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Friday, August 27, 2010

An artist's concept of the Gliese 581 star system.

ONE LIGHT-YEAR! That’s how far the Hello From Earth message has traveled since being transmitted from a giant NASA antenna in Australia to the exoplanet Gliese 581d exactly one year ago today. As of 7 PM California time tonight (12 PM Sydney time on Saturday, August 28), the radio signal containing 25,878 goodwill text messages—including one by me—will have ventured across 5.9 trillion miles (9.5 trillion kilometers) of deep space...which, as stated at the very start of this Blog entry, equals a distance of one light-year. The signal, despite traveling 186,000 miles per second (or 671 million miles per hour, or um, 1 billion kilometers per hour), will still take 19 years to reach the Gliese 581 star system. By the way, have you guys seen the trailer for the upcoming sci-fi film Skyline (which comes out in theaters this November)? The Hello From Earth signal is mentioned at the very start of this trailer. Nice...

Check out the Skyline trailer below, but be aware of crappy audio (it sounds like this on all copies of the video I found online):



On another note, the Sent Forever signal that was transmitted from the United Kingdom at 8:07 PM (California time) on October 5 of last year is now 5.2 trillion miles (8.4 trillion kilometers) from Earth as of this typing. It's 700 billion miles (1.1 trillion kilometers) from reaching one light-year as well... I stated in past entries that I was gonna submit another message through Sent Forever, but unfortunately, looks like this won’t happen. At least temporarily, that is. The Sent Forever folks stated on their website a few months ago that they were unable to renew their transmission license... I shouldn't have procrastinated. Here’s hoping their inability to renew their license is due to financial reasons and not the service being a scam this whole time. That is all.

A satellite dish at the Goonhilly Earth Station in the United Kingdom.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A computer-generated image of the Kepler telescope in space.
NASA

KEPLER Update...

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NASA's Kepler Mission Discovers Two Planets Transiting the Same Star (Press Release)

NASA's Kepler spacecraft has discovered the first confirmed planetary system with more than one planet crossing in front of, or transiting, the same star.

The transit signatures of two distinct planets were seen in the data for the sun-like star designated Kepler-9. The planets were named Kepler-9b and 9c. The discovery incorporates seven months of observations of more than 156,000 stars as part of an ongoing search for Earth-sized planets outside our solar system. The findings will be published in Thursday's issue of the journal Science.

Kepler's ultra-precise camera measures tiny decreases in the stars' brightness that occur when a planet transits them. The size of the planet can be derived from these temporary dips.

The distance of the planet from the star can be calculated by measuring the time between successive dips as the planet orbits the star. Small variations in the regularity of these dips can be used to determine the masses of planets and detect other non-transiting planets in the system.

In June, mission scientists submitted findings for peer review that identified more than 700 planet candidates in the first 43 days of Kepler data. The data included five additional candidate systems that appear to exhibit more than one transiting planet. The Kepler team recently identified a sixth target exhibiting multiple transits and accumulated enough follow-up data to confirm this multi-planet system.

"Kepler's high quality data and round-the-clock coverage of transiting objects enable a whole host of unique measurements to be made of the parent stars and their planetary systems," said Doug Hudgins, the Kepler program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Scientists refined the estimates of the masses of the planets using observations from the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. The observations show Kepler-9b is the larger of the two planets, and both have masses similar to but less than Saturn. Kepler-9b lies closest to the star with an orbit of about 19 days, while Kepler-9c has an orbit of about 38 days. By observing several transits by each planet over the seven months of data, the time between successive transits could be analyzed.

"This discovery is the first clear detection of significant changes in the intervals from one planetary transit to the next, what we call transit timing variations," said Matthew Holman, a Kepler mission scientist from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. "This is evidence of the gravitational interaction between the two planets as seen by the Kepler spacecraft."

In addition to the two confirmed giant planets, Kepler scientists also have identified what appears to be a third, much smaller transit signature in the observations of Kepler-9. That signature is consistent with the transits of a super-Earth-sized planet about 1.5 times the radius of Earth in a scorching, near-sun 1.6 day-orbit. Additional observations are required to determine whether this signal is indeed a planet or an astronomical phenomenon that mimics the appearance of a transit.

NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., manages Kepler's ground system development, mission operations and science data analysis. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., managed Kepler mission development.

Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo., developed the Kepler flight system and supports mission operations with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder. The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore archives, hosts and distributes the Kepler science data.

Source: NASA.Gov

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An artist's concept of two exoplanets orbiting the same star, as discovered by the Kepler spacecraft.
NASA / Ames / JPL - Caltech

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

MASTERCHEF contestant Whitney Miller.
© FOX

MASTERCHEF... I’ve been watching this new show since it premiered on FOX last month, and like with Hell’s Kitchen, I’m completely hooked. Mouth-watering food (from sirloin steak, Chinese food, halibut and Texas chili to even cupcakes and truck stop hamburgers) and lovely contestants like Whitney Miller (top) and the now-eliminated Sheena Zadeh (below)... What’s not to like about MasterChef? Chef Gordon Ramsay is more laid back in this show than he is on Hell’s Kitchen (which would be a huge understatement), and more emphasis is given to seeing what the contestants are cooking on this program, since these are amateur chefs we’re talking about and not the professional cooks who sweat their way through a Chef Ramsey dinner service on Hell’s Kitchen. Though if the choice of footage is anything to go by in the last couple of episodes, methinks Ms. Miller will either win the title of America’s MasterChef, or she’ll at least finish second. Not that I’d complain or anything.


