Space Shuttle Lifts Off Amid Twitter Frenzy

Space Shuttle Atlantis sailed smoothly into orbit today with six astronauts and a full load of spare parts for the International Space Station (ISS). Watching from front-row seats were 100 Internet-savvy NASA fans cheering on the shuttle and churning out constant Twitter updates.

The tweeps, as they are called, represent 21 states plus the District of Columbia, as well as five countries, including Morocco and New Zealand. They traveled to the launch at their own expense, after NASA invited its Twitter followers to sign up online for the chance to see a space shuttle launch up close. The 100 slots and 50 backup positions filled in less than 20 minutes on the 16 October 2009.

With only six shuttle flights remaining and still no word from the White House on a future course for astronauts, NASA is tapping into social media such as Twitter, Facebook and the like to spread its message about the need to stay in space. Astronauts have been tweeting from Earth and orbit since spring, while NASA has already held a few tweetups.

NASA estimates the 100 have more than 150,000 Twitter followers. It’s a dream outreach program for a space agency looking to drum up support. Even the most staid NASA types see the benefit of reaching out to a younger, hipper crowd.

Meanwhile, Britain’s aspirations to become a spacefaring nation inched a little closer as thousands of microscopic worms were aboard Atlantis as it launched from Cape Canaveral for the mission to the international space station. To find out more on this story, see Worms from Bristol rubbish tip journey to the space station

Join the Perseids tweetup on Twitter

Continuing our current series of posts on Twitter, Newbury Astronomical Society is organising a Perseids tweetup to mark the annual meteor display as the Earth passes through debris from the Swift-Tuttle comet. The visual display occurs every August, as the Earth passes through debris from the Swift-Tuttle comet, creating a spectacular meteor shower known as the Perseids.

The peak viewing time is Tuesday 11th August, but you should be able to watch over several nights if conditions permit. If you want to participate, add the hashtag #meteorwatch to your tweets, to share your observations and ask questions of other stargazers.

Hashtags are a Twitter community convention for adding additional context and metadata to your tweets, which you add in your post. You create a hashtag simply by prefixing a word with a hash symbol: #hashtag.

For more info on the event click here to see Guardian: Tweet a falling star

Flagship fusion reactor could cost twice as much as planned

An experimental fusion reactor that will recreate the conditions at the heart of the sun to create cheap green power could cost twice as much as governments had planned for.

The flagship project, which absorbs almost half of Britain’s energy research budget, will test complex machinery needed to make the world’s first operational fusion power plants – a technology widely expected to transform energy generation by providing abundant power with no greenhouse gas emissions and only small amounts of radioactive waste.

Source Guardian Science 29 January 2009

LHC Computing Award for Intel and Oracle

Intel and Oracle received the prestigious LHC Computing Award from CERN Director General, Robert Aymar, in recognition of their outstanding contribution to Large Hadron Collider (LHC) computing.

The LHC which is the world’s largest particle accelerator, is expected to produce more than 15 million Gigabytes of data each year which will be stored and analysed via the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid (WLCG).  This ambitious project connects and combines the IT power of more than 140 computer centres in 33 countries.

Click here to visit CERN