exploration station

Neutron Stars Are Weird!

There, we came right out and said it. They can’t help it; it’s just what happens when you have a star that’s heavier than our sun but as small as a city. Neutron stars give us access to crazy conditions that we can’t study directly on Earth.

Here are five facts about neutron stars that show sometimes they are stranger than science fiction!

1. Neutron stars start their lives with a bang

When a star bigger and more massive than our sun runs out of fuel at the end of its life, its core collapses while the outer layers are blown off in a supernova explosion. What is left behind depends on the mass of the original star. If it’s roughly 7 to 19 times the mass of our sun, we are left with a neutron star. If it started with more than 20 times the mass of our sun, it becomes a black hole.

2. Neutron stars contain the densest material that we can directly observe

While neutron stars’ dark cousins, black holes, might get all the attention, neutron stars are actually the densest material that we can directly observe. Black holes are hidden by their event horizon, so we can’t see what’s going on inside. However, neutron stars don’t have such shielding. To get an idea of how dense they are, one sugar cube of neutron star material would weigh about 1 trillion kilograms (or 1 billion tons) on Earth—about as much as a mountain. That is what happens when you cram a star with up to twice the mass of our sun into a sphere the diameter of a city.

3. Neutron stars can spin as fast as blender blades

Some neutron stars, called pulsars, emit streams of light that we see as flashes because the beams of light sweep in and out of our vision as the star rotates. The fastest known pulsar, named PSR J1748-2446ad, spins 43,000 times every minute. That’s twice as fast as the typical household blender! Over weeks, months or longer, pulsars pulse with more accuracy than an atomic clock, which excites astronomers about the possible applications of measuring the timing of these pulses.

4. Neutron stars are the strongest known magnets

Like many objects in space, including Earth, neutron stars have a magnetic field. While all known neutron stars have magnetic fields billions and trillions of times stronger than Earth’s, a type of neutron star known as a magnetar can have a magnetic field another thousand times stronger. These intense magnetic forces can cause starquakes on the surface of a magnetar, rupturing the star’s crust and producing brilliant flashes of gamma rays so powerful that they have been known to travel thousands of light-years across our Milky Way galaxy, causing measurable changes to Earth’s upper atmosphere.

5. Neutron stars’ pulses were originally thought to be possible alien signals

Beep. Beep. Beep. The discovery of pulsars began with a mystery in 1967 when astronomers picked up very regular radio flashes but couldn’t figure out what was causing them. The early researchers toyed briefly with the idea that it could be a signal from an alien civilization, an explanation that was discarded but lingered in their nickname for the original object—LGM-1, a nod to the “little green men” (it was later renamed PSR B1919+21). Of course, now scientists understand that pulsars are spinning neutron stars sending out light across a broad range of wavelengths that we detect as very regular pulses – but the first detections threw observers for a loop.

The Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) payload that is soon heading to the International Space Station will give astronomers more insight into neutron stars—helping us determine what is under the surface. Also, onboard NICER, the Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology (SEXTANT) experiment will test the use of pulsars as navigation beacons in space.

Want to learn even more about Neutron Stars? Watch this…

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So unreal to complete my first Mission Control shift!! (With a mentor)

Got to coordinate with people in Alabama and Japan, give one of the ISS GOs for the initial Dragon launch attempt (hopefully all goes well tomorrow!), and send commands to the International Space Station.

I love my job 🌎🚀🎉😍 #foreverfangirling

Happy International Women in Engineering Day from your friendly neighborhood International Space Station​ Flight Controller, Spacesuit Engineer, Spacecraft Thermal Management Engineer, Spacecraft Communication Systems Engineer, and Flight Mechanics/Trajectory Engineer. 💪😁 #myfriendsareinspiring ❤

First Contact

This is a very hasty opening section to a story I’m going to write about Humans being the weird ones. For the most part, I’m just going to use the concepts I like and leave out the ones I don’t I also refuse to make the aliens talk like fucking morons such as everyone else does. it pisses me off. there is no reason for them to be both polite and also use regular words instead of sounding like they are vomiting a thesaurus. I also used terms like Light Year and Light Minute even though they are subjective terms applicable only to the ear’s solar cycle because it is better than making up terms that have no context but essentially mean the same thing.


