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Archive for March 28th, 2010

DIY High-Altitude Photography

I’ve already got the camera – if only I had the time to do the rest.

Amazing pictures of Earth captured by one man, a balloon and his compact camera:

Space enthusiast Robert Harrison managed to send his home-made contraption 22 miles – or 116,160 feet – above the earth’s surface from his back garden.

He used GPS tracking technology similar to an in-car sat-nav to follow its progress – and an attached radio transmitter to find it when it parachutes back to earth.

The photos taken by his device were so spectacular that Nasa has been in touch to see how he achieved it.

Mr Harrison’s budget of £500 might also offer inspiration to the new UK Space Agency, which launches on April 1. Based in Swindon, with only one astronaut and a budget one 50th the size of Nasa’s, it will be looking for cut-price ways to reach for the sky.

Mr Harrison first got the idea to explore space after a failed attempt to take aerial pictures of his house using a remote control helicopter.

The pictures are pretty impressive. What’s really amazing about this, though, is that he didn’t get nailed by the aviation authorities for doing this. Or that the police didn’t arrest him under the 2004 Terrorist Act for “suspicious” or “antisocial” photography.

Extremophiles on Mars

Well, not exactly – more like terrestrial microbes living in harsh environments like those Mars likely had some time back.

Minerals on Mars studied by the NASA rovers suggest water once flowed on the planet’s surface, but was very salty and acidic, raising doubts about whether it could have supported life.

But in 2007, Melanie Mormile of Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla and colleagues cultured a bacterium from water sampled from one of several salty, acidic lakes in Western Australia.

The lakes are very shallow and periodically fill with rainwater before partially evaporating, which concentrates the salts within them. They may be the closest equivalents on Earth of the shallow pools thought to have once dotted Mars.

Which leaves me to wonder if there aren’t pockets of salty, acidic water remaining underground on Mars, warmed by residual internal heat from the planet, where such microbes might have migrated from the surface as conditions there grew (even) less hospitable.

More on Eyjafjallajokull – Video of Eruption

One of the local newspapers, Morgunblaðið, has some good video of the eruption at Eyjafjallajokull, taken apparently from the nearby Fimmvörðuháls Pass.


2012 Prometheus Award Finalist


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A young girl sets out to prove herself by resolving a long-forgotten mystery. But when she gets close to the truth, what she thought was a harmless adventure becomes a threat to the future of the independent commercial settlements on Mars.

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