Posts Tagged ‘space’


Monday, January 12th, 2009 by Evan Finnes

On Friday the 13th, of April 2029 an asteroid approximately 330 meters in diameter will transverse the Earth’s orbit, coming nearer to the Earth than any other known asteroid in recorded history. Apophis was discovered in 2004 and after six months of optical and radar observations it was concluded that this asteroid will pass within 35700 km of the Earth, which is an altitude less than that of our satellites in geocentric orbit. Apophis will once again return on 2036, and astronomers say that if the asteroid’s center of mass passes through a small gravitational keyhole in the Earth’s atmosphere in 2029, Apophis’2 2036 orbit could be redirected into the Earth. Astronomers currently rank this asteroid has having little chance of impact, and is 0 on the Torino Scale.

The Torino scale is a scale from 0 to 10 that indicates the threat level of Near Earth Objects (NEO). A zero indicates that there is either no threat of impact, or that the object is too small to penetrate the atmosphere. A ten indicates that the object is likely to impact catastrophically. A NEO is assigned an integer value on the 0 to 10 scale based on impact probability and its kinetic energy. On December 23, 2004, Apophis had been given 1 in 233 chance of impact and a 2 on the Torino scale (Apophis is the first asteroid to have a value larger than 1 on the Torino scale). Later that day the odds of impact were increased to 1 in 64 with a 4 on the Torino scale. By 2006 the chance of impact has been reduced to 1 in 45,000 with a zero on the Torino scale.

In April 2008, a thirteen year old from Germany calculated the chances of collision to be 1 in 450 by factoring changes in the Asteroid’s orbit due to collisions with one or more geosynchronous satellites. To eliminate rumors that NASA and the ESA confirmed these calculations, NASA released a statement saying that the angle of approach relative to Earths equator, and the relatively small size of the satellites leave little or no chance of a satellite-asteroid collision.

Even though NASA has placed a low probability of impact, the threat is real enough that NASA plans on somehow deflecting the asteroid away from the tiny keyhole to prevent a future impact scenario. Some of these plans include nuking the asteroid, painting one half of it white, or by tugging it away using the gravitational pull of a probe. Nuking the asteroid has basically been ruled out because that may just result in showering us with several asteroid segments instead of one large one. Painting half of the asteroid white would result in the painted half of the asteroid reflecting more photons and thus pushing the asteroid in the desired direction, but this solution is impractical. Even if a good plan is developed it will do little good without precise and accurate details and calculations of the asteroid.

In 2008 the Planetary Society developed a $50,000 competition for the best mission designed to track the asteroid, and perform trajectory calculations for a year with an unmanned probe. The goal of the competition is to help Earth’s governments decide whether or not the probe should be deflected. The Planetary Society received 37 entries from 20 countries. The winning entry was designed by an Atlanta based company called Spaceworks Engineering. This plan called ‘foresight’ is planned to launch in 2012, after 5 months of travel it will rendezvous with Apophis, orbit it for one month while taking measurements with a multi-spectral imager. Once the orbiting phase is complete, the probe will follow Apophis around the sun for 10 months while it takes careful measurements of the asteroids orbit.

On Friday the 13th, in April of 2029, Apophis will be observable with the naked eye as it passes over the Earth at a distance of approximately 1/10 that of the moon. If you happen to be watching as the large asteroid come closer to the Earth than any other large asteroid in human history, remember one thing: even though calculus is perfect, the people who use it are not.

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OUU Podcast #5: Something from Nothing

Monday, January 5th, 2009 by Aridian PR
Our Undiscovered Universe Podcasts


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OUU Podcast #5: Something from nothing

Welcome to the fifth in a series of podcasts that explore Null Physics as presented in the book, Our Undiscovered Universe, written by Scientist and Engineer, Terence Witt.

The topic of discussion today is “Something from nothing”, discussing various cosmology theories like the big bang and how they compare to the theory presented using Null Physics.

Also in Episode 5:

  • How does science address new ideas?
  • What role does the Big Bang play when scientists are looking for an alternative theory?
  • How did Null Physics evolve to the theory it is today?
  • What is the difference between a steady state universe of null or zero, and the theory that one began as zero then exploded with a bang?
  • Also available on iTunes! Search “Null Physics” and Subscribe Now!

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    Carbon Dioxide Found on New World

    Monday, December 15th, 2008 by Bellatrix

    It’s no new thing to find a planet these days since we’ve detected hundreds of extrasolar planets by now. Now being able to determine the chemicals present on other planets, now that’s pretty new and exciting. Now for the first time carbon dioxide has been detected on a planet outside of our solar system.

