space exploration

SONG: "Jump, Jump, Jump."

SONG: “Jump, Jump, Jump”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: Based on “Fish and Adaptation: Mangrove Fish Jumps into Air in Warming Water”, Nature World News, 21 Oct 2015, as used in the post “Global warming might make the fish jump.”

ABSTRACT: First, let me say that this was done on time, even early. It started as a jokey thing I was singing to my son while he was watching me play guitar on the couch, and I decided what the hell. They call it “playing” music for a reason. (I guess if I spoke …

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SONG: All Praise Black Ice

SONG: “All Praise Black Ice”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: Based on “New Horizons Finds Blue Skies and Water Ice on Pluto”,, 8 Oct 2015, as used in the post “There’s water ice on another planet. Not Mars. Pluto.”


Laryngitis followed by a business trip and here I am, a couple weeks late. I hope the brass section makes up for that.

(Yes, there’s brass in there, somewhere. I really need help mastering these things, but one does what one can in between everything e…

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Science Art: Taf. V: Feuer-Salamander by Bruno Dürigen.


Fire salamanders.

They don’t look so hot.


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Science Art: Chemical Laboratory room. Experimental Research labs, Burroughs Wellcome and Co. Tuckahoe, New York

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Welcome to Wellcome.

They’ve got all kinds of wonderful things in their image gallery, including this marvelous experimenter in an even more marvelous experimental lab.

In 1935, this was where the future was made.

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Science Art: Idolo de ignota localidad, Idolo de Arica, Idolo de ignota localidad.

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Three idols, from the Anales del Museo Nacional de Chile, published between 1892 and 1910.

I found them in the Biodiversity Heritage Library, which is usually full of biological specimens.

These three, however, are a little different… even if no one knows where two of them came from. Arica is a port city near two valleys that divide the Atacama Desert in north Chile.

He (or more likely she, even though as described in the text, “no hai tetas” and “la barba es d…

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SONG: All Praise Black Ice

16 November 2015 // 0 Comments

SONG: “All Praise Black Ice”. [Download] ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: Based on “New Horizons Finds Blue Skies and Water Ice on Pluto”,, 8 Oct 2015, as used in the post “There’s water ice on another planet. Not Mars. Pluto.” ABSTRACT: Laryngitis followed by a business trip and here I am, a couple weeks late. I hope the brass section makes up for that. (Yes, there’s brass in there, somewhere. I really need help mastering these things, but one does what one can in between everything else.) I basically had all the Philip Glass-ish orchestral tracks down in time to make the deadline, but didn’t have a voice when it came time to do the guitar and vocals. The shifting time signatures between verses and choruses was kind of a fortuitous accident – when I first started diddling around with a song about Pluto, I thought about doing it in 6/8 just for kicks, then somehow […]

Ice Volcanoes of Pluto!

10 November 2015 // 0 Comments

Nature reports that the New Horizons probe has snapped photos of cratered mountains that bear the hallmarks of volcanoes that erupt with ice, rather than lava: The images show two mountains that are roughly circular in shape, with deep depressions at their centres. One of the peaks, Wright Mons, is 3–5 kilometres high, whereas the other, Piccard Mons, is up to 6 kilometres high. They resemble icy volcanoes, known as cryovolcanoes, on Neptune’s moon Triton and other frozen worlds. Flowing ice, rather than hot lava, fuels cryovolcanoes. “We’re not yet ready to announce we have found volcanic constructs at Pluto, but these sure look suspicious, and we’re looking at them very closely,” says Jeff Moore, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, who heads the New Horizons geology team. Moore spoke on 9 November at the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences meeting in National Harbor, Maryland. … If […]

China’s space telescope: Two years of watching from the moon.