Also, I suck at writing so I apologize in advance.


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It started three hundred million years ago. The Dareth species was spreading across the galaxy. In only a few hundred years, they had completely conquered it, and had devoted their resources to moving beyond to other galaxies. After a few thousand years, they had taken more and more regions, never stopping, declaring all space to belong to them. But finally, in a supreme effort through the combined forces of 538 hundred species, one galaxy worked together to reclaim their systems. After that monumental and unique victory, the other galaxies followed suit and fought to own their systems again. It took nearly 5,000 years, but the efforts of 247 galaxies containing 350 million species drove the Dareth down to a single solar system.  Trillions of lives were lost from all sides, but the megalomaniacal Dareth were nearly destroyed.

Once they had won, the leading species of the revolution held mass executions, reducing the Dareth to a few hundred children, all in their adolescence. Stripping them of all clothes and tools, they were marooned on a hostile planet in a distant galaxy over 50 billion light years away, devoid of life. The planet was carefully chosen, a careful balance of being able to support life, while also being borderline inhospitable. It was filled with dangerous animals, few edible foods, and was plagued with extreme biomes and fluctuating weather.

No one really expected the children to live, but they thought that they would at least offer the chance. Once they were on the planet, deemed “prison 1”, all species immediately broke contact. And after a few hundred years, they also slowly stopped monitoring the Dareth children who miraculously survived. Since they were children, they were mostly uneducated in the ways of production and the manufacturing of advanced technology, so they initially were capable of little more than cave dwelling and hunting with stone weapons. They developed very slowly, and it seemed that no one had to worry about the Dareth again. After several million years, people referred to them mainly as a mythological monster race, no one really believing that the Dareth really ever existed. They faded into obscurity, eventually remembered only in a legend only history fanatics knew of.

Until one day several millions of years later, that is. An expeditionary task force was exploring a barren galaxy, and came across a primitive radio signal. They traced the source to a solar system a few light years away. Upon entry, they must have triggered an ancient outpost; a message appearing on the main screen. The words were incomprehensible, but a translator ran a few algorithms and after several minutes, showed the message in the crew’s native language. Unfortunately, the message was so short that the software could not fully translate the whole message.

W-rn—: You h-ve e-tered – forb-dde- sector. You h-ve f-ve m–utes before –uthor-t-es t-ke –ct-o-. To        -vo-d arrest, e-ther e-ter your p-ss code or le-ve –mmed—tely for your ow- protect-o-.

A count down timer followed the message.  Unfortunately, the software took a few minutes to translate, and by the time it finished, the counter was in the last 30 seconds.

“What language is that?” Admiral Hot’ath asked no one in particular, knowing full well that all known languages (over 2 trillion) were in the ship’s computer and would have identified it within seconds. Typing a search into the fleet’s contact list, he called the head Archivist “I need you to analyze this message.” He ordered, attaching both the original and translated message to a file, sending it to the Archivist. “Tell me if you think it is an ancient language, or a foreign one.” The female only glanced at it before answering.

“Ancient. I can’t read it, but it strongly resembles Standard Intergalactic it is either a more archaic and older form, or a language that coincidentally is similar to our ancient dialect.”

The admiral nodded in understanding. The message was nothing to be concerned over. The solar system was cordoned off so long ago, that everyone had forgotten that it was even there. Thusly, there were no authorities coming to get them, so they had time before deciding whether to leave or not.

“Sir.” The captain of the flagship interrupted. “Even if no one is here, there is a reason this area was blackzoned, and if anyone finds out we were here, legal actions can still be taken against us.”

He nodded knowingly. “Where did this message originate?”

The communication officer answered. “A small outpost on the planet furthest from the system’s star.” The man brought the co-ordinates up on the main bridge screen. The navigation officer quickly followed up with a map of the system, marking where the planet was.

