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Breann Thueson

Phys 1040
News Article #1
Title: Interstellar Seeds Could Create Oases of Life
By Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Published: August 28, 2015
Studies have recently been done by some astrophysicists at
Harvard saying that if life forms were to be able to travel between
stars, it would travel in a pattern. This pattern we would be able to
detect. This process of transferring life forms to a new different star is
called panspermia. There are only two forms of panspermia. The first is
simply natural, all by gravitational force. The second is if the life form
was sent off, just as we send things and people into space. However,
the second option would require intelligent life forms to be on the
existing planet. If we were able to detect life as is was in panspermia,
we would possibly be able to see if there are other life forms, as well as
where these life forms came from.
They have a theory saying that life-form clusters grow and
overlap. They compare this theory to bubbles in a boiling pot of water.
This theory says that if a seed ever reaches a planet nearby, which is
habitable, it will take root. This continues until seeds have been
spread on various planets. It would be similar to the spreading of an

epidemic. There would be little areas of life all throughout the galaxy.
They say that they will continue to watch for these patterns.
A couple of the astrophysicists say that this pattern will only be
detectable if it occurs at a rapid pace. That is the one difficult thing
considering things in space dont occur quickly. They also say that stars
drift, therefore by the time we did recognize a pattern the stars that
were next to each other a million years ago may not still be near each
other. This would cause a smear in the bubbles. I just wish that
everything in space didnt take so long to do things. It makes it so
much more difficult to see how things happen and to learn about our
solar system, galaxy, and universe. But, the theory which they have
created is still interesting.

News Article #2
Title: Ceres bright spots seen in striking new detail
Published: September 9, 2015
The spacecraft orbiting the dwarf planet, Ceres, has recently sent
back incredible pictures and information about the surface of the
planet. The scientists involved with this project are particularly
interested in what they call the Occator Crater. The Occator Crater is
pretty big. In some places the edge stretches vertically outward for a
mile. There are several bright spots within this crater which these
scientist can now see much better, thanks to the pictures sent to them
from Dawn, their spacecraft. The pictures sent from this particular orbit
have a much higher resolution than those sent earlier in June. They are
also considerably better quality than those orbits previous to June.
Scientists are very excited about these new images because before
everything they could see wasnt clear. Now they can actually see the
entire landscape of Ceres.
Dawn travels around Ceres. It takes eleven days for it to
complete one cycle. Within each cycle it orbits fourteen times. Each
time it orbits it takes a picture of the surface at a slightly different
angle. By doing this scientists can now create 3D maps of the dwarf
planet. Dawn is the very first spacecraft mission to visit a dwarf planet.

Previous to Ceres Dawn orbited the protoplanet named Vesta, that was
in 2011 -2012. It orbited Vesta for fourteen months. These pictures are
very important to the NASA team. They help them to learn more about
those different planets in our solar system and how they function now,
in the past, and possibly even in the future.
I think it is incredible that they are able to create 3D photos out
of the photos sent to us from the spacecraft, Dawn. It just shows that
Dawn must give us a lot of information in the pictures for us to be able
to create those.
News Article #3
Title: Astronomers peer into the amniotic sac of a planet hosting star
By: Astronomy Now
Published: September 14, 2015
Astronomers have been able to look through the innermost sac of
a star that is still forming 325 light years away. The goal of this was to
see the innermost area of a solar system that is just beginning. This
star that astronomers are looking at is call HD 100546 or KR Muscae.
This particular star is located within the constellation Muscae. It is only
a thousandth of the age of the sun. Surrounding the star is a bunch of
gas and dust in the shape of a disc. Astronomers call this the protoplanetary disc. The findings of this star and the beginning solar system
were all published within a book titled, Monthly Notices of the Royal

Astronomical Society. One of the lead authors of this book is Dr. Ignacio
Mendigutia. In this book, Dr. Mendigutia discusses how this is the very
first time anyone has been able to research this close to a forming star,
and especially a forming star with at least one planet.
In order to properly view this system scientists have been using
what they call a Very Larger Telescope Interferometer. This telescope is
located in Chile. This telescope is very strong and has the capability of
producing an image similar to that of a telescope that is 130 meter in
diameter. Even with this incredible telescope astronomers still said that
looking at this star is similar to viewing something that is as small as a
pinhead from 100 kilometers away.
Observing this star is important for astronomers now.
Researching and observing it with its new planet could possibly help us
to learn more about our solar system and maybe even how it came
about. In my opinion, if it helps us learn more about our own solar
system then I think they should keep studying it.

