Friday, 22 August 2014

If you collapse an underwater bubble with a soundwave, light is produced, and nobody knows why

It’s a phenomenon called sonoluminescence. Sonoluminescence is a physical occurrence by which sound turns into light. Scientists have been trying for 70 years to explain it, but have had no success. No one has managed to explain how a bubble of air in water can focus sound to cause light, but it happens.

Some minor revelations have surfaced, however. At first, physicists thought friction was to blame, but in the late 1980s, they discovered that a sound wave’s path expanded bubbles and heated the gas inside them to temperatures hotter than the sun’s surface. That collapse with the heat, they thought, created a glowing plasma. Thirty years later, that is still the going theory.

However, researchers have suggested that different physical mechanisms must be at work and that there must be multiple kinds of sonoluminescence. What’s been concretely determined so far, though, is that it has to do with the size of the bubble as well as the OH emission from the bubble when it bursts.

If the science goes much further, it could be possible that some day sound and gas could be used to light underwater areas, exceeding the limitations of conventional lights.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Vision for Mars Rovers

Seeing is believing. Our great visions of space exploration require also a trustable vision system. Curiosity rover snapping dozens of pictures every day is capable to see the Red Planet in different way than the human eye. Needless to say, human vision is highly adapted to the specific conditions here on Earth. “The exploration of Mars will require radically different qualities of the vision system because of both the Mars atmospheric properties and the range of things that this vision system will need to be able to see.” Yosef Akhtman of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) told “In particular using an RGB camera, which was developed to mimic human vision on Earth is a bit naive and far from optimum.” Akhtman will give a speech on Sept. 7 regarding adaptive vision system for extraterrestrial exploration at the European Mars Conference (EMC) that will take place in Podzamcze, Poland.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

If you bend a piece of paper 103 times, you get the thickness of the universe

The myth is that you can not bend the paper more than eight times. The reality is that you can bend to infinity, if you have a large enough paper, and enough energy. However, there is one small problem. If you bend it 103 times, you get the thickness of the entire universe.

How something thin like paper can get the thickness of the universe?

The answer lies in mathematics. It is a simple exponential function. Every time you bend the paper in half, you double its thickness. At the third bend, you get the thickness of the nail. On the seventh fold, you get thickness like pad.

On the tenth, the width of the hand.

At 23, bending, your paper is already one kilometer thick.

In the thirtieth folding, but you got to the universe. It is 100 kilometers high.

42nd bending, you have reached the moon. At 51, you scalded the sun. Now you've reached the 81 bends, and your paper is already 127 786 light-years wide, almost as thick as Andromeda galaxy.

You bend the paper 90 times. It is now 130.8 million light years wide. On the surface is about 100 galaxies.

And finally, we have reached 103 fold. Now you've reached the edge of the universe, 93 billion light years in diameter.

Here are some examples that will help you understand how you can folding paper to get to the edge of space!

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Violent Solar System History Uncovered by a Meteorite

Curtin University planetary scientists have shed some light on the bombardment history of our solar system by studying a unique volcanic meteorite recovered in Western Australia (WA). Captured on camera seven years ago falling on the WA side of the Nullarbor Plain, the Bunburra Rockhole Meterorite has unique characteristics that suggest it came from a large asteroid that has never before been identified. Associate Professor Fred Jourdan, along with colleagues Professor Phil Bland and Dr Gretchen Benedix from Curtin’s Department of Applied Geology, believe the meteorite is evidence that a series of collisions of asteroids occurred more than 3.4 billion years ago. “This meteorite is definitely one-of-a-kind,” Dr Jourdan said. “Nearly all meteorites we locate come from Vesta, the second largest asteroid in the solar system. But after studying the meteorite’s composition and orbit, it appears it derived from a large, unidentified asteroid that was split apart during the collisions.”

Friday, 8 August 2014

Catatumbo, the everlasting storm

There's a Lightning storm in Venezuela that's been going on since at least the 16th century!

Relámpago del Catatumbo (Catatumbo Lightning) is an atmospheric phenomenon that occurs where the Catatumbo River meets the Lake Maracaibo, in Venezuela.

How do they happen? The winds blowing accross the Maracaibo lake and other swampy plains around the area meet with the Andes mountain ridges. These winds carry a lot of heat and moisture, which are perfect for creating electric charges. The result? Lightning for 280 times an hour, 10 hours a day for 160 nights a year!

It is believed that the phenomenon has been going around since at least the 16th century (and most likely, even more than that). The first time this storm was reported in writing was an epic poem called "la Dragontea," by Lope de Vega in 1597, which told of the defeat of Sir Francis Drake at this site. Drake tried to attack the city of Maracaibo, but the lightning gave away his position and the city was able to respond in time.

All the electric activity makes the Catatumbo Lightning the largest single generator of Ozone in the planet. The lightning is visible up to 400 km away! Because of this, it's also called as the Maracaibo Beacon.

Friday, 1 August 2014

NASA plans to start a garden on the Moon next year!

It's a great time to be alive when all of the cliches seen in sci-fi movies time and time again are starting to become a reality.

Men landing on the moon, versatile rovers roam Mars and now we're just a couple years away from starting plant life on our neighboring celestial bodies.

Arabidopsis is a small flowering plant that is closely related to mustard or cabbage, both useful when trying to colonize another planet ecologically. More importantly, it contains one of the model organism that is key for studying plant biology, especially since it's the first plant to have its entire genome sequenced.

NASA, the American space agency, set its sights on Arabidopsis to be part of the first garden on the Moon and Mars. Ambitiously, NASA plans to have it planted on the Moon by 2015, as in next year. Mars isn't that far behind with a target date of 2021.

This very well could be the first step of plans to one day send men and women to live on distant worlds, hopefully with food and water already set up for them.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Astronomers Find Unexpected Lack of Water Vapour on Hot Jupiters

A team of astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have gone looking for water vapour in the atmospheres of three planets orbiting stars similar to the Sun – and have come up nearly dry. The three planets, HD 189733b, HD 209458b, and WASP-12b, are between 60 and 900 light-years away, and are all gas giants known as ‘hot Jupiters.’ These worlds are so hot, with temperatures between 900 to 2200 degrees Celsius, that they are ideal candidates for detecting water vapour in their atmospheres. However, the three planets have only one-tenth to one-thousandth the amount of water predicted by standard planet formation theories. The best water measurement, for the planet HD 209458b, was between 4 and 24 parts per million. The results raise new questions about how exoplanets form and highlight the challenges in searching for water on Earth-like exoplanets in the future. The findings were published Thursday (24 July) in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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