Host: Fraser Cain (@fcain)

Guests:
Morgan Rehnberg (cosmicchatter.org / @cosmic_chatter)
Brian Koberlein (@briankoberlein)
Ramin Skibba (@raminskibba)
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Space Station Extension May Cost More Than NASA Expects: Report

by Elizabeth Howell on September 19, 2014

The International Space Station. Credit: NASA

The International Space Station. Credit: NASA

NASA’s anticipated $3 billion to $4 billion annual budget for the International Space Station is “overly optimistic”, a new report from NASA’s Inspector General says.

Transportation costs will likely rise when NASA uses commercial spacecraft to access the station instead of Russian Soyuzes, the report said. Also, if international partners don’t commit to extending the station four extra years to 2024, NASA will need to pick up more of the financial burden.

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Lazy Giant Galaxies Gain Mass By Ingesting Smaller Neighbors

by Tammy Plotner on September 19, 2014

Some of the many thousands of merging galaxies identified within the GAMA survey. Credit: Professor Simon Driver and Dr Aaron Robotham, ICRAR.

Some of the many thousands of merging galaxies identified within the GAMA survey. Credit: Professor Simon Driver and Dr Aaron Robotham, ICRAR.

The Anglo-Australian Telescope in New South Wales has been watching how lazy giant galaxies gain size – and it isn’t because they create their own stars. In a research project known as the Galaxy And Mass Assembly (GAMA) survey, a group of Australian scientists led by Professor Simon Driver at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) have found the Universe’s most massive galaxies prefer “eating” their neighbors. [click to continue…]

An artist concept of MAVEN in orbit around Mars. (Credit: NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center).

An artist concept of MAVEN in orbit around Mars. (Credit: NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center).

NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) orbiter is oh-so-close to its destination after a 10-month journey. It’s scheduled to arrive in orbit Sunday (Sept. 21) around 9:50 p.m. EDT (1:50 a.m. UTC) if all goes well, but there are a few things that need to happen, in order, first.

One big obstacle is already out of the way. MAVEN controllers had expected to do final engine burn tweaks to put it on the right trajectory, but the mission is so on-target that it won’t be needed.

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A density map of part of the Milky Way disk, constructed from IPHAS data. The axes show galactic latitude and longitude, coordinates that relate to the position of the centre of the galaxy. The mapped data are the counts of stars detected in i, the longer (redder) wavelength broad band of the survey, down to a faint limit of 19th magnitude. Although this is just a small section of the full map, it portrays in exquisite detail the complex patterns of obscuration due to interstellar dust. Credit: Hywel Farnhill, University of Hertfordshire.

A density map of part of the Milky Way’s disk. The axes show galactic latitude and longitude, coordinates that relate to the position of the center of the galaxy. Credit: Hywel Farnhill, University of Hertfordshire.

On the darkest of nights, thousands of stars are sprinkled across the celestial sphere above us. Or, to be exact, there are 9,096 stars observable across the entire sky. Divide that number in half, and there are 4,548 stars (give or take a few) visible from horizon to horizon.

But this number excludes the glowing band stretching across the night sky, the Milky Way. It’s the disk of our own galaxy, a system stretching 100,000 light-years across. The naked eye is unable to distinguish individual specks of light, but the Isaac Newton Telescope (INT) on La Palma in the Canary Islands has recently charted 219 million separate stars in this disk alone.

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