Finally watching ISS

Hi,
today I am finally going to write about my first experience watching ISS, the International Space Station. I have probably seen it before it is just that I did not realize that it is not an airplane.


ISS is a space station (biggest that humanity has) orbiting around 400 kilometers above the sea level. There is lot of interesting stuff about it but in this post, we are going to concern ourselves only with the very simple part, just seeing it.

Do not get too cocky. With naked eye, it will look like a bright star, around the magnitude of Venus at its best. It moves fast and even the best flights above your place will take maximum of about 6 minutes. From my experience, simple binoculars do not make much of a difference, though telescope could and I am yet to see how it will work out with good one, for example if I am able to track it.

Now it might not seem as much but remember, you are seeing the ISS, 150 billion $ project! The upside of it is that the station passes everyday above your place. It will always happen at sunset or sunrise, that is because the station must be sunlit but you have to be already in the shadow of Earth.

Most internet sites will recommend you the NASA webpage but it is horribly done and I will rather link to this one: http://iss.astroviewer.net/observation.php

In the case you are the type of person who uses smart phone, you can also download some app like ISS tracker.

Dragallur

Note: even though ISS will pass over 95% of the world population it has over every place pauses for many days. This is because the Earth is rotating under it and it takes some time before it comes to “phase” again.

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Taking closer look on Sun

Hi,
today I will write about a unique mission that will go closer to the Sun than ever before (2018).


Something like 3.9 million miles will be the closest approach (should I rant about the imperial units or just convert them?). This means going through the Sun’s corona, that is the legendary region that is apparently not quite well explained, meaning, we do not know why is it hotter than the surface of the Sun, but I am no expert on that.

It is caller Parker Solar Probe, I am thinking that they named it after Matt Parker and the Parker square (anybody?). There are going to be top grade instruments on the board and these need to be carefully protected, aka. when you put 11.5 cm of carbon-composite “desk” around it, it will work.

This thing is going to be fast in its top speed, like 194 km/s, yeah that’s per second which is crazy fast. That would be less than 2 seconds to get from my home to Berlin, fun, I guess it would take some time to accelerate me to that speed (unless my life did not matter).

Another interesting thing that has an effect here and that I mentioned in other post, is that it is hard to hit the Sun since the Earth is traveling very quickly around and just because you get out of its atmosphere does not mean that you fall towards the center of its orbit. Parker Probe will use Venus to slow down to get there without such effort.

Dragallur

Lovely Jupiter

Hi,
today I want to do a short rewrite of some posts from NASA page about things happening lately in space, simply to understand and remember them better, makes sense huh?


I have got three things, Van Allen Probes, OSIRIS-REx and Juno (I am saving that one as last since it is simply best).

Van Allen Probes are two satellites orbiting Earth in 9 hour intervals (2 000 miles per second). They celebrated their 5th year anniversary. Such a satellite must be hardened against radiation, otherwise the high energetic particles would destroy its electronics. Throughout its life, it discovered for example that there can be 3rd radiation belt around the Earth.

I already wrote about OSIRIS-Rex before. It is rare mission, first of its kind because it will optimally return samples of the asteroid Bennu back to Earth. On September 22nd, it will pass couple thousand kilometers above Earth that will speed it up so that it does not have to use so much fuel. They had to make sure that the spacecraft does not hit some other satellite that is in the Earth’s orbit, it would be quite sad if this couple hundred-million-dollar project failed even before the landing (I guess it must be in this magnitude).

If you read my blog you know about the spacecraft Juno and that it got close to Jupiter (and started the mission after the long flight). I guess I do not need to say anything when I share those (color enhanced) pictures from the eight-close approach.Juno’s Eighth Close Approach to Jupiter

Dragallur

Sources are just those three NASA pages.

Habitable zone of a star

Hi,
habitable zone of a star. Sounds like a comfy place, right? Well it can be. It is at least on (tiny portion of) Earth which is an example of object in habitable zone. Such a „zone“ is important for astronomers, or maybe it’s just important for headlines in newspapers.


Habitable zone in a Solar System based on luminosity.

Habitable zone is an area around star where we, with quite limited knowledge on this subject, think that life could be. The simplest „definition“ is that it’s the area where satellite (such as planet) would be able to sustain liquid water. We cannot be sure of course if life needs it but it is the case for the one that evolved on Earth.

