The infinite space and its uncountable mysteries will pique anyone’s interest; hence, multiple theories and movie plots exist today; we all know it ends badly for us in each!
One of the most popular plots is the ultimate destruction of mankind by a falling asteroid. Since we believe that the dinosaurs’ reign ended with an asteroid some few million years ago, is it wrong to question that we might face the same fate somewhere in the distant future?
The real questions you should be asking are, how well do we know asteroids? Where did they come from? Are we prepared to save humanity if an asteroid is headed our way?
You’ve come to the right place if you’re looking for answers. Tune in as we delve deeper into everything you should know about asteroids.
What Exactly Are Asteroids?
The rocky materials or remnants floating around space orbiting the sun are asteroids. Even though they orbit the sun like the rest of the planets in our solar system, asteroids are extremely smaller when compared.
In addition, unlike the planets, asteroids do not have a distinct form, shape, or size, which means they could be as large as nearly 1000km wide, or the asteroid could be no bigger than a dust particle.
Did you know that the largest asteroid ever recorded is named Ceres, and it’s at least 940km wide? It was given the name “Dwarf Planet” for its size and its almost spherical shape.
That said, the asteroids could be almost spherical like Ceres, but most of these objects, in general, are irregularly shaped or jagged. They even rotate erratically, unlike planets in the solar system. If you’re wondering where they exist, you’d be surprised to know that asteroids are orbiting the sun throughout the solar system.
Pinpointing an exact location where you would find asteroids abundantly is the asteroid belt, the region between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars but are not limited to this region.
They can also be found in the orbits of planets circling the sun. This means that the planet and the asteroids are orbiting the sun in the same oval path, also known as the elliptical orbit.
While millions of asteroids may have not been discovered yet, the current asteroid count by NASA is a little over a million.
What Is the Origin Story Of Asteroids?
Yes, it is as heavenly as you might’ve imagined. You must’ve come across how the entire solar system, according to science, came about. It dates back to 4.5 billion years ago and involves a thick cloud of dust and gas.
A great science and history lesson for another day. However, when this event of the solar system’s formation came about, the materials that remained and haven’t been incorporated into the creation of planets are what we call asteroids today!
The Composition and Classification Of Asteroids
Now that we clearly understand that asteroids vary in shape, size, region, and formation, let’s delve deeper into their composition and classification, according to NASA.
The composition classes of these asteroids are divided into three types, Chondrite (C-type), Stony (S-type), and Metallic (M-type).
- Chondrite (C-type)
Chondrite asteroids are among the most ancient and common types of asteroids you’ll find in the solar system. They are dark, and it is assumed and studied that these types of asteroids comprise silicate rocks and clay.
They are assumed to have remained completely unchanged for billions of years.
- Stony (S-type)
These types of asteroids represent at least 17%, give or take, of the known asteroids today! They are known to be bright and comprise nickel-iron and silicate materials.
It has been studied that the Stony (S-type) asteroids are mostly located in the inner asteroid belt.
- Metallic (M-type)
The metallic (M-type) asteroids are known to be the third most common asteroids found in the solar system, yet it is one of the least studied asteroids today. They are quite bright, and not every asteroid in the M-type is made of metal, nickel-iron.
These asteroids differentiate in their composition based on how far away it was formed from the sun.
- Asteroid Belt
The Asteroid belt is the main location where most of the asteroids we know today are found. This belt exists between Jupiter and Mars. It is estimated that around 1.1 to 1.9 million asteroids in this region are larger than 0.6 miles (1km) in diameter.
However, the belt also contains millions of smaller asteroids due to these remains of materials clashing together.
- The Near Earth Asteroids
Some asteroids have orbits that pass close to our mother Earth and hence are classified as near-earth asteroids. However, if you’re wondering if some of these asteroids cross paths with Earth and not just orbit close to it, then yes!
These asteroids are classified as “earth-crossers.”
- The Trojans
The asteroids that share an orbit with a planet are the Trojan asteroids. It never collides with the planets since they are usually located in two particular places known as the L4 and 5 Lagrangian points.
How this works and why they never collide is because these special points keep the asteroid from flying astray with the help of a balanced gravitational pull from the planet and the sun.
In theory, it is proposed that there are as many Jupiter trojan asteroids as in the asteroid belt. So Jupiter hosts the most trojans compared to Mars and Earth.
Will We Ever Face An Asteroid Apocalypse?
While the thought of an asteroid hitting Earth and ending all mankind sounds extremely horrific even to imagine, we won’t be facing this type of destruction for a couple of million years with the technological advancement we have today!
Many people dream of becoming an astronaut, but only a few actually reach the target. The idea of entering space and exploring different planets lures many young people.
