Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Pluto Press Conference

Summary: It has been hard to miss the news of New Horizons flying past Pluto and getting beautiful images and data to send back to Earth. It has been harder to keep up with the constant flood of data that is pouring out. NASA has thankfully given a press conference and has published the highlights online.

Personally I am most overjoyed that they have nicknamed the dark spot on the top of Charon Mordor but I also love hearing about the giant ice cliffs. I will point you straight toward the mission site though to get all of the highlights.

If you have access to BBC, their program Sky at Night will be doing a big recap of all the news and what it means on the night of the 20th.

BBC News

Pluto through the years Credit: NASA

New particle seen at CERN

Summary: Nearly lost amid all the Pluto excitement, scientists at CERN have possibly discovered a new particle called the pentaquark. This new particle has been theorized to exist since the 60s and many have claimed to discover it before so they are being cautious. However, if this is indeed what is seems to be, then we have a new form of matter.

The pentaquark is a particle composed of four quarks and one antiquark.

Scientists found the particle by studying the way that the particle Lambda b decayed into three other particles. Some of the intermediary stages only made sense if the pentaquark did exist. Although still cautious about declaring this to be the pentaquark, the technology available to researchers at CERN allows them to view the problem in five dimensions rather than just one.

If this is indeed the particle they think it is, it will provide us with new ways of imagining quarks to be arranged and matter to be composed. Matter may be more complex than we thought.

BBC News

Quintuplet Stars

Summary: Our solar system features one star. There are many examples of binary star systems and even two binary stars coupled together. But astronomers have now found an incredibly rare new system. Two couples binary stars with one lonely companion star to make up a total of five stars.

Of the binaries, one is a detached pair and the other is coupled, meaning that the two stars share an outer atmosphere. Although there are no observations to prove it, it is possible that there are planets orbiting these stars. What a spectacular sky show they would have.

BBC News

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Rise and Shine, Philae

Summary: Remember when there was a huge celebration because as a human race, we landed a rover on a comet? It was thrilling at the time, but we lost contact with the rover after it bounced into the shade of a cliff. Now the comet has tilted to allow sunlight to reach Philae and the rover has reached out to Earth.

A few very short message was received but it gives scientists hope and affirms that the rover may be able to still carry out its mission. There is not much else known at this point but the comet will be shifting into a position with more sunlight so more can be understood about the condition of the rover.

BBC News

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

LightSail Test Sucess

Summary: Launched on the 20th of May, the final step of preparation for the LightSail was launched. This was a test sail that would practice unfurling the sail and send back pictures to Earth. I am incredibly excited by this mission and have been ever since I saw the concept art nearly fifteen years ago as a possible design for futuristic spacecraft.

The LightSail is designed to work just like a sailboat; only instead of the wind filling the sail, it is light from the sun. Photons emitted from the sun will push the sail outward and the spacecraft will sail happily along. Even when it has passed beyond the reach of the sun's light, momentum will keep the craft going, even if not as fast.

This would not be a design intended for human travel since it is so slow, but more as a method of sending data gathering probes out into space with no power needed for propulsion beyond adjusting the sail. Furthermore, I believe this sail is not going to be able to tack and sail into the headwind. It will be a one-way mission.

Planetary Society

Monday, May 25, 2015

10 Facts about Antimatter

Summary: Remember when this blog started and I tried to keep it focused solely on antimatter? That turned out to be too specific but I am once again able to get back to the heart of this blog. While not and advancement in antimatter studies, this is a recent article on ten facts you may not have known about antimatter. Contained within the article are helpful links to more topics related to antimatter that can quench your thirst for knowledge. Enjoy.


Friday, May 15, 2015

The Case of the Strangled Galaxies

Summary: Galaxies are considered dead when they no longer are producing new stars. It is still unclear what causes this process but what astronomers do now know is the most common time scale of them dying -- approximately four billion years. Astronomers are calling this process strangulation.

Astronomers are able to tell how quickly the galaxy died based on the metal content remaining in the galaxy. The more stars that are being formed in a galaxy, the more metal content is seen. The way it works is simple. If a galaxy dies quickly and quite violently (for instance if the cool gas that fuels the star formation is suddenly ripped away), then the stars immediately stop producing and the metal content remains the same. But if the galaxy if cut off from the supply of cool gas but still continues to produce stars, using up the last of the supply, the metal content in the galaxy grows and grows until it "suffocates".

The difference was seen when comparing the spectra of light emitted by red, passive galaxies and blue, star-forming galaxies. With the data from Sloan they were able to see that the dead galaxies were, on average, four billion years older than the active galaxies. This is consistent with the amount of time the astronomers had calculated it would take to burn of the remaining amount of gas supply whilst strangling to death.

While the astronomers are now confident that death by strangulation is the most common way a galaxy meets it's ultimate end, it is still not clear what causes this. The most likely suspect at this point in time seems to be overcrowding which would lead to a greater probability of disruption to the gas supply, but this would need further investigation.

BBC News