We took a bit of time off on Friday. Here’s what we’re reading/watching today:
1) NASA has officially shut down the 10-year-old space telescope Galexy Evolution Explorer, or Galex. The space agency had handed over control of Galex to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). “Galex is a remarkable accomplishment,” said Jeff Hayes, NASA’s Galex program executive in Washington, via a release on the Caltech Web site. “This small Explorer mission has mapped and studied galaxies in the ultraviolet, light we cannot see with our own eyes, across most of the sky.” The telescope was shutdown at 3:09 p.m. ET on Friday, but it will stay in orbit for an estimated 65 years.
In 2007, The Post’s Marc Kaufman described the discovery of a “gargantuan comet-like tail created by a slowly dying star” named Mira. The discovery of Mira was made using Galex, and provided a look at the potential future of our nearest star: the sun:
“…the discovery shows not only how matter is spread through the galaxy by fading stars but also points to the likely fate of our own star. The sun is expected to last another 4 billion to 5 billion years and then dissipate in a way perhaps similar to Mira.”
Observations made using Galex also led to the discovery of a black hole in the process of consuming a star, rings of new stars around dead galaxies, the confirmation of dark energy’s nature, and the discovery of “teenage galaxies,” or galaxies in the process of evolving from young to old. The remaining data from Galex collected over the last year will be released to the public in the coming year, according to a release.
2) President Obama arrived in Tanzania on Monday on his trip through Africa. The Post’s David Nakamura is with the president as he travels around the continent. Given the priority Obama has placed on innovation in both his domestic and foreign policies, we asked Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, for her take on how the administration should pivot to Africa and which countries could use the most attention, given the foundation’s focus on innovation in Africa. Here’s what she had to say via an e-mail:
“It’s encouraging to see the administration focusing on Africa, and to see the President visiting countries where Africans have been building better lives for themselves and their families … As donors, we can invest in innovations to improve lives in developing countries.”
3) The NSA PRISM story has been gamified — sort of. Austrian based developer Cuteacute has created a game called “Data Dealer,” meant to increase awareness of the power of data and privacy. As Mashable’s Anita Li writes, the game, which was developed before news of the PRISM program broke, is a nonprofit endeavor currently seeking funding on Kickstarter. The game features parodies of popular tech companies (“Tracebook” and “Smoogle”), allowing users to buy and sell data about fictional users. Oh, and don’t miss the game’s Tracebook — er, Facebook page. And, yes, Washington Post Co. Chairman and chief executive Donald E. Graham is a member of Facebook’s board of directors.
4) This behind-the-scenes video describing how special effects artists at Weta Digital in new Zealand created the look of Krypton’s “liquid geo” display technology.