Moons Here & There | SciByte 28

Moons Here & There | SciByte 28

We take a look at how not only Exoplanets but exomoons, Lunar minerals, dogs socialization, neutrinos, hangovers, Opportunity rover, what Russia is now saying about Phobos-Grunt and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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Show Notes:

The Exoplanet and Exomoon News keeps coming

  • The exoplanet low down
  • The Hungarian-made Automated Telescope Network (HATNet) Project, one of the goal of the HATNet project is to detect and characterize extrasolar planets using the transit method
  • I believe the HATNet network telescopes are now deployed in : Budapest, Hungary; Arizona; United States, Negev Desert, Israel; New South Wales, Australia; Gamsberg, Namibia; Santiaho, Chile
  • As 2011 ended, there were a total of 716 confirmed exoplanets and 2,326 planetary candidates
  • Four more planets have already been discovered this year, not by Kepler but by a ground based telescope network who has already discovered 29 other extrasolar planets
  • All four are ‘hot Jupiter’ type planers with ‘years’ from 1–5.5 days long. In comparison Mercury takes 88 days.
  • SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) program will take a look at the exoplanets discovered by Kepler in the continuing search for alien radio signals
  • Based on early Kepler data, the new estimates for the number of exoplanets have billions of planets in our galaxy alone
  • They now have can now focus on systems with planets
  • * Of Note for Exoplanets*
  • Runs Linux : The ground based exoplanet searching network, HATNet, is controlled by a single Linux PC without human supervision.
  • Data for the HATNet is stored in a MySQL database
  • SETI has even joined in the exoplantest search, and has seen a few ‘interesting’ signals, but are most likely interference from the Earth
  • The exomoon low down
  • Current technology may be able to detect Large Earth-size moons
  • There are currently three different mechanisms that scientist believe would cause an Earth sized moon
  • form together with it’s planet in the accretion disk
  • massive impact, like the theory of our moons formation. Estimates currently say might be as frequent as 1 in 12 could be formed this way and are expected to only contain roughly 4% of the total mass of the planet
  • an Earth sized object would also be captured by a gas giant. Simulations show that around 50% of captured objects would survive
  • Such moons could be detected using the detected wobble of the star, this has already been measured with planets of similar size. There already simulations for trinare stars which could be altered to analyze a sun-planet-moon scenario.
  • The first exoplanets discovered were found around a pulsar, causing cariations in the regular pulsations.
  • Pulsars often beat thousands of times a minute which makes them extremely sensitive to gravitational affects of planets and possibly moons.
  • In the past few years it has become possible for direct imaging of planets, although planets near Earth sized is likely a few fear off, possible upcoming missions may make that possibility a reality.
  • Direct imaging may be no more than a slightly offset center of a dot, or a barely oblong circle indicating a possible moon.
  • * Of Note for exomoons*
  • There are no moons in our own solar system of the necessary size for detection by typically used technology, the largest moon in our solar system (Ganymede) is only 40% the diameter of the Earth
  • Using technology for use on pulsars a planet a mere 0.04% the mass of the Earth has been discovered.
  • The same technology that could be used to detect exomoons could also be used to detect unique data signals that would indicate Saturn-like rings around stars.
  • Significance
  • Each year the technology for discovering exoplanets increases, we are now entering the ability to detect exomoons.
  • The possibilities of seeing details in other solar systems will increase our understand of how solar systems and planets form.
  • Multimedia
  • IMAGE : Artist impression of an exomoon orbiting an exoplanet @
  • IMAGE : Habitable zone depends on the mass and type of star @
  • IMAGE : Habital Exoplanets Catalog @
  • Social Media
  • HEK Project @HEK_Project
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • The Hunt for Exomoons with Kepler
  • Forget Exoplanets. Let’s Talk Exomoons
  • Hungarian-made Automated Telescope Network
  • HAT-P–34b – HAT-P–37b: Four Transiting Planets More Massive Than Jupiter Orbiting Moderately Bright Stars
  • Exomoons? Kepler‘s On The Hunt
  • Wanted: Habitable moons
  • The Hunt Is on for Habitable Moons Around Alien Planets
  • Wanted: Habitable Moons
  • Four new exoplanets to start off the new year!
  • First Four Exoplanets of 2012 Discovered
  • Astronomers have discovered the first four exoplanets of 2012
  • Analysis of the First Kepler SETI Observations