The whole experience of getting inside the spaceship, taking off, and escaping the earth’s atmosphere are factors that will ignite the desire of most young minds. However, you must fulfill many requirements to become one of NASA’s astronauts.
NASA has set specific requirements for aspiring astronauts throughout the country. Firstly, you must have intellectual brilliance, top physical form, and unmatched willpower to push yourself to the limit, but the most important are the four basic requirements set by NASA.
Before moving on to the four requirements, let us discuss how NASA used to select its astronauts and whether recent changes have occurred.
Astronaut Selection Process
NASA’s astronaut selection process has seen some changes in criteria since the start of the program. The organization initially started employing military personnel who were good at flying aircraft. These soldiers also needed to have some experience in the field of engineering to be chosen as NASA’s astronauts.
The process of selecting astronauts changed in 1964 when NASA started recruiting scientists for their space programs. The organization realized that the astronauts needed scientific knowledge to explore outer space. This was impossible by sending only military personnel with no science background.
So, NASA started recruiting people who had academic qualifications in engineering, medicine, or natural science for their space programs. If you had any qualifications among those three, you were eligible to apply for NASA’s scientist-astronaut positions.
The change in the process of recruiting scientists for NASA’s astronaut programs was also expedited by the rise in private spaceflight companies. This led to an increase in the requirements for astronauts.
Requirements To Apply For NASA’s Astronaut Program
- US Citizenship Is Mandatory
You must be a citizen of the US if you want to be a part of NASA. It is a vital requirement set up by NASA because the organization’s employees are directly connected to the US Federal government.
The government cannot have someone working for them who is not an official citizen of the country. If you are an employee in the NASA program, you will receive your paychecks from the federal government. When you receive any increment from the government, the American taxpayer looks after your expenses.
The requirement of US citizenship also concerns the country’s security. If you are not a citizen of the US working for NASA, you might give away vital information about the country’s space research programs to other countries. So, it is important to employ aspirants who are US citizens at NASA.
There is also a provision where you can apply for NASA with valid documents proving your dual citizenship.
- Educational Qualifications
You must have a master’s degree in the STEM field if you want to apply for NASA’s astronaut program. For those unaware of the STEM fields, it stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
These are only the requirements you must have to be eligible to apply. It does not mean you will be selected for the astronaut program.
You can also have two years of work related to a STEM doctoral program even if you don’t have a master’s degree in the STEM field. This allows you to apply for the highly-regarded space program.
There are also other avenues that can make you eligible for NASA’s space program, like being a doctor of medicine or completing a pilot program from an aviation school that is nationally recognized.
- Work Experience
Becoming an astronaut at NASA is not an easy task, as it takes commitment and hard work. There are two ways you can become a NASA astronaut if you don’t have the basic educational qualifications.
The first one is to become a pilot in the US military, which means you must have at least 60000 minutes of flying experience. This does not mean using only basic flying rules, but you must be excellent at it and safe at the same time.
You can also become a flight test pilot by enlisting in a pilot school recognized nationally. You will not be able to become a NASA astronaut unless you are excellent at flying an aircraft or assisting the pilot in maintaining safety protocols.
The other way is to get a doctorate in any of the fields mentioned by NASA and have at least two years of research under your belt. If you have research experience, you will be able to provide on-site assistance. That makes you eligible to apply to become an astronaut for NASA.
- Pass NASA’s Physical Test
You must be at the top of your physical fitness to be a NASA astronaut. You will experience different atmospheric pressure in outer space, for which your body must endure the changes.
NASA has a long-duration physical test for intending astronauts, requiring you to pass certain criteria. The vision in both sides of your eyes should be correctable by 20/20. You can get your eyes surgically corrected or use glasses to achieve the visual requirements set by NASA.
Since an astronaut needs to wear a spacesuit and fly in a spaceship, the body’s proportions should be in accordance with NASA’s requirements. Aspirants must go through a series of meticulous body measurements to meet NASA’s physical requirements. You will also undergo other physical tests, such as stamina, endurance, lung capacity, etc.
Understanding the concept of the planetary system helps us become insightful about the Earth we call our home and expands our knowledge about the ways of the world outside. There is a family of stars and planets aligned in the Milky Way that makes our solar system unique and beckons people to explore the details. We can’t remember all the information about space, so this is a guide to help you find out more about our solar system.
What is the Solar System?
The solar system is a great cluster of celestial bodies that are held in the palm of gravity as they orbit around the scorching Sun. The sun, which is a spherical mass of hotness and an illuminating object of light and heat, acts as the center for these bodies to move around. What surrounds the sun is a collection of smaller stellar bodies of different kinds.
