Salute Our Space Heroes


Traveling in outer space sounds fun. Being an astronaut seems to be an exciting career. Until the gringa is reminded about space radiation. Those heavy duty marshmallow looking suits astronauts wear are not just to keep them warm, properly pressurized and surrounded by oxygen. They also protect against dangerous space radiation. But is it enough? Are spacecrafts and the International Space Station adequately protected or are our astronauts slowly being radiated to death?

Radiation is an invisible energy form of high-speed particles and electromagnetics. It surrounds humans in everyday artificial light, sunlight, and electronics that produce radio-, television-, and micro- waves. Radiation comes in two forms:

  • Ionized: This is the worst in the form of gamma rays, protons and neutrons. Exposure to ionized radiation results in exposed atoms becoming unstable by an energy powerful enough to remove electrons from their orbit around the atom’s nucleus.
  • Non-ionized: Not powerful enough to destabilize atoms, this is the kind of common radiation produced by microwaves, radio waves and light.

The radiation in space is, unfortunately, comprised of ionized radiation. There are three things that typically create dangerous space radiation:

  • Trapped radiation: The Earth’s core creates a magnetic field that surrounds our planet up to several thousand kilometers from our planet’s surface. Solar wind carries charged particles that slam into our magnetic shield. Some particles manage to pass through. Those that don’t create a shockwave that deflects from Earth’s magnetic field. This creates layers of cavities called the “magnetosphere” that act as shock absorbers to protect Earth further from charged particle bombardment. But some particles get trapped in these cavities and they become radioactive belts surrounding Earth. Astronauts have to pass through these dangerous belts before they reach deeper space.
  • Galactic Cosmic Radiation (GCR): Outside our solar system ionized atoms traveling at almost light speed pass through space matter, including humans and man-made objects unless they are properly shielded.
  • Solar Particle Events (SPE): Sometimes the Sun flares and ejects copious amounts of highly charged radioactive particles into space. These particles travel so fast they are capable of reaching Earth within ten minutes of a solar or coronal flare event. These are dramatic happenings that temporarily drastically increase radiation exposure.

Astronauts traveling through space radiation or living in the ISS have to be protected from space radiation. Radiation exposure causes damage to human cells. There is a scientific formula used to calculate how much radiation exposure an astronaut can expect when working on the ISS. It’s a bit too complicated for the gringa to understand. These calculations are the reason ISS missions have a maximum six month cycle and spacewalks are limited. Exposure is increased during a spacewalk to perform repairs and maintenance.

Shielding is preferred to be constructed of materials like polyethylene because it has a high hydrogen content. This kind of material is more effective than metals at reducing the ability of particles to pass through and enter the modules. Astronauts also wear monitors called “dosimeters” that constantly measure the level of radiation damage to the chromosomes in their blood cells.

Every single astronaut is a hero. No matter what the duration of their mission. No matter what the nature of their mission. No matter what it is they did, whether it seemed glamorous or insignificant, these men and women are heroes of science. They are risking their lives every moment they are off the surface of the Earth. Even if they return safely, they have still sacrificed much. From musculo-skeletal issues to organ damage and higher cancer risks, every single astronaut will experience the effects of radiation exposure for a lifetime despite the measures taken to protect them. If you ever meet an astronaut thank them for their invaluable sacrifice and service performing critical scientific endeavors that are helping us understand our origins, learn about climate change conditions and create solutions to save our homeworld.

Sources:

jsc.nasa.gov

spaceflight.nasa.gov

Image source:  antarcticglaciers.org

 

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The Infinite Possibilities of the Unobserved


Quantum physics is, perhaps, the craziest thing for the gringa to try to understand. Recently the results of some very interesting time experiments have been publicized when a physicist, Yakir Aharonov, published a paper on the curious things he has discovered. Since it all seems utterly impossible and to simply state the results would sound like the ravings of a gringa gone mad, I will begin at the beginning and explain the “double slit” experiment.

Tiny pieces of matter (such as atoms, atom sized objects, electrons or photons) are propelled toward a screen containing two slits. A camera is set up on the back side of the screen which records where the “bits” land.

