Dispelling Some Space Myths


(Originally posted 2/2/17 on Read With The Gringa)

If you are a dear reader of Read With The Gringa, chances are you are also a fan of science fiction. The gringa has seen every episode of her favorite series like the Star Trek franchise, Battlestar Galactica and Firefly. If it’s a cheesy, classic or epic sci-fi movie, I’ve seen that, too. What about some of the common themes and aspects of this genre? Is there any kernel of truth to these commonalities or are they just creative license?

Spacecraft Explosions: Cosmic space battles between a star ship battle cruiser and a sporty, feisty spacecraft that maneuvers with lightning speed often end up with the absolute destruction of one, maybe even both. But what about those fabulous fireballs and bits and bobs of bulkhead that create an enormous blast radius. Does that really happen?

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NO! Why? Well, think about it. There is no oxygen in space! No oxygen, no fire. The best you could hope for is an insignificant spark that, pfft, quickly goes out. And the boom factor? Nope. You wouldn’t hear anything either. Sound only travels through Earth’s atmosphere because of a complex recipe of certain gases. So, that pfft effect goes for explosive sounds as well.

Human Explosion: Sci-fi takes a reverse course on the pressure effects of deep water on the human. Go deep enough in the ocean without protective gear and  the water pressure will implode you. Not a pretty sight for a human to be crushed like an aluminum soda can. Sci-fi screenwriters like to imagine the vacuum of space would result in the atoms of humans no longer experiencing enough atmospheric pressure to remain cohesive. Thus an explosion of eyeballs and fingernails. A rather gruesome and bloody prospect. Is this accurate? Would astronauts who experience spacesuit failure explode in the vacuum of space?

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First, you would quickly begin to dehydrate as water began evaporating rapidly through your pores. You would also begin to feel the chill of MINUS 455 degrees Fahrenheit. In other words, instead of exploding into itty-bitty bits, you would quickly become a human ice cube. About 30 seconds to be exact.

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The dark side of the Moon… who could live there? Well, a colony on the “dark side of the Moon” would get just as much sunlight as the “other” side of the Moon. You see, it is only the Earth that the Moon hides its backside from. That’s because of tidal influences between these two planetary objects. The Sun, on the other hand, enjoys seeing every aspect of the Moon.

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What of golden sunsets and sunrises? Are they as beautiful when seen from space? Well, they are definitely as bright but not golden. Stars, which our Sun is, have colors that are determined by their temperature. Our Sun, at about 6,000 degrees Kelvin, is actually white. It only appears yellow to us Earthlings because of how it’s short-wavelenths of blue, green and violet are scattered as they travel through Earth’s atmosphere. And you know those wavy little rays we always draw around our Suns when we are little kids? Yeah, those are all wrong too. The Sun isn’t burning. There are no flames. It is EXPLODING with gases so it’s glowing. Like a light bulb.

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Have you ever seen those crack pilots zipping about in their little shuttles, navigating like aces through the hazards of an asteroid belt? Yeah. That’s not real either. Even in a really, super crowded asteroid belt with millions of space rocks each of these hunks of geological junk are most likely hundreds of thousands of miles apart. How do you think NASA’s probes make it to the farthest reaches of space if there were such dangerous obstacles? Remember, space is really, really, really, big. Plenty of room to navigate.

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Could a huge meteor slam into a wilderness area and create a fiery crater? Nope. A crater, yes, but not a fiery one. I know, I know. The dear reader is saying, “Hold on there, gringa! I have actually seen a fiery fireball of a meteor that raced across the sky!” Yes, I am sure that you did. However, it is the outer surface of the meteor that has heated up, liquefied and converted to flaming plasma from the friction of hurtling through Earth’s atmosphere at high-speed. Its core, however, is frozen solid from a lifetime in space where temperatures are hundreds of degrees BELOW freezing. So, you would most likely end up with scattered fires from fiery plasma scattering on impact and then a soggy mess in the crater after the cosmic ice ball melts. Basically, a meteor is like a flaming snowball.

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The gringa’s really sorry if she spoiled things for you. But I must remind you that the most important thing about science-fiction is that it is FICTION. So enjoy it the way it is meant to be enjoyed… an escape from reality into fantasy for pure pleasure. Let it titillate your imagination and inspire you to greater things. But always know the difference between fact and fiction!

