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THE Space/Astronomy Thread

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01-04-2011, 01:02 AM
  #1
Joseppi
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THE Space/Astronomy Thread

There seems to be some general interest around here in astronomy related topics, so I figured having a thread dedicated to it would be a good idea. A one stop shop for those curious.

I'm going to migrate a few of my posts from the space thread in the politics forum to here. Feel free to update with good finds, just no 2012 crap please.

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01-04-2011, 01:04 AM
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Joseppi
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In regards to habitation outside our solar system:


Alright, here's the deal.

The nearest star to us is 4.2 light years away. It's Proxima Centauri. The system has no planets that we can tell of, and with current technology, it would take about 200,000 years to get there. It's VERY far away, for being the closest star to us. The universe is a big place.

Now, if we were to develop some sort of technology to travel VERY VERY fast (we're talking >0.95c, and finding a way to accelerate to those speeds is a challenge enough in itself, let alone finding a viable fuel source for it), there would be an instance of time dilation. The people making the trip could do it in a matter of days, weeks, or months from their perspective, but it would be the full duration here on earth. That means when you leave, you're leaving everything you've known behind for a long time.

That's not taking into account wormholes or any other unknowns out there, that's just heading in a straight line with constraints of nature. Travelling outside our galaxy is pretty well out of the question at the moment.


Now, if we can manage to overcome those hurdles, there's the matter of finding a planet with an environment suitable for life as we know it. As it stands right now, we're just entering the planet hunting foray. In the last decade though, with initial techniques, we've managed to discover 500+ extrasolar planets, mostly large gas giants orbiting close to their star (due to the method used at the moment. They watch for periodic 'wobbling' of stars due to gravitational interaction with planets, thus finding the big ones first). So, we do know they're out there. We just sent up a new satellite telescope called Kepler that will be using a different technique to scan for planets, in watching for periodic dips in stars' brightnesses. It will take some time to interpret the data and make discoveries, but this is a huge step, in that it has the accuracy to actually detect planets the size and consistency of the earth, since it's a telescope in orbit (free of atmospheric distortion. Better readings)

The biggest thing they will be looking for are if the planets are in the habitable zone of their star. It's kind of a Goldilocks situation in that the planet really does have to be in the right orbital distance.



If a planet is in that habitable zone, there's a good chance it will have liquid water, and that's what we're looking for.


The fact of the matter is the earth won't be around forever. Even if we manage to deflect all the asteroids, luck out with no supernova or hypernova explosions anywhere around us, survive supervolcanic eruptions, get through global warming, survive the ice ages, and whatever else nature throws at us - the sun is going to die. In 4 billion years, the sun will begin to deplete it's hydrogen supplies, and start to blow up like a balloon. The heavier elements will fuse in it's core as it blows up into a grotesque parody of itself, eventually enveloping Mercury, Venus, and possibly Earth as it expands through their orbits. By then the oceans will be long boiled off and life extinguished from the planet. Our sun will become a Red Giant.

6 billion years from now, the sun will die. Not die in the sense of it being gone forever, but merely taking on another shape. It will shed all it's outer layers and spread it's mass throughout the local system. All that will be left in it's place is it's white hot core, a very dense type of star called a White Dwarf.

It will leave what's called a planetary nebula. Here's an example



We need more funding for space observation and exploration. The sooner we start realizing that we're part of a bigger scheme of things than everyday living on earth, the sooner we can start advancing as a species.


Last edited by Joseppi: 04-16-2011 at 09:38 AM. Reason: factual error
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01-04-2011, 01:05 AM
  #3
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21 Greatest-Ever Space Photos (warning: slideshow)

http://www.life.com/image/50692492/i...r-space-photos

Great pictures, but I'd add a few


This is Eta Carinae (and its companion, a low mass star), a luminous blue variable star nestled inside the Homunculus Nebula. It was first categorized in the mid-late 1600s as a magnitude 4 star (barely visible from cities), but by the early 1800s, it had brightened to -0.8 (second in brightness only to Sirius). This outburst of energy was the event that created the expanding nebula that cradles the star. It's settled down these days, to the point of being almost invisible to the naked eye under optimal conditions, but it doesn't change what the star is. What is it you say? It's a star that has a mass of roughly 100 solar masses, and shines 4,000,000 times as bright as our own sun! The mass of the star dictates the end, and as I'm sure you can guess, the bigger the star, the bigger the bang. This star (7,500 light years from Earth) will end in a supernova (or hypernova if it manages to retain its mass and doesn't evolve into a Wolf-Rayet star). It will be one hell of a light show when it does go off, but it won't hurt us. If one of its magnetic poles lined up with Earth, it would be a different story. When a star of this magnitude explodes, it releases a MASSIVE amount of energy from its poles called a Gamma Ray Burst. IF it were to be pointed at Earth, the energy deposited here from 7,500 light years away would equal about one kiloton of TNT per square km. On the surface, we would experience about 10 times the lethal dosage of gamma radiation, and human existence would be extinguished in literally minutes. Did I mention that scientists predict it could explode at any time?

