An Order Of Milky Way Sunny Side Up


What has the gringa shared so far about what she knows regarding dark matter?

“There is no physical evidence that it exists, only a theory based on a mathematical formula to explain phenomena detected by gravitational lensing that suggests that objects with mass exist as determined by gravitational effects on visible celestial bodies yet the matter causing the gravitational effect cannot be seen by the naked eye.”

Until now. Kinda sort of.

Scientists estimate that about 25% of our universe consists of dark matter. That’s quite a bit of stuff out there that we have no idea, really, where it is, what it’s purpose is, what it’s doing, or what it looks like.
Some scientists believe that there are dark matter superstructures that act as connective tissue between galaxies. The gringa wonders if that means that the universe can get arthritis? But I digress. Back to the real stuff. Does this composite image prove the connective tissue theory to be true? Do we now know where dark matter exists and what its purpose is?

Since dark matter is kind of like a space ghost, neither reflecting or absorbing light, it’s impossible to see it. Maybe. Scientists may have devised a means to create an image using the same technology for detecting it: gravitational lensing.

This new discovery may be dark matter’s incognito existence Waterloo, literally. You see, it’s a former grad student from Canada’s University of Waterloo who has developed the technique to create an image of dark matter. As gravitational lensing displays the warping effect of dark matter on distant galaxies, images from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope captures images while it surveys the skies. From these images 23,000 pairs of galaxies were selected to create a composite image of dark matter.

In the feature image you see the white circles that represent two galaxies. You see all that red stuff surrounding them? Yep. That’s the connective tissue of dark matter. So, basically the Milky Way is like an egg yolk with a partner galaxy connected to it by dark matter. Next time you order a breakfast of 2 eggs sunny side up, just think of the great cosmic breakfast entrée where you live.

Source & Image Credit: Phys.org
Video Credit: United News International

Holding Time In Your Hands


What, exactly, is time? A dictionary might define time as continued progress through existence including events from the past, present and future. Or, it might describe time as a form of measurement. But either way, time is not physical. You know, meaning that it has no mass. In other words, it’s not matter that you can hold in your hands, right? Um, the gringa says prepare to have your minds blown. Physicists have gone and done it again. They have created a time crystal. What the heck?


How is a crystal time? Have you ever looked at a crystal under a microscope? Well, check out these images depicting different crystals under a microscopes:


What interests physicists in crystals and how they can be seen as “time” are the repeating patterns and symmetry, called lattices. What is even more interesting is that sometimes crystals will repeat a pattern in several direction yet opt out of other directions. Then there is the curious thing scientists call “symmetry breaking”. That is when there is disruption in a crystal’s spatial symmetry. The reason these unexpected occurrences happen is because a crystal doesn’t exert the same amount of energy in expanding and forming itself in those areas of anomalies.


In case you didn’t catch that “exert the same amount of energy” phrase, let the gringa draw your attention to that. Because that is the most amazing thing about crystals. Because they use energy to grow, a crystal is not just some dead lump of rock. It’s actually a living organic object. Granted, it’s at the lowest rung of the ladder where energy state beings exist, but, in a sense, a crystal is very much “alive”. But what’s that got to do with time?


Well, if a crystal’s physical aspect of symmetry can be seen and disrupted, albeit with a microscope, physicists want to know if a crystal’s temporal symmetry can be made manifest. In other words, convert time into a form of matter that can be touched, seen or held in the hand. Say what?!! Yeah, we’re not talking watch or clock here. We are talking the real, ambiguous, invisible concept of TIME blowing all of our minds by becoming visible and physical.


According to physicists, it’s already been done. The concept is to arrange a bunch of ions in a ring. Then they need to be cooled to bring their energy down to the lowest state possible. Theoretically, this will result in an unbroken ring of ions that are perfectly still.


Now, if the symmetry of the ring is broken, time is disrupted. That is done by rotating the ring. A turn. Kind of like how an orbit around a star marks time for a planet. But, with a crystal, the energy of this rotation can’t be extracted. It has to be conserved in order for temporal symmetry to occur, meaning time repeating itself in consistent cycles. Now, this is the theory. It sounds neat and tidy. Real life is not so simple.


When breaking things down to the quantum level, scientists find that time kind of doesn’t exist. The quantum world doesn’t care about time. When ions are cooled down in a ring on the quantum level, instead of being stationary they spin around and interact. The gringa supposes being friendly in the quantum world is more important than worrying about whether or not you’re late for a meeting. 


So, these cooled, social quantum particles kind of smear themselves about throughout space, willy-nilly, where ever they please. But scientists have discovered that certain things can provoke certain actions, allowing scientists to predict where a quantum particle might show up. This is called “Anderson Localization”, a discovery made in the 1950s.


