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How Science Can Learn More About ‘Proxima b’ And All Earth-Like Worlds

“This planet is almost definitely tidally locked to its star, meaning that the same hemisphere always faces the star and the opposite hemisphere always faces away, just like the Moon does to Earth. The star itself is active and flares frequently, meaning that catastrophic radiation impacts the Sun-facing side quite regularly, but never touches the dark side. And the “seasons” are determined by the ellipticity of its orbit, rather than its axial tilt. But there’s still so much left to learn, and we have a number of different technological avenues to explore – including potentially all of them – if we want to learn more about it.”

Now that we’ve learned the nearest star to our Sun, Proxima Centauri, has a rocky planet at the right distance for liquid water, it’s time to consider how we might learn the answers to our burning questions about it and all nearby Earth-like exoplanets. What’s the atmosphere like, and what does it consist of? What does the surface of the world look like, and what’s on it? And is there life, or intelligent life, present at all? There are three ways to conduct these searches, and they’re all complementary. We can use giant ground-based telescopes, including arrays of telescopes, for high-resolution spectroscopic images of these worlds. We can use space-based telescopes with coronagraphs or starshades to image these worlds directly over time. Or we could undertake a journey across space, and visit the system directly to obtain in situ measurements we could never get from afar.

If this doesn’t inspire you to invest in astronomy and learning more about the Universe, perhaps nothing will!

An old post recalling a dream I woke from..

I just awoke from such a vivid dream. I was going through astronaut training in preparation for what seemed like a trip to our moon. I was getting outfitted in the astronaut gear discussing Yuri Gagarin with the other crew members and the little known story of his comrade which perished upon reentry, Vladimir Mikhaylovich Komarov. My recount of the story kept getting cut off as the dream skipped a bit further into moments closer to the launch date. However, you can read about it here, if you aren’t familiar (and after reading it you may wonder how the hell there hasn’t been a film made about this…you aren’t the only one).

Eventually I dropped the story and at one point we were riding in a big passenger van or bus of some kind, with the POTUS on board. He (Pres. Obama) looks over, and I think he may have said this because we were wrapping up our Yuri story, but he said, “Well, you all will be riding in the safest, most advanced craft every built.” Looking at me, I stared back, nodded in approval, saying, “Fuck’n right.” 

There were a few exclamations and cheers from inside the vehicle and I think he was taken back just slightly that I had used those words but he knew they were expressed out of confidence in the meticulous engineering and testing efforts of NASA along with confidence in the mission, so he responded with some type of muffled agreeable response and the extension of his hand, which, my personal view of him and politics aside, I obliged and shook firmly.

As we traveled to the briefing room/launch pad and just after letting go of his hand, I spoke freely, trying to muster the words without collapsing into tears of pride and disbelief. I expressed how proud I was to be on this mission and that the first time I had seen the Orion Crew Capsule, it was a prototype used to develop and progress the heat shields, to which I examined while watching the Space Shuttle Discovery become retired and placed into its permanent home at Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Air & Space Museum. I could barely make it through the condensed version of this brief comment. I was breaking down with tears of overflowing emotion: joy, surreality, humility (image courtesy of @nasa).

In my dream, while crying and trying to break through the tears to finish what I felt compelled to say, I could see the faces of other men and women in the vehicle (presumably crew members, technical advisors, NASA PR, ?) and they had half smiles on their faces, honored by my enthusiasm and noticeable nostalgia during what felt like, reality. The dream cut away to one of those animated NASA simulations of what the mission would consist of. 

First, a proper alignment for a cost-effective, logistically appropriate launch and conjunction. As the images became clearer, I realized the moon was not our destination. We were going to Mars. The animation explained that this SRM (Sample-Return Mission) had already been set in motion by a craft which had previously landed, inflating habitable hubs, converting the Mars atmosphere into breathable oxygen inside each living/workspace (image below courtesy of Bryan Versteeg). 

Then another craft was sent out behind it, which landed a distance away from the hubs. It’s purpose was to act as a landing pad for the capsule we’d be traveling in, which would resupply us with fuel and a boost to reach escape velocity for the return back to Earth (image courtesy of Space X). 

