BAN #75: InSight plays the claw arcade game for real, Meet the SciRens

December 31, 2018 Issue #75

Subscribers are the reason the Earth goes around the Sun. Well, them plus gravity. And angular momentum. Really, there are many reasons.


Astro Tidbit

A brief synopsis of some interesting astronomy/science news that may be too short for the blog, too long for Twitter, but just right (and cool enough to talk about) for here.

Mars InSight successfully landed on the Red Planet on November 26, 2018. The mission purpose is to use various instruments to investigate the interior of Mars, to try to better understand this planet.

It’s been taking images using its two cameras to make sure everything is ship-shape, and also to survey the ground around it to look for viable places to set down its seismograph and temperature probe. It was reported this might take quite some time, but things have gone pretty smoothly, and the lander deployed the seismograph on December 19th!

[InSight’s robot arm places the SEIS instrument on the surface of Mars, as seen by the Instrument Deployment Camera mounted in the arm itself. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech]

The instrument, called Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), was sitting on the deck of the lander. A robotic arm with a claw attachment grabbed it, lifted it, moved it over the designated spot on the Martian surface, then lowered it down to the ground about 1.6 meters away from the lander. It’s not quite ready to go yet, though. It needs to be adjusted for best seating (it was tilted by a couple of degrees initially), internal tests need to be run, and eventually a shield will be placed over it to protect it from temperature changes and wind (which can affect the readings).

There could be many sources of quakes: Meteorite impacts, landslides, and more. These will be used to determine the what’s going on under the surface of Mars, so that scientists can probe the various layers of the planet just as they’ve done on Earth for decades.

[Animation of the SEIS deployment taken by the Instrument Context Camera below the deck of InSight (the specks are dust on the lens cover). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech]



Follow o’ the Letter

Someone you should follow on social media

One of the many ways I think we can improve the public’s knowledge and interest in science is by promoting it through the entertainment industry. Movies, games, TV shows… these all impact how people understand science, and more importantly how much it can inspire them. I’ve done quite a bit of work in this area myself, and have seen firsthand how much it can spark people’s curiosity.

That’s why I’m a fan of the SciRens, a group of science-enthusiast actresses who have been working toward that same goal. They currently consist of my friends Taryn O’Neill, Tamara Krinsky, and Gia Mora (former members Christina Ochoa, Rileah Vanderbilt, and Clare Grant have had other responsibilities grow and have not been active in the group lately). Their goal is to promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) learning through entertainment.

[Gia Mora, Taryn O’Neill, and Tamara Krinsky: The Scirens. Credit: Scirens]

They do this through social media as well as by creating screen projects that help do some of the heavy lifting. I’ll let them do the talking here:

Also, Taryn recently did an interview with the podcast On the Page where she goes into more details (it’s episode 585 if that link doesn’t take you directly there). You may hear a familiar name around 15 minutes in, too. They also did an interview with another friend, Mika McKinnon (whom I featured in BAN Issue 47), for Gizmodo a few years back that has more info as well.

I’ve gotten to know these women over the past few years and they are sharp, witty, and devoted to helping others find the joy of STEM and love it as much as they do. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook!


Blog Jam

What I’ve recently written on the blog, ICYMI

Monday Dec. 24, 2018: Jingle bell (space) rock

Tuesday Dec. 25, 2018: A White Christmas for the Red Planet

Wednesday Dec. 26, 2018: Cloudy with a chance of Chinook Arches

Thursday Dec. 27, 2018: Radiation driven implosion!

Friday Dec. 28, 2018: A weirdly gorgeous galaxy and an interplanetary interloper


Et alia

You can email me at thebadastronomer@gmail.com (though replies can take a while), and all my social media outlets are gathered together at about.me. Also, if you don’t already, please subscribe to this newsletter! And feel free to tell a friend or nine, too. Thanks!