This Spacespiracy Moment

July 26, 2016

The Apollo Command Space Module:

It has been 47 years since we landed on the Moon...and the Smithsonian wants to celebrate! They have released a 3-D, interactive model of the “Columbia,” the the command module of the Apollo 1 that transported Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins to the Moon. COOL!!!!!!


Auctioning Off Space Stuff:

Want a little piece of space? Thanks to Bonhams’ Space History Auction, you now may have your chance. The memorabilia “ranges from the space race’s earliest years to the space shuttle program” and comes from many different sources. The auction took place on July 20th, but there are likely to be many more in the future. Start saving those pennies!


The Best Telescope In the Southern Sky:

Construction on the South African MeerKAT isn’t quite complete, but the machine is already proving to be the best telescope in the southern hemisphere. In an image of the distant universe, the telescope detected 1300 galaxies. Compared to the 70 galaxies previously discovered in the same section of the sky, that number is astounding. I can’t wait to see what this baby shows us when she’s done being built!


Crashing Into the Sun Is Impossible:

Minute Physics has put together a video (click above to view!) explaining why it’s impossible to crash, or launch nuclear waste, into the sun. It’s all about gravity and orbital mechanics. In our history, we’ve only been able to get one probe close to the Sun, and we had to use Jupiter to get it there (the probe whipped around the gas giant, giving it enough velocity to fly by the Sun).


Details About the TRAPPIST-1 Exoplanets:

MIT students have used Hubble data to study three exoplanets orbiting the star TRAPPIST-1. Consequently, they have “witnessed two occultation events from the innermost planets, TRAPPIST-1b and 1c.” With transits a mere 12 minutes apart on May 4, 2016, the students were able to collect spectrums from the exoplanets and from that data, were able to determine the planets are NOT surrounded by gas like Jupiter and Saturn. This discovery will allow scientists to delve deeper into the compositions of these potentially habitable planets.



Different Universal Expansion Rate Measurements?

Measurements for the universe’s expansion rate just aren’t adding up. Using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to measure a series of supernova explosions, astrophysicists have determined that galaxies are spreading apart at 73 kilometers per second. But, measuring “cosmic microwave background radiation,” the ESA’s Planck satellite has come up with a number that’s 9% lower. Scientists believe the difference in numbers could have something to do with the universe’s “dark matter.” Hmmmmm…


Finding Axioms in Merging Black Holes:

Asimina Arvanitaki, a theoretical physicist at Ontario’s Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics, has a dream. Since 2010, she has been studying black holes to “explore nature’s fundamental particles and forces.” Together with a team of mentors and colleagues, she created a “string axiverse,” a group of weakly interacting particles called axioms. Axioms, may be able to explain the universe's infamous dark matter, and now, because we have data on black holes merging, she may finally be able to test her theories. Good luck, lady!


Gene Swapping:

Did you know that 47% of genes in humans and yeast are the same?! Scientists have known for a while that a bunch of organisms share the same genes, but now, “many organisms share the eight-step biochemical chain reaction that makes the molecule heme. The researchers found that all but one of yeast’s heme-producing genes could be swapped with one from E. coli or plants.”


Go, Kepler, Go Kepler, Go!

It’s confirmed. According to astrophysicists at the University of Arizona, Kepler, NASA’s favorite little planet hunting telescope, has found 104 more exoplanets. Approximately 12 or so are about the same size as Earth and a few might even be habitable.


Hitomi...Take Two?

JAXA, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, suffered a huge loss when its x-ray space telescope, the Hitomi, died shortly after launch. If it had survived, the Hitomi would have been epic...and revolutionary in our “view of the high-energy sky.” Before you start to get too sad, NASA and JAXA are committed to a Hitomi #2...and the launch date could be as early as 2020. The Japanese agency will be responsible for the spacecraft and the United States will be in charge of the main instrument, the Soft X-ray Spectrometer (SXS).