The true habitable zone is something a bit more complicated. The simplest case of a planet would be one that behaves as a black body, that means that it absorbs all radiation (light for example) regardless of its wavelength. This is immediately just an assumption because such a planet does not exist. Earth just as Uranus or Mercury reflect light, the planet’s albedo describes this. Albedo is an attribute telling us how much object reflects light. 0 means that it is a black body and 1 means that it is white body aka perfect mirror.

There are even more factors that one could consider. For example, when planet has thick atmosphere it can sustain liquid water (and life) even further out from habitable zone on the other hand if that happens to planet like Venus which is already pretty close, you have got hell. If satellite orbits with high eccentricity the conditions are again different.

It’s hard to combine all of this together which results in lot of different outcomes depending what model one picks. Estimates for Solar System are between 0.9 or even 0.6 to 1.3, 2 or 3 astronomical units. In most of them Earth is just on the inner edge. These numbers were pulled from Wikipedia.

When we hear in news that a new exoplanet was found in a habitable zone it might not mean much. This news usually come alongside the information that the planet has similar size that of Earth, it’s not like we could travel there or anything, now we are mostly collecting data and learning.

Dragallur

HZ picture: By Habitable_zone-en.svg: Chewiederivative work: Ignacio javier igjav (talk) – Habitable_zone-en.svg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8462897

Problems that we will have to face

Disclaimer: This is my opinion, not advised by anybody, feel free to comment below.

Hi,

There are two problems that we as humans will have to face. I will write about the two that I think are crucial and only now people start to appreciate them.


The first problem is Global warming. It poses a lot of threats not only to fragile ecosystems but to whole Earth. Some of the effects listed from Wikipedia are: extreme weather, sea level rise, ocean acidification, changes in agriculture, environmental migration and much, much more [1].

Global warming is the first problem that we need to address but in this post, I will concentrate on the next issue on the list. Humanity will eventually die out if we are not able to spread in the Universe [2].

First, we could of course ask the question when we should colonize other planets or even if it is good idea. Let’s take a scenario, when humanity successfully colonizes Mars and at the same time Earth is becoming more inhabitable. At some point, we simply leave it behind, maybe let it rejuvenate without ever learning how to live in a way that does not cause rest of life extinct. What would continue? Maybe we will be able to spread out in the rest of the Solar System and eventually leave it behind. In what state though? And does it even matter if Mars which is right now mostly empty wasteland suffers any damage if it is even possible? Maybe we would change into species that travels the Universe and leaves dead rocks behind? What if we encountered other life out there, would them await the same fate as Earth? We are authors of our own morality and clearly there does not seem to be objective one. Our values change, we are starting to really appreciate our surroundings, the question is, are we fast enough?

Picture of Mount Sharp on Mars, taken by Curiosity rover.

Dragallur

Note: I am aware that there are different things that could happen. I took time today to write shortly out what I thought about one of them.

[1] There are also problems not related to Global warming but are as well very global, for example what are we going to do with plastic.

[2] See also, gamma ray bursts, solar eruptions (big problem but probably no immediate deaths), huge asteroid collisions and other things that would wipe us out.

These telescopes are huge (E-ELT, OWL, VLT)

Hi,
today I will write more about telescopes. In a previous post I already mentioned why radio telescopes like Arecibo are so huge, its because of the long wavelength. Today though I will concentrate on another type of telescopes and those are the ones that sit on Earth and collect information from visible light (those are called optical telescopes).

Comparison of various telescopes. Note OWL, the big circle in the background and even bigger white Arecibo.


I already mentioned Hubble telescope and James Webb Telescope (JWT) that is planned for launch next year. Those are in space so they have quite limited size. Down here we can build bigger ones. Right now in building phase is the E-ELT (European Extremely Large Telescope). Its primary mirror will have 39 meters [1] making it the largest optical telescope. It has to be so big because otherwise it could not match the ones in space. This is because we have our lovely atmosphere in the way and it makes harder for telescopes to distinquish small objects (though these days we have software that is able to account for that).

