Stephen Hawking, who passed away last night at the age of 76, had a long connection with public television – as you might expect for someone who promoted curiosity and big questions about the universe.
As Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted in tribute, “His passing has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake. But it’s not empty. Think of it as a kind of vacuum energy permeating the fabric of spacetime that defies measure.”
Over the weekend, NASA teased a big announcement across their social media accounts, and when it arrived this morning it was a doozy! Scientists have not only found evidence of the existence of water on the red planet, they’ve found actual flowing water.
As PBS NewHour science reporter Nsikan Akpan writes this morning, “Mars has seasonal rivers of flowing water. Note the verb ‘has’ rather than ‘had,’ as in liquid water is a current feature on present-day Mars. In other words, this is not from the distant past — the water is flowing now. What appeared to be a dry void of red-orange rock is wetter than previously thought.”
Follow full coverage of this exciting discovery and what it means – and to see more of the stunning photos like the one above of some of the sites that researchers found the flowing water – visit PBS NewsHour’s Rundown online.
Tomorrow’s broadcast schedule originally included a replay of NOVA “Hunting the Elements,” but that’s no longer true. As it turns out, when meteors strike, schedule changes happen.
I can say with near certainty that no one predicted the Feb. 15 meteor strike in Russia. But, soon as the event happened, it could be foreseen that NOVA’s team of investigative scientists would pull together a documentary on the subject in a matter of weeks.
Where did the meteor come from? Why did it explode with a force 30 times greater than the bomb over Hiroshima? And, what are the chances that another, even more massive, asteroid is heading straight for us? These are all valid questions that will be answered on NOVA “Meteor Strike” at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 27, the latest in a series of quick turn-around investigations by NOVA, including “Inside the Megastorm” and most recently, “Mind of a Rampage Killer.”
According to NASA, the Siberian Meteor was the largest object to burst in the atmosphere since a 1908 event near Siberia’s Tunguska River — an event with no record except for thousands of acres of flattened trees.
Armed with this crowd-sourced material, NOVA crews, along with impact scientists, hit the ground in Russia to hunt for debris from the explosion and clues to the meteor’s origin and makeup. What they’ve gathered is a comprehensive picture of what happened in the skies above Russia on Feb. 15th and the likelihood that such an event will happen again.
Is it still considered a bird’s-eye view if it’s from space? I mean if you want to get technical, it’s essentially the same perspective, it just happens to be zoomed out a little further than you would originally think.
That being said, perspective is everything. It’s amazing how the things around us really look when you can see them on a larger scale with all of their surroundings. A city may seem huge when you have to walk from one side to the other, but if you can back away enough, that city suddenly becomes a tiny concrete dot on a lush background of trees and fields.
I think the most interesting discoveries that have been made using satellite imaging are the natural global systems. Of course there are obvious uses like storm-tracking to see when and where a hurricane or blizzard might strike, but before satellites we could never put all of the pieces together. Being able to see a weather system is one thing, being able to watch how it influences systems on the other side of the planet opens up a whole new way of seeing how the world works.
Watch The Space Age: NASA’s Story at 8 p.m. Tuesdays in May on Wisconsin Public Television.
Described as the final frontier, space exploration has fascinated humans for centuries. It was the focus of science fiction until technology advanced and the space race heated up as countries around the world tried to achieve a number of firsts beyond the bounds of Earth. In the United States, those efforts have been led since 1958 by NASA.
The organization has taken men to the moon, sent observing crafts to the far reaches of the solar system and has uncovered countless new technologies along the way. For myself, the shuttle program has been the physical manifestation of space exploration for most of my life. So, as that program reaches its final stages, this in-depth program about NASA’s history comes at a bittersweet moment. But, even though the shuttle program is set to come to an end soon, our adventurers’ spirit and explorers’ instincts will not. I hope this transition marks the beginning of a new generation of exploration.
Space has always been both fascinating and frustrating to me. Planets, stars, black holes, they’re just too big to imagine. At the same time, there is still so much we don’t know about the universe. Despite billions of dollars in research and centuries of theorizing, most of what we think we know is merely scientific speculation. This is exactly why I’m always excited for a new episode of NOVA focusing on space. You never really know what you’ll discover next…