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What is “Remember the 13th”?

Posted by Alan at 7:09 AM on October 3, 2013

bigstock_Kennedy_Space_Center_nasa__4064149

Conspiracy theorists are running wild about a new web site that is purportedly from NASA. The web site in question is titled “NASA has made a historic discovery that will shake the entire planet. This announcement will be released to the media on November 13th, 2013. It will be a day to remember and One for the history books. Spread the word to your family & friends and sign up to stay updated! – See more at: Remember the 13th and sports a logo from the space agency along with a rather cryptic message.

“NASA has made a historic discovery that will shake the entire planet. This announcement will be released to the media on November 13th, 2013. It will be a day to remember and One for the history books. Spread the word to your family & friends and sign up to stay updated!”

There is also a countdown clock running on the site, currently at 41 days. Nothing more is revealed and there is nothing about the page which gives any sort of hints.

Its all very clever, but also likely a marketing ploy for something and not an actual NASA news conference. Other than the logo, which anyone can slap onto a website, there is nothing to suggest any of this is anything more than a clever marketing campaign for a product, movie or TV show.

I will leave the question up to all of you. What do you think this is? Legitimate news coming from the space agency? Has Curiosity discovered something? Or is it, as I am leaning towards, very good marketing hype?

NASA debunks 12-21-12 myth one more time

Posted by Alan at 12:03 PM on December 20, 2012

Author’s Note: I am half afraid to write about any web video after yesterday’s embarrassment! However, given that this one comes from NASA I will trust it is real. With that said, if the world does end I guess at least nobody will be around to laugh about me looking stupid!

With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s move on to the big subject of today — the supposed end of the world tomorrow. Yes, an era of the Mayan calendar does in fact come to an end on December 21, 2012. Although, much as our calendar ends every December 31st, it is only a turning of the page. Honestly, if the Mayans were such great prognosticators then why did they not see those Spanish ships coming? If you can’t predict your own doom then how can you predict that of the world?

NASA has had to spend way too much time and energy dealing with this myth and debunking the crackpots that seem to abound on the internet. Conspiracy theories surrounding tomorrow have taken all sorts of shapes, none of which I will waste the time and effort to even make fun of.

Below is NASA’s latest, and hopefully final, crack at this. This one was brought to my attention by the folks over at Universe Today who specialize in truth and science and who I highly recommend you follow in your RSS reader of choice.

NASA Goes Johnson Style

Posted by Andrew at 4:42 AM on December 15, 2012

NASA Johnson Style is an educational parody of Psy’s Gangnam Style, produced by the students of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. It’s brilliant and deserves as much attention as the original. I’m sure this will be all over the web in a few hours, combining great visuals and intelligent parody with the hottest hit of 2012.

Cool space and astronomy themes for Windows

Posted by Alan at 7:31 AM on December 9, 2012

You know that those of us at GNC love space and astronomy almost as much as we love computers and technology. While we all use different operating systems — Windows, Mac, and even Linux, we can all agree that a good space theme is cool. There isn’t any shortage of those available either.

In fact, you don’t even have to look far to find one. Microsoft and other sites make them available. Even NASA themselves posts one now and again. So, it’s the weekend and news is slow. With that in mind, it’s a great time to do a quick roundup of these themes that are floating around out there.

Windows

Image of M82 or the Cigar Galaxy from NASA's Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes, and NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory

Microsoft does a great job of making themes for all occasions — movie and game releases, seasons, holidays and just cool photography. The latter is the category we are looking for. Head to the personalization gallery where you can browse or do a keyword search.

Windows Observer

Richard Hay, who runs the great Windows Observer site and podcast, has created several space-based themes. Thanks to NASA images being in the public domain, anyone can do this, but thanks to Richard you don’t need to. He also posts idividual wallpapers and has even begun breaking down themes specifically for both Windows 7 and Windows 8. You can browse the themes here.

Windows 7 Themes

1

Another great web site for finding themes and wallpapers, although it’s a bit confusing to navigate. If you want to take a look then head over to this site.

There are many other sources for wallpaper and themes around the internet, just be careful of fakes when downloading anything from a web site that you aren’t familiar with.

A Possible Big Night Sky Show Coming in 2013

Posted by Alan at 4:26 AM on October 5, 2012

Orbit diagram

If you haven’t heard, a new comet was recently spotted.  Even better, it’s expected to pass ridiculously close to earth in 2013 and, if those predictions prove true, it will put on quite a show in our night sky.  The new object goes by the catchy name of of C/2012 S1, but is generally being called ISON.

The projected orbit should take ISON directly towards the sun in November 2013, causing melting which will result in a very defined tail.  By January 2014 it should pass 60 million kilometers from Earth, and that combination of large tail and proximity to earth could result in a night sky object approximately as bright as the moon.  That would make ISON the brightest comet ever seen.

According to a NASA report, “comet researcher John Bortle has pointed out a curious similarity between the orbit of Comet ISON and that of the Great Comet of 1680. ‘Purely as speculation,’ he says, ‘perhaps the two bodies could have been one a few revolutions ago.’”