Pretty cool stuff.


(click to embiggen [1.2mb 3100x3100 picture]. Oh yes, you DO WANT to click that)
I'm really surprised this one didn't make the list, as it's easily the most amazing picture from the last decade of astro-photography. It started out as a simple experiment, a shot in the dark if you will (pun intended). The plan was to point the Hubble Space Telescope at a completely dark patch in the sky (covering the area of about a pinhead held at arm's length) for an exposure of just under a million seconds across ~two weeks. Every dot, spot, and wedge in that picture is a galaxy - 10,000 of them in all! Keep in mind that the average galaxy has between 10,000,000 and 1,000,000,000,000 stars. I'm not sure of another picture that's quite as humbling as this one knowing the back story.


This is Hoag's Object. It's a ring galaxy, which is believed to be a transitional phase of a galaxy which had a 'head on' collision with a smaller galaxy. The Cartwheel Galaxy is another example of a ring galaxy, but appears to have experienced the collision earlier than Hoag's Object. Not sure how else to expand on it, I just wanted to include it.


Last year, residents of North America were treated to a fantastic sight. At first glance, it bears a striking resemblance to a comet, but things aren't always as they seem.

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01-04-2011, 01:08 AM
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Interesting news on the space front. You guys seem to be interested in the ways space can kill us, so here's a fascinating, and scary, new development.

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage...the-Earth.html

Quote:
It will self-destruct in an explosion called a supernova with the force of 20 billion billion billion megatons of TNT.

New studies show the star, called T Pyxidis, is much closer than previously thought at 3,260 light-years away - a short hop in galactic terms.

So the blast from the thermonuclear explosion could strip away our ozone layer that keeps out deadly space radiation. Life on Earth would then be frazzled.
What they're talking about is a type 1a supernova. What happens is a white dwarf (the core of a sun-type star post nova) orbits another star, and because of gravitational forces, begins to accrete mass from it's solar partner.



Once it reaches the mass of about ~1.4x solar mass, it sheds the accreted matter in a massive explosion of which they're talking about in the article.

I'm not 100% sure on how it will affect the earth, but I know that a burst of gamma rays from that short a distance could do serious damage to the ozone layer. If that were to happen, we would receive much more UV radiation, which in turn would cause higher rates of skin cancer, higher rates of genetic mutation, and quicker burn rates. In other words, it has the potential to make the outdoors much more hostile.



No worries though, at the pace that it's accumulating material, it won't reach the chandrasekhar limit for another 10 million years

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01-04-2011, 01:08 AM
  #5
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For those who are looking for a bit of additional material http://hfboards.com/showthread.php?t=701133
I have a link in that thread to the original Cosmos series. Unfortunately it can only be streamed inside the US. It was a fantastic series put together by Carl Sagan. It's a bit old by today's standards, but it still stands factually strong and full of foresight.

Bad Astronomy: An astronomy/science blog
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/

Wired Science: General science blog
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/

Neil Degrasse Tyson discusses his book "Death By Black Hole" and generalities of the science behind it (video - 1 hour+ runtime)
http://fora.tv/2008/02/19/Neil_DeGra...le#fullprogram

NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day
http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/


There's also this video that can only be described as the description of everything (It's just over an hour long, so set some time aside to watch).


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01-04-2011, 01:12 AM
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WHOA!



http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/20...steroid-crash/

Quote:
The X marks the spot of a suspected head-on collision between two asteroids imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope’s new-and-improved Wide Field Camera.

If it’s confirmed by further observations, it would be the first time that scientists have detected the interplanetary collision between objects in the asteroid belt, though they believe that such occurrences are common.

...

They hypothesize that the filaments are made up of dust and gravel created by a high speed impact that could have occurred at 11,000 miles per hour.

“If this interpretation is correct, two small and previously unknown asteroids recently collided, creating a shower of debris that is being swept back into a tail from the collision site by the pressure of sunlight,” Jewitt said.
Now let's put this in perspective. What we're seeing is the result of the collision of two asteroids impacting at at least 5 km/sec. The energy in such a collision is like setting off many nuclear bombs! The asteroids shattered, and much of the debris expanded outward as pulverized dust. All that was left is that white spot to the lower left of the X - a ~140m chunk of rock.

Rare things happen all the time. It just takes somebody to look and see them

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01-04-2011, 01:13 AM
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Dope thread, I love this stuff. Will read.

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01-04-2011, 01:16 AM
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Space.

Kicks.