New article #4
Title: Liquid Water Still Flows on Mars
Published: September 28, 2015
Solid evidence has been given, by the Mars Reconnaissance
Orbiter that there is in fact liquid water on the surface of Mars today. It
was noticed through an imaging spectrometer that there are these
dark streaks on the surface of Mars. They seem to do the same things
as water would, coming and going during certain seasons, flowing over
the surface over time. These dark streaks are found in several areas on
the surface of Mars. This is what astronomers have been searching for
since 2006.
They have found through the spectrometer that there are several
RSL (recurring slop lineae) spots where there are hydrated salts.
However they are only visible when the dark features are pretty wide.
If it isnt wide then no hydrated salt can be detected. They think that
the hydrated salts are very similar to a mixture of magnesium
perchlorate, magnesium chlorate, and sodium perchlorate.
Perchlorates have already been seen on Mars. So it wouldnt be a
surprise if this were the correct mixture. The only difference is that now
these are hydrated, and they were spotted from orbit. Those

perchlorates that were found previously were found by the Viking

missions in the 1970s.
Scientists at NASA are extremely excited about this news.
Michael Meyer, the lead scientist at NASAs Mars Exploration Program
says, It seems that the more we study Mars, the more we learn how
life could be supported and where there are resources to support life in
the future. I think that this discovery is huge. Although I still dont
know how life on Mars would ever work. It is still exciting to find water,
and to have a little hope.

News Article #5
Title: NASA Narrows the Field for Future Key Planetary Missions
By: Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Published: October 1, 2015
NASA is preparing now for the missions in 2020. They have
started more intense studies of five potential missions. However, there
will only be one maybe two missions. NASA will select the official
missions in September of 2016. Three million dollars are going to be
allocated to each research group. Any of the missions will end up
costing about 500 million dollars, not including the launch and postlaunch operations.
The five potential missions are: DAVINCI, VERITAS, Psyche,
NEOCam, and Lucy. DAVINCI would study the chemical composition of
Venus atmosphere. It would learn about volcanoes on Venus as well as
how the surface and atmosphere interact. VERITAS would picture
Venus surface allowing us to make maps of it. Psyche would study the
metallic asteroid, also named Psyche, to learn about the origin of
planet cores. NEOCam would find more objects that are near Earth and
characterize them. Lucy would study the Jupiter Trojan asteroids by
taking a reconnaissance of them. This would be the first time this was
done. It is believed that these asteroids could hold clues to our solar
systems history.

Each mission has an investigator and a manager. These people

are from all over the United States. Although these missions are five
years away NASA needs to start research now so that they can be fully
prepared for whatever missions are decided on. If I were allowed to
vote on which mission I want I would either pick Psyche or Lucy
because I feel that those will help us most in our future.

News Article #6
Title: Plutos Big Moon Charon Reveals a Colorful and Violent History
Published: October 1, 2015
The New Horizons spacecraft has sent NASA some new pictures
of Plutos big moon, Charon. It is nearly the same size as Pluto.
Originally we thought that Charon would simply be full of craters.
However, after viewing the photos sent from New Horizons they found
that they were very wrong. Charons surface is actually covered with
canyons, landslides, and mountains. Its surface also has various colors
on it. They didnt believe they would see such an interesting surface
simply because it is so far out in our solar system.
Just above Charons equator there is a canyon that is at least
1,000 miles long. It is seen in the picture to cover clear around and into
the dark side of Charon. This canyon is massive. In some places it is
twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. One researcher from Boulder,
Colorado says that this canyon looks as thought the moon has been
ripped open on its surface. He also compared it to the canyons that are
on mars, the Valles Marineris.
There are some areas of Charon that are smoother, indicating
that that part of the moon surface is not as old as others. They think
that there might have been an ocean under the surface, which froze