Lunar Minerals found

  • The low down
  • When the lunar samples first returned from the Moon there were subjected to rigorous study and considered extremely precious.
  • In the hundreds of pounds of lunar rocks astronauts brought back three minerals were unique to the moon: armalcolite, pyroxferroite and tranquillityite
  • Armalcolite and Pyroxferroite were both found on Earth in the 70’s
  • Tranquillityite had previously been found in certain meteorite, but not naturally on the Earth.
  • Tranquillityite is shaped like tiny needles that have been pounded flat and are unusually small, less than the diameter of the thickest human hair (about 150 micrometers )
  • Tranquillityite develops during the late stages of crystallization of molten rocks in oxygen-poor conditions
  • Significance
  • Tranquillityite has just been found in Australia
  • In fact it has now been found in six widely scattered sites in Western Australia suggests that it might be more common than thought in igneous rocks
  • The identification of all minerals found in the Lunar samples brought back from the Moon during the Apollo program lends credence to the impact theory for the Moons creation
  • * Of Note*
  • It’s not surprising that tranquillityite hasn’t shown up until now as it is unstable over the long term at Earth’s surface
  • In addition tranquillityite can easily be mistaken for another similarly colored mineral
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Third lunar mineral – Tranquillityite found in Western Australia
  • Rare Moon Mineral Found in Australia
  • Rare Moon Mineral Found on Earth
  • Pyroxferroite @
  • Armalcolite@

*— NEWS BYTE — *

Dogs know when your not looking

The low down

  • An new study proves what all dog owners already knew
  • The study shows that dogs will follow the gaze of humans, even on television screens, and can recognize when they look to one side or another, not even something primates can do
  • Significance
  • In this study 22 different dog breeds were used, all performed fairly similarly
  • A stranger on a TV screen would say “hi, dog!” in either a high- or low- pitched voice and either looking at the screen or down.
  • In any instance the person would then look at the pot that contains a toy for 5 seconds
  • When the person on the screen avoided eye contact and spoke in a low voice the likely hood that the dogs would look at one pot over the other was a statistical wash
  • When a high pitched-pitched voice was used the dog looked at the person on the screen 69% of the time.
  • Future studies could compare different dog breeds and various ages with each other as the next stage in the experiment
  • The results from this study were also nearly identical to those seen in 6-month-old human infants
  • Some researchers even say that dog social skill can reach the level of a two-year-old human, missing only language
  • In another study done in 1994 a 19-year-old apprentice working at a chimpanzee center was assisting in a study on primate behavior that he claimed his dog did. he was told to prove it
  • He devised a simple experiment in his garage hid treats under cups when a dog wasn’t looking then either pointed or simply looked at the cup containing the treat
  • * Of Note*
  • In studies analyzing the ability to follow a person’s pointing finger or the direction of his gaze, dogs perform better than primates
  • However dogs are less likely to inhibit a learned response than primates
  • There are research teams that suspect that horses and domesticated cats may also be able to read human intent, since they too have lived closely with us for many years.
  • Both children and animals are more likely to respond to a high-pitched voice, which explains why we naturally tend to ‘baby-talk’ animals and young children
  • This experiment also gives you a scientific excuse to do this the next time you get funny looks from people
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • In the Eyes of a Dog
  • Can dogs tell when we’re talking to them?
  • Dogged
  • Dogs read our intent too: study @
  • Can Dogs Read Minds? Not Exactly @
  • How Specific Are The Social Skills of Dogs? @
  • Monday Pets: Biological Evidence That Dog is Man’s Best Friend @

Neutrinos strike again!

The low down

  • Physicists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of High Energy Physics in Beijing now argue that Neutrino’s could not travel faster than the speed of light, as it would not only mess up Einstein’s theory of special relativity, but also the last of conservation of energy and momentum
  • Significance
  • Both studies claim that the particles, called pions, could not possibly have had enough energy to give rise to the faster-than-light, or superluminal, speeds indicated by OPERA.
  • The new team of physicists calculate that achieving the velocities measured required pions with energies 20 times greater than their offspring
  • The team says that the IceCube detector at the South Pole has measured these neutrinos to energies more than 10,000 times as high as OPERA’s neutrinos
  • They also say with a neutrinos near zero, but not zero, mass there should be a limit to how fast they can travel.
  • Social Media
  • Alcoholics Anonymous @AlcoholicsAnony
  • * Of Note*
  • One Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist has said that results are not impossible but if they turn out to be accurate "I would say to Nature, ‘You win.’ Then I’d give up, and I’d retire.”
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube VIDEO : Science in Action: Fast Neutrinos
  • Social Media
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Neutrino parents call into question faster-than-light results @
  • Pions don’t want to decay into faster-than-light neutrinos, study finds @

The anti-alcohol drug that lessens hangovers too?