VLT aka Very Large Telescope is already working optical/infra-red telescope. It consists of 4 telescopes each of them with primary mirror of 8.2 meters in diameter. They can work together to make images of angular resolution 0.001 arcsecond. In one post I said that we are not able to take an image of star other than just point like source of light but apparently that is not true so I apologize for it:

First Direct Photo of Alien Planet Finally Confirmed

First confirmed image of an exoplanet. The ones that we can see are bigger than Jupiter and usually quite far away from their star. Credit: Gemini Observatory

VLT is second, right behind Hubble in the amount of scientific papers that its work produced (in the field of visible light/infrared telescopes).

There are many other telscopes that I might mention in the future like Thirty Meter Telescope but I will end it with OWL – Overwhelmingly Large Telescope. It was supposed to be the largest telescope ever, with primary mirror of 100 meters! The price was estimated to be about 1.5 billion euro and because of that it was decided that its not worth it. If we do not kill ourselves we might see giants like those in the future though I have no idea how the scientists, or whoever does it, will name them (UGHT – Unimaginably Giantic Huge Telescope).

Dragallur

[1]Just as JWT, the mirror is made from smaller segments. In the case of E-ELT it is because the mirror would be too heavy and we do not have the technology to build it and in the case of JWT it is because you have to somehow get it into orbit.

Comparison of telescopes: By Cmglee – Own workiThe source code of this SVG is valid., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33613161

Pareidolia

Hi,
today I will write about pareidolia a commonly seen phenomena. People often see familiar objects in completely random things, like rocks.


Clearly there is face in the upper middle part of the picture on the left. There is definitely sign of both eyes, of nose and mouth, thats more than one needs to SNice.svgrecognise face in something, consider the following one on the right. Do you see the black thick circle filled with yellow color, two ellipses and curved line extended in the ends? Yeah me too.

The point is that humans are great in recognizing (most often faces) in things that are actually not them. The first picture is photo of region Cydonia which is a area on Mars. It was taken in 1976 by Viking 1 and of course people thought that it was proof for extraterrestrial life! Well if you take enough photos of Mars there is high probability that some of the rocks there will resemble primitive faces.

Pick me! Some may bypass this pear for its blemished skin while others will see how eager it is to please

“I am the evidence of life on Earth, beware!”

Pareidolia does not happen only in images but also in sounds. For example there is a group of people who listen to so-called “ghost boxes” (sub category of ghost hunters). Ghost box is a box that is skimming quickly through radio channels. This creates lot of background noise and static noise with mix of what you can hear from the actual radio.. they say that the ghost can easily communicate through it.

Simplest explanation is of course that they just interpret extremely bad audio as some kind of words, plus if they listen for many hours they will eventually pop out something that will be an answer to your question, here is a link so you can consider for yourself, remember humans are great in interpreting random noise as actual words[1] (skip like 3 minutes for actual talk).

The story of the original Mars picture got stretched over many years. 2 decades after taking the picture, there was much better one taken by Mars Express as you can see below it was just the low resolution of Viking spacecraft.

There are many things that can trick us so it is not best to take the first explanation that we can think of, be sceptical and do not share if you do not know anything about it.

Dragallur

[1]The “answers” should be mostly made by random quotes from songs.

Smiley: By en:User:Mystìc – Originally created by en:User:Mystìc at en:Image:SNive.gif. Vectorized by Psiĥedelisto, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55079042

Pear: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3280816/What-photos-s-faces-suffer-facial-pareidolia.html

 

Vacuum decay and Trump

Hi,
today I want to do a fun post inspired by a meme that I saw some weeks ago on Theoretical Physics Memes. Well here it is:

https://qph.ec.quoracdn.net/main-qimg-0be932f563bde21614fc7bfbcff409d9


If you dont understand the joke, its alright, I will explain. If you do understand the joke you can continue reading for the sake of… reading?

Disclaimer: I have not been using disclaimers before but the truth is I am no physicist so I do not claim to actually comprehend this stuff.

So vacuum decay or also false vacuum is the idea that you could die any second. (See I am no physicist)

Basically fields (meaning electromagnetic and other types) want to get into the lowest energy state possible. Also electrons rather like lower energy states to be more stable so, if they have more than they “need”, they will radiate it away in form of photons. Now it is assumed that these fields are either in stable position (lowest energy level) or they might be in metastable position[1], which means that there is energy barrier between the metastable level and stable, if it is “reached over” and the field drops into lower stable or again metastable level it will release energy.

