The Sequester Walks The Planck: Mar 26 2013

Show Notes: March 26th, 2013 UTC

Hosts: Paul, Jesse, Lianne
Title: The Sequester Walks The Planck

A little extra time on the show tonight allowed us to pontificate on the political strife in the United States. The sequestration has caused a massive amount of public funding cuts, including NASA public outreach and education. Of course the Planck Telescope delivers its news that Universe is slightly older than we once thought. Paul, ‘the dean,’ gripes over his failing Aussie cricket team (but mostly off-air). Astronomy Night in Canada starts with York Universe, thanks for listening! See our show notes and podcast below.

This Week In Astronomy and Space History:

1.  Today 1655: Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens discovered Saturn’s moon Titan:

  • It is the only natural satellite known to have a dense atmosphere, and the only object other than Earth for which clear evidence of stable bodies of surface liquid has been found.
  • Titan has a diameter roughly 50% larger than Earth’s moon and is 80% more massive.
  • Christiaan Huygens invented the pendulum clock 1657, which was a breakthrough in timekeeping.

2. March 23, 2001 – MIR reenters and burns

  • MIR operated beginning 1986

3. March 29, 1807 -Vesta discovered by Heinrich Wilhelm Matthias Olbers, AKA the 11th planet

  • 10th planet 5 years earlier – Pallas 1802


1. Voyager 1 has NOT left the solar system:

  • 124 astronomical units (AU) or 18.5 billion kilometres from the centre of the solar system
  • Voyager 2  at distance of 100 AU
  • It is the consensus of the Voyager Science team that  Voyager 1 has not lest the solar system yet.
  • Dec 2012 they reported that it is in a new region called the magnetic highway
  • Yes/No crossing the heliopause?
  • Now observing a broader range of Galactic cosmic rays
  • Three conditions for “End of Solar System”
  • Flux from sun drops (protons – hmmm maybe YES)
  • Flux from outside sources increases (cosmic rays – YES)
  • Significant drop in magnetic fields (No?)

2. Friday Night Lights: Fireball Lights Up the U.S. East Coast

3. SpaceX’s Dragon Capsule returns to Earth tomorrow 26 March 2013 around midday?

4. Solar System Update

  • PAN STARRS is getting harder to see!
  • Mars is moving to conjunction with the sun
  • Curiosity is rolling again, computer glitch solved!
  • Venus is snuggled up with the sun!
  • Mercury at  Greatest Elongation for 2013

Major Topics Discussed:

1. Plank Data Out

Data was released last week providing the most detailed image of the cosmic microwave background. This reveals tiny temperature fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background which are the seeds of the galaxies from today. This was, of course, taken by the Planck Space Telescope.  This results shed light on the first 380,000 years after the birth of the universe.

Major Results:

1. The Universe is older than we thought. Planck says the Universe 13.798 +/- 0.037 billion years old. WMAP says 13.73 +/- 0.12 billion years. They agree within the uncertainties, but Planck is a more precise number.

2. The Hubble constant is 67.80 +/- 0.77 km/s/Mpc, indicating the Universe is expanding slower than we thought.

3. The energy in the Universe is organized slightly differently than we thought: 4.9% matter, 26.9 % dark matter, and 68.3% dark energy. Less dark energy than we thought.

4. The amplitude of fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background is anisotropic, or lopsided. It appears there are larger amplitudes on one side of the Universe compared to the other.

These results support the idea that in the first  10^-32 seconds after the big  bang the  universe underwent rapid expansion. Two other space based telescopes have mapped the temperature variations (COBE and WMAP). Planck is more than 3 times more sensitive than WMAP. Oddities initially found by WMAP were confirmed by Planck such as the asymmetry of the map, and the cold spot. Map was  based on the mission’s first 15.5 months of all-sky observations.

Good Image showing relative resolution of telescopes.

2. NASA Public Outreach Funding Controversy

  • the U.S. sequester – a “series of across-the-board cuts to government agencies totaling $1.2 trillion over 10 years
  • Friday, March 22, the Administration notes that “effective immediately, all education and public outreach activities should be suspended, pending further review. In terms of scope, this includes all public engagement and outreach events, programs, activities, and products developed and implemented by Headquarters, Mission Directorates, and Centers across the Agency, including all education and public outreach efforts conducted by programs and projects.”

3.  Europa may have a salty ocean below all that ice

Mike Brown (@plutokiller) and Kevin Hand of JPL have found more evidence that suggests the salty water from below the surface of Europa somehow makes its way to the surface.

Nobody knew there was this little dip in the spectrum because no one had the resolution to zoom in on it before. Instrumentation at the Keck Observatory (@KeckObservatory), has now surpassed the abilities of the Galileo mission back in 1989-2003. This is amazing because the 10m Keck-II spectrograph+AO is BETTER than sending a spacecraft there. Galileo in 1989 couldn’t do this. Keck is 640 million KM away

Brown and Hand found a Magnesium Sulfate Salt called Epsomite on the surface of Europa. Apparently this can ONLY originate from the ocean below.The found Magnesium Sulfate. There is no source for the Magnesium unless it comes from below the surface. The sulfates are likely deposited by Io’s Volcanoes. So why does this mean we know what’s going on inside? It’s possible the magnesium we see attached to the sulfates, is originally a magnesium chloride that reacts with sulfur from Io. If that is the case, that means the water below is rich in chlorides, sodium, potassium, and magnesium chlorides, indicating a salty ocean just like ours.

Thanks for listening!

-YorkUniverse Team

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