Scientists today have discovered a particular chain of quantum particles that stick together in their ring pattern. These particles have a magnetization that can be affected by lasers to create certain rates of oscillation. This allowed scientists to measure rates of interaction between the spinning crystals. The scientists zapping these magnetized crystals left them alone to evolve on their own for awhile. They discovered that interactions began occurring at double the rate as before. Because there was nothing driving the particles to interact, since they were being left alone, the only explanation then was that the symmetry of time had been broken. Thus, a time crystal had been created.


It sounds like a lot of hoo-hah to the gringa. What’s the point? What does this mean? Does it have any usefulness? It doesn’t even sound like any of this makes sense. Maybe understanding the properties of this laser affected crystal will help the dear reader and the gringa understand the significance.

  • Changing the frequency of the laser did not change the frequency of the time crystal (remember, all energy beings, humans included, emanate a frequency, including crystals)
  • The crystal’s patterns do not repeat in space, but in time.
  • Once zapped with the laser, the crystals remain in perpetual motion yet contain no energy, which violates one of the fundamental law of physics. Thus time crystals are matter with no energy equilibrium (you know that old physics rule about for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction). Think of it like someone coming along and giving you a push in a swing and you never stop going back and forth.

So, on its most basic level, a time crystal is a form of matter that contains movement that is created without energy. The hope among scientists is that time crystals can become a never-ending energy source and the energy of time crystals can be harvested to power quantum computers. The gringa thinks, then, that “time” crystal is a misleading name. It should be something related to the perpetual energy aspect. Something like “crystal dynamo”. But nobody asked me.

The gringa would really appreciate it, however, if she could use one to power her air conditioner during the Gulf Coast summer season. My electric bills are KILLING me!

Sources: 


Technology Review


Popular Mechanics


APS Physics


Berkeley


Futurism


IFL Science


images:  Xfoor News


Pinterest


K Glyphics


https://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-microscopic-view-sucrose-crystals-polarized-light-colorful-recrystallized-table-sugar-crossed-polarizers-image36097622


Video Credit:  Seeker

Mysteries Are A Scientist’s BFF


When the gringa was a young adult there was big news for a small town in Texas not far from where I lived. Waxahachie was going to be getting a superconducting supercollider. At the time, I didn’t have a clue what that meant but it sure sounded intriguing. Eventually the facility was abandoned but not the gringa’s interest. Twenty-six years later the gringa must confess most of the science involved in using supercolliders still escapes me. But, when a headline features that word, I am eager to read and try my best to understand just what the heck is going on.

Now, one would think that since the Waxahachie facility shut down that must mean that it failed in its mission. The gringa says, “Not so fast.” Before it closed, scientists had created what is now being called the Madala hypothesis. Waxahachie scientists who had discovered the Higgs boson (a subatomic particle like a photon that has zero spin) that interacted with physical matter proposed that there was a particular boson that would interact with dark matter.

Working off that theory, researchers at Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa may have just proved that theory to be correct. The South African scientists propose that more than one quarter of the universe is made up of dark matter. The physical aspect of the Universe, what we can see with our eyes, touch with our hands or detect with infrared technology is only about 5% of the Universe.

One of the South African researchers explains why physicists are so inspired to hunt down this elusive dark matter related boson. They believe that it is the key to explain phenomena that has baffled the science community as well as the public at large for as long as man has studied the stars. The so-called “God” particle. Working from the progress of Waxahachie supercollider research, the South African team collaborated with researchers from Sweden and India. The result of their work was the Madala theory Now the hunt begins for that particular subatomic particle that moves and affects and exposes the existence of dark matter.

A funny semantic twist the gringa discovered while researching this story is Mandala theory that could very well be applied to the efforts of science to prove Madala theory. Traditional Mandala theory is that the enemy of your enemy is your friend. With that perspective in mind then, inexplicable peculiarities are no longer an enemy to a disciplined scientific mind. When physicists observe something that can’t be explained or defies the laws of physics as we know them, rather than the phenomena be seen as exposing their ignorance, it may validate the existence of dark matter. The anomaly may be caused by certain subatomic particles that have yet to be identified interacting with the space of dark matter. So, in other words, mysteries are a friend to science.

Sources:

www.amusingplanet.com

www.ibtimes.co.uk

Image Credit:  www.nasa.gov

CPR for MWG


That’s shorthand for “Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation for the Milky Way Galaxy”.  Scientists believe that if our galaxy is not already dead it is probably drawing its last gasps. Kevin Schawinski, a Swiss scientist from Switzerland’s Federal Institute of Technology explains that this happens when a galaxy no longer forms new stars. His research claims that we are all living in a zombie galaxy that has been a billion years long since dead.

Schawinski has a color code system for  galaxies:

  • Blue Cloud – Galaxies that are still forming stars from gases
  • Red Sequence – Galaxies that are evolving passively
  • Green valley – This is a galaxy that is at the crossroads of evolution, between blue cloud stage and red sequence stage. (An interesting tidbit… the term “green valley” came about after an Arizona University student, attending a lecture on the evolution of galaxies, responded to the speaker’s description of the death phase of a galaxy by yelling, “Green Valley! Where galaxies go to die!” referring to a local retirement community, Green Valley, Arizona.)