Sources:

NASA

David Darling

Geoffrey Landis

Stanford

How Stuff Works

www.space.com

Image Credits: Discovery Channel

Star Trek Desktop Wallpaper

YouTube

Keyword Suggestions

Top Tenz

UK2

Animal New York

Gizmodo

The Earth v. Theia Smackdown


In just a few days, November 14, the Moon is going to be a Supermoon. There are lots of opportunities to see a Supermoon but the super-super-super-ness of this particular Supermoon won’t happen again for 70 years. What better time to pen a post that explains just how our Moon ended up in the orbit it’s in around our pretty, blue planet? You see, despite the fact that we are all accustomed to that big, gray rock circling us every day, how it got there to begin with is actually a mystery. Earth and her moon have not always been a couple.

Scientists think that Earth had a major smackdown with a protoplanet millions of years ago that resulted in it becoming our Moon. A protoplanet is a large body orbiting around a sun, or star, that eventually develops into a regular planet. In other words, it’s a hunk of rock that eventually transforms into creating its own motion that affects the events and natural environment of its surface. So, although the Moon has its own motion, it is controlled by the Earth’s gravity. Interestingly, although the Moon is not yet a planet in its own right, it does affect environmental events on Earth, our ocean tides.

But the gringa has gotten sidetracked. Back to just where the heck the Moon came from. So, a protoplanet slams into Earth yet is not obliterated. Researchers suspect that for a hunk of rock to survive such a collision it would have had to have originated from a protoplanet the size of Mars. Scientists have named this theoretical Moon-producing protoplanet Theia. Here’s a picture of Earth next to Mars and Mars next to the Moon. Picture the middle guy slamming into the big guy and ending up the little guy.

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Now, the gringa wants to know that if this is how it happened, how did the Moon become so perfectly round? I don’t know about you, but whenever I have seen any rock get pulverized, I don’t find any fragments that are spherical. So, the gringa takes her skepticism further. What kind of rock is the Moon?

Well, the Moon actually consists of geological material that can be found on Earth. What this means is that an impact theory between Earth and Theia doesn’t really make sense. The Moon would then consist of Earth stuff and foreign Theia stuff. But, the Moon’s just made of Earth stuff.

Another thing that keeps scientists scratching their heads about the Earth-Theia impact theory is where the Moon is. If it was a piece of space debris from an impact, the Moon should orbit around Earth’s equator. Instead, it orbits elliptically at a tilt, five degrees off our equator.

Scientist Sarah Stewart at the University of California thinks she has solved these problems. She theorizes that:

  • Number one, the clash between Earth & Theia involved much more energy than previously thought.
  • This caused the Earth to spin like crazy, much faster than it does now.
  • Some of the debris was vaporized, meaning melted Earth material fused with Theia and Theia material fused with Earth. The Earth and Moon are actually mixed together. So, when it seems that the Moon is only comprised of Earth materials, in a way that’s true but yet not all true. The Earth and the Moon are BOTH made up of Earth & Theia stuff.
  • When the collision first happened, causing the Earth to spin wildly, our axis pointed right at the Sun and we only had a 2 hour day.
  • As Theia a.k.a. the Moon stabilized in its orbit around the Earth equator, its affect was to gradually slow the rapid spinning of the Earth by affecting the tidal movements of the oceans.
  • As the Earth slowed down the Earth’s axis also shifted which caused Theia a.k.a. the Moon to no longer orbit around our equator.

Now, it would have taken more than 10 million years for all of this to happen. But, it all makes perfect sense to the gringa. Except for the round bit. Why is there not a big dent still visible in the Earth and the Moon? And despite the fact that I really like the name Theia, I don’t have any plans to call the Moon anything other than the Moon.

Source:

www.ibtimes.co.uk

Image Credit: www.space.com

www.digipac.ca

 

 

 

 

 

Lunar Nips & Tucks


The gringa has reached that age where she critically examines the tiny lines around her eyes and notices the effects of gravity slowly creating those puppet lines around my mouth as my cheeks droop a bit lower every year. And then there’s that little turkey wattle dewlap flap hanging under my chin and drawing attention to my scrawny chicken neck. Despite my flaws, the gringa is not interested in a facelift. Our Moon, however, gets one every so often whether it likes it or not.

