Understanding the Origin of Stars

Stars light up the night sky on a daily basis and are for both kids and adults tiny twinkling specimens that are full of mystery. After all how much do you little ones really know about where stars come from and how they illuminate the skies? Scientific study has revealed stars to be collections of atoms floating in space that form carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen. Under the right conditions stars and even small planets form as a result.

Photo by: epSos.de

To dive deeper into the study of stars and their formation, NASA has just recently sent a flight into a star nursery to properly observe the inner workings of star formations. This will give researchers and scientists the opportunity to see the step by step process of how a star comes to be. The payload sent into space is known as the Colorado High-resolution Echelle Stellar Spectrograph, or CHESS.

This all new technology is allowing us to record details such as the timeline breakdown for the forming of the clouds in space. Sending the CHESS into space also allows NASA to test for sending future satellites into space.

Counting Whales from Space

Who knew there are high tech gadgets to help us count whales? Scientists created a new, high resolution satellite technology to not only just count the number of whales, but to estimate their population size.

Photo by Isaac Kohane

Photo by Isaac Kohane

It has always been extremely difficult and costly to estimate whale population size of marine mammals. This new method is revolutionary in the sense that it is much more accurate and it can cover larger areas at the same time, which is very beneficial for conservation efforts to protect the whale species.

This technique has a 89% chance of identifying probable whales in space. This semi automated method however, still need some manual input to give the most accurate results. Future satellite platforms will provide even higher quality imagery.

Nothing but Red Skies

A red sky in our atmosphere here on Earth is a beautiful sight at sunrise or sunset and it is also indicative of the weather changing. But on other planets and stars, a red sky may not seem as glamorous or simple. An example of a strange celestial body, called a brown dwarf, with unusually red skies was discovered recently by a team of astronomers.

Photo by JanetR3

Brown dwarfs are actually not planets or stars. They fall in a category in between the two because they are too big to be called planets, but they do not possess the right properties to fully transform into stars either. A Brown dwarf’s size is in between a star, like the Sun, and a big planet, like Jupiter. Sometimes they can be referred to as “failed stars” since they lack the energy source a star has making them cold and not as visible in our night skies.

A particular brown dwarf caught the eye of astronomers recently because of its very red appearance in comparison to others. Using the Very Large Telescope (VLT) located in Chile, astronomers were able to observe this peculiar sight. They found that a thick layer of clouds in the brown dwarf’s atmosphere was causing it to look red. But these clouds aren’t the same as the ones we are used to here on Earth—these clouds are made mostly of mineral dust and the size of these dust grains are what makes the brown dwarf appear red.

The Astronomers found that the brown dwarf’s atmosphere is very hot and extreme, containing gases not suitable for us here on Earth to breath. Not only is the brown dwarf too hot for us to survive there, but it also has very large particles that dominate its atmosphere. Ouch!

Observing these celestial bodies, along with other planets and stars, will give us great insight as to how these extreme atmospheres work. Scientists can also better understand the range of the many atmospheres that can exist in our galaxy.

New Development in Robotic Technology

It seems that researchers in the scientific field of robotic technology have cracked another difficulty. A new type of robotic arm created by SINTEF, the largest independent research organization in Scandinavia, is now believed to be the solution to make commercial production lines more labor and cost effective.

Photo By: Steve Jurvetson

Photo By: Steve Jurvetson

These new types of robots are equipped with a gripper tool and 3D vision, which allows it to pick up objects in different positions in consistent intervals. Why does this matter so much? Over the years, researchers have tried numerous methods to mimic the action of “bin-picking”, which is the motion of picking an object up and placing it down. With the new advancement, the robots are able to pick up a castor and place is into a box effortlessly. With the implementation of this new technique, it can relief the challenges human beings may face in the production environment. Ultimately, this new development will influence the industrial production line positively.

The researchers will continue to invest in the project in hope of creating a prototype that can bring more convenience to our lives.

Europa – Our Potential Habitable Environment

What is the first criterion to defining a habitable environment for humans? Water to sustain life. Through NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, scientists were able to observe water vapor above the south polar region of Europa, providing the first solid evidence of the existence of an ocean under Europa’s icy crust.

Photo by Lunar and Planetary Institute

Photo by Lunar and Planetary Institute

Researchers are able to speculate that the water vapor is most likely generated when water plumes erupted on the surface. If these findings are proven to be true, this would make Europa the second moon in the solar system known to have water vapor plumes. Also, the evidence provides a general idea of the chemical makeup of Europa and its potential of becoming a habitable environment, without digging through the layers of ice.

Photo by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Photo by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Since this moon has a strong gravitational pull, majority of the -40°F vapor would fall back onto the surface, rather than escaping into space. This new observation, if confirmed, can demonstrate the reliability and power of the Hubble Space Telescope, and its ability to explore new worlds for potentially habitable environments in our solar system.