and eventually cracked Charons surface. At that time water-based

lavas flowed onto the surface, making it smooth. However this is just a
theory. Scientists believe that the pictures to come of Charon will be
very exciting.
I wonder what caused Charons surface to crack open. I also
cant imagine it being bigger than the Grand Canyon, and not being
the bright orange that the Grand Canyon is. I am sure that it would feel
just like a ghost town version of the Grand Canyon.

Article #:7
Title: Hubbles Stunning New Pictures of Jupiter
By: Monica Young
Published: October 15, 2015
The Hubble space craft has been in charge of taking pictures of
the outer, gas planets- Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus and Saturn. However,
the decision was made recently to not just take random pictures of the
planets. The Hubble telescope is now sending annual pictures of the
planets. We will eventually have a planetary yearbook. This plan will
continue on for as long as The Hubble space craft can handle it.
Those astronomers at OPAL (Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy)
have decided that The Hubble will not only send one view. Rather, it
will send enough images to analyze all the changes and occurrences
that happen throughout a day as well as a year.
In the pictures which have already been sent to us of Jupiter
astronomers have noticed a change. Jupiters Red Spot seems to be
changing. It is forming more of a circle, and it is shrinking. Each year it
shrinks about 225 km. While it is shrinking, its core is changing also. It
is much less distinct than it used to be.
Along with the changes of the core of the Red Spot, The Hubble
sent photos of a wave train just north of Jupiters equator. Something
like this hasnt been seen in 20 years. The only other space craft that

saw something like this was the Voyager 2, in 1979. Astronomers are
very excited about these photos, and are excited to learn about them
and decipher what is happening on the surface of Jupiter.
I think this is interesting. I wonder what really it happening on
Jupiter, in the infamous Red Spot. I sometimes wish that I could just be
in my own protective bubble and be in the middle of the storm to see
what is happening.

Article #8
Title: Scientists publish case study on growing food in space
By: October 20, 2015
Published: Washington State University
The movie, The Martian, inspired some scientists at Washington
State University and University of Idaho to do their own experiment.
They are currently helping their students find a way to actually grow
food on Mars. In the movie Mark Watney is separated by a storm from
his crew, resulting in him being left on Mars, alone. He then has to
somehow create food to sustain him. These universities have created a
case study for the students. Putting the student in a very similar
situation to that of Mark Watney. They have to somehow figure out how
to support themselves as well as others with food.
The Martian has was very accurate scientifically. For the most
part everything was correct. The one thing that wasnt, was how
intense the storm on Mars actually was. They say that the odds of a
storm getting this intense that quick are not high at all. The Martian
was a very popular movie. Just the first two weekends it was open it
grossed $143 million.
The students at these universities find the problems with growing
corps, then come up with various criteria for selecting the crops. The
best foods are then chosen through a scoring system. There have been

roughly 30 trial runs, and none of these have had the same result.
Those conducting the tests are only allowed to bring certain items, just
as it would be in real life. These case studies also force the students to
think about different aspects, such as: If you had to eat one kind of
food for the rest of your life, would you be able to do it?
However, the point of these case studies is not to help students
figure out if growing food on Mars is possible. Rather, it is teaching
them problem solving and critical thinking skills. In my opinion this
whole idea is an incredible idea. It gets the students involved and
thinking. It also is more interesting because of The Martian. If I were a
student and assigned this project I wouldnt mind doing it.