Yep, about every 80 thousand years or so the Moon is transformed into something unrecognizable from its former self. Does this amazing facelift happen overnight? No. It experiences its own form of nips and tucks gradually. Every year numerous comets, asteroids and meteors crash into our Moon and create almost 200 new craters.

If you visit NASA’s photo gallery you can find an array of Moon images dating back to 2009 when the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft began its mission. It has been mapping the Moon’s surface for years. Comparisons of the collection of images that span five years’ worth of work tells the gringa that mapping the Moon will be a never-ending job seeing as how everything is always changing.

An historical super-moon is scheduled to arrive around November 16. Chances are newspapers and cyberworld will be filled with images of our Moon as it appears in 2016. This is the perfect opportunity for a Moon project to see if amateur stargazers can detect any changes. Below are a pair of 2009 images of our Moon you can use for comparison:

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NASA’s Astronomy picture of the day February 6, 2009

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NASA’s detailed 2009 image of the Apollo 17 Moon landing mission site

Sources:

NASA

Yahoo News

lroc.sese.asu.edu

Image Credits:  NASA

lupusuva1phototherapy.com

 

Anthropocene #2? Could Be


Let’s travel back in time together, say, about 50 or 60 million years. What might be going on in the wilds of primeval Earth? Are the caveman’s ancestors making stone tipped spears to take down a juicy mammoth for a winter’s worth of dinner? Some scientists think there could have been some pre-historic glassmakers crafting wares. Others say no, no, no, those droplets of glass found in a primordial ancient seabed that is now New Jersey belonged to space aliens who visited long ago and left behind a bit of rubbish. And then there are “those” scientists who stick with the theory of a cataclysmic celestial body impact 10 million years after the dinosaur doomsday comet impact event. This second crash resulted in a smattering of glass droplets in the searing heat. Theory #3 is the story the gringa’s going to go with.

Three excavation sites in New Jersey and another underwater site in Florida have produced these interesting finds. They are shaped like round droplets of water but are actually glass. As the comet or meteor crashes into the surface of the Earth, the space rock is immediately vaporized. Kaboom!

After traveling through the atmosphere on its collision course it is extremely hot. Once vaporized, all of its molten bits are flung will-nilly into the air. As the molten rock bits fall through the air, they take the shape of a droplet, just like any liquid does as it falls through the air. The droplets cool as they fall, hardening into glass the shape of a liquid droplet.

Unlike the comet impact 10 million years earlier that killed off all the large land and sea animals, scientists don’t think this impact resulted in mass extinction of Earth species. What they do think it triggered is a massive climate warming chain of events because of an enormous carbon dioxide contribution to the atmosphere after the impact’s explosion. Over the course of the next 100,000 years temperatures around the world rose by almost 15 degrees Fahrenheit (or 8 degrees Celsius).

Although our modern culture has been conditioned to view a warming climate as disastrous, in this instance it was actually a good thing. After the mass extinction comet 10 million years earlier, the Earth had been plunged into an Ice Age. Warming temperatures triggered the environmental changes that would eventually result in the appearance of early primates and mammals. But the gringa wants to know just where they came from? Where was their genetic material hiding during those cold millenias?

Did they arrive with the glass droplets? Was it a comet made of obsidian or sand or other geological material that can be transformed with heat into glass? Could it have actually been another engineered alien Anthropocene space vehicle sent to re-seed a planet that was dead after the previous catastrophe? Knowing that it will take thousands, even millions, of years for us to transverse the Universe to where an Earth twin planet might exist, might that be why 10 million years passed before re-seeding occurred? Mightn’t it have taken that long for our species of origin to send a probe, check on their colony, receive back probe telemetry, reel in shock at the news, devise a plan and engineer the technology for a 2nd round of genetic material and then deliver the payload? Might all of us alive today be the legacy of Anthropocene Event #2? The gringa says, “Stranger things have happened.”

Sources:

Yahoo Science News

www.sciencemag.org

Image Credit: www.meteorite.fr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stars Are Cool. No, Really, They Are


When the gringa’s dear readers think of a star, what do you think of? The Sun? Polaris? Alpha Centauri?  And what do you think would happen if you reached out to touch the Sun? You’d probably get vaporized, right? Well, depending on the star, not necessarily. In fact, if you touched the right star it might be a sensation more like when you roll over in bed and find the cool spot.

