Amateur Space News May 16, 2014

Amateurs help Nasa observe Jupiter’s shrinking Great Red Spot leads today’s news. Other headlines include dogecoin-financed lunar rover races, high school students collecting comet dust from Near Space, other high school projects in Near Space and microgravity, a student rocket team, an Australian amateur astronomer, and a Florida Mars One candidate.

Nasa used Hubble to confirm amateur observations of Jupiter's shrinking Great Red Spot.

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is getting less great reports Nasa. New observations from the Hubble Space Telescope confirm that the giant storm in Jupiter’s atmosphere is shrinking at a faster rate. Once an oval 41,000 kilometers along its long axis, it is now a 16,500 kilometer wide circle. Most of the coverage passes over the role of amateur astronomers. While scientists have known about the shrinking storm for years, amateur observations since 2012 showed that the change was accelerating. Nasa’s scientists made the Hubble observations specifically to confirm the amateur results. In fact, they turned to the amateurs at the Planetary Virtual Observatory and Laboratory for help getting additional observations to complement the Hubble images. (Via Universe Today)

Dogecoin-financed rovers will race on the Moon says Google Lunar X-Prize contestant Team Phoenicia. Its May 15 press release announces the RevUp Render Lunar Iditarod contest. People around the world are invited to develop their own micro-rover designs and race them in a series of contests. The final three rovers will ride on Team Phoenicia’s lunar lander and race in the championship on the Moon. Entrance fees for each round of the competition can be paid using the Dogecoin crypto-currency. (Via Digital Journal and Motherboard)

California high school students to collect comet dust from Near Space reports KHTS radio. The students will launch a high-altitude balloon 30 kilometers into the stratosphere during Friday’s Lyrid meteor shower. As it rises above the atmosphere, the instrument cluster will expose an aerogel collector that will catch dust particles. No professional scientists have done this before - high school students will be the world’s first. According to the West Ranch High School’s parent newsletter, the balloon will carry cameras to record meteors from above.

Alabama high school students launched Near Space mission. In a Decatur Daily report picked up by the Associated Press, the engineering students attending Athens High School approached the project using the same structured, methodical process as professional engineers. Building upon a previous class’ failed flight, the students conducted thermal testing and drop testing to improve their vehicle. AL.com reported the balloon rose almost 32 kilometers during its 2-hour flight April 26.

Texas high school students do research on zero-gravity flight, YourHoustonNews reports. The Houston-area students created their microgravity experiments as part of Nasa’s Hunch program. Hunch lets high school students design and build hardware that may get installed in the International Space Station. The flight on Zero-G Corporation’s microgravity jets is the first stage in testing the students’ work.

Presidio High School rocket team's fourth-place finish at the Team America Rocketry Challenge. (via Big Bend Now)

Australian teacher caught Saturn passing behind the Moon. (via Brisbane Times)

Florida middle school teacher still competing for Mars One position. (via Pensacola News Journal)