February 28, 2011
Record Number of Asteroid Discoveries in Hawaii
It seems a person in Hawaii actually saw 19 near-earth asteroids on the evening on January 29th, just under a month ago. There are a couple things interesting about this.
One, it shows how great the telescope called PS1 really is. It's hard to argue that it is the world's most powerful telescope after discoveries like these. The reason it took so long to reach the public is because the spotted objects had to be verified and confirmed as real asteroids.
Second, two of these asteroids are of particular interest to many astronomers since their orbits come very close to the Earth. That is, there is a possibility these particular asteroids could hit the Earth within the next 100 years, though there is no need for fear currently.
I find it interesting that it's possible these asteroids could contact Earth. I feel stories like this come up often, but astronomers discover that the likelihood of collision is very rare in the end. However, with astronomers discovering new asteroids and comets and planet-like objects at an increasing rate, perhaps our planet is at greater risk for collisions and perhaps new discoveries will be made in the near future. The best part about astronomy is that it changes as we speak, it is not written in stone.
Two planets found sharing one orbit
Found in data from the Hubble Telescope, two planets of the same solar system have been observed as having the same orbit around there sun. Scientist believe that this discovery could help support the Bolster theory which talks about our Moon being created by Mars knocking into Earth.
The two planets are part of a four planet solar system dubbed KO1-730. They orbit their parent-star every 9.8 days at exactly the same orbital distance, though one planet is permanently 60 degrees ahead of the other.
Scientist say that this phenomena can be explained by gravitational "sweet spots." This is the idea that when one body, like a planet, orbits a more massive body, like a star, that there are located two Lagrange points along the planet's orbit where a third body can orbit stably. An example of this theory lies in our own solar system; a group of asteroids called Trojans are at similar points, of the planet described above, along Jupiter's orbit. Scientist believe that, in theory, matter in a disc of material around a newborn star can coalesce into so-called "co-orbiting" planets and that this new discovery will be able to prove this theory.
I believe that this is a great new discovery. There are so many theories of how our moon was formed, and this could be the answer. I can't wait for the arguments and discoveries that come out of this information.
A Small Nuclear War Would Stall Global Warming
I thought this was a good article to go along with what we have been learning about. A physical scientist named Luke Oman has been studying the effects of what would happen if a small nuclear war would occur. After using computer simulations, he believes that this would actually cause the Earth to cool by a couple of degrees. Although this sounds like a good idea because of all the concern about global warming, it has negative consequences as well. In my opinion, I do not know how accurate this computer simulation is. We do not know the full extent on how our world can actually handle so much carbon emission, but this is a good tool to get a general idea.
Virgin Galactic Deal Will Send Scientists Into Space
This morning Southwest Research Institute purchased two tickets for a ride on SpaceShipTwo which is a six passenger shuttle. The two researchers who are scheduled to ride the shuttle will do so to conduct research including atmospheric imaging, biomedical monitoring, and other experiments involving microgravity. In the years to come it is thought that the Virgin Galactic will also be offering flights to space that are "unprecedented in frequency and cost." However, there has been no date set for when the actual commercial flights will take place.
The full article can be found at :http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/02/28/science-space-thanks-new-deal-virgin-galactic/
February 27, 2011
Experts Detect Waves in Magnetic Holes in Sun
Earlier this week, Solar experts from the University of Sheffield and Queen's University Belfast have discovered waves coming from giant magnetic holes in our Sun, a major discovery for those attempting to unlock the mysteries of the Sun, and more generally the atmospheres of stars across the universe. The Sun is interwoven by a large, complicated magnetic field that is responsible for many of the Sun's observable characteristics. Among these is the appearance of large, dark, hole-like regions on the Sun's surface which indicate areas in which the magnetic field breaks through the Sun's interior and into its atmosphere. The largest of these regions are now known as "sunspots," and have been studied for thousands of years. The discovery of the magnetic fields piercing the Sun's exterior and emitting waves is significant because it shows how the Sun creates its magnetic field in its upper atmosphere, which is 1,000 times stronger than Earth's. These waves are a specific type of waves, known as "sausage waves," a defining characteristic of which being they cause their magnetic holes to increase or decrease in size periodically. The "sausage waves" also emit an incredible amount of energy, further contributing to the Sun's power.
