This Spacespiracy Moment

October 11, 2016

 

Aerosol Helps Keep the Planet Cool?

Remember when we were told that aerosol spray cans were bad for the environment? I ditched the non-eco friendly aerosol hair spray bottles for the pump spray variety and I suffered for years...all for the sake of mother nature. Now, all of that has changed. Scientists have determined that aerosol gases actually help keep our planet cool because they reflect sunlight back out into space. Since the 80’s, the US and Europe have made major efforts to reduce sulfur dioxide pollution in our air...and those efforts have been highly successful (since the 1970’s, it has decreased by 75% in Europe alone). But, while the air is cleaner and healthier, because the amount of aerosol gas has also decreased, the temperatures on Earth are rising. Now, scientists have a plan. It’s called solar geoengineering and it’s the process of removing aerosol pollution from the lower atmosphere and injecting it into the upper atmosphere.

 

All the Brown Dwarfs in All the Land

There are even more stars than we originally thought...and we thought there were a lot. A new population of ultra cool brown dwarf stars has been found - 165 stars that have evaded telescopes until now. Brown dwarfs are too large (and bright) to be planets but too small for hydrogen fusion...making them an odd breed. Because they are dull (compared to other stars), they are harder to see, BUT, this is actually beneficial to star gazers. Bright stars create a ton of light pollution, “blinding” telescopes and other instruments. By that logic, ultracool brown dwarfs are even better for observation, making this new discovery, invaluable.

 

Another Moon and Another Subterranial Ocean

Underground oceans are seemingly abundant in our solar system! Scientists now think that an ocean lives 20 miles below the surface of Dione, one of Saturn’s moons. These assumptions have been made based on Cassini’s measurements of the moon’s gravity, making Dione look similar to Titan and Enceladus, two of Saturn’s other moons. Speaking of the later, new discoveries have been made on the Enceladus front too. Scientists now think that the moon’s ocean lives only a few miles below the surface, which would explain its active geysers.

 

Check Out These Retouched Photos of Mars!

A big THANK YOU to the Planetary Society! They have recently published images of Mars taken from the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Mars Orbiter Mission. The publication has recently processed images from the ISRO Mars Orbiter’s Mars Colour Camera, a camera known for its wide field of view. These images have been published before, BUT, the Planetary Society’s processing is unique because the images are more accurate in terms of color and size. Click the link above to check them out!

 

Dreaming (and Searching) for Earth 2.0

When it comes to determining the mass, density, and composition of newly discovered exoplanets, there’s a new sheriff in town. It’s called EXPRES and it’s a spectrograph (a tool built to measure radial velocity changes) developed by Yale and led by astronomer Debra Fischer. The instrument is considered revolutionary...because its software simulations have helped develop advancements in its hardware. The tool is still being fine-tuned, but is expected to make the journey to its final home, the Discovery Channel Telescope at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ, in May of 2017. One thing is for sure...EXPRES is bound to make the discovery of habitable exoplanets much more common.

 

 

Food of the Future

Population growth is inevitable...and the ability to feed that population is a big concern. The main problem? Humans love meat...and animal agriculture just isn’t sustainable. It takes nine calories of feed (corn, wheat, etc) to create one calorie of meat. Also, raising, slaughtering, and packaging meat, contributes 40% more to climate change than all forms of transportation COMBINED. Yes, there are plant-based meat alternatives, but what about man’s insatiable craving for animal protein? Scientists have come up with an alternative. It’s called “clean meat” and it’s “grown through cellular agriculture in what look like meat breweries.” Sounds pretty gnarly...but considering the population isn’t decreasing anytime soon (save a zombie apocalypse or something), I think it’s pretty safe to say that this is the future of food.

 

Gravitational Wave Detection: Update

It’s official. NASA, together with the ESA (European Space Agency), will continue to develop gravitational wave detection programs. Considering the hype surrounding the recent detection last September, proving Einstein’s 1915 theory, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. IMO, when it comes to naming any program or device they develop, NASA could take some cues from the ESA…”the ESA’s Laser Interferometer Space Antenna Pathfinder (LISA Pathfinder), launched in December 2015, was built to test technologies that will study the structure and evolution of the universe.” I mean, amiright?!

 

Hot Jupiters: Now Available in a Variety of Colors!

The hunt for Earth 2.0 has led to the discovery of thousands of exoplanets...including a colorful array of hot Jupiters. Astronomers have discovered that a gas giant’s color varies based on the type of cloud that formed around the planet. We're talking about pinks and blues, oranges, and purples, reds and whites, and everything in between! Cool! Click on the link above to take a look at a color chart!

 

Hurricanes Are Only Going to Get Worse

Researchers can now confidently say that Atlantic hurricane activity has grown considerably since the 1980’s. And as the planet gets hotter, they theorize that we may see a decrease in the number of storms, but an increase in the number of category 4 and 5 storms. Hurricanes “draw their energy from the ocean” and the warmer oceans are igniting wind speeds and dumping more rain onto infected areas. Not to mention rising sea levels due to global warming. Water is disproportionately higher along the east coast of the US, meaning that there’s more water to cause flooding and overall damage. Hmm. Looks like I’m not moving to the east coast any time soon...

