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NASA needs your help!

In just over two years time, on New Years Day 2019 to be precise, one of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will be at the outer edge of our solar system, flying past a small frozen world in the Kuiper Belt. The world’s current designation is (486958) 2014 MU69. Not very imaginative!

NASA and the New Horizons team have reached out to the public to help give (486958) 2014 MU69 a nickname. Why not have a go at submitting a name? After all, how amazing would it be if one of our own suggestions was the winner! Who knows, maybe it could even end up as StarBase 118 canon!

Head over to the Frontier Worlds website where you can browse, nominate and vote on the names submitted so far.

The campaign will be closing December 1 at 12pm Pacific / 3pm Eastern / 8pm London / 7am+1 Sydney (Aus), with their selection being announced in early January.

Under The Weather

Here on Earth, we are subject to the whims of weather as it walks across the planet. Such phenomena is not known only on Earth, but a variety of weather can be found on several planets in our very own solar system. What some people might not realise is that weather can also be found in space itself. Weather in space? Really?

Yes, really! While space doesn’t have air, it can still have certain forms of weather thanks to the Sun. From the sun, solar winds, solar flares, and plasma are tossed out into space which can actually affect spacecrafts that are sent to explore our solar system. Because of this, radiation can actually harm whatever scientist send beyond our atmosphere. A study of space weather can actually help scientists determine ways to protect spacecraft from damage. In space, a variety of ‘weather’ can affect the finely tuned instruments. Besides radiation, damage can occur when charged particles stop on the outside or even the inside of a spacecraft. This type of event is called “spacecraft charging”.

Certain types of space weather can also affect what happens here on earth. When magnetic surveys are conducted via aircraft, the rapid magnetic field variations during geomagnetic storms can have an impact on the interpretation of the data being collected.

Combine these with other types of weather such as coronal mass ejections (when huge amounts of plasma as well as magnetic fields are ejected from the sun), radiation belts and galactic cosmic rays, space weather is a lot more dynamic than one might think.

Want to learn more about space weather? Check out NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center and Space Weather @ NASA.

(Image source.)

Voyager: Boldly Going

Space. The final frontier. We’re familiar with the voyages of the Starship Enterprise and its mission – to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before. During the years of Star Trek: The Original Series and subsequent spin-offs, mankind has used its imagination in an attempt to answer just what might be out there. Through the course of various incarnations, new planets and new civilizations were indeed discovered, but revelations in real life haven’t been quite so dramatic. Or have they?

In comparison with television, one may not think that certain pieces of information gleaned by NASA would be significant, but perhaps if you take a closer look, you might discover exactly how marvelous what discoveries have been made truly are. Think about it, what do we know about this universe, or even our own solar system? In comparison with what we could know, it’s hardly anything. That hasn’t stopped man from attempting to find out.

Vulcans: New insight into an old question about Pon Farr

School of Biosciences, Vulcanis University, Vulcan – Controversial research reveals new answers to old questions.

It’s one of those subjects you just don’t talk about at the dinner table; declining Andorian population, Terran dominance of Federation politics, and Pon Farr in Vulcans.

The seven year itch is a known biological peculiarity of our otherwise extremely logical Vulcan brethren, and their reluctance to discuss the subject seems to derive from a collective cultural embarrassment. For much of Federation history information has been sparse and grudgingly granted, and a large part of this particular biological cycle still remains shrouded in mystery.

Since incidents in the early days of Starfleet, it has been known that Pon Farr is an aspect of ever mature Vulcan’s male’s life. But the question with a far less certain answer is: do Vulcan woman undergo Pon Farr? The famous Vulcan Science Academy apparently deemed research on the subject beneath their notice, and it’s only now that their home-grown competitors on the other side of the planet at Vulcanis University are starting to ask questions that others dare not, and shed light on old mysteries.

Professor Saleris of the Vulcanis University’s School of Biosciences has been leading the research, and agreed to talk to us. We asked her why no one had shown interest in performing this research previously.

“It is perhaps due to a combination of factors,” she told us.

MMS Launch

Have you ever asked yourself the question why do solar flares explode? An interesting unmanned space mission aims to gather more data to answer this question.

On March 12, four identical Magnetosperic Multiscale – MMS observatories were launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida aboard an Atlas V rocket. Goddard Space Flight Center is overseeing this new science mission to learn more about a phenomena known as magnetic reconnection which affects space weather. American Meteorological Society defines space weather as variable conditions on the Sun and in the space environment that can influence the performance and reliability of space-based and ground-based technological systems, as well as endanger life or health.

MMS observatories are four identically instrumented spacecraft equipped to measure particle and plasma fields. These spacecraft will gather data from a near-equatorial orbit where reconnection is common. To achieve this objective the mission will investigate the Sun’s and Earth’s magnetic fields connection and disconnection. Interaction of these fields creates an explosive energy transfer from one celestial body to the other. Magnetic reconnection is the formal scientific name given to this occurrence.