It is interesting to learn about the discovery of a new type of wave, especially after learning all about the other types of waves, such as sound and light waves. These "sausage waves" do have some of the same characteristics that the waves we studied have, but are clearly also different in certain aspects. Astronomy is an ever-changing field, so will this discovery lead us to have to adjust the definition of a "wave?" Also, how will this discovery impact how we view the Sun's impact on its orbiting planets, especially our Earth? Only time will tell.
The full article is here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110224103041.htm
We May Be More Normal Than We Think
Two weeks ago, scientists discovered a solar system about 5,000 light years away that closely resembles ours. Even from such a great distance, they were able to determine that the parent star is about half the size of our sun, and two large planets orbit it: one about two-thirds the size of Jupiter and one about 90% the size of Saturn, both having an orbit about half the size of Jupiter and Saturn, respectively. These scientists say that there is a good possibility of smaller Earth-like planets closer to the parent star that remain undetected.
One interesting note about this discovery is the method used for detection. Frequently, distant planets are discovered by the wobble method where the gravitational pull of a large planet on the parent star is detected. This leads to scientists finding many systems where there is a Jupiter-size planet orbiting its star at about the distance from Mercury to the sun (because there is a lot of gravitation pull). However, this particular solar system was discovered by microlensing. The parent star of this solar system passed in front of another star (from our point of view) thousands of light years away, and the gravity of the nearer star bent and magnified light from the other one, causing it to "flash". Through data recorded during this flash, scientists were able to determine the approximate size and orbit of two large planets around this star.
The exciting part of this discovery is that it is difficult to detect planets like this through microlensing, so the fact that it was just accomplished may mean that there are many of these similar solar systems out there. This means that our solar system could be pretty normal, and it gives more clues for where to search for possible life in other solar systems.
This information is from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/15/science/space/15planets.html
February 26, 2011
Runaway Star Races Through Space
NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer caught a glimpse and photographed a star hurtling through space at at nearly 90,000 kilometers per hour! The star is known as zeta Ophiuchi and it is almost twenty times the mass of our own sun. However, astronomers think that it may have once orbited its own star, an even bigger one, that exploded at the end of its life. This explosion kicked zeta Ophiuchi into its own path at a great speed. It now races through space at such great speeds that it creates an arc of compressed material in front of it, pushing interstellar gas and dust out of its way. Radiation is streaming out of the star and is heating the dust around it, causing it to glow in infrared light. It is already half way through its eight million year lifespan.
PS1 telescope establishes near-Earth asteroid discovery record
The Pan-STARRS PS1 telescope on Haleakala, Maui, discovered 19 near-Earth asteroids on the night of January 29, the most asteroids discovered by one telescope on a single night.
"This record number of discoveries shows that PS1 is the world's most powerful telescope for this kind of study," said Nick Kaiser, head of the Pan-STARRS project. "NASA and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory's support of this project illustrate how seriously they are taking the threat from near-Earth asteroids."
There are always asteroids that are discovered to be near-Earth, and yes this shows how powerful this specific telescope is, but asteroids change their paths all of the time, and we can't be certain that anything detrimental will come out of these record findings.
To see more go to: http://www.astronomy.com/News-Observing/News/2011/02/PS1%20telescope%20establishes%20near-Earth%20asteroid%20discovery%20record.aspx
February 25, 2011
Planet birth witnessed for 1st time
For the first time, scientists believe they've detected the birth of a new world around a distant sun-like star.
If confirmed, the discovery, using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, would provide scientists with the earliest view yet of the early stages of planetary formation.
Astronomers studying T Chamaeleontis (T Cha), a faint star 350 light years from Earth in the southern constellation of Chamaeleon, detected a large gap in a disc of material around the star. They then found a small object in the disc which may be the cause of the gap.