Sometimes a scientist will close one of the slits and the camera will predict the expected pattern of where the bits will land as they shoot through the remaining open slit. (Sounds pretty simple so far.)

When both slits remain open, something called “interference pattern” occurs. That means that instead of acting like projectiles shooting forward in a straight path, the bits begin to behave in wave-like patterns (They begin to behave unpredictably. The bits is misbehavin’!).

When bits begin misbehaving in a wave-like interference pattern, crazier things can happen. A single photon goes through both slits at the same time. In other words, a bit interferes with itself. And sometimes the bit doesn’t go through either slit. What occurs to the bit on a quantum level is that the bit begins expressing a “wave” of potential possibilities. It actually expresses all the possibilities and that is why it seems to be interfering with itself. The bit gets shot toward the slits and as it approaches it says to itself, “Well, I could go through the right slot.” (which it does)  Then it says, “Or, I could go through the left slot.” (which it does) Then it says, “Or I could do neither.” (which it does) And it performs all three available options at the exact same time.

This seems impossible but Aharonov’s documented experiment proves that it does happen. What the heck does this mean for humans? Why would something like this matter about matter?

Before the gringa answers those questions, let me share another conclusion of the experiment that will blow your mind. As soon as this non-sentient (is it?) bit of matter realizes it is being observed, the wave-like effect of expressing all possibilities coalesces into one path. When the bit realizes it is being watched and measured, it makes a choice and sticks with it. Just like how someone misbehavin’ straightens up when they realize someone is watching. (Matter has a naughty streak).

Conclusion #1 – Unwatched matter enjoys every possibility of existence.

Conclusion #2 – Once matter is observed, it selects a single possibility of existence and maintains that choice.

Conclusion #3 – The simple act of observation affects how matter behaves.

Conclusion #4 – The reality that we see potentially does not exist once we are no longer looking at it.

The consciousness of humans and animals may be responsible for creating our world as we know it. Subatomic particles are responding to the visual cues of humans and animals to create the world of matter surrounding us. Although it feels and seems very real it is an optical illusion of our own creation because subatomic particles are choosing one state of existence in response to being aware of our collective consciousness’ being aware of their existence.

On a much deeper level, quantum science can then prove that the conscious efforts of humans can then shape the future and reshape the past. But that is fodder for another interesting, mind-boggling gringa discussion.

The gringa’s dear readers can view a Dr. Quantum’s video on the double slit experiment below:

 

Source: http://www.cosmicscientist.com

Image Credit: http://www.in5d.com

 

Singing Space Soup


On February 24 the gringa posted “Moon Music – It’s Classified” with an interesting audio recording from the Apollo 10 mission in 1969. Today I would like to share a great video posted by NASA entitled “NASA Space Sounds”. Although there is an eeriness to the multi-planet ensemble, the gringa finds the sounds to have a meditative quality.

Now, the gringa wants to know how music and sound is produced in outer space. Sound is a vibration that travels through air. In order for vibrations to travel through outer space molecules have to exist in outer space. It is the vibrating air molecules that produce the sound. Outer space is a vacuum, meaning that in the area between planets and stars, there are no molecules. So how is this space music produced?

These symphonies are, indeed, vibrating wave patterns. Planets and moons emit electromagnetic pulses that bounce back and forth between surrounding rings and atmospheric barriers that are not visible to the naked eye. The charged particles within these atmospheres, plasma, are the “carriers” of the sound.

To capture these sounds NASA uses space probes equipped with plasma wave antennae. One particular NASA spacecraft featuring a plasma wave antenna is Voyager. This craft also has on board “The Golden Record” which shares images and sounds from Earth. So, Voyager is on an interactive sound mission, capturing and sharing.

Other things Voyager has captured are “tsunami solar waves”. When there is a burst of energy from the sun, a solar flare, a plasma shockwave is created. It takes about one year for the shockwave to reach Voyager and have the sound recorded. NASA has three recordings thus far.

Shock waves from the sun, as well as cosmic rays from other nearby stars within our Milky Way galaxy, are filled with plasma particles. Plasma is dense and creates very rapid oscillations when something causes the particles to vibrate. A plasma “bubble”, also called a “bell”, surrounds stars like our sun. When a solar flare occurs it’s like ringing a bell. A plasma shockwave resonates. March, 2014 was the third recording by Voyager 1 of our singing Sun.