News Article #9
Title: This solar system isnt big enough for the both of us. -- Jupiter
By: University of Toronto, Ontario Canada
Published: October 30, 2015
At the University of Toronto the Astrophysicists have found some
shocking news. About four billion years ago the planet Jupiter had a
close encounter which nearly ejected an entirely different planet from
the solar system. Ever since 2011 there have been thoughts that
possibly another gas planet had existed previously. However, if it had
once been here it was clearly gone now. They could never quite figure
out how it had left the solar system. It was suspected that either
Saturn or Jupiter who kicked it out. Now, with more research being
done on the subject, they have begun to lean more towards the
statement that Jupiter was the culprit.
Planet ejections are when two objects get too close to each
other, resulting in one of the objects accelerating so quickly that it
breaks free from the suns gravitational pull. Ryan Cloutier, from the
University of Toronto, wasnt sure how this would affect the host
planets moons. To figure out he created simulations on the computer
of what would happen in this situation, using the moons Callisto and

Through this he found that it is indeed possible for the gas giants
to throw another planet out of the solar system. Their moons would
just have to produce their own orbit, which could happen. It is so crazy
to me to think that Jupiter is capable of that. I know it is plenty big, it is
just so difficult for me to imagine it size and mass.
In conclusion they found that it would be much easier for Jupiter
to throw a planet out of the solar system than it would Saturn because
of its moon, Iapetus.

Article #: 10
Title: New APEX Instrument for Finding water in the universe
Published: November 4, 2015
Earlier this year there was a new instrument attached to the
Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) Telescope. The APEX telescope
is 5,000 meters above sea level in the Chilean Andes. This new
instrument will open up opportunities we have never previously had. It
will help us to learn so much more about the unknown parts of our
The instrument which was attached is called SEPIA. It is sensitive
to light wavelengths. The region in which it can see wavelengths is 1.41.8 milligrams. This particular region of wavelength is where water can
be found. This is critical to helping us learn more about the part which
water plays throughout the Milky Way and the Earths history. Water is
key in many of the astrophysical processes, one of which is the
formation of stars. They also think that it is important to the origin of
In order for this instrument to detect any water it must be very
dry. It is no different than it is necessary for there to be dark
everywhere in order to see the objects in visible light. Unfortunately, it
gets more complicated. There is another requirement to be able to

detect water, and that is that the detectors must be extremely cold.
They are cooled to -269 degrees Celsius in order to properly function.
This new instrument could unlock many mysteries that we have today
about our universe. This new device is really neat. If it works, it could
help us to find another earth-like planet. It will also help us to learn
more about our Milky Way Galaxy.

Article #11
Title: Ireland to Brighten up with Meteor Shower Tonight
By: The Journal
Published: November 17, 2015
There is going to be a Leonid Meteor shower visible from Ireland
tonight. It is estimated to be a very big and bright one as well. Just as
those Leonid meteors were big in 1998 and 1999. The Leonid meteors
are always like this. Usually they consist of only ten or fifteen meteors
per hour. A researcher, Mikhail Maslov, believes that there could even
possibly be a second peak during this meteor shower.
The article says that in order to see the meteor shower best just
look where ever it is darkest in the sky. This particular meteor shower
got the name Leonids because the meteors only fly away from the
constellation Leo. Also, as Leo rises into the sky the amount of meteors
goes up.
Yes, the Leonids are incredible. However, there is also the Tausids
going on currently. This meteor shower is much slower than the
Leonids, it is also considerably brighter. In addition, it is highly likely
you will see a few just random meteors throughout the sky.
I have only been meteor watching once, and it honestly was a bit
of a let down. I dont think I will ever plan to go again unless I am like
99% sure that it will be a really good meteor shower. Also, it must be
fairly warm when I go to see it. I absolutely hate the cold, I wouldnt be

able to even enjoy the view I would be so concerned about being


Article #: 12
Title: Astronomers are eager to get a whiff of newfound Venus-like
By: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge,
Published: November 12, 2015
The MEarth-South array is made of eight 16 inch telescopes. It is
located in the Cerra-Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. This is
the device which discovered this new rocky planet which is so similar
to Venus. MEarth-South watches thousands of red dwarf stars which
are only 100 light years away from Earth. In particular, it looks for any
planet which crosses a star. This is process dims the light of that star
ever so slightly, allowing us to calculate the physical size of the planet
in transit. This is how this new planet was found.
Once it was found the team in Chile did a search of the host star
of this planet. They calculated the wobble of the host star in order to
be able to find the mass of the planet. After their research was done
they found that this Venus-like planet is 16% larger than Earth. Its
diameter is about 9,200 miles, and it also has a mass about 60%