Check it -




http://hfboards.com/showthread.php?t=855516

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01-04-2011, 01:21 AM
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Powers of Ten

I'm sure quite a few of you have seen some permutation of one of these. It's basically a logarithmic scale of the universe. Everything the author uses is to scale, and when going either up or down from human scaling, is really impressive.

http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/525347

Very cool stuff.

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01-04-2011, 01:25 AM
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Quote:
Now, if we were to develop some sort of technology to travel VERY VERY fast (we're talking >0.5c, and finding a way to accelerate to those speeds is a challenge enough in itself, let alone finding a viable fuel source for it)
Going half as fast as the speed of light is more than just a challenge. With technology now, and where it has been over the last 5 or so years, it will be nearly impossible to do imo. (At least in our lifetime). I know it would be sweet if it could be done, but reality is that we're so, so far back, that it would be a miracle if it could be attained in the next 300 years or so. Also dealing with fuel, there is no way that there would be enough storage for a fossil fuel such as rocket fuel. We would need some type of fuel that continuously renews itself.

But awesome thread man, I loved reading what you posted. space and astronomy is a facenating topic. Good stuff!

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01-04-2011, 01:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Topp Spin View Post
Going half as fast as the speed of light is more than just a challenge. With technology now, and where it has been over the last 5 or so years, it will be nearly impossible to do imo. (At least in our lifetime). I know it would be sweet if it could be done, but reality is that we're so, so far back, that it would be a miracle if it could be attained in the next 300 years or so. Also dealing with fuel, there is no way that there would be enough storage for a fossil fuel such as rocket fuel. We would need some type of fuel that continuously renews itself.

But awesome thread man, I loved reading what you posted. space and astronomy is a facenating topic. Good stuff!
You're absolutely right. Reaching those types of speeds would need an extremely large amount of fuel. Fortunately for us, empty space isn't completely empty. It's actually filled with ionized hydrogen. Within the local interstellar cloud (the region our solar system is currently passing through), there is a particle density of about 1000 atoms/m³. That value is multiplied by 5 in the interstellar medium.

What has actually been proposed is somewhat of a funneling system implemented on a VERY large craft. It's called a Bussard ramjet. It works by using a magnetic field to shepherd the hydrogen ions into a very large collector, which would funnel it into a progressively further constricted magnetic field, until finally it reaches a density so high that nuclear fusion begins.



It would allow us to provide a constant acceleration while maintaining a steady fuel source.

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01-04-2011, 02:01 AM
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I read something recently about a star called betelgeuse (beetlejuice) that is nearing the end of its life. Some astronomers hypothesize that it could supernova sometime in the near future, in human terms (10^3 years at the lower end), not cosmic terms. The star itself is bigger than the orbit of jupiter!

If the supernova were to reach us tomorrow it would get brighter for a few weeks and remain in the sky for 3 months. When I first read about it they said it would be comparable to having two suns in the sky.

edit: awesome thread

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01-04-2011, 02:02 AM
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Yo don't be dissing 2012 man, i've done research into this. It's a very real possibility

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01-04-2011, 05:11 AM
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I thought it was physically impossible to move anything at the speed of light?

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01-04-2011, 10:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Principal Scudworth View Post
I thought it was physically impossible to move anything at the speed of light?
That's correct. With our current understanding of physics, no matter can move at the speed of light.

However, nothing is stopping matter from traveling as close to the speed of light as possible. 99.99% is perfectly alright.

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01-04-2011, 11:35 AM
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I know you mentioned something about this already, but if we could travel fast enough to reach another planet in a reasonable amount of time, the sad thing is that back on earth the time would be passing much more quickly and we wouldn't hear the results of it until much later (in earth time). I haven't run any numbers on it but I'm guessing that if we could travel fast enough to reach the nearest star within a year it would be a full lifetime back here on earth. Maybe I'll bust out my modern physics textbook later and find out what the actual time difference would be.

That's the problem with a lot of the sci-fi stuff like Star Wars/Star Trek/Halo which makes it much harder to actually imagine.


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01-04-2011, 11:39 AM
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Wormholes are theoretical. I don't get why most of the science community accepts them considering they laugh at virtually anything else that's theoretical.

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01-04-2011, 11:44 AM
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Wormholes are theoretical. I don't get why most of the science community accepts them considering they laugh at virtually anything else that's theoretical.
What do you mean by "theoretical?" A scientific theory is a well-established and widely accepted concept, for example the theory of Relativity, Evolution, the Big Bang, etc. I don't think there's any Theory of Wormholes.

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01-04-2011, 02:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Joseppi View Post
Thank you so much for posting this - I saw that once before, and was completely in awe at how insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things.

And I am definitely subscribing to this thread - I've read your posts before, so thanks for doing this.

There is so much we don't know about the Universe, it's surreal.
I still think people in general don't understand how little we are, and how we will never know everything about the Universe.