Plasma is very interesting. It is filled with charged particles. It’s kind of like space soup that has the potential to sing. So the Voyager spacecrafts are basically recording singing space soup. Space soup is also called interstellar space. This is the area of space that exists between stars and contains plasma.

The Voyager mission launched in 1977 with two Voyager spacecraft. Voyager 2 launched about two weeks earlier than Voyager 1 and is still on the job making it the longest operating spacecraft in history. Both Voyagers have visited Jupiter and Saturn. #2 did a fly-by of Uranus and Neptune. One thing they have taught us in their travels is that space is a noisy and musical place thanks to plasma.

 

Source & Image Credit: http://www.nasa.gov

Hello Over There


Science is fascinating although there is much of it that is way beyond the gringa’s limited understanding. I guess that’s why I am a big fan of science fiction. It doesn’t matter if it makes sense or not, it is pretend science for the sake of entertainment.  However, it seems that sometimes the two intersect and then I just don’t know what to think.

I have often watched science fiction movies, or read science fiction novels, that were set in a parallel universe. Now, some physicists have revealed that the existence of a universe parallel to our own may not be a fictional idea. It may be real!

They call this the “Many Interacting World” (MIW) theory. And it means much more than just the existence of multiple worlds. It contends that there are actually multiple universes and that they interact with one another on a quantum physics level.  So, then I only have to understand what quantum physics is!

The simplest definition of quantum physics explains that it is a branch of science that studies the behavior of matter like atoms and photons. So, basically the MIW theory premise is that atoms and the minutest particles of parallel universes interact with one another.  So, basically, everyone and everything here on Earth is being touched, albeit invisibly, by another world.

Now, consider the gringa’s September 2, 2015, post, “What’s The Matter With Dark Matter”. There we learned that dark matter is invisible and passing through Earth all the darn time. This is pretty much the same concept except rather than just passing through and minding their own business, parallel worlds may, at times, actually interact with our own.

This theory has been developed through performing mathematical calculations as well as understanding how energy waves behave. You see, sometimes strange things, inexplicable according to our known scientific understanding of matter, occur when messing about with quantum mechanics’ experiments. When applying typical cause and effect principals that work on Earthly matter to a quantum mechanics’ experiment, the expected result does not occur. The oddities are explained as being due to the possibility of a parallel universe interacting in a subtle and non-detectable way to affect the outcome of the experiment.

The gringa wonders if this is a form of communication. What if one of these parallel universes is further advanced than our own and is aware of not only our existence, but also of our quantum physics experimentation? What if they observe these experiments (through dark matter spy molecules zipping about unbeknownst to us lower developed humans) then poke their nose in and interfere in such a way as to leave us scratching our heads, wondering what the heck just happened so that we will suspect outside interference from another world. They could be trying to get our attention! And scientists are definitely on high alert.

In the 1950s Hugh Everett, an American physicist, explained that quantum particles are not limited to a single state. At the same time, they can be in two states. That would be like saying, at the very same time, your stomach is empty yet also full. He called this the “many worlds” theory and suggested that quantum particles occupy two places at the same time, co-existing in two different realities. This means that, for each particle:

  • A single version of reality could branch out into infinite branches of alternate realities.
  • An alternate reality is a separate existence.

The point of difference between the “many worlds” theory and the MIW theory is that the “many worlds” idea premises that individual realities are not able to interact with one another while MIW speculates that parallel universes overlap one another and can influence each other.

The MIW theory claims three critical points:

  • There are possibly an infinite number of universes and some may be virtually identical.
  • All universes are equally real. (Imagine, another gringa out there! I wonder if she is my arch-nemesis and an evil tyrant? Maybe she’s a ballerina! With my luck she’s probably a chicken sexer… Yes, that is actually a job at chicken farms!)
  • There is a magnetic law of repulsion that prevents universes from interacting. (Hence the theory that the other gringa is a “repulsive” evil tyrant.)

