“Space Atlas,” “Space Stations,” “All Over the Map” and “The Universe Today Ultimate Guide to Viewing the Cosmos” are among newly released coffee-table books with cosmic themes. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle) If you’re going to give somebody a book for the holidays, why not go big? In this age of ebooks, smartphones and tiny houses, there’s less need (and less room) for shelves of inch-thick volumes lining the walls. But it’s still nice to have a colorful, glossy-paged book to peruse during the commercials while you’re watching the latest episode of “Mars.” And if it’s a big book about a big subject, that’s even better. Here are five big-format books on out-of-this-world subjects to put on your gift list, or to consider giving to folks who are crazy about the cosmos: There are lots of reasons to keep this wide-ranging, picture-packed survey of factual and fictional space stations — written by Gary Kitmacher, Ron Miller and Robert Pearlman — handy over the coming year. We just celebrated the 20th anniversary of the International Space Station’s start, and the expected debut of commercial space taxis will focus fresh attention on the ISS. There’s also a lot of talk about the Gateway that NASA and its partners are talking about building in lunar orbit. And if you want to feast your eyes on Space Wheels, O’Neill habitats and other classic sci-fi visions of the future, “Space Stations” has you covered. This second edition of what’s now become a classic off-Earth atlas runs the gamut from constellation star guides to annotated planetary maps based on the latest wave of space missions (including Messenger’s voyage to Mercury and New Horizons’ flyby of Pluto). Because it’s a National Geographic production, there are lots of magazine-quality photos and sumptuous graphics. Written by James Trefil with a foreword by Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin (with an explanation of his cycler concept for trips to Mars). Astronomy writer David Dickinson and Universe Today publisher Fraser Cain team up on a book you won’t just want to keep on your coffee table. This guide has something for anyone with even the slightest interest in the skies above: easy-to-follow advice for finding the good stuff in the night sky, fun activities to deepen your appreciation of cosmic wonders, full rundowns on eclipses and other key events to watch for when the skies are clear, and lots of tales and trivia to muse over when they’re not. Mapping the cosmos is just one of the topics addressed in this entertaining, colorful look at historical maps and the stories behind them. Space fans will revel in the tale surrounding a century’s worth of road atlases for Mars’ (non-existent) canals, There are also entries for the history of moon maps, the solar system maps that NASA’s Pioneer and Voyager missions provided for the aliens, and the fictional Death Star diagrams. But wait … there’s much, much more. Co-authors Betsy Mason and Greg Miller provide a cornucopia of cartography that spans subjects ranging from a street map for ancient Rome and a 15th-century guide to the parallels between medieval maps of Britain and contemporary charts of the Seven Kingdoms in “Game of Thrones.” “Apollo: VII-XVII” takes a mission-by-mission look at Apollo’s space expeditions. (NASA / teNeues Publishing) This holiday season kicks off prime time for Apollo moonshot anniversaries, starting with Apollo 7’s first crewed test mission and Apollo 8’s audacious yuletide trip around the moon in 1968. Co-authors Floris Heyne, Joel Meter, Simon Phillipson and Delano Steenmeijer presents carefully curated photos from each of the 11 missions in chronological order. It’s all about the pictures here: Background text is kept to a minimum, and the captions are grouped together at the end of each section. There’s also a in a larger format with thicker paper (and a fatter price tag). With a foreword by Apollo 7 astronaut Walter Cunningham. More books for Apollo’s big year Because the coming year will be a big year for moonshot memories, here are five more Apollo books to moon over: The ultimate space story gets the graphic-novel treatment, blending historical facts about the Apollo 11 moon landing with docudrama-style suspense. The saga of NASA’s glory days, illustrated with artifacts from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. This collection of 3-D imagery literally brings another dimension to the Space Race, climaxing with the Apollo moon landings. 3-D viewer included. Not just the Apollo photos, but other big and beautiful Hasselblad frames that chronicle missions ranging from Gemini to the space shuttle and the International Space Station. It won’t be out until January, but if your pocketbook can stand it, you’ll want to put this comprehensive review of NASA’s history on your list for after the holidays. And in a pinch, the 468-page coffee-table book . Big topics with fewer pictures If you’re looking for science books that aren’t so big in size but still handle big subjects, here are five suggestions: Stories from Quanta magazine chart the frontiers of physics, including quantum mechanics and black holes. Space.com’s Michael Wall addresses big cosmic questions — for example, are we alone? — in a Q&A format. Deborah Blum follows up on “The Poisoner’s Handbook” with the origin story for the fight against unsafe food. Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest hard-sci-fi novel is set just 30 years from now, when China has set up bases on the moon. Carl Zimmer delves into the story of heredity and its impact on identity, which goes way beyond just genes.
A clean energy think tank has proposed ways to make industry and shipping cleaner with existing technologies-- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com
(International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis) A new global field size data set collected as part of a crowdsourcing citizen science project by IIASA researchers has shown that the proportion of smallholder farms may be much larger than previously thought, contributing much more to global food production.
