Monthly Archives: January 2016

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NASA News Digest: Space Science For 6 – 22 January 2016

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

The NASA News Service provides up-to-date announcements of NASA policy, news events, and space science. A recent selection of space science articles are provided below, including direct links to the full announcements. Those interested in receiving these announcements from NASA can subscribe to their service by sending an email to:

NASA’s CORAL Campaign Will Raise Reef Studies to a New Level

RELEASE 16-003 (Click here for the full article) – 6 January 2016

2016jan25_16_003A new three-year NASA field expedition gets underway this year that will use advanced instruments on airplanes and in the water to survey more of the world’s coral reefs in far greater detail than has ever been assessed before. The COral Reef Airborne Laboratory (CORAL) will measure the condition of these threatened ecosystems and create a unique database of uniform scale and quality.

Coral reefs, sometimes called the rainforests of the sea, are home to a quarter of all ocean fish species. They protect shorelines from storms and provide food for millions of people, yet very little of the world’s reef area has been studied scientifically. Virtually all measurements have been made by expensive, labor-intensive diving expeditions. Many reefs never have been surveyed, and those reefs that have been studied were measured only at a few dive sites.

“Right now, the state of the art for collecting coral reef data is scuba diving with a tape measure,” said Eric Hochberg, CORAL principal investigator and scientist at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, St. George’s. “It’s analogous to looking at a few trees and then trying to say what the forest is doing.”

To find out more about NASA’s Earth science research, visit:

UPDATE: NASA Advisory Panel Releases 2015 Safety Report

RELEASE 16-004 (Click here for the full article) – 13 January 2016

2016jan25_asap_annualreportThe Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP), an advisory committee that reports to NASA and Congress, has issued its 2015 annual report examining NASA’s safety performance over the past year and highlighting accomplishments, issues and concerns to agency and government officials.

The report, released Wednesday, is based on the panel’s 2015 fact-finding and quarterly public meetings; “insight” visits and meetings; direct observations of NASA operations and decision-making processes; discussions with NASA management, employees and contractors; and the panel members’ own experience.

“The panel continues to steadfastly believe competition between Boeing and Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) is essential to achieving a safe and productive Commercial Crew program. The Orbital-3, SpaceX CRS-7, and Russian Soyuz/Progress 59 cargo accidents underscore this position,” said Joseph W. Dyer, retired U.S. Navy vice admiral and ASAP chairman. “The three cargo accidents, and resulting loss of resupply missions, yielded a challenging year for the International Space Station (ISS), but NASA’s planning and logistics stewardship of the ISS minimized impact and allowed for continued operations.

For more information about the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, and to view the 2015 report, visit:

NASA, NOAA Analyses Reveal Record-Shattering Global Warm Temperatures in 2015

RELEASE 16-008 (Click here for the full article) – 20 January 2016

Earth’s 2015 surface temperatures were the warmest since modern record keeping began in 1880, according to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Globally-averaged temperatures in 2015 shattered the previous mark set in 2014 by 0.23 degrees Fahrenheit (0.13 Celsius). Only once before, in 1998, has the new record been greater than the old record by this much.

The 2015 temperatures continue a long-term warming trend, according to analyses by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York (GISTEMP). NOAA scientists concur with the finding that 2015 was the warmest year on record based on separate, independent analyses of the data. Because weather station locations and measurements change over time, there is some uncertainty in the individual values in the GISTEMP index. Taking this into account, NASA analysis estimates 2015 was the warmest year with 94 percent certainty.

The full 2015 surface temperature data set and the complete methodology used to make the temperature calculation are available at:

The slides for the Wednesday, Jan. 20 news conference are available at:

For more information about NASA’s Earth science activities, visit:

NASA Remembers Its Fallen Heroes, 30th Anniversary of Challenger Accident

RELEASE 16-002 (Click here for the full article) – 22 January 2016

2016jan25_dor2015NASA will pay will tribute to the crews of Apollo 1 and space shuttles Challenger and Columbia, as well as other NASA colleagues, during the agency’s Day of Remembrance on Thursday, Jan. 28, the 30th anniversary of the Challenger accident. NASA’s Day of Remembrance honors members of the NASA family who lost their lives while furthering the cause of exploration and discovery.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Deputy Administrator Dava Newman, and other agency senior officials will hold an observance and wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia starting at 9 a.m. EST. Following the wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington, various NASA centers will hold remembrance events Thursday for employees and the families of those lost in service to America’s space program.

At 10 a.m., NASA Television will provide live coverage of a wreath-laying ceremony at the Space Mirror Memorial located at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. The observance is hosted by the Astronauts Memorial Foundation, which is a private, not-for-profit organization. It built and maintains the Space Mirror Memorial, which was dedicated in 1991 to honor all astronauts who lost their lives on missions or during training. It has been designated a National Memorial by Congress.

