Meteorites & Lasers | SciByte 38

Meteorites & Lasers | SciByte 38

We take a look at more Lego’s into space and near space, Venus transit, a meteorite that crashed through a cabin, guiding lightning with lasers, updates on Encyclopedia Britannica, near-orbital skydiving, check in on the latest news on Neutrinos and solar storms and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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Show Notes:

Legoooo’s in Spaaaace … again

  • *The shuttle *
  • Raul Oaidia from Romania launched a Lego space shuttle into the stratosphere on the back of a weather balloon
  • Lego space shuttle model (set number 3367!) and a video camera to capture the voyage
  • Originally he was looking for someone to support project, found a businessman on twitter, who after discussing options decided that a launching something on a weather balloon
  • Launching in Romania required problematic flight clearance and waiting times, while Germany where his father worked had much looser regulations
  • He and his father traveled to Germany to launch the balloon, since that country’s regulations on this sort of project are more relaxed than those in Romania
  • The balloon lofted Lego shuttle flew to an altitude of about 114,800 ft [35,000 m]
  • Lego’s to Jupiter
  • Specially-constructed LEGO mini-figures are of the Roman god Jupiter, his wife Juno, and “father of science” Galileo Galilei.
  • Jupiter (who was the equivalent of “Zeus” to the Greeks) drew a veil of clouds around himself to hide his mischief. While Juno was able to peer through the clouds and reveal Jupiter’s true nature
  • Galileo Galilei first to point a telescope at the sky to make astronomical observations and discovered the four largest satellites of Jupiter – named the Galilean moons in his honor.
  • Juno and the mini-figures are scheduled to arrive in July 2016 and orbit Jupiter for a year (33 revolutions) before intentionally crashing into the giant gas planet
  • Made out of space-grade aluminum the figures, basically the size of the normal LEGO figures, were prepared in a very special way
  • * Lego Station*
  • While the actual Space Station (ISS) took more than 200 astronauts from 12 countries more than a dozen years to build an astronaut from Japan, matched that feat in just about two hours, at least in LEGO form
  • The Lego station would not be able to bear it’s own weight under gravity
  • The Lego station was used as a demonstration for a series of recorded videos aimed at engaging and educating children about living and working in space
  • Building Lego’s in space are much harder to put together in space, to keep the bricks contained it had to be put together inside a glove box
  • Because of the difficulty of putting it together in a glove box, some pieces of the model were launched partially-preassembled
  • In space you have to worry about the little pieces getting loose and becoming either lost or potentially getting jammed in equipment or even becoming a flammability hazard
  • There are flammability concerns about the Lego’s; due to the flammability hazards, the toy bricks could only be exposed to the open cabin air for two hours
  • Other building brick sets that were launched last year, the LEGO space station was part of an educational collaboration between the Danish toy company and NASA
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube VIDEO : Lego Space Shuttle
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Lego Space Shuttle Takes Flight, Returns to Earth Undamaged @
  • Astronaut Builds LEGO Space Station Inside Real-Life Space Station
  • What would you like to see in space? @

*— NEWS BYTE — *

Venus Transit

  • The low down
  • Transits of Venus are when it passes in between the Earth and the sun and are among the rarest of planetary alignments
  • Between each occurrence is happens at uneven occurrences at 121.5, then 8 then 105.5, then 8 years again. So only four times every 243 years and only in early Dec or early June
  • Only six Venus transits have occurred since the invention of the telescope (1631, 1639, 1761, 1769, 1874
  • The last transit occurred in 2004
  • Observations
  • Your location north or south on Earth slightly affects the apparent path you see Venus taking south or north across the Sun
  • The transit this year will last about 6.5 hours and will be visible from more than half of the Earth’s surface; northwestern North America, Hawaii, the western Pacific, northern Asia, Japan, Korea, eastern China, Philippines, eastern Australia, and New Zealand.
  • The Sun will set while the transit is still in progress from most of North America, the Caribbean, and northwest South America
  • It will also already be in progress at sunrise for observers in central Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and eastern Africa
  • No portion of the transit will be visible from Portugal or southern Spain, western Africa, and the southeastern 2/3 of South America.
  • Significance
  • Edmund Halley first realized that transits of Venus could be used to measure the Sun’s distance which established the absolute scale of the solar system from Kepler’s third law
  • Accurately timing the transit from the surface of the Earth past a certain degree of accuracy due to atmospheric conditions and diffraction
  • The Venus transits in 1761 and 1769 were still able to give Astronomers their first good value for the Sun’s distance.
  • * Of Note*
  • The next pair of Venus transits occur over a century from now on 2117 Dec 11 and 2125 Dec 08.
  • Mercury, the other planet with an orbit between the sun and Earth undergoes transits about 13 or 14 transits of Mercury each century, and fall within several days of 8 May and 10 November
  • Multimedia
  • IMAGE : 2012 Venus Transit Map @
  • IMAGE : A line plotted of the transit as seen from Earth’s center, with Universal Times @
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Transit of Venus: June 5–6, 2012 @
  • 2004 and 2012 Transits of Venus @

