A Space Oddity – Tribute to David Bowie

One of David Bowie’s most popular songs was ‘Major Tom, a fictional astronaut that Bowie depicted in this and two other songs (“Ashes to Ashes”, and “Hallo Spaceboy”).  The song was produced during the time when America was on a Cold War journey to the moon and it was only five days later that the United States’ Apollo 11 mission would launch into outer space.

Apollo 11 was the famous manned moon trip where Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon’s surface to become the first human being to accomplish the space event of the century.

Bowie’s title “A Space Oddity”, also has some relevance to the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

As we pay this tribute to David Bowie, we recollect his Space Oddity tribute to the American space initiatives. The below video is Astronaut Chris Hadfield recognition to the legendary singer. Hadfield filmed this while he was in the International Space Station.

David Bowie – Your “Space Oddity’ has come true!




Astrology: Science or Superstition

The Science of Astrology (CDP)

As defined by astrologers, astrology is the study of stars, motion of the planets and how it affects people living on  earth. It is based on the idea that movements of the planets and the positioning of stars at the particular time a person is born has a profound impact on the life and personality of that person. This is a bold assumption which raises fundamental questions about astrology. Is astrology a set of superstitious beliefs or an old science whose theories have remained beyond the test and grasp of the limits of current (dominant) scientific paradigms and technology?

Astrology vs. Hard Science

Astrology is an old field of study, and humans from various cultures have been interpreting life on earth by studying and analyzing the celestial bodies. Research shows that astrology has existed for thousands of years, and is said to give meaning to time.

This is what astrologers believe and not everyone agrees with them. Hard science and its believers totally reject astrological believes and studies. According to them, the positioning of sun and other celestial bodies in relation to earth causes seasonal variations, day and night, eclipses, and other natural phenomenon in the skies. However, this is the only way positioning and/or movement of celestial bodies can affect the lives of human beings. These factors do not affect the life and personality of any human being. Scientists completely reject the claim of astrologers that there is a strong link between time, celestial movements and events taking place during a specific time period.

Astrology, Quantum Mechanics, and Synchronicity

Astrology, believed, studied, and followed by millions of people all over the world, can be seen as an illustration of Quantum Physics and Synchronicity (the idea of synchronicity was given by the psychiatrist Carl Jung). According to Quantum Physics, objects have the capability to influence each other, regardless of the distance between two objects. It believes that each atom, and hence each object, has some kind of force that connects them to one another and through which it affects another object. However, it has not yet been discovered what these forces are. The discovery of these forces by physicists could verify astrological believes.

Carl Jung’s idea of Synchronicity is based on the belief that there is a connection between our lives (psychological states) and other events. According to Jung, this relationship is not causal. He says that every person and planet has a specific cycle that mirrors each other through, what he identifies as, the symbolic language of archetypes.   

Astrology does not believe that everything is predetermined, rather it is based on the idea that every individual is likely to develop specific personality traits because of the time he/she was born and the positioning of celestial bodies at that particular time. On the basis of this believe, astrologers calculate and then suggest people what choices will yield best results for them.  

Final Thoughts

The idea that movement of celestial bodies affects the life on earth is validated by the fact that it is on the basis of these very movements that we have been predicting weather on earth. A fisherman can predict the condition of the sea by looking at the moon, or the condition of the sea.

Researchers, like Stephen Kane, and a large number of other people, including kinesiologists, yogis, and many others, believe that human bodies continuously interact with our environment at different levels, due to numerous radiant frequencies. But, science has not yet been able to find those frequencies.

There might be some gaps that astrologers have not yet been able to fill and questions that have not been answered. Perhaps it is science that has yet to tap into this field of study and interpret the theories in its own paradigm. And perhaps, it is the inability of science and technology to test what astrology has been postulating for centuries. As a result, its wisdom has remained beyond the scientific grasp (as with quantum physics and string theory) and hence relegated to superstition for the time being.


