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  • Writer's pictureMatt Russell

#138 - Surfing Star Stuff Seeding Solar System

The scenery was very beautiful. But I did not see The Great Wall of China.

Yang Liwei

Well of course you can’t. You can just about see it with a 180mm lens photo!

In fact a picture by Chiao with a 400mm lens was greeted with joy by the Chinese but it’s still pretty hard to see. Radar picks it up pretty well from space.

Might be hard because it’s the same colour as the surroundings.

The pyramids are just about visible.

As for the moon, rumour you could see the wall …no chance.

"The only thing you can see from the Moon is a beautiful sphere, mostly white, some blue and patches of yellow, and every once in a while some green vegetation," said Alan Bean, Apollo 12 astronaut. "No man-made object is visible at this scale."


Birthday bonanza!

1706 – John Dollond, English optician and astronomer (d. 1761) - the first person to patent the achromatic doublet – You could buy glasses from Dollan and Aitchison until 2015, now boots own it.

1823 – Jean Chacornac, French astronomer (d. 1873) – Discovered the Comet most likely the cuase of the Eta Erinianids, and 6 asteroids including 39 Laetitia

1845 – Arthur Cowper Ranyard, English astrophysicist and astronomer (d. 1894) who distinguished himself for writing up solar eclipses, studying the nature of nebulas, star clusters and the stella universe. the sun and moon.

1863 – Max Wolf, German astronomer and academic (d. 1932) – uber astrophotographer and Wolf won a competition with E. E. Barnard on who would be the first to observe the return of Halley's Comet (P1/Halley) in April 1910. With bernards help he also first acuratley described dark nebulas, not as herschels “holes in space” but fine opaque dust. This bloke was a prolific, he gave Carl Zeiss the idea of the Planetarium, Discover of many comets, supernovae remnants, asteroids, and put together pretty amazing star catalogues, his stars such as Wolf 359 and not to be confused with Wolf-Rayet stars that is Charles Wolf a French dude.

1915 – Wilhelm Gliese, (gleesa) German soldier and astronomer (d. 1993): known for his Catalogue of Nearby Stars, originally published in 1957[2] and again in 1969. Now famous because of exoplanets around Gliese stars like Gllese 581g

1916 – Herbert Friedman, American physicist and astronomer (d. 2000) Aspiring artist who grew up to be a pionner in using sounding rockets to study the sun.

1919 – Admiral Ludwig von Reuter scuttles the German fleet at Scapa Flow, Orkney. The nine sailors killed are the last casualties of World War I. there have been 1900 nuclear tests since this. When you turn iron into steel it contains all this radiation …so there is a chance that the purer low backround steel harvested from this fleet was used in many space craft as it doesn’t interfere with sensitive instruments.

1958 – Gennady Padalka, Russian colonel, pilot, and astronaut. The current holder of most time in space --- 878.480 days over 5 flights with 9 spacewalks. With Malenchenko 50 days behind, could be beaten buy Kaleri who is still active.

1965 – Yang Liwei, Chinese general, pilot, and astronaut: In October 2003, he became the first person sent into space by the Chinese space program. This mission, Shenzhou 5, made China the third country to independently send humans into space. Although the first Chinese citizen in space, Yang Liwei is not the first person of Chinese origin in space. Shanghai-born Taylor Wang flew on Space Shuttle mission STS-51-B in 1985

He ate specially designed packets of shredded pork with garlic, Kung Pao chicken and eight treasure rice, along with Chinese herbal tea, Yang's capsule was supplied with a gun, a knife and tent in case he landed in the wrong place. He had a bleeding lip after a really hard landing. The asteroid 21064 Yangliwei and the fossil bird Dalingheornis liweii are named after him. Not to be confused with female basketball legend Yang Liwei. …the exact same name.

2004 – SpaceShipOne becomes the first privately funded spaceplane to achieve spaceflight.

2006 – Pluto's newly discovered moons are officially named Nix and Hydra.

Elon musks twitter debacle,

What a wally, says he’s deleting his account, but we can clearly see he hasn’t and he never does, despite being ludicrously ridiculous with it as a CEO of several major companies, he needs to calm down. Any way he changed it tit Daddy dot com, then back again, all because he used someones artwork without name checking then basically said he can do what he likes, so someone wound him up with mentioning Tesla founders, of which musk is not, …sore point. Then he went on a deleting spree, but the internet is what it is and all of it has been screenshot. We should be worried. I noticed lots of artists went on twitter to moan about the state of art being used without credit, Man IP is the wild west out there.