Scientists know planets form out of the discs of material around young stars, but theory says the transition from dust disc to planetary system is rapid and few objects are caught during this phase.
This is the first time a forming planet has been found in one of these transitional discs, although planets in more mature discs have been seen before.
After careful analysis they found the clear signature of an object located within the gap in the dust disc, about one billion kilometres from the star. That's slightly further out than Jupiter lies from our sun.
This is the first detection of an object much smaller than a star within a gap in the planet-forming dust disc around a young star.
To me, this is an awesome discovery. In class, I feel like a lot of the things we talk about with planets are from way in the past. This is extremely interesting because it is actually happening right now.
February 24, 2011
Discovery on its Last Mission
This is the next step in slowly phasing out the shuttle. Today the Space Shuttle Discovery has been sent to the International Space Station on its final mission. I'm personally glad that it will eventually be converted to a museum. Also interesting is that a humanoid robot is aboard the shuttle and is stated to be the first of its kind in space. I wonder what experiments and data we'll get with that.
February 22, 2011
e-Callisto Spectrometers Around the World
Two weeks ago, the nineteenth e-Callisto spectrometer was set up in Alaska. The e-Callisto is a cheap solar observatory that measures the intensity of radio waves emitted from the Sun. It is used to detect solar flares and coronal mass ejections, a massive flux of charged particles that can cause problems with radio signals on Earth. This 19th spectrometer is the last one needed to observe the Sun 24 hours a day,as the e-Callistos are now set up all the way around the globe. Sending their information to a computer, the spectrometers can also be used to predict imminent coronal mass ejections, since the radio waves detected by the e-Callistos are faster than the particles being ejected from the Sun, and will reach Earth before the effects of the ejection do. I was surprised to find out that we did not already have 24 hour surveillance of the Sun's radio wave activity, but the e-Callisto is definitely a practical and inexpensive way to achieve this. Also, the cost may allow other non-funded astronomers to conduct otherwise difficult observations on their own, hopefully leading to new discoveries.
Full article: http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110217/full/news.2011.97.html
Waiter, there's metal in my moon....
There is a significant amount of water on the moon, and this discovery has shocked various scientists. Like we have been learning, the moon has taken some heavy hits from various asteroids. So, it is hard for the scientists to understand the amount of water the moon holds. But, this is not just pure water, it is water that contains metals, and most recently discovered, sodium. This moon water contains a significant amount of sodium, which is interesting because they do not know exactly where it all originated from. Scientists at NASA believe that it could have come from comets, and then was trapped in the frozen water. "The team plans to shed light on the origin of lunar water and other volatiles using data from the upcoming Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission, scheduled to be launched in May, 2013". This mission is another stepping stone (like I have said in the past) in learning more about our universe, which I think is important.
See the Full Article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110221081231.htm
February 21, 2011
New Evidence about the Earth's Core Rotation
As we learned in class, the Earth consists of many different layers: the crust, mantle, and core. Scientists have known for a long time that the Earth's core rotates, similiar to how Earth rotates along its axis. However, new evidence has indicated that the core rotation is not as fast as previously thought. Using seismic body waves (similiar to how scientists determined the composition of the Earth's layers) they have discovered that the core moves faster than Earth's rotation by 1 degree every 1 000 000 years and NOT by 1 degree a year.
This has given astronomers more confidence in determining the rate at which our planet's core cools and to extrapolate this information as to how our planet's magnetic field (which is very much influenced by Earth's core) will evolve with time.
The full article is here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1359101/Earths-core-rotates-slower-thought-faster-rest-planet.html#
More Similarities Found Between Earth's and Titan's Atmospheres
There are many differences between the atmosphere of Earth and that of Jupiter's moon Titan. For example, the atmosphere covering Titan is hazier than the worst smog on Earth and its atmosphere lacks water and oxygen. However, Titan's atmosphere is comprised of nitrogen (and other organic elements), just like Earth's, and some of the clouds on Titan are like the cirrus clouds here on Earth. Even lightning and drizzle have been found on Titan. Interesting features of Titan include that the northern hemisphere is currently colder than the southern, and so there are more clouds covering the northern region due to the fact that clouds are more likely to form in colder regions. Also, as opposed to the Earth's continuous cycle, hydrocarbons and other organic compounds fall to the surface of the moon due to precipitation, but then they do not evaporate to replenish what was lost in the atmosphere. I find it very interesting how a moon in the outer regions of the solar system can have more in common with the Earth than some planets closer to Earth. For such a seemingly small detail in the solar system, a lot can be learned from Titan and it has proved itself to be very unique and full of discoveries.
