Picard to have ‘radically altered’ life in upcoming Star Trek series

Speculation about how Patrick Stewart will reprise his role of Captain Jean-Luc Picard for CBS All Access’ upcoming Star Trek series has been nearly as mysterious as space itself. But thanks to one of the new show’s executives, we’re beginning to learn that it definitely won’t resemble anything we’ve seen before on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Alex Kurtzman, a longtime Star Trek writer and executive producer of both Star Trek: Discovery and the new series, says Picard will be living a very different life than the one he knew on the bridge of the Enterprise, thanks to a traumatic and life-changing calamity dating all the way back to J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek movie — a film Kurtzman co-wrote.

The destruction of the Romulan homeworld in 2009’s Star Trek, Kurtzman told The Hollywood Reporter, was a defining event in Picard’s career, one that sets up the role Stewart will play on the still-untitled new show. “Picard’s life was radically altered by the dissolution of the Romulan Empire,” Kurtzman explained, adding that Stewart himself loved the show’s new premise, once he’d seen how different his reprised role would be.

“He [Stewart] threw down an amazing gauntlet and said, ‘If we do this, I want it to be so different, I want it to be both what people remember but also not what they’re expecting at all, otherwise why do it?’” Kurtzman said. After reading the creative team’s 34-page pitch for the new show, Stewart “walked into the room and he had a huge smile on his face and said, ‘This is wonderful.’ … He knew if he was going to go back to Picard, it needed to be for the greatest reason ever.”

Details about the new series are still light, but it already appears as if Picard won’t be saddled with the workaday business of coordinating his old crew’s adventures from one episode to the next, in the comfortable — if somewhat predictable — fashion of The Next Generation. But Kurtzman did add that “anything could happen,” when asked whether some of the old TNG cast might show up on the new show for a cameo or two.

CBS All Access’ new Star Trek series still hasn’t been given a firm release date, but it’s expected to boldly go live on the streaming service before the end of 2019.



“Project Blue Book” on the History Channel


It came out of the sky, and now it has a premiere date. History has set Tuesday, January 8, for the debut of Project Blue Book, its period UFO drama from EP Robert Zemeckis.

Starring Aidan Gillen and Michael Malarkey, the 10-episode series is based on the true, top-secret investigations into unidentified flying objects and related phenomena conducted by the U.S. Air Force from 1952-69. Neal McDonough, Michael Harney, Laura Mennell and Ksenia Solo co-star.

Project Blue Book is inspired by the personal experiences of Dr. J. Allen Hynek (Gillen), a brilliant college professor recruited by the Air Force to spearhead the titular clandestine operation that researched thousands of cases — more than 700 of which remain unsolved to this day. Each episode draws from the actual case files blending UFO theories with authentic historical events from one of the most mysterious eras in U.S. history. Delving into such themes as trust, instinct, real news vs. fake news and government cover-up, the series straddles the world of science and the exploration of the unknown, History said.





Among the TV series Star Trek’s many charms are its rich universe of characters and planets. Now, the Dharma Planet Survey, in a new study led by University of Florida (UF) astronomer Jian Ge and team including Tennessee State University (TSU) astronomers Matthew Muterspaugh and Gregory Henry, has shown that science fiction may be a little less so; the Dharma project has discovered what may be Star Trek’s famed planet Vulcan.

“The new planet is a ‘super-Earth’ orbiting the star HD 26965, which is only 16 light-years from Earth, making it the closest super-Earth orbiting another Sun-like star,” says Ge. “The planet is roughly twice the size of Earth and orbits its star with a 42-day period just inside the star’s optimal habitable zone.” The discovery was made using the Dharma Endowment Foundation Telescope (DEFT), a 50-inch telescope located atop Mt. Lemmon in southern Arizona. The planet is the first “super-Earth” detected by the Dharma Survey.

“The orange-tinted HD 26965 is only slightly cooler and slightly less massive than our Sun, is approximately the same age as our Sun, and has a 10.1-year magnetic cycle nearly identical to the Sun’s 11.6-year sunspot cycle,” explains Muterspaugh, who helped to commission the Dharma spectrograph on the TSU 2-meter automatic spectroscopic telescope. “Therefore,” he adds, “HD 26965 may be an ideal host star for an advanced civilization.”

“Star Trek fans may know the star HD 26965 by its alternative moniker, 40 Eridani A,” says Henry, who collected precise brightness measurements of the star at TSU’s automated observatory needed to confirm the presence of the planet. “Vulcan was connected to 40 Eridani A in the publications ‘Star Trek 2’ by James Blish (Bantam, 1968) and ‘Star Trek Maps’ by Jeff Maynard (Bantam, 1980),” explains Henry. In a letter published in the periodical “Sky and Telescope” in July 1991, Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, along with Sallie Baliunas, Robert Donahue, and George Nassiopoulos of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics confirmed the identification of 40 Eridani A as Vulcan’s host star. The 40 Eridani star system is composed of three stars. Vulcan orbits the primary star, and the two companion stars “would gleam brilliantly in the Vulcan sky,” they wrote in their 1991 letter.

