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Will Space Play in the 2016 US Election?

It might be only March of 2015, but the race (slog?) is on to be the next president of the United States. Only 589 days to go! It’s a race that some believe will cost the nation upwards of five billion dollars; that’s about 7.5 Mars missions for those of you out there counting. The campaign, though, is more than just a vehiNasa-logocle for terrible campaign ads and embarrassing debate gaffes; it’s also one of the few opportunities for the country to have a discussion about its  national priorities in the coming years. So, what are the chances that the exploration of space will be in that discussion? [click to continue…]

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Astronomy Cast Ep. 372: Millikan Oil Drop


In 1909 Robert Millikan devised an ingenious experiment to figure out the charge of an electron using a drop of oil. Let’s talk about this Nobel Prize winning experiment
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Will the Universe Run Out Of Energy?


It seems like the good times will go on forever, so feel free to keep on wasting energy. But entropy is patient, and eventually, it’ll make sure there’s no usable energy left in the Universe.
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The Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft is seen as it launches to the International Space Station with Expedition 43's NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) onboard Friday, March 27 (Saturday, March 28 Kazakh time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.  Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft is seen as it launches to the International Space Station with Expedition 43’s NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) onboard Friday, March 27 (Saturday, March 28 Kazakh time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The first ever ‘One-Year Mission’ to the International Space Station (ISS) started with a bang today, March 27, with the spectacular night time launch of the Russian/American crew from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:42 p.m. EDT Friday (1:42 a.m., March 28 in Baikonur and culminated with a flawless docking this evening.

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka launched aboard a Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft to the International Space Station precisely on time today on the Expedition 43 mission. [click to continue…]

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Host: Fraser Cain (@fcain)
Special Guest: Dr. Sukanya Chakrabarti, Lead Investigator for team that may have discovered Dark Matter Galaxy “X”.

Guests:
Morgan Rehnberg (cosmicchatter.org / @MorganRehnberg )
Dave Dickinson (@astroguyz / www.astroguyz.com)
Brian Koberlein (@briankoberlein)
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Soyuz Spacecraft Rolled Out For Launch of One-Year Crew . The Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft is seen after having rolled out by train to the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Wednesday, March 25, 2015. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) are scheduled to launch to the International Space Station in the Soyuz at 3:42 p.m. EDT, Friday, March 27 (March 28, Kazakh time). Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Soyuz Spacecraft Rolled Out For Launch of One-Year Crew
The Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft is seen after having rolled out by train to the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Wednesday, March 25, 2015. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) are scheduled to launch to the International Space Station in the Soyuz at 3:42 p.m. EDT, Friday, March 27 (March 28, Kazakh time). Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Watch live on NASA TV link below

At long last, the first ever crew embarking on a 1 year mission to the International Space Station (ISS) – comprising NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko (both veterans) – is slated for blastoff just hours from now aboard a Soyuz capsule from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. [click to continue…]

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Solar energy energizes the drama of life on Earth, such as the bird caught transiting the solar disk as seen here. Image credit and copyright: Roger Hutchinson

Solar energy fuels the drama of life on Earth, such as the bird seen here transiting the solar disk. Image credit and copyright: Roger Hutchinson

You can be thankful that we bask in the glow of a relatively placid star. Currently about halfway along its 10 billion year career on the Main Sequence, our Sun fuses hydrogen into helium in a battle against gravitational collapse. This balancing act produces energy via the proton-proton chain process, which in turn, fuels the drama of life on Earth. [click to continue…]

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Predicting Eclipses: How Does the Saros Cycle Work?

Image credit and copyright:

A sequence of images from the April 15th 2014 ‘Tax Day’ total lunar eclipse. Image credit and copyright: Kenneth Brandon

Boy, how about that total solar eclipse last Friday? And there’s more in store, as most of North America will be treated to yet another total lunar eclipse on the morning of April 4th. This eclipse is member three of four of a quartet of lunar eclipses, known as a tetrad. [click to continue…]

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Asteroid 2014 YB35 will safely pass Earth at 4.5 million km on Friday, March 27. (Composite image by J. Major showing asteroid Lutetia imaged by ESA's Rosetta, Earth and Moon imaged by NASA's Galileo, and the Milky Way imaged by ESO and Serge Brunier.)

Asteroid 2014 YB35 will safely pass Earth at 4.5 million km on the morning of Friday, March 27. (Composite image by J. Major showing asteroid Lutetia imaged by ESA’s Rosetta, Earth and Moon imaged by NASA’s Galileo, and the Milky Way imaged by ESO and Serge Brunier.)

There are ways to report on occasional close approaches by near-Earth objects (NEOs) that convey the respectful awareness of their presences and the fact that our planet shares its neighborhood with many other objects, large and small… and that sometimes their paths around the Sun bring them unnervingly close to our own.

Then there’s just straight-up over-sensationalism intended to drum up page views by scaring the heck out of people, regardless of facts.

Apparently this is what’s happened regarding the upcoming close approach by NEO 2014 YB35. An asteroid of considerable (but definitely not unprecedented) size – estimated 440-990 meters in diameter, or around a third of a mile across – YB35 will pass by Earth on Friday, March 27, coming as close as 11.7 times the distance between Earth and the Moon at 06:20 UTC.

11.7 lunar distances. That’s 4.5 million kilometers, or almost 2.8 million miles. Cosmically close, sure, but far from “skimming”…and certainly with no danger of an impact or any of the nasty effects that would be a result thereof. None. Zero. Zilch. NASA isn’t concerned, and you shouldn’t be either.

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Is the Universe Finite or Infinite?


Two possiblities exist: either the Universe is finite and has a size, or it’s infinite and goes on forever. Both possibilities have mind-bending implications.
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