For more, check out NASA's article:
Nasa has been planning to send a probe, called Messenger, in orbit around Mercury. This will take place on March 17, 2011. Scientists are interested in Mercury because it is the closest to the sun, and is a "planet of extremes", with the potential to have ice at its poles. Furthermore, we learned in class that Mercury has a giant metal core, which is a unique characteristic among the planets. Scientists believe that understanding this planet and these unique characteristics will help explain how the rest of the inner rocky planets were formed. We know very little about this planet due to the limited knowledge we were able to collect by previous "flybys", needless to say this mission is thought to open a lot of doors and answer a lot of questions.
February 20, 2011
Advanced NASA Instrument Gets Close-Up on Mars Rocks
A new Mars rover is scheduled to launch in late fall/early winter of 2011 that will further inspect the composition of Mars soil. The rover will test the past and present habitability of the planet using an X-ray detector. It will present the chemical composition of the soil, which can then be compared to previous measurements taken by earlier rovers. Scientists are trying to see how the surface of Mars is weathering. There have been a few upgrades made to the new rover "Curiosity". Now the rover can make measurements during the day with a new cooling system (before it would only take at night so that the measurement components wouldn't over heat) that way more samples can be collected. This mission correlates with our recent section on the formation and chemical composition of terrestrial planets.
Back to the Roots of the Solar System
Last week in class we learned how planets form. We learned that they form in large disks of dust and gas. Also, we learned from the first exam that we are all "star stuff" and everything has originate from stars. This article talks about how "astronomers have been able to obtain detailed images of the protoplanetary disks of two stars using the Subaru telescope in Hawaii". These images are the closest and clearest that scientists have gathered thus far in history. This is exciting because these images are just another stepping stone to the gaining of new knowledge.
Read the full article at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110218083610.htm
Isolating the stellar disks of Andromeda
A team of astronomers have identified a thick stellar disk in the Andromeda Galaxy for the first time. The discovery and properties of the thick disk will constrain the dominant physical processes involved in the formation of large spiral galaxies like our own. By analyzing precise measurements of the velocities of individual bright stars the team has managed to separate out stars, tracing out a thick disk from those comprising the thin disk, and assess how they differ in height, width, and chemistry. Astronomers will be able to determine the properties of the disk and look for signatures of the events connected to its formation.
February 18, 2011
Virgin Galactic to offer private trips to space
Starting next year, Virgin Galactic plans to fly tourists to the edge of space, or about 60 miles above the Earth's surface. Passengers will experience weightlessness and see the curvature of the Earth.
This new industry could change the entire field of astronomy. As space travel becomes a more accessible venture more astronomers can get a closer look at the objects they're studying. There are also plans to eventually build a station for visitors.
The most important benefit of this new industry will be the price. People will be able to pay very little compared to overall launch costs. The more scientists sent to space the more experiments they can perform. As the they understand more about the science of space, they can infer more about the planets, stars, and other celestial objects.
Tiny, Earth-Like Planet Discovered
The first solid proof of a rocky planet beyond solar system has been found using the Kepler Space Telescope.
The planet, Kepler-10b is 1.4 times the size of Earth and rotates 20 times closer to its parent star than Mercury's orbit. This makes it much to hot for the life on earth, close to 2500 degrees Farenheit.
Although the planet is too hot for Earth organisms, the discovery of the planet still marks an important milestone in Astronomy. It is the first definitive rocky planet ever found and its existence proves that Earth-like planets exist.