“We can at least go there.” The admiral said firmly. “If nothing else, we can legally go that far and collect data.” The captain nodded, plotting a course on the map and sending it out to the rest of the fleet.

They planned a small expeditionary force to explore the station and gather artifacts and information. What they found astounded them. It turned out that one of the planets in the solar system was an ancient prison of sorts. The records that had survived was enough for a complete translation of the archaic language, but even so, no one knew who these Dareth were, or why they were exiled to such a distant galaxy, barren of life. No one, that is, except the archivists.

The Admiral again called the head archivist, “Proffessor Lart-tch, do you know who the Dareth were?”

Immediately, the blood drained from the archivist’s skin, the grey flesh turning a sickly white. “T-the Dareth?” she affirmed, hoping that she misheard.

The admiral slowly nodded, grimacing. The reaction was enough to let him know that there was in fact a very good reason they were exiled so far away. “I take it they are not good?”

“To put it lightly.” The female answered. “Though the legend is so old, it is probably exaggerated. But we all thought it was just that. A legend. Or more like a horror story.” She added the end with a shudder. Then with a flash of fear, she started. “We came here because we picked up a radio signal.” Her voice was a whisper, cracking with terror. “We need to leave now!”

The admiral was surprised. “Are they really so dangerous? Only a single outpost was here to watch them, and it was peacefully abandoned.”

“This was a race that had conquered over 500 galaxies. Not planets. Not Solar systems. Not Starfields. Galaxies.”

This time, the blood drained from the admiral’s face. The largest empire recorded in history was a single, unified galaxy. Two was unthinkable. But 500? That was terrifying. “You said that the legend is probably exaggerated though.” He tried to assure himself.

The woman nodded, “Yes, but only in the hundreds. There is lots of evidence that at some point in the distant past, some sort of empire had spread across between two and three hundred galaxies. No one is exactly sure how many, but at that scale, even a hundred off is little difference in scale of even the mightiest empire.”

“H-how did we ever defeat such a force?”

The woman merely shrugged. “The legend is vague on that part. But it ends with a few hundred children being left on a hostile planet with nothing to help them survive. They were essentially sent back to the stone age, and were expected to die. But they didn’t. And they will eventually learn how to leave their planet again and return to kill us all.”

The idea was enough to send a cold stab of fear through the Admiral. “We should leave.”

But before he could give any orders, the communication officer called to him from across the bridge. “Sir, we have received a message via the radio waves coming from the planet identified as Prison 1.”

Another cold stab tore through him. “Can we translate it?”

The officer nodded. “it is primitive, but I have made the adjustments to decipher it. It seems that they are repeating the same message over and over.”

“Is there enough to translate?”

“Barely. It is difficult to read, but it boils down to saying, ‘We are here and want to talk.”

The admiral had no clue what to do. If what he was just told was true, then potentially the most dangerous species to ever live was asking making contact with him, the first foreign species they have seen in millions of years.

After several moments, he decided what to do. “Tell them that we are on the edge of a restricted zone and may not come any closer. We also need to leave as soon as possible before we get in trouble.”

He was visibly shaking in fear, and he knew that there would probably be more messages before they were able to leave. There were still units searching the outpost, and it would take around 30 hours before they were recalled, even if they left immediately. They were 327 lightminutes from the Prison Planet, but that still left time for quite a few messages before they were able to leave.

Sooner than expected, another message arrived. “They are asking if they are in the restricted area, and if they will get in trouble as well.”

“N-no. Tell them it does not affect them.” He stammered out. This was getting out of hand. He was neither a military officer, nor a diplomat and this was something that no one in the entire fleet was capable of dealing with.

Again. A reply much sooner than he wanted. “They are asking why the area is restricted.”

This one was surprisingly easy to answer. “Tell them that we don’t know.” He lied

A few hours later, “They want to know what our protocol for First Contact is.”

