The last "Cool Discoveries" installment discussed the most recently observed distant gamma-ray burst (GRB). It occurred when the universe was a mere 800 million years old. A new burst eclipsed that record, detonating 170 million years earlier. The older GRB, resulting from one or two stars at most, ranks as the most remote object ever seen in the universe. Sticking with GRBs, astronomers–using the recently launched Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope–witnessed the most violent explosion ever seen. The total energy of this burst exceeded the output of nearly 9,000 supernovae!
A company called Terrefugia recently built a prototype of "the world's first practical flying car". The Transition gets 30 mpg on the highway and just over 20 mpg in the air, where it cruises at 115 mph (for up to 450 miles). In March 2009, the prototype taxied down the runway, took off and flew for just under a minute, and landed. It repeated the process numerous times.
The car's creators hope to minimize the number of aviation accidents involving smaller aircraft by providing a means to navigate safely around bad weather–namely by driving on the highways. The Federal Aviation Administration now has a pilot's license that only takes 20 hours of training time to obtain. That license would be adequate to pilot this class of vehicle. But, with my five kids, I will have to wait until they develop the flying minivan.
Researchers have two ways to study objects in the solar system: (1) observations with telescopes and (2) laboratory measurements of meteorites that fall to Earth. However, interactions as the asteroid passes through Earth's atmosphere might change its composition or structure.
In October 2008, a car-sized asteroid exploded above the Nubian Desert (not to be confused with Queen Amidala's starship in Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace). Scientists then collected numerous meteorite pieces from the desert floor. While such events regularly occur, this particular occasion is significant because astronomers had observed this object in space before it entered Earth's atmosphere. Thus, it provides the first opportunity to calibrate observations of asteroids and meteorites with laboratory measurements of the actual object taken by telescope.
As I said, no direct apologetic implications, but nevertheless fascinating discoveries by creatures bearing the image of their Creator.
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