Hopes rise for a gem of a Geminid meteor shower

Image: Geminids

A Geminid meteor makes an impression in an all-sky photo captured in 2011. (Credit: NASA)

The buildup has begun for this year’s best meteor shower, the Geminids, and what makes it even better is that Seattle’s weather just might cooperate.

For the week leading up to the Geminids’ peak on the night of Dec. 13-14, the forecast calls for partly cloudy skies and a low chance of precipitation, which is unusual for a Seattle holiday season.

That adds to the allure for this year’s Geminid display, which is expected to be out of the ordinary.

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PowerLight shifts focus to beaming power over fiber

PowerLight undersea power transmission

PowerLight Technologies’ “Power Over Fiber” system has been tested for military underwater applications. (PowerLight Graphic)

The company formerly known as LaserMotive is coming out of stealth mode with a new name — PowerLight Technologies — and a sharper focus on beaming power over fiber-optic cables.

“The company has gone through a major transformation,” Richard Gustafson, PowerLight’s president and CEO, told GeekWire today.

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How staring at the eclipse led to a world of hurt

Retina burn

An optical coherence tomography image of a woman’s left-eye retina shows a crescent-shaped scar. (Wu et al.. / JAMA Ophthalmology)

A medical case reported today in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology proved the wisdom of all those warnings not to stare at the partly covered sun during August’s solar eclipse.

Unfortunately, it’s too late for the woman at the center of the case: Now she has a permanent scar in her left eye’s retina, and a permanent black spot in her field of vision.

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Tethers Unlimited wins NASA grant for FabLab

Refabricator

Tethers Unlimited’s Refabricator is a recycler and 3-D printer in one unit, which is about the size of a dorm-room refrigerator. This is the tech demonstration unit that’s been undergoing tests at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. The unit is to go to the space station next year. (NASA Photo / Emmett Given)

Bothell, Wash.-based Tethers Unlimited is getting a shot at helping to create an advanced fabrication facility that could manufacture and recycle 3-D printed items in space.

Tethers Unlimited and two other companies will have 18 months to deliver a prototype for the multi-material fabrication lab, or FabLab. The other companies are Interlog Corp. of Anaheim, Calif.; and Techshot of Greenville, Ind.

About $10.2 million has been set aside for the prototyping phase of the project. After the prototype is delivered, NASA will select partners for further development of the technology.

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Will CEOs set up a Boeing vs. SpaceX race to Mars?

Musk and Muilenburg

SpaceX’s Elon Musk and Boeing’s Dennis Muilenburg have something of a space rivalry going on. (Elon Musk via Twitter; Dennis Muilenburg via Boeing)

So what does SpaceX CEO Elon Musk think of Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg’s claim that the first people to set foot on Mars will arrive on a Boeing rocket? “Do it,” Musk tweeted, in one of many two-word comebacks that might have come to mind.

The latest round of media jousting started when CNBC’s Jim Cramer brought up Mars during an interview with Muilenburg. “Who’s going to get a man on Mars first, you or Elon Musk?” Cramer asked.

In response, Muilenburg touted the Space Launch System, the heavy-lift rocket that Boeing is helping NASA build for deep-space missions.

“We’re going to take a first test flight in 2019, and we’re going to do a slingshot mission around the moon,” he said. “Eventually, we’re going to go to Mars, and I firmly believe the first person that sets foot on Mars will get there on a Boeing rocket.”

Muilenburg said pretty much the same thing last year during an industry conference in Chicago, but since then, Musk has laid out a vision that calls for sending settlers to Mars on SpaceX’s yet-to-be-built monster spaceship starting in the 2020s.

If Musk and NASA stick to their current schedules, the first bootprints on the Martian surface would be left by folks arriving on a SpaceX rocket as much as a decade before the Space Launch System sends a spaceship there.

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ITER fusion facility reaches the halfway point

ITER wide-angle view

A super-wide-angle view shows the fusion reactor under construction in France. (ITER Photo)

The world’s biggest and most expensive nuclear fusion research project, known as ITER, says it’s halfway done with the construction effort leading to the startup of its seven-story-high reactor in 2025.

ITER’s ambition to demonstrate a sustained fusion reaction that produces a net gain in energy is matched by the estimated cost, which exceeds $20 billion.

The 35-nation consortium began construction a decade ago, under an unusual arrangement that calls for the various countries to contribute components for the reactor taking shape at Cadarache in southern France. The United States is responsible for 9 percent of the total cost.

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Erik Lindbergh unveils VerdeGo air taxi venture

VerdeGo Aero in flight

An artist’s conception shows VerdeGo Aero’s air taxi over Rio de Janeiro. (Verdego Aero Illustration)

A new entrant in the market for electric-powered air taxis is getting a boost from one of aviation’s oldest family names: Erik Lindbergh, the grandson of pioneering pilot Charles Lindbergh, is announcing the formation of a venture called VerdeGo Aero.

VerdeGo Aero is headquartered at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s MicaPlex incubator in Daytona, Fla., but the younger Lindbergh provides a strong Seattle-area connection. He’s lived on Bainbridge Island for decades, and serves on the board of directors for Raisbeck Aviation High School near Seattle’s Museum of Flight.

Lindbergh serves as president of VerdeGo, which is developing a hybrid-electric, vertical-takeoff-and-landing aircraft that can be flown autonomously or by a pilot.

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