Green valley galaxies are at an intermediate state. Stars are still forming but the gas reservoir is running low. However, space time is not like real time on Earth. By the time researchers can get the data that a reservoir is empty, meaning a galaxy is no longer capable of creating stars, that galaxy may have already been dead for billions of years.

Andromeda galaxy, our neighbor, is also a zombie galaxy. It began dying eons ago but still produces stars. That means it’s gas reservoir is empty but the stars that began the creation process billions of years ago are still forming. Kind of like when the gringa’s car runs out of gas but I manage to coast off the freeway with just enough momentum to reach the gas pump at the station on the side of the road.

So, even though the data collected about our own Milky Way galaxy is not complete, what scientists do have indicates that it may be on the precipice of falling into the green valley. Once the zombie period is over and a galaxy actually begins to show signs that it is truly dead, it may take billions of years for a complete death mask to be detectable. The clearest indicator is that they stop expanding. Galaxies grow by making stars so when no new growth is possible, when galactic expansion ceases, the galaxy is dead.

The funny thing about this is that stars are the by-product of a build-up of certain gases. It’s as if a galaxy grows by recycling its waste. If mankind could somehow imitate that model just imagine what that would mean for our pollution problems!

So, if star-making gases are the waste product of galaxies, what is their “food”? Dark matter, that invisible stuff thought to be the fibers that hold galaxies together, provide the hydrogen gas that feeds galaxies so they can make stars and grow larger. When hydrogen gas cools it becomes trapped in the dark matter that forms halos around cosmic objects like planets. As it cools, this disk of gas eventually breaks up to later form stars. Where does the hydrogen come from? From dying stars. So, really, a star is just a cosmic object that is recycled, reborn or reincarnated, depending on the perspective you prefer.

What does that mean for humans living in the Milky Way galaxy? It means that if our Sun ever goes kaput, that’s it for civilization. We will never get a new Sun.

Sources:

www.yahoo.com/news/

theconversation.com

Image Credit:  d.ibtimes.co.uk

 

The Case Of The Missing Matter


Some time back the gringa wrote about dark matter. This is invisible stuff in the universe that we only knows exists because of its gravitational affect upon other objects in space. Now scientists have a bit of a conundrum. It’s not bad enough that we have to accept the reality of lots of invisible stuff surrounding us but we also have to deal with the mystery that some of this stuff has just disappeared. Scientists want to know just where all this missing matter has got to. This is what they call the “global missing baryon problem”.

The easiest explanation of the “global missing baryon problem” goes something like this:

Baryon – this is a subatomic particle that has a mass equal to or greater than a proton. Despite the fact that the universe is incredibly vast, scientists, through mathematical formulas using their knowledge of how many protons are found in specific types of matter, can actually calculate how many atoms, protons, electrons, neutrons and baryons should be present in a galaxy. It seems that the expected number of baryons is coming up short. The baryon shortfall affects visible matter as well as dark matter.

The gringa would like to know just where the heck these baryons have gotten to and does it really matter in the grand scheme of things? I mean, am I going to wake up tomorrow and discover that half my ear is missing, or my flower pot has disappeared? Dear reader, you understand what I’m talking about. Is this something that we should really be worried about or is it just an enigmatic puzzle for scientists to puzzle over?

Australian astronomers from the Compact Array station claim that they know what has happened to the baryons. They believe that they are part of invisible structures in the Sagittarius constellation of our own Milky Way. And they are whopping big. The swath of space that Earth cuts as it makes a one year transit around the Sun is about the scope of the structures’ expected size. The telescopes used in Australia are radio telescopes so even though these dark matter structures are invisible, the Australian array is able to detect their presence in the Sagittarius constellation by “seeing” the gravitational affect on nearby stars and detecting changes in radio wavelengths within light.

Now, we’re not talking about invisible extra-terrestrial shopping malls. Astronomers are positing that it is more likely that the structures are large clouds of gas. They describe their shape as noodle-like. The gringa thinks maybe these are the spaghettified remains of objects sucked through a black hole. Scientists believe they are hollow. However, there is also the possibility that they are flat and one dimensional, like a bed sheet and they are viewing the edge. The gringa says, “Who the heck knows?! That about sums it up.”

Whatever they are and however they came about are distinct mysteries. All scientists really know is that they exist. The structures were discovered in 2014 when light from quasar PKS 1939-315 passed through the structures and became distorted. The light itself was not distorted but, rather, the radio wavelength band. Because the light intensity was not affected, it is believed that the invisible structures are dark matter that contain no dust. Kind of like light passing through a drinking glass. If the glass is clean, the light passes through just as bright on exit as on entry but still distorted. If the glass is dusty, the brightness of the light passing through dims in addition to the distortion produced by the glass’ matter itself.