The solar system, also known as the planetary system or the Copernican system, consists of the aforementioned Sun and the bodies tied to its attraction force, ranging from planets, asteroids, moons, and comets to dwarf planets. The planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and other dwarf planets like Pluto, Ceres, etc. Far beyond the solar system, there is a more extensive variety of planets than the number of stars we have in our sky.
Characteristics of the Solar System
Here are a few things you should know about our solar system:
The reason why our planetary system has a unique name is that there are many other systems in the universe that orbit an anchor star. Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) established that the planets move around the sun, and so the solar system gets its name from the word ‘solar’, which is relevant to Solis, Latin for Sun.
It is believed that the solar system came to be 4.6 billion years ago due to the solar nebula, a heavy cloud of cosmic gas and dust. A supernova occurred, which is described as an explosion wave of a nearby bursting star that destroyed the cloud. A center of gravity and pressure emerged at its core and became the Sun, pulling objects towards it and shaping the solar system.
- Size & Scope
The system expands farther than the Sun and its eight orbiting planets. The Kuiper Belt, which lies beyond the orbit of Neptune, is included. There is a sparse distribution of icy objects such as Pluto. Beyond this belt, the Oort Cloud acts as a shell covering the solar system. This cloud acts as a gravitational boundary that allows the planets to return closer to the center point, the Sun.
Over 200 moons exist in the solar system, and studying these moons gives people additional clues about the history and dynamics of our planetary system. While there is one moon owned by the Earth, more than 80 moons revolve around Jupiter and Saturn, and contrastingly, none for Mercury and Venus. The asteroids around the Earth have also been discovered to have tiny moons, according to a 2017 confirmation.
NASA calls a planet a celestial body that (1) orbits around the solar system’s core, the Sun, (2) with a prominent neighborhood surrounding its orbit, and (3) holds an amount of mass that protects its self-attraction to gravity, giving it a rounded surface. Problems arise when more planets are discovered with dwarf planets (for example, Pluto) cannot pass the test. However, we will look at the planets with clear paths around the Sun.
The planet Mercury is the smallest but closest one to the Sun. Its size is slightly bigger than the moon that revolves around the Earth and ⅓ of the Earth itself. Only 0.4 astronomical units from the Sun, Mercury takes 88 complete days to orbit the Sun.
The second planet from the core of the solar system is Venus, named after the Roman goddess of love & beauty. This rocky planet has a toxic atmosphere consisting of yellow clouds made of sulfuric acid. A day spent on Venus would be 243 Earthly days.
The third from the Sun would be our blue planet, the Earth. Water takes up two-thirds of the planet and is the most remarkable due to its ability to sustain life. With more than 7.7 billion people living on it, it is abundant in gasses like oxygen and nitrogen.
The cold but red planet Mars is fourth on the list. It is known as the Red Planet because of its red color soil due to the iron oxide layer. With similar traits to Earth, mountainous regions, canyons, and storms, many people have believed it could host life forms. However, its plunging cold climate and inability to block UV rays prevent this.
Fifth is Jupiter, the biggest gas giant within our solar system, with rings too thin to see. This enormous planet holds more mass than the combined mass of all the other planets and has 80 moons revolving around it. It is extremely fast that a year on Jupiter would take up 11.8 years on Earth.
Saturn, mostly made of interstellar gas, runs sixth as a planet from the Sun. It is known for its ring system, which seems solid but very thin. It is incredibly windy on the planet, and helium makes up most of its composition, so you would not be able to stand on the planet.
Seventh in line is Uranus, an odd planet with its green and blue hue. The clouds it contains are composed of hydrogen sulfide, and the planet is believed to smell like rotten eggs. It is an ice giant with 13 rings and the first planet to be discovered via the telescope.
Neptune, last but not least, is the coldest planet in our solar system due to its sizable distance from the sun. Its width is four times as much as the Earth’s and takes up 164.8 Earth years in just one year. The temperature is about -345 degrees Fahrenheit, and it has a dense atmosphere filled with wind.
Life beyond Earth has been a topic in most people’s conversations for centuries, and it’s fascinating to think that there could be a higher form of life out there somewhere in the multiverse.
However, while the multiverse may be hypothetical and is undoubtedly a vast subject to delve into entirely for newbies and space enthusiasts alike, the distant dream of life forms outside of Earth is kept afloat with the existence of Exoplanets.
If you’re here, then you might have an idea of what Exoplanets are.
And even if you have stumbled on this article by chance, stick around cause we’ll be sure to tickle your curiosity with these strange new worlds that have been found. And how they bring the possibility of extraterrestrial beings living in the unknown!
But first, let’s start with the basics!
What Exactly Are Exoplanets?
In simplest terms, Exoplanets, or Extrasolar planets, are any planets that exist apart from our own solar system. These planets usually orbit around stars, like the Earth and the Sun, and most scientists believe each star can have one exoplanet.