Why Juno Reaching Jupiter Is a Big Deal

Juno on its way to Juipter
Artists conception of Juno on its way to Jupiter









It took nearly 5 years for Juno, a NASA spacecraft, to successfully enter Jupiter’s orbit, and Earth received confirmation that it had done so on July 4th.

“…what is more American than a NASA mission going boldly where no spacecraft has gone before?” asked NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden. “With Juno, we will investigate the unknowns of Jupiter’s massive radiation belts to delve deep into not only the planet’s interior, but into how Jupiter was born and how our entire solar system evolved.”

A Modern Spacecraft Ventures Into the Unknown

Beginning in October, Juno will begin to collect data on the planet in an attempt to understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter. NASA expects that the information gathered by the spacecraft will help enhance understanding of how giant planets form and the role they played in bringing together the rest of the solar system.

Knowing the gases present on Jupiter will provide a greater understanding about the solar system’s earliest days. In addition, Juno should be able to help better understand how much water is contained in the planet. Knowing this will answer the question of where in the solar system Jupiter formed: its present location, closer to the Sun, or farther from the Sun? If Jupiter had migrated, then it would have impacted other bodies in the solar system, which provides more information about how the solar system formed and even about the formation of Earth.

Filling in the Jupiter Info Gap

“I view Jupiter as a missing link,” Barry Mauk of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, said in a statement. “Jupiter is the link between the nearby space environments we study at planets like Earth, and distant astrophysical systems where magnetic fields hold sway, such as early-stage star forming regions, and hyper-energetic radiation regions like the Crab Nebula. Juno is not only going to help us better understand Jupiter, it’s going to help us better understand the universe around us and our place in it.”

Juno will map Jupiter’s gravity and magnetic fields to better understand the planet’s interior structure, and observe the composition and circulation of the deep atmosphere. Astronomers still don’t understand some very basic facts about Jupiter, such as how much oxygen it holds or if the planet has a solid core.

The spacecraft had to travel 1.74 billion miles to reach Jupiter and it used Earth’s gravity to boost its speed through a flyby that occurred 2 years after it had launched. The Juno mission is set to conclude in February 2018, after completing 37 total orbits of Jupiter over the course of 20 months. At that time, the probe will burn up in Jupiter’s outer atmosphere.

What is a Nebula?

Crab Nebula
Crab Nebula

The Birth of a Star

This phenomenon is the result of gravity pulling gas and dust together. It is a process that is multiplied millions of times within the nebula and the beautiful objects that are forming are the fetal stages of stars being created.

Specifically, the gas is a combination of hydrogen and helium which clump together to form larger masses and since gravity gets stronger as the mass of the object gets bigger, additional matter is attracted to the object, which eventually becomes massive enough to form a star. In other words, it is the gravitational force of an object that is directly proportional to the object’s mass.

Nebula’s Molecular Breakdown

Veil Nebula
Veil Nebula

Unbeknownst to many, most of the universe is not a complete void. There is much (loose) matter floating around between the stars. And this matter is not visible to the naked eye, as it is in its atomic form; such as, the atoms of hydrogen and helium, as well as plasma and other materials. This sub-atomic matter is called the interstellar medium (ISM). More specifically, the interstellar medium is composed primarily by hydrogen, followed by helium with trace amounts of carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen.

In areas of the ISM where the atomic particles are densely populated, the formation of molecules begins, most commonly hydrogen (H2). The more the molecular masses clump together, the greater their gravitational attraction will be to other bodies and particles in their vicinity. As the particles clump further to form larger and more massive structures, they attract more dust and gas.

The Nuclear Element

Enter nuclear fusion, since the gravitational pressure becomes so high that the fusion of hydrogen atoms occurs. This results in the emission of high-energy electromagnetic radiation, which in turn ionizes the outer layers of gas. Ionization is the process by which an atom or a molecule acquires a negative or positive charge by gaining or losing electrons to form ions.

Ionized gas is known as plasma, and plasma along with electromagnetic radiation are now added to this mixture. This then materializes into the early stages of star formation.

