Welcome, one and all, to the glittering light show that is the Carnival of Space! Only this time, it’s not a carnival lit by twinkling bulbs but by the nuclear furnaces of stars and the fires of our own imaginations. This week, it’s all about planets as we start from Earth and move through our solar system to our first glimpses of solar systems beyond.
Starting here on Terra Firma, Space Cynics point us to the promise of garden shed-sized nuclear reactors that may be available in just 5 years, and it’s all terrestrial, baby.
Don’t forget to wander over to the gift shop and start your holiday shopping off right with some tips on buying a telescope as a gift at Visual Astronomy. The gift of the night sky is one that keeps on giving! David points us to some cool Moon posters at LPI, targeted for 6th through 9th graders. (Big kids can enjoy them, too!)
Looking for some cinema entertainment? Space Video of the Day gives us the movie “Fire in the Sky,” a story of an alien abduction. It probably would have fit in well at the recent “Aliens!” Film Festival here at UVa. “Rocket Girls” gets a great review at Out of the Cradle as an anime series with a positive vision of human spaceflight and great role models for teen girls. And speaking of entertainment, Paris Hilton talks about relativity? See it for yourself at Starts With a Bang. If Paris isn’t your thing, go read it for the introduction to the topic of time dilation anyway!
Political discourse stays alive at Altair VI with a four-point plan for the space program during an Obama presidency. The focus is not on expensive manned missions to the Moon and Mars, but robotic probes, space telescopes, and more human work in space. Meanwhile, Next Big Future asks what might happen if all the money spent on sci-fi entertainment went towards useful space technology.
The case for an international effort to move humanity into space is made at 21st Century Waves, including quotes from Jerry Grey at the recent International Astronautical Congress. This may be the best way to take advantage of economic and cultural booms and move further into space as one, united humankind.
Relive the recent STS-126 launch at The Spacewriter’s Ramblings in all of it’s exciting, firey glory! For future launches, learn all about the Soyuz launch facilities in French Guiana at OrbitalHub. This is a great example of multi-national cooperation in space-faring technology. I was blown away when I read that Soyuz has been responsible for over 1,700 missions!
Take a look back to our home planet as Nancy Atkinson takes us on a tour of Earth’s 10 most impressive impact craters at Universe Today. Beautiful to look at, but reminders that we still live in a shooting gallery!
Over at Music of the Spheres, we get a look at lunar landings in the style that Apollo never had… with lasers. This will be especially be important for those unmanned cargo missions that support the piloted landers. (Sharks with laser beams on their heads not currently in the works.)
Moving outwards through the solar system, the recent paper about opal on Mars is discussed at Lounge of the Lab Lemming. Although opal is not a conclusive indicator of a wetter Mars, it does suggest some interesting scenarios. Read on to find out more! Explore Martian tectonics at The Martian Chronicles, and see how Mars really is an alien word. Did it ever have plate tectonics like Earth? Maybe, maybe not, but the Tharsis Region has its own interesting story to tell.
It’s hard to think about Mars these days and not feel a twinge of sadness. Stuart Atkinson gives Phoenix a heartfelt farewell at Cumbrian Sky. Seriously, bring the Kleenex! Dave Mosher gives us a lovely ode to our dearly departed Phoenix at Space Disco, as its demise was made official in a NASA press conference. Check out all the cool pictures and videos from this successful mission. We will miss you and your tweets, little lander!
Out where another robotic mission is going on successfully, listen to the eerie sounds of Saturn at A Babe in the Universe. Radio emission detected by Cassini have been turned into audio files for your listening pleasure, and it’s quite fascinating.
Emily Lakdawalla over at The Planetary Society Blog gives us a neat glimpse into a possible mission out to Neptune, then further into the Kuiper Belt. Neptune has come into focus for a variety of reasons, so read on! Then, explore the fascinating realm of the Kuiper Belt at AstroEngine where Ian tells the funny, strange, and sad tales of his five favorite KBOs. Also, did you know that “pluto” is a verb?
Fly to the Oort Cloud at Centauri Dreams on a spaceship powered by an inflatable sail, which may scale up to larger ships more easily than solar sails. This kind of technology could eventually power multi-generational tips to the stars. Stars like Fomalhaut…
So we move on to the big story of the week… the first photographs of exoplanets! Astronomer’s have been holding this up as a “holy grail” of sorts for some time now, so it’s just thrilling to watch these images come out. Like a sparkling, rotating Ferris wheel, I will let many of our carnival presenters tell their own story of this exciting discovery:
Dynamics of Cats… “Spectra next.” Heck yes!
Potentia Tenebras Repellendi… with a great comparison of the size of our solar system with the Fomalhaut system.
The Meridiani Journal… with the exoplanet count now at 326!
SarahAskew… with a reminder of the immense difficulties such studies face.
Bad Astronomy… “Holy Haleakala.” I second that!
Universe Today a>… with a cool ESA video about the discovery.
Alice’s Astro Info… this time it’s the real thing!
What’s Up Astronomy… most importantly for us on the ground, how to find Fomalhaut and see it for yourself!
Many thanks to Fraser for letting me host this week’s carnival!