On the other hand, some Exoplanets float in space without orbiting around a star, but in the galactic center, these Exoplanets are categorized as rogue planets.
While the first-ever exoplanet was discovered around the 1990s, further into today, a total of more than 5000 Exoplanets have been discovered by scientists, and believe it or not, that is just the tip of the iceberg.
As we’ve mentioned, there is a possibility that each star has one exoplanet orbiting around it; even our galaxy has around 100 billion stars; imagine the Exoplanets that exist in our Universe, which hosts at least over 100 billion galaxies.
However, there are only a little over 5000 Exoplanets discovered today since most of these Exoplanets are located trillions of miles away, the closest being four light years, and like Earth, they reflect the light of their sun.
So naturally, the Exoplanets are hidden by the outshining light of various stars, even in our galaxy, making it extremely difficult to detect them with our current technologies.
These Exoplanets are made up of similar elements to the planets in our solar system but may differ in the mix of these elements. Some Exoplanets may be filled with ice or water, while some are filled with carbon or iron.
Accordingly, these Exoplanets may be rocky like Venus or Earth or rich in gas like some of the planets in our solar system.
What Are The Types Of Exoplanets?
As we’ve mentioned, out of the thousands of Exoplanets discovered to date, scientists have figured out that the planets vary greatly depending on their composition and the exterior and interior appearance they hold!
Here are the types of Exoplanets you should know about.
The Terrestrial Exoplanets
These Exoplanets are generally the size of the Earth or smaller and way miniature compared to most of the planets discovered. They are usually composed of carbon, water, rocks, or silicate.
With the advancement of technologies, scientists are tirelessly investigating if some of these terrestrial Exoplanets, like the Trappist-1 e, are equipped with habitable atmospheres or oceans but are not limited to this.
These Exoplanets are commonly known as terrestrial, yet differentiating them from other terrestrial Exoplanets is that they are more massive and even exceptionally larger than Earth.
However, while Super-Earths may be twice as big as the Earth, they are light compared to giants like Uranus or Neptune, and in addition, they may be composed of gas, rocks, or both.
Clouds of uncertainty reign above these Exoplanets with possible habitable conditions. Hence scientists are trying to uncover the mystery behind them since even though these types of planets are non-existent in our solar system, they resemble some of our planets.
An example would be Kepler-186f which has the potential to turn out to be a rocky planet similar to Earth but exceptionally bigger.
The Neptunian Exoplanets
These Exoplanets are called the Neptunians since they are similar in size to our very own Uranus and Neptune. While the inner composition of Neptunians may differ, they are all commonly dominated by helium and hydrogen atmospheres paired with cores consisting of heavy metals or rocks.
This uncertainty about the composition of the elements on these Neptunian Exoplanets is due to their super heavy clouds that block light from going through them. This makes it hard for scientists to decipher the molecules present in their atmosphere.
The Gas Giants/Exoplanets
Some of the largest Exoplanets that have been discovered are categorized as gas giants since they come head-to-head in size with the largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter, but they can even be much bigger.
These Exoplanets are composed of hydrogen and/or helium, and much like our Jupiter, they don’t contain hard surfaces but rather have gases swirling above a solid planetary core.
Gas giant Exoplanets are also much closer to their stars, so their temperatures take off and are always in the thousands of degrees regardless of whether it’s in Celsius or Fahrenheit.
In recent times, even though we are not fully equipped with the best technologies to spot Exoplanets that are further than some trillion miles away, the possibility is endless, and we have so much time in our hands.
Navigating and studying these planets helps us learn the mysteries behind our Universe and how everything works in the dark unknown we call today as space.
But perhaps, the most compelling reason why we study Exoplanets might be, indeed, with the hope of discovering sentient beings living among us, far away from what we call home.
Moons are enchanting, and why they may not be, as these celestial bodies have always fascinated humans, especially the scientific community.
Our Earth has one, and even 50 years after landing the first man on the moon, scientists still have a thousand questions about our moon yet to be answered (the dark side particularly).
So what about the moons revolving around other planets in our solar system? Do they intrigue the scientific community too?
Yes, they do, and today we will get to know about Jupiter’s fascinating moons that have been baffling scientists for decades.
Excited? Get on board.
How Many Moons Does Jupiter Have?
According to NASA, Jupiter has 80 moons, out of which 57 have official names given by the IAU or the International Astronomical Union.
These celestial bodies combine to create a satellite system, called the Jovian system. However, scientists are monitoring the planet closely, and we can expect more moons around this gas giant.
Although Jupiter has several unique moons, scientists are especially intrigued by the four giants (Galilean satellites), namely Ganymede, Io, Callisto, and Europa.
