The End of a Course, But The Start of a Passion!

Image source here

What a ride this class has been! The sheer amount of new topics and discoveries I learned about is ridiculous, but my favorite has definitely got to be regarding the unknowns and potentials for life in our universe, or even our own Solar System! Learning about worlds such as Europa and Titan, and the liquid conditions that thrive far, far out in our system serve as great encouragement for future life out there. The narrative of exploration is huge, and has gotten me hooked to potential news in the future! The thought of Planet IX’s existence, and the fact that it took so long to notice that aberrations needed to be explained is exciting, as is the recent black hole image that everyone’s been hyped up about (and memeing about) lately! I can’t wait for the discoveries and advancements to come! 🙂


Space Travel?

Image result for millennium falcon jump to lightspeed
Image source here

Jumping into hyperspace to make a lightspeed escape is typically something normally associated with the Millennium Falcon’s capabilities. Our technology, sad to say, is far from the point to where we could safely travel at such speeds. Therefore, even though there are plenty potential hotspots for investigation for life, civilized or microbial, habitable conditions, or ancient records of such…..or all of the above, sending man out to explore the unknown to an appreciable distance beyond our home is…complicated, to say the least. Honestly, the relative difference in time frame was a confusing point in space travel for me in the Star Wars universe, and while we can write it off in fiction, real-world applications aren’t as privy to poetic license.

The classic textbook example is that if you’re on a X-lightyear trip to a galaxy far, far away, a drastically higher number of years would occur on Earth relative to the ship’s crew. The difference in “time” passed poses a variety of societal challenges; even if we were to establish a base and form communication, to what end is it valuable if friends and family could even be dead in what you consider to be a trip of a few years? I don’t know if there’s ever going to be a right answer.

The Dawn Mission!

As I was reading through Chapter 12 I came across text on the Dawn Mission and my curiosity led me to searching for more! For something I hadn’t heard of before, its profound contributions and interesting factoids are beyond astonishing!

Sourced from the NASA website

I am a huge – and I mean HUGE – Star Wars fanatic, and to learn that the TIE fighter from the original trilogy is even remotely related to real science is news to me. TIE stands for twin ion engine, a factoid that I’m ashamed to admit is news to me. And what’s cooler is that the Dawn spacecraft uses ion engines and is apparently the only spacecraft to orbit two “deep-space destinations.” The accomplishments of Dawn are just as impressive as they are interesting; from finding organics on Ceres to revamping or reaffirming perspectives on solar system formation, and world diversity and geography! Ceres could be geologically active, dwarfs could have (or have had) oceans, the list goes on!

I encourage anyone to take a look at Nasa’s website on it, which is hyperlinked in the above image’s caption!

Jovian Planets

Reprocessed view by Bjorn Jonsson of the Great Red Spot taken by Voyager 1 in 1979 reveals an incredible wealth of detail.
Image source and additional information here

Jovian planets always interested me. The term “Jovian” is naturally everyone’s first guess – derived from the Latin root, Iovis, or Jovis. It’s a 3rd declension, genitive singular noun, so any classics nerds should know that it very specifically translates to OF Jupiter.

I don’t know, I just find it interesting that an entire class of planets was named after one. Speaking of that one, Jupiter in particular has always been of interest. It’s the giant of our system…a stormy, gaseous planet. There’s so much more though. The violent, 300mph winds, raging storms visible as a large spot lasting for centuries, and extremely powerful lightning…There’s so much exciting weather to explore with Jupiter!

One more calming phenomenon I find is the aurora, which we know on Earth to be a beautiful luminescence near our pole. Well, sure enough, Jupiter has auroras. Kind of makes sense, but we normally wouldn’t associate such a pretty picture with a planet that tends to have key word searches like storms and violent. They occur at both poles on Jupiter and are constantly occurring!

Saturn’s Rings and Shepherd Moons

Image source and additional information here

One topic regarding Saturn’s rings that I found extremely interesting was the concept of its Shepherd Moons and how they contribute to the uniformity of the rings. If my understanding and memory are correct, this phenomenon is governed by conservation of energy. Essentially, the moons are on opposite sides of the ring, where the moon that has the farthest distance from the planet is moving slower than the closer moon. That’s because of a bunch of physics formulae that illustrate an inverse relationship between velocity and energy (and velocity and radius). Long story short, an equation similar to the gravitational force equation, E=GMm/2r as well as setting up a system of total mechanical energy E = K + U yields E = 1/2mv^2 – GMm/r and we treat E to thus equal GMm/2r when you simplify it. Also, setting the force of gravity equal to centripetal force yields v^2=GM/r which lends to the mathematical proofs of the above relationships.

