Blue Origin/New Shepherd 8th Test Flight, Sunday morning, 29th


Click to enlarge
New Shepard Booster landing after a successful Mission 7

❝ Launch preparations are underway for New Shepard’s 8th test flight, as we continue our progress toward human spaceflight. We are currently targeting launch on Sunday, April 29th – with the launch window opening up at 8:30 a.m. CDT.

Livestream will be available on BlueOrigin.com, more info to come.

Gradatim Ferociter!

Thanks, UrsaRodinia

Looking at 1.7 billion stars


Click to enlargeESA/Gaia/DPAC

❝ Nearly 1.7 billion stars have been plotted in unprecedented detail with the highly anticipated release of data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia spacecraft.

The $1 billion (750 million euros) Gaia spacecraft launched in 2013 for a five-year mission to map the night sky with unmatched accuracy. The spacecraft is perched far beyond the moon’s orbit, in the Lagrange-2, or L2, point, a gravitationally stable spot about 1 million miles (1.5 million kilometers) away from Earth. Unlike space telescopes such as Hubble that orbit the Earth, Gaia can scan the cosmos without Earth blocking a large chunk of its view. As it rotates in space, Gaia measures about 100,000 stars each minute and covers the whole sky in about two months. Each star is measured 70 times on average. The new 3D map, which was unveiled here at the ILA Berlin Air Show, offers the best-ever look at the Milky Way — now in color — and promises to unleash hundreds of scientific discoveries about our galactic home and beyond…

The link above isn’t for the smaller 3D map. There is a link to that in the article. But, the link up top takes you to a 58+mb hi-res star map that opens to 8000×4000 pixels on two-clicks.

❝ The $1 billion Gaia spacecraft launched in 2013 for a five-year mission to map the night sky with unmatched accuracy. The spacecraft is perched far beyond the moon’s orbit, in the Lagrange-2, or L2, point, a gravitationally stable spot about 1 million miles away from Earth. Unlike space telescopes such as Hubble that orbit the Earth, Gaia can scan the cosmos without Earth blocking a large chunk of its view. As it rotates in space, Gaia measures about 100,000 stars each minute and covers the whole sky in about two months. Each star is measured 70 times on average.

Wow! Folks alive in that most-likely-distant future with faster-than-light travel going to have some fabulous vacations.

Celebrate World Penguin Day

❝ While penguins inspire a range of whimsical and warm emotions, they play a serious role as sentinels of ocean health. Perhaps no one knows that better than Michelle LaRue, an ecologist and science communicator at the University of Minnesota who has walked among these tuxedoed, flightless birds in Antarctica six times.

To celebrate World Penguin Day on April 25, we caught up with LaRue, whose current research focuses on using high-resolution satellite imagery to study polar animals, including emperor and Adélie penguins, and the effects of climate change on polar vertebrates. She has participated in many “species from space” studies, including the first global census of two Antarctic penguin populations.

RTFA, Worthwhile, interesting to all who care about how this planet proceeds into the future.

Norway Donates US$250 Million to Protect Colombian Rainforests


Norwegian PM Erna Solberg and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos

❝ Colombia’s fight against illegal logging is being extended to 2025 as part of the nation’s pay-for results strategy, Norway’s prime minister announced after donating US$250 million to the project.

As part of the 2015 pact signed between Germany, the United Kingdom, Norway and Colombia, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg confirmed the cooperative battle to save Colombia’s rainforest would be extended by five years…

❝ Colombian Environment Minister Luis Gilberto Murillo said that within the next 12 years the government hopes to reduce deforestation to zero.

Norway’s donation represents the first alliance of climate and forest under the Paris Agreement. Prime Minister Solberg hopes the agreement will bring higher standards for inter-institutional collaboration in climate initiatives.

The Paris Agreement is just another one of those historically useful, politically constructive agreements, constructed by smart politicians in modern nations.

So, of course, our fake president withdrew the United States from all provisions of this agreement. And BTW, at minimum projected costs, a donation like this is less than 3 new F35s, the latest toy for our military..

The Silurian Precursor World

❝ If an industrial civilization had existed on Earth many millions of years prior to our own era, what traces would it have left and would they be detectable today? The authors summarize the likely geological fingerprint of the Anthropocene, and demonstrate that while clear, it will not differ greatly in many respects from other known events in the geological record. They propose tests that could plausibly distinguish an industrial cause from an otherwise naturally occurring climate event…

❝ One of the key questions in assessing the likelihood of finding such a civilization is an understanding of how often, given that life has arisen and that some species are intelligent, does an industrial civilization develop? Humans are the only example we know of, and our industrial civilization has lasted (so far) roughly 300 years (since, for example, the beginning of mass production methods). This is a small fraction of the time we have existed as a species, and a tiny fraction of the time that complex life has existed on the Earth’s land surface (∼400 million years ago, Ma). This short time period raises the obvious question as to whether this could have happened before. We term this the “Silurian Hypothesis”.

I love this stuff. The dialectic between science fiction and scientific inspiration is healthy and well.

Bird gets lost — spawns a new species on a remote island

❝ If you get lost at sea and find yourself on an island you’d probably try to build a fire, pile some sticks and stones into a makeshift home and maybe even try to signal for help. When one misguided bird found himself in the same situation, he didn’t wallow in his own self pity; he created his own entirely new species.

RTFA. I’ve been hanging on to this one for a spell – and it’s fascinating.

Here comes another piece of the future

Kudos to Elon Musk, his peers like Jeff Bezos, and many more not-so-public figures striving to move our species forward to better times.

US goverments lost any sense of science leadership decades ago. Not as good a vote-getter as 19th Century bible-thumping and bigotry. Congress remains more concerned with job security than justice, myths of pearly gates instead of education and health.

The hopes and praise fall to Elon Musk. An immigrant who got round to becoming a citizen in this millennium.

Do we inhabit a universe whose occupants are mostly pond scum.

❝ …Most astrobiologists seem comfortable with the premise that life might be widespread. But their optimism doesn’t always extend to complex, intelligent life.

❝ It’s possible that we inhabit a universe whose occupants are mostly pond scum. After decades of seeing semi-humanoid aliens strut across the silver screen, it would be more than a little disappointing to think that the actual cosmic bestiary largely consists of plants and animals that are microscopic, or at best, no smarter than cane toads.

That situation would make humans very special, a circumstance that seems at odds with the enormous amount of real estate available for life, as well as the billions of years since the Big Bang during which intelligence could arise.

❝ So, could there be a plausible explanation for why the universe seems so short on keen-witted company?

RTFA for some useful reflection upon our species, the known universe and such.