Why? These moons are massive, and scientists would have considered them planets if they orbited around our sun. Simon Marius and Galileo Galilei were the first astronomers to discover them in 1610.
Let us learn more about these massive Jupiter moons.
- Ganymede – The Largest Moon
Ganymede holds the record of being the largest moon present in our solar system. In fact, Ganymede is so massive that it has an independent magnetic field with regions where you can experience northern lights.
Besides having a magnetic field, scientists have also found evidence of oxygen in Ganymede’s atmosphere. However, the oxygen layer is fragile and may not support life.
Ganymede has several terrains that appear after faulting or water release. There are also dark terrains on this moon that may indicate or depict the moon’s crust. Furthermore, these dark regions have multiple craters covered with ice.
Ganymede has a crisscrossed surface that features a collection of new and older terrain. This unique surface structure gives Ganymede its distinctive look and makes it stand out from the rest of the cluster.
- Callisto – The Ugly Duckling
Callisto is the 2nd largest moon of Jupiter and has the most craters in the entire solar system. This heavily cratered look helped it bag the title ‘ugly duckling’ in the scientific community.
However, there is more than meets the eye, as studies suggest that Callisto may have a salty ocean beneath its surface. In short, there can be life beneath the icy crust of this massive moon, which is why scientists keep a constant eye on this Jupiter moon.
So how wide is the salty ocean? According to estimates, Callisto may be hiding in a massive ocean below its icy surface. Furthermore, studies also indicate that the ocean may reside around 250 kilometers or 155 miles beneath the surface.
Other estimates also suggest that Callisto may have metal and rock mixed with ice, which translates the possibility of supporting living organisms in the salty ocean.
If these estimates come true, we can expect a fleet of controlled satellites heading toward Callisto soon.
- Io – EYE oh
Besides having ice-dominated moons, Jupiter also has a moon with the most volcanic activity in our solar system. Meet the third largest moon of Jupiter, Io, featuring a combination of three different celestial bodies in one.
Io or ‘EYE oh’ is similar to our Earth’s moon and shares a significant similarity. Io orbits Jupiter tidally, meaning Io only faces Jupiter from one side during its orbit.
However, Io has an elliptical orbit, which is the primary reason Io experiences many volcanic activities. The tidal force of the planet puts enormous gravitational effects on Io, causing its surface to erupt throughout its orbit.
In short, there are hundreds of lava fountains and volcanoes that are active on Io that can shoot lava miles high from the surface. You can compare this gravitational pull with Earth’s moon as both run on identical principles.
However, our moon’s gravitational effect is significantly less than Jupiter’s Io and does not harm our planet.
Besides volcanic activity, Io also alters Jupiter’s atmosphere and causes lightning storms in the upper atmosphere. This phenomenon is often experienced when Io is above Jupiter’s magnetic field, transforming the moon into a generator generating electricity.
So is life possible on Io? Although life can thrive in most inhospitable places, scientists believe that the extremity of Io’s atmosphere is not ideal for supporting life.
Europa is a fascinating moon in the cluster of Jupiter’s moons, as it may have a watery ocean beneath the icy crust. Scientists had their fascination growing after the Voyager craft provided clues that a massive ocean might be hiding below the surface.
Furthermore, Europa’s icy crust is not as thick as other moons and may have an ocean up to 100 miles deep. If these calculations and estimates are accurate, Europa may be holding more water than Earth, which will undoubtedly allow life to prosper on the moon.
However, Europa is 5.2 AU (Astronomical Units) away from the sun, meaning that the sun’s energy is probably against the odds. So without a significant energy source, life on this celestial body can be a bit challenging.
On the other hand, the Galileo craft witnessed convection on the moon’s surface, including domes and pits. In short, some heat sources can be beneath the surface, which may help life to exist on Europa.
Although humans have a long way to go before we can set foot on this possible exoplanet, we can collect water samples from space and determine whether alien life exists on the moon.
NASA is planning a crucial mission to this moon called the Europa Clipper to conduct a detailed survey of this possible exoplanet.
Jupiter’s moons have different characteristics and have been intriguing researchers for decades.
Thankfully, modern techniques and advanced equipment have helped the scientific community to understand these moons better, and soon we may have operated spacecraft heading that way.
The need to explore is an inherent trait found in most living creatures, including human beings. However, not everyone can understand the importance and benefits of space exploration. After all, more than half of the earth’s population is ignorant of space knowledge. But it is the endeavor of some people that are making the world go around with innovation.
Space exploration is something that is carried out by only a few people but benefits the whole earth. Take telephones, GPS, and solar cells, for instance. Without help from space, we would still be living like primates without the modern technologies and gadgets that we enjoy today.
Why Is Space Exploration Necessary?
Space exploration paves the way for several benefits, which are both direct and indirect, such as cultural benefits, enhanced space knowledge, development of modern technologies, and more.