The agency also is paying tribute to its fallen astronauts with special online content available beginning Wednesday, Jan. 27 at:

For NASA Television downlink information, schedule information and streaming video, visit:

NASA Space Place – The Loneliest Galaxy In The Universe

Poster’s Note: One of the many under-appreciated aspects of NASA is the extent to which it publishes quality science content for children and Ph.D.’s alike. NASA Space Place has been providing general audience articles for quite some time that are freely available for download and republishing. Your tax dollars help promote science! The following article was provided for reprinting in January, 2016.

By Dr. Ethan Siegel

2013february2_spaceplaceOur greatest, largest-scale surveys of the universe have given us an unprecedented view of cosmic structure extending for tens of billions of light years. With the combined effects of normal matter, dark matter, dark energy, neutrinos and radiation all affecting how matter clumps, collapses and separates over time, the great cosmic web we see is in tremendous agreement with our best theories: the Big Bang and General Relativity. Yet this understanding was only possible because of the pioneering work of Edwin Hubble, who identified a large number of galaxies outside of our own, correctly measured their distance (following the work of Vesto Slipher’s work measuring their redshifts), and discovered the expanding universe.

But what if the Milky Way weren’t located in one of the “strands” of the great cosmic web, where galaxies are plentiful and ubiquitous in many different directions? What if, instead, we were located in one of the great “voids” separating the vast majority of galaxies? It would’ve taken telescopes and imaging technology far more advanced than Hubble had at his disposal to even detect a single galaxy beyond our own, much less dozens, hundreds or millions, like we have today. While the nearest galaxies to us are only a few million light years distant, there are voids so large that a galaxy located at the center of one might not see another for a hundred times that distance.

While we’ve readily learned about our place in the universe from observing what’s around us, not everyone is as fortunate. In particular, the galaxy MCG+01-02-015 has not a single known galaxy around it for a hundred million light years in all directions. Were you to draw a sphere around the Milky Way with a radius of 100 million light years, we’d find hundreds of thousands of galaxies. But not MCG+01-02-015; it’s the loneliest galaxy ever discovered. Our Milky Way, like most galaxies, has been built up by mergers and accretions of many other galaxies over billions of years, having acquired stars and gas from a slew of our former neighbors. But an isolated galaxy like this one has only the matter it was born with to call its own.

Edwin Hubble made his universe-changing discovery using telescope technology from 1917, yet he would have found absolutely zero other galaxies at all were we situated at MCG+01-02-015’s location. The first visible galaxy wouldn’t have shown up until we had 1960s-level technology, and who knows if we’d have continued looking? If we were such a lonely galaxy, would we have given up the search, and concluded that our galaxy encompassed all of existence? Or would we have continued peering deeper into the void, eventually discovering our unusual location in a vast, expanding universe? For the inhabitants of the loneliest galaxy, we can only hope that they didn’t give up the search, and discovered the entire universe.

This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.


Caption: ESA/Hubble & NASA and N. Gorin (STScI); Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt, of the loneliest void galaxy in the known: MCG+01-02-015.

About NASA Space Place

With articles, activities, crafts, games, and lesson plans, NASA Space Place encourages everyone to get excited about science and technology. Visit (facebook|twitter) to explore space and Earth science!

CNY Skeptics Lecture: “A Big Year For Dwarf Planets – Highlights Of The NASA Missions To Ceres & Pluto”

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

Our fellow pro-science (and some fellow overlapping members) CNY’ers in CNY Skeptics are hosting a hopefully-informative lecture on dwarf planets (I heard it was OK). Details are provided below.

A Big Year For Dwarf Planets – Highlights Of The NASA Missions To Ceres & Pluto

Presentation By Damian G. Allis Ph.D.

Sponsored by CNY Skeptics, TACNY member group

Fine this event on the CNY Skeptics page or the CNYO page.

Time: Wednesday, January 20, 2016, 7:00 PM

Where: Dewitt Community Library, DCL Friends Room, Shoppingtown Mall, 3649 Erie Blvd. East, DeWitt, NY 13214

Event is Free and Open to the Public and light refreshments will be served

Please contact 1-315-636-6533 or email for more information.

Presentation Summary:

2016jan12_plutoPluto’s demotion to dwarf planet status suddenly made more people aware of its fellow dwarf planet Ceres in the Asteroid Belt. With Ceres a snapshot of a planet that might have been, and Pluto the most famous member of the Kuiper Belt, both are of special interest to scientists studying the history and complexity of our own Solar System as a way to better understand the many extra-Solar Systems now being discovered by professional and amateur astronomers. This lecture will feature some historical background and as-recent-as-the-web-will-allow views and findings from both the New Horizons and Dawn NASA missions.

