Date: September 22, 2011

Title: Carnival of Space #215 — the Podcast

Podcaster: Steve Nerlich

Organization: Cheap Astronomy


Description: The Carnival of Space is a weekly compilation of astronomy, space and general science-related news drawn from science blogs and websites across the Internet.

Bio: Cheap Astronomy offers an educational website where you’re only as cheap as the telescope you’re looking through.

Sponsors: This episode of “365 Days of Astronomy” is sponsored by the Physics Department at Eastern Illinois University: “Caring faculty guiding students through teaching and research” at

This episode of “365 Days Of Astronomy” has also been sponsored anonymously and is dedicated to people who like to look up in the night sky and get goosebumps.


The Carnival of Space was created in 2007 by Henry Cate of the Homeschooling Blog and who then gave it to Fraser Cain of Universe Today and now it is continued by Brian Wang of Next Big Future. If you’d like to be a host for the carnival—or contribute to it, why not send Brian an email at

Mars Rover tribute to the 9/11 victims
Vintage Space reports how the Rock Abrasion Tools on both Spirit and Opportunity, launched in 2003, both had aluminium casings built from recovered wreckage of the World Trade Centre Twin Towers collapse in 2001. Opportunity, which is still going strong, published a self-portrait of its own RAT on September 11 2011. Ad astra—all 50 of them.

Harping on about exoplanets
Next Big Future reviews the recent finding of HARPS (the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher) which incorporate analyses of over 376 Sun-like stars, finding that around 40% of the these stars have at least one planet smaller than Saturn—and any of these stars with a planet smaller than Neptune always seems to be a multi-planet system. At least—this is what we find from the data so far.

Weird Warp reports how scientists have deduced that a distant brown dwarf (actually JMASS J2139) must be experiencing extreme weather conditions. Fluctuations in its light output are assumed to be the result of the surface being obscured by clouds. Now, deducing a brown stellar hurricane from this scant data, might seem a bit of a stretch—but heck, who’s going to prove you wrong.

More extreme exo-stuff
Chandra Blog reports on a potentially short-lived planet orbiting at 3% of an astronomical unit from its star, which is hence being blasted by about 100,000 times the amount of ionizing X-ray radiation that the Earth normally receives. As a consequence, it is estimated that about 5 million tons of matter is being evaporated from this exoplanet every second. Oh for a magnetosphere.

Not quite warp drive
Next Big Future showcases the latest in theoretical space drive technology with a laser-injected fusion engine. The engine works by plasma-ising its Boron-11 fuel producing alpha particles—which are then magnetically accelerated and channeled out the back of spacecraft as thrust. It’s all works much more efficiently than existing ion drives, since the spacecraft’s electrical power is largely generated from the fusion process. Sound great—in theory.

Not quite Tatooine
The big news this week is that the Kepler space observatory hunting for exoplanets has found a planet orbiting twin stars—so it’s a bit like the fictional Tatooine apart from the stars being an orange class K star and a red class M star and the planet being about the mass of Saturn and it is outside the habitable zone with an estimated surface temperature of –100 Celsius. But apart from that…. Doc Manhattan supplies some good graphics and Astroblog even created a Celestia file for it.

More Kepler stuff
The Meridiani Journal reports on recent (unconfirmed) findings of six Earth-sized exoplanets by the Kepler space observatory—and each of these planets appear to be in their stars’ habitable zone. But we’ve got to hang on for the confirmation though—so stay tuned.

Mapping the Moon
Next Big Future outlines the innovative approach of some Hong Kong researchers to effectively map the lunar surface despite them having only fourteen survey points—being the various Lunar Retro Reflectors that the human race has landed there). Their new mapping technique was achieved by integrating digital imagery data from the ChangE-1 spacecraft, along with data from its laser altimeter data—now that’s rocket science.

Space policy
The Space Show interviewed Drs Jurist and Benaroya on developing a new US space policy—including taking questions from the audience and a good deal of flexibility about the correct pronunciation of the Drs names.

SkyNet is online
Nicole Gugliucci from Discovery News reports how you can now join a new distributed computer system (think SETI@home etc) to help analyse interferometry data from the Expanded Very Large Array in New Mexico, the Atacama Large Millimetre Array in Chile and eventually data from the Square Kilometre Array when it’s built. You can just set and forget that SkyNet is quietly taking over computers across the world—well, that is if you can load the darn software.

And speaking of world robot domination
To close this week’s Carnival of Space, Cheap Astronomy offers an excerpt from the 1 September edition of This Week in Science which showcased an experiment by Cornell’s Creative Machines Lab which got two Chatbots to talk to each other—go here for the audio.

Well, that’s it. It’s been my privilege to host yet another Carnival of Space.

End of podcast:

365 Days of Astronomy
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