Hence, the formation of stars occurs exclusively within these molecular clouds. This is a natural result of their low temperatures and high densities because the gravitational force acting to collapse the cloud must surpass the forces that are working to push the particles outward and the molecular cloud is now a nebula.

A View of Colliding Galaxies

Colliding GalaxiesSeveral powerful telescopes, including the Hubble, have managed to capture an event that occurred when the universe was half its current age: two galaxies colliding. This ancient event has been hidden to acus until now, because the galaxies were situated behind a much larger galaxy blocking our view.

However, the large galaxy in question was so big that it acts like a magnifying glass for the space behind it. This and other “lensing galaxies” are so large, they bend and distort light from smaller galaxies behind them, allowing astronomers to be able to see what would normally be obscured from view as long as the lensing galaxy and the one behind it are precisely aligned.

“These chance alignments are quite rare and tend to be hard to identify, but, recent studies have shown that by observing at far-infrared and millimeter wavelengths we can find these cases much more efficiently,” Hugo Messias of the Universidad de Concepcion n Chile and the Centro de Astronomia e Astrofisica da Universidade de Lisboa in Portugal, said in a statement.

At the end of July, astronomers found the farthest lensing galaxy yet, so distant that its light has taken 9.6 billion years to reach Earth. The magnifying properties of the galaxy allows us to compare local galaxies with much more remote ones and events that occurred when the Universe was significantly younger.

The above image was created combining multiple images from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Keck-II telescope at the Keck Observatory on Hawaii. These two galaxies, known collectively as H1429-0028, is creating more than 400 solar masses of gas into new stars each year. In comparison, the Antennae Galaxies, a similar phenomenon of colliding galaxies occurring much closer to us, is only forming stars with a total rate of 10 times the mass of the Sun.

Since the lensing galaxy is so far away, these events happened more than 9.6 billion years in the past. In real time, both the lensing galaxy and the colliding galaxies probably looks vastly different.

A Colorful Display in Space: The Bubble Nebula

Bubble Nebula
The Bubble Nebula is seven light years across.

Celebrating 26 years since the Hubble Space Telescope was launched into Earth orbit, NASA highlighted an unusual and colorful event in space: the Bubble Nebula. This nebula is formed by a super-hot, massive star that is blowing an enormous bubble into space.

The Bubble Nebula is seven  light years across (or 42 trillion miles) and situated in the Cassiopeia constellation, this circular mass of gas and dust is located more than 7,100 light years away from Earth. The star forming the Bubble Nebula is 45 times the size of our Sun.

According to NASA, the gas on the star is so hot that it escapes as wind moving more than 4 million miles per hour. This outflow sweeps up the cold, interstellar gas and forms the outer edge of the bubble.

“As Hubble makes its 26th revolution around our home star, the sun, we celebrate the event with a spectacular image of a dynamic and exciting interaction of a young star with its environment,” John Grunsfeld, Hubble astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in a statement. “The view of the Bubble Nebula, crafted from WFC-3 images, reminds us that Hubble gives us a front row seat to the awe inspiring universe we live in.”

As the gases heat to different temperatures, they emit different colors: oxygen emits blue near the hot star, while cool pillars of hydrogen (green) and nitrogen (red) appear yellow. The nebula is surrounded by magenta wisps that are the remnants of a supernova from thousands of years ago, according to the National Optical Astronomy Observatory.

The Bubble Nebula is by no means a new discovery. It was first sighted in 1787. The star is about 4 million years old and astronomers expect it will detonate as a supernova in another 10 to 20 million years.

The Bubble Nebula, also called NGC 7635, is also not the only one of its kind. There is another, designated as NGC 6822, in Barnard’s Galaxy, which is located 1.6 million light years away in the constellation Sagittarius.

Largest Planet Orbit Discovered

J2126 Largest PlanetA group of scientists led by Dr. Niall Deacon of the University of Hertfordshire in the UK have discovered the massive orbit of a planet that was first discovered in 2008 by Space Telescope Science Institute astronomer Neill Reid.