greater than the Earths mass. However, its gravity is very similar to
Earths gravity. This planet is far too hot to have any water located on
its surface. However, it is capable of having an atmosphere.
The planets host star is pretty dim compared to our sun.
Probably because it is only one fifth the size of our sun. Possibly
because of its size it only gives off 1/200th as much light as our sun
gives off. It only takes the planets 1.6 days to orbit the host star, and it
is only a 1.4 million mile orbit. In comparison to Mercury that is very
Luckily, this planet is fairly close. It is 39 light years away. This
means that it can be studied by The Hubble telescope. Astronomers
say that the original goal is to find a twin to planet Earth, but in this
process they found a twin to the planet Venus. I think that finding
Venus twin planet is super awesome. However, I just dont understand
how exactly it helps us.

Article #: 13
Title: Comet Fragments best explanation of mysterious dimming star
By: Iowa State University
Published: November 25, 2015
The star KIC 8462852, more easily known as Tabbys star, has
been a topic of much interest lately. The star is found in the
constellation Cygnus, which is about 1,480 light years away from
Earth. A few citizen scientists noticed that this particular star lost a lot
of light, very quickly. It got dimmer by about 20%. These citizen
scientists were originally looking for new planets by measuring the
brightness of stars. They would see if the brightness of the star
decreased, because that could mean that a planet could have crossed
in front of it in its orbit. That is how they first noticed that Tabbys star
had gotten dimmer. Because it had gotten dimmer by about 20% that
would have to mean that an extremely large planet would have to have
crossed in front of it. Normally the brightness only varies a couple
Because Tabbys Star lost such a high amount of brightness it
was taken to some high scientists for further research. These
astronomers found the situation of Tabbys Star very peculiar. Could it
really have a planet that large orbiting it? The planet would be too
large of a mass for that size of star. These astronomers soon began to

hypothesize that maybe even some alien source was orbiting the star
absorbing its energy. That would explain why the stars brightness
stooped down so quickly, and so much.
After looking at the star more for the research they saw that it
had regained the 20% brightness it had previously lost. This started to
confuse them more. But then they figured it out. There most likely was
a family of comets near Tabbys Star which were destructed. These
broken comets simply could have crossed right in front of this star,
depleting its amount of light. However, to us it just seems as though it
were just one big planet, when really it was just a lot of little broken
comets. Turns out the astronomers were panicking over nothing.

Article #: 11
Title: Superflares might make most earth-like exoplanet
By: University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom
Published: November 18, 2015
Astronomers had previously found a planet that was very similar
to Earth. So far, it has been the most similar of all the planets they
have found. Unfortunately, research has found that this planet may
have just been made uninhabitable, because of a superflaring red
dwarf star, Kepler 438.
These flares coming off of Kepler 438 are equal to the energy of
100 billion megatons of TNT. They occur every 100 days, and there has
yet to be a flare which equaled less energy than any of our own suns
superflares. As big as the superflare is, that is not what is concerning
astronomers. What concerns them is something called coronal mass
ejection (CME). This is something that accompanies the superflares. A
CME is where a massive amount of plasma is thrown out of the sun. It
has the potential to strip the planet of its atmosphere. Without an
atmosphere this planet is no longer protected from UV radiation, X-ray
radiation, and charged particle radiation. All of these are extremely
harmful to life.

The only thing that would keep this planet safe from the
superflares and the CMEs is the strength of its magnetic field. If it is
similar to Earths magnetic field then it might be alright. Astronomers
havent discovered the state of this planets atmosphere yet, but they
are hoping that it still exists despite the superflares and possible
CMEs. I think that finding a planet similar enough to earth that we
could live on it would be the coolest thing ever. However, I dont think
it would be cool enough to get me to leave Earth unless absolutely
necessary. I am too scared to go out into space.

