Meteorites & Asteroids | SciByte 82

Meteorites & Asteroids | SciByte 82

We take a look at the Russian Meteorite ‘strike,’ a dark matter announcement, headaches, asteroid flyby, viewer feedback, an update on CERN, Curiosity news, and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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Show Notes:

2013 Russian Meteorite Strike


Dark Matter Announcement Coming

  • Dark Matter
  • The dark matter theory was born 80 years ago when Swiss astrophysicist Fritz Zwicky discovered that there was not enough mass in observable stars or galaxies to allow the force of gravity to hold them together
  • The Standard Model only accounts for only around four or five percent of the stuff in the Universe that we see
  • It could be useful for identifying the stable of particles and forces that regulate our daily life, the Standard Model only tells part of the cosmic story
  • Dark matter, could make up 23 percent, and dark energy, an enigmatic force that appears to drive the expansion of the Universe, could accounts for around 72 or 73 percent
  • Some physics theories suggest that dark matter is made of WIMPS (weakly interacting massive particles), a class of particles that are their own antimatter partner particles
  • When matter and antimatter partners meet, they annihilate each other, so if two WIMPs collided, they would be destroyed, releasing a pair of daughter particles – an electron and its antimatter counterpart, the positron, in the process
  • Although we can not explain gravity, although we know how to measure gravity and exploit it for our needs
  • Announcement Coming Up
  • In about two weeks the first paper of results of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, a particle collector mounted on the outside of the International Space Station, will be published
  • Researchers have said that the results bear on the mystery of dark matter, that \”It will not be a minor paper\” and that they rewrote the paper 30 times before they were satisfied with it
  • Even with this tease for a \’major announcement\’ scientists still say it represents a \”small step\” in figuring out what dark matter is, and perhaps not the final answer
  • Tracking Cosmic Particles
  • To track these phantom particles, physicists rely on several methods and tools
  • The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near Geneva, the biggest particle smasher in the world
  • The South Pole Neutrino Observatory, tracks subatomic particles known as neutrinos, which, according to physicists, are created when dark matter passes through the Sun and interacts with protons
  • The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) aboard the International Space Station (ISS), captures gamma rays coming from collisions of dark matter particles.
  • Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer
  • Has the potential to detect the positrons and electrons produced by dark matter annihilations in the Milky Way
  • It was installed on the International Space Station in May 2011, and so far, it has detected 25 billion particle events, including about 8 billion electrons and positrons
  • This will first science paper from this instrument that will report how many of each were found, and what their energies are
  • If the experiment detected an abundance of positrons peaking at a certain energy, that could indicate a detection of dark matter,
  • What it Might Mean for What We Might Find
  • There is a lot of stuff that can mimic dark matter,\”
  • If the experiment detected an abundance of positrons peaking at a certain energy, that could indicate a detection of dark matter,
  • While electrons are abundant in the universe around us, there are fewer known processes that could give rise to positrons
  • The smoking gun signature is a rise and then a dramatic fall\” in the number of positrons with respect to energy
  • The positrons produced by dark matter annihilation would have a very specific energy, depending on the mass of the WIMPs making up dark matter
  • Another telling sign will be the question of whether positrons appear to be coming from one direction in space, or from all around
  • If they\’re from dark matter, scientists expect them to be spread evenly through space, but if they\’re created by some normal astrophysical process, such as a star explosion, then they would originate in a single direction
  • Regardless of whether AMS has found dark matter yet, the scientists said they expected the question of dark matter\’s origin to become clearer soon
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Has Dark Matter Finally Been Found? Big News Soon |


Lightning and Headaches

  • The New Study
  • A new study has found a 31 percent increase of the risk of headache and a 28 percent increased risk of migraine for chronic headache sufferers on days that lightning struck within 25 miles (40 kilometers) of their homes
  • In addition new-onset headaches and migraines increased by 24 percent and 23 percent, respectively
  • The Correlation
  • This is the first study to show a correlation between lightning and associated weather phenomena and the squalls in our heads
  • How exactly lightning might trigger headaches is still unknown but there are a number of possible explanations
  • Electromagnetic waves emitted from lightning could trigger headaches
  • Another explanation might be that lightning produces increases in air pollutants like ozone, and can cause release of fungal spores that might lead to migraine
  • Still Unknown
  • This study does show an apparent link between lightning and headaches; however, the exact mechanisms through which lightning and/or its associated meteorologic factors trigger headache is still unknown
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube Lightning = Headaches? | TheWeatherChannel
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Newsflash: Lightning May Cause Headaches – News Watch |

