Posts Tagged ‘space’

The Aurora


A different Aurora.

[*This is an article I wrote for a class in response to an incorrect article in a local newspaper*]
The winter season brings with it more viewings of the Aurora Borealis or more commonly the Northern Lights. Sheets of red, blues and greens dance in the skies of far northern (and southern) latitudes. While it is commonly thought that the aurora is more prevalent during the winter it is in fact constantly active throughout the year. Winter months just provide longer nights in which to view the aurora.
The Aurora is caused by the interaction of energetic particles with the Earth’s ionosphere. These particles come from interactions within the magnetosphere of the Earth. The magnetosphere is the space created by the interaction of the Earth’s innate magnetic field (which we use for compasses) and the solar wind. The solar wind is a consistent flow of particles in the form of plasma that have blown off the surface of the sun.
When the solar wind reaches the magnetosphere of the earth a bow shock, similar to a boat, forms on the sun side of the planet. This deforms the magnetosphere into the shape of an elongated tear drop. In the stretched out tail of the magnetosphere the magnetic fields get stretched out and oppositely direction fields get closer together. These opposite fields can collapse together and send particles streaming back towards the earth.
These streaming particles then approach the upper reaches of the atmosphere where they are accelerated to high energies. As they zoom into the atmosphere they interact with the ambient particles and molecules, giving away their energy as they slow down. The now excited oxygen and nitrogen give off the characteristic red, green and blue lights that we see as the Aurora.
The current location of the auroral oval can be seen at spaceweather.com along with more information about the current space weather conditions. For more in-depth information on the physics of the aurora visit: http://deved.meted.ucar.edu/hao/aurora/


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Starfish Prime


Safe and Away

Safe and away.

Twice in one day I have heard references to Starfish Prime. First in my plasma physics course and second in a paper on electromagnetic resonances in the earth-ionosphere cavity.

So I looked it up.

Starfish Prime was one in a series of high altitude nuclear tests. This particular one was detonated over 400km, well into the ionosphere. The EM pulse wiped out many low earth satellites, it destroyed electronics in nearby Hawaii and lunched a bunch of radioactive particles into space along the earth’s magnetic field lines.

The one good thing it did was introduce a lot of radioactive tracers into the inner radiate belt, thus allowing for the lifetime of particles in the belt to be measured.

Otherwise the thought of high altitude nuclear tests is a bit worrisome.


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Go Science

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. At Night.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. At Night.

Today Armadillo Aerospace successfully completed the Lunar Lander Challenge II from Northrop Grumman.

Congratulations, and good luck with completing the next challenge and hopefully a second group will also make it past the second challenge soon. The more groups competing and reaching the benchmarks the better off the private space industry as a whole.

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We can see the direction but not the destination.

We can see the direction but not the destination.

I am often asked what I want to do with a PhD in Space Science and today is a good example of what I want to do.

Today is the fortieth anniversary of our first landing on the Moon.

What I want to do with my education is help the pursuit of further space exploration. I want to help make space exploration easy and desirable enough to encourage non-government agencies from pursing their won foray into space. Be this finding new resources, tourism, communications or construction, I want to see a space economy.

Forty years ago we landed on the moon. A previously thought impossible task, but we did it. Let us push the current frontiers of space.

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Space Success

The art of science is in the waiting.

The art of science is in the waiting.

There were two good pieces of news in the realm of space today.

First SpaceX successfully put a Malaysian satellite into space, hopefully bringing us that much closer to commercial space enterprises. I still want a space elevator.

Second NASA has found and is going to release (in what form available to the public is still unknown) the original Apollo 11 moonwalk videos. The original broadcast video was taken by filming a screen playing the original higher definition version. It would be neat if NASA converts the tapes and puts them in full definition online for free. Or at least part of the tapes.

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ISS Sighting

A slightly humorous sticker in Boston.

A slightly humorous sticker in Boston.

At the beginning of last weekend I read about how the past few days would be excellent in the realm of seeing the International Space Station fly over. As someone interested in space and the likes I was excited to have multiple opportunities to see it.

Using the sighting site I found the best times (i.e. not 4 am) for seeing the ISS fly over. For where I was it was Monday night.

Monday rolls around and I completely miss the first sighting at 9 pm, I was not worried as there was another one at 10:45 pm. It was headed from the West to the South in the sky with a peak height of 40˚ above the horizon. Fairly easy to spot I believed.

Since I was out at my Grandmothers house in the mountains the light pollution is very low and the skies are clear.

I forgot one crucial fact: she also lives in a veritable forest.

The trees and the full moon conspired against me and I could not see it. Once out of this forest I hope that I can spot it through the light pollution of suburbia.

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We need to start building up to terraforming slowly.

We need to start building up to terraforming slowly.

I think that we can fix Venus to make it habitable and even pleasant.

The current problems are the run-away green house gases, the lack of a habitable temperature range, the inability for the planet to keep water and it is kind of far away.

A simple solution: hit it with an asteroid.

If an asteroid (mostly water) is taken from the asteroid belt and accelerated into Venus (in Venus’ orbit) we can speed up the planet and thereby give it a larger orbit. At a larger orbit it will have a temperature closer to Earth and it will be able to retain water on the surface.

The impact will also likely destroy the current atmosphere and perhaps liquify the surface, hopefully jump starting plate tectonics and allows oceans to form (once it cools).

The best place to put it would be slight closer to or farther from the sun than Earth. We don’t want to collide with it and we don’t want it in our orbit exactly. Once it is in a stable position we can add more water through smaller asteroids or collisions that are relatively slow. Also we can add asteroid as a moon if needed.

We just need an effective asteroid moving system as well as some good long term planning.

Good idea or great idea?

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