These structures are not just sitting there twiddling their thumbs. Scientists have estimated that they are traveling about 30 miles per second (or 50 kilometers per second). Seeing as how they are about 3,000 light years away, the gringa’s not afraid of a surreptitious impact with invisible “stuff”.

But do the scientists know if this missing stuff serves a purpose? It seems that everything else in nature has a purpose, its own vital part in the grand scheme of things. These invisible structures could be very important. The gringa thinks it’s great to study them but we may not want to go messing about and interfering. Who knows what the heck could happen!

It seems that there are multiple theories on what their purpose is. Some scientists believe that the structures don’t behave like un-structured dark matter. Dark matter does not follow rotational and orbit patterns and could serve a purpose like cosmic fibers that hold galaxies together. However, scientists are not so sure that once dark matter forms structures like this their cosmic fiber job is still what they are doing. The gringa wonders if maybe they are just big galactic recycle bins, containing left over bits of matter that are left over from the creation process stars go through.

Basically, scientists only know that they are there. Bing, bang, boom, and that’s it. It’s like saying, “Hey, a giant, invisible elephant lives in your house and we don’t know how he got there or why he stays and if he is doing anything that affects your life. But we just thought you would like to know that he’s there.” Yeah, thanks guys.

Sources:

www.yahoo.com

arxiv.org

www.narrabri.atnf.csiro.au

www.iflscience.com

Image Source: www.ottawa-rasc.ca

 

 

 

 

Calling All Young People! Physics Is Phun!


If kids are finding science studies boring and exhibit no interest in pursuing a career in something like physics, they just haven’t made the right connections! Look, the future of our planet’s survival depends on every generation producing fantastic scientific minds with a passion for discovery. And, trust the gringa, science, especially physics, is anything BUT boring! I mean, just check out this amazing GIF and video that illustrate physics in action. One looks like dots traveling in a straight line but they are actually traveling on curves. The other looks like the dots are traveling in a circular pattern but they are actually traveling in a straight line:

tumblr_o17qz1y1Rf1r2geqjo1_540

Now that the gringa’s got your attention, what exactly can a person do as a physicist? Well, you can create really cool art like this or you could work for other people. If you work for NASA you can follow their astrophysics goal:  “Discover how the universe works, explore how it began and evolved and search for life on planets and other stars.” To do that involves all sorts of interesting work like:

  • Stargazing through incredible observatories like: Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Spitzer Space Telescope
  • Work with teams from all over the world: European Space Agency and Japan’s JAXA space agency
  • Perform all sorts of wacky experiments to test theories about things like: black holes, the Big Bang, dark matter, dark energy, existence of extra-terrestrial life, suitability of distant planets to support life
  • Design any manner of dangerous stuff mom and dad won’t let you build in the garage: rockets, lasers, rocket fuel, robots, super colliders that annihilate atoms

So kids, get excited about science! If it’s boring in the classroom, search for inspiration. There are folks like physicist Derek Muller who makes science loads of fun. On his blog and YouTube channel, “Veritasium”, you can learn about science in a way that is interesting and also relevant to what the world needs to day. Check out one of the gringa’s favorite videos of Muller’s (grapes + microwave = plasma):

Look, kids, the truth is agencies like NASA needs you. Your mom and dad need you. The entire world needs you. Let’s face it, the world is in need of some major repair. The days of Batman and Flash Gordon are over. The heroes the world needs now are scientists. So, put on your goggles (and a cape if it inspires you) and get crackin’.

 

Sources: www.nasa.govhttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHnyfMqiRRG1u-2MsSQLbXA, Tumblr_o17qz1y1Rf1r2geqjo1_540, www.facebook.com/physicsastrophysics

Image Source:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazing Italy, From Art to Astronauts


My cosmic sister, Bea, hails from Italy and therefore has a special interest in the Italian Space Agency (ASI, Agenzia Spaziale Italiana). So, the gringa dedicates this post to Bea.

Since its inception in 1988, ASI has consistently made significant contributions to space technology development. ASI is part of the European Space Agency (ESA) and works closely with NASA as well. Italy has been, and will continue to be, a key player in the international space exploration community. Whether it is technology that gets a manned mission to Mars or technology that helps Earth observers intervene to prevent or respond to environmental disasters, the world can all extend a “brava” to Italy.

Italy has three active space centers. Ten kilometers east of Matera is ASI’s “Space Geodesy Center”, which opened for business in 1983. Earth observation and imaging is the primary mission of the programs at work at SGC. The “Luigi Broglio” Space Center, in operation since the 1960’s, is located on the coast of the Indian Ocean near Malindi, Kenya. It has an Earth segment base and an ocean segment base which launch and control satellites. The center that manages and analyzes all collected scientific data (ASDC) can be found at ASI headquarters in Rome. Not only is data analyzed here but mission monitoring is also conducted at this center.

