Exoplanets & Universal Translator | SciByte 68

Exoplanets & Universal Translator | SciByte 68

We take a look at exoplanets, games, sleep, private space travel, the possible start of a universal translator, a climbing wheelchair Curiosity updates and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

Direct Download:

MP3 Download | Ogg Download | Video | YouTube

RSS Feeds:

MP3 Feed | Ogg Feed | iTunes Feed | Video Feed

Support the Show:



Show Notes:

Earth’s nearest extra-solar neighbor

  • Stats
  • 4.4 light years away
  • 25 times closer than the Earth is to the sun 
  • A ‘year’ lasts just 3.236 days
  • Surface temperature of around 1,200 degrees Celsius
  • Significance
  • The fact that a rocky planet was found so close to Alpha Centauri B suggests there could be more planets in the same system
  • There’s also a good chance that Alpha Centauri A — the bigger, binary partner of Alpha Centauri B — also hosts planets
  • However, because Alpha Centauri A is bigger, brighter and more rambunctious, any small planets orbiting it would be harder to find.
  • Previous observations indicate that there are no planets more massive than Neptune hovering around any of Alpha Centauri’s three stars
  • Of Note
  • There is 10–15% chance that the planet passes between Alpha Centauri B and Earth. If so, astronomers could watch for dips in starlight
  • However Kepler isn’t pointed anywhere near Alpha Centauri
  • Canada’s MOST microsatellite, might be able to detect the planet’s dark fingerprint and determine its radius, allowing scientists to calculate its density and probable ingredients
  • Travel to?
  • A space probe accelerated to 10 percent the speed of light [~67 million mph / 107 million kph] would be in transit for 40 years.
  • The probe would also have to be capable of managing extreme temperature variations, remaining functional for decades, communicating with Earth from light-years away and orbiting a small planet close to its sun without becoming a stellar snack
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube Earth-Size Planet Orbiting Nearest Star Discovered | VideoFromSpace
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • The alien next door | Atom & Cosmos | Science News


‘Citizen Scientists’ and new Exoplanets

  • Last time on SciByte
  • Talking Robots & Voyager 1 | SciByte 51 – Eye spy an exoplanet [June 19, 2012]
  • The planet PH1
  • PH1 orbits its host stars every 137 days, and is thought to be a gas giant a bit larger than Neptune [~6x Earth]
  • The mass of the planet itself is not currently known but there is a limit of no more than half that of Jupiter, so this is definitely a planet.
  • The binary star systems
  • The binary star system it orbits has stars that are 1.5 and 0.41 times the mass of the Sun and orbit each other just over 20 days
  • Beyond the planet’s orbit at about 1000 AU (roughly 1000 times the distance between Earth and the Sun) is a second pair of stars orbiting the planetary system.
  • Although it may seem far, it is actually much closer than the nearest stars are to the Sun, so anyone viewing the sky from PH1 would have a spectacular view of all four stars
  • Of Note
  • Only six planets are known to orbit two stars
  • PlanetHunters has announced discoveries before, but this is the first that have been confirmed with further data from radial velocity measurements
  • Because they were able to detect the gravitational effect of the planet on the star it can be ‘officially’ labeled as a planet not simply a candidate
  • The PlanetHunters team has also ‘discovered’ a planet orbiting around both of a pair of binary stars, it didn’t make the news at that time because the Kepler team has already discovered it
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • PlanetHunters.org
  • Planet Hunters Candidates | planethunters.org
  • NASA – Citizen Scientists Discover Four-Star Planet with NASA Kepler | NASA.gov
  • Armchair astronomers find planet in quadruple star system | phys.org
  • PH1 : A planet in a four-star system « Planet Hunters | blog.planethunters.org
  • [[1210.3612] Planet Hunters: A Transiting Circumbinary Planet in a Quadruple Star System | arxiv.org](http://arxiv.org/abs/1210.3612)