February 17, 2011
Weather isn't just on Earth
Now that we are learning about the specific differences between planets, such as their composition, orbits, and tilts, I think it is worth considering weather, and how it does not solely exist on Earth. I found an article that talked about Jupiter and a new "little red spot" forming and competing with the well-known "big red spot." This article explains that winds up to 385 mph (185 mph faster than any category 5 hurricane on Earth) has stirred up the materials on Jupiter, creating yet another spot. While other planets have distinct atmospheres than Earth and no known life to witness natural occurrences, we must not forget that weather, just like on Earth, exists on other planets.
Astronomers Discover Amount of Dark Matter Needed For Star-Forming Galaxies
Dark matter, "an invisible substance permeating our universe", is a major component in the creation of galaxies like our own, the Milky Way. Astronomers, using the Herschel Space Observatory, have discovered how much dark matter is needed for galaxies to form. If you have too little dark matter, the galaxy would never form. If you have too much, this would prevent the gas from cooling efficiently and the result would be many small galaxies. The right amount, however, is the formula for a star-saturated galaxy.
Astronomers mapped galaxies using infrared light (like what Professor used in class). The results from the maps showed that galaxies are quite clustered. The amount of clustering depends on the amount of dark matter, and thus, the astronomers were able to calculate the amount of dark matter needed.
The findings are important to our still expanding knowledge of the formation of galaxies.
The full article can be seen here:
February 15, 2011
This seems incredibly relevant to what we've been discussing in lecture, especially with all of the Pluto not being a planet talk. A few astrophysicists believe that we MAY have discovered another planet to our solar system, totaling nine.
Now, this is a big MAY because we have just recently discounted Pluto as a planet completely, and some early observations of "Tyche" say that we may not be able to see it for another two years. How we got these observations without seeing the planet, I'm not entirely sure.
One of the main arguments of the article conclude that if this object is indeed a planet, it is a planet FOUR TIMES the size of Jupiter. That's pretty huge, so it seems to me that if anything is going to "become" a planet, it might as well be t his guy.
New View of Family Life in the North American Nebula
I found this article to be very interesting because it relates to what we are currently talking about in class, the nebular theory and the formation of stars and planets.
NASA's space telescope, Spitzer, gives us an infrared view of the North American nebula, named for its shape in visible light. In this view much more can be see than in visible light, including thousands of potential young stars. Luisa Rebull, from California Institute of Technology, and her team have discovered 2,000 candidate new stars forming in the nebula.
The article then goes on to explain how stars and planets form (but of course we should all already know how that happens), and tells that Spitzer allows us to see stars in all stages of development. I think it very cool that we can see an example of the nebular theory at work.
Here’s the link to the article http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/spitzer/news/spitzer20110210.html
February 14, 2011
28th Russian International Space Station Spacewalk
In part of this spacewalk along with the extensive repairs and resupply they will be testing new materials to expose to space. I look forward to hearing from their upcoming experiments. It was just a small side-detail so I doubt much will come from it. I imagine though if we're to construct long-term stations and outposts in space we should look into materials that would best be suited to cope with debris and radiation.
February 13, 2011
Deep Interior of Moon Resembles Earth's Core
The moon is currently being studied meticulously to understand our own planet better. Recently, some NASA researched applied new technologies to gain more understanding and verified that the Moon has a core.
The group discovered the most interior of the Moon to have structural similarities with Earth and their observations say that the core has a small ratio of light elements like sulfur, which is similar to Earth's core of sulfur, oxygen etc.
This relates to what we have learnt in class about how the Moon has been inferred to be merely a piece of Earth that broke off a long time ago
February 08, 2011
Apophis, We're In The Clear.
So it was recently announce by the Russians that we were likely to be hit by Apophis in the year 2036, coming up relatively soon. However, NASA has just announce that the chances are few and far between. I for one am very glad that they've released this heads up. As far as the Russian's go, the concern seems appreciated, but a little unwarranted. I'll trust NASA, because even though they screw up, they do many things right. Let's just hope this is one of them.