Presenter Bio:

Damian G. Allis Ph.D. is a Research Professor of Chemistry, Research Fellow with the Forensic and National Security Sciences Institute, bioinformaticist with Aptamatrix, Inc., and High Performance Computing Evangelist, all at Syracuse University. A crazy/overly-optimistic local amateur astronomer, he is a NASA Solar System Ambassador, long-time member of many CNY amateur astronomy clubs, and a founding member and webmaster of CNY Observers ( When/because it’s cloudy, he’s also the drummer for a half-dozen local bands. He is always happy to talk shop and can be found and contacted at

About CNY Skeptics:

Central New York Skeptics (CNY Skeptics) is a community organization dedicated to the promotion of science and reason, the investigation of paranormal and fringe-science claims, and the improvement of standards for science education and critical-thinking skills.

TACNY Maker Hall At Dr. King Community Day, 30 January 2016 – CNYO Members Welcome To Join In!

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

CNYO will once again be running an astronomy and space science booth at this year’s TACNY Maker Hall on January 30th. I welcome anyone who wants to sign up through the links below and hang out to talk astronomy, demonstrate telescopes, keep track of my Mars and Ceres (and other) rocks, etc. If you’ve interest in attending, please drop me a line at and then fill out the registration info (below). We’ll plan the number and busy-ness of the booth pending interest.

* Maker Adventures Info:
* Volunteer Registration:

Details below from the official TACNY email announcement.

2016 TACNY Maker Hall @ Dr. King Community Day

The 2016 TACNY Maker Hall joins the Dr. King Community Day on January 30th! We are looking for individuals and organizations to volunteer their talents to run Adventure Stations. For two years, this well-known Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) outreach program has gathered over 300 Makers of all ages. The more volunteers, the more varied and engaging the event becomes!

What? TACNY Maker Hall at the Dr. King Community Day

When? Saturday, January 30, 2016
* 09:00a-12:30p Set up by Adventure Hosts, then lunch and time to explore the Maker Hall
* 12:30p-02:30p Families play in the Maker Hall
* 02:30p-04:00p Clean up

Everyone is invited to the Dr. King Unsung Heroes ceremony and the meal to follow!

Where? Syracuse City School District (location TBD)

Who? All ages, pre-K through senior citizens

Why? Because STEM is FUN!

2016jan12_mlk_fairAdventure Hosts can use existing “station kits” or you can come up with your own Adventure ideas that can me later used for year-round exploration by CNY schools, libraries and youth organizations. Maker experiences create inexpensive and fun windows into a variety of STEM fields. Children, teens and adults discover the importance of STEM as they play!

If you or your organization is interested in supporting this highly deserving STEM outreach program, please reply or email with your list of volunteers and your Adventure Station idea no later than January 8th, 2016. Space is available on a first come, first served basis. Can’t make it? Donations are welcome (TACNY is a 501(c)(3) organization) so we can expand access to Maker experiences and the fascinating world of STEM!

TACNY Junior Cafe Scientifique: “Exploring The World Of Electronics – Learn How To Design, Code, Create, And Program Computers And Microcontrollers”

Saturday – January 16, 9:30-11:00am

Milton J Rubenstein Museum of Science & Technology – Syracuse, NY

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Talk Overview

Almost everywhere you look in today’s world, you will find electronic devices powering and controlling the world. Everything from stoplights to rockets are made possible by computers and their companion software. Have you ever wondered how any of these devices work? Did you know that you can make many of these devices and systems in your own home for only a few dollars? In this talk, Alex will take you through some of the fundamental principals of electronics development, coding, and the creation of physical electronic devices. By the end of the talk, you’ll have a better understanding of the devices and concepts that run everything from global transportation to finance, as well as the knowledge of how to get started making these devices yourself on a microprocessor that has 372 times more processing power than the computers on the Apollo 11 mission but still costs only a few dollars. Alex will also talk about how his knowledge of electronics led him to be one of the two grand prize winners at the Central New York Science and Engineering Fair and how he won a fourth place award in his division at the International Science and Engineering Fair.


Alexander Wulff, a Junior at Skaneateles High School


2016jan12_17809291_mmmainElectronics and software have been some of Alex Wulff’s passions for many years. After injuring his leg playing soccer the summer of his freshman year of high school, Alex began to experiment with the creation of electronics on the Arduino platform, as he was immobile during his recovery. With this new knowledge Alex has created everything from interactive door locks to wearable assistive devices for the blind, which won the grand prize at our local science fair, sponsored by the MOST, and a fourth place award at the International Science and Engineering Fair. Alex also owns, operates, and maintains multiple websites as well as over 10 mobile apps on the iOS App Store.

About TACNY Junior Cafe Scientifique

TACNY Junior Cafe Scientifique, a program for middle-school students founded in 2005, features discussions between scientists and students about topics in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in an informal atmosphere and seeks to encourage students to consider careers in these areas. Students must be accompanied by an adult and can explore the MOST at no cost after the event.

Technology Alliance of Central New York

Founded in 1903 as the Technology Club of Syracuse, the nonprofit Technology Alliance of Central New York’s mission is to facilitate community awareness, appreciation, and education of technology; and to collaborate with like-minded organizations across Central New York.

For more information about TACNY, visit