Hello! First of all, we would like to apologise for not posting these weekly updates for the last few weeks. Things have been a little crazy in the lab with one very sick spectrometer, and we’ve been too busy playing doctors to sit down and write anything (oh I am actually a doctor, I’m not just playing, although according to some people I’m “not the useful kind” of doctor!). Anyway, we’re back – better late than never. Promise we’ll try to get back on schedule with weekly updates on Fridays from next week.
So what’s been happening recently in the world of Earth and Planetary Science?
Ground Control to Major Tim
Major Tim Peake will be heading out into space in 2015 for a stint onboard the International Space Station. He will be the first government-backed British astronaut. We think this is fantastic news and wish Tim all the best in his training over the next couple of years and for the trip.
If you want to keep up to date with Tim’s training, he’s on twitter: @astro_timpeake. I hope he’ll pick up where Commander Chris Hadfield left off, and post regular updates (and amazing images) while on board the ISS.
And just in case anyone out there hasn’t yet seen Chris’s amazing cover of Space Oddity, filmed onboard the ISS, you can catch it here.
Print your own meal
Cooking a nice meal in space isn’t as easy as on Earth, you can’t just nip down to Tesco* for those extra things you’ve forgotten. Till now, astronauts have largely relied on pre-prepared, freeze-dried meals. But this could be about to change. NASA and Systems and Materials Research Consultancy of Austin, Texas are investigating 3D printing of foods. Over a long mission this would give astronauts the opportunity to vary the types of food they eat as well as ensuring they get all the necessary nutrients to maintain their health.
* Or your favourite/chosen supermarket. Earth and Solar System do not endorse any particular supermarket!
Curiosity Drills 2nd Hole
NASA’s Curiosity Rover has used it robotic arm to drill a 2nd hole and collect a sample from a rock called Cumberland. The samples will be analysed by the onboard instruments win the coming days. The 1st hole was drilled in a rock known as John Klein, and analysis indicated that the environmental conditions in the distant past were favourable for microbial life. Will the samples from Cumberland support this finding?
New Stars Being Born
Today is a lovely day here in Manchester, something we don’t get very often. So I’m off to enjoy the sunshine, but before I go I’ll leave you with an image of the catchily named J125013.50+073441.5 – a starburst galaxy recently captured by the Hubble Space Telescope. The bright blue regions along the spiral arms are new stars being born.