News from the Universe: 07/28/04

Posted by barb on Jul 28, 2004 in Science Musings |

  • This was cool:Tiny Hot Spot Found on City-Sized Star. XMM-Newton observations of the Geminga pulsar show a hot spot that’s about the size of a football field on the pulsar’s surface. Geminga has already been seen to show an X-ray tail as it speeds away from the site of it’s progenitor supernova. This tail is postulated to be from electrons created when gamma ray photons are accelerated in the pulsar’s strong magnetic field. In such a strong magnetic field, the gamma rays may become an electron/positron pair. If the X-ray tail is, indeed, electrons from this pair-production, then there should be a stream of positrons flying toward the pulsar’s surface. This hot spot may be evidence of those positrons.

    The story appears in the July 16 issue of Science, but can also be found in the astro-ph archive: Phase-resolved spectroscopy of Geminga shows rotating hot spot(s)

  • It’s about time: Partners Agree to ISS Crews of “More than Three;” Details Sketchy. The International Space Station was designed with a vision of doing experiments in space; however, with crews of only three people, all of the astronauts’ time is spent maintaining the space station, with little (if any) time for science.

    NASA officials emerging from a space station partners meeting July 23 declined to commit to a U.S. purchase of Russian Soyuz crew-transport and rescue capsules but said such purchases would have to be made to meet the goal of having between four and six astronauts permanently working at the orbital outpost.

    In a conference call, NASA Associated Administrator Frederick D. Gregory and Bill Gersteinmeier, the agency’s space-station director, said NASA and its space station partners agreed that “more than three” astronauts should be working at the station on a permanent basis. A single Soyuz capsule can transport three astronauts.

    While there’s nothing definate, at least it looks like plans are being made to start using the ISS to it’s original potential.

  • A question I’ve gotten from time to time is what good is the space program to life on Earth. Here’s a good example: Helping Hospitals: Space Technology Aids Life on Earth.

    In Europe, Russian air scrubbers built for the space station Mir — and later installed aboard the International Space Station (ISS) — have been integrated into hospitals to protect staff and patients alike from airborne spores, bacteria and viruses.


    Meanwhile, in California, NASA engineers are working alongside neurosurgeons to turn an infrared video camera normally used to study the Earth into a tumor-hunting brain scanner.

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