“Vulcan is the home planet of Science Officer Mr. Spock in the original ‘Star Trek’ Sci-Fi series,” says Henry. “Spock served on the starship Enterprise, whose mission was to seek out strange new worlds, a mission shared by the Dharma Planet Survey.”

“This star can be seen with the naked eye, unlike the host stars of most of the known planets discovered to date. Now anyone can see 40 Eridani on a clear night and be proud to point out Spock’s home,” says Bo Ma, a UF postdoc on the team and the first author of the paper just published in “Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.”

“This discovery demonstrates that fully dedicated telescopes conducting high-cadence, high-precision radial velocity observations in the near future will continue to play a key role in the discovery of more super-Earths and even Earth-like planets in the habitable zones around nearby stars,” says Ge. “I am very grateful to the donor of our Dharma Planet Survey, Mr. Mickey Singer, who recognized the importance of this project and has continuously provided support to make this and future discoveries possible.”


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Exciting Announcement!!!

Special Announcement: We will be having a guest speaker giving a talk on “Personal Archiving: Saving Your Fandom” , starting at 1:00pm on Sept 9, 2018
This fascinating talk will start promptly at 1:00pm, so bring your friends and arrive early to get a good seat.

Happy Labor Day and Reminder

Happy Labor Day!!!!
Reminder, Sept Meeting is a budget meeting and accepting Money for Next years Membership. Active and Associate Members Dues need to be paid by Oct 6. 2018

William Shatner to headline celebration of ‘geek culture’ at Md. sci-fi convention




From July 6-8, at its usual stomping ground of The Hunt Valley Inn-Marriott Delta, the fan- and volunteer-run Shore Leave will celebrate its 40th anniversary.

The headlining guest will be USS Enterprise Capt. James T. Kirk himself, the still vibrant, 87-year-old William Shatner.

 Thank you, Joe and Stacey Cress for this wonderful article..  The science fiction and fantasy world as a whole is a foundation of their marriage (est. 2003). And that’s why, for three days nearly every summer, you’ll find them sojourning in Hunt Valley, Maryland, a relatively short trip down Interstate 83, for the annual Shore Leave sci-fi convention.

For the full article go to this site:   https://www.ydr.com/story/things-to-do/2018/06/15/shore-leave-40-celebrates-geek-culture-star-trek-william-shatner-science-fiction-convention/700541002/

NASA Soil Moisture Data Advances Global Crop Forecasts

Data from the first NASA satellite mission dedicated to measuring the water content of soils is now being used operationally by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to monitor global croplands and make commodity forecasts.

The Soil Moisture Active Passive mission, or SMAP, launched in 2015 and has helped map the amount of water in soils worldwide. Now, with tools developed by a team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, SMAP soil moisture data are being incorporated into the Crop Explorer website of the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, which reports on regional droughts, floods and crop forecasts. Crop Explorer is a clearinghouse for global agricultural growing conditions, such as soil moisture, temperature, precipitation, vegetation health and more.

“There’s a lot of need for understanding, monitoring and forecasting crops globally,” said John Bolten, research scientist at Goddard. “SMAP is NASA’s first satellite mission devoted to soil moisture, and this is a very straightforward approach to applying that data.”

Variations in global agricultural productivity have tremendous economic, social and humanitarian consequences. Among the users of these new SMAP data are USDA regional crop analysts who need accurate soil moisture information to better monitor and predict these variations.

“The USDA does crop forecasting activities from a global scale, and one of the main pieces of information for them is the amount of water in the soil,” said Iliana Mladenova, a research scientist at Goddard.

The USDA has used computer models that incorporate precipitation and temperature observations to indirectly calculate soil moisture. This approach, however, is prone to error in areas lacking high-quality, ground-based instrumentation. Now, Mladenova said, the agency is incorporating direct SMAP measurements of soil moisture into Crop Explorer. This allows the agriculture analysts to better predict where there could be too little, or too much, water in the soil to support crops.

These soil moisture conditions, along with tools to analyze the data, are also available on Google Earth Engine. There, researchers, nonprofit organizations, resource managers and others can access the latest data as well as archived information.

“If you have better soil moisture data and information on anomalies, you’ll be able to predict, for example, the occurrence and development of drought,” Mladenova said.

The timing of the information matters as well, she added — if there’s a short dry period early in the season, it might not have an impact on the total crop yield, but if there’s a prolonged dry spell when the grain should be forming, the crop is less likely to recover.

With global coverage every three days, SMAP can provide the Crop Explorer tool with timely updates of the soil moisture conditions that are essential for assessments and forecasts of global crop productivity.

