I’ve got a bunch of space stuff clogging up my browser tabs and bookmarks, so it’s time to clean out.
First up, in case you have somehow managed not to see this video (which could be called “The Video Seen ‘Round the World” if I were inclined to pun), then you must take some time to accompany Commander Sunita Williams on her thoroughly enjoyable house tour.
We’ve seen tours of the International Space Station before, but never like this. Never with such a personable tour guide, or in such a wonderfully linear route (great for spatially-challenged people like me) that shows us everything, right down to the logistics of the bathroom. If NASA is smart, they’ll make Commander Williams the public face of the agency. She’s that good.
National Geographic put together a map of “50 Years of Space Exploration,” which is rather mind boggling. We humans have managed to reach pretty far out of our crib. (Note: the original size can make a great wallpaper if you’ve got a large enough monitor to do it justice.)
Did you know that we just sent the Mona Lisa to the moon with lasers? This was an experiment with great possibilities for future long distance communication. And by long distance, I mean loooooong distance. The roaming charges will be a killer.
Speaking of roaming, NASA just released this nifty image of Curiosity’s entire path so far, taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The dark blotch at left is the burn mark from the descent rockets, which worked so hard to lower Curiosity to the surface of Mars with nary a bump. From there, you can see the rover’s tracks as it zigged and zagged, shooting lasers and digging dirt according to its instructions sent from Earth (not, it should be noted, by laser).
Click on the image below for a much bigger version, in which you can make out Curiosity at the end of its tracks (including its wheels!). JPL also has a colorized version on their web page, marked up with waypoints and place names. I love that the landing site is called Bradbury Landing.
In other news, scientists have discovered the largest structure in the universe: an LQG (Large Quasar Group) four BILLION light years long. This thing is so huge that it defies the Cosmological Principle, which says that if you look at the universe from a sufficiently large scale, it will appear the same no matter where you’re viewing it from. Apparently not, when we’ve got freaking gigantoid LQGs running around!
By the way, just for scale, the entire Milky Way is a piddly 100,000 light years across its disk, and its nearest neighbor (the Andromeda Galaxy) is just 2.5 million light years away. That’s 1/1600th the length of this LQG.
Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer, has posted his chosen 10 best astronomy photos of 2012. Except he couldn’t choose just ten, so there are actually twenty-one.
And finally, in what is possibly the most important space-based news of the year: Mohawk Guy and other members of the NASA/JPL team that landed Curiosity rode in the inauguration parade! WIth a life-size model of Curiosity! Now how cool is that? (Way to inspire little proto-scientists, Mr. President. Good job.)
For the occasion, Mohawk Guy — also known as Bobak Ferdowsi — sported a new haircut. Still a mohawk, thank goodness.