By the way, the next season of Hell’s Kitchen begins September 22nd on FOX. Word.

Former MASTERCHEF contestant Sheena Zadeh.
Courtesy of Facebook

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

70 members of the Mars Science Laboratory's (MSL) flight team pose for a group photo inside an assembly building at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

CURIOSITY Update, Part 2... While the Curiosity rover itself has just begun to take shape within an assembly building at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, the rest of the hardware that makes up NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission has pretty much been ready for launch since early last year. MSL’s entry vehicle, which comprises of the ‘aeroshell’ in which Curiosity will safely reside during the 8-month-plus journey to the Red Planet, as well as the cruise stage that will both power and steer the spacecraft during its interplanetary voyage, were tested within a ‘thermal vacuum chamber’ at JPL. Inside the vacuum chamber, the entry vehicle was subjected to the intense vibrations that it will encounter during launch and ascent to orbit, as well as extreme hot and cold temperatures that will be experienced once MSL is in deep space. Click here for more details.

These photos show the various MSL components undergoing testing inside the thermal vacuum chamber in late February of 2009. Can’t wait to see the entire spacecraft eventually be mated to the Atlas V rocket that will launch Curiosity to Mars in late 2011. Stay tuned.

LINK: Photos I took of the Curiosity rover at the 2010 JPL Open House

The MSL's cruise stage is prepped for testing inside a thermal vacuum chamber at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

The MSL's cruise stage is prepped for testing inside a thermal vacuum chamber at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

The MSL's cruise stage and aeroshell are prepped for testing inside a thermal vacuum chamber at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

The entire MSL entry vehicle undergoes testing inside a thermal vacuum chamber at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Engineers install a robotic arm onto the CURIOSITY Mars Rover at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

CURIOSITY GETS AN ARM... Almost two months since it received its 6 wheels and about one month after it received its camera system, the Mars Science Laboratory rover finally had its robotic arm installed onto it at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California last week. Click here to view a video showing the new limb being attached to NASA’s next Red Planet ground vehicle. The last major component to be installed onto Curiosity is its nuclear-powered generator (a.k.a. Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator)...but that won’t take place till days before its launch in November of next year. That is all.

Engineers prepare a robotic arm for installation onto the CURIOSITY Mars Rover at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Engineers are about to install a robotic arm onto the CURIOSITY Mars Rover at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Engineers install a robotic arm onto the CURIOSITY Mars Rover at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Engineers install a robotic arm onto the CURIOSITY Mars Rover at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Saturday, August 21, 2010

PHOTO OF THE DAY... Check out this cool shot of Earth and the Moon that was taken by NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft on May 6 of this year. Even though MESSENGER was near the orbit of Venus when it took this image, it’s awesome to see that the probe was able to discern our home world and its satellite from each other at a distance of 114 million miles (183 million kilometers) away. This pic is just as cool as this photo of asteroid Lutetia with Saturn in the background that was taken by Europe’s comet-bound Rosetta spacecraft last month. MESSENGER’s destination is Mercury...where it will arrive (after flying past the planet for 'gravity assists' three times since 2008) on March 18, 2011. Stay tuned.

An image of Earth and the Moon that was taken by NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft, from near the orbit of Venus (114 million miles away), on May 6, 2010.
NASA / Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory / Carnegie Institution of Washington

Monday, August 16, 2010

Jason Statham, Sylvester Stallone and Randy Couture take on Somali pirates at the beginning of THE EXPENDABLES.

THE EXPENDABLES... I saw the film on Saturday, and overlooking the fact it has the most clichéd plot in the history of action movies, it was friggin’ awesome! Written and directed by Sylvester Stallone, who was also the main lead in this flick, The Expendables obviously wasn’t about delivering the most complicated characters or complex storyline in cinema (go watch Inception—again—if you want that), but about uniting Rocky/Rambo with the Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger), John McClane (Bruce Willis), the Transporter (Jason Statham), Stone Cold (Steve Austin), The Wrestler (Mickey Rourke), The Monkey King (Jet Li...who played this character in 2008’s The Forbidden Kingdom) and The Punisher (Dolph Lundgren). Oh, and don’t forget Terry Crews, Randy Couture and The Dark Knight’s Eric Roberts. Annnd...Charisma Carpenter.

Sylvester Stallone has to rescue an evil dictator's daughter (Giselle Itié) in THE EXPENDABLES.