The duration of the mission was unknown to me, but I began daydreaming (within my dream) about stepping foot onto the planet, eagerly awaiting my duties to fulfill amidst the other astronauts and what their responsibilities consisted of (image courtesy of @nasa). 

Picking up my first piece of Martian sediment, I remember being slightly anxious. What will reentry feel like? Will the heat shields live up to their projected durability? Logical questions that I pushed from my mind to focus my attention elsewhere. 

Then I hear “oh shit, we lost the box.” The black box (don’t ask me why it would even be in a position to “fall off”) had escaped from its mount onto the tarmac of the air strip. No matter, we were on our way…(and then I woke up).

Some upcoming concepts I'm gonna post about over the next week or so

-wave/particle duality of light
-the photoelectric effect
-light being a wave in an electric and magnetic field
-how we know the speed of light
-cloud chambers and particle physics

basically a lot of properties of light with a few other interesting tidbits thrown in
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I started reading The Cosmic Century A History of Astrophysics and Cosmology weeks ago for my EPQ but other things took priority (partying and such… you have to have some fun!) I hate writing in books but I gave in since I have no clue how I’m going to make sense of the content that is important in this book otherwise.  I got some pretty highlighting strips the other day too 😊 I have barely started this research project and I cannot wait to finish it, its going to be a drag 😐

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Recently, NASA have discovered something that could be an alien megastructure in space effecting the star KIC 8462852. This theory comes from observations made showing that the star was dimming by more than 20%, then it would brighten again and then dim weeks, sometimes months later. Originally the most credible theory was that a huge, and I mean HUGE swarm of comets was passing in front of the star blocking a substantial portion of light that was being emitted from it. However, this does not fully explain it. There are no other observed stars that seem to show this kind of behaviour so scientists are still struggling to work out what is causing it. Astronomer Jason Wright was the one to speculate that it could be an alien megastructure in the process of being built around the star. It is theoretically possible to build such a device around a star that would be used harvest the energy. This alien civilisation would be far more advanced than us and the device they could be building could be similar to a Dyson Sphere. But what could they possibly need such a large energy supply for?

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Hubble finds ring of Dark Matter

Dark matter is the most common substance in the universe, scientists even estimate that it takes up approximately 25% of the entire universe. However, we can’t see it and we don’t even know what it is!

“Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope got a first-hand view of how dark matter behaves during a titanic collision between two galaxy clusters. The wreck created a ripple of dark matter, which is somewhat similar to a ripple formed in a pond when a rock hits the water. “

This ring gives @nasa scientists and researchers strong evidence that dark matter exists. To read more visit: NASA

Credit: NASA / Hubble

vicesandviirtues  asked:

A teacher once told me that our galaxy is on course to collide with the Andromeda galaxy in the next few million years. He said that it wouldn't do much except allow us to travel into the other Galaxy. Is this true?

We will be colliding with Andromeda, in about 4 billion years. Andromeda has 14 small galaxy companions, which Andromeda will likely interact with and accrete  a lot of their matter prior to then. The Milky Was also has satellite galaxies that we will interact with – we are currently swallowing the Sagittarius Dwarf Spheroidal Galaxy, which we will pass through in about 100 million years.

Galaxy interactions lead to galaxy evolution. Andromeda and the Milky Way are both fairly massive galaxies, and their interaction will result in a giant elliptical galaxy or one disk galaxy (probably, elliptical)

Here’s a simulation showing how it might go down:

I wouldn’t say “it wouldn’t do much except allow us to travel into the other galaxy,” galaxy interactions can lead to star-formation bursts (although, by this time each galaxy may not have enough gas left to form new stars). But, the collision is an interesting step in our galaxy’s evolution!

It won’t affect life in our solar system very much other than a change in orbit around the galactic center. 

However, the view is expected to be great! (Via NASA; ESA; Z. Levay and R. van der Marel, STScI; T. Hallas, and A. Mellinger)