Measuring the Death Star:

Decision makers from the Star Wars franchise are doing everything right. In between the highly anticipated 8th and 9th episodes, they are releasing Star Wars “stories,” and fans everywhere couldn’t be more excited. The poster for the first of these stories, “Rogue One,” shows the Death Star from the perspective of the planet it intends to annihilate. Yes, it looks absolutely massive, but this article claims that the math behind the image is pretty accurate. Check it out!



The Moon and the Protoplanet:

We’ve known for a while that the Moon took a massive hit billions of years ago, but now we think we know what caused the damage we can see on its surface. Brown University’s Peter Schultz has “found evidence that pieces of an impacting protoplanet created the area called Mare Imbrium, a.k.a. Imbrium Sculpture, around 4 billion years ago. The diameter of the asteroid is estimated to be 250 kilometers (155 miles) and roughly 30 times more massive than first thought.”


NASA’s Future Plans:

In my opinion, space exploration is once again on the rise and NASA’s future plans don’t fail to impress:

  • In 2018, the James Webb Space Telescope is set to launch, which will allow for unprecedented geological observations about planets and moons in our solar system.

  • Juno will begin to send us information about Jupiter and two of its moons, Io and Europa.

  • Cassini and Hubble will continue to observe Saturn and Ganymede (Jupiter’s third moon).

  • New Horizons and Dawn were given extensions to explore the Kuiper Belt and Vesta and Ceres (the biggest asteroids in our Solar System), respectively.

  • In September,  OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer) will launch and land (hopefully) on Bennu, the near-Earth asteroid.


The Quest to Find Dark Matter:

Dark matter is one rascally rabbit. Once again, scientists have come up short in their quest to find it. The Large Underground Xenon experiment, LUX for short, has finished combing through data from Oct 2015 to May 2016, and even though dark matter makes up 25% of the universe, none of the stuff was detected. NUTS!


Space Exploration and Politics:

On July 21st, former space shuttle pilot, Eileen Collins, spoke at the Republican National Convention. And it was shocking. Collins has been a critic of the Obama Administration and NASA’s current mission...but it was President George W. Bush who made the decision to cancel the space shuttle program. Even though she never said it directly, Collin’s appearance at the RNC indicates her support for Trump, a candidate who hasn’t made any mention of the space program.


SpaceX is BACK!

SpaceX just landed a rocket back on Earth for the SECOND time, saving the company another 60 million dollars. It’s the company’s seventh launch this year, and its fifth landing (the other three were on oceanic barges). Click the link above to re-watch the landing!


The Secrets On the Surface of Venus:

Using images and data from the ESA’s Venus Express satellite from 2006 to 2012, we now have a more detailed climate map of Earth’s volatile neighbor. By studying specifics of the planet’s cloudy weather (namely the movement and brightness of the clouds as well as their water composition), we have a better understanding of what’s happening on the planet’s surface.



Twitter, An Unlikely Space Telescope?

Using data from WISE (NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) David Lang, an astronomer, and Melissa Ness, a postdoctoral researcher, have discovered something special about the Milky Way. Lang initiated a research study through Twitter, and based on “tweets,” the two were able to see an X shaped structure bulging from the center of the Milky Way, a key to uncovering more information about the formation of our galaxy.


Using DNA and Lasers to Find Life In the Universe:

Because of the presumed vastness of space, it is likely that somewhere out there is a planet that hosts intelligent life. The problem is finding that life before we ourselves go extinct. Scientists at UC Santa Barbara have an idea to “build a high-powered laser somewhere on Earth capable of sending light-based messages into space.” DNA sequences, movies, music, and novels, are all among information that can be projected into the universe.


Viking 1 Celebrates Its 40th Anniversary!

Happy anniversary!! On July 20th, 1976, the Viking 1 was the first US robotic probe to land on Mars. Five years earlier, the Soviets were the first to land on the Red Planet...but their spacecraft was only live for about 20 seconds. Currently, there are 7 probes on Mars.

Sources: Science News, Wired, Astronomy Magazine

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writer | author | sci-fi storyteller

Lisa Caskey

writer | author | sci-fi storyteller
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