In the meantime a SpaceX Falcon Heavy is on the pad for a static fire test expected today. The rocket rolled out to Launch Complex 39A early this morning and is now standing on the pad for a brief firing of its 27 first-stage engines later today. The launch of the rocket, on the STP-2 mission for the Air Force's Space Test Program, is scheduled for no earlier than Monday night, Carries multiple cubesats and other small payloads for NASA, NOAA, The Planetary Society solar sail, and others in addition to the primary mission which consists of multiple U.S. Air Force payloads

Tonight we should see an Ariane 5 launch. ...not many left now!

We might see an Electron, and Atlas V and even LuancherOne, which if successful could pave the way for a UK luanch soon in 2020

Talking of mad

"We will push onward with new medical frontiers. We will come up with the cures to many, many problems, to many, many diseases — including cancer and others, and we're getting closer all the time."

"We will eradicate AIDS in America once and for all, and we're very close. We will lay the foundation for landing American astronauts on the surface of Mars."

A star named after the discovery team leader, Bonnard J. Teegarden, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center only 12.5 light years away has planets, an international team led by the University of Göttingen has found two planets close to Earth mass in what it considers to be the habitable zone around this tiny star, only discovered in 2003, while scouring Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking data collected over 5 years.

The Planets have orbital periods of 4.91 and 11.4 days, very close to a sun that is 10% the mass of the sun and only 2700 celsius. the first Earth-mass planets around an ultra-cool dwarf for which the masses have been determined using radial velocities

  • Teegarden’s Star is about 8 billion years old

  • Teegarden’s Star so small just about over upper size limit for brown dwarfs

  • between 60 and 90 Jupiter masses, and at magnitude 15

  • Aliens on these planets could see earth transit our sun, so we could work out ideal times to send messages and when we might recive an answer, fr this system we are talking sending a signal out in 2032, which they would recieve in 2044 and get back a signal by 2056. ...maybe I’ll still be alive!!!

How the solar system ended up with heavy elements!

So we’re all familiar with the phrase we’re all made form star stuff, that comes form the idea that as stars end their lives in massive explosions as their cores collapse and bounce back into a supernova this releases all those heavier elements vital for life. But actually a new paper in Nature by Imre Bartos & Szabolcs Marka, Called a “A nearby neutron-star merger explains the actinide abundances in the early Solar System” explains an even more mind blowing and more likely correct and refined version of this hypothesis.

Actinides are 15 metallic chemical elements with atomic numbers from 89 to 103, actinium through lawrencium

So where do we start, - Space word of the week - R-process.

There is a process called Rapid Neutron capture Process or ‘R-Process’ which is the mechanism that creates the heavier elements, in fact The r-process usually synthesizes all of the two most neutron-rich stable isotopes of each heavy element.

There are three candidate sites for r-process nucleo-synthesis where the required conditions are thought to exist:

  • low-mass supernovae,

  • Type II supernovae

  • Neutron star mergers,

-They can also be made in nuclear weapons, which is how some were originally discovered.

So in a supernova explosion as the star explodes some of it core elements are blasted out along with a big sea of neutrons. As these fly into space some of the neutrons are captured by the smaller core elements and this builds up the elements in the periodic table. The crux here is that neutrons are captured faster than they decay so you can get these very heavy nuclei, circumnavigating the half life of the elements in between.

But two lines of evidence seem to suggest that you would not see enough of the heavier elements in just supernovae, simulations of supernovae don’t produce enough and also given the abundance of supernovae we would see way more of these heavier elements than we do.

So we talked way back on podcast 51 about the start of the multi-messenger physics, when LIGO detected the merger of two superdense stellar corpses, neutron stars, in the galaxy NGC 4993, located about 130 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Hydra, Multi-messenger because we were able to point the telescopes at the source and observe in visible light, What astronomers saw was mind blowing the spectrum of the light was full of the r-process heavy elements, unlike when we do the same with supernova.

In a exciting almost ironic way it’s increasingly likely that the materials used to power voyager, cassini and Curiosity, the machines NASA uses to explore our solar system come from neutron star collisions.!!!

So how does it happen in Neutron stars? When these rediculously massive and dense object collide, they form a black hole, so how does anything escape?. Many of the Neutrons that were nice and stable in the neutron star configuration are now in a swirly disc of matter, an accretion disk, around the blackhole, and many of them, beta decay into protons releasing neutrinos and electrons. Amazing it’s this intense sea of Neutrinos that the newly formed protons and some other elements cores neucleons are now riding, like little surfers, away from their doom. In the mean time all the other Neutrons in this swirling disk of matter are bombarding these nuclei building up the elements in r-process, and the wave after wave of neutrinos are helping them to escape to victory.

As neutron-star mergers occur infrequently, the material deposited in our own pre-solar nebula could have been dominated by a few nearby events, What seems like it could be end of the story here as these heavy r-process isotopes with short half lives will ahve decayed away before we get a chance to measure them. But actually we can test for the abundance of these in the daughter products found in Meteorites.