Article #: 14
Title: Will Phobos Create a Ring Around Mars
By: Kelly Beatty
Published: November 27, 2015
Mars moon, Phobos rotates entirely in 7.7 hours. Mars takes 24.7
hours to rotate. Because Phobos rotates so quickly astronomers believe
it is doomed. Phobos is slowing moving ever so closely to the planet
due to loss of its own energy. It is predicted that it will be in Mars
atmosphere in about 20-40 million years.
Astronomers have been looking at a part on Phobos, Stickney,
which is a 10-lm-wide pit. The cracks that come out from this pit were
results from Stickney. However, with further knowledge of Phobos
inevitable doom they now see that these cracks may be a sign that
The End has started already.
Astronomers believe that as Phobos crashes into the surface of
Mars it will lose the dust and debris on its surface as it spirals around
Mars. They believe that this plunge wont occur for another 25 million
years, maximum. This outer layer on Phobos will create some sort of
ring around Mars. The density of this ring would be comparable to
Saturns rings. Unfortunately though it would not be near as bright as
Saturns rings. This is simply because the ring would be made of dust
and other dark objects. Eventually, the ring will go away. Astronomers

predict that it could take anywhere from 1 100 million years for the
ring to be entirely gone.
I think this is really fascinating to think! I just wish that we would
be able to see the rings on Mars, and I wish it would all happen faster!
Article: #15
Title: Hawaii Supreme Court Revokes Permit for Massive Telescope
By: Korey Haynes
Published: December 3, 2015
The permit to build the really big telescope on the summit of
Mauna Kea in Hawaii was revoked on December 2, 2015. This does not
mean that they cant still build it though. They will just have to re-apply
for a permit. This could set them back months. The permit was
originally give in 2011, however they werent allowed to start building
until this past spring.
This particular mountain is sacred to native Hawaiians, and they
believe that by building this telescope on the summit it will desecrate
the mountain. It is considered sacred for some of the same reasons
TMT (Thirty Meter Telescope) wants to build their telescope there. It
hardly has any light pollution and it is very high in elevation.
This particular mountain already had 13 other observatories.
Many of these were to be removed for TMT. The areas they were
removed from were supposed to be restored to their original state. Well

the native Hawaiians dont feel as though they are doing a very good
job at restoring their mountain. TMT handled the revoking of the
permit very well, and is planning on continuing with their next step as
best they can.
In my opinion they shouldnt be building on this mountain. I think
about the things that I hold sacred, and I would never want anyone to
damage them in any way. I wouldnt care what it was for. Therefore, I
am with the native Hawaiians on this one.

Article: #16
Title: Our Magnetic Black Hole
By: Camille M. Carlisle
Published: Decmber 3, 2015
Astronomers are currently searching for ways to see a black hole.
To do so, they are using the Event Horizon Telescope. This telescope is
incredible. It is nearly a planet sized telescope. This is done by linking
together the antennas in Hawaii and in the South Pole. They call this
interferometer. A guy named Micahael Johnson (Harvard-Smithsonian
Center for Astrophycisists) along with a few other astronomers are
using a mini version of this telescope to follow the magnetic fields near
the outside of our galaxys black hole.
In order to really see into the black hole the atennas in Hawaii,
California and Arizona had to be linked together. They only got a few
nights to look at the black hole, however, those few night were enough
information to create an image of it. The information they got also is
helping them to figure out what exactly is happening. They are finding
some crazy things happening really close to the black hole. It seems as
though the magnetic waves are turbulent right before heading into the
event horizon.
I think it is incredible that these astronomers were able to create
a mini telescope of sorts and semi-follow or figure out what is going on.

Black holes confuse me a whole lot, I wish we could just understand

them so that they woulcnt confuse me and make me think so hard.