Brown dwarfs are cold stars. There are 14 that NASA believes are cool enough to touch. Cool! They are also the oldest stars in the Universe. I guess stars are kind of like people. Old folks with poor circulation are generally cold all the time. Stars get old and cold, too. Out of all the old, cold, brown dwarf stars in the Universe, it’s the Y-dwarfs that are even cooler than the average human’s body temperature. Y, you may ask. Well, the gringa will tell you why the Y is the way that it is.

Not only are they old but they are failures. Poor Y-dwarfs. They must have very low self-esteem. Perhaps that is why they don’t shine as brightly as other stars. They have grown old and are failures as stars. The gringa feels very sorry for the poor, little things.

Because their cores are not very dense they can’t fuse loads of atoms within. That means they don’t burn as hot and brightly as other stars. The gringa finds it very amusing that the denser a star is the brighter it is. It doesn’t seem to work that way in humans.

If Y-dwarfs are such failures at being stars, the gringa wonders if they should be considered stars at all. Do we have a Pluto prospect in the future? Just as Pluto got demoted from planet to dwarf planet, Y-dwarf stars may very well face the possibility of being re-classified. In the future scientists may decide they don’t meet all the guidelines of being a star. The gringa thinks this is a wonderful possibility for Y-dwarfs. Whereas poor Pluto suffered a demotion, the Y-dwarf could get better news. They could go from being failures as stars to being over-achievers for whatever it is they may become!

However, it may take astronomers quite some time to collect enough data in their studies. Their failure to shine bright like a diamond in the sky means it is difficult to view and study them. It’s practically impossible to study them at all with a telescope dependent on visible light. To take productive peeks at Y-dwarfs NASA had to construct an infrared telescope and mount it to an orbiting satellite. And that is why the Universe is wiser thanks to these cold, little star failures, because of Wide-field Infrared Survey Explore (WISE) that studies them in the heavens.

Source:  www.nasa.gov

Image Credit:  www.jpl.nasa.gov

 

Sun Worship


Earlier this month celestial lovers throughout south and central Africa got to enjoy a spectacular solar eclipse that produced a ring of fire as the Moon transversed across the pathway of the Sun. The peculiar occasions when the Earth, Moon and Sun all line up together doesn’t happen too often. Such a rare event has historically been linked with all sorts of predictions and paranormal expectations.

The funniest recording of a solar eclipse is, perhaps, also the earliest record. Occuring in October of the 2137 B.C., two royal astronomers, Ho and Hi, offended the fourth Emperor of China’s Hsia Dynasty,  Chung-K’ang. The eclipse was an unexpected event. The poor astronomers were unprepared to perform the customary rituals that should have taken place. The pair of official stargazers were drunk and failed to launch the traditional arrows and beat out the right rhythm on the gongs and drums so that the Sun could be delivered from the mythical beast that was attempting to devour it.

Convinced that chaos would soon consume the empire, the astronomers were summarily executed as an appeasement sacrifice for their drunken dereliction of duty.  A public record of their death was translated in 1839 by scholars to reveal an amusing verse indicating that, although brutal in enforcing their expectations, the ancient Chinese did have a sense of humor:

“Here lie the bodies of Ho and Hi,

Whose fate though sad was visible –

Being hanged because they could not spy

Th’ eclipse which was invisible.”

In November of the year 569 an eclipse was recorded before the birth of the Prophet Mohammad in 570. There are many religious historians who link this eclipse as the moment of Mohammad’s conception. Interestingly enough Mohammed’s son Ibrahim died at the age of two-years-old during the occurrence of a solar eclipse. Mohammed wrote of this event as a sign sent from his God, Allah, of personal condolences. Muslims today still consider eclipses significant religious events. When the recent eclipse occurred mosques throughout Africa had special calls to prayer for safety and deliverance from harm.

