Out of This World: April and May

By Brenna Tiffany | Reporter

Einstein Got it Right

On Feb. 11, the National Science Foundation made an announcement referring to a discovery made by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory to change our views on space forever.

Picture this: over 1.3 billion years ago, two black holes merged together as one. In the process, a large wave of energy rippled through space. This ripple continued to move through the universe and recently passed Earth.

Way back when, Einstein had theorized that a force of energy exists called gravitational waves. A gravitational wave is a wave of energy created by accelerating masses. This brings the focus back to those black holes.

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory captured clear gravitational waves rippling out into space just a few moments before the two holes merged, thus proving that Einstein’s theory was correct, and gravitational waves do exist.

Not amazed? Keep reading.

The movie Interstellar came out on November 7 but not last year. The movie was released in 2014 which may seem insignificant if you’ve never seen the movie, or the concept of it just went over your head.

This movie is centered on the idea that intelligent being as can communicate through gravity, but not just plain old keeps you from floating everywhere gravity, it was centered on the theory of gravitational waves. That would mean that Interstellar was based on a simple theory from over 120 years ago, that was proven to be accurate only weeks ago. Amazed?

SpaceX Colonizing Mars

Mars: 142 million miles from the sun, negative 81 degrees Fahrenheit daily, 4,220 miles in diameter, 687 day year and…colonized by human beings?

Billionaire and founder of the program SpaceX, Elon Musk, announced that his plans for sending astronauts into space will be revealed by the end of this year. His decision was made final after successfully sending a ship, Dragon, to the International Space Station on Jan. 10.

The program has two particularly successful ships known as Falcon 9 and Dragon. Falcon9 was a ship that in 2012 launched Dragon into the orbit of the International Space Station. That same year, Musk announced that he had found a way to send a person to Mars and back for $500,000.

In Musk’s latest update on the trip to colonize Mars, he stated that he believed SpaceX would make it to Mars before 2026 whereas NASA announced that they planned on having human contact with the Red Planet by 2035.

So now we know that NASA and SpaceX are planning to trips to Mars, there’s no way anyone else is going, right? 

Wrong.

A new program recently popped up called Mars One, founded by Dutch businessman, Bas Lansdorp. Mars One is a private, nonprofit program that is planning on having an entire colonization of people on Mars by 2024. Setback: it is a one way trip.

That hasn’t stopped over 200,000 people from applying to be one of the first people to get to Mars. Mars One has narrowed it down from 200,000 applicants to 100, 30 of which are American citizens.

The race is on to find out which program will make it to Mars first and what discoveries will be made.

We Can Weigh the Universe

In any basic science class kids are taught about the idea of gases and other materials that make up the universe. Over the years, scientists have come to find that another force, known as dark matter, also exists. Now for those that don’t know, dark matter is basically matter that does not exist. Is that a confusing enough way to put it? 

Basically, scientists know that dark matter exists, in fact it makes up the 98 percent of, well, everything. The problem is that dark matter is almost impossible to get ahold of, and therefore is extremely difficult for scientists to study and understand.

Recently a team of researchers were reviewing evidence collected by the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton spacecraft and came across an unusual spike in X-ray waves emitted from both the Andromeda galaxy and the Perseus galaxy clusters. The X-ray signal did not correspond with any known atoms or particles, and was thus classified as dark matter.

Now knowing where and how to find dark matter, scientists have been able to create tests on dark matter in order to weigh the universe. Dark matter is currently believed to have a mass of about 40 giga-electron volts or 40 GeV. To put that in perspective, that’s about 42 times the size of a proton. Using this information, scientists have been able to begin calculations to put in perspective just how much the universe weighs overall.

  • Pluto’s moon, Charon was imaged and found to have “tears” in its surface, some of which are miles long and up to four miles deep. This suggests that Charon might have been home to a large ocean in its younger years.
  • Scientists discovered radioactive debris in our Oceans containing bits of Iron-60, and element found in the core of supernova stars. The stars were found to have been located nearly 300 light years away which would mean they would have been visible to Earth anywhere from 1.7 to 3.2 million years ago. The debris was carried to Earth through interstellar dust grains from two different stars that were 8.8 and 9.2 times larger than our sun.
  • President Barack Obama tweeted out, “Welcome back to Earth, @StationCDRKelly! Your year in space is vital to the future of American space travel. Hope gravity isn’t a drag!” Scott Kelly is currently being tested alongside his twin brother, Mark Kelly, in order to see if anything has changed since Kelly’s year in space.

 

Illustration by Brenna Tiffany

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