The primary missions Italy’s has high involvement with are:

  • Created Multi-Purpose Logistic Modules (MPLM) Leonardo, Raffaello and Donatello for transporting scientific research necessities to the International Space Station (ISS)
  • Space Habitability – March 2001, Italy became the 3rd nation to launch an element integrated into the ISS, the logistics module “Leonardo”
  • Life Sciences – Biotechnology research to improve knowledge of: the aging process and effective countermeasures, immunology, technologies to enable the colonization of space by humans, therapeutic studies for improving the quality of life for all humanity
  • Bioregenerative Environmental Control Project (CAB) – to put it in plain English, gringa language, scientists learn how to recycle and repurpose just about everything into something useful such as: plant based life support system, water purification through transpiration, space greenhouses, etc.
  • Motor and Cardiorespiratory Control Disturbances Project (DCMC) is a program with the goal of improving the quality of life for people who suffer from neuromotor and cardiorespiratory disabilities.
  • Osteoporosis and Muscular Atrophy Project (OSMA) is of particular interest because of how conditions of reduced gravity cause these debilitations, that are typically linked with aging, to affect young, healthy, physically fit astronauts. The research goal is to understand how gravity controls the functions of bone and muscle.
  • Bed-Rest is a study that simulates the effects of zero gravity by having volunteers stay in bed for 7-120 days in a head-down position so that studies of the cardiovascular and renal systems can be conducted.
  • Earth observation and telecommunication with satellites: Miosat, PRISMA, ROSA, COSMO-SkyMed, PRIMI, and COPERNICUS
  • High Energy Astrophysics study is an Italian only programme that conducts research on the most violent space phenomena that occurs throughout the Universe. Satellites involved in this programmed: GLAST/Fermi, SIMBOL-X, SWIFT, PAMELA, INTEGRAL, AMS, AGILE
  • Cosmology and Fundamental Physics programme studies the evolution of the Universe. Satellites involved in the programme: BOOMERANG, GAIA, EUCLID, GALILEO GALILEI, HERSCHEL, LARES, Olimpo, Planck, Plato, Lisa Pathfinder

Lisa Pathfinder is the most recent success of Italy’s space agency that has made worldwide headline news. Lisa’s purpose is to detect gravitational waves in space. Italy designed the overall architecture of Lisa and is managing the project with the cooperation of Italy’s National Institute of Physics as well as ESA partners.

Lisa launched successfully last month and will lock into its final orbit around mid-February. This is phase one of the future construction of a space observatory that will continue studies of gravitational waves. Project completion is expected to be around the end of 2034. Italian scientists are beside themselves with pride that finally, after Einstein published his theory of general relativity over a century ago, the search for gravitational waves has, at last, begun, thanks, in huge part, to Italy.

And what else does the world have to look forward to from Italy? Of course, the gringa’s favorite space subject, GETTING TO MARS! Italy boasts leadership of both phases of ESA’s two phase EXOMars mission. In 2016 a probe will launch to orbit Mars and study methane and other gases as well as attempt to detect any presence of life. Later, in 2018, a rover will land on Mars and begin analysis of the soil. One more objective is to study any possible risks for future manned missions.

So, Italian suits, Italian shoes, Sophia Loren, Galileo, Michelangelo, and… astronauts, scientists, researchers, technology mavens. THAT IS AMAZING, ITALY!

Source & Photo Credit:  www.asi.it

 

Space For Europe IS the ESA


With ESA Astronaut Tim Peake performing a spacewalk this week on the International Space Station, the gringa thinks it’s only fitting to turn the limelight toward Europe’s space agency and their long history of achievement. The European Space Agency (ESA) is to Europe what NASA is to the United States, JAXA is to Japan and Rocosmos is to Russia. ESA is comprised of 22 member states who collaborate with their financial resources and intellectual talents to provide a gateway to the stars for all of Europe. Members are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Canada, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Malta, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia all make their own contributions as well through contractual agreements of cooperation.

The goals of the ESA are to discover more about Earth and its surrounding Solar System, as well as the entire Universe. These goals are met while at the same time promoting development of European technologies and sharing these with the world’s other space agencies.