Perhaps the most significant solar eclipse in modern history is the one of May, 1919. Commonly called “Einstein’s Eclipse”, it is considered to be the solar eclipse that changed the universe. For more than 200 years scientists had accepted Isaac Newton’s principle that the space of the Universe was as inflexible as mathematical principles.  Einstein set out to challenge this longheld belief. Einstein believed gravity was curved and flexible, affected by the mass of planetary bodies. He proposed that warping of space allowed planets to remain in their orbital paths, gravity distorted by the mass of a celestial body, the greater the mass, the stronger the force, which would result in more bending of light. This was to become known as Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

When the 1919 eclipse occurred, British astrophysicist Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington led the charge for an experiment to take advantage of the expected eclipse. Eddington traveled to Principe which is in the Gulf of Guinea off of Africa’s western coastline. A horrible thunderstorm threatened to ruin Eddington’s chances but, fortunately, by afternoon the skies had cleared. Eddington’s celestial photographs and measurements were compared with photos and measurements recorded by Andrew  Crommelin at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. The findings were announced by Britain’s Royal Society’s Astronomer Royal Sir Frank Watson Dyson. It was announced in London on November 6, 1919 that Newton’s theory had been disproven by Einstein’s new Theory of Relativity.

To make sure that you are ready for the next opportunity to view a solar eclipse, log on to www.timeanddate.com and keep a watch on the countdown clock for eclipses listed under their Sun & Moon tab. It seems we are only about 5 months away from the next big event.  There is a handy search window everyone can use to see if their city or country is going to be in the most fortunate position of being able to see the eclipse.

To view a solar eclipse it is important to wear protective eyewear. A homemade viewbox can also be created called a pinhole camera. All you need is a box with a small hole on one side for light to pass through and project an inverted image of the eclipse on the opposite side.  Below is a video with an example of how to make and use a homemade pinhole camera. One tip: The bigger the box the better the view.

 

 

Sources:

eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov

www.timeanddate.com

Image Credit: cherokeebillie.files.wordpress.com

 

NASA, Please Explain


Why hasn’t mankind been back to the Moon? Why do humans only travel as far as the International Space Station (ISS) and no further if Russia and the United States have already had successful Moon landing missions? These questions fuel the conspiracy fires that claim the Apollo Moon landing was a staged scene and never really happened. Regardless of a person’s position on this, what of Russia? If they made it to the Moon, why haven’t they been back either?

During the years of the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, it was always a game of one-upmanship. Rather than flinging bombs at one another it was a bit of “Whatever you can do I can do better.” The space race was no exception.

In 1961 the Soviet Union took the lead in the space race when Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth and returned home, all in one piece. In response, U.S. President John F. Kennedy did not say, “Well done.” No, instead he threw down the gauntlet and swore that the U.S. would out-do the Soviet’s achievement. He declared that within a decade Americans would have a man on the Moon and back home safe and sound. Eight years later people around the world watched televised broadcasts of Neil Armstrong planting a U.S. flag on the surface of the Moon. Or did he?

What we know now compared to what we knew then may cast great doubt on the legitimacy of the Apollo mission. Accusations that film director Stanley Kubrick prepared a fake production staged with the latest technologies of 70s era filmdon may actually have credibility. Consider the most common criticisms that point to the film being a fake:

  • Wind mysteriously blowing a flag that should be in the vacuum of space.
  • Anomalous shadows cast in different directions which would indicate multiple sources of light.
  • No disturbance of lunar dust or the Moon’s surface from the landing of the space module.
  • What are the strange objects that are reflected at different times in the visors of the astronaut’s space helmet?
  • Where are all the stars that should be in the background?

Skeptics of conspiracy theories can argue away these questions. For years the gringa has been inclined to believe in the Moon landing as an event that really did happen. My reason being that, for one thing, think about how many people would have to be in on such a crazy secret for all of these decades. I don’t know about you, dear readers, but the gringa’s pretty certain that somewhere along the way, throughout all of these years, surely someone would have cracked.

Despite my confidence in NASA, however, the gringa must admit that by becoming informed about the Van Allen radiation belts, I may have to change my position. This may be the smoking gun that exposes how the entire world has been duped. The U.S., desperate to remain relevant and seen as the most powerful nation, outperforming its most aggressive global competitor, may have gone so far as to stage the most incredible hoax of all time.

You see, the Van Allen radiation belts surround the Earth. Consider these belts to be an enormous layered donut and the Earth the donut hole. They radiate outward as far as 36,000 miles depending on whether they are expanding or contracting. The innermost ring generally spans from 400-6,000 miles above the surface of the Earth. The outer belt stretches generally from about 8,400-36,000 miles above Earth. The ISS is safely tucked into orbit at a mere 230 miles from the Earth’s surface in what is called a Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Orbiting between the two belts is a GPS satellite set 12,500 miles away, just inside the innermost rim of the outermost belt, where radiation levels fluctuate according to waxing and waning cycles. Just within the outermost layer of the outermost belt is NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory in geosynchronous orbit at 22,000 miles away studying the mess solar radiation makes from time to time.

