This Spacespiracy Moment

July 19, 2016



A Frankenstein Galaxy?

250 million light-years away lives galaxy UGC 1382, and boy is it strange. Originally, scientists thought the galaxy was small, but after analyzing data from several NASA telescopes, as well as other observatories around the world, they’ve discovered it is in fact quite large. Upon further study, astronomers theorize that UGC 1382 is actually a grouping of several different galaxies, with newer stars forming in the center.


Aging, How Do We Solve It?

This week, Science News published several articles on aging. Considering how obsessed society is with youth, it IS an interesting topic to explore. Click the link above to access the special report, as well as links to related articles.


AI, the Internet, and Europe: Clash of the Titans

In 2018, after 10 years of hard work, the General Data Protection Regulation will take effect in the EU. The regulation is meant to protect the privacy of its citizens, as well as allow the government to fine companies that don’t abide by it. In addition, language in the GDPR disallows “automated individual decision-making.” In other words, this refers to neural networks, which are mathematical models used to enhance the “behavior of online services.” This could be bad news for Google, Facebook, and other tech giants starting to use neural networks to generate search results and news feeds.


Cosmic Radiation Hits Earth, Big Time:

Researchers at the University of Kansas have been studying “two supernovae that exploded only 300 light years away from Earth.” The explosions happened 1.7-3.2 and 6.5-8.7 million years ago and astronomers now believe that radiation emitted from these explosions directly impacted our planet, and the creatures living on it at the time. Radiation would have caused cancer, as well as cell mutations. Considering all life, and all varieties of life are caused by cell mutations, it may very well be that these explosions helped create life as we know it today.


The Deepest View of the Orion Nebula:

Thanks to the High Acuity Wide-field K-band Imager (HAWK-I) on the VLT (Very Large Telescope), we now have new, extremely deep images of the Orion Nebula, the “brightest nebula in the night sky.” Also known as the second star in Orion’s sword, the new image depicts “faint brown dwarf stars and planetary-mass objects.” Cool.



Early Universe May Have Burned Blue:

Researchers with the Kavli IPMU Project believe they have discovered a way to locate first generation stars. In a recent study published in the Astrophysical Journal, the astronomers detailed the light curve of low metal stars. In short, metal-rich stars burned red and metal-poor stars (first generation stars) burned blue. This should help astronomers find more of the very hard to come first stars.


Ghostbusters Was Injected with Real Science:

Paul Feig, the director of the new Ghostbusters movie, must be a huge science fan. For the creation of the film starring Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, the director insisted that the props be real, or as close to real as possible. The books and props in Kristen Wiig’s office? Well, they really belong to Janet Conrad, a nuclear physicist at MIT. Feig also insisted the lab equipment be “based on real science.” Well done, sir. Well done.


GMO Labeling and QR Codes:

As you may or may not know, the GMO labeling bill has been passed by both the House and the Senate, and President Obama is expected to sign it into action. The bill “will require manufacturers to disclose genetically modified ingredients through a label, a digital link like a QR code, or a toll-free phone number.” Some people think using QR codes is a great solution, others think it’s another way for organizations to hide behind an obscure label. Only time will tell, I suppose. I’ll tell you what though, I will definitely be scanning.


The Hunt for Dark Energy:

“In the quest for dark energy, astronomers have created an unprecedented 3D map of 1.2 million galaxies in a volume of about 650 cubic billion light years.” Scientist believe that dark energy is the reason why the universe is expanding at such a rapid rate, which is why understanding the stuff is very important. It has taken hundreds of astronomers to gather this much data. Let’s hope it amounts to something useful! That’s a whole lot of tax dollars!


How to Spot A GRB (Gamma-Ray Burst):

GRB’s are the brightest phenomena in the universe, so you’d think we would be able to easily detect almost all of them, right? Wrong. The Chandra X-ray Observatory has discovered something new about GRB’s. When they are formed by either two neutron stars colliding OR a neutron star and a black hole colliding, the GRB created is a narrow beam of Gamma-rays. Meaning, if beams aren’t directed toward Earth, we won’t be able to detect them.



I’ve Never See THIS Image of the Moon:

For the second time in history, we have an image of the moon passing over the face of the Earth. The photo was taken by the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) on July 5th, a space telescope that is owned and operated by NASA and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). If you haven’t seen this yet, click on the link above to check it out. Seriously, it’s really freakin cool.


Lab Grown Meat? For Sale?

