Armchair satellite trackers hoping to catch a glimpse of NASA's doomed Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite when it plunges back to Earth on Friday will need patience, access to the Internet, a clear sky, and a large helping of luck, experts say.
Even with last-minute updates from NASA and U.S. Strategic Command pinpointing when and where UARS will begin its final plunge, the sheer size of the planet, with its vast stretches of ocean and remote terrain, means the odds of catching a glimpse of the spacecraft's fiery demise--or of being anywhere near any falling debris--will be remote.
But as re-entry footage of the old Russian Mir space station and the more recent flaming fall of a European cargo craft show, satellite "decays" offer the public and experienced amateurs alike a chance to witness a fairly spectacular show.
The UARS re-entry "is nothing to be particularly worried about, and if you're very lucky and in the right place at the right time, you may see quite a nice little fireworks show from it. But it's highly improbable that you'll get even that much out of it," said Ted Molczan, a well-known satellite watcher whose computer analysis and predictions have helped sophisticated hobbyists around the world track down spy satellites and other challenging targets.
"You have to maintain reasonable expectations. And in this case, the right expectation is, 'I'm not going to see this.' On the other hand, if you stop there it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. So you do want to see it, you know you won't, but (if you make the effort) you might!"… Read more
The iPad might be winning the tablet battle on the ground, but Android is on its way to owning the air. Boeing has chosen the Android platform for in-flight entertainment for its new 787 Dreamliner airplane. Once integrated, passengers will be able to play games, listen to music, watch video, and more from the comfort of their seat.
In 2008, University of Washington scientists released the game Foldit, hoping a sort of critical mass of gamers would mess around with proteins and, in the process, uncover some of their intrigue. (We have more than 100,000 types of proteins in our bodies alone.)
Last year, we checked in on the project's progress, and principal investigator Zoran Popovic said that some 60,000 people worldwide had taken on the challenge. Popovic hoped the initial results his team reported on last year would convince those on the sidelines that scientific discovery games could actually lead to important breakthroughs.
Engineers at Carleton University in Canada have demonstrated a small-scale rover that could be used as a risk-assessment tool in explorations of the surface of Mars and the moon.
The Kapvik micro-rover is inspired by design concepts seen in NASA's Sojourner, Spirit, and Opportunity rovers. It has six wheels, weighs less than 66 pounds, and could be deployed by larger unmanned rovers to scout out specific areas.
One problem that has dogged Martian rovers is getting stuck in sand or other topographic features. The Kapvik, named for an Inuktitut term for "wolverine," has a tethering system for winching it up hills. … Read more
If you think that engineering functional human body parts using a printer and laser is a sign of the end of time, you might want to proceed with caution. If you think such a development portends the saving of lives, read on.
Because researchers from an interdisciplinary group of five Fraunhofer institutes in Germany are announcing their successful creation of completely functional blood vessels using 3D printing and intense laser impulses.
First, advances in 3D printing have enabled researchers to print organs inexpensively and quickly using a modified inkjet printer. As in, very modified.
Using special inks, the researchers were … Read more
There hasn't been another major radioactive leak, but soon we could see flesh wounds glowing in the dark. Researchers at the University of Sheffield in the U.K. have developed a gel that glows under ultraviolet light when it comes in contact with many kinds of bacteria.
The gel also appears to be effective in fighting the bacteria at the same time.
"The polymers (in the gel) incorporate a fluorescent dye and are engineered to recognize and attach to bacteria, collapsing around them as they do so," Sheffield Professor Sheila MacNeil explains in a statement. "This change in polymer shape generates a fluorescent signal that we've been able to detect using a handheld UV lamp."
Project lead Dr. Steve Rimmer adds that the technology could help reduce the overuse of antibiotics. In testing, the gel has been able to detect the presence of serious bacterias including Salmonella, E. Coli, MRSA, and meningitis.… Read more
A Russian Soyuz capsule carrying three of the International Space Station's six crew members suffered an unexpected communications blackout just before plunging back into Earth's atmosphere, completing a nail-biting descent in radio silence with repeated calls from flight controllers near Moscow going unanswered.
Finally, recovery crews spotted the Soyuz TMA-21's braking parachute, communications with ground crews were established and the spacecraft touched down in Kazakhstan at 9:59 a.m. local time Friday (8:59 p.m. PT Thursday), tipping over on its side as it closed out an expedition lasting 164 days since launch April 4 … Read more
Researchers at the Imperial College London and the University of Oxford are reporting in the journal PLoS Biology that they can see the inner workings of white blood cells at the highest resolution ever documented.
To do this, the team immobilized a white blood cell using a pair of optical laser tweezers and watched with a super-res microscope as the so-called Natural Killer cell's actin filaments parted, creating a tiny portal through which enzyme-filled granules passed to kill targeted diseased tissue.
If you think the resulting image (at right) doesn't look super-res, consider the zoom. The place where … Read more
NASA scientists today announced a new planet called Kepler-16b that orbits two stars, a discovery that seems to bring to life the fictional Luke Skywalker home of Tatooine with its double sunset.
The system spotted by NASA consists of one star orbiting another, with the planet Kepler-16b circling both stars. Unlike the barren and rocky Tatooine from the Star Wars films, NASA believes Kepler-16b to be cold and gaseous.
The unique find was discovered in a cache of data recently acquired from NASA's $600 million Kepler mission, the centerpiece of which is a telescope traveling through space 40 million … Read more