Saturday, 8 April 2017

News from Outer Space, April 2017

Near Miss.  Most of the potentially climate-changing meteors have been found but a little guy, the size of a car, was discovered just the day before it missed us by a mere 10,000 km this week, flying below our geostationary satellites.  It would have made a nice fireball and a bang but little else.  Don't be too relaxed.  About once a month,'s chart of fireballs shows one that was travelling in a nearly straight line.  This may be space junk from outside our planetary system, not from the Oort belt, not something we will ever be able to predict.

Image published in the Daily Mail
Two young stars,viewed in the constellation Orion, spiralled into each other and "kaboom".  They were only a couple hundred thousand years old and only 1350 light years away.  Remember the dinosaurs?  They've been gone sixty million years.  These were baby stars.   The appallingly beautiful aftermath will be noticeable for another five hundred years. The energy released is equivalent to the total output of our sun for the next ten million years. Interesting pictures at the link.

A new type of cataclysmic event was
spotted a couple weeks ago.  A galaxy 3/4 of the distance to the other end of our universe disappeared in a ball of light that lasted for a few hours and was gone.  The galaxy location flared up 1000 fold and died back to a dot of light.  "No astronomical phenomenon that scientists currently know of can explain the behaviour.".

Then there are some puzzling bursts of radio light lasting milliseconds. Almost two dozen have been observed so far but their source isn't known.  The news is that a local on-earth source has been ruled out.  One has been localized to a single galaxy.

Earth's oxygen is raining down on the moon!  About 90 metric tons of earth's oxygen whisks daily out into the tear-dropped magnetosphere around the earth.  For about five days a month, the moon is positioned downstream of that magnetosphere and shielded from the sun's harsh bombardments. Some of earth's oxygen in the magnetosphere escapes downstream. About 26,000 oxygen ions per second per square centimeter are landing on the moon during that time.  This also explains why some oxygen isotopes were found on lunar samples that would have been appropriate as exhaust material from plant life on earth.  This doesn't add up to a fuel supply for lunar explorers but is still a WOW moment.

Amateur astronomers joined a crowd-sourced project and found four candidates for Planet Nine. Sixty thousand people took part after being given access to the raw data.  They analyzed five million objects to come up with the four candidates. The largest distant objects like Pluto are somewhat clumped which implies some other object much further out and about the size of Uranus and perhaps in a non-standard orbital plane has been interacting with them.  "We have achieved four years of scientific analysis in under three days".
Related, some Australian amateurs found four new exoplanets, after analyzing data made public.

The first serious space tourists are lined up to go.  Elon Musk has sold two SpaceX tickets to go round the moon once in 2018.  Stephen Hawking has accepted a free ticket on Virgin Galactic's ship to the moon, a few years in the future.    Blue Origin is offering rides to the edge of space and back for 2018 for about $200,000.

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