While we may not be aware of all the opportunities that space exploration offers, NASA has maintained a statistical analysis of how it has improved the quality of living. According to NASA, space exploration has saved 444000 lives, created 14000 jobs, generated $5 billion in revenue, and more.
With space exploration, NASA has documented that there has been tremendous improvement in the fields of information technology, health and medicine, energy and environment, and public safety, among others.
Space Exploration – Benefits
There are many benefits that space exploration offers. Here are some of the major benefits you can expect.
We can’t deny that inventions are very useful for comfortable living. Not all of us may be aware, but space exploration has made our lives easier with past innovations like water purifiers, implantable heart monitors, solar cells, and more.
Space exploration has made way for various benefits in storing energy as well as generating power. It has also given advantages to various other fields like engineering, computing, allied health careers and medicine, advanced robotics, transportation, and more.
Inspiration is key if you want to live comfortably in a world where the future will be in the hands of today’s kids. Educating children about space during their early years will instill in them an inspiration to pursue the field.
Learning about the stars and the universe is very interesting, especially if you learn from brilliant experts. However, on rational thoughts, not every interested kid will become an astronomer. But the zeal to know more about space will be present, and this indirectly contributes to better space knowledge.
But whether you’re a kid or an adult, the way of the stars is a topic of mystery and wonder. For most of us, we can only marvel at the amazing outer world that is full of enigma and excitement.
In a way, space exploration is what links a nation to another nation. In the past, space exploration used to be a competition among various nations on earth. However, the thing that is outside is too big to comprehend or handle single-handedly. This has compelled global unity, where nations work together as a collective whole to bring positive changes to the world.
Now there are more partnerships and operations from countries around the world, thanks to the International Space Station (ISS), which has been operating for nearly three decades. The number of nations signed to ISS rose from a meager 15 nations to 68 nations.
Prevents Asteroid Catastrophe
It is possible for the earth to suffer from major natural disasters from outer space without proper safety measures to avert these catastrophes. NASA states that it is highly probable for huge asteroids the size of football fields to hit the earth once every 10000 years. This can cause a tragic scene where the asteroid lands.
But what we should really be fearing are asteroids that measure 100 meters or bigger in diameter. You can only imagine the impact that it will have. Large areas on earth will be wiped out, and life will eventually get threatened. This is why it is necessary to have knowledge about space so that preventive measures can be exercised.
Thanks to the advancement in science and technology, NASA has recently launched the Double Asteroid Redirection Test in 2022. This program is to attempt to slightly change the course of an asteroid falling on earth by launching an automatic spacecraft to hit and crash with it.
National Safety and Security
According to the 1967 space treaty, no nation will claim territories in space. But considering that there are many super nations emerging, such as China and Russia, among others, the lust for power and control can divert anyone from what was discussed and signed.
This is why the US needs to be prepared if such hostility occurs among superpower nations. For this sole purpose, Congress passed a law in 2019 for the creation of the US Space Force, a part of the US armed forces whose job is to protect and defend the nation from space attacks.
Raw Material Extraction
Another benefit of space exploration is the extraction of raw materials. Often, the farther they are, the more rare and valuable they will be. The outer space bodies have gold, platinum, and other precious stones and minerals that we take to invent and create.
The moon and asteroids are great places to find rare raw materials. For instance, the moon is a rich source of helium-3 that can be used as nuclear power plant fuel. The moon also offers other rare earth elements like tantalum and europium.
It would be hard to imagine the scenario on earth without assistance from space. Whether it is about understanding our own world better or improving the world, space exploration is crucial. Without the knowledge of how the universe operates, we would be missing out on safety and many other innovations.
Knowing what is happening outside our world not only keeps us informed but can also help us dodge global natural emergencies. Space exploration has benefited humans in so many ways, from offering precious elements and materials to preventing possible mishaps when asteroids threaten to collide with earth.
When anything makes an appearance as bright and dramatic as the Hale-Bopp comet, it forever stays in mind, even if it happened only once in a lifetime. It isn’t surprising why Hale-Bopp is one of the most watched comets. If you don’t already know what comet Hale-Bopp is, here are the facts about this brightest comet that will blow your mind.
What Is Hale-Bopp?
Hale-Bopp is a comet that falls under the category of long-period comets. Compared with short-period comets, these groups of comets are comparatively less predictable because of their elliptical orbits. Hale-Bopp is a bright comet with blue and white tails.
As per a study by the Swinburne University of Technology, Hale-Bopp has an orbital duration of more than 200 years. This strikingly bright comet came closest to earth in 1997 and remained visible for 18 months. Its majestic brightness was most visible in the Northern Hemisphere.