Aaaanyway, physics aside, the really interesting part about this is how it regulates Saturn’s ring shape! How is it so picture perfect? Well, it’s been a while since I took physics, but basically, if a particle from the ring were to drift, in the direction closer to Saturn, as it’s getting closer to the shepherd moon, the moon will give it a tug…This is because the moon is going even faster (remember, smaller radius, greater velocity), and thus adds extra energy to that system. Remembering that E has an inverse relationship with velocity, now that it has greater energy, it is of a greater radius and lower velocity…aka, it moved to a position farther away from the planet. The opposite also works, but it’s the slower moon on the outer radius that imposes a drag force, if memory serves. Physics might be a drag and tests might be hard but the way it works is undeniably cool!

HW3: Historical Astronomers in Context

Question 2

I chose Galileo Galilei (February 15, 1564 – January 8, 1642).

Galileo Galilei’s contributions to Astronomy were primarily observational. From what we know about his very own scientific method, however, we understand how important those observations really were. It’d be very easy to simply dismiss someone who simply took existing technology and just pointed it up at the night sky. What’s more important is to realize that he was intellectually curious enough to do so, and then made detailed accounts and drawings that, paired with his skills in reasoning and logic, disproved his predecessors. Case in point, the moons of Jupiter and his understanding that they must be orbiting Jupiter. Not only were his processes revolutionary, but the accuracy with which he did them are hailed to be astounding by many.

Question 3a

Plenty of historical events took place throughout Galileo’s lifetime. For instance, in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII implemented the Gregorian Calendar, the very one we use today! And in 1588 the Spanish Armada was defeated. Basically, it was a Spanish fleet that was intended to attack England but failed. Miserably. If anyone’s interested, there was a paper on what would have happened had the Armada actually landed.

Question 3b

William Shakespeare – (April 26, 1564 – April 23, 1616). Our beloved western playwright, he brought timeless classics that still disrupt highschoolers’ attempts at procrastination, only to fail due to Sparknotes. If anyone’s interested in a good read though, MIT has a complete list of his works with links to the actual plays themselves. Plus, it’s free!

Question 4

For me, Galileo’s influence on the world of science is something I’ve been taught over and over ever since middle school. From little factoids to drilling in the scientific method, I always considered him less of a scientist and more of a lucky guy who happened to make good decisions and notice a few things. He reported scientific facts – he wasn’t a scientist. That changed over time, and gradually I began to see why he was so beloved.
As a neuroscience major, every class from Intro Neuro to upper and graduate level courses start out the first lecture with Golgi and Cajal who shared the Nobel prize. The former invented the stain, but the latter used it to produce beautiful drawings of neural structures (also, the neuron doctrine beat out reticular theory but hey who’s counting). It’s the same relationship as Galileo and the telescope. You could say the inventor of the device should get the credit, but you also have to consider the one who used it to its best potential and laid out a foundation for further scientific investigation.

HW Blog1 – The Universe and its expansion

The topic associated with astronomy that intrigues me the most, at least with regards to the list provided, is definitely the vastness of the Universe. As a nerdy fan of late night, I can’t help but find Neil deGrasse Tyson’s appearances extremely entertaining. While I find that his talks often lack substance or depth, his enthusiasm for science is infectious. In the video below, he mentions dark energy and the expansion of the universe, and the acceleration of said expansion.

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Tyson then expounded upon his previous conversation point, saying that over time, this unknown pressure that is accelerating the universe’s expansion will eventually expand to the point where other galaxies would be lost to us. However, could our technology not improve over that time frame to the point where there would be no difference in what we could observe?

He also brings up the point that if in the future, galaxies we know of now will no longer be observable, that means that there might be something in our Universe’s history that we no longer see. Essentially, that we’re staring at an incomplete picture while trying to explore the unknown. It sort of reminds me of the black box approach in science (see this link for more information). We try to operate and control all variables without necessarily understanding what actually happens. How can we study the future if we have an incomplete understanding of the past?

Intro Post

Hiya, this is my intro post for ASTR2110. I’m Michael Fung, a junior from Wisconsin. I major in neuroscience, but music has always been a part of my life. For my post, wasn’t sure what to talk about so figured I’d do a shameless plug. Y’all should go to Choral Prism! I sing in Chorale, but the other Blair ensemble, the Symphonic Choir, will also perform along with VU Concert Choir and the Melodores. It’ll be fun! The information can be found on the Blair events calendar, but it’s Febuary 8th in Ingram Hall. We do two shows, one at 7:30 and one at 9pm! Hope to see y’all there.

Here we see Dr. Biddlecombe in his natural habitat. Photo taken from the Blair website.