Earth and Its Precious Metals
There is a new theory about how the Earth’s precious metals were formed. 4.6 billion years ago, because space rocks were constantly hitting the planet, the surface of the Earth was hot and molten. That type of activity kept gold, platinum, and other similar metals, trapped up top. Once the surface cooled, those metals, also known as siderophile, or “iron-loving,” elements, followed iron down to the core. I’m sure you’re asking…”But we’ve found gold and platinum near the surface, so how is that possible?” Reactions with sulfur caused the metals to “crystallize out, closer to the core.”
Freddie Mercury and His Asteroid
Calling all Freddie Mercury fans! The rock legend now has a piece of the sky named after him. The rock, formerly known as asteroid 1991 FM3, resides in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and takes 3.69 years to orbit the Sun. It was discovered in 1991, the year Mercury died, and renamed on Sept 4th, a day before what would have been his 70th birthday. Click the link above to see the little space rock move!
The scientific community is buzzing...because in as little as seven years, the US may have access to samples from an early-universe asteroid, samples that may be able to tell us how life began in the early universe.
On September 8th, NASA successfully launched OSIRIS-REx from Cape Canaveral, a seven-year, asteroid-sampling mission, the first US mission of its kind (the Japanese successfully brought an asteroid sample back to Earth in 201). The spacecraft’s journey will be erratic, culminating in a “slingshot” style move around the Earth that will propel it toward its final destination: asteroid Bennu. You can watch the launch here.
Days before its launch, on September 1st, one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets exploded on the launchpad. Statistically, only 5% of rockets blow-up, but because of all the hype SpaceX has been receiving as of late, for all of us at home waiting with baited breath for the OSIRIS-REx launch, the week leading up to the highly anticipated event was nerve wracking.
It will take OSIRIS-REx two years to reach Bennu, two years to land, mine for the samples, and re-launch, and then an additional two before the spacecraft returns to Earth and drops the precious cargo (the samples from Bennu) into the Utah desert. Landing on Bennu won’t be easy. Because the asteroid is very small, it has very low gravity, meaning, the spacecraft will have a hard time landing. To help with this, OSIRIS-REx is equipped with really really small thrusters (the smallest ever used on a spacecraft) to make maneuvering the machine easier.
Together with NASA, the mission is being led by the University of Arizona, with Dante Lauretta, a planetary sciences professor, as the mission’s lead investigator. If everything is successful, OSIRIS-REx will bring samples of the carbonaceous chondrite asteroid back to Earth...samples from the early-universe. According to Dante, “This spacecraft will bring us pristine organic material from the dawn of our solar system that we don't have in our meteorite collections. It is a great adventure, because we are going out into the unknown and we are bringing back a scientific treasure.”
For everyone that loves a simple explanation as much as I do, click here to view Wired’s OSIRIS-REx comic strip.
Star Trek Stamps!
September 8th was Star Trek’s 50th anniversary...so what better way to celebrate than by giving the franchise their own book of stamps? The USPS has done just that, designing the stamps in a style reminiscent of the first series that originally aired in 1966. On another note, the series was quite revolutionary, not only because it focused on space exploration, but because it was the first program to show a scripted, interracial kiss on TV.
Tarzan 5 Isn’t What We Thought It Was
For years, Tarzan 5, a mysterious celestial body at the center of the Milky Way, was considered a “globular cluster of a million stars that all formed around the same time.” Now, we know differently. The object is actually a combination of two separate groups of stars, formed at different times...one of which is 12 billion years old! That means these stars were formed at the beginning of the Milky Way’s development, making them a prime resource for studying the formation of our galaxy.
Watching the Evolution of a Superbug
For those of you who don’t know, antibiotic resistant bugs are starting to pop up around the world, including the US. Now, scientists are trying to figure out how bacteria are adapting and changing. Michael Baym, from Harvard Medical School, along with his colleagues, created a very large petri tray, modeled after natural conditions in nature. They added E. coli bacteria, as well as different types of antibiotics, to the tray.. They were able to observe the bacteria evolve and mutate, eventually spawning descendants that were able to resist the strongest antibiotics that were concentrated in the center of the tray. This study will help researchers determine new antibiotics that can hopefully combat these mutations. COOL!!
We've Spotted Philae, Everyone!
Remember when the Rosetta spacecraft ended communication with its comet lander, Philae, to conserve solar power as it moved further away from the Sun? Since November 12, 2014, that little lander has been sitting on comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, alone and unobserved...until now. During a flyby of the comet, Rosetta, the lander’s mothership (literally), spotted the little guy, still nestled into the side of the comet. Click the link above to take a look!
We’re Still Talking About the Black Holes that Merged
You know those black holes that we heard merge back in Feb? Well, they’ve still got the scientific world in a tizzy. Now, researchers are trying to figure out two separate things: how the black holes became so massive and how they were able to get close enough to merge. Typically, a merger between celestial beings that massive would have happened before the stars collapsed into black holes. Currently there are two major theories being considered. The first is the classic theory of common-envelope evolution, and the second is the new theory of chemically homogeneous evolution. Which one do you favor?
Sources: Science News, Wired, Astronomy Magazine