Newsletter #14

Let’s be Astro!!

1. Human Colony planned on the Moon
The ongoing work is expected to help plot out other deep-space trips, such as the journey to a near-Earth asteroid and the larger leap to distant Mars.

Under NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) Projects, scientists and engineers are examining how best to utilize NASA’s Orion deep-space crew capsule and future human habitats to set up a cislunar outpost. [Visions of Deep-Space Stations (Gallery)]

Engineering looks are in progress to outline life-support needs, astronaut radiation protection and communication systems that work best for operations in cislunar space.

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2. Solar Eclipse visible from Singapore
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon gets between Earth and the sun, and the moon casts a shadow over Earth. A solar eclipse can only take place at the phase of new moon, when the moon passes directly between the sun and Earth and its shadows fall upon Earth’s surface. But whether the alignment produces a total solar eclipse, a partial solar eclipse or an annular solar eclipse depends on several factors, all explained below.

The fact that an eclipse can occur at all is a fluke of celestial mechanics and time. Since the moon formed about 4.5 billion years ago, it has been gradually moving away from Earth (by about 1.6 inches, or 4 centimeters per year). Right now the moon is at the perfect distance to appear in our sky exactly the same size as the sun, and therefore block it out. But this is not always true.

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IMPT: We will organised school-wide (including both high school and college sections) solar eclipse observation during morning assembly on 9th March at terrace! There will be solar glasses for you to try out and short hands-on activity!! Do check out our Facebook ( know more!!
3. Scientists finally track down the source of mysterious radio bursts
Astronomers have been perplexed by Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) for over a decade, but now at least part of the mystery has been solved. In a study published Wednesday in Nature, researchers report for the first time the actual source of one of these strange bursts – or the location of the source, anyway.

First, a little bit about FRBs: They’re bright radio flashes of the flash-in-the-pan variety, lasting just a few milliseconds and never repeating. Scientists believe they must occur thousands of times a day, but until this most recent study, only 16 had ever been detected. They seem randomly distributed throughout the sky, and no one is sure what causes them.

A flash detected on April 18 by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization’s (CSIRO)  64-m Parkes radio telescope in Australia was tracked down to an elliptical galaxy around 6 billion light years away.

We still don’t know what causes FRBs, but this does give us some clues: As Slate’s Phil Plait points out, elliptical galaxies are usually quite old. That means it’s unlikely that a massive star going supernova caused this particular FRB, since stars like that don’t tend to live long enough to show up in galaxies this decrepit.

Based on the suspected age of the galaxy and the timescale of the event (the afterglow lasted six days) the researchers believe a pair of colliding neutron stars could be to blame. But it’s possible – even likely – that FRBs come from a variety of sources, because some of the previously observed bursts didn’t seem to fit the same bill.

Figure: A zoom-in of an elliptical galaxy showing the FRB pulse detected at Parkes.

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4. Hubble’s Blue Bubble
Sparkling at the center of this beautiful image is a star located about 30,000 light-years away.  The distinctive blue bubble appearing to encircle the star is a Wolf–Rayet nebula— an interstellar cloud of dust, hydrogen, helium and other gases. The bubble — estimated to have formed around 20,000 years ago — is expanding at a rate of around 220,000 kilometers (136,700 miles) per hour!

Unfortunately, the lifecycle of a Wolf–Rayet star is only a few hundred thousand years — the blink of an eye in cosmic terms. Despite beginning life with a mass at least 20 times that of the sun, Wolf–Rayet stars typically lose half their mass in less than 100,000 years. And WR 31a is no exception to this case. It will, therefore, eventually end its life as a spectacular supernova, and the stellar material expelled from its explosion will later nourish a new generation of stars and planets.

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5. Scientists pinpoint dates for multiple ancient Earth impacts
Approximately 790,000 years ago, there were multiple cosmic impacts on earth with global consequences in the Australasian and Central American regions. Isotope measurements were made to determine the age of craters. This is evidenced by tektites, so-called rock glasses that arise during impact, whereby molten terrestrial material is hurled up to several hundred miles and then hardens into glass. (See image below) According to the scientists, the earth-striking body was “at least a kilometre in size and released an impressive one million megatons of TNT energy within seconds of impact.”

The consequences were dire. There was fire and earthquakes for hundreds of miles surrounding the impact site; an ocean impact would have caused tsunamis hundreds to thousands of feet high. Dust and gases were ejected into the upper atmosphere, blocking sunlight and lowering surface temperatures. However, according to the scientists, it did not result in global mass extinction as in the case of the dinosaurs approximately 65 million years ago.

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6. Powerful Laser Could Blast Spacecraft to Mars in 3 Days
It sounds like science fiction, but it’s eminently possible, researchers say: Robotic spacecraft could get to Mars after a journey of just three days.

The key to making this happen is photon propulsion, which would use a powerful laser to accelerate spacecraft to relativistic speeds, said Philip Lubin, a physics professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

aims to eventually place a laser in Earth orbit, which would use photon pressure to power a sail-equipped spacecraft as it travels away from Earth. Photons have quite a bit of stored energy, which would transfer into a push once they hit the sail.

This method could propel a 220-lb. (100 kilograms) robotic craft to Mars in just three days, Lubin said. A crewed vehicle would take a bit longer to get to the Red Planet — maybe a month or so, he said.

“Exploring the nearest stars and exoplanets would be a profound voyage for humanity, one whose nonscientific implications would be enormous,” Lubin wrote in a recent paper on the topic. “It is time to begin this inevitable journey beyond our home.”

Hope you enjoy! Also, if you want to share with us any news or updates you found about Astro, do feel free to send them to this email, and they would possibly appear on the next newsletter!! Everything is welcomed! Let’s create an Astro sharing community!!! Thank you and wish you a great week ahead!!:)

On behalf of Hwa Chong Astronomy Club

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