Saturday, August 1, 2009

Space News

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In case you missed it, beyond all the celebrity news last month, there were some pretty fantastic stories about space.

July 20th marked the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. This still blows my mind, the fact that humans walked on another celestial body before the VCR was invented. Before the first word processor. Before post-it notes!

And just yesterday, the Space Shuttle Endeavor touched down at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The crew, including Canadian Julie Payette, was tasked with installing the last section of a Japanese research laboratory on the International Space Station.

Hitching a ride back was Koichi Wakata, a Japanese astronaut there since March. Interestingly, or perhaps unfortunately, Wakata had a specially-designed pair of underwear that he had worn for 30 consecutive days. The silver-coated, cotton-polyester blend has antibacterial, odour-resistant properties designed for long lunar missions. Now that Wakata is back on earth, this pair of prototype underwear will be evaluated by the most unlucky scientists in Japan.

A huge bright spot developed on the planet Venus this week. The spot is visible in the upper reaches of the atmosphere, and may be a result of a volcanic eruption. Venus is thought to have been resurfaced by past volcanic events, but no present-day activity has been seen, until now. There are a few other possible causes to explore: charged particles from the sun could create an intense aurora, like our northern lights but on steroids, or strong winds could be sweeping bright material into a small area.

Either way, it’s a reminder that the night sky is always active! Don't forget to look up once in a while.

~Rheanna Sand

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