The planet is 13 times the size of our Jupiter and is named J2126. This exoplanet orbits an active and rapidly rotating red dwarf star named TYC9486. Until recently, the star and its planet were not linked. Dr. Deacon’s team has found that the planet’s orbit is around 1 trillion kilometers from its sun, about 6,900 times the distance from our Earth to the Sun. The time it takes for J2126 to fully orbit its star is a staggering 900,000 Earth years.

The two objects were linked when Dr. Deacon and his team found the objects moving through space together, implying they are in fact associated. Dr. Deacon jokingly called the bond a “long distance relationship.” A drop of a hat distance in galactic terms, the star and planet is only 104 light years from our Solar system, the pair have become known as the widest planet system found thus far.

In 2014, a team of astronomers in Canada thought the planet was free-floating and identified it as a likely member of a 45 million year old group of stars and brown dwarfs known as the Tucana Horologium Association. J2126 seems very similar to the planet Beta Pictoris b, a planet which we have the most information about, which will hopefully help scientists learn more about this new planet and its strange orbit. Exactly how this planet and its host star took shape remains a mystery to be solved.

The Planets in Our Solar System

There are currently eight planets in our solar system. (Previously, nine before 2010, when it was determined that Pluto was not a planet, but a massive body revolving around our sun).

Planets of Our Solar System

Designated as the smallest planet in our solar system, Mercury is the closest planet to the sun at a distance. Only 36 million miles or 0.39 AU.  Mercury orbits the sun every 88 Earth days. (The closer the planet is to the Sun, the faster it revolves around it). Mercury’s has a thin atmosphere. We could not survive in this atmosphere. In 1974 , two spacecraft visited Mercury: Mariner 10 and MESSENGER. Learn More.

Second planet from the sun and slightly smaller than Earth. It revolves around the sun every 225 Earth days. Over 40 spacecraft have explored Venus. Notably, Magellan which mapped over 98% of the planet’s surface. The planet’s temperatures can go up to 480 degrees. Venus is unusual as it spins backwards, resulting in the sun rising in the west and setting in the east.

Earth, the third planet from the sun at a distance. It is 93 million miles or one AU (hence the AU designation and reference). Earth is at the right distance to sustain an abundance of life, including intelligent life. Not too close, like Venus. Not too far like Jupiter. A perfect setting for life as we know it.

Mars is the fourth planet from the sun at a distance 142 million miles or 1.52 AU. Mars makes a complete orbit around the sun in 687 Earth days/ There are two moons orbiting Mars. Phobos and Deimos. It it believed that Mars once sustained life many years ago and we are still searching the planet with the Mars Voyager program to determine just that. If confirmed, scientists can then determine that Earth is not the only planet that can sustain life.

The largest of the 8 plants. If Jupiter was a soccor ball, Earth would be a pea in comparison. Jupiter is about (484 million miles, 5.2 AU. Jupiter makes a complete orbit around the sun every 12 Earth years. Known as the ‘gas-giant’, it has not solid surface and imagine landing on Jupiter with no solid surface! There are 50 moons revolving around this planet. Jupiter is know for its Great Red Spot. A gigantic storm of immense proportions that has been going on since we first discovered Jupiter hundreds of years ago.

Saturn is the sixth planet from the sun (886 million miles, 9.5 AU. Saturn makes a complete orbit around the sun every 29 Earth years.As with Jupiter, Saturn is also a gas-giant with no solid surface.There are 53 known moons revolving abound Saturn. Saturn is probably the most popular plant with its outer rings circling it. The rings, 7 in all are gaseous objects that stay intact from Saturn’s gravitational pull.

Uranus orbits our sun at a distance of about 1.8 billion miles or 19.19 AU. Uranus makes a complete orbit around the sun in about 84 Earth years. Because of the distance from the sun, Uranus is a cold, icy planet. The planet contains 27 moons revolving around it.

Neptune orbits our sun, a star. Neptune is 2.8 billion miles, 30.07 AU from the sun. Like Uranus, Neptune is also a cold (actually colder) planet then Uranus. Neptune has 13 moons. Learn More

Interesting Facts on Astronomy and the Universe