Saturday, 25 November 2017

AWAY MISSION REPORT: Bluedot Festival 2017

CPO Holly Bowler

Personal Log: 2017.07.09

Yesterday's away mission to the Bluedot Festival at Jodrell Bank went swimmingly. As well as enjoying time fraternising with other space explorers originating from Earth and other worlds, I was able to experience some diverse sounds of the universe, study some interesting meteorites, observe and handle a piece of Hubble equipment, gain knowledge of new (and old) technology, as well as have a walk through a non-Federation ship the likes of I've never seen before. I'm still not sure of the race that built it, but it appears almost organic. Despite my science post, you'll note that I am in engineering uniform; this is for reasons I cannot disclose.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

There Are Nine Planets in Our Solar System

CAPT Anni Potts

But are there? It may be what a great many of us were taught at school, but is this true? The simple answer is no … well, probably no. It's a bit of an ongoing argument and quite a controversial one, too, but the general consensus is no.
Of the original nine planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, it is the latter that had its planetary status repeatedly argued, usually because of its size. Finally, in August 2006, the International Astronomical Union sat down to debate the issue and decided upon three criteria to which any object must comply in order to be considered a planet.
  1. A planet has to orbit the Sun.
  2. A planet needs enough gravity to pull itself into a sphere.
  3. A planet needs to have cleared its neighbourhood (or orbit) of other objects. That means it must be gravitationally dominant and that there are no other bodies of a comparable size in its orbit other than its satellites.
On that basis, of the traditional nine planets, eight of them met those criteria. However, Pluto failed on the third because its mass is only 0.07 times that of the mass of the other objects in its neighbourhood. (In other words, there's a lot of crap in its backyard.) As a result, it was it was relegated to being a dwarf planet instead.
At that same meeting, astronomers examined many of the other bodies in our solar system and reclassified them too. As a result, we now officially have eight planets and five dwarf planets in our solar system, but even that may change.

Dwarf Planets

Eris is the largest of our dwarf planets, although some sources say it is slightly smaller than Pluto. Discovered in 2005, because it was deemed larger than Pluto, it was considered to be the tenth planet for a while. Eris is particularly fascinating because of its orbit which is not 'round' but elliptical and on a very different plane to the rest of the planets and dwarf planets in our solar system.
Pluto is next in size and the most renown of the dwarf planets. Then comes Haumea was only recently discovered (in 2004). It is about a third the size of Pluto and only just has enough gravity to keep itself from falling apart. However, despite its size, it does have its own moons.

Ceres (discovered in 1801) is the smallest of the dwarf planets and was previously categorised as an asteroid. (In fact, it was the first asteroid ever discovered.) Like most of the dwarf planets, it's an icy world and it lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. It may also have an ocean buried under its ice.
Makemake is another fairly recent discovery (2005) and is about two-thirds the size of Pluto and deosn't appear to have any moons. With a surface temperature of about −243.2°C, it is covered with methane, ethane, and possibly nitrogen ices.
Ceres (discovered in 1801) is the smallest of the dwarf planets and was previously categorised as an asteroid. (In fact, it was the first asteroid ever discovered.) Like most of the dwarf planets, it's an icy world and it lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. It may also have an ocean buried under its ice.

However, that's not the end of it because there are hundreds of other known bodies in our solar system that could also be dwarf planets. So in answer to the question, how many planets, dwarf or otherwise, are there in our solar system, the answer is that we don't really know.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

A Jurassic Adventure

CDT4 Sandy Joe Reid (Age 5)

One day, Grandma, Ziggly, the CO, Richard and I went on an expedition in the shuttle to study the sun, but a sun flare hit the shuttle and we finished up going back in time 200 million years … to the time of the Jurassic world.
Grandma and Ziggly were a bit shocked, but the CO and I both said, "Cool," and we wanted to explore straight away, but Grandma and Ziggly said we must learn a bit about dinosaurs first. I told them that dinosaurs were my expertise and I know everything about them. So, the CO ordered us to explore but said we had to stay together, and we all said it was a good idea.
We all went out to explore and the first thing we heard was some rustling high up in the conifer trees. To begin with we thought it was a bird, but when Ziggly looked below at some large feet, she pointed and screamed.
I knew instantly what it was. I went over to have a better look. The CO told me to be careful, but I knew that it would not eat me because it was a herbivore. A massive, huge Brachiosaurus.
When Richard saw exactly how big they were, he ordered us back to the shuttle, but I wanted to at least take a video of this massive beast.
Richard said that this place was not safe for us to be, so he told Ziggly and Grandma to work on the sun, to get us back. They found out they could make the sun have another flare by shooting into the sun while driving into it; so, Richard told them to make it so.
It worked, however only got us back to 65 million years ago: the Cretaceous period. We landed and went out to have a look and found a very large deserted nest. It had lots of broken egg shells but it still had one full egg. Grandma said it was an egg that could not hatch, so we transported it to the shuttle so we could study it. But then we came face to face with a Tyrannosaurus Rex. You could see it look at us as though we were its dinner as it is a meat eater.
We ran like the wind to get back to the shuttle and still had to set off very fast as the T. Rex would still eat a space ship if it knows humans are on board. We had to drive to a different part of the world and we landed near where China would be in our time.
We had a look around and met up with a family of Tyrannosaurus Dilongs. The Mummy and Daddy were no bigger than a large cat and they had about ten babies that were very naughty and kept running into the shuttle and it took ages to get them off.
We then saw a porthole open and we heard a voice we knew. Holly and her team had managed to find a way of getting us back. We got into the shuttle and drove into the porthole, which took us back to the ship, but we had not realised that two of the baby T. Dilongs had hidden in the shuttle. Ziggly and Grandma agreed that we must put them in the ship's garden. Richard said he hoped they were two boys or two girls. I don't know why, because I hoped they were one of each.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

CADET ACTIVITY: Can you find the North Star?

Polaris, the North Star, is an important navigational star because its position in the sky is almost exactly (within a few degrees) lined up with the rotational axis of the Earth. This means that no matter where you are on the Earth (so long as you're in the Northern Hemisphere) if you face toward Polaris you are facing North. Finding Polaris is an incredibly useful night time navigation technique that's helped everyone from the Egyptians to the Vikings find there way on the open seas. But it also is one of the easiest stars to find. Find the constellation of Ursa Major, commonly known as the Big Dipper. It is perhaps the most easily recognizable constellation in the night sky, and looks like a large spoon or perhaps a wheel barrow.
It is composed of seven bright stars - three in the handle and four in the head of the spoon. If you can find it in the picture above, great. If not, look at the next photo.
Next, imagine the line connecting the two front stars of the Big Dipper, (marked in red). If you continue this line off to the upper right, the first bright star you come to is Polaris, the North Star.
Can you find the North Star in the night sky? (