In addition to the Van Allen radiation belts is the problem of a cloud of cool, charged particles which envelopes most of Earth’s outer atmosphere. Its nearest edge is about 600 miles from the surface of the Earth and extends outward and stops just inside the outermost edge of the furthest Van Allen belt. Scientists call this cloud the plasmasphere. It seems to cause particles in the outer belt to scatter. As the electrons scatter they create a loop which becomes a well defined belt. The plasmasphere is responsible for creating and maintaining the belts. When a powerful solar event occurs, such as a solar flare, some of the belts’ electrons can be forced by these extreme conditions into the space void between the belt layers, thus creating the waxing and waning effect of the belts.

The craziness of this relationship boggles the gringa’s mind. Think about it. The electrons are prevented by Earth’s magnetic field from penetrating all the way to Earth and frying all of us Earthlings. However, they also do not have enough energy to escape and dissipate into outer space. Thus they are trapped in this belt system which results in a protective barrier that traps dangerous radioactive solar radiation so that we don’t all get fried. Without the belts we fry. Without the plasmosphere we fry. Without the magnetosphere we fry. And if we hang out in any of these Earth preserving regions for any length of time we fry. Is that not the most amazing irony? That which preserves us can also kill us.

Considering that the Moon is 238,900 miles from the Earth, these dangerous, radioactive belts must have been navigated safely with the technology available in 1969. The only other option would have been to “thread the needle”, so to speak, by using a trajectory that would have allowed astronauts to travel through a narrow window of space that would have avoided the highest concentrations of radiation within the belts.

If this path had been successfully traveled in 1969, and adequate shielding technology existed, why is the danger posed by the Van Allen belts considered to be the main obstacle and unsolved problem preventing a consecutive Moon landing today? The gringa suspects the answer may lie in the fact that there really was no successful 1969 Moon landing to begin with.

Here are the words and quotes NASA uses to describe the Van Allen belts today:

  • 2 donuts of seething radiation.
  • Impenetrable barrier.
  • Wax and wane.
  • Expose satellites in low-Earth orbit to damaging radiation.

So what did NASA do to deal with the dangers of the Van Allen belts? Did they come up with a competent strategy and deliver the real deal with a man on the Moon or did they scam the entire world?

Newly discovered in 1958 by scientist James Van Allen, not much was known about them two years later when the first solution was offered up. In 1960 Robert O. Piland and Stanley C. White told NASA that hoping to shield astronauts effectively from the radiation was impractical. They did believe they could provide moderate protection and a safe enough route that would enable astronauts to not fry as they passed through the outer belt.

NASA got to work with a Group On Trajectory Analysis. Van Allen, himself, suggested that by detonating a nuclear warhead the crew could clear a path of travel. The gringa can only say, “Thank goodness NASA didn’t do that!” However, the defense industry in the US really mucked things up by nuclear testing which only increased the intensity of the radiation levels in the belts.

In 1964 NASA officials were confident that with the right skin on the spacecraft, a layer of protection provided by instrumentation, and the right trajectory, the risk was nominal to the crew. Equipped with dosimeters to record radiation exposure, the gringa is puzzled over the final results as reported by NASA. The agency reports that over the course of all the Lunar missions, astronauts were only exposed to radiation levels that were actually lower than the 5 rem a person working in a nuclear power plant would be exposed to annually. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission claims that the average American is exposed to a radiation dose of about 0.62 rem annually. A full body CAT scan delivers a radiation dose of 1 rem. So any human going through some rather routine medical procedures can easily reach the same radiation exposure levels as what NASA reported in the Apollo Moon landing crew.

ISS astronauts deal with radiation issues daily. It took the gringa quite a bit of head scratching and calculating to discover how ISS astronaut radiation levels compare to the astronauts of the Apollo Moon missions. They use a different measurement, the SI system. Maybe, if there is a conspiracy, this is by design to confuse amateur sleuths like myself. Anyway, I digress.