Paris is the location of ESA headquarters. Germany is where ESA’s Astronaut Centre and Space Operations Centre are located. Astronomy Centres are found in Canada and Spain with the Earth Observation centre in Italy. The UK houses the centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications and launch bases are scattered throughout Belgium, the U.S.A., Russia and French Guiana. It can be rather dizzying with all of these operational centres spread all over the world. So, to keep things simple, because the gringa likes simple, for more information about ESA, simply go to their website, www.esa.int, or drop them a line or pick up the phone:

Communication Department
European Space Agency
8-10 rue Mario Nikis
75738 Paris
Cedex 15
France

Tel: + 33 1 5369 7155
Fax: + 33 1 5369 7690

ESA desires to explore space for peaceful purposes. While doing this it wants Europeans to benefit economic growth from the support services required to travel to the stars. Since its conception over thirty years ago, ESA has focused on long-term goals that are adaptable to a world that changes rapidly. The gringa wishes to highlight just a smattering of successful ESA missions:

  • ESRO-4, 1972: The ESRO-4 (European Space Research Organisation) satellite carried five experiments concentrating on Earth’s ionosphere, atmosphere, radiation belts and penetration of solar particle radiation into the magnetosphere. It was launched on 22 November 1972, on a NASA Scout rocket from the Western Test Range in California, and reentered Earth’s atmosphere after a successful mission on 15 April 1974.
  • 1977-2002 Mission Meteosat: launched multiple weather satellites
  • 1979 Mission Ariane: first launch of commercial launcher to secure Europe’s independent space access
  • 1983 Mission Spacelab: launched laboratory module for NASA’s Space Shuttle
  • 1985 Mission Giotto: intercept of Halley’s Comet and Comet Grigg-Skjellerup
  • 1990 Mission Hubble Space Telescope: ESA contribution of solar arrays and Faint Object Camera for Hubble Space Telescope
  • 1998 Mission ARD: launch of first European experimental re-entry vehicle
  • 2003 Mission Mars Express: launch of Europe’s first Red Planet orbiter
  • 2005 Mission Venus Express: launch of Europe’s first Venus orbiter
  • 2008-2012 Mission ATV: launch space truck for ISS re-supply
  • 2015 Mission Lisa Pathfinder: launch of technology to detect gravitational waves

Which brings the gringa to the current ESA Mission, “Principia”.  This six month mission is named after Isaac Newton’s book on physics, “Naturalis Principia Mathematica”. Peake’s mission objectives are to maintain the weightless research laboratory, conduct over thirty scientific experiments, and perform a spacewalk with fellow crewman Astronaut Tim Kopra, working together to replace a Solar Shunt Unit.

Preparing for the spacewalk involves breathing pure oxygen for two hours (to purge nitrogen) before embarking. Once spacesuits are donned, the astronauts enter an airlock where air pressure is gradually reduced until they can safely exit the ISS.

Upon successful completion of Mission Principia, ESA will then turn its attention and efforts to the next scheduled mission, Mission Exomars. Later on this year ESA will launch a Mars orbiter, rover and surface platform to the Red Planet. The gringa is so excited! To Mars! To Mars!

 

Source and Photo Credit:  www.esa.int

 

Alice & Albert


Could it really be that it’s been one hundred years since Albert Einstein published his theory of general relativity? The science community refers to Albert so often, I often feel as if he graced this earth just yesterday. But, indeed, November is the one hundred year anniversary of his publication of this theory.

Even though the gringa has heard many times someone say “the theory of relativity”, um, what the heck does it really mean? I mean, how the heck can it be used for something useful or even for something interesting or fun?  Well, this is the basis for all the time-warp fodder for great (or even lousy) literary works of science fiction, which the gringa loves, even the “lousy” ones.

The first time Albert’s theory was successfully put to the test in real life was during the observation of a solar eclipse. A prediction was made, based on the theory, of how much “bended” light would be deflected when a particular star passed near the sun. The theory supposed that the sun’s mass would cause the light of the star to bend. And the prediction, based on Albert’s theory, was spot on.

So? Now what? Thus became the  established phenomena that is known as “gravitational lensing”. Astronomers now know that this appearance of bended light is not an optical illusion but something that actually happens. This allows astronomers a method to delve into galaxies that would otherwise be off limits for research even with humanity’s most powerful telescopes.

One such galaxy that fits this description is commonly called the “Cheshire Cat” galaxy because it’s appearance reminds one of that particular elusive character from the “Alice In Wonderland” story.  What exactly causes the smiley face? Well, the theory explains that these are distant galaxies whose light is stretched and then bent by objects of great mass which are most likely made up of dark matter. Why dark matter? Well, since no large mass objects are visible but the evidence of their presence is there in the bent light, the mass must then exist in the form of  invisible dark matter.

Scientists claim that there are six galaxies that make up the outer space smiley face. Each eye and the nose are individual galaxies and there are four other galaxies that create the arcs which are bent light created by gravitational lensing by some mysterious dark matter object with great mass. Scientists view the “Cheshire Cat” through NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

The eye galaxies are the brightest and are zipping through space on a collision course with one another at over 300,000 miles per hour. NASA uses the Chandra X-ray Observatory to determine that hot gas, millions of degrees Fahrenheit, is the evidence that these galaxies are indeed colliding. And that’s not all the mayhem that the “Cheshire Cat” is out and about doing. Aside from the bumper car routine,  the cat’s left eye has a very hungry supermassive black hole right at its center which is gobbling up all sorts of things.