If we were in false vacuum[2] we would just need to reach over the hill to get to true one.

Since particles arise from these fields some new types would appear and Universe in this place would look a bit different inside. The reason why this is connected to the discovery of Higgs Boson is that the mass that it has indicates that we may live in false vacuum, if our physics is right than we could die any moment since the false vacuum is expanding almost at the speed of light.. means we can not know if it is coming on us or not, which also means that you do not need to worry really.

Now you understand the joke though if you are Trump supporter than you do not find it very funny in which case I pity you because it is great joke 😉 [3]

Dragallur

Pic. source: By User:Stannered – Adapted from en:Image:Falsevacuum.png, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1711800

Post source mostly.

[1]They can also be in unstable position but not for long.
[2]The name false vacuum has nothing to do with the vacuum of space.
[3]Proper explanation: it is so bad that Trump is elected, I hope that Universe will end soon, oh hmm.. what is the probability of it happening?

Its about Trappist-1

Hi,
I noticed that in the last days lot of attention was given to this new exoplanets. Well, I guess I have to stay in the “popular sphere” and follow with my post!


Around star called TRAPPIST-1 also known as 2MASS J23062928-0502285 were found together 7 exoplanets, more on this down in the post.

First the star.

Trappist-1 is very small star in special category L which means that it is a red dwarf. You wont find this category in the normal stellar classification because this one and other are made for brown and red dwarfs and were introduced later on. This of course means that Trappist-1 is not very bright or very hot and NOT visible to naked eye (it has apparent magnitude of 18.8 which is way outside of what human eye can see).

All pictures of these planets are artist’s impression.

 

The planets were discovered using transit photometry. Method that takes advantage of the planets blocking out some of the star’s light. In 2015 there were 3 discovered already and in February this year, astronomers in Belgium found another 4.

There names are truly beautiful: b,c,d,e,f,g,h (aka. Trappist-1b…)
b,c,e,f,g have similar size to Earth and d,h have radius somewhere between Mars and Earth. e,f,g also orbit in the habitable zone of planet which is an area around the star where liquid water might stay on the surface.

Bit of a problem is that since the planets are so close they receive lot of radiation from Trappist-1 and are also probably tidaly locked, which means that they are facing the star with always the same side, thats what is happening to our Moon too. All of their orbits’ radiuses (semimajor axes) are in matter of few millions of kilometers. For Earth this is 1 AU or 150 millions and for Mercury roughly one third. Their years last few days, for Trappist-1b it is just 1,5 days. Those are definitely some crazy numbers but since we know so little about formation of new life we can not really say how high the probability of something living there is.

NO signals were detected from that direction.

Dragallur

PS: You would have amazing view from the planets since they are so close together.

Source of picture: By NASA/JPL-Caltech – Catalog page · Full-res (JPEG · TIFF), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56513150

Pioneer Anomaly

Hi,
today I will write about strange phenomena that occurd to Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecrafts.

Pioneer10-11.jpg

Pionner – artist’s concept


Both of these missions are quite old in the space exploration sense. One launched in the year 1972 and the other 1973. They were made to explore outer part of Solar System (meaning still quite close) and after that they of course just went on.. there is no way to retrieve object so far and it would not make much sense.

We lost contact with both but before that we knew how far they were because of their signal. There was something wrong about it anyway, every year when we predicted where they would be they would lack behind about 400 kilometers. Thats almost the length of Czech Republic though Pioneer 10 is able to cover the distance in 33 seconds so that is not much of a difference. But… there is a lot known about the forces acting on the spacecrafts and those could not be it. For example gravity from Sun is slowing them down but it is a thing that one can account for quite easily.

It took few decades to solve this problem (paper finally explaining it was published in 2012). Now we know that it was because of radiation from the spacecrafts as it was losing heat. Pioneers were spin stabilised so that their antennas always pointed towards Earth. The way it was build scientists found out that the radiation causes acceleration towards Sun. But it is kind of weak only: (8.74±1.33)×10−10 m/s2

Thats now much but in Viking program if radiation pressure from Sun (which is a different thing of course) would be ignored it would miss Mars by 15000 kilometers which is quite important.

Dragallur

Pionner picture: By NASA – http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/image/spacecraft/pioneer10-11.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2878008