Basically one mSv is the equivalent dose of radiation an average person would be exposed to on Earth in one year’s time. Astronauts on the ISS are exposed to 1 mSv daily! This exposure takes place well outside the Van Allen belts in a space station constructed with the latest technology in radiation shielding and manned by personnel equipped with the safest space suit equipment available. How, then, could minimally protected astronauts pass through highly radioactive belts not just once, but twice, and not be ravaged with radiation? If ISS astronauts report a daily radiation exposure equivalent to a year’s worth of radiation back home and are not in the belts themselves, how in the world is the public supposed to believe that the Apollo astronauts were only exposed to the amount of radiation a person would absorb if they had 4-5 full-body CAT scans?

The  gringa has become incredibly skeptical. The gringa is going to be hopping mad if she discovers hard evidence that proves we have all been had. NASA, please explain.

Sources:

www.nasa.gov

www.nrc.gov

www.popsci.com

www.mun.ca

www.newscientist.com

www.windows2universe.org

Image Credit: www.wakingtimes.com

Calling The North Star! Come In North Star! Do You Read?


Have you ever wondered if you got stranded on a desert island and launched a desperate plea for help through ye aulde “message in a bottle” method just how long it might take for someone to receive your communique. And if the hands it eventually fell into would even be able to read your language and decipher the message? That’s kind of the case anytime a messaging project is embarked upon launching human messages into outer space. And the latest one has been undertaken by the European Space Agency (ESA).

A Simple Response to an Elemental Message” is sending a radio message to the North Pole star, also known as Polaris. The ESA believes that mankind is living in what they dub “The Critical Decade”. They posit that, as has been historically proven, ecological decisions today will affect future generations, for bad or good depending on what we choose. Do we set our future grandchildren up for failure or success? For mere survival or a flourishing civilization? The world’s response to the UN Climate Change Conference of last year will decide what the next decade will mean for the human species as an entire collective.

The ESA’s “Simple Response” project invites every single human to participate. Ask yourself the question, “How will our present environmental interactions shape the future?” Form your response and contribute your own perspective to the project. Later this fall, all contributions will be transmitted from the ESA’s station at Cebreros, Spain and sent on a journey at light-speed into outer space. The voices of the human race will forever be encoded into a beam of light. Will it be the last hurrah of a race bent on self-annihilation because of an obsession with comfort and consumerism?

As of the gringa’s composition of this post there were 3,139 contributions. By visiting the project’s website and clicking on the “Contribute” tab, Earthlings can fill in the blanks and contribute their own two cents worth on the subject of climate change. The gringa contributed the following under the name: Gringa of the Barrio, Houston, TX:

“If we don’t act now, this message may be the last gasp of a race bent on self annihilation through the obsessions of creature comforts and consumerism. If more intelligent beings are out there, please come help us save us from ourselves.”

After your contribution you may want to check out the mission statement of the program. The gringa, usually a light-hearted person who is perpetually positive, came away quite sobered. The reality of this project is that it may very well be, in the future, an archaeological relic to be discovered by some alien race of the future. It may be a message that inspires these ETs to travel to our home world and try to reconstruct the history of a civilization of fools who destroyed themselves because they arrogantly believed they were simply too great to fail.

 

Source: www.asimpleresponse.org

Image credit: 2.bp.blogspot.com

 

So Where Are All Those ETs?


Fermi’s Paradox is a theory named after Italian physicist Enrico Fermi (1901-1954) who, during lunch with a fellow scientist, posed a question kind of like this, “Where the heck are the aliens if they are supposed to exist?” The premise of his theory goes something like this:

  • Billions of stars similar to our Sun exist with many of them billions of years older than our own planet.
  • It is highly probable that some of these stars would be orbited by Earth-like planets with conditions that could lead to the development of intelligent life.
  • If intelligent life developed on these older “Earths” their respective civilizations might have developed interstellar travel and have already begun investigating Earth.

Combine all these facts and you come up with the conclusion that Earth should have already been visited by ETs. So, like Fermi said, “Where is everybody?” Despite mankind’s best efforts Fermi could not find any credible evidence of alien visitation. The conclusion then must become that the existence of intelligent life is:

  • Extremely rare, or…
  • Alien intelligent civilizations have not contacted Earth.

