Thursday, October 22, 2009

Space Links


Over the past few months, I've unveiled a few facts about the Solar system you don't know and might not be able to find from casual looking. This month, I want to give you some resources to look up some of this stuff, and to answer the questions that I'm intentionally not answering for you. There's a lot of cool stuff to know.

Did you know that it was because of studying Venus that we discovered the possibility of a runaway Greenhouse Effect? Did you know that the Sun has recently started doing some really strange things? Did you know that, even though the universe is about 14 billion years old, and that nothing can travel faster than light, it's 93 billion light-years across?

The Solar System is filled with fascinating and mysterious objects. Studying Venus was our first clue that a runaway greenhouse effect was possible, and is merely one tiny example of how studying our local space environment can help improve the quality of life on Earth. There’s lots more we need to know, not the least of which is WHEN (not IF) another huge rock is going to hit our planet. Earth is the biggest solid object in the Solar System, and as such, it gets hit far more often than smaller planets, and I think we can all see that the Moon has been hit quite a bit, with its giant craters, so it’s a good idea to find all the rocks that might hit us and get them moved out of our way. As cool as it would be to find aliens with the SETI project, I think this is a little more important.

In the past few years, we’ve built some very interesting telescopes that have allowed us to finally see planets revolving around other stars. We are finding them all over the place, with new ones being spotted literally every day.

We’ve spotted gigantic stars that are so huge they could engulf our Sun and all 9 planets. We’ve spotted star-sized diamonds. We’ve seen galaxies explode. We’ve seen objects traveling very nearly the speed of light. We’ve discovered gigantic black holes, and one of them is at the center of our own galaxy! We’re even peering back to the very beginnings of Time and the Universe themselves, and we’ve got a pretty good picture of how and when the Universe was born and how it’s going to die.

Astronomy is the biggest science, it has provided us with inventions like Velcro, scratch-resistant lenses, CCDs, and satellite protections against the Sun, and it receives very little funding for the myriad of benefits derived from its study. Here is a small list of some of NASA’s contributions to life on Earth.
With all the cool stuff that’s out there to explore, and all the useful stuff we’ve learned already, I don’t know why everyone isn’t trying to be an astronomer!

I’ll be adding more content here as I find interesting things that aren’t widely known; that’s what I’m all about: doing things no one or hardly anyone does. Those of you who want to know more incredible facts about our solar system, our galaxy, and our universe, would be well advised to visit these sites:

Wikipedia has lots of interesting articles, just do a search for the planet or star in question. Frex:
             Pistol Star
             What a black hole is
             What stars are
             The Pillars of Creation
          Size of the Universe

This is just a SMALL sample of the awesomeness out there available for your discovery. And if you get the Science Channel, they often have astronomy-related programs to watch.

Oh, and if you want to feel small, watch this video.


Further reading to whet your appetite for knowledge:
Solar System - Sun
Hey baby, what's your sign? (Updated!)
Solar System - Earth


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