How Was Hale-Bopp Discovered?
The discovery of Hale-Bopp is two-fold. Both the independent discoveries were made by amateur astronomers Thomas Bopp in Arizona and Alan Hale in New Mexico. And this is where the comet earned its name. NASA had recorded this phenomenal discovery as the farthest comet to be found by amateurs when it was discovered.
The discovery of the Hale-Bopp comet by the two astronomers took place on July 23, 1995, independently near spherical cluster M70. It was a surprising discovery because it seemed to have suddenly appeared in the spot where it hadn’t been two weeks ago.
Alan Hale has a doctorate in astronomy. When he trained his telescope to the M70 area, he was amazed to see a foreign dot that hadn’t been there a couple of weeks ago when he looked. Hale believed that the object was a comet when he discovered its movement after checking back after some hours.
Incidentally, Thomas Bopp also discovered the same comet, and both men reported their findings to the International Astronomical Union’s Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams.
The newly-identified comet was named C/1995 O1 and intrigued every astronomer with its bright emission even at a great distance. As a long-period comet, it’s hard for astronomers to predict Hale-Bopp, which is essentially just a ball of dust and ice.
The Origin Of Hale-Bopp Comet
It isn’t quite clear how Hale-Bopp originated. But most research concluded that Hale-Bopp has its origin in the Oort Cloud, like other long-period comets.
Oort Cloud is a globular collection of ice particles whose position lies at an approximate distance of 2000 to 1000000 Astronomical Units (AU) from the sun.
An Astronomical Unit is a unit used to measure the distance between the sun and the earth. One AU equals 150 million kilometers which is the estimated distance between the earth and the sun.
Because of the distant position of the Oort Cloud from the sun, the objects in it are prone to gravitational turmoil. So, even the slightest forces can unhinge the objects in the Oort Cloud and send them to an elliptical orbit that revolves around the sun.
Hale-Bopp: The Comet That Leaves An Impression
Every time something as remarkable as the appearance of Hale-Bopp happens, the tabloids get full. Hale-Bopp incited the interests of the public, and it was apparent on both the internet and in newspapers.
It wasn’t long before some professionalism was put into the survey. Using the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA reported that Hale-Bopp is a gigantic comet with a diameter that spans 30-50 km.
There aren’t many other significant comets that have garnered the same attention and views as Hale-Bopp. The comet features an absolute magnitude of -1 which means that it is one of the brightest heavenly bodies to orbit the inner solar system.
In comparison, the luminosity of Halley’s comet is nothing compared to the brightness of the Hale-Bopp comet. Speculating the brightness from the same distance, the latter is 1000 times more luminous than Halley’s comet.
Hale-Bopp And The Heaven’s Gate Cult Tragedy
The appearance of Hale-Bopp is revolutionary. Not only did it create mass fascination in space and heavenly bodies, but it is also linked with a tragic incident related to the Heaven’s Gate cult. This refers to the mass suicide of 39 members of the cult in San Diego as the comet passed across the earth.
Heaven’s Gate was a religious cult led by Marshall Applewhite. The cult members follow the belief that their bodies are like vessels that could be abandoned for a higher purpose of the soul and spirit. The tragedy was doomed to happen when the cult started believing that Hale-Bopp didn’t appear alone. They believed that the comet was followed by an alien spacecraft.
NASA reports that March 22, 1997, is the day when Hale-Bopp came the closest to earth. The mass suicide happened around the time when the comet was closest. But how did it happen? The short answer is poison.
Marshall Applewhite, along with 38 other members, 17 men, and 21 women, took their own lives believing that the appearance of the comet was a cosmic sign calling them to leave their bodies behind so that their souls could embark on the ghost alien spacecraft for a new life.
The incident took place in San Diego, and the dead bodies wearing matching clothes were found in bunk beds in a mansion. The members consumed a deadly mixture of vodka and Phenobarbital to die and prepare their souls to be transported to what they believed Hale-Bopp is bringing along with it.
Will We See Hale-Bopp In The Skies Again?
Not likely. At least not in our time. The latest appearance of Hale-Bopp on earth’s sky was in 1997. Before that, it appeared once about 4200 years ago. So this means that it will be thousands of years until the comet makes another appearance.
According to estimates, this comet isn’t set to return to earth’s sphere until 4385. This large active comet has an approximate diameter of 40 km with a speed of 1.2 billion miles in four years.
A good number of amateur astronauts have discovered foreign objects in space. But with more and more spacecraft and satellites emerging, such as the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), the detection of unfamiliar objects has become relatively more relaxed.
Everybody must have heard of NASA or at least come across it in books, movies, the internet, etc. NASA stands for National Aeronautics and Space Administration, an independent agency of the US federal government.
