The Audacity to Dream

Making its debut at the TEDxISU (International Space University) event on July 6, the video above is an inspirational call-to-arms for anyone who’s ever looked to the stars and dreamed of a day when the sky was, in fact, not the limit. From Sputnik to Space Station, from Vostok to Virgin Galactic, the video reminds us of the spirit of adventure that unites us, regardless of time or place or politics. Dreaming, after all, is universal.

Check it out.

“A planet is the cradle of mind, but one cannot live in a cradle forever.”
– Konstantin Tsiolkovsky

Ping-Pong Particles: What the Higgs Does

Unless you’ve been hiding under a chondrite for the past week you’ve heard the news from CERN regarding the discovery of a new particle that exhibits “Higgs-like” qualities. Particle physics isn’t the easiest discipline to wrap one’s head around, and while we’ve recently shared some simplified explanations of what exactly a Higgs boson is, well…here’s another.

Here, BBC’s Jonathan Amos attempts to demonstrate what the Higgs field does, and what part the boson plays. Some Ping-Pong balls, a little sugar, and a cafeteria tray is all it takes to give an idea of how essential this long-sought after subatomic particle is to the Universe. (If only finding it had been that easy!)

Video: BBC News

What’s a Higgs Boson, Anyway?

With the science world all abuzz in anticipation of tomorrow’s official announcement from CERN in regards to its hunt for the Higgs, some of you may be wondering, “what’s a Higgs?” And for that matter, what’s a boson?

The video above, released a couple of months ago by the talented Jorge Cham at PHDcomics, gives a entertaining run-down of subatomic particles, how they interact and how, if it exists — which, by now, many are sure it does — the Higgs relates to them.

It’s the 7-minutes course in particle physics you’ll wish you had taken in college (unless you’re a particle physicist in which case… well, you’d still probably have enjoyed it.)

Credit: PHDcomics.com

The “Deep Blue Sea” of the Sun

Looking like an intricate pen-and-ink illustration, the complex and beautiful structures of the Sun’s surface come to life in yet another stunning photo by Alan Freidman, captured from the historic Mount Wilson Observatory near Los Angeles, California.

Click below for the full-size image in all its hydrogen alpha glory.


An oft-demonstrated master of solar photography, Alan took the image above while preparing for the transit of Venus on June 5 — which he also skillfully captured on camera (see a video below).

Hydrogen is the most abundant element found on the sun. The sun’s “surface” and the layer just above it — the photosphere and chromosphere, respectively — are regions where atomic hydrogen exists profusely in upper-state form. It’s these absorption layers that hydrogen alpha imaging reveals in detail.

The images above are “negatives”… check out a “positive” version of the same image here.

” The seeing was superb… definitely the best of the visit and among the best solar conditions I’ve ever experienced,” Alan writes on his blog.

The video below was made by Alan on June 5, showing Venus transiting the Sun while both passed behind a tower visible from the Observatory.

Alan’s work is always a treat… see more of his astrophotography on his website AvertedImagination.com.

Image © Alan Friedman. All rights reserved.

Awesome Video of a Dragon’s Descent!


Just in from SpaceX and NASA, here’s a video of the descent of the Dragon capsule on the morning of May 31, 2012.

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Taken from a chase plane, the footage shows the spacecraft’s dramatic chute deployment and splashdown into the Pacific at 8:42 a.m. PT, approximately 560 miles southwest off the coast of Los Angeles. The event marked the end of a successful and historic mission that heralds a new era of commercial spaceflight in the U.S.

Read more about the completion of the first Dragon mission here.

Video: NASA

ESA: Unveiling Venus

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With Venus about to get its day in the Sun — very much literally — the European Space Agency has assembled an excellent video about our planetary neighbor.

Watch the video below: 

Once thought to be similar to Earth, possibly even having liquid water and plant life on its surface, Venus has since been discovered to be anything but hospitable to life. Beneath its cream-colored clouds lies a hellish hothouse of searing temperatures and crushing pressure, making attempts at exploration difficult at best. But ESA’s Venus Express, currently in orbit around the planet, has helped scientists learn more about Venus than ever before, opening our eyes to what really lies beneath — and within — its opaque atmosphere.