    The planet is called HD 189733b and lies about 63 light years from us. It’s a large planet, about the size of Jupiter with a very short rotation period of only 2.2 days. Astronomers have been observing the planet for a while now using both the Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer Infrared Space Telescope. Last year they discovered water vapor and then some time later methane. But this is the first time an organic compound such as this has been found on another world. Now this planet is too hot to support life, but chemicals like this one are by products of life processes thus when we are able to start detecting earth sized planets this may be an indirect way of discovering other life forms.

    It is exciting not just knowing that these other planets are there but we’re actually able to say something about them. Using the Hubble Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) to study the infrared light emitted by the planet. Gases in the planet’s atmosphere absorb certain wavelengths of light from the planet’s hot glowing interior. The astronomers identified not only carbon dioxide, but also carbon monoxide. The molecules leave their own unique spectral fingerprint on the radiation from the planet that reaches Earth. This is the first time a near-infrared emission spectrum has been obtained for an exoplanet. With these detection techniques we can describe the conditions, chemistry, and atmospheric composition of other planets.

    This planet was a good candidate for this type of study because of the orientation of the planet to Earth’s orbit. The planet’s orbit is facing us edge on, so when it moves around its star and the star eclipses it. So astronomers are bale to subtract out the light that is due only to the star and thus are left with the spectrum coming from the planet.

    Once the new James Webb Space Telescope launches things will get even more exciting. Astronomers will be able to use this technique but with the much greater sensitivity of the new telescope hopefully it will be on terrestrial, or earth like planets. Until then astronomers will be using this technique to look at other exoplanets to see what other new things they can discover.

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    Wednesday, November 19th, 2008 by Evan Finnes

    Earlier this year, India celebrated the launch of its first mission to the moon. The mission is called Chandrayaan-1, which in Hindi, translates to “trip to the moon”. The mission was launched on October 22, 2008 using India’s own launch craft which is called the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. On November 8th, Chandrayaan-1 entered a lunar orbit at altitude of 100 km above the lunar surface.

    Chandrayaan-1 is a multinational program with contributions from India, NASA, the Bulgarian Academy of Science (BSA), and the European Space Agency (ESA). The objective of this mission is to map out the lunar surface in greater detail than has ever been done before, by any single nation. This mission will Map out, in high resolution, the chemical and mineralogical compositions of the Moon’s North and South poles. It will also search for pockets of surface and subsurface helium, and water-ice which could be potentially used by a future Moon-base. The satellite will also map out changes in elevation, and the chemical composition of the moons interior by observing internal rock which has been exposed to the surface. It is hoped that the data gathered will help develop a better understanding to the evolution of the solar system, particularly, the origin of the Moon.

    With the great success of Chandrayaan-1, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has announced plans for the launch of Chandrayaan-2 in 2011. For this relatively short mission (with a duration of approximately one month), the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) will join the ISRO in the building of a lunar Lander/Rover. This mission will be very similar to NASA’S Martian Sample Return Mission, due to the fact that a solar powered rover would navigate across the lunar surface, collect samples and return them to an orbiting spacecraft, which will bring them back to Earth. The ISRO also has plans to launch Chandrayaan-3, 4, and 5, but the details of these missions have not yet been announced. Could India be planning a manned mission to the moon?

    The reason we are still so interested in the moon is because of the fact that we still do not fully understand the processes which may have formed the moon. The leading hypothesis, developed by geologist Reginald Aldworth Daly, suggests that during the formation of our solar system, a hypothetical mars sized body called Theia smashed into proto-Earth. This collision would have caused Theia’s entire mantle, and most of Earths to explode into space, while Theia’s iron core sank into the Earth where it combined with Earths Iron core. The mantle debris, in orbit around the Earth, then would have accreted to form the current moon. This hypothesis also explains the unusually large size of Earth’s core. There is some evidence which supports this hypothesis: the lunar rocks gathered during the Apollo mission were found to contain oxygen isotopes with compositions very similar to Earth. Also, large areas of the lunar surface appear to be igneous, which means that it was once molten, and the energy produced during a large collision would be high enough to produce large scale melting of lunar rocks.

    It is always exciting when other nations become more involved with space exploration, and contribute more to the collective knowledge of our surrounds. It will be interesting to see if Chandrayaan-1 will be able to produce data that will confirm the Giant Impact Hypothesis, or discover that there is enough water on the lunar surface to support a space colony. Hopefully the ISRO will be able to further expand its space program, despite critics of India’s government, who wish to have the bulk of the space exploration funds reallocated to social welfare programs.

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