Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
For all space geeks, the news this week is that a high school student, on his third day of interning at NASA, discovered a planet. For all Star Wars geeks, it turns out that it’s not just your ordinary planet, but a very rare circumbinary planet with two suns, like Tatooine, the planet where Luke Skywalker grew up.
He made the discovered this past July at the very beginning of his internship; he and other astronomers have spent the last six months confirming the find. The planet is now called TOI 1338b and looks to be almost 7 times bigger than Earth.
Apparently not only are circumbinary planets rare, they are even rarer to find since the way that most planets are confirmed don’t work due to timing of the planet passing in front of its stars. So this is quite an auspicious start for the high-schooler who has said that he does intend to continue his studies in astronomy and astrophysics.
If you could be known as the discoverer of something, what would it be?
Fun news this week. Astronaut Helen Sharman, one of the first seven Britons to travel to space, has come out as pro-alien lifeform.
“There are so many billions of stars out there in the universe that there must be all sorts of different forms of life. Will they be like you and me, made up of carbon and nitrogen? Maybe not.”
Shades of Carl Sagan’s Contact. And as if that isn’t spectacular enough, she went on to say”
“It’s possible they’re here right now and we simply can’t see them.”
This of course brings to mind the scene from Men in Black in which Will Smith says he was sure his third grade teacher was an alien:
Anybody you are sure is an alien?
Today marks the anniversary in 1903 of the first sustained motorized airplane flight by the Wright brothers in Kitty Hawk, NC. They flew 6.8 miles per hour. Orville was the pilot. Wilbur ran along side. This is a photo of the 12 second flight.
It amazes me that their three-axis control system which allowed the pilot to actually control the plane in flight is still standard on today’s aircraft.
Our plane last month from Minneapolis to New York was pushed along at 600 miles an hour by some strong tail winds. The pilot made a point of proudly announcing this as we arrived well ahead of schedule at LaGuardia airport. I think the Wright brothers would be pretty amazed by that. I don’t know what the would think of the current state of commercial air travel.
How would you change modern air travel? Be creative.
Yesterday in 1684, Isaac Newton’s paper on the theory of gravity was read to the Royal Society by Edmund Halley. I wonder how it was received? Did they nod and say ,“Oh yes, I can see exactly what he is getting at”, or did they scratch their powdered wigs and shrug their shoulders, thinking “Poor Isaac has been spending too much time sitting under the trees.”
Hard sciences were never my strong suit in high school and college. Neither was mathematics. for that matter, although I was pretty ace at Psychology statistics in graduate school. In college, the Physics majors I knew often said that Physics was a way of investigating God. I was just glad I didn’t have to take any physics classes. Biology, now that was a subject I could embrace. I don’t know what it means that my poorest grade in college was in bowling, a physical education class I despised. Maybe if I had taken a Physics class I would have been a better bowler.
What came easily to you in school? What was difficult? What would you like to learn about now?
In the news this week, underwater treasure hunters brought up close to 1,000 bottles of a rare cognac and other liqueurs. In 1917, the Kyros was sunk by a German U-boat on its voyage from France to St. Petersburg. The crew all survived the sinking but the liquid gold went to the bottom. The wreck was discovered in 1999 but wasn’t accessible until now.
The treasure hunters, Ocean X Team and iXplorer spent over a week with submersibles and robots to salvage the bottles, 600 De Haartman cognac and 300 Benedictine liqueur, which have been sitting for the last 102 years beneath 250 feet of cold Baltic Sea water. The Benedictine liqueur brand now belongs to Bacardi and the explorers are working with them and researching the possible worth of their find. They say most of the bottles appear to be intact.
Would you be Long John Silver or Jim Hawkins?
I was catching up on some of my favorite science vlogs and found one on SciShow Space talking about “Hot Jupiters”. These are gaseous giant planets that orbit so closely to their sun that their year would be just a few days on Earth. Apparently Hot Jupiters are fairly easy to detect but still not fully understood. All this aside, my first thought was “that would be a good band name”. The Hot Jupiters.
Come across any good band names of your own recently?
Photo credit: Miriam Espacio
Ten years after the UFO incident in Roswell, New Mexico, it was on this day in 1957 that the most impressive UFO sighting happened in Levelland, Texas; the impressiveness was due to the large number of witnesses over the short period of time. Ufologists continue to argue that the Air Force investigation was too short and that the phenomenon was NOT ball lightning.
A few days later, Jim Lee, who was the head of the Interplanetary Space Patrol (perhaps named after a popular TV show of the day “Space Patrol”) stated that the Levelland sighting was indeed a visit from outer space and predicted that UFOs would soon begin to come in large numbers, large enough that there would be no more non-believers. Lee’s group pushed the agenda that humans could work and collaborate with our visitors via radio waves.
“The days of the skeptics are numbered, and they had better find a good place to hide away for even the entire populations of our large cities will see these ships as they come in from outer space. They will soon come in large numbers for all to see and the skeptic will not have a leg left to stand on. There is no need for alarm over the situation at this time.”
While I try to keep an open mind about things I can’t prove or dis-prove, I’m pretty sure that if we are visited by extra-terrestrials, it probably won’t go well. Considering how many problems we have to solve just to get to Mars, any travelers that could get themselves here would be so far ahead of us technologically (or magically if that’s your bent) that they could squash us like bugs. That’s just my opinion, of course.
But the bottom line is that Jim Lee was wrong… we’re still not seeing UFOs in great numbers, in all our large cities.
Have you ever had a prediction of yours come true?