All of this is still somewhat unknown because, for one thing, the brightness will depend on the composition of materials making up the comet and how much melting actually occurs.  However, the best estimates at this point are leaning towards a best-case scenario for anyone interested in the night sky.

Image: NASA

An Incredibly Clear View of Ireland From Space

Posted by JenThorpe at 1:58 AM on March 17, 2012

Today is St. Patrick’s Day, and NASA’s Earth Observatory website is celebrating by selecting a remarkably clear view of Ireland as its Image of the Day.

It is easy to see why Ireland is called “The Emerald Isle”. Several different shades of green, from a drab, olive green color, to the brightest Kelly green, cover the entire island. This is a true-color image, so what you are seeing is the intense green vegetation, which is mostly made of grassland, that covers nearly the entire country.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about this image is the lack of cloud cover. According to the Irish Meteorological Service, the sky over Ireland is entirely cloudy more than 50% of the time. Fog is common. This cloud-free image of the country is an incredibly rare view to have captured.

The image was taken on October 11, 2010. It was captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) that is located on NASA’s Aqua satellite. This satellite was launched on May 4, 2002, which made it the first to be launched in a group of satellites called the Afternoon Constellation, (or the A-Train). Aqua has six Earth-observing instruments on board.

The Aqua mission is part of the Earth Observing System (EOS). It is a coordinated series of polar-orbiting and low inclination satellites. Each satellite is doing a long-term global observation of the land surface, biosphere, solid Earth, atmosphere, and oceans. The Aqua satellite has been gathering information about the Earth’s water cycle, soil moisture, sea ice, land ice, snow cover on the land and the ice, radiative energy fluxes, aerosols, vegetation cover on the land, phytoplankton and dissolved organic matter in the ocean, and temperatures of the air, land, and water on Earth.

The MODIS is an instrument that is on the Aqua satellite. You can think of it as the camera that took the beautiful view of Ireland. The MODIS and the Aqua satellite pass South to North over the equator in the afternoon. They view the entire surface of the Earth every one to two days.

I highly recommend that you take a moment, step away from your St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, and check out the Image of the Day that is on the Earth Observatory website. You will never see a more clear, green, beautiful view of Ireland than this one. It will take your breath away.

Image: Kennedy Space Center (nasa) by BigStock

NASA Delays Rockets – Releases Moon Videos

Posted by JenThorpe at 2:37 AM on March 15, 2012

NASA has decided to delay the launch of the five unmanned rockets that it planned on shooting into the sky on March 14, 2012. The rockets were part of the Anomalous Transport Rocket Experiment (ATREX) project. The purpose of the project is to gather more information about the process that is responsible for the high-altitude jet stream that exists 60 to 65 miles above the Earth’s surface.

The reason for the delay is because there was an internal radio frequency interference problem with one of the payloads on the rockets. NASA scientists are going to look into this problem, study the weather reports, and select another night for the launch of the rockets.

There is potential that the launch will happen at night on Friday, March 16, 2012. That would be the first night within the window of time that they can select for a new launch. The window stretches to April 3, 2012. It remains to be seen exactly when the “five rockets in five minutes” launch will actually happen. So, pay attention to news from NASA, and keep watching the skies.

In the meantime, you can check out two brand new videos of the moon that NASA released on March 14, 2012. The team at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, which is in Greenbelt, Maryland, released these two amazing videos of the moon now for a very interesting reason. It is because the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has now been in orbit for 1,000 days.

The LRO is a robotic scout that is orbiting the moon on a low 50 km polar mapping orbit. The purpose of Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is to create a detailed, 3D map of the moon, to identify areas on the moon that would be a safe landing site, and to locate potential resources that are located on the moon. It also is going to gather information about the radiation that is present in the environment.

One of the videos is called Evolution of the Moon. The moon did not always look like it does today. The video shows you when the craters and other features were formed, and what happened that caused their creation. Obviously, this is done with animation, but that doesn’t detract from how awesome the video is.

The other video is called A Narrated Tour of the Moon. This video shows you incredibly clear, sharp, images of the moon, as a narrator describes the significance of what you are seeing. It includes views of Orientale Basin, Shackleton crater, South Pole – Aitken Basin, Tycho crater, Aristarchus Plateau, Mare Serenitatis, Compton-Belkovic volcano, Jackson crater and Tsiolkovsky crater. The video footage was filmed by the LRO.

Image: The Moon by BigStock.

Five Rockets in Five Minutes

Posted by JenThorpe at 4:27 AM on March 14, 2012

If you live on the East coast of the United States, be sure to watch the skies tonight. NASA will be launching five rockets in five minutes from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, on March 14, 2012. The launches will take place late at night.

Each rocket will release a chemical tracer that will create a milky-white tracer cloud that will glow. The glowing clouds will be visible to people who are on the ground, looking up at the sky, from South Carolina through New Jersey. All of these rockets are suborbital.

