NASA Space Place – Tackling The Really BIG Questions

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 February, 2013.

By Diane K. Fisher

2013february2_spaceplaceHow does NASA get its ideas for new astronomy and astrophysics missions? It starts with a Decadal Survey by the National Research Council, sponsored by NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy. The last one, New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics was completed in 2010. It defines the highest-priority research activities in the next decade for astronomy and astrophysics that will “set the nation firmly on the path to answering profound questions about the cosmos.” It defines space- and ground-based research activities in the large, midsize, and small budget categories.

The recommended activities are meant to advance three science objectives:

1. Deepening understanding of how the first stars, galaxies, and black holes formed,
2. Locating the closest habitable Earth-like planets beyond the solar system for detailed study, and
3. Using astronomical measurements to unravel the mysteries of gravity and probe fundamental physics.

For the 2012-2021 period, the highest-priority large mission recommended is the Wide-field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST). It would orbit the second Lagrange point and perform wide-field imaging and slitless spectroscopic surveys of the near-infrared sky for the community. It would settle essential questions in both exoplanet and dark energy research and would advance topics ranging from galaxy evolution to the study of objects within the galaxy and within the solar system.

Naturally, NASA’s strategic response to the recommendations in the decadal survey must take budget constraints and uncertainties into account.

The goal is to begin building this mission in 2017, after the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. But this timeframe is not assured. Alternatively, a different, less ambitious mission that also address the Decadal Survey science objectives for WFIRST would remain a high priority.

The Astrophysics Division is also doing studies of moderate-sized missions, including: gravitational wave mission concepts that would advance some or all of the science objectives of the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), but at lower cost; X-ray mission concepts to advance the science objectives of the International X-ray Observatory (IXO), but at lower cost; and mission concept studies of probe-class missions to advance the science of a planet characterization and imaging mission.

For a summary of NASA’s plans for seeking answers to the big astrophysics questions and to read the complete Astrophysics Implementation Plan (dated December 2012), see For kids, find lots of astrophysics fun facts and games on The Space Place,

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


Caption: Clusters of galaxies collide in this composite image of “Pandora’s Cluster.” Data (in red) from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory show gas with temperatures of millions of degrees. Blue maps the total mass concentration (mostly dark matter) based on data from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), and the Japanese Subaru telescope. Optical data from HST and VLT also show the constituent galaxies of the clusters. Such images begin to reveal the relationship between concentration of dark matter and the overall structure of the universe.

About NASA Space Place

The goal of the NASA Space Place is “to inform, inspire, and involve children in the excitement of science, technology, and space exploration.” More information is available at their website:

TACNY John Edson Sweet Lecture Series – Technology That Enables The IIBMST To Conduct Medical Research…

Wednesday, March 13 2013

SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry, 146 Baker Hall

2013march1_tacnygoodmanDr. Steven R. Goodman, Executive Director, International Institute of Biomedical Sciences and Technology (IIBMST) will present “Technology that enables the IIBMST to conduct medical research and the development of biomedical products without walls, geographic, or scientific boundaries.” People interested in learning more about biotechnologies are invited to attend the free TACNY Sweet Lecture presentation on Wednesday, March 13, from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Room 146 of Baker Hall on the SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry campus. Networking starts at 5:30 p.m., the speaker is introduced at 6 p.m., the presentation is slated to run from 6:15 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., and the event ends at 8 p.m. following questions from the audience. Admission is free and open to the public. Walk-ins are welcome, but we ask that people RSVP by emailing by March 8, 2013.

Dr. Goodman is also currently the Vice President for Research/Dean, College of Graduate Studies, a Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology as well as Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at SUNY Upstate Medical University. He has over 35 years of collaborative international medical research from molecular and cell biology to infectious diseases. He has patented a novel Sickle Cell Anemia Treatment technology, authored a long list of books and research papers, and advised dozens of post graduate and postdoctoral researchers who are making significant contributions to understanding and solving medical challenges. In 2011 Dr. Goodman was the recipient of the Distinguished Scientist Award from the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine. Dr. Goodman earned his PhD in biochemistry at the St. Louis University Medical School and his BS in Chemistry at SUNY Stony Brook.

The IIBMST is a diverse group of international faculty that integrates expertise in basic and applied biological, physical, computer and engineering sciences to advance science, medical research and the development of biomedical products. It is an institute without walls, geographic or scientific boundaries that facilitates collaborative research within the areas of overlap among academic discipline. The IIBMST includes focus groups for cancer; diabetes; disorders of the nervous system; infectious diseases and emerging pathogens; pharmacogenetics and personalized medicine; and stem cell biology and regenerative medicine.


Click HERE for a full-sized PDF.

Click HERE For An Event Parking Pass.

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

Tenth Annual NEAF Solar Star Party (NSSP) Announcement – Direct From Barlow Bob

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

2013february24_nssp_bbdgaEast Coast amateur astronomers have been gearing up for NEAF all Winter long (see our original announcement HERE). One of the special extra NEAF events, now in its 10th year, is the NEAF Solar Star Party (NSSP), featuring several solar-safe scopes, many well-versed solar observers, and hopefully an active solar surface as we approach solarmax.

The host of the NSSP is none other than Barlow Bob (the brightly lit one pictured at right with the author at NEAF 2011), a solar-centric observer who has graced several CNY locations in the past few years both with truly remarkable views of our nearest star and his great knowledge of optics, light properties, and the Sun itself. Provided the skies are at all reasonable, you can be guaranteed of some excellent views of prominences and sunspots.

The official announcement from Barlow Bob is below:


The Rockland Astronomy Club Is Proud To Present

The 2013 Tenth Annual NEAF SOLAR STAR PARTY

APRIL 20 AND 21, 2013

At Rockland Community College – Suffern, New York

NEAF attendees are invited to observe the Sun with attitude in different
wavelengths, through a variety of solar filters and spectroscopes.

Join us, for two days of solar observing at NEAF 2013.

No star party entrance fee, or registration required.


For further information, please visit our website: &