For more than a decade, USDA Crop Explorer products have incorporated soil moisture data from satellites. It started with the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer-E instrument aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite, but that instrument stopped gathering data in late 2011. Soil moisture information from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity mission is also being incorporated into some of the USDA products. This new, high-quality input from SMAP will help fill critical gaps in soil moisture information.

SMAP is managed for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington by the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, with instrument hardware and science contributions made by Goddard.

To learn more about SMAP, visit:


The USDA’s Crop Explorer tool is at:



GRACE and GRACE-FO (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment)

GRACE was the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment.  It consisted of two satellites in orbit around Earth.  Launched in March of 2002, the GRACE mission accurately mapped variations in Earth’s gravity field. Designed for a nominal mission lifetime of five years, GRACE operated in an extended mission phase through October, 2017.


The Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission is a collaboration between NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ), will continue the work of monitoring changes in the world’s water cycle and surface mass, which was so well performed by the original GRACE mission.


Getting there

The two GRACE-FO satellites were launched on 22 May from Vandenburg AFB in CA.  The two were part of a payload on a Space-X Falcon 9 rocket that also included two Irridium Satellite Telephone spacecraft.  They are currently in position relative to each other and are in system checkout.

The Falcon 9 was a bus delivering its payload.  On liftoff, the first-stage engines burned for approximately 2 minutes and 45 seconds before shutting down at main engine cutoff (MECO). The Falcon 9’s first and second stages separated seconds later, at which point the second-stage engine ignited for the first burn (SES1) until the vehicle reached the altitude of the GRACE injection orbit, 305 miles (490 kilometers).  During this burn , the payload fairing — the launch vehicle’s nose cone – separated into two halves like a clamshell and fell away.

When the rocket’s second stage completed its ascent to the injection orbit altitude, it pitched (its nose down 30 degrees and rolled so that one of the twin GRACE-FO satellites faced down toward Earth and the other faced up toward space. Then the second stage engine cut off (SECO).

So about 10 minutes after liftoff, a separation system on the second stage deployed the GRACE-FO satellites. Separation occured over the Pacific Ocean exactly as planned at about 17.5 degrees North latitude, 122.6 degrees West longitude.   After the GRACE-FO satellites deployed, the Falcon 9 second stage coasedt for half an orbit to allow for some separation, then reignited its engine (SES2) to take the Iridium NEXT satellites to a higher orbit for deployment.

Unlike other Earth-observing satellites, which carry instruments that observe some part of the electromagnetic spectrum, the two GRACE-FO satellites themselves are the instrument. The prime instrument measures the tiny changes in the distance between the pair, which arise from the slightly varying gravitational forces of the changing mass below. Researchers produce monthly maps of water and mass change by combining this information with GPS measurements of exactly where the satellites are and accelerometer measurements of other forces acting upon the spacecraft, such as atmospheric drag.

How they work

GRACE-FO’s raw data will be a series of measurements showing how far apart two satellites are from each other. The twin satellites follow each other in orbit around the Earth, separated by about 137 miles (220 km). They will constantly send microwave signals to each other to measure the distance between them.

As the pair circles the Earth, areas of slightly stronger gravity (greater mass concentration) affect the lead satellite first, pulling it away from the trailiing satellite. As the satellites continue, the trailing satellite is pulled toward the lead satellite as it passes over the gravity anomaly. The change in distance would certainly be imperceptible to our eyes, but the extremely precise microwave ranging system on GRACE-FO is designed to detect minuscule changes in the distance between the satellites. A highly accurate accelerometer, located at each satellite’s center of mass, measures the non-gravitational accelerations (such as those due to atmospheric drag) so that only accelerations cased by gravity are considered. Satellite Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers determine the exact position of the satellite over the Earth to within a centimeter or less. All this information from the satellites will be used to construct monthly maps of the Earth’s average gravity field, offering details of how mass, in most cases water, is moving around the planet.


What they do for us

GRACE-FO tracks liquid and frozen water by measuring month-to-month changes in Earth’s gravitational pull very precisely. More than 99 percent of our planet’s gravitational pull doesn’t change from one month to the next, because it represents the mass of the solid Earth itself. But a tiny fraction of Earth’s mass is constantly on the move, and it is mostly water: Rain is falling, dew is evaporating, ocean currents are flowing, ice is melting and so on. GRACE-FO’s maps of regional variations in gravity will show us where that small fraction of overall planetary mass is moving every month.


5 Things We Didn’t Know Before GRACE

GRACE observations have been used in more than 4,300 research papers to date — a very high number for a single Earth science mission.  Here’s a list of five important findings from those 4,300-plus papers.



Watch the GRACE-FO website to learn what the new mission is adding to this list.  You can find it at https://gracefo.jpl.nasa.gov/.