but Hubble has the advantage.  It doesn’t put up with atmosphere.  No rainy days, cloudy days and it’s always night time in space.  Well to a degree it is.

NASA has serviced the Hubble a couple of times since that first servicing.  Upgrades to equipment, new cameras, better cameras and more sensitive instruments to bolster it’s scientific contribution even more.

Later this year NASA will service the Hubble one final time.  The telescope has been a workhorse for so many years and taken some of the most stunning images of the Cosmos known to man.  I’d love to be there to see the shuttle go up.  Might still happen but I won’t set my heart on it.