The Thirty Meter Telescope –“Next Generation in the Search for Extraterrestrial Life”

The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) – soon to be the world’s widest eye on space – has got the go-ahead for construction on the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Most of Mauna Kea is below sea level. When measured from its oceanic base, its height is 33,500 ft (10,200 m)—more than twice Mount Everest’s base-to-peak height. The sacred mountain is about one million years old –long past the most active shield stage of life hundreds of thousands of years ago–providing a stable platform for what will will be the world’s most advanced and capable ground-based optical, near-infrared, and mid-infrared observatory.

The TMT will integrate the latest innovations in precisions control, segmented mirror design, and adaptive optics. The giant eye will enable groundbreaking advances in a wide range of scientific areas, from the most distantreaches of the Universe to our own Solar System. TMT will allow astronomers to explore virtually every aspect of this picture, from inflation to exoplanets.

The resolution and sensitivity provided by its large aperture and adaptive optics systems, combined with a flexible and powerful suite of instruments, will enable astronomers to address many of the most fundamental questions ofthe coming decades.

One of the primary missions of the TMT will be the detection and analysis of life-bearing exo planets. The exoplanets that have so far been detected are gas giants like Jupiter and Neptune. They were found because their large mass noticeably perturbs the motion of the host star. Surprisingly, many are found very close to their host star. As the higher temperatures there would prevent such planets from forming, itseems that they must have migrated inward, after forming at greater distances. Most astronomers believe that smaller terrestrial planets exist, but these cannot be detected with present telescopes. The TMT will help answer such questions as are such planets common and can they survive the disruption that would result from migration of the massive planets? Do they have atmospheres like Earth?

via The Thirty Meter Telescope –“Next Generation in the Search for Extraterrestrial Life”.

The Mars One Project

The Mars One Project

Humanity finally flying the nest?

Ever since I was very young, I had a fascination with Mars. The red planet, a world of such curiosity, such wonder. A planet that in cosmic terms is a mere stone’s throw away. I had always dreamt about what it would be like to be the first human to step foot on that dusty cold world. To go down in history, up there with Neil Armstrong, in the highly elitist group of people to step foot on another world. Science fiction you say? The ramblings of an over ambitious geek? Well, perhaps not for long.

I came across the “Mars One Project” from a post on my Twitter feed. Somehow I had managed to make it this far, without having heard a peep about them, but now I am careful to keep a close eye on they’re progress.

The Mars One Project is a non-profit organisation, their mission, to place human kind on the surface of Mars, by 2023. The team is headed by a diverse group ranging from space engineers to marketing experts. There seems to be a great pool of intellect and resource at hand.

The question on everyone’s lips – “Can they actually do it?”

Well, I think the only answer to the question, is that time will tell. The process of astronaut application has already begun. The project has encouraged people to submit video applications, and that there are no real entry requirements as such. What they do suggest is that the ideal candidates will have the ability for calm, lateral thinking, to be able to be extremely resourceful…….oh and to accept that this is a one way trip.

Now at first glance, this last point may seem rather startling. Being stranded on an alien world, for ever. What if I don’t like the neighbours?   Well I’m not sure that you would really have time to worry too many things, but as there are only 4 proposed candidates going on this trip, then perhaps your neighbours might be one to consider. It was stated by the press team that this was indeed a one way trip, because at this point in time the technology isn’t sufficient for a viable return voyage (but you never know, the sky crane tech of last year’s successful MSL Curiosity landing might prove to be of use) It’s again a case of watch this space. It might not be as “one way” as it seems.

Another question on the lips of critics is “should private companies be attempting this sort of stunt?” and again, my answer to this is a resounding YES.

SpaceX and the Google Prize are both excellent examples of how private industry is pushing forwards the space race, and forcing the superpower governments to relinquish the monopoly over the space industry. SpaceX is now providing a large percentage of resupply missions to the ISS. Something that would have been unheard of 50 years ago. Private industry is now in the position to make the space race competitive once again. Exactly what is needed if we wish to see projects like the Mars Project, moving forwards, and even venturing further. Governments are all too cautious to spend money on space, seeing it only as financial loss, but private industry sees the value. Not only the most obvious value, but also the value of all the technology and advancement that comes merely from the trying! Without the space race in the 50’s there would be a lot of technology and medical advances that we would not have the benefit from today.

So I say, Mars One may not succeed by the 2023 target. The fact that they are trying however, that they aspire to greatness. This is exactly what humanity needs.

In the words of President Kennedy;

“We choose to go to the Moon, not because it is easy, but because it is hard”

Wise words.

Marco Tempest: The magic of truth and lies (and iPods)

Marco Tempest: The magic of truth and lies

This is a TED video that I came across some months ago now, and even sat here watching it, I get goosebumps.

Now I recognise that this isn’t specifically an Astronomical or Physic related post, but it is totally worth sharing. As it happens, I frequently use the “Distant Suns” app on my iPhone, which utilises augmented reality for locating astronomical objects, so I guess there is a link.

via Marco Tempest: The magic of truth and lies (and iPods) | Video on