13 October 2015 // 0 Comments

New Scientist gives us an update on what the Chang’e 3 lander has been seeing for the last two years: The 15-centimetre telescope is mounted on the Chang’e 3 lander, which touched down on the lunar surface in December 2013. Chang’e 3 (pictured above) carried the Yutu rover, which repeatedly struggled to survive the lunar night and ceased working in March this year – but the lander is still going strong. The telescope sees in ultraviolet light, making it particularly suited for observations that aren’t possible here on Earth. “There is no atmosphere on the moon, so unlike Earth, the ultraviolet light from celestial objects can be detected on the moon,” says Jing Wang of the National Astronomical Observatories in Beijing, China, who is in charge of the telescope. And since the moon rotates 27 times more slowly than the Earth, the scope can stay fixed on the same star for a dozen days without […]

There’s water ice on another planet. Not Mars. Pluto.

9 October 2015 // 0 Comments

NASA’s Deep Horizons has found traces of good ol’ H2O on that dwarf planet at the fringe of the solar system: In a second significant finding, New Horizons has detected numerous small, exposed regions of water ice on Pluto. The discovery was made from data collected by the Ralph spectral composition mapper on New Horizons. “Large expanses of Pluto don’t show exposed water ice,” said science team member Jason Cook, of SwRI, “because it’s apparently masked by other, more volatile ices across most of the planet. Understanding why water appears exactly where it does, and not in other places, is a challenge that we are digging into.” A curious aspect of the detection is that the areas showing the most obvious water ice spectral signatures correspond to areas that are bright red in recently released color images. “I’m surprised that this water ice is so red,” says Silvia Protopapa, a science team member from the […]

Spacesuits made… sexy?

7 October 2015 // 0 Comments

Slate (not The Onion) dishes on the Victoria’s Secret designer looking at the next generation of form-fitting spacesuits: Perhaps nobody understands the intersection of aesthetics, function, and price better than Ted Southern, the co-founder of Final Frontier Design, a Brooklyn, New York–based company whose mission is to design and manufacture the next generation of space-safety garments for NASA and commercial outfits. Southern comes from a different background than most NASA folks—he built the angel wings for the Victoria’s Secret fashion shows and has constructed inflatable costumes for Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson ONE show in Las Vegas. This makes him something of an outlier in an industry that has always been dominated by multinational aerospace companies, but he thinks that his unique background gives Final Frontier Design an advantage. “In costuming you’re working with the human body a lot so you have a very bodycentric way of thinking about assemblies,” said Southern. “The closer you […]

Science Art: Jupiter’s Rings by LORRI, 2007.

24 August 2015 // 0 Comments

Click to embiggen. The New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) snapped this photo of Jupiter’s ring system on February 24, 2007, from a distance of 7.1 million kilometers (4.4 million miles). This processed image shows a narrow ring, about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) wide, with a fainter sheet of material inside it. The faint glow extending in from the ring is likely caused by fine dust that diffuses in toward Jupiter. This is the outer tip of the “halo,” a cloud of dust that extends down to Jupiter’s cloud tops. The dust will glow much brighter in pictures taken after New Horizons passes to the far side of Jupiter and looks back at the rings, which will then be sunlit from behind. More at NASA’s Solar System Exploration page. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.

SONG: Thirty-Five Minutes (from Earth)

24 August 2015 // 0 Comments

SONG: “Thirty-Five Minutes (from Earth)”. [Download] ARTIST: grant. SOURCE:Based on “NASA Windbots Could Explore Gas Giant Jupiter”, Sky News, 24 July 2015, as used in the post “Windbots to explore Jupiter – the bumpier the ride, the better..” ABSTRACT: The planet Jupiter is 35 light-minutes from Earth (give or take a couple of minutes depending on where in its orbit the planet is). So a robot floating in the turbulent winds of Jupiter would take that long to send a message here. Something like a sailor, a long way from home, or a balloonist who can’t land. Took a while to record this one – don’t know why. Got out my guitar amp, which I haven’t done in ages. Also took the mic outside to record an old washtub, and a plastic barrel being converted into a rain barrel, and an antique copper pitcher sitting on a copper plate. Nothing like using yard stuff for […]

Life on Mars, and not too long ago.