In 1961 a scientist by the name of Frank Drake took Fermi’s 1950 theory and applied a mathematical formula to the probabilities. It is called the “Drake Equation”. The formula is expressed as:

N = R* · fp  · ne · fl  · fi  · fc · L

The variables are defined as follows:

N = The number of civilizations in The Milky Way Galaxy whose electromagnetic emissions are detectable.

R* = The rate of formation of stars suitable for the development of intelligent life.

fp = The fraction of those stars with planetary systems.

ne = The number of planets, per solar system, with an environment suitable for life.

fl = The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears.

fi = The fraction of life bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges.

fc = The fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space.

L = The length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space.

But what does the formula mean to scientists? Well, that depends on who you talk to. Some scientists translate the results to be wildly optimistic that there is, indeed, intelligent life out there. Others feel quite the opposite. When Frank Drake met with Carl Sagan to speculate on the calculations, they estimated the existence of 1,000 (on the low end) to 100 million (on the high end) possible intelligent civilizations in our Milky Way galaxy. To counter their claims, scientists Frank Tipler and John D. Barrow put forth that the average number of intelligent life civilizations in our galaxy would be much less than one. Seeing as how human civilization exists, that would consequently, then, rule out the possibility of any other intelligent civilization existing at the same time.

The Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute (SETI) sees the Fermi’s paradox and accepts the reality that either interpretation of the possibility of the existence of intelligence life has a chance of being true. Thus, they continue their efforts, erring on the side of optimism. And the gringa likes that. Why not hold out hope? Why not be curious? And why not exercise such curiosity with a healthy dose of skepticism to balance out the equation and prevent a full-scale pre-disposition to crazy alien conspiracy theory by maintaining strict scientific standards?

SETI continues exploration and research as they search for others out there in the galaxy. They believe in the possibility that if a suitable environment was allowed enough time, that it is possible for intelligent life to develop. By using all sorts of science and technology (satellite arrays, chemistry, optical telescopes, and sophisticated radio signaling devices) SETI not only searches for signals from other civilizations but reaches out with messages of our own to anyone who may be listening. And with their Education and Public Outreach program (EPO), humans of all ages and walks of life can be a part of their endeavor. For educators there is nothing more exciting than to introduce to a classroom of elementary and middle school students SETI’s “Life in the Universe” curriculum. So log on and order your first package today and get students engaged with a lesson plan that is certain to pique their curiosity and hopefully inspire them to be the future of our world’s STEM programs, because we need them.

Sources:

www.seti.org

www.yahoo.news

wikipedia.org

Image Credit:  bing.net

 

 

August Astronomy


Space fans should get their binoculars and telescopes dusted off for August. There will be lots to see with the aid of machine or the trusty naked eye. The gringa will share a cosmic calendar for the month ahead so everyone schedule their dinners and bedtimes accordingly if you want to enjoy some breathtaking galactic events rather than hunker down for digital entertainment indoors.

August 2 – New Moon:  Without the interference of moonlight this is the perfect night to explore other galaxies and nearby star clusters who will be shining in all their glory with no competition from our little satellite.

August 11,12 – Perseids Meteor Shower: At its peak, this little baby (pictured above) has the potential to create up to 60 meteors per hour (gives a whole new meaning to MPH). We can all thank comet Swift-Tuttle for this fantastic light show. Discovered in 1862. it has consistently provided entertainment for Earthlings through July and August. The event will peak on these two days in August. The best time to watch is right after the moon sets around midnight. Or, for those early to bed and early to rise, a pre-dawn show is also prime time for Perseids observation.

August 16 – Mercury:  This is the best time to view Mercury as it reaches it greatest eastern elongation from the Sun. Look for it in the evening sky at the highest point of the horizon or at a low point in the western sky just after sunset.

August 18 – Full Moon:  This is the best time to get a great look at our pockmarked neighbor. Full illumination will occur between 9-10pm  UTC. A bit of full Moon trivia: some Native American tribes call the full Moon a Full Sturgeon Moon because these nights are the best times to catch this type of fish that populates the Great Lakes. Other tribes also called the full Moon the Green Corn Moon or the Grain Moon.

August 27 – Venus & Jupiter:  These two planets are going to join together in close proximity for a spectacular opportunity to see them both. Look for them in the western sky soon after sunset.  They will be shining very brightly and close together.

Source: www.seasky.org

Image Credit: nasa.gov