(The Faraday Institution) A new supercomputer designed to speed up research on two of the UK's most important battery research projects has been installed at University College London (UCL). Named Michael, after the UK's most famous battery scientist, Michael Faraday, the supercomputer will reach 265 teraflops at peak performance.
NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor, at right, takes a group selfie with Russia’s Sergey Prokopyev and Germany’s Alexander Gerst on the International Space Station. (NASA Photo) Thanksgiving is traditionally a time for big gatherings around the dinner table, but this year’s feast on the will be served to only three people. And only two of them have the day off. That’s because two spacefliers who were supposed to be in orbit at this time of year missed out on their ride: NASA’s Nick Hague and Russia’s Alexey Ovchinin just minutes after their launch on Oct. 11 due to a Soyuz rocket malfunction. The next crew won’t arrive until next month. As a result, NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor is the only one on the station who has traditionally observed American Thanksgiving. German astronaut Alexander Gerst is , even though the closest thing to Thanksgiving in Germany, a harvest festival known as , is usually celebrated in September or October. And for the third crew member, Russia’s Sergey Prokopyev, Thursday is just another workday. In a conducted three weeks ago, Auñón-Chancellor said she misses Hague and Ovchinin. “Sure, we would love to see them up here, but more important, they’re safe on the ground,” she said. Are you thawing out your turkey? The space station crew is preparing for Thanksgiving, too! Tomorrow, an American, European and Russian will celebrate together in space with their own special meal. Happy Thanksgiving from the International Space Station! — Intl. Space Station (@Space_Station) There could be an upside to the smaller crowd: bigger servings of the space station’s , with irradiated smoked turkey leading the list. Shelf-storable fixings have been on the space station for weeks, but they’ll be supplemented by fresh fruit, ice cream and other goodies that came up to the space station over the weekend in two robotic cargo deliveries, as well as . “We’ve got everything from turkey to candied yams to stuffing to special spicy pound cakes,” Auñón-Chancellor said in a . “We’re very excited.” Prokopyev will join Auñón-Chancellor and Gerst for the feast after his work shift ends. And there’s another upside to Thanksgiving in space: . Instead, there’ll be extra time to check in with family and friends more than 200 miles below. “Thanksgiving is a time to spend with those whom you love, whomever that might be,” Auñón-Chancellor told viewers. “And so we’ll be enjoying this meal together, but then also calling our loved ones back on planet Earth.”
Researchers fly the first atmospheric aircraft to use space-proven ionic thrust technology-- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com
An artist’s conception shows the Mars Insight lander on the Red Planet’s surface, with its seismometer deployed at left and its heat-measuring “mole” deployed at right. (NASA / JPL-Caltech Illustration) After a 300 million-mile, six-month interplanetary cruise, NASA’s is heading for a plain-vanilla arrival at the Red Planet on Monday — and the team behind the mission couldn’t be more pleased. “We’re expecting to have a very plain day on Mars for the landing, and we’re very happy about that,” said Rob Grover, the engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who’s in charge of Mars InSight’s entry, descent and landing. That’s not only because the weather is relatively clear, but also because Mars InSight is on track to land in a no-drama region of Mars known as Elysium Planitia, which is Latin for “Paradise Plain.” “It may not look like paradise, but it is very flat. … It’s an excellent place for landing,” Grover said today. “As landing engineers, we really like this landing site.” Grover and other InSight team members provided a preview of the landing today at JPL in Pasadena, Calif. The mission’s name is actually an acronym of sorts, standing for “INterior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.” The lander’s instruments are designed to provide unprecedented data about the Red Planet’s inner structure, seismic activity and heat flow from the interior. Pasadena may be the earthly epicenter for the $850 million mission, but NASA has upped its game for fans who want to follow the action remotely. The space agency has set up that positively bristles with animations, infographics, backgrounders and an that are keyed to the landing. In Seattle, the Pacific Science Center is hosting a of mission activities — while at the Museum of Flight, video coverage of the landing will be , with live commentary from space curator Geoff Nunn. NASA’s coverage begins at 11 a.m. PT Monday, with touchdown expected at around noon PT and a post-landing conference set for no earlier than 2 p.m. PT. Video will be streamed online via and , plus and . NASA’s , and social-media channels will get in on the party as well. What will viewers see? NASA will provide a play-by-play account of the spacecraft’s approach, leading up to a crucial plunge that lasts nearly seven minutes. When the lander hits the Martian atmosphere, protected by its heat shield, it’ll be traveling more than 12,000 mph and heating up to temperatures as high as 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit. In the latter phases of the descent, the heat shield will pop off, the probe’s parachute will pop open, the landing legs will deploy and 12 descent thrusters (produced by Aerojet Rocketdyne’s team in Redmond, Wash.) will fire up to ease the lander down onto Elysium Planitia. The descent will be monitored by that have been flying in formation near the InSight lander since . The MarCO probes aren’t designed to land on Mars themselves. Rather, they’re equipped with communication equipment to relay data about InSight’s descent back to Earth. JPL engineer Anne Marinan shows off a full-scale mockup of the MarCO flyby spacecraft with its communication