Magnetic Reconnection is an important process for the Sun and other planets throughout the universe. It affects many different such as geospace weather and the performance of fusion reactors. Geospace weather affects various modern technological systems like GPS navigation, electrical power grids and telecommunications networks .

Gaining a better understanding of space weather helps with creating forecasts in the future as well as developing better instrumentation. MMS will also help in developing further scientific studies on space weather. The MMS observatories will orbit Earth for the next two years. However the scientific discoveries from this mission will last far longer than that.

Further updates on the MMS mission are located on NASA’s MMS website:

Strangers in the night sky

Everyone knows that while the night sky is black between the stars and planets, it is anything but empty. Throughout our universe, space is filled with all sorts of objects – comets, meteoroids, asteroids and a variety of debris. Ever since man has made its first exploration into space, scientists have been studying the debris found there. Scientists have also made a habit of naming items they’ve found, comets, stars, and even some of those asteroids. Studies have shown a variety of interesting fact that have helped us learn something about our own planet and our solar system.

Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE Encourages Innovation

The tricorder is one of Star Trek’s most recognizable technologies. Unlike handheld communicators and the PADD, the tricorder does not yet exist in our world. The Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE is one inventive avenue into the development of this technology, particularly the medical tricorder.

The Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE is a $10 million competition from the XPRIZE Foundation, sponsored by Qualcomm. Its goal is to promote the creation of integrated medical diagnostic systems that will put healthcare in the palm of your hand.

Teams from around the world entered this competition, with entries due by May 2014. Consumer testing of submitted products will begin in May 2015, with the winning technology announced in January 2016.

The day is near when you will be doing your best Beverly Crusher impersonation in the comfort of your own home. The time to stock up on orange wigs is now.

Mojave Aerospace Ventures is a previous XPRIZE winner for developing the suborbital SpaceShipOne.

Microsoft Develops Universal Translator Technology

Many of Star Trek’s technologies once seemed like far-fetched plot devices with only a faint basis in reality. Today, many of these imagined devices — like communicators, padds, and even tricorders — have proven Star Trek’s ability to predict and inspire the future of technology.

The Universal Translator was the ultimate plot device. Darmok and a few other exceptions aside, the device enabled Starfleet crews to speak directly with anyone they met, fluently and in a language TV audiences could understand.

Now, Universal Translator technology has entered reality. Microsoft has unveiled Skype Translator, a real-time translation program for video chat. This adaptation of text-based translation programs builds on decades of research and practice to include new video technology.

How long until someone programs it to understand Klingon?

Read more and watch a video demonstration of real-time translation here.

Learn more about video and text translation technologies here.

Dancing With The Stars

Have you ever compared the skies and stars to dancing? In many books and stories I’ve read, heavenly bodies have been depicted as undulating in a coordinated array of motion, as if swaying to some unheard melody that only they can fathom. ‘The stars danced in the sky’ seems to be a popular description among many fellow sim players in the various games I’ve played over the last decade. So do stars really dance? Perhaps they do. At the very least, they play music! Okay, the stars may not play music, but a black hole did – well, a single note anyway.

Back in November of 2003, astronomers actually heard a note coming from the Perseus Galaxy, a massive cluster galaxies located a mere 250 million light years away from earth. What sort of note? Using technology along with gold old fashion music theory, Dr. Andrew Fabian and a team of colleagues at the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge, England determined that a note detected from the cluster was, in fact, a B-flat. Don’t expect to be able to hear this celestial tone – it rings out at about 57 octaves below middle C. That’s over a billion times lower than the lowest note the human ear can hear.

So next time you gaze up at the stars and see them gleam and prance in the night sky, it may very well be to a tune that only they can hear.

You can read more about this musical cluster by heading over to Nasa’s website.

Nestlé Developing Working Replicator

Like all good science fiction, Star Trek showed us the possibilities our future might hold. Some of these have become reality, from communicators that predicted cell phones, to PADDs that inspired the iPad.

One technology ubiquitous to Star Trek’s world that doesn’t yet exist in ours is the Replicator. Nestlé’s R&D wing seeks to change that – perhaps within a few decades.

The project, codenamed ‘Iron Man,’ is an extension of the company’s effort to analyze and map the nutritional needs of the individual. Eventually, it may be possible to meet these needs with a machine that synthesizes nutritional components into a custom-made meal.

Maybe this is more like the food synthesizer from Star Trek’s 1960s run. Maybe it won’t be able to meet your order of chocolate wobble with pistachio (and peach) like it did for Nurse Chapel. That’s okay – better not to spoil your supper.

Read more at the links below:

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