This Spacespiracy Moment

September 5, 2016



Are Magnetars Giving Birth to Black Holes?

Several years ago, four bursts of light were observed in the night sky. Their light patterns were different, so, they were classified as superluminous supernovae. But, new research indicates the bursts might actually be the result of a magnetar imploding and turning into a black hole. A magnetar is a neutron star (the really dense core of the star after it’s outer layers have been shed in a supernovae), with a really REALLY strong magnetic field, the strongest in the universe.


The Age of the Aquanaut?!

Megan McArthur is one special lady. She is one of 50 people, EVER, that have orbited the Earth AND lived under sea. As an aerospace engineer for NASA, she was on the last mission to help repair the Hubble Space Telescope. Earlier this month, she joined eight crew members on the 21st NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) mission to live for 16 days underwater, on the Aquarius Reef Base. The objective was to conduct research (in this case, DNA sequencing) in a space-like environment, and to simulate operational delays, similar to what astronauts will experience on a trip to Mars. What a lucky girl!


Can This Protostar Tell Us How Stars Form?

Until now, scientists have been fawning over protostar KL Source I in the constellation, Orion. But there’s a new sheriff in town. It’s name is IRAS 19312+1950 and it’s 12,000 light-years away. What’s special about this protostar is that it’s pretty far from other objects...meaning there isn’t much around to interfere with taking measurements. This will only help scientists study and discover truths about star formation.


Ceres Is Alive! She’s Alive!

It has been a big week for Ceres. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has been orbiting the dwarf planet, located between Mars and Jupiter, since March 6, 2015. Recent findings indicate that Ceres is not only geologically active, but that water and hydrated materials are present on the surface. Of course, because we don’t have a rover on the ground, all data is collected via remote sensing and then models are created to test theories. This process has been particularly useful in trying to determine the composition of Ceres’ mysterious Ice Volcano. Our best guess? The mountain is a Cryovolcano, a volcano that erupts ice instead of molten rock.



Desperately Seeking Starfish

If one wanted to track small ocean critters, how would one go about it? Well, that’s easy. Robots of course! Steve Morgan and Grant Sussner have created data-collecting robots called Autonomous Behaving Lagrangian Explorers (ABLEs), that are waterproof and programmed to behave like larvae. Since deployed ABLEs have already changed our behavioral understanding of marine larvae and plankton.


The Future of the ISS

The International Space Station (ISS) is the culmination of work and funds from 26 countries, making it truly a global conglomerate. The US has a vested interest in the ISS, but in 2010, Congress decided to initiate the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), giving it ownership of HALF of those interests. The idea was that CASIS would manage private access to the station and in turn, raise money for the agency. While they have successfully on-boarded Disney as an advertiser, helped launch 7,000 pounds worth of material into orbit, and have given 129 scientific projects access to the station, it is still unclear how successful the agency will prove to be. The biggest concern? CASIS might impede NASA’s quest to reach Mars.


Juno Shows Us Jupiter

Juno has definitely delivered, showing us a side of Jupiter we’ve never seen before. Unlike other planets in our solar system, Jupiter is only tilted 3 degrees (Earth is tilted 23.5 degrees), meaning no matter how long we wait, we will never see its north or south poles from Earth. That’s why sending Juno to Jupiter was so important. With the spacecraft in low orbit around the gas giant, we now have never-before-seen images, as well as surface data, from its poles. And this is only the beginning. Juno is going to orbit and collect additional data and additional 36 times!


Pretending You’re On Mars

For the past year, six NASA crew members have been living in a pod, on the north side of Hawaii’s Mauna Loa. Called Operation HI-SEAS (Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation), the mission was created to test the psychological effects of long-term confinement with the same people. Check out the link above for a quick video Wired created when the crew left the pod!




The Robots of the Genetic Testing Lab

There is a fully-automated genetic testing lab in South San Francisco. Designed and programmed by Counsyl, a DNA testing company, it is the first of its kind and it uses robotic arms to move liquid around. Click the link above to check out a video of the facility!


The SpaceX Explosion

On September 1st, during a static fire engine test, one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets exploded. The rocket was commissioned by Israeli company, Spacecom, and was undergoing routine testing for a launch scheduled on September 3rd...a launch that would have placed the AMOS-6 satellite into low-orbit, and aided Facebook’s efforts to bring internet access to parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Fortunately, no one was hurt during the explosion.


This Week In VR: Soliciting Emotional Responses

If you think virtual reality technologies are only for gamers, boy are you wrong! Journalists, activists, and artists are using VR to educate, inform, and curate empathy. For the past decade, Jeremy Bailenson, a professor at Stamford, has been studying how VR can make humans better people. It is yet to be seen, but Bailenson believes that VR may be more effective than the public service ads we see on billboards, at bus stops, and on local TV.


The Newest In Wearable Technology Is Here

Yi Cui, a Stanford University materials scientist, has discovered a plastic that if worn, will help keep bodies cool. That sounds counter-intuitive, right? Well the material, called nanoporous polyethylene (nanoPE), has a composition that allows for infrared radiation (a way our body emits heat) to escape. Typically, clothing blocks this heat, keeping it close to the body, but nanaPE does just the opposite. Considering global temperatures continue to rise, this wearable tech can’t come soon enough!




What’s That Space? Did You Say Something?

This week, the astrophysical community is buzzing about a radio signal detected by SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). Russian radio astronomers are studying the interesting signal that came from the direction of the constellation, Hercules. First detected in May of 2015, the signal is oddly strong, and currently, there is no known astrophysical source of this kind of wavelength. The media spun this to mean the signal must be coming from extraterrestrials....and naturally, the story became an overnight sensation.


The scientific community has banded together to provide some real data on the signal, and according to Science News, Wired, and Astronomy Magazine, it is very unlikely that the signal came from aliens. It probably came directly from something on Earth, or from a naturally cosmic source (gravity can temporarily amplify light, radio waves included). This whole thing might even be a fluke because the signal has only been detected once! Naturally, we need more time, and more data, to determine anything more concretely, but given the scientific community’s reaction to this discovery, we’re more likely to prove the existence of aliens by studying Tabby’s Star.



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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