The paper goes on to show how it seems really likely that these heavy elements, vital for so many things could have been caused by a single event, and not only that they are able to pinpoint when and where!!! about 300 parsecs away from the pre-solar nebula, approximately 80 million years before the formation of the Solar System. This picture is really neat, it fits in with the statistical chances and densities of these very rare neutron star mergers.

Of course there are other theories, for example a rare, powerful supernovae called collapsars, that result in accreting black holes and little remaining stellar matter in the surrounding medium could be an important r-process source.

The scientists concentrated on Curium and Plutonian isotopes, more studies into different actinides and inferring their abundance in the solar system, could help pinpoint this dominant nearby neutron-star merger event.

Astrobotics contract NASA

Podcast 77 we mentioned astrobotics as they have a contract with Goonhilly and Surrey satellites

  • Commercial Lunar Payload Services CLPS program to ferry science instruments to the lunar surface.

  • How they are now being framed!! “These CLPS providers are really leading the way for our return to the moon as part of the Artemis program, and these are precursor missions prior to us landing the first woman and the next man on the surface of the moon in 2024,” Steve Clarke, associate deputy administrator for exploration in NASA’s science division

  • “We are humbled by this selection to return America to the Moon. Astrobotic has steadily developed our lunar delivery service with a methodical, technically sound lander program validated by world-class company partners like ULA, Dynetics, and Airbus DS. Our focus on delivering for the payload market has enabled our world- leading position with 12-signed deals to date. It is gratifying to now receive this validation from the most accomplished space agency in the world.” said Astrobotic CEO John Thornton. “We are eager to add NASA to our existing manifest of commercial customers, and get America back on the surface as soon as possible.”

  • What will they be taking?

  • 1.2 mil per kilo. What would you send?! How much does an Interplanetary Podcast mug weigh Matt?!


  • The Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, Juice, will ride into space on an Ariane launch vehicle, Arianespace and ESA confirmed today at the International Paris Air Show.

  • Juice is the first large-class mission in ESA's Cosmic Vision 2015–2025 programme. Its mission is devoted to complete a unique tour of the Jupiter system.

  • Its period of operations will overlap with NASA's Europa Clipper mission, also launching in 2022.

  • Juice will spend at least three years making detailed observations of the giant gaseous planet Jupiter and in-depth studies of three of its largest moons and potentially ocean-bearing satellites, Ganymede, Europa and Callisto.

  • The tour includes several flybys of each planet-sized world, and ends with orbit insertion around Ganymede, the largest moon in the Solar System. becoming the first spacecraft to orbit a moon other than the moon of Earth

  • There was going to be a russian lander as part of the mission, called Laplace-p but this looks like it has been shelved.

  • The launch period for Juice will start in mid-2022 aboard an Ariane 5 or an Ariane 64 launch vehicle – depending on the final launch slot from from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, South America.

  • The satellite will have a mass at liftoff of approximately six tonnes and will be placed in an Earth escape orbit in a direction to Jupiter starting a journey of 600 million kilometres. After a 7.5-year cruise, which includes gravitational assists from Earth, Venus and Mars, the spacecraft will enter orbit around the giant planet in October 2029.

  • Juice will carry the most powerful scientific payload ever flown to the outer Solar System. It consists of 10 state-of-the-art instruments plus one science experiment that uses the spacecraft telecommunication system with ground-based radio telescopes.

  • Juice's instruments will enable scientists to compare each of these icy satellites and to investigate the potential for such bodies to harbour habitable environments such as subsurface oceans. They will also carry out observations of Jupiter, its atmosphere, magnetosphere, other satellites and rings.

  • Airbus Defense and Space is developing and building the Juice spacecraft. As prime contractor for design, development, production, and testing of the satellite, Airbus will lead a consortium of more than 80 companies covering more than 110 contracts.

“Juice is the first ‘large-class’ mission in our Cosmic Vision programme and of prime importance for investigating the habitability potential of ocean-worlds beyond our own,” said Günther Hasinger, ESA's Director of Science. “We’re delighted to confirm it will have a flying start with an Ariane launch vehicle, setting it on course to fulfil its scientific goals in the Jupiter system.”

Stéphane Israël, Chief Executive Officer of Arianespace, added: “Arianespace is honored to be awarded this new scientific mission from ESA, which will advance our understanding of the Universe. Less than a year after the launch of BepiColombo to Mercury, we have won the launch contract for the Juice mission to Jupiter’s moons, further confirmation of Arianespace’s ability to ensure Europe’s independent access to space for all types of missions. We are once again marshaling all of our strengths and capabilities to support Europe’s spaceborne ventures, with a launch services offering based on Ariane 5 and Ariane 6 so we can deliver the availability and flexibility needed by ESA for its latest emblematic mission.”

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