Choosing a landing spot for the Mars Curiosity rover

Adapted from a talk given at #CSIROTweetup by Marion Anderson School for Geosciences Monash University. Marion is an incredibly passionate speaker and Australian ambassador for space science. Marion is a geologist, and was involved with site selection for the Curiosity landing. Our understanding of Mars has changed a lot in…

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Looking at the Earth through different eyes: the GRACE mission

Adapted from a talk given at #CSIROTweetup by Dr Daniel Shaddock (laser systems) Dr Paul Tregoning (geo data) ANU, supplemented with data from the GRACE mission home page. Image snarfed from the NASA/JPL GRACE page Most people associate going into space with exploring objects not on Earth, but many satellites…

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#CSIROTweetup in photos

A few pictures of the Tweetup event (explanation of what this event is in this post) ETA: An official report of the event is now up here These are some general overview pictures. Others will follow when I cover some of the subjects we heard about and discussed. Seen from…

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Mars Curiosity Tweetup in Canberra!

On 25 November 2011, NASA will launch the Mars Science Laboratory mission in the form of the rover known as Curiosity, which will be the third such rover to be trundling about the red planet. Curiosity (follow on Twitter as @MarsCuriosity) is larger than the previous two, Spirit, which famously…

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Space flight in Science Fiction: getting off this rock

Image: the last Shuttle lift-off in May 2011. Image snarfed from the amazing APOD site. I’ve just finished reading a book I won’t mention, for the reason that it describes something that’s impossible and inaccurate, would never be practical in the way described, and I don’t want to single out…

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How is the size of a planet related to its atmosphere

People have asked me to write something about terraforming Mars, a subject that is of great interest to Science Fiction buffs. I think Kim Stanley Robinson in his Mars series does a pretty good summary of all the currently-held scientific opinions on techniques of how we could achieve this. Yes,…

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What if the Earth had no moon (part 2)

In a previous post, I mused about what the earth would be like with no moon. You may hear the Moon blamed for things as diverse as reproductive cycles and people’s moods, but in that post, I argued that if all of a sudden, we’d find ourselves without a moon,…

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Once more on the search for exoplanets, and Alpha Centauri

This morning I came across this very interesting article on the Centauri Dreams website. By the way, Centauri Dreams, the website of the Tau Zero Foundation, is a very rich source for writers of realistic SF, especially in relation to planetary exploration and interstellar travel. The article summarises results and…

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Communication in space

Electromagnetic waves, whether gamma ray, microwave, radio or visible light frequencies, travel through vacuum at the speed of—well, uhm—light. When on Earth, this means communication is pretty much instant. If the distance travelled in one second by a photon, a light particle, were a string, it would wrap around the…

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What would earth be like without the Moon?

The search for terrestrial extrasolar planets in the habitable zone of stars suggests that these planets may not be all that rare. However, examination of the solar system points to the fact that planets with a satellite similar to the Moon are probably a lot less common. It is massive…

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