Category: Astronomy

Total Solar Eclipse

Total Solar Eclipse

Total Solar Eclipse

08/21/17

“What happens when the moon totally blocks the sun?”

 

Every so often a very rare phenomenon happens. Under the right conditions, the path of the moon will pass completely in front of the sun and block all of the light, leaving only a glorious image of the Sun’s corona. After many millennia of research, Astronomers and Astrophysicists have termed this occurrence a total solar eclipse. While magnificent, total solar eclipses can also be quite dangerous, since looking directly into it without any protection can lead to permanent eye damage. An interesting consequences of total solar eclipses is that since the sun is absent from the sky, solar energy generation experiences a large drop, which can have devastating power consequences for regions that rely heavily on solar such as California

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Cosmic dust

Cosmic dust

Cosmic dust

05/25/17

“What is that outer space dust made out of?”

 

Out in space there seems to be a very peculiar material, something akin to a cosmic dust. However, exactly is it and what is it made out of? Well, let’s start from a scientific perspective. If one were to put some of this cosmic dust under a microscope, then we would see that not only it is only a few molecules in size, contains organic matter, and is physically porous in nature. This interstellar dust is found between planets, and given its size is so small that infrared telescopes are often needed to study it.

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!