Which brings me to ask if meditative practices that create altered forms of consciousness are putting people into contact with beings just as real as us but in a parallel universe, rather than in contact with a spiritual being. Could the MIW theory solve many religious questions about what exactly is an angel, deity or jinn? Could they actually have been beings, just as real as you or I, who existed in a parallel universe that was more highly advanced and had the technology to communicate with our universe? Could they have stopped in to say “hello”, saw what a mess we had made of things, sent messengers for centuries to try to teach us to be better, then finally gave up on us altogether?

Are they spying on every single one of us all the time? Brings the concept of “personal space” to a whole new level. The gringa will never again know the satisfaction of picking my nose in the privacy of my own powder room. Overindulging in an insomniac episode of chocolate while everyone else sleeps will never again seem a secret victory. Who knows, we could all be the reality TV stars of another world!

 

Sources: www.themindunleashed.org, www.mnn.com, www.phys.org

Image credit:  http://www.wn.com

 

 

 

Quantum Science Stuff


What word SCREAMS fascinating, mystifying science? Quantum. Webster’s dictionary says, with regard to physics, quantum means the “smallest amount of any form of energy (such as light)”.  NASA is into all sorts of quantum science stuff. Let’s take a stroll through some of NASA’s quantum interests.

NASA has a quantum computing lab. The gringa asks, “What does it do? What does it do?” Located at the Advanced Supercomputing (NAS) facility in California, NASA’s Quantum Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (QuAIL) is studying the computer of the future and how this technology is relevant to the future of mankind. Collaborating with Google and the Universities Space Research Association (USRA), technology is being developed to not only optimize existing computer technology, but to go beyond and create computers that can do what was before considered impossible.

Again, the gringa asks, “Like what?! Like what?!” (You can picture my little dance, hopping from one foot to another, flinging my hands up and down, as I impatiently ask this question). Well, how about “quantum teleportation”? The gringa says, “WHAT?! Are you KIDDING ME?” (now hopping straight up and down on both feet).  The cute little cartoon above illustrates how the technology works.

If visuals aren’t your thing, the gringa will try to convey the concept. Imagine you have eyes that can see things as tiny as itty, bitty particles, which is what makes up everything in our world. Now, consider that there are two particles that, although separated by an incredible distance, they behave as if they are connected (kind of like a married couple). This is called entanglement (yeah, like I said, kinda like a married couple).

What scientists have done with this concept is teleported information about a particle of light over fifteen miles of optical fiber to a crystal “memory bank”. Voila! Quantum teleportation.

However, the gringa is no longer jumping up and down. I’m scratching my head and thinking, “So what!” I mean, it doesn’t really sound like a big deal. It doesn’t even sound like real teleportation to me. I mean, it traveled through a conduit, the optical fiber. I’ve seen enough episodes of Star Trek to know real teleportation means you simply vaporize, POOF, and rematerialize somewhere else. What a let down.

The gringa really doesn’t want to get shot through an optical fiber skinnier than a human hair to make a quick trip to the mall. It would make me feel like a drive-thru bank deposit. I was really looking forward to the POOF and re-materialization thing. I mean, you could strike a pose and really create a fantastic entrance wherever you went.

The “real-life” application of this technology is that it has potential to be used in cryptography. However, not only will it create secure information transmission between computers here on Earth, but also between Earth and spacecrafts. This would be done by imprinting two systems upon each other so that even when they are separated they behave as one system and, thus, unhackable (is that a word?).

So, with a quantum computer system Astronaut Annie can send a love note from Mars to Hubby Harry back on Earth and it would be as securely private as if they were writing love notes back and forth on the same pad of paper across the breakfast table from one another. Okay, the gringa does have to admit that is entirely cool. Hackers terrify me. I’m always afraid they’ll hack into my bank account and get my last five dollars (that’s usually all that’s ever in there, except for payday and maybe one day after, but, yeah, the rest of the time about five bucks).

Now, how this works is like this:  Alice has a yellow photon. She wants Bob to have one just like it. Their friend, Charlie, sends them each a blue photon (these photons are “entangled”, hence the same color).  Now, the rule of entanglement is since the objects are connected, anything done to one affects the other in the same way, as if they were one object. Alice smashes her blue and yellow photons together until the yellow residue dominates the blue. Now, Bob likes the color yellow better than blue so Alice wants to help him change the color of his photon. So, she teleports the information of the color yellow to Bob’s crystal memory bank and the color information imprints on Bob’s photon which now turns yellow.

