Archive for October 2011
Well, that didn’t take long. The Dept of Defense is already planning a new initiative to cut down on new space debris. I guess they took that report seriously. The new initiative would work by launching new satellites without heavier parts readily available from defunct satellites (like antennas). This would allow satellites to be launched with less weight, reducing transportation costs, materials costs, and the amount of stuff going into space. While this doesn’t solve the problem of all the stuff that’s up there now, at least we’re reducing the number of new things we’re sending up.
Scientists also managed to figure out an 2,000 year old mystery this week. The mystery centered around a supernova (the explosion resulting from a giant star) witnessed 2,000 years ago by the Chinese. When modern scientists went to look for this supernova they found the remnant was much bigger than it should have been. Supernovas usually only occur from the deaths of larger stars after they collapse in on themselves. Smaller stars become extremely dense and turn into white dwarfs which burn small and hot for a long, long time. In this particular instance, the star had become a white dwarf. However, after it stole material from a nearby star, it destabalized and exploded violently, causing the huge remnant.
You may or may not have heard. A satellite is about to crash land on earth. No, not the UARS satellite; there’s another one. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s two falling satellites in a one month span. You may be wondering why, all of a sudden, space junk is endangering our lives. The simple answer is, because there’s a lot of it. There are 22,000 pieces of useless space junk that are big enough to be tracked from earth. In addition to those, there are more than 100,000 pieces of stuff bigger than 1 cm. That might not seem big, but when it’s moving at hundreds or thousands of miles per hour, it can certainly do some damage. The picture to the left, by the European Space Operations Centre, shows how big this problem really is.
According to a report released in September, the problem is now at the tipping point. If we don’t do something soon, the space clutter could pose extreme threats to working satellites (which control GPS, Cell Phones, and anyone who has a satellite dish for cable), future space missions, and us here on the ground. Imagine if something the size of a school bus, traveling at over 15,000 mph, slammed into a sky scraper. The odds aren’t good, but it could certainly happen. The European Space Operations Centre also released an image of what space will look like if we curb the problem vs. if we continue on our current path:
In the mean time, keep an eye on the sky for a giant satellite.
Image Credits: http://www.universetoday.com/13587/space-debris-illustrated-the-problem-in-pictures/
We don’t know. And that’s probably a big problem.
Dark matter makes up anywhere from 90 – 96% of our universe. So for all those those billions of galaxies with billions of stars that you can see? There’s at least nine times that much stuff floating around our universe. We know that dark matter… or something exists. Its gravitational effects have been well measured, and when we run simulations that include dark matter, our universe winds up looking pretty similar to the way it does today. But, what is it? We don’t have any idea. And a new study didn’t do anything to help that.
A study done by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics studied a galaxy and expected to find the telltale signs of dark matter closer to the center of the galaxy. They were wrong. The dark matter was relatively evenly distributed, meaning what little we knew about dark matter was wrong. So, scientists will have to head back to the drawing board and try again.
But at that means there’s still mysteries left to be solved.
Recently I was watching a show on the Science Channel and the show proposed a means for traveling to the future: Say we built a giant spaceship capable of going just under the speed of light. It would be in outer space for 10 years total. For the first six years, the ship would slowly accelerate to the speed of light, hold that speed for two years and then slowly come down. While on this ship, you’d have the opportunity to explore space, see Jupiter and Saturn’s rings in person, and who knows what else. However, because you’re traveling so fast, at max speed one earth year would pass for every week you spent on the ship. By the time you got back, roughly 150 years would’ve passed for everyone on earth, but it would’ve only been 10 years for you. So, by accepting a spot on the ship, you’d have the opportunity to explore space for 10 years and see the future, but you’d have an effective death date on earth, as the day you left nobody who is currently alive (barring some miraculous medical discovery) would be alive by the time you came back.
So, would you do it?
I’d definitely have to give it some serious thought, but in the end, I think I’d wind up taking the trip into space. First, the chance to see the planets up close is, in and of itself, almost too good to pass up. On top of that, the chance to see what we built in the future would be simply incredible. However, this is all speculation as we’re far, far off from this kind of technology.
We Probably Didn’t Break Science
According to new information out today, we probably didn’t break physics. The research by two physicists, one of whom has a Nobel Prize (no big deal or anything), says that if a neutrino were to surpass the speed of light, it’d have to expend energy in the form of radiation. Since the neutrinos arrived at the end point as high energy neutrinos, they couldn’t have radiated energy. Problem solved… well, hopefully anyway.
The Tevatron, one of the particle accelerators at Fermi Lab in Illinois, powered down for the final time on September 30th. The Tevatron was the highest energy particle accelerator in the world until 2009, when the LHC at CERN overtook it. The Tevatron was operational for 28 years and is credited with discovering the top quark, along with many other discoveries. Earlier this year, staff at the Tevatron thought that they may have found the elusive Higgs-Boson particle, popularly known as the god particle. The discovery turned out to just be a statistical anomaly. Work analyzing all of the collisions at the Tevatron is expected to last for another several years.
…Well kind of anyway. On October 8th, a meteor shower will be visible on earth. This particularly meteor shower is normally pretty dull by meteor shower standards, but not this year… it could be one of the biggest showers in the history of this cluster. Or it could be one of the smallest. It all depends on who you believe. Regardless, the peak of this shower will occur during the daytime in North America, and at night the bright moon will add a lot of light to the sky. Then there’s that whole light pollution thing in cities… I’ll just wait for the next one I guess.