antenna and solar panels deployed. MarCO stands for “Mars Cube One,” in recognition of its status as the first breed of interplanetary CubeSats. (NASA via YouTube) NASA doesn’t strictly need MarCO-A and MarCO-B to work for mission success. MarCO’s main job is to test miniaturized CubeSat technologies that could become part of the routine for future robotic exploration missions. After flying past Mars, the twin solar-powered spacecraft will continue into deep space and could be available for a follow-up mission that’s yet to be determined. InSight’s first hours of activity will be tracked by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Mars Odyssey orbiter as well. But because of the orbiters’ positions with respect to Earth, it could be more than five hours before ground controllers hear whether InSight has opened its two sets of solar arrays. That’s a key requirement for mission success. If InSight doesn’t get its power-generating system working, its batteries would last “not much more than one Mars day,” said Tom Hoffman, InSight project manager at JPL. What will scientists get? The first picture from InSight is set to be taken by the robotic probe’s Instrument Context Camera, which can capture a of the lander’s surroundings. But such pictures are likely to be about as plain as a plain can be. InSight’s most important findings are expected to come from its three main scientific instruments. A will receive signals from Earth and send them back again, producing fluctuations that scientists can use to track the position of the lander precisely in space. “In particular, we’re tracking the north pole of the planet and watching it wobble as the planet rotates,” InSight principal investigator Bruce Banerdt said. “The wobble of that north pole is tied to the interaction between the planet and its core.” Close analysis of the readings can tell scientists how big Mars’ core is, and what it’s made out of. “That’s very critical in terms of understanding the history of the planet,” Banerdt said. Scientists believe that Mars once had an environment more like Earth’s, but lost most of its atmosphere and water due to a . InSight’s robotic arm will set down another instrument, known as the , or SEIS. It’s a seismometer that can detect perturbations in the Martian crust with incredible precision. “Depending on exactly how you define it, it’s about half the radius of a hydrogen atom,” Banerdt said. SEIS is so delicate that it has to be contained in a vacuum chamber and shielded from Mars’ whisper-thin winds. Back in 2015, problems with the vacuum seal from 2016 to this year. But that delay’s nothing compared to how long JPL’s Sue Smrekar, deputy principal investigator for the InSight mission, has been looking forward to getting the seismic data. “I personally have been waiting for this information for decades,” she said. The readings should reveal what kinds of seismic activity take place on Mars, how often earthquakes occur, and even how often and how forcefully meteors hit Mars. That kind of information could be useful to future Mars explorers. The third instrument is the or HP3 (“HP-cubed”), which is designed to take Mars’ internal temperature. HP3 is a “mole” that hammers its way down as far as 15 feet beneath the surface to see how heat is transferred from Mars’ depths to the surface. That’s an important question, because if there’s any life left on Mars, it’s likely to lurk beneath the surface where there’s a better chance of having access to warmth and liquid water. Once the instruments are deployed, NASA will be delivering regular snapshots of Mars as well as an unprecedented bonanza of and weather data. Just don’t expect two-day delivery, even though the big event takes place on Cyber Monday. Banerdt estimates it’ll be two or three months before all the instruments are set down on the ground and providing data — but he and the rest of the InSight team say it’ll be worth the wait. There may even be a surprise or two. “It’s always the things we don’t expect that turn out to be the most intriguing,” Smrekar said. NASA is planning to its final pre-landing news conference at 10 a.m. PT Sunday, followed by a NASA Social Q&A with the InSight team at 1 p.m. PT. Monday’s NASA TV coverage includes live interviews with mission experts from 3 to 7 a.m. PT, landing commentary beginning at 11 a.m., and a post-landing news conference no earlier than 2 p.m. ET. For an entertaining look at the InSight mission, , created by Seattle’s own Matthew Inman.
(NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center) Tropical Depression 33W moved through the central Philippines and entered the Sulu Sea when NASA-NOAA's Suomi NPP satellite provided a visible image of the storm.
(University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences) A protein found in healing muscles of younger mice helps older animals bounce back from injury.
(Wiley) In recent years, cities have asserted themselves as relevant actors in efforts to address global climate change. The announcement by the United States of their intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement has generated more attention than ever for what cities and other subnational authorities can do in this field.
(Chalmers University of Technology) Water which has been contaminated with mercury and other toxic heavy metals is a major cause of environmental damage and health problems worldwide. Now, researchers from Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, present a totally new way to clean contaminated water, through an electrochemical process. The results are published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.
(NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center) ropical depression Man-yi for med in the Northwestern Pacific Ocean and NASA captured an image of the storm. Yap state is already under watches and warnings.
(University of Cincinnati) Biologists at the University of Cincinnati say the hungrier ticks are, the harder they try to find you or other hosts. The findings could have implications for the spread of tick-borne disease such as Lyme or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.