So Long Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, and Thank You

Discovery News has the following story:

The Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) has, quite literally, changed our view of the Universe. And after nine years of mapping the slight temperature variations in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation, its job is done and NASA has commanded the probe to fire itself into a “graveyard orbit” around the sun.

One of the things WMAP did was to give us a pretty accurate age of the universe: 13.75 billion years, plus or minus .11 billion years.

Quantum Gravity

Chris Lee has a terrific post covering recent developments in holographic theories of the universe. In particular, a recent paper by Erik Verlinde offers up a way to reconcile quantum theory and gravity: gravity is a byproduct of informational density. Lee’s explanation is much better than mine.

Images of the Week

A collection of images from this week’s news and events:

Japanese Spacecraft Ikaros Deploys it Solar Sail

The Japanese Spacecraft Ikaros Successfully Deployed Its Solar Sail

The Last Shuttle Liftoff

The Last NASA Space Shuttle Lifted Off

John Howe's Imagining of "Lord of the Rings"

John Howe’s Imagining of the Opening Events in “The Lord of the Rings” — for some reason this image just captured my imagination. I think it’s the combination of the gathering storm in the far background, the sunlit valley in the middle, and the wizard’s urgent strides in the foreground. Few painters these days work all three grounds like the Dutch Masters once did. And I have long loved the work of Brueghel et al.

Twittering Astronaut

Japan’s Soichi Noguchi is currently in residence aboard the International Space Station and is sending, somehow, a stream of images taken from a viewport there. [Fantastic photos](http://twitpic.com/photos/Astro_Soichi) of Earth, moonsets, and space.

Neptune May Have Eaten a “Super-Earth”

[NewScientist](http://www.newscientist.com/) recently posted [this news](http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20527522.900-neptune-may-have-eaten-a-planet-and-stolen-its-moon.html):

> NEPTUNE may have polished off a super-Earth that once roamed the outer solar system and stolen its moon to boot. The brutal deed could explain mysterious heat radiating from the icy planet and the odd orbit of its moon Triton.

Track the Space Station and Then See It Pass Overhead

If you have a child in love with space as we do, then it’s really kind of cool that NASA makes it possible to keep up with its various missions as much as it does. [This page](http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/home/index.html) is a great way to get directly to the news and information you want. If you click on the link for the Space Station, you’ll find yourself on a page with the latest press release. In the right-hand column, you’ll see a link which will take you to [this page](http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/sightings/) which will let you determine when the next “fly-over” of the space station is for your area. (You can track other objects as well, though I don’t think the clandestine NSA spy satellites are listed. Check your local spy listings for that.)