Ok, you got me. It isn’t for sale, quite yet. One of the reasons? It’s very expensive. If you tried to by a lab-grown (also called cultured) burger it would cost $330,000. According to the article, cultured meat also doesn’t taste right...but scientists are determined to change both that and the cost factor. We still don’t know whether or not the general public will take to lab-grown meat...but considering how unsustainable REAL meat is (the amount of water it takes to support one cow is astounding), the GP might not have much of a choice.


METI: Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence:

One year ago, Douglas Vakoch created METI, which stands for Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Formerly from SETI (Searching for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), Vakoch has always gravitated toward ET’s...but his true passion lies in trying to communicate with them, not just try to find them. So, he created METI to do just. Especially considering how long it will take for these messages to travel past our solar system, the time for METI is NOW.


Nice Pic, Juno!

We have received Juno’s first picture of Jupiter! The image shows the Gas Giant accompanied by its three moons, Io, Europa, and Ganymede. During its descent, Juno’s instruments were turned off. Receiving this image indicates the spacecraft is alive and kicking. Can’t wait for more!


Pluto Celebrates An Anniversary:

It has been a year since NASA’s New Horizons flew over Pluto, and in that year, our “once smallest planet” has been brought to life. Because of the data collected by the spacecraft, we have discovered it may have a subsurface ocean! New Horizons was recently granted a mission extension and will journey deeper into the solar system to study a Kuiper Belt Object (KBO). I’m sure we will continue to see great things from one of NASA’s little darlings.


SpaceX Is Back In the News!

HOORAY!!! SpaceX just successfully landed a rocket on Earth for the SECOND time. The commercial company is doing exceptionally well, having launched SEVEN rockets this year alone, and with each successful landing, they save $60 million dollars. Take that, competition. Click the link above to watch the landing!


These Mice Went to the Movies!

Scientists are obsessed with the mental transition between sense and naturally bringing mice to the movies is the perfect solution! The Allen Institute’s Brain Observatory observed 35 mice while they watched the sci-fi classic, Touch of Evil. “And the data—activity from 18,000 neurons—is open to anyone who wants to take a look around.”


Was Juno the Fastest Spacecraft Ever?

Juno is NASA’s most recent marvel, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the spacecraft set a whole bunch of records. It has 3D printed parts and a titanium vault to protect it from radiation. Many reports have also boasted that it’s the fastest spacecraft ever...but this article begs to differ. New Horizons had a faster launch, but Juno had a faster journey overall. Why? Because it dipped back to Earth and used our planet’s gravity to propel it further, and faster, into space. Maybe that’s cheating? You decide.


Water Snowlines In the Orion Nebula:

The Orion Nebula is in the news again this week. The first water snowline has been detected in the dust around star V883 Orionis (in the Orion Nebula). This particular snowline extends out farther than average which is why it was able to be captured by ALMA. “Snowlines are a ring of dust and debris where it is cold and far enough away from the host star where water, carbon monoxide, and other compounds condense into solid ice particles.” This discovery will help scientists study planet formation not only in our solar system, but in other solar systems with stars like our Sun.


We’ve Discovered A New Dwarf Planet:

Beyond Neptune, a new dwarf planet has been detected. Since 2006, we have detected five of these small, cold planets, and now we have a sixth. A team of scientists working with the Outer Solar System Origins Survey (OSSOS) used the Canada-France-Hawaii-Telescope (CFHT) to find the little bugger (first spotted in February of 2016).


When Exoplanets Collide:

As we peer deeper and deeper into the universe, more and more exoplanets are being discovered, meaning the possibility of finding habitable planets (and even intelligent life) gets greater and greater. Right? Not so fast. We know that “early planetary systems are violent” but that they relax eventually, allowing for planets to settle. However, a recent study has found that some of these stable stars are more prone to collision, making it much harder for exoplanets to make it.


The Whistleblower and the Job Search:

Astronomer Sarah Ballard was harassed while she attended UC Berkeley. Part of a class action lawsuit, Ballard was the only accuser that courageously came forward and made her claim public. This article is a story of her journey, from the time of harassment, until now. It’s a wonderful read, a true story of triumph and tenacity, and empowerment for women.


Sources: Science News, Wired, Astronomy Magazine


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A dystopian, action-adventure trilogy set in San Francisco.

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writer | author | sci-fi storyteller

Lisa Caskey

writer | author | sci-fi storyteller
© 2016 by Lisa Caskey
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