The sky, well a meteorite, fell in Norway right into a cabin

  • The low down
  • Norwegian family arrived at their holiday cabin in Oslo recently for the first time all winter, to discover that a meteorite had apparently fallen through their roof
  • Significance
  • No one is sure when the meteorite actually crashed through the cabin’s roof, because the cabin had been closed during the winter.
  • Although it is thought is may have fallen during a wave of meteor sightings over Norway on March 1
  • The 1.3 pound [585 gram] meteorite was found split in two
  • Cross-section’s of the meteorite show that it contains bits of many different particles that are compressed together
  • Identified as a rare type of breccia meteorite, which is a conglomerate of smaller fragments of minerals
  • These type of meteorites indicates that another, larger meteorite smashed rock on another planet before being propelled into outer space
  • * Of Note*
  • Meteorites rarely fall in populated areas
  • According to Views and News from Norway, only 14 meteorites have been found in the Scandinavian country since 1848
  • Photos and Video of the meteorite in local news site
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Meteorite smashed through Oslo roof @
  • Norwegian Family Finds Meteorite Crashed Through Their Roof
  • Fikk meteorittstein gjennom taket i kolonihagen @

Directing lightning with lasers

  • The low down
  • New research has shown that brief bursts of intense laser light can redirect lightning
  • Significance
  • Researchers in France have successfully directed coaxed laboratory-generated lightning into striking the same place, not just twice, but over and over
  • The researchers pulses of laser light, femtosecond (one quadrillionth of a second) long to create a virtual lightning rod out of a column of ionized gas
  • It has also been confirmed with other experiments that a femtosecond laser could produce an ultra-short filaments of ionized gas that act like electrical guide
  • Further studies revealed that these filaments could function over long distances, potentially greater than 164ft [50 m]
  • The research team sent a laser beam skimming past a spherical electrode to an oppositely charged planar electrode
  • The laser then stripped away the outer electrons from the atoms along its path
  • The resulting plasma filament channeled an electrical discharge from the planar electrode to the spherical one
  • The researchers then added a longer, pointed electrode to their experiment
  • With no laser the discharge obeyed normal rules and always struck the taller, pointed electrode
  • Then researchers used the later the discharge was redirected, following the filaments and striking the spherical electrode instead, even when they turned it on after the initial path of the discharge began to form
  • Multimedia
  • An illustration of how lightning occurs when two streamers meet. @ Wikipedia
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Laser lightning rod: Guiding bursts of electricity with a flash of light @


Encyclopaedia Britannica, in print no more

  • The low down
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica has been in print since it was first published in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1768.
  • Significance
  • It was announced on Tuesday, March 13, 2012 that after 244 years, the Encyclopaedia Britannica is going out of print, instead focusing on its online encyclopedia
  • The President of Encyclopaedia Britannica said “This has to do with the fact that now Britannica sells its digital products to a large number of people.”
  • The final hardcover encyclopedia set is available for sale at Britannica’s website for $1,395.
  • * Of Note*
  • The top year for the printed encyclopedia was 1990, when 120,000 sets were sold
  • just six years later in 1996, that number fell to 40,000
  • The company started exploring digital publishing in the 1970s.
  • The first CD-ROM edition was published in 1989 and a version went online in 1994.
  • They made the contents of the website available for one week
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube VIDEO : Totally Digital: The Encyclopaedia Britannica Now
  • Social Media
  • Encyclo. Britannica@Britannica
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Last entry for Encyclopaedia Britannica book form

Skydiving at the orbital extreme

*— Updates — *

Neutrinos loop back around again

The Sun will not sit quietly


Looking back

  • March 26, 1859: 153 years ago : Vulcan Discovered? : In 1859, Lescarbault, a French medical doctor and amateur astronomer reported sighting a new planet in an orbit inside that of Mercury which he named Vulcan. He had seen a round black spot on the Sun with a transit time across the solar disk 4 hours 30 minutes. He sent this information and his calculations on the planet’s movements to Jean LeVerrier, France’s most famous astronomer. Le Verrier had already noticed that Mercury had deviated from its orbit. A gravitational pull from Vulcan would fit in nicely with what he was looking for. However, it was not consistently seen again and it is now believed to have been a “rogue asteroid” making a one-time pass close to the sun. [Or this is the non-prime universe and it was destroyed, que Bryan crying out in anguish]
  • March 25, 1970: 42 years ago : Concorde Flew : In 1970, the prototype British-built airplane Concorde 002 made its first supersonic flight (700 mph; 1,127 kph). A few months earlier, the French prototype, Concorde 001, had broken the sound barrier on 1 Oct 1969. Mach 2 was achieved by Concorde 001 on 4 Nov 1970, and by Concorde 002, a few days later on 12 Nov 1970. The combined number of supersonic flights by the two aircraft reached 100 by January of the following year, 1971.

Looking up this week

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