18 August 2015 // 0 Comments

The Denver Post‘s (ahem) “nerd blog” has some interesting things to say about the planet next door – which, University of Colorado researchers believe, might have been alive more recently than we thought: An 18-square-mile chloride salt deposit is thought to have once been a lake bed with water that had only 8 percent the salinity of earth’s oceans, and may have been home to life. The dried up pond — “one of the last instances of a sizable lake on Mars,” according to the study’s lead researcher — was digitally mapped by a team from CU’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, along with researchers from two other universities. The study was published earlier this month in the journal Geology. … The salt deposits share some similarities with Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats, according to the release from CU. An advantage of such deposits is that the salt can contain fossilized microbial life. “It can […]

Windbots to explore Jupiter – the bumpier the ride, the better.

29 July 2015 // 0 Comments

Sky News looks up to report on NASA’s airiest plans for exploring Jupiter. They’re designing a flock of turbulence-fueled “windbots” – cheap, floating robots to map out the gas giant: The idea is for the devices to stay aloft by relying on turbulence from a planet’s atmosphere, and the concept is now being developed by space programme scientists. NASA described the windbots concept as “a new class of robotic probe designed to stay aloft in a planet’s atmosphere for a long time without wings or hot-air balloons.” Differences in wind velocity and strength would allow the windbots to boost their energy. NASA jet propulsion expert Adrian Stoica said: “It’s a spring of energy a probe could drink from.” — The concept is modeled on dandelion seeds. The machines, though, look like 20-sided dice.

Science Art: Soaking Up the Rays of a Sun-Like Star, by NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle, 2015.

26 July 2015 // 0 Comments

Click to embiggen This is an artist’s impression of a planet just discovered by NASA’s Kepler mission that’s gotten the folks at SETI all excited. It’s the most Earth-like planet yet discovered. Kepler 452b sits in the “Goldilocks” zone around its star, not too hot and not too cold, and is about the same size (or is a little larger) and made of something like the same stuff as the planet we’re sitting around on right now. It takes 365 days to orbit around its sun, too. NASA’s calling it our “bigger, older cousin”. There are a couple of other, smaller and more Earth-like, planets in the new Kepler findings, too. No one’s saying there’s water on any of them, or little aliens hanging out at the beach. But there’s no reason why there wouldn’t be, either. [via Mr. Finfrock]

Sorry, no science news today. Busy WATCHING A SPACE SHIP FLY PAST PLUTO.

14 July 2015 // 0 Comments

You can too, over here:, or here: Remember, Pluto’s 4.5 light-hours away. You dial their number, it takes most of the day for the phone to start to ring. Just forget about the TV remote…. Still, there are already pictures and more pictures and videos and even more stuff. The next couple of days should be fun.

Good morning, Philae. How’s that comet looking 200 days later?

15 June 2015 // 0 Comments

The ESA has spent an eventful weekend now that the Rosetta probe has woken up after a long sleep on a comet: Hidden by shadows, Philae shut down on 15 November 2014 at 00:36 GMT after completing its main science operations sequence on the comet when the primary battery expired as expected after about 60 hours. Since March 2015, when Philae’s environmental conditions started to improve with higher surface temperatures and better illumination, the orbiter’s receiver had been turned on periodically to listen for signals from the lander when the orbital geometry was thought to be optimum. On the evening of 13 June, a weak but solid radio link between Rosetta and the lander was finally established for 85 seconds. More than 300 ‘packets’ – 663 kbits – of lander housekeeping telemetry were received. This information had been stored on board at an as-yet-to-be determined time in the past, as much as several days to […]

Science Art: LightSail by Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society

31 May 2015 // 0 Comments

Click to embiggen This is the thing the last song was about, LightSail, which even now is orbiting Earth and probably (if it’s going as expected) accelerating. We’re not entirely sure how it’s going, though, because the software has run into a little problem. Right now, they’re hoping a cosmic ray will reboot the onboard computer, which is apparently a thing that happens once you’re outside the atmosphere. Oh, and as I’m typing this on Saturday night, it looks like that might have just happened! Huh. Now we’ll get to see if this thing works after all!

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