The answer to that question was drilled into the explorer so hard, that the words came out before he realized that he was speaking. “Observe and learn until they contact us, then send a survey team to the surface to directly learn as much as possible about the new species. Providing any technological knowledge is prohibited until intergalactic diplomats arrive and officially classify the species and permit trade. Ideally, the envoy will make the decision before any contact. In the unavoidable circumstance that contact is made, we are to treat said species as a Class Three.” He finished, then realizing that the Dareth probably didn’t know what planet classes were, he quickly listed, “Class 1: lower intelligent, incapable of societal structure. Class 2: Upper intelligence, incapable of leaving planet. Class 3: Capable of limited space travel. Class 4: Capable of extended space travel under light speed. Class 5: Capable of FTL travel. Class 6: Capable of Intergalactic travel. And the hypothetical Class 7: Capable of instantaneous travel.”

He listed these quickly, momentarily forgetting the insane levels of danger they were in. fortunately, the message came slower than the others. But it still came. “They are asking if contact takes precedence over the blackzone.”

This was the first question that the admiral was completely at a loss for. The majority of blackzones existed because of environmental dangers the others were for military secrecy and they all took up several solar systems. This was by far the smallest blackzone he had ever even heard of and it did not fall under either category.  “T-tell them that….” He started talking, but he couldn’t think of anything. Fortunately, they didn’t wait for a reply. “Sir, they have sent us a file that seems to be a compilation of their history, biology, anatomy, and information of their planet’s wildlife, fauna, geography, and more.”

“A-are you serious?” he blurted out. The officer nodded. They labeled and organized everything for us. There is even information on their technology and mass medical records. They gave us everything.”

“Are there images of them?”

“Yes sir. Also, they call themselves, ‘humans.’”

“Screen.”

A series of pictures flooded the main screen showing hundreds and hundreds of the Dareths. Some were professional, and some were impromptu. They also greatly ranged in age with varying degrees of quality from brown and a little blurry to full spectral and crisp The newest ones even being three dimensional video. They did not look particularly dangerous, though they did have predatory features. They were bipeds with joint articulation and front facing eyes.  It seemed that they had full body skeletons and were mostly hairless, except for their heads and some of their faces. They were also very diverse. Some had pale skin, some were brown, some were yellow tinted, and more.  On top of photographs and videos, the Dareths also included a single diagram of a Human in a circle. It did not take long for the Admiral to understand that it was a mathematical diagram of the Human’s physiology. “Fascinating.” He whispered. But there was one thing above all else that astounded him. The photographs genuinely looked happy. There were pictures of Humans who were angry and sad as well, but for the most part, they all had kind expressions. If they were the Dareths in the legends, then either they had changed, or they were trying to trick him into letting down his guard.

“Sir,” the intelligence officer spoke up. “The planet has an open network database containing the planet’s combined knowledge. We can cross-reference everything they gave us with that system to see if they deliberately left out information or lied.”

“Unfortunately, I don’t think that we have enough time for that. I want to leave immediately.” Though he was still scared, he did not feel like the Dareths were of any danger or were lying to them. To the communication officer, he ordered. “Record and transmit as follows: Thank you, humans. You have saved us much time and deliberation. With this, we can go back and deliver the information you provided to our government and they will decide what to do next. We are merely an expeditionary unit and have no authority. You have provided us with an easy answer to deal with such an abnormal situation. We will leave as soon as possible and return to our home system without delay.”

When he finished talking, the captain spoke. “Sir, the expeditionary force has returned.”

“Good, we are leaving immediately!” he blurted out.

While the fleet left, they received one last message, “Good bye. We look forward to your return.”

Once they were safely in FTL, he ordered the “human” file to be distributed to all of the ships. In the months it took to return to their home system, everyone had poured over the files and read as much as they could. And frankly, no one knew whether they should be terrified or relieved. By now, the legend of the Dareths had spread throughout the fleet, and despite the history of war and violence that was in the files, there was just as much goodness in them. They seemed to be a fiercely loyal people, extremely innovative, and often benevolent to a fault. This was the trouble. There was no solid trend to determine their species overall personality. Even in war, they would often be kind to their enemies even while they killed them. But when they made an alliance, it was not easily broken; and when they decided to help someone in need, they did everything in their power to do so.