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01-04-2011, 02:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Analyzer View Post
Wormholes are theoretical. I don't get why most of the science community accepts them considering they laugh at virtually anything else that's theoretical.
Actually, they're hypothetical. There are solutions to the equations of relativity that allow for traversable wormholes, but they would require an exotic material unknown to us currently, and matter of negative density (which is predicted as possible in superstring theory and M-Theory).

The real challenge is determining if either of the theories are viable unification theories. That's where the LHC comes into play.

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01-04-2011, 02:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Principal Scudworth View Post
I thought it was physically impossible to move anything at the speed of light?
Yes, and that's why the sci-fi fiction genre tends to create alternate undiscovered methods of travel, with some form of warp drive usually being the most popular. The most basic principle behind it being that if you take a piece of paper and draw two dots on opposite corners, the shortest route from one end to the other is not by drawing a straight line but rather by folding the paper so that the two corners touch. So in terms of space, the idea is that you find a way to bend space/time to get from point A to point B much quicker... I think this is how it works in Star Trek?

Personally though as far as fiction goes I'm much more interested in medieval fantasy than sci-fi, but for the direction of human progress I've always been fascinated by space travel and astronomy and lament our current society's lack of progress and apathy towards it.

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01-04-2011, 03:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Montag DP View Post
I know you mentioned something about this already, but if we could travel fast enough to reach another planet in a reasonable amount of time, the sad thing is that back on earth the time would be passing much more quickly and we wouldn't hear the results of it until much later (in earth time). I haven't run any numbers on it but I'm guessing that if we could travel fast enough to reach the nearest star within a year it would be a full lifetime back here on earth. Maybe I'll bust out my modern physics textbook later and find out what the actual time difference would be.

That's the problem with a lot of the sci-fi stuff like Star Wars/Star Trek/Halo which makes it much harder to actually imagine.
Now I am no physics guy, so this I don't understand.

Why would a year of traveling at the speed of light go by slower on earth? I mean, isn't it just a year of time, regardless of speed? Seems to me it is like saying that if you drove in a car for a year, then to joe blow standing on the side of the road it would have felt like 1.05 years or something.

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01-04-2011, 03:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Montag DP View Post
I know you mentioned something about this already, but if we could travel fast enough to reach another planet in a reasonable amount of time, the sad thing is that back on earth the time would be passing much more quickly and we wouldn't hear the results of it until much later (in earth time). I haven't run any numbers on it but I'm guessing that if we could travel fast enough to reach the nearest star within a year it would be a full lifetime back here on earth. Maybe I'll bust out my modern physics textbook later and find out what the actual time difference would be.
I'd love to help you out, but unfortunately I don't have a firm grasp on advanced physics. I wouldn't know where to start to calculate that all out.


Quote:
Originally Posted by HNJB View Post
Now I am no physics guy, so this I don't understand.

Why would a year of traveling at the speed of light go by slower on earth? I mean, isn't it just a year of time, regardless of speed?


There are also a couple episodes of 'The Mechanical Universe' that involve Lorentz compression and explain time dilation in a more in depth fashion.


Last edited by Joseppi: 01-04-2011 at 03:12 PM.
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01-04-2011, 03:43 PM
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Originally Posted by HNJB View Post
Now I am no physics guy, so this I don't understand.

Why would a year of traveling at the speed of light go by slower on earth? I mean, isn't it just a year of time, regardless of speed? Seems to me it is like saying that if you drove in a car for a year, then to joe blow standing on the side of the road it would have felt like 1.05 years or something.
It's a concept that's very hard to grasp which is a result of Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity. Basically, time is not constant for two observers moving at different speeds. For low speeds like we encounter on Earth it's not noticeable, but for greater and greater speed differences the effect becomes more and more pronounced. I'm sure Joseppi's video does a better job of explaining it than I am.

This effect has actually been measured. See here: http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/as...s/050225a.html

I can't say I understand "why" it happens (maybe I did when I took the course, I don't remember), but I do understand "how" - i.e. if I get the equations in front of me I could calculate it.

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01-04-2011, 11:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Joseppi View Post
I'd love to help you out, but unfortunately I don't have a firm grasp on advanced physics. I wouldn't know where to start to calculate that all out.
Okay, I ran the numbers. The closest star to us is Alpha Centauri, 4.37 light-years away. If we could travel at 75% the speed of light, it would take us 5.83 years to reach it. The time dilation formula is actually quite simple, and you can find it on this wikipedia page. At 75% the speed of light, 5.83 years for the moving observer would be equal to 8.81 years for the stationary observer on earth. At 90% the speed of light, it would take the traveler 4.86 years to get there but would seem like 11.14 years to us.

Okay, so my original guesses were way off. I was over-guesstimating the time dilation effect. Still, it's significantly longer for those of us who aren't on the space ship.

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