The low down

  • Scientists have been surveying herbal compounds that supposedly have reduced alcohol affects
  • Once such candidate was from the seeds of the Asian tree Hovenia dulcis, first said to be an excellent handover drug in 659 [That’s 1,352 years ago]
  • The team of scientists focused on one ingredient of the Hovenia dulcis tree, called dihydromyricetin, or DHM, on rats, which responds to alcohol in similar ways as humans
  • Significance
  • Rats given the equivalent of 15–20 beers in under two hours tolerated the alcohol better, with a stupor lasting around an hour, with DHM the stupor lasted only 15 minutes
  • A dose of DHM also helped ease hangover symptoms, reducing anxiety and susceptibility to seizures
  • Althought these results are promising, it still won’t allow you to drink like you were breathing air, as alcohol has many affects on the brain and DHM seems to only curb some of these affects
  • * Of Note*
  • The most promising result is that rats given access to alcohol gradually start consuming more, while rats drinking DHM-laced alcohol did not increase consumption
  • This seems to indicate that DHM might be a promising weapon to use against Alcohol addiction
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Drug gives rats booze-guzzling superpowers @
  • Herbal drug reduces the effects of alcohol @


Opportunity Rover gets ready for hibernation

The low down

Phobos-grunt round 342

* Last time on SciByte*

  • SciByte 27 (Jan 5)
  • SciByte 23 (Nov 30)
  • SciByte 21 (Nov 15)
  • SciByte 20 (Nov 8)
  • The low down
  • Phobos-grunt is currently projected to land on Sunday, January the 15th
  • After 19 attempts over 51 years, Russia has yet to have a fully successful mission to Mars.
  • Also one of five high-profile failures for the Russian space program in 2011.
  • The Russian chief of the Russian space program has hinted that the recent unlucky Russian space program may be the fault of ‘foreign power’
  • Significance
  • The last Russian Program Chief was fired after three navigation satellites were lost during launch
  • Russian Space Program Chief says that the vessels setbacks have occurred flying through Russia’s blind spot where they can not see or receive telemetry readings
  • The current Program Chief does admit that the mission was risky and underfunded, with original designs date back to the Soviet Union
  • He also admits that the launch window was limited and if they didn’t launch during the window, they would have to write off $160 million / 125.5 million Euro’s / five billion rubles
  • * Of Note*
  • This won’t be the first time that the Alaskan radar station, last November it was blamed for the failure of the Phobos-Grunt by un-named retired Russian General (previously in charge of Russia’s early warning system)
  • HAARP does perform active and passive radar experiments on the ionosphere
  • However, personnel at HAARP said a full-power blast would have kissed the Phobos-Grunt rocket with the equivalent of pointing a 60-watt light bulb at it from about 69 feet away. [about 1.03 milliwatts of radio energy per square centimeter ]
  • One communications satellite that failed, broke into fragments and a 20inch [5-centimeter] fragment crashed into a house in the Novosibirsk region of Siberai, ironically on Cosmonaut Street.
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • [Russia hints at foul play in its space failures @–01-russia-hints-foul-space-failures.html)
  • Russian Space Failures May Be Result of Foul Play, Official Says @
  • Alaska’s HAARP project blamed for Russian space probe’s failure @
  • Off the Beam: Did a U.S. Radar Research Station Disable Russia’s Phobos Probe? @ ScientificAmerican
  • The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) main websites


Looking back

  • Jan 11, 1922 – 89 years ago – Diabetics live : Before 1922 diabetes typically resulted in death withing months or even days or weeks of a diagnoses. On Jan 11, 1922 a 14 year old, Leonard Thompson, was the first person to receive an injection of insulin. At a mere 65 pounds [29.5kg] and about to slip into a coma he was in desperate need of treatment. Although the first dose had some impurities that led to an allergic reaction further purified injections caused his symptoms to disappear when his blood sugar levels returned to a normal level.
  • Jan 12, 1984 – 27 years ago – Restoring the Pyramids : In the early 1980’s severe signs of decay were seen some of the oldest man-made structures on earth, the Great Pyramids in Egypt. Originally the restoration crews used modern cement to restore the structures and Sphinx was successfully restored. However, the water in modern cement and mortar was causing the adjacent limestone in the pyramids to split. An international panel convened and decided, on Jan 12, that after years of frustration the restoration teams working on the pyramids would start useing the same methods used to create the pyramids to finish restoration. After the switch to ancient techniques restoration continued smoothly
  • Jan 14, 2005 – 6 years ago – Welcome to Titan : The Huygens spacecraft was released from the Cassini spacecraft landed on On January 14, 2005. The pictures is showed on the way down showed pictures which strongly resembled drainage channels, shorelines, and flodded regions. The lander continued to send data for 90 minutes after landing and remains the most distant landing of any man-mane craft.

Looking up this week

You might have seen …

  • Although there was a coronal mass ejection that was once thought to be headed towards the Earth, it was later predicted to only have a glancing blow. Although no increased auroras were seed there were surges in the ground currents in northern Norway

Keep an eye out for …

  • Fri, Jan 12–14 : Mars is near the waning moon before and during dawn

  • Jan 16 : Last Quarter Moon

  • The southern hemisphere should, Keep an eye out for …

  • Jan 14 : Mars is below and to the right of the Mood

  • Jan 16 : Last Quarter Moon

  • Jan 17 : Saturn will be below ant to the left of the Moon, also the star Spica will be to the upper left of the Moon

More on whats in the sky this week

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