Category: Astronomy

Orbiting solar panels

Orbiting solar panels

Orbiting solar panels

12/31/16

“Could we increase the efficiency of solar panels by placing them in Earth’s orbit?”
Our sun is an undoubtedly powerful object, on any given day, the Earth will receive 1.74*10^17 watts every second from it! However, much of this energy will be dispersed through the atmosphere of the Earth, limiting the potential of solar panels. So how could we work around this impinging phenomena? Well, let’s use our engineering mindsets to think outside of the box. Since the power of the sun is only mitigated after it enters the Earth’s atmosphere, wouldn’t it be logical if we were to place solar panels outside of the Earth? This most creative idea is being pursued by the Japanese Space Agency JAXA, where they plan to be able to create wireless power transmission units for orbiting solar panels by the year 2030.

Does Titan have an underground Ocean?

Does Titan have an underground Ocean?

Does Titan have an underground Ocean?

12/17/16

“Is it possible that there is an underground ocean on Titan?”
As far as humanity knows, there are only two terrestrial objects in the solar system that host liquids on their surface, our planet Earth and the ominous Saturn based moon called Titan. Titan is already known to posses liquid methane for seas, but recent research by NASA scientists open the possibility of an underground ocean being present on the planet! During the Cassini spacecraft’s tour of Saturn, it observed that not only have a number of prominent surface features shifted over time but that Titan’s axis of rotation also had a tilt of about 0.3 degrees. These phenomena unlock the possibility of Titan having a subterranean ocean, which in case could mean that Titan could possibly have liquid water present in its geology! However, before you jump on the bandwagon, it is necessary as a scientific thinker to take this news with a healthy dose of skepticism, since just because we found the possibility of Titan having an underground ocean does not mean that it has to be water, or we could be wrong and it could be an entirely different phenomena all together!

Quasars

Quasars

Quasars

12/09/16

“What are the things that cause intense streams of energy from far away?”

 

Something interesting seems to be happening. During the dawn of radio astronomy, Scientists noticed very intense signals of electromagnetic radiation. To their surprise, after observing the signals with more traditional telescopes, they found that there were no other forms of visible light surrounding the region. These scientists had termed these objects “quasi-stellar radio sources” or “quasars” for short. After many decades of hard research, Astronomers now hypothesize the light from quasars is the results of matter being ejected by black holes near the speed of light, resulting in energy outputs equivalent to trillions of suns! This high energy is what allows for these quasars to bee seen from so far away, often outshining surrounding it’s surrounding galaxy. Since the light from quasars has to travel a voluminous distance, it could be billions of years by the time we observe it, allowing us to study images of the ancient universe more in depth.

Lunar apogee and perigee

Lunar apogee and perigee

Lunar apogee and perigee

11/15/16

“What are the   furthest and closest distance of the moon from the earth?”

 

One of the most intriguing aspects of the moon is that it has an elliptical orbit. As a result, it will be closer to the Earth at certain time periods and farther at others. And since in science it is useful to classify special and important cases, astronomers have decided to term the closest point of the moon to the Earth as perigee (around 405,696 km) and the furthest point as apogee (around 363,104 km). A most fascinating consequence of these varying orbits is the varying size of the moon in the night sky, which can result in the most elegant phenomena known as supermoons

Supermoons

Supermoons

Supermoons

11/14/16

“Why is it that the moon appears larger in the sky some nights than others?”

 

Have you ever wondered why the moon appears to be larger on some nights than others? Well, let’s think about it. We know that the moon revolves around the Earth every night. In addition, this orbit is elliptical, meaning that the moon will be closer to the Earth at some times rather than others. So wouldn’t be logical when the moon is closer to the Earth in it’s orbit, it would appear larger in the sky? This is the very principle behind a supermoon. Supermoons occur at a frequency of once every 14 months, with the most recent one (as of writing) happening on November 14th, 2016 (The largest one in nearly 8 decades!). As a natural consequence of the close proximity of supermoons, the tidal force amplifies up to 19 percent!

Tidal locking

Tidal locking

Tidal locking

09/14/16

“How can one face of a celestial object always face the same side of the object that it is orbiting?”

 

We all know that objects in space revolve around other objects. The moon revolves around the Earth, the Earth around the sun, and the sun around the center of the galaxy. These objects also usually have their own spin. For example, this spin gives rise to the days and nights on Earth. But what if an object’s rotation was in sync with it’s orbit, so that one side always faced the object it was orbiting? Well, not only is this phenomena possible, but it is also happening in our very own backyard, with our very own moon exhibiting this! When the moon revolves around the Earth, the gravity from our planet will cause the moon’s shape to be slightly from solid tides making the moon distorted to give it an almost (American) football shape to it. This distortion means that there will alway be a portion of the moon closer to the Earth then the rest, which results in that side experiencing a greater force being “hooked” to the Earth, causing it to stay on one side. Astronomers and Astrophysicists have termed this phenomena tidal locking as a result of the solid-tide induced locking on the moon.

 

Circumstellar habitable zone

Circumstellar habitable zone

Circumstellar habitable zone

Isaac Gendler

 

“What is the area around a sun in which a planet can sustain life?”

Ever since humanity first looked to the stars, we have dreamed about inhabiting other worlds. But to our dismay, ever since the beginning of surface readings of the other planets inhabiting our solar system, we have found that the sufficient conditions for complex life are truly rare indeed. However, with the recent and exponential discovery of exoplanets, this dream might become a possibility again. And one of the first steps we must take is to find at what range around a star can a planet support life. To solve this question, we must think about what is the primary source of complex life. After much debate, scientists have decided that liquid water is such as source. So for a planet to be habitable, it must be far enough from the sun to not have it’s water boil up, but not far enough to have it’s reservoirs freeze up either. The range is represented as a torus around the sun, and the size is contingent on how much energy a sun gives off, so if a sun gives off only a small amount of energy, it’s radius will be smaller, and if it gives off a lot, it’s radius will be higher. Astronomers and astrophysicists have termed this phenomena the circumstellar habitable zone. Given the right amount of atmospheric pressure and range from the sun, liquid water is possible for life on another plant.