AND WHAT DOES THIS BUTTON DO? Pictured above is the flight deck of Space Shuttle Endeavour, the youngest shuttle and the second to last ever launched. The retired orbiters are now being sent to museums, with Endeavour being sent to California Space Center in Los Angeles, California, Atlantis to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on Merritt Island, Florida, and Discovery to the Udvar-Hazy Annex of the National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Virginia. (Photo: Ben Cooper / Spaceflight Now via NASA APOD)
The Waterfall Nebula
HH-222: The structure seen in the region of NGC 1999 in the Great Orion Molecular Cloud complex is one of the more mysterious structures yet found on the sky. Designated HH-222, the elongated gaseous stream stretches about ten light years and emits an unusual array of colors. One hypothesis is that the gas filament results from the wind from a young star impacting a nearby molecular cloud.
That would not explain, however, why the Waterfall and fainter streams all appear to converge on a bright but unusual non thermal radio source located toward the upper left of the curving structure. Another hypothesis is that the unusual radio source originates from a binary system containing a hot white dwarf, neutron star, or black hole, and that the Waterfall is just a jet from this energetic system.
(image via conceptships)
It’s pretty hard to travel around in space because there are very few convenient ways of providing propulsion to a space ship. The most common method used in moving a ship in space are rockets, but they require that astronauts bring their fuel with them into space. As a result, rockets are heavy and expensive. The solution that many physicists propose is a solar sail, which would catch the light of the sun much like a canvas sail does with the wind, propelling a ship forward.
Conventional solar sails provide thrust by reflecting light off of their surfaces. This reflection generates a pressure on the sail which moves the ship forward. The trouble is that this makes it impossible to steer the sail. You are forced to move wherever the light takes you.
Scientists at my old alma mater: Rochester Institute of Technology (www.rit.edu) have a solution to this problem. A refractive sail could, conceivably, be used to steer a space craft. As the light passes through the refractive material, it is deflected at an angle due to Snell’s Law, precisely like the light bouncing off the bottom of a swimming pool.
Because of this angled flight, the light provides directional thrust when it impacts the other edge of the sail. By forming a sail from super-light refractive lenses, the astronauts of tomorrow could sail between the planets on a wind of light.
(submitted to itsfullofstars)