Monday, August 30, 2010

Large fireball observed after object strikes Jupiter

A large object, possibly an asteroid or a meteor, hit the planet Jupiter Thursday, resulting in a large fireball.

The fireball was seen on June 3 at 2031 UTC by two independent amateur astronomers, Christopher Go in the Philippines and Anthony Wesley in Australia. Wesley, who posted the news onto an Internet forum, is known for having also spotted last July's Jupiter impact event. Go caught Thursday's impact on video, which showed a fireball the size of Earth after the object hit. It could be the first time someone has recorded a meteor crashing into a planet.

NASA chooses Woomera, South Australia for rocket launch site

NASA has announced that rockets will be launched from Woomera in outback South Australia to service the International Space Station (ISS) - starting in 2008. NASA has selected two American companies to launch rockets from the Woomera base. Rocket Plane Kistler and Space-X will conduct orbital flight tests and commercial operations. The Woomera site would also be used to launch cargo such as fuel and food to the ISS as often as every two weeks.

China successfully launches Shenzhou VI manned rocket

BBC News is reporting that the People's Republic of China has successfully launched its second manned space flight, Shenzhou VI.

The mission is more ambitious than the previous Shenzhou V, which made China only the third nation to launch a manned space mission. Shenzhou VI will carry two astronauts, Nie Haisheng and Fei Junlong, compared to the previous mission which only carried a single astronaut, Yang Liwei. The newest astronauts will also stay in orbit longer, five days compared to the 21 hour, 14 orbit flight of Shenzhou V.

The director of the Chinese Space Crew Training program, Chen Shanguang, explained to the media that the country would send a woman to Space within five years. "Women are more patient compared with male astronauts, their psychological qualities are more stable and they face isolation better," according to Chen.

NASA detects dry, dusty atmospheres on extrasolar planets

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope made news this week when it was announced that the space observatory had, for the first time, captured enough light to detect molecules in the atmospheres of planets outside the solar system.

The planets are too far away to be observed directly with current technology, but by measuring the spectra of each planet when visible with its star, and again when the planet was hidden behind its star, the teams were able to determine the measurements of the planets spectra.

Technical troubles hold up International Space Station repairs

A faulty ammonia line fitting delayed repairs to a cooling pump on the International Space Station Saturday during an eight-hour spacewalk.

During the spacewalk, astronauts Doug Wheelock and Tracy Caldwell Dyson were to repair a faulty cooling system, which failed on July 31. The faulty cooling unit was to be swapped with a new one that was previously in storage to solve the problem; however, an ammonia leak in the final line to be disconnected from the unit halted attempts for a repair.

Upon discovering the problem, the astronauts were instructed to reconnect the line and install a positioning device to maintain the proper pressure on the line.

Upon completing the spacewalk, Wheelock and Dyson spent additional time in the airlock to get rid of any ammonia particles that may have attached themselves to their spacesuits.

NASA officials are analyzing possible solutions to the issue to attempt during a planned spacewalk Wednesday. Wednesday's spacewalk was previously intended to be second in the series to repair the cooling system by reattaching fluid and electrical lines.

Before Saturday's spacewalk, NASA officials projected that up to three spacewalks may be needed to repair the cooling system.

Most of the space station's non-critical scientific components have been temporarily shut-down in order to reduce heat generation with only one cooling loop available to the station.

NASA reports that the station's crew, three Russians and three Americans, are not in any danger; however, it is in the best interests of the crew to restore systems to nominal condition as soon as possible.

The eight-hour spacewalk is reportedly the longest ISS-based spacewalk, and the sixth longest in the history of human spaceflight.

Japanese researchers create smell sensor using genetically engineered frog eggs

A University of Tokyo group of researchers, led by bioengineer Shoji Takeuchi, have made an electronic sensor capable of smelling gases. The sensor uses genetically engineered frog cells. Since previous sensors were not very accurate, the scientist decided to try a biological approach. The invention was revealed in a US scientific journal yesterday, and is supposed to be used to design better machines to detect polluting gases in the atmosphere.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Do you know ATLAS?

Abbreviated Test Language for All Systems (ATLAS) is a MILSPEC language for automatic testing of avionics equipment. It is a high-level computer language and can be used on any computer whose supporting software can translate it into the appropriate low-level instructions.
The ATLAS language was initially developed by an international committee made up of representatives from the airline industries, military services, avionics manufacturers, and Automatic Test Equipment manufacturers. The goal of the committee was to design a standard English-like language that could be easily understood and used by both avionics and test equipment engineers. The result was the ATLAS language specification, published by Aeronautical Radio, Inc.

Do you know quantum computing?

A quantum computer is any device for computation that makes direct use of distinctively quantum mechanical phenomena, such as superposition and entanglement, to perform operations on data. In a classical (or conventional) computer, the amount of data is measured by bits; in a quantum computer, it is measured by qubits. The basic principle of quantum computation is that the quantum properties of particles can be used to represent and structure data, and that devised quantum mechanisms can be used to perform operations with this data. For a generally accessible overview of quantum computing, see Quantum Computing with Molecules, an article in Scientific American by Neil Gershenfeld and Isaac L. Chuang.