September 6, 2013

Deadly Tango Between Cheetahs And Their Prey – The Daily Orbit

You can’t cheat a cheetah!

Armchair astronomers…NASA needs your help!

Massif is named the most massive what?

And out of this world science on the Daily Orbit!

Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit. I’m Emerald Robinson.

Well, you know you can’t outrun a cheetah, but you’re probably not going to outsmart him either. A new study found that these magnificent animals aren’t just fast, but they actually anticipate the escape tactics of their prey. Researchers found that cheetahs use prey-specific tactics that involve two phases – first is a rapid acceleration toward the prey and then second they mirror the turns and zigzags instigated by the prey. Researchers say they can out-agile the most agile, that “it is like a deadly tango between the hunter and the hunted.” Anyone care to tango?

Amateur astronomers everywhere, NASA wants you! NASA needs a little help in the movement to discover more exoplanets and is calling on citizen scientists to pick up where the broken-down Kepler telescope left off by participating in the Open Source Differential Photometry Code for Amateur Astronomy Research or, must easier to say, OSCAAR. What do you need? A telescope equipped with an electronic light detector, known as a charge-coupled device (CCD) and software capable of reading the output from the CCD with a computer. You’ll be looking for the dip in the light of a host star as a planet passes in front of it. But you’ll definitely be at a disadvantage compared to Kepler, which didn’t have to deal with the Earth’s atmosphere. NASA is being realistic saying there might not be ground-breaking results, but they hope that OSCAAR users will be inspired to take their exoplanet studies further after they get a taste for photometry. Hmmm. I’m gonna have to get a better telescope. Hey NASA, do you get to name an exoplanet if you find one?

Where do you find the biggest? At the bottom…of the ocean that is. Researchers from the University of Houston have confirmed the existence of the world’s largest single volcano at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. And its size is literally out of this world! Tamu Massif sits 6,500 feet below the surface, just off the east coast of Japan, and is so big researchers are comparing it to Mars’ massive Olympus Mons volcano. Tamu Massif covers 120,000 square miles – six times larger than Hawaii’s Mauna Loa, which is the largest active volcano on Earth. Sitting 6,500 feet below the surface and 1,000 miles East of Japan, Tamu Massif isn’t the steep cone you would expect but has a uniquely low, broad shape formed from lava that flowed great distances. Researchers said studying how the magma that formed it came from the Earth’s mantle is important in learning more about how the Earth’s interior works.

In the words of one great space explorer—“One small step….for robots.” I’m sure you were expecting Armstrong’s iconic quote. But it’s a robot that’s making comments and he’s yapping away on the International Space Station. The first talking space robot was made in Japan and arrived at the ISS last month. Kirobo speaks in Japanese, so if you don’t then you’ll have to read subtitles. Kirobo will be taking orders from Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata as well as commands from Earth. He’ll spend a year and half in space. Perhaps the other astronauts will learn a little Japanese too. Between Chris Hadfield and Kirobo I feel like the ISS just keeps getting more playful. These astronauts are just having too much fun.

And one company just keeps going up and up! Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo completed its second powered flight, flying even higher and faster than before. The flight flew under rocket power four seconds longer than April’s test flight. It reached Mach 1.43 speeds with an altitude of 69,000 feet. SpaceShipTwo is 29 flights and 3 years into its testing phase to prepare for its inaugural sub-orbital tourist flight with 600 passengers. Virgin Galactic tested the craft’s “feather” re-entry system, which is designed to fold the airplane in half allowing for a “fairly simple, slow speed configuration.” Passengers get ready! Branson hinted at a possible Christmas Day take-off in a recent interview. You’re getting closer and closer to space!

And that’s it for the Daily Orbit! Have a great weekend space cadets!

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