The February 15th Asteroid Fly-By


Earth/Moon Relationship Simulations/Animations

  • Jason Null
  • What kind of program or software has a virtual model of the Earth and Moon
  • Free JAVA Simulators
  • Moon Phase and the Horizon diagram [free-java]
  • Lunar Phase Simulator [free-java]
  • Jonathan H
  • Why do I seem to see the moon in the sky during the day so often?
  • Different components to this
  • Lunar Phase Simulator [free-java]
  • The moon follow the same ‘orbital path’ as the sun, just as different speeds
  • Click [Start Animation] to the bottom left to get a feel for this
  • Higher latitudes have longer days and nights, which also gives the moon longer or fewer hours to be in the sky.
  • If you think about it each time the Moon sets or rises at night it is doing the opposite for someone on the daytime side of the Earth

— Updates —

CERN, the Higgs-Boson, and Upgrades

  • Upgrades
  • Over the past three years, CERN has slammed protons together more than six million billion times
  • Now seven months after the discovery announcement for a Boson, which they are now 99.9 percent certain is the Higgs-Boson, CERN scientists have brought CERN offline for an 18-month upgrade
  • The upgrade will boost the LHC\’s energy capacity, essential for CERN to confirm definitively that its boson is the Higgs, and allow it to probe new dimensions such as supersymmetry and dark matter
  • The Data
  • Scientists still have vasts amount of data to comb through during this downtime,
  • Even with the shutdown, CERN\’s researchers won\’t be taking a breather, as they must trawl through a vast mound of data
  • They expect that they will have much more information about the data from the last three years, and once they are able to go back through the data they will probably have more questions, some of which will lead to more tests under the new upgrades
  • What’s to Come
  • In 2011 the LHC has able to achieve collisions with an energy level of seven teraelectron volts
  • During 2012 CERN was able to increase to eight teraelectron volts
  • When it comes back online in 2015 after the upgrades are completed they will be able to achieve 13-14
  • It is expected that CERN will then run at those conditions for three to four years before more upgrades are installed
  • Social Media
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • CERN Website
  • After Higgs Boson, scientists prepare for next quantum leap


Space Station Communication

  • NASA\’s Mission Control center in Houston lost communication with the International Space Station at 9:45 a.m. ET (1445 GMT). [19 Feb 2013]
  • They restored contact with the space station at 12:34 p.m. ET (17:34 GMT),
  • A NASA official said \”Flight controllers were in the process of updating the station’s command and control software and were transitioning from the primary computer to the backup computer to complete the software load when the loss of communication occurred,\”
  • A main data relay system malfunctioned, and the computer that controls the station\’s critical functions switched to a backup
  • \”Mission Control Houston was able to communicate with the crew as the space station flew over Russian ground stations before 11:00 a.m. EST and instructed the crew to connect a backup computer to begin the process of restoring communications,\”
  • This is not the first time Mission Control has lost direct communication with the orbiting science laboratory
  • In 2010, the space station briefly lost communication with the ground when a primary computer failed and the backup had to take over. Communications were out for about one hour before NASA restored the connection
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • NASA Restores Contact with Space Station |
  • Temporary Comm Loss Interrupts Crew’s Day |



Looking back

  • February, 20 1962 : 51 years ago : Glenn in orbit : John Glenn piloted the Mercury-Atlas 6 Friendship 7 spacecraft on the first U.S. manned orbital mission. [The first manned orbital flight was Yu. Gagarin on the the Vostok 1 on 12 April 1961]
    Launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, he completed three-orbits around the earth, at a maximum altitude of approx. 162 miles and an orbital velocity of approx. 17,500 mph. He spotted Perth, Australia, when that city\’s residents greeted him by switching on their house lights in unison. A four-cent U.S. stamp was put on sale the same day, making it the first U.S. stamp issued on the day of the event it commemorated. Glenn returned to space 36 years later, making 134 more orbits as a crew member of the space shuttle Discovery (29 Oct – 7 Nov 1998) for investigations on space flight and the aging process.

Looking up this week

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