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, The Expendables didn’t exactly have a groundbreaking storyline. This is basically a rescue-the-damsel-in-distress movie. It’s also a flick about dudes with chick problems. Jason Statham beats the crap out of a guy who was dating his hot girlfriend (Charisma Carpenter) while Statham was out on covert missions; Mickey Rourke had multiple girlfriends and is haunted by the fact that he didn’t save a woman who ended up jumping off a bridge and killing herself in war-ravaged Bosnia; and Stallone and the rest of The Expendables go to a South American country (the fictional island of Vilena) to rescue the daughter of a ruthless dictator. How does the movie end, you ask? Be prepared to have your jaw drop: They succeed in rescuing the daughter. And all the good guys survive.

Jet Li is about to be shanked by Dolph Lundgren, who in turn is about to be blasted by Sylvester Stallone in THE EXPENDABLES.

There were some scenes in The Expendables that were slow, namely the moments that consisted of long bits of dialogue and not bad guys getting shanked in the neck or being blown apart by automatic shotguns. Speaking of automatic shotguns, the best scene in the movie (this isn’t the kind of film where you need to shy away from spoilers) was Terry Crews wiping out dozens of enemy soldiers with this kick-ass firearm. But most of the cool scenes in the movie involved Jason Statham...whose character either enjoyed shooting people in the kneecaps or chest multiple times, or hurling knives and shanking folks in the neck as mentioned earlier in this paragraph. Oh, and strafing a pier with 40 hapless soldiers on it with the machine guns of buddy Stallone’s twin-prop aircraft. Are these descriptions getting too violent for ya? Well, that’s what you get when you watch a macho, action-packed film like The Expendables. Would I buy this flick on DVD, you ask? I haven’t bought better-reviewed action movies like Kick-Ass and Avatar on DVD yet, so what do you think?

Eric Roberts and Steve Austin (background) are the main bad guys who call the shots in THE EXPENDABLES.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Scott Pilgrim meets the hipster girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers.

SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD... I saw the flick at work earlier this week, and thought it was actually pretty entertaining. However, it was still the crazy whacked-out s*** you watch when you're high on narcotics like the movie’s trailer made it out to be. (Not that I'd know about the narcotics part. Hah.) On the plus side though, that Universal Pictures logo at the beginning of the film was great.

Scott Pilgrim fights one of the Seven Evil Exes of Ramona Flowers.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Chef Gordon Ramsay

HELL’S KITCHEN... Congrats to Holli Ugalde for winning the title of head chef in this latest season of the hit FOX TV show, though it was clearly obvious that she was gonna emerge victorious from the door of Chef Gordon Ramsay's office. The cameras focused on her young son like a dozen times during tonight's finale...most of his close-ups being in the final moments before Holli was revealed to be the one who's heading to Ramsay's Savoy Grill restaurant in London. The editor of this episode could've been a tad bit more subtle. But it's all good. You hawt, Holli. You hawt.

'Hell's Kitchen' Season 7 winner Holli Ugalde

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Luke Wilson and Laura Ramsey star in MIDDLE MEN.

MIDDLE MEN... Yesterday, I saw the new film about a Texas businessman who helped build the first online billing company devoted to adult entertainment. The movie stars Luke Wilson, who plays Jack Harris...an entrepreneur who has to constantly clean up the mess created by two reckless computer guys (Wayne Beering and Buck Dolby, who are played by Giovanni Ribisi and Gabriel Macht respectively) solely responsible for coming up with the idea of charging people to watch porn on the Internet. James Caan, Kelsey Grammar, Kevin Pollak and Laura Ramsey also star in the film.

Gabriel Macht and Giovanni Ribisi play two reckless computer geniuses in MIDDLE MEN.

Middle Men was an amusing movie, though as usual, one wonders how far the story takes liberty in depicting how the world was first introduced to online porn. I have to give the filmmakers credit in getting actual adult film stars (I spotted the sexy Sunny Leone in one scene) to appear in the flick. In terms of the main (but fictional) triple-X star in the movie, Laura Ramsey looked totally gorgeous as Audrey Dawns. Ironically however, Ramsey pretty much kept her clothes on throughout Middle Men...despite playing an adult film star in the movie and having nude scenes in previous non-porn-related flicks like The Ruins and The Covenant. Oh well.

Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell play two reckless New York cops in THE OTHER GUYS.

I also saw the latest Will Ferrell movie The Other Guys...which is obviously your standard goofball police flick like this year's earlier film Cop Out, which starred Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan. Not much to discusss about this movie, except to say that Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg were funny for the most part in The Other Guys, and that Eva Mendes was hot as usual. Though I thought Laura Ramsey looked even hotter in the movie I mentioned first in this entry. Here's one more pic of her before I sign off with my usual "That is all". That is all.

Laura Ramsey as adult film star Audrey Dawns in MIDDLE MEN.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

SHAQ IS NOW WITH THE BOSTON CELTICS... So not only should his jersey NOT be retired at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles (Moving to Miami, Phoenix and then Cleveland is one thing, but going to the town of the Lakers' archrivals? TRAITOR!), but it should be given the LeBron treatment by being pissed on and burned by Lakers fans. Though I don't know if folks in Cleveland actually urinated on Queen James' jersey after he joined the Miami Hype last month. They probably did. That is all.

Shaquille O'Neal will soon be playing with the Bastards of Beantown.
Ryan Hurst (@ NBA_Photos)