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220 - Space News

This week Matt is joined by another new regular show co-host Harriet Brettle to chat about all things space at the start of the Year.



"The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible."
Arthur C. Clarke

Happy Birthday

Amy J. Barger (born January 18, 1971) is an American astronomer.

Barger earned a B.A. in Astronomy-Physics in 1993 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, She currently is a professor there, and a PhD in Astronomy in 1997 from King's College, University of Cambridge

Area of expertise, Observational cosmology, distant galaxies and supermassive black holes, star formation and accretion histories of the universe

She helped show that the activity of black holes in nearby galaxies was greater and more recent than expected. Made discoveries concerning stellar activity in distant galaxies.




Space News



Elon Musk Actual Drink

Space Cargo Unlimited want agriculture in the future to be both organic and healthy and able to feed humanity, being French nothing is more important to the quality of life than a good bottle of Red Wine. So they sent a case of Bordeaux up to the is and this returned with the Dragon Capsule on Wednesday on its first Atlantic splashdown near Florida, the wine will be opened a month later for tasting and chemical analysis.



New Shepard:

Apogee: 106.93 kilometres (66.44 mi). The first flight of booster "Tail No. 4" and crew capsule "RSS First Step". including new seats, new comms, displays and environmental control systems. They flew 50,000 postcards submitted by students through Club for the Future ….but when will it actually carry a human? Other than "Mannequin Skywalker,"




2020 was the warmest on record.

Declares NASA using it’s fleet of satellites and hundreds of other resources.

  • Joint with a margin of error with 2016

  • Globally averaged temperature was 1.02 degrees Celsius warmer than the baseline 1951-1980 mean

“The last seven years have been the warmest seven years on record, typifying the ongoing and dramatic warming trend,” Whether one year is a record or not is not really that important – the important things are long-term trends. With these trends, and as the human impact on the climate increases, we have to expect that records will continue to be broken.”
GISS Director Gavin Schmidt. “

Strong signs that the Biden administration will listen more carefully to the scientists again, after the quite frankly bizarre episode in US history where scientists have been locked out of the discussion.

  • science will always be at the forefront of my administration," and is elevating the post of science adviser to Cabinet level — a White House first.

  • Biden said the scientists "will ensure everything we do is grounded in science, facts and the truth."


Plans to rebuild the Arecibo dish?

  • Ramón Lugo, principal investigator for Arecibo at the University of Central Florida (UCF), Staff and researchers asked to come up with a plan!!

  • Relevant for the next 50 years

  • satisfy the needs of planetary and atmospheric scientists as well as astronomers

  • Cost about $400 million

  • White Paper reveals. Instead of a large dish in the sinkhole, a platform covered in 1000 steerable dishes

  • FOV 500 times that of a single fixed dish. Two times more of the sky as the original

  • Sagittarius A* would come into view!!!!

  • If you spot a pulsar orbiting, you could really unpick the gravitational field because of the clock-like nature of this stellar remnant.

  • Big Block!! - Peurto Rico doesn’t have a voting representative in Congress so it’s hard to get the right type of support

  • The decadal review is done, this would have to muscle its way in front of projects already deemed to be the ones scientists have argued they want to go.

  • Private Foundations!!!

  • Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced allocated $8 million to clean up the site and design a replacement

  • Lot’s of researchers have abandoned their projects written with Arecibo in mind.




The Mole is Dead!!!

When you go camping there really is no way to tell how easy it is going to be to knock your tent pegs in even from one plot to the next.

Turns out that the spot chosen for insight was one of those tent peg bending spots.

After two years of efforts the German Mole managed to hammer itself down no further than about 50cm when it was really supposed to go about 10 times that.

But overall Insight has been a total success with 500 earthquakes measured. And the Mole will have some useful data about the regolith.



UK uses it’s Nuclear know-how in space!!!!

Rolls-Royce has signed an innovative contract with the UK Space Agency for a study into future nuclear power options for space exploration

“Space nuclear power and propulsion is a game-changing concept that could unlock future deep-space missions that take us to Mars and beyond. This study will help us understand the exciting potential of atomic-powered spacecraft, and whether this nascent technology could help us travel further and faster through space than ever before.”
Dr Graham Turnock, Chief Executive- UK Space Agency
  • twice as efficient as the chemical engines that power our rockets today.

  • Spacecraft make it to Mars in just 3 to 4 months, half the time of the fastest possible trip in a spacecraft using the current chemical propulsion

  • Ironically halving the astronauts radiation dose!!!

  • Why Rolls Royce. Propulsion experts obviously but also Nuclear power plant experts who build small modular nuclear reactors, including terrestrial plans for 16 mini nuclear plants in the UK, control systems in major Nuclear power plants around the world.

  • UK has a very specific supply chain that could make this a reality, as well as the heritage of universities at the forefront of nuclear tech etc. and BIS projects like Deadalus, The United Kingdom established the world's first civil nuclear programme and of Course Kiwi/Brit Rutherford is the father of Nuclear Physics conducted the very first man made Nuclear reaction at the University of Manchester in 1917 discovering the Proton. Just a little over 100 years ago!!!.

  • We might see a rocket Lab Rutherford engine in action this week, unfortunately it’s not Nuclear!!!!



Paper of the Week

The NANOGrav 12.5 yr Data Set: Search for an Isotropic Stochastic Gravitational-wave Background... Zaven Arzoumanian et al


Awesome use of Pulsars!!!

So using a massive database of arrival timings of 45 different pulsar observations to extract a kind of sea of gravitational waves permeating the universe. An analogy would be Earh as a ship at sea being tossed and turned, looking at thousands of light houses you could work out something about the energy of the waves and the cause of them.

NANOGrav stands for North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves, and uses the galaxy itself as a Ligo type detector and the light from these pulsars as a laser. Pulsar Timing Array. Hoping to dtect GW but also maybe new physics too.

NANOGrav cooperates with similar experiments in Australia (the Parkes Pulsar Timing Array) and Europe (the European Pulsar Timing Array). Together, we make up the International Pulsar Timing Array, or IPTA. It used most of the data front he Arecibo dish and indeed it makes up part of it’s logo, and the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia

Very low frequency GW can’t be detected with Ligo and Virgo.

This method is HARD - deviations are on the order of a few hundred nanoseconds and occur over timescales of years, however correlations between the arrival times of pulses from pairs of pulsars. When plotted as a function of the angle between the pulsars, the result is the “Hellings–Downs curve”. This curve is independent of the direction of the gravitational waves so it can be used to look for evidence for the cosmic gravitational-wave background – which should include waves travelling in all directions.

This Paper hints at some exciting preliminary evidence, after years of statistical analysis.

“These enticing first hints of a gravitational-wave background suggest that supermassive black holes likely do merge and that we are bobbing in a sea of gravitational waves rippling from supermassive black hole mergers in galaxies across the universe,” says NANOGrav member Julie Comerford at the University of Colorado Boulder.

“We’ve found a strong signal in our dataset, but we can’t say yet that this is the gravitational wave background,” says NANOGrav’s Joseph Simon, who is also in at Boulder.

A definitive detection will take a few more years. These results are what the team expected to see so far so it is looking good, ...not sure how Arecibo collapse will affect future hunting!!!!























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