These unmanned rockets are part of the Anomalous Transport Rocket Experiment (ATREX) mission. The purpose of launching the rockets is to study the high-altitude jet stream that is located 60 to 65 miles above the surface of the earth. The winds in this upper jet stream can have speeds of 200 to 300 mph. This is the same region where electrical turbulence often occurs. Those electrical currents can adversely affect radio communications, and communications with satellites.

Two of the five rockets that will be launched have instrumented payloads. They are carrying equipment that will measure the pressure and temperature in the atmosphere. The measurements will be taken when the wind speed is at its height.

One of the rockets that will be launched is Terrier Oriole rocket. This is a two-stage rocket that uses a Terrier first stage booster and then uses an Oriole rocket motor for the second stage of its propulsion. The rocket has four fins that are placed in order to provide stability.

Two of the rockets are Terrier-Improved Orions. These are a two-stage spin stabilized rocket system. It uses either a Terrier MK 12 Mod 1 or a MK70 for the first stage. It uses an improved Orion motor for the second stage.

The remaining two rockets are Terrier-Improved Malemutes. These are high-performance, two-stage rockets that are used for payloads that weigh less than 400 pounds. The first stage booster for this rocket is a Terrier MK 12 Mod 1. The second stage propulsion unit is a Thiokol Malemute TU-758 rocket motor that has been specifically designed for high-altitude research rocket applications.

I find it interesting that NASA selected March 14 to do this launch. March 14, or 3-14, is Pi Day, obviously, because Pi = 3.1415926535….

Those who live on the East coast can end their Pi Day celebrations by gazing up into the night sky, and watching for the glowing cloud produced by the rockets. It will make Pi Day of 2012 that much more memorable!

Image: Kennedy Space Center (nasa) by BigStock

Where to See a Retired Space Shuttle

Posted by JenThorpe at 1:35 AM on March 12, 2012

NASA ended the Space Shuttle Program in July of 2011, when the Space Shuttle Atlantis made its return trip to Earth. The program lasted for 30 years, and had a total of 135 missions. There will not be any more opportunities for you to watch the launch of a Space Shuttle. However, it is still possible for you to take a look at a retired Space Shuttle.

What can you do with a Space Shuttle that will never go on another mission into outer space? You put it on public display! NASA has been making the necessary logistic arrangements in order to get some of the retired Space Shuttles to locations where people can go and see them.

The Space Shuttle Discovery will be moved to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. NASA will officially make the transfer of the Discovery into the Smithsonian’s collection on April 19, 2012.

Discovery made a total of 39 missions, which makes it the most-flown of all the Space Shuttles. It traveled 148,221,675 miles in space, spanned 5,830 orbits of Earth, and was in space for a total of 365 days. This is the shuttle that deployed the Hubble Space Telescope, and it was also the shuttle that went on the second mission to service and repair it.

The Space Shuttle Endeavour will be moved to the California Science Center in Los Angeles in the latter part of 2012. The Endeavour completed 25 missions. It traveled 122,883,151 miles in space, spanned 4,671 orbits of Earth, and was in space for a total of 229 days. This is the shuttle that went on the first mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope.

The Space Shuttle Atlantis will be at the Kennedy Space Center. The exhibit will be open sometime in 2013. It will be located in the Shuttle Plaza at the main Visitor Complex. Again, this is the Space Shuttle that made the very last return mission home before the program ended. It completed a total of 33 missions. The Atlantis traveled 125,935,769 miles in space, spanned 4,848 orbits of Earth, and was in space for a total of 306 days. Its very last mission was to bring supplies to the International Space Station.

The Space Shuttle Enterprise will be at the Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum in New York City. The Space Shuttle Enterprise was the first full scale prototype of the Space Shuttles, and it never ended up making it into space. It was named after the USS Enterprise NCC-1701.

Image: Space Shuttle Flying Over Earth by BigStock

Curiosity Is On It’s Way To Mars

Posted by Alan at 11:43 AM on November 27, 2011

The big one we have all been waiting for is on it’s way.  The Mars Science Laboratory, better known as the Curiosity rover, lifted off yesterday from Florida and began it’s 8 and half month journey to the red planet.  Curiosity carries with it the hopes and dreams of, not just a lot of scientists and NASA engineers, but also a lot of average Americans who can only dream of this trip and what can be discovered there.

Carried into space on an Atlas 5 rocket, Curiosity, a rover the size of a car, will touch down in the Gale Crater and begin it’s systematic experiments in search of the building blocks of life on Mars.  Gale Crater is described by Universe Today as “one of the most scientifically interesting locations on the Red Planet because it exhibits exposures of clay minerals that formed in the presence of neutral liquid water that could be conducive to the genesis of life.”

The launch yesterday went off without a hitch and the rover is now on it’s way to the red planet.  Before you get too excited, Curiosity won’t discover life (if any), but only find if the necessary conditions are present.  Finding actual life will have to wait for the next mission.  As with all things this complicated, expensive, and time-consuming the scale of time is much greater than we all would like it to be.

You can watch a video of yesterday’s launch below.