Elon Musk’s launched his own person Tesla Roadster, complete with mannequin driver, Starman, into orbit around the sun on Feb. 6, 2018, using SpaceX’s massive Falcon Heavy rocket. It’s currently on an elliptical path that takes it out beyond Mars at its most distant point from the sun and near Earth’s orbit at its closest solar approach, making its orbital period around 557 Earth days. According to an orbit-modeling study performed last year the roadster will crash into Venus or Earth within the next 10-20 million years, with a 6% chance of it hitting the later within the next million or so years. Read more for another video and additional information.
Check your compass, Earth’s north magnetic pole is drifting from the Canadian Arctic towards Siberia at such a quick pace that the change is forcing researchers to make an unprecedented early update to a model that helps navigation by ships, planes and submarines in the Arctic. Just so you don’t get confused, the geographic north pole is fixed, while the magnetic north pole — the north that your compass uses – is not. Read more for another video and additional information.
Photo credit: Reddit
Developed by Surrey NanoSystems in the United Kingdom, Vantablack is currently the darkest known material on Earth, absorbing up to 99.96% of visible light (at 663 nm if the light is perpendicular to the material). It’s composed of a forest of vertical tubes “grown” on a substrate using a modified chemical vapor deposition process (CVD), so when light strikes the material, instead of bouncing off from it, the beams become trapped and is continually deflected amongst the tubes, eventually becoming absorbed and dissipating into heat. This is what a basketball looks like when coated in Vantablack.
China’s lunar lander has just woken up from a two-week-long hibernation on the far side of the moon, and recorded temperatures as low as 190° C (-310° F) during its first lunar night, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA). This was lower than those experienced by previous US missions to the near side of the moon, said Zhang He, executive director of the Chang’e-4 mission, to Xinhua news agency. “That’s probably due to the difference in lunar soil composition between the two sides of the moon,” he said. Read more for another video and additional information.
Astronomers have spotted a piece of debris as close as 370 miles from the Earth’s surface, and it’s thought to be what is known as an “empty trash bag object” (ETBO), which often orbit in erratic ways given their size and shape. It’s believed they are remnants from a rocket launch, but researchers can’t pinpoint the exact spacecraft it came from, and can stretch several meters across. Read more for a video and additional information.
In astronomical terms, a conjunction occurs when two celestial objects or spacecraft have either the same right ascension or the same ecliptic longitude, usually as observed from Earth. Jupiter, Venus and the Moon all appeared in the sky earlier today, but did you know that the two objects involved are not actually close to one another in space? These conjunctions between two bright objects close to the ecliptic, such as two bright planets, can be seen with the naked eye, without the need for a telescope. Read more for another video, additional pictures and information.
If you’ve ever been in extremely cold weather and tried to use a mobile phone, it probably shut down or could not be turned on. This is because Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) batteries used in all iPhones and most other smartphones do not allow charging below freezing temperatures. “Low- or high-temperature conditions might cause the device to change its behavior to regulate its temperature. Using an iOS device in very cold conditions outside of its operating range might temporarily shorten battery life and could cause the device to turn off,” said Apple. Read more for another video and additional information.
Photo credit: Colin Murray
Residents of Vancouver Island were surprised to see fallstreak hole, also known as a hole-punch cloud, early Monday morning, and some had their cameras out ready to capture this phenomenon. The U.S. National Weather Service says these form when “high to mid-level clouds, such as altocumulus, composed of tiny water droplets that are much colder than freezing, but have yet to freeze.” These large numbers of tiny ice crystals, which could be formed by passing aircraft, introduced in the cloud layer sets off a domino effect of fusion, thus creating the hole. Read more for additional pictures and information.
Researchers have not yet been able to figure out why Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, has such a thick, nitrogen-rich atmosphere that is more than seven times as massive as Earth’s atmosphere when adjusted for surface area. This creates a haze around the moon which blocks most of the Sun’s rays making its surface near impossible to see. “The main theory has been that ammonia ice from comets was converted, by impacts or photochemistry, into nitrogen to form Titan’s atmosphere. While that may still be an important process, it neglects the effects of what we now know is a very substantial portion of comets: complex organic material. A lot of organic chemistry is no doubt happening on Titan, so it’s an undeniable source of curiosity,” said Dr. Kelly Miller, research scientist in the Southwest Research Institute’s Space Science and Engineering Division. Read more for another video and additional information.
Photo credit: Christian Baker
The axolotl is a Mexican salamander with incredible regenerative abilities, which means you can slice off its leg off, and the limb will grow right back, exactly the way it was. How they’re able to do this and humans can’t is still a mystery to researchers. “It’s hard to find a body part they can’t regenerate: the limbs, the tail, the spinal cord, the eye, and in some species, the lens, even half of their brain has been shown to regenerate,” said study co-lead author Randal Voss, a professor at the University of Kentucky Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center. Read more for another video and additional information.