Astronomers classify this cluster of galaxies as a fossil group. A fossil group has a dominant elliptical galaxy surrounded by smaller galaxies. Fossil groups are considered to be just one stage that almost all galaxy groups go through as they evolve. Perhaps it’s kind of like the teenage years for galaxies. Horrible driving and collisions and they eat everyone out of house and home.

So, once it grows up a bit, then, what’s the next stage? That would be the Cyclops group, when they merge into one mega-galaxy. Yeah, the gringa thinks that sounds about right. Just like a teenager then develops into  a mature senior who gets a bit fat and needs reading glasses.  But it will probably take a billion years or so. Looks like we will be enjoying the smiley face for a long time to come.

If any of the gringa’s dear readers happen to be passing through Huntsville, Alabama, they can check in at Marshall Space Flight Center. That’s headquarters for the Chandra program that studies the “Cheshire Cat”. Or, even better, if you find yourself in Cambridge, Massachusetts, see if you can take a peek at the cat yourself. That’s where you’ll find The Smithsonian Astrophysics Observatory that controls the Chandra program’s science and flight operations.

 

Source and Photo Credit:  www.nasa.gov

What’s The Matter With Dark Matter?


The first thing that is the matter with dark matter is that it is not “dark” at all. It’s invisible. It neither emits nor absorbs light.

The second thing that is the matter with dark matter is that the fate of mankind depends on something that science only “infers” to exist. This invisible, theoretical, dark matter holds the existence of the universe in its unseen “hands”.  Scientific principles regarding gravity conclude that without this elusive dark matter every star, planet, and all humans as well, would go flying willy-nilly into outer space.

The third thing that is the matter with dark matter is that if it exists, it is then possible that dark matter creates a parallel, invisible world. All the happenings of another civilization could very well be happening right under our very noses and humankind is completely left out of the loop. How utterly curious. Could this parallel world have a cure for cancer? Does cancer even exist there? Are there political factions squabbling for power? Would such a world even need governance? What a fascinating idea.

These matters are why such a hubbub is made within the scientific community about dark matter. The simplest definition of dark matter is that it is nonluminous (dark, invisible) material that is hypothesized (scientifically assumed) to exist in space. It is thought that it can have different forms such as:

  • Cold Dark Matter: particles that are slow moving when compared to the speed of light and interact weakly with ordinary matter and electromagnetic radiation
  • Warm Dark Matter: particles with properties that could possibly be sterile neutrinos and/or gravitinos, and travel faster than cold dark matter but slower than hot dark matter
  • Hot Dark Matter: (no, not an erotic vampire novel) high-energy particles, moving randomly, and do not interact with electromagnetic radiation

Dark matter is theorized to have been created soon after the Big Bang. Therefore understanding dark matter is critical to understanding and supporting the Big Bang theory. Scientists tend to gravitate toward the theory of the creation of the Universe through the building blocks of cold dark matter after the Big Bang. Structures would grow from the bottom up by smaller objects collapsing because of their own gravity. These collapsed structures would then merge and form larger objects with greater mass. Theorizing that the Universe evolved from cold dark matter collapsing and structural fragments merging resolves the questions of how individual galaxies formed.

Warm dark matter and hot dark matter alone could not hold up under scientific scrutiny as to being the original building blocks of the Universe. Although, it may very well have been a mixed bag of all three forms of dark matter creating structures that ultimately resulted in the Universe as we know it today, such a theory, the Mixed Dark Matter theory, is generally rejected.

The universe that is currently known to man consists of about five percent of matter that is classified as “ordinary”. That means that about five percent of the universe consists of matter with mass that is comprised of atoms, or ions, with a nucleus and protons and neutrons. Cosmologists call these “baryons”. This is the matter humans can see.

If ordinary matter only makes up about five percent of the universe, what is the remaining ninety-five percent made up of? About seventy percent is “dark energy”, or, a theoretical energy in the form of a repulsive force counteracting gravity which results in an accelerated expansion of the universe. Dark matter is thought to make up the balance. It sounds like a recipe straight out of Frankenstein’s laboratory: seven cups of dark energy, three cups of dark matter, and a splash of ordinary matter. Voila, Universe!

Detecting dark matter requires a whole new level of thinking. It does not absorb light. It does not emit light. It produces no detectable levels of electromagnetic radiation. If it’s invisible, and cannot be seen with a telescope, how do cosmologists and astronomers know it exists? Scientists infer the existence of dark matter. When astrophysicists measure the mass of large objects in space, such as stars, they discover discrepancies with regard to gravitational effects. When things just don’t add up, the scientists scratch their heads and ask, “Why do these heavenly bodies generate a gravitational effect that should actually be created by an object with greater mass?”