Venus is still a planet shrouded in mystery (and sulfuric acid clouds!) but we are gradually pulling away the veil.

Video: ESA

Watch Tonight’s Eclipse LIVE

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As the eclipse is happening, we’ll try to dig up every online source we can find. Here’s what we’ve got so far.

Can’t see tonight’s annular eclipse from your location? It’s ok, you can watch it here live in a feed provided by the U.S. Department of the Interior! The video (posted after the jump) will be broadcast from Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, NM, beginning at 9:00 p.m. Eastern / 6:00 p.m. Pacific.


Petroglyph National Monument will be a prime location for the May 20 annular eclipse in the U.S. (NPS)

National Park Service photographers will be taking photos from many other locations as well, you can find out more on the USDOI site here.

(If the above feed is blank, they may have reached capacity. Visit the feed directly here.)

Also, the SLOOH Space Camera site will be airing live feeds of the eclipse, as will the Hong Kong Observatory. Check the channels for their broadcast times.

(Video feed provided by LiveStream, the National Park Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior)

What Will Happen During Tomorrow’s SpaceX Launch:

With less than a day left before SpaceX’s historic launch of the first commercial vehicle to the ISS, slated for 4:55 am EDT on Saturday, May 19, here’s a video of what will happen once the Falcon lifts off.

(Part of me really wishes that they’ll be pumping out some dramatic music when it launches!)

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The video, created by NASA in 2011, shows the events that will take place from the initial launch at SpaceX’s Cape Canaveral facility to the release of the Dragon capsule and its eventual docking with the ISS on Tuesday, as well as its return to Earth (yes, it’s reusable!)

The Dragon capsule contains 674 lbs (305 kg) of food and supplies for the Expedition 31 crew.

In addition to what’s aboard Dragon, the Falcon rocket will also be taking the cremated remains of 308 people — including Star Trek actor James Doohan and NASA astronaut Gordon Cooper — into space, via a private company called Celestis.

Read more about tomorrow’s launch here. And to watch the event live, stay tuned to SpaceX.com.

Video: NASA

Update 5/19: As it turned out, none of the above occurred. Instead, this happened. Maybe better luck on Tuesday!

How Do The Biggest Telescopes Work?

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Located high in the mountains of Chile’s Atacama Desert, the enormous telescopes of the European Southern Observatory have been providing astronomers with unprecedented views of the night sky for 50 years. ESO’s suite of telescopes take advantage of the cold, clear air over the Atacama, which is one of the driest places on Earth. But as clear as it is, there is still some turbulence and variations to contend with — especially when peering billions of light-years out into the Universe.

So how do they do it?

Thanks to adaptive optics and advanced laser calibration, ESO can negate the effects of atmospheric turbulence, bringing the distant Universe into focus. It’s an impressive orchestration of innovation and engineering and the ESO team has put together a video to show us how it’s done.

We all love the images (and the science) so here’s a look behind the scenes!

Video: ESO

Expedition 31 Blasts Off!

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After a six-week delay, the crew of Expedition 31 successfully launched aboard a Soyuz TMA-04M rocket on Tuesday, May 15 at 0301 GMT (11:01 p.m. EDT May 14) from Russia’s historic Baikonur Cosmodrome, located in the steppes of Kazakhstan.

The rocket will deliver NASA astronaut Joe Acaba and Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin to the International Space Station. After a two-day journey, their Soyuz capsule will dock with the ISS at 11:38 p.m. CDT on Wednesday.

The launch was aired live by NASA HD TV. The full launch can be viewed below:

The crew was originally slated to launch on March 30, but problems with a pressure test forced a delay until a new Soyuz rocket could be brought into service. In the meantime ISS crew members Don Pettit, ESA astronaut Andre Kuipers and cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko have had the station to themselves since April 27.

The three new crew members will remain on Space Station until mid-September, serving as flight engineers under Expedition 31 commander Oleg Kononenko until July 1, when the current crew will depart and Padalka will assume command, marking the beginning of Expedition 32.

For more news on Expedition 31, visit NASA’s ISS website here. Also, you can follow NASA astronaut Joe Acaba on Twitter @AstroAcaba.

Members of the media photograph the Soyuz TMA-04M rocket launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Video credit: NASA TV. Images: NASA/Bill Ingalls