And none of that was even touching their bizarre physiology. They could handle an incredibly wide variety of biomes and conditions, they could survive and recover from what most species would consider life threatening injuries, they ate anything and everything, even if it had no nutritional value or was even dangerous to them. They often underwent drastic changed to their physiology for completely aesthetic reasons. And their medical methods were nothing short from horrific. They actually cut themselves open and put the organs of their dead inside their own bodies and survived. They cut out their organs, and replaced parts of their bodies as though they were machines.

By the time they reached their home, the crew had split in two as to the opinion whether the information they had was true or not. Some said that it made sense for such a domineering race to be capable of such things, while the others insisted that the information was designed to confuse them and make the humans seem stronger than they were. As far as the admiral, he was certain that the information was true. It was all nonchalant, and so strange that it didn’t seem right that the Dareth’s purposefully made it up.

He dutifully handed it over to his superior and up the chain it went. A few weeks later, he was summoned before the King. He knew immediately why. What he didn’t know was if it was a good or bad thing. The escort gave him no time to prepare. They took him from his office to the planetary palace across the continent. He was searched and taken into the throne room, the King and his wife lounging on a large sofa while other nobles of high office lined the room.

Admiral Hot’ath walked forward and knelt before the King and Queen “My liege.”

The king was a large man, but his weight was deceptive, he was an intelligent and cunning man who only appeared to be a lazy slob. So when the King looked down on him with his beautiful wife leaning against him, Hot’ath felt a stab of fear just as powerful as the one he felt facing the Dareth.

“So you are the man who says that there a monsters on the edge of the universe?” the King’s voice was slow and deep, but his tone did not seem mocking.

“Your highness,”

“I kid of course.” The king interrupted, speaking just as slowly. “I have read through all of the reports made on the subject and looked at the Human’s files personally. I understand why so many believe them to be the Dareth’s in the old story, and to be honest, I agree.” His voice gave nothing away, he spoke in nearly a monotone.

Hot’ath relaxed slightly. “I am sure that you know, but I feel that it bears repeating. My fleet did not enter the BlackZone. We remained on the edge and only got so close to explore the outpost, which is not against the law.”

The large king laughed, his bulbous core jiggling as it heaved. “Again, I agree. You have done nothing worth punishment. I have ordered your presence to ask your personal opinion on the information. Do you think that it is reliable, or a Dareth ruse?

After a moment, the admiral replied, “May I speak freely, my liege?”

“I insist it.”

Hot’ath took a breath, “I think that it is all true, my liege.” The crowd around them broke out in a quiet deliberation at his statement. “It is all far too strange to have been made up.” He continued. “I feel like it is subtle and presented as normal. If they were lying, then the lies would have been emphasized and presented as proud aspects of their race. But they record these traits as nothing special. I am certain they would be genuinely surprised if they were to learn about our own physiology and how we are so much weaker compared to them..

The king nodded. “I feel the same. But this is far too dangerous to act one without facts. Tell me why you think they gave the files to us if not for deception.”

“I think that it was an act of trust. I believe that they did so because I was hesitant to go visit their planet. I had told them that they were in a black zone, so they understood that I was not allowed to spend time and wanted to make things easy for me. Also, I do not believe that this was in my report, but my Intelligence officer had access to a global network of their combined knowledge. It was open to everyone. As far as we could tell in the short amount of time we were there, they only provided information that was on the network, that is to say, none of this is a secret to them, and they have no problem with others knowing.”

“That is new information.” The king muttered. “New Knowledge New Light.” The old saying seemed especially applicable here. “I order you to go back. I give you permission to enter the blackzone and go to their planet. Keep at least one ship on the edge out of their range. Under the slightest hint of suspicion, have it leave immediately and return directly to me so we know that they cannot be trusted.

“W-why me?”

“Do not misunderstand. You will have diplomats go with you and a small military escort. But you seem to have earned your rank and are capable of subtle discernment. You will not be doing anything more than your regular job, just with the added knowledge that everything could be a lie. I merely need you to let us know if that is the case.