Questions such as these were being asked as early as 1932 when scientist Jan Oort, a Dutch astronomer, suggested dark matter was to blame for the orbital speed of the stars within the Milky Way galaxy. The following year Swiss astronomer, Fritz Zwicky, also believed dark matter was the culprit for the “missing mass” issue. However, it would take another thirty years before compelling evidence could assist the theory of dark matter in gaining ground in the scientific community.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, American astronomer, Vera Rubin, was deeply entrenched in her controversial work on galaxy clusters. Working alongside Kent Ford, an astronomer and instrument maker, the pair used his spectrometer design to view the light spectrums of spiral galaxies. Their discovery is called the Rubin-Ford effect.

This phenomenon describes the movement of the Milky Way galaxy relative to sample galaxies. Rubin and Ford theorized that the difference in motion of these galaxies, compared to the Milky Way’s motion, was relative to cosmic microwave background radiation. Rubin then focused on studying the rotation curves of galaxies. This led to the discovery of discrepancies between predicted angular motion of galaxies and the actual observed motion of the galaxies.

The gravity of stars within rotating galaxies is what prevents these galaxies from flying apart. Such strong gravitational forces require immense mass. Rubin’s calculations revealed that such galaxies contained much more mass than could be accounted for by the stars they contained. Attempting to explain this discrepancy became known as the “galaxy rotation problem” and led to the conclusion that dark matter must then exist.

One of Rubin’s observations showed that as much as six times more “dark” mass existed in galaxies than ordinary matter. Her work was highly controversial at the time and continued to be studied, tested, debated and discussed. As more astronomers did their own studies with conclusions that supported Rubin’s assertions, it became well established within the scientific community that most galaxies are predominately “dark matter”.

The result of Rubin and Ford’s work has led to innovative methods of observing galaxies. One such method, gravitational lensing, was used to examine background objects within the Bullet Cluster in attempts to identify the presence of dark matter. Light bends as it travels away from the source to the observer. It is the mass of the observed object which causes the light to bend. The greater the mass, the stronger the gravitational field it creates, thus a greater degree of bending of the rays of light. When light is then bent to a degree greater than would be indicated by the known mass of the astronomical object, dark matter is then assumed to be at play to account for this mathematical anomaly.

Scientists have used gravitational microlensing to conduct large searches throughout the Milky Way galaxy. Astronomical evidence indicates that the universe contains much more matter than what is visible to mankind. Some scientists have even speculated that a parallel world is possible that consists of dark matter and can only interact with the universe as we know it through gravity.

When measuring the velocity of rotation as compared to the distance from the center of a spiral galaxy, such as the Milky Way galaxy, the mathematical discrepancy reveals that the cluster’s mass consists of very little of the ordinary matter objects that are visible. Scientists then suggest that dark matter is concentrated in a halo formation surrounding the visible matter. A dark matter parallel world could perhaps be found in the “halos” around astronomical objects. Since dark matter contains no atoms, like ordinary matter, it cannot interact with ordinary matter through electromagnetics. Dark matter contains no electrical charge. Hence, gravity is the only interactive relationship between dark matter and ordinary matter as the theory is understood at this time.

Spiral galaxies are not alone in containing dark matter. Studies conducted with gravitational lensing reveal that dark matter may very well be present in elliptical galaxies. Within dark halos that surround such galaxies, X-ray emissions indicate atmospheric extensions of hot gas which could support the existence of dark matter. Using X-ray emissions to estimate dark matter existence is achieved by measuring the energy and fluctuation of the X-rays. These measurements can be used to estimate the temperature and density of the gas producing the X-rays as well as the pressure of the gas. A profile of mass can be created by assuming that the gas pressure balances with the present gravity. Discrepancies would then be attributed to dark matter.

As with anything, there are, of course, exceptions to the rule. Globular clusters are thought to perhaps contain no dark matter. Cardiff University astronomers discovered galaxy VIRGOHI21 in 2005 and believe it to be made up entirely of dark matter and absent of any visible stars. So, there is diversity and oddities even amongst the stars.

Dark matter within our very own Milky Way galaxy is, apparently, “wimpy”. Every second of every day millions, perhaps even billions, of weakly interacting massive particles, also known as WIMPs, pass through this globe humans call home. Experiments of detection are vigorously underway searching for these invisible invaders. Because WIMPs do not interact with matter, it is thought that they can be detected by measuring energy and momentum discrepancies as they zip about, collide and annihilate each other. This is one of the studies conducted in supercolliders.

What does the discovery of dark matter mean for mankind? For the scientific community, it is simply another wonderful puzzle to be solved. For the regular person moving through life every day, it might mean a new awareness of the possibility of an invisible world right next to you. Average people who simply want to rise from a chair and cross the room may find themselves compelled to politely mutter the words, “Please excuse me.” These words may appear to be uttered to an empty room containing no one who needs their pardon begged. No, these people are not crazy and talking to themselves, they are simply considering that the room could contain invisible, dark matter co-habitants that find it very disturbing when a human walks right through them without even a, “How do you do?”