Some quick news items:
1) The launch delay for Space Shuttle Discovery may be longer than originally announced: a fourth crack has been found in the external fuel tank. While this isn’t in an area where the fuel actually is (it’s in an instrument panel) I imagine NASA will be extremely conservative about launch. It’s the last scheduled flight for Discovery, and the penultimate Shuttle launch.
2) The Japanese space agency has announced that the asteroid mission Hayabusa did in fact successfully collect samples of the asteroid Itokawa! This is HUGE news. The probe landed on the asteroid in 2005 and returned to Earth earlier this year, but the sampling device failed. They were hoping a few particles from the asteroid made it into the chamber anyway, and it appears that they did! Scientists now have well over a thousand particles collected in situ from the surface of an asteroid sitting in their labs.
3) Climate scientists report that a sharp uptick in carbon dioxide 40 million years ago caused a huge temperature increase on Earth of 5 - 11°F. An increase like that today would be catastrophic, to say the very least. To those Congresscritters and others who claim CO2 is no big deal: I hope your Antarctic beach house is comfortable.
Tip o’ the thermometer to Dan Vergano
4) Some great news: the wonderful podcast 365 Days of Astronomy just got renewed for another year! This will be its third year of educating and entertaining people about astronomy. And it’s citizen-driven: you can create your own entry and upload it. I love the podcast, and if you listen to it you will too.
5) The Greenwich Royal Observatory has posted their Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest winners. Holy Emulsion! The pictures are incredible. Go take a look, and be inspired. I was.