NASA deals with all the space programs sanctioned by the US government and was formed on July 29, 1958. It has programs where astronauts are sent on missions to space and other planets to explore the secrets of the universe for the benefit of humankind.
Though many people know of NASA as a space agency, it has many other interesting facts that will blow your mind. Let’s look at some of the most interesting facts about NASA that you may not be aware of.
1. First Meal On The Moon
When Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin landed on the moon, it was apparent that everything they did would go down in history as a first. The first person to set foot on the surface of the moon was Neil Armstrong, followed by Buzz Aldrin.
The two astronauts had their food stored in the lunar module, which they were supposed to eat after landing on the moon. The food items for their first meal consisted of salted and dried bacon, coffee, pineapple and grapefruit drink, sugar cookies, and peaches.
Bacon cubes were the most common among these food items in American space program history. It has a long history, going back as far as the early Gemini missions. Bacon was a staple in American culture, so it was not a surprise to see bacon cubes on the menu when Neil Armstrong and Edwin Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon.
However, bacon cubes became a thing of the past, as NASA replaced it with freeze-dried sausage patties as part of an astronaut’s meal options. There are more food options for NASA’s astronauts, but bacon is missing from the menu.
2. The 1999 Orbiter Disaster
The Mars Climate Orbiter was on a mission to travel to Mars but was met with an unfortunate turn of events due to something silly. The spacecraft burned and broke into pieces just before landing on Mars due to the failure of the usage of the correct unit of measurement.
The spacecraft was on a mission to research the climate and atmosphere on Mars, and also to act as a point of passing communication for the Mars Polar Lander. The Mars Climate Orbiter ended up in jeopardy because the navigation team and the spacecraft’s designers were on different wavelengths regarding the unit of measurement.
The navigation team used millimeters and meters to calculate each measurement, whereas Lockheed Martin Astronautics used the British measurement system of inches, feet, and pounds. The problem was in the software controlling the orbiter’s thrusters, whose force was measured using pounds.
However, the propulsion engineers at Lockheed Martin should have used the standard metric units for space missions. The difference in the measurement units gave wrong navigations and took the spacecraft dangerously close to Mars’ atmosphere, where it, unfortunately, broke down.
3. NASA Vehicle Assembly Building
The NASA Vehicle Assembly Building is one of the most significant artificial structures in the world and is the only facility where a space rocket was assembled. This spacecraft was used to carry humans to the moon.
The NASA Vehicle Assembly Building hosts different spacecraft and rockets simultaneously. It is NASA’s central hub and is used as the premier multi-user spaceport.
The NASA VAB is a historic structure that accommodates different rockets going into the earth’s orbit or space. The VAB has the infrastructure to prepare spacecraft and rockets designed and built by aerospace engineers and mechanics from some of the top trade schools in the world.
This facility was constructed in the 60s to assemble the Apollo moon rocket, the largest ever artificial rocket. It covers one of the largest land areas worldwide when it comes to artificial buildings, measuring up to almost 8 acres.
The high bay doors in the Vehicle Assembly Building take almost an hour to completely open or close. The building is so huge you can see clouds on the ceiling during humid days.
The VAB has a massive air-conditioning system to control the humidity in the building.
4. Office Of Planetary Protection
NASA has a dedicated planetary protection office to ensure that humans do not contaminate other planets and vice-versa. They also ensure that alien organisms do not contaminate the earth and cause harm to humans.
They have different policies that sanction the exploration of alien life on other planets in the solar system. The Office of Planetary Protection ensures the safety of other planets when astronauts go on exploration missions. They guarantee that other planets are not contaminated by terrestrial organisms and organic material carried by spacecraft.
NASA’s Office of Planetary Protection also uses the same policies to protect against the contamination of life on earth by alien organisms or bioactive molecules when astronauts return with samples from other planets. They do this to prevent potentially harmful impacts on humans and the earth’s biosphere.
They develop plans to protect the planetary bodies of interest. Still, their ultimate goal is to support the scientific study of chemical evolution and the origins of life in the solar system.
5. NASA Sued For Trespassing
If you thought you had seen or heard it all, you are in for a surprise! In 1997, three Yemeni men sued NASA for taking pictures of Mars and sending them to earth. They even presented documents to prove their claim over Mars.
They argued that the US spacecraft took pictures and information of Mars without their consent. The Yemeni men demanded that all exploration missions to Mars be halted until they heard a court verdict.
However, NASA’s representative referred to the 1967 international treaty, which read that everything in the solar system belonged to everyone except Earth. So, the claims made by the Yemenis were ridiculed and termed false.
NASA is one of the leading space agencies worldwide, but only a few know a whole lot about them. From the first meal ever on the moon to the claims of Mars by Yemeni men, this article has covered some of the most interesting facts about NASA.
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