February 07, 2011
Quintessence is said to be some sort of 'mysterious' energy that is powering the expansion of the universe at an accelerated rate. The velocity of the expansion of the universe is measured by observing the brightness of supernovae and measuring their red shift. Recent observations have shown that the universe is in fact (according to certain observations) accelerating contrary to the popular belief that it was decelerating. The idea that the universe is slowly decelerating due to the increased gravitational pull of the matter within it possibly resulting in the collapsing of the universe onto itself is disproved by this idea of Quintessence.
Heres the link:-
February 05, 2011
Astronomy Calendar of Celestial Events
From browsing other entries, it seems we have alot of fanatics (including me) for astronomical events. This link not only entails multiple, common events, like phases of our moon, but other more rare events as well. It seems 2011 will be pretty generic, but planet observations and meteor showers will be plentiful. There is also a list for not just 2011, but ones from 2007 until 2015. It may be wise to look back in dread at all the things you missed, but rewarding to know what is in store in the near future.
Here is the link: http://www.seasky.org/astronomy/astronomy_calendar_2011.html
February 04, 2011
Will Apophis hit Earth?
Apparently a few years ago, NASA announced that the asteroid Apophis would hit the Earth in the year 2029. After some recalculations, astronomers contradicted this announcement saying that there really was no chance of the asteroid coming into contact with Earth. However, recently Russian scientists have again recalculated and determined that the asteroid, which is the size of two football fields, will hit closer to April of 2036. NASA scientists admitted that this recalculation is the most accurate as of now, but there is still only a one in 250,000 chance that the asteroid will ever hit. The asteroid is thought to go through a region in space called a "gravitational keyhole" where the effects of Earth's gravity will be weakened, thus allowing it to approach our planet. Although the chances of a hit are small, if the likelihood hasn't changed by 2036 NASA will likely build a spacecraft to be sent into space to hit the asteroid and knock it off course.
I thought this was interesting because, as we learned in class, gravitational pulls can greatly affect the path of space matter. Simply passing by another planet could significantly alter Apophis' route. So, for all we know (at least those of us who aren't astronomical experts) this asteroid could be harmlessly orbiting around Jupiter in a few years, having gotten close to its gravitational field. It should be interesting to see how this plays out in the next few years. NASA has certainly broken up large space matter before, but it may never have to come to that. Doomsday 2036? In the case that we all survive 12/21/12, I think not.
Here's the link, it's a beast:
New Space Robo-naut
NASA has designed a new 'Robonaut 2' that they hope to send up into space to aid astronauts with special missions. A key component of these robots is "dextrous manipulation" which a heightened level of dexterity that's far more precise than human dexterity. NASA hopes to use these robots in capacities that are currently too dangerous for humans.
R2 will be sent to the International Space Station and if all goes well, will eventually become a permanent fixture of ISS, taking over simple, repetitive, or especially perilous tasks. The robot is the second in a line of several humanoid robots made by NASA in collaboration with GM.
February 01, 2011
The Mystery of Baryonic Matter
"Dark Matter" is a very interesting thing. Some of it can not be observed, but the matter that can be observed is called baryonic matter. Yet, astronomers have recently noticed that when they try to find them in nearby galaxies, they only find half of the baryonic matter they predict to find. Currently, Grad student Michael Anderson and Professor Bregman are trying to figure out where this matter has gone. One prediction is that it is in the "galactic halo", a hot, thin ring of gas. This is where Anderson and Prof. Bregman assume the matter has always been and that it "never fell into the galaxies in the first place". As of now, the missing baryonic is still a mystery.
New Type of Spaceship
Astronaut Franklin Chang Diaz has been working diligently over the past 4 decades developing a nuclear reactor and liquid hydrogen powered space craft that could possibly reach speeds of up to 123,000 MPH! Diaz's main goal is to someday be able to fly to Mars with his new space craft, but as of right now he will settle for the smaller tasks NASA is willing to let him try. Some of these tasks include acting as garbage men in space. The gathering of space junk in our atmosphere needs to be cleaned up before it gets in the way of some of our more important Space machines. Diaz's new way of powering space crafts could revolutionize the industry.
Here is the link!