 

Jeff Bezos’s Planned Rocket Explosion...And What Actually Happened

In order to properly test emergency systems on a rocket, something bad has to happen, right? On Oct. 5th, Blue Origin, the commercial space company backed by Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, test fired its “crew capsule’s emergency escape system while the rocket (was) 16,000 feet above ground.” They fully expected the rocket to crash and burn, unable to land. After bracing against 70,000 pounds of force from the emergency capsule’s engine, it would undoubtedly be knocked “off-kilter,” unable to land...but that didn’t happen. The rocket continued its upward trajectory (the capsule deployed parachutes, just like it was supposed to), and then performed a controlled landing back onto the launchpad. WHAT?!

 

Nanomachines and the Nobel Prize

Three scientists have won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for making nanomachines. What’s a nanomachine you ask? It's a molecular motor, something too small to see with the naked eye, that is created by a new type of mechanical bond. Basically, it’s a type of chemical bond where the molecules are interlocked. Individually, these connected molecules are nothing special. But “harnessed together in large numbers the little motors can do big work...Groups of the whirring motors powered by light can rotate a glass rod thousands of times their size and do other work on a macroscopic scale.” Ok, this concept is a little over my head, but a BIG SHOUT OUT to Jean-Pierre Sauvage, J. Fraser Stoddart, and Bernard Feringa. I don’t know what nanomachines are capable of, but it’s sure to be something incredible.

 

 

These Spirals Are LIT

Astronomers are desperate to figure out how stars and planets form. Fortunately, the night’s sky holds a mecca of potential research partners: galaxies, stars, and planets, in different life stages. ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) in Chile has captured the unique spiraling arms of Elias 2-27, a young star. While we don’t know much about how the spirals were formed, we DO know that they are a breeding ground for planet formation. Not only is the image breathtaking (I highly recommend clicking the link above to take a look), it could help answer questions about how the planets, including our own, were formed.

 

The Star That Shoots Fireballs

Blobs of gas, two times bigger than Mars, are being ejected into the universe. The culprit? A small, cool companion star. “As it entered host star V Hyrdrea’s outer atmosphere, it eats up material, which is then turned into a disk around the companion star. The disk becomes a sort of launching pad for the plasma balls.” By using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), scientists are trying to gather more in depth data about these fireballs.

 

This Space Observatory Took Matters Into Its Own Hands

On Oct. 1st, the Green Bank, West Virginia, radio telescope lost its funding. For 60 years, Green Bank was under the ownership of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, but cut funding meant that Green Bank would be shut down, right? Wrong. The National Science Foundation  (NSF) announced the plan to cancel funding in 2012, and since, the employees have come up with a plan to save the telescope. They negotiated 60% of their original funding from the NFS in 2017 and then 30% for 2018, pledging to raise the rest through private contracts. Which they have. They have already have agreements with the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves and Breakthrough Listen.

 

Voyage of Time

This past weekend, IMAX premiered Terrance Malik’s “Voyage of Time.” It is a story of the universe, from the very beginning, nearly 13.8 billion years ago, to the future and end of life (as we know it). The film is 45-min and is narrated by Brad Pitt. A longer, 90-min version narrated by Cate Blanchett has also been made. It focuses on the evolution of life, with the stunning, colorful cinematography Malik is known for (The Thin Red Line, The Tree of Life). The film is receiving some backlash from the scientific community, however, because it puts so much emphasis on the evolution of human life, that it doesn’t accurately depict the true length of cosmic time. Whatever. I'm still gonna see it.

 

Voyager 1 and 2 Are Still Active?! What.

Voyager 1 and 2 were launched in 1977...and they’re still active. That makes them the oldest computers in the galaxy (that we know of, at least)! They were launched toward the outer planets of the solar system, where they collected (and transmitted) data from Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Saturn’s moon, Titan. Though both satellites are still alive and kicking, they are nowhere near here. In fact, Voyager 2 is in the Heliosheath (a zone in the outer limits of the Sun’s magnetic field, about 8.7 billion miles away) and Voyager 1 isn’t even in our solar system anymore...it’s about 12.47 billion miles from Earth…

 

Women in STEM

Did you know that in the 1960’s only one out of every 100 engineers was a girl? In the decades since, we’ve managed to increase that number to 27, but it’s still a pretty pitiful representation. Science News for Students wants to spread the truth about these numbers and ultimately encourage women to pursue STEM careers. Click the link above to access their recent women in STEM articles. They examine the reasons why females shy away from these careers and how parents can play a big role in how these decisions are made. It ends with inspirational images and videos about women currently working in STEM.

 

 

Sources: Science News, Wired, Astronomy Magazine

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