So, in a nutshell, quantum teleportation is not anything like Star Trek’s device. Does that mean Star Trek technology is impossible? Um, this is NASA, NOTHING is impossible! The concept of the Star Trek transporter is that it changes matter into a signal that can be transmitted to another location and reappears. What this requires is an empty vessel of a corresponding shape waiting on the other end to receive the quantum state of transported information. So, transport a human body? Probably not. However, lay down on a transport bed and beam your consciousness into, say, a robotic version of yourself, could be.

If technology is developed to transport matter through space, what about transporting through time? Is time travel possible? Nope, not unless we get us some wormholes. And, even then it is still only a theory.

Communication and transporting matter is not the only technology that has something “quantum” about it. In medicine there is a device called the Quantum Resonance Spectrometer (QRS). It gathers cellular information from a human body which can be used to predict when a disease may strike based on an analysis of cellular change. The hope is that as this technology is perfected it will be used in preventative medicine. Japanese, Taiwanese and Chinese hospitals are already using the technology in studies of cancer, cardiovascular and heart diseases.

How about quantum energy? Can we say good-bye to oil, coal, and wind power? Maybe. NASA is developing the “quantum dot” solar cell that is flexible, lightweight and absorbs light as if it were a mini-black hole on a sunshine diet. Because of the abundance and availability of solar energy in outer space, imagine the prospects! NASA wants to use these babies on rovers and habitats as well as auxiliary power sources.

The quantum dot not only reduces weight because of it’s tiny, microscopic size that efficiently produces energy, but it also lowers the cost of space travel. The cells can be produced in a process much like ink jet printing. Large batteries that take up a lot of cargo space can become a thing of the past. Can you imagine if cars no longer needed a gas tank? No more oilfields! Hoorah! Hoorah! What is NOT to love about this technology!

So, what is the next thing on the horizon with “quantum science stuff”? How about a world-wide quantum network? If we thought the invention of the Internet was an amazing thing, the gringa says, “We ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

 

Source & Photo Credit: http://www.nasa.gov

 

 

Maaahhhvelous MAVEN!


Yesterday was an important anniversary at NASA. Celebrations were in order to mark a successful year of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft orbiting the Red Planet fulfilling its mission of understanding the upper and lower atmospheres of Mars. Scientists want to know how Martian atmospheric gases that escape into space change the climate of the planet. The ultimate question is whether or not the pattern of atmospheric evolution can trace back to an ancient history where life could once have been supported there.

MAVEN inserted itself into a Mars orbit in September, 2014 and had a dangerous encounter with Comet Siding Spring within its first month in action. Over the past twelve months, MAVEN has carried out and recorded atmospheric observations for ten of those months.

It has detected a pattern of particles at both poles that create a “Mohawk” effect as they escape the atmosphere in plumes. Mars also has a metallic particle layer high in the atmosphere which lights up when affected by solar storms. These particles are leftovers from space rubbish left behind by comets and meteorites. The gringa thinks Mars would be the perfect place for some rock-n-roll concerts.

The violent atmosphere of Mars is punctuated by solar and space radiation, magnetically and electrically charged solar flares and Coronal Mass Ejections that strip the upper atmosphere of Mars of electrically and magnetically charged ions. The data collected on MAVEN can be analyzed to hopefully answer the question if this is the reason for atmospheric loss on the Red Planet and if so, scientists will then attempt to establish a time frame for the continued erosion of the Martian atmosphere.

NASA is very proud of the teamwork that has produced such a successful Martian mission as the MAVEN project. Engineers designed and built a sturdy spaceship that remains in excellent working order despite the extreme conditions it functions within. Although mission completion date is only months away, it is expected that the mission will be extended. The rich amount of data for a hungry science community is too valuable to give up as long as MAVEN is still operational. NASA will be giving the green light for this little workhorse to stay on the job at least one more year.

Source & Photo Credit: http://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?”