Games and Sleep

  • The low down
  • Research in a Sleep Laboratory found that prolonged video gaming immediately before bed caused significant sleep disruptions
  • 17 participants played either 50 or 150 minutes on two different nights
  • 27-minute loss in total sleep time after 150 minutes of gaming based on the polysomnography tests
  • There was a 39-minute delay in sleep onset according to the participants’ sleep diaries
  • In addition REM sleep was reduced by 12 minutes among the teens who played for over two hours
  • Winding down at night with a video game might not be the best idea
  • Significance
  • Teens who played for 50 minutes had almost no trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Sleep onset delay almost doubled to 39 minutes when they played for two and a half hours
  • While the study did not compare the effects of violent versus nonviolent video games past research showed little difference in teens who watched 50 minutes of the March of the Penguins documentary or played 50 minutes of Call of Duty 4, a violent videogame, before bed
  • Of Note
  • At the moment, one hour of gaming does not seem to affect sleep
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Gaming before bed negatively impacts teens’ sleep, research finds | MedicalXpress

Private Space Travel

  • The low down
  • The three different companies have been chosen by NASA to develop private space taxis
  • They are all making substantial progress toward launching people into orbit within the next few years
  • SpaceX
  • Work on the Dragon is now focused on outfitting the capsule to carry up to seven people by adding a launch abort capability and life support system, as well as designing spacesuits and the crew cabin layout.
  • SpaceX could make its first crewed test flights in mid–2015
  • Boeing
  • Is working on its CST–100 vehicle that will fly atop United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket
  • The Atlas 5 has a proven track record launching unmanned satellites
  • The CST–100 is designed to carry up to seven people, and return to touch down on land via parachutes and airbags.
  • The company just recently completed a preliminary design milestone called integrated systems review, and plans to set the vehicle’s final design plans with a critical design review in April 2014
  • Boeing could be ready for the first people to fly on CST–100 in 2016
  • Sierra Nevada’s
  • The Dream Chaser, differs from the Dragon and CST–100 cone-shaped capsules in its winged space plane design.
  • Even and launch on the Atlas 5, and is targeting a first manned launch in 2016 or 2017
  • Of Note
  • While all three companies are initially developing their spacecraft to serve NASA, they intend eventually to carry a wide range of passengers, including space tourists, scientists and astronauts from countries without their own launch vehicles
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Private Space Taxis on Track to Launch Astronauts | ISPCS | Space.com

‘Somewhat ‘ Universal Translating Phone

  • Japan’s biggest mobile operator, NTT DoCoMo, said Monday it will launch a translation service that lets people chat over the telephone in several different languages.
  • The low down
  • The free application for subscribers will give two-way voice and text readouts of conversations between Japanese speakers and those talking in English, Chinese or Korean with a several-second delay
  • It will be available for use on smartphones and tablet computers with the Android operating system
  • Customers will also be able to call landlines using the service
  • Of Note
  • Voice-to-text readouts will soon be available in French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai
  • The service does not offer perfect translations and has trouble deciphering some dialects
  • There is a separate service that lets users translate menus and signage using the smartphone camera
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube NTT DoCoMo real-time translation hands-on | Engadgets
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Japan firm launches real-time telephone translation | phys.org

Climbing Wheelchairs



Looking back

  • Oct 28, 1971 | 41 years ago | British satellite | Britain became the sixth nation with its satellite launched into orbit by a Black Arrow rocket from Woomera, Australia. The Prospero, a Black Knight 1 satellite, had 86-kg mass at launch, 4-m diam. and transmitted on 137.56 MHz (still heard in 2000, although the onboard tape recorder failed after 730 replays on 24 May 1973). Its mission was to test solar cells and other technology experiments. Prospero is the only satellite launched by a British rocket. The Black Arrow was a 3-stage rocket only 13 m high. The Royal Aircraft Establishment developed the space launcher Black Arrow from 1964 until the project was cancelled by the British government in July 1971. The USSR’s Sputnik was the first satellite

You May Have Seen

  • A spectacular meteor lit up the sky over California Wednesday, Oct. 17
  • It streaked across the sky at 7:44 p.m. PDT (0244 GMT),
  • The subsequent fireball and sonic boom triggered a flood of reports by witnesses to local news stations and authorities
  • Accounts coming in from across San Francisco and the Bay Area
  • The biggest question at the moment is whether this ended over land or ocean.
  • Spectacular Meteor Sparks Fireball Over California | Space.com

Looking up this week

Question? Comments? Contact us here!