Posts tagged ‘space’

The Sun is Green

By Chad Upton

I know, the sun doesn’t look green. But, keep in mind the sky looks blue and we know it’s not really blue. The sky appears blue for the same reason some people’s eyes look blue — an optical illusion known as the Tyndall effect.

sun is green

When scientists measure the wavelength (color) of the sun, the peak output is in the transition area between blue and green (about 500 nanometers). So, technically, the sun is green-blue. But, why doesn’t it look green? (more…)

May 17, 2013 at 2:00 am 6 comments

You Cannot See the Great Wall of China from Space

By Chad Upton | Editor

Before we could even go to space, the myth was the great wall is visible from the moon. Ever since we got to space, astronauts have been looking for it.

GreatWallOfChina

Mathematically, the wall would have to be at least 70 miles (110 km) wide to be seen from the moon with unaided eyes. Since the wall has a maximum width of 30 ft (9.1 m), this is easily dismissed as myth. The moon legend came from a 1754 letter by William Stukeley; his remarks on the massive size of the wall could have been literary hyperbole. But, some people took it literally.

In his defense, there have been a few claims that the great wall can be seen from low earth orbit — as little as 100 miles (160 km). A number of astronauts have claimed they have seen it. Even the European Space Agency claimed it was visible and published a picture. A week later they issued a press release indicating it was actually a river and not the Great Wall of China.

NASA claims it, “generally isn’t [visible], at least to the unaided eye.” Mathematically, it’s the same answer, unless you have 20/3 or better vision. But, according to the Journal of Optometry, “Not even the best of human eyes at a simple glance could see the Great Wall of China from Space.” That’s because the anatomy of the eye limits vision to an acuity no greater than 20/9. So, 20/3 is impossible.

The gaza pyramids on the other hand are about 22 times wider than the Great Wall of China; they are visible from low earth orbit.

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Photo: Keith Roper (cc)

Sources: wikipedia (Great Wall of China), Journal of Optometry, NASA

April 4, 2013 at 2:00 am 1 comment

People Don’t Explode in Space

By Terry D Johnson

Countless science fiction films have exposed their characters to the vacuum of space – often, with explosive results. Outland’s victims of explosive decompression leave behind gory, reddened walls reminiscent of a Jackson Pollock painting. Perhaps most famously, in Total Recall Arnold Schwarzenegger played an increasingly bug-eyed Quaid when he ventured unprotected onto the airless plains of Mars. Grotesque decompression deaths are a staple of the genre.

These displays of spectacular tissue damage might seem like reasonable speculation, yet we’ve known otherwise for centuries. As early as 1660, the scientist Robert Boyle was exposing animals to vacuum without detonating them. Unconsciousness came quickly to the experimental subjects, but fresh air would quickly revive most subjects if administered before several minutes had passed. Those animals that died of oxygen deprivation did so without painting the walls.

There are several accounts of human beings accidentally exposed to near vacuum. Most dramatically, a test subject at NASA’s Johnson Space Center with a leaky spacesuit experienced a near vacuum. He was unconscious after 14 seconds and remembers feeling the saliva on his tongue beginning to boil, but after the test chamber was repressurized he recovered quickly.

If ever you’re exposed to space for a brief period, don’t try to hold your breath – the pressure difference between your air-filled lungs and the vacuum is likely to cause some damage. Don’t worry about the cold, either – space is chilly, yes, but the lack of air will make the transfer of heat from your body quite slow. There might be some painful swelling, but nothing so dramatic as a messy and very personal explosion.

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons (gnu)

Sources: NASA, WP An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, WP Robert Boyle

February 11, 2011 at 12:42 am 5 comments

The Hidden Lever to Raise Airplane Armrests

By Chad Upton | Editor

Airplanes are cramped places.

The leg room is short, the aisles are thin and the headroom isn’t room at all. The bathrooms provide some private space and a complimentary gymnastics lesson.

If you’re tall, fitting your knees behind the seat in front of you is a painful reality that many of us live with each trip, unless you get an exit row, a courtesy upgrade or a hole in your wallet.

Even if you’re not very tall, when you stand up in your seat, you have to duck to avoid a head-on-collision with the overhead bin, especially in smaller regional jets.

But, a few years ago, I saw a person in the row ahead of me raise the aisle armrest. That was a game changer for me. No more ducking! Simply raise the armrest, then stand up while you slide off your seat into the aisle.

There are a few planes that do not have movable aisle armrests. However, most of them have a small lever or button on the underside of the armrest, near the hinge. Pushing or sliding this lever will release the hinge lock, allowing you to raise the armrest.

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January 17, 2011 at 2:00 am 24 comments

A Secret Government Spaceship is Circling the Earth

The US government recently launched a secret space plane called the X-37B. You’ve probably never heard about it and that’s because nobody is really talking about it.

We do know that the X-37B was launched on April 22, 2010. It was originally a NASA project in 1999, but was transferred to the department of defense in 2004. It looks very similar the space shuttle, but it’s unmanned and about a quarter of the size. It also operates very similar to the space shuttle, it is launched by powerful rockets and it lands like an airplane. It has a small cargo bay, about the size of a pickup truck bed.

For safety and security, a little over 14000 space objects are cataloged and tracked. The objects include satellites, debris and rocket bodies. Tracking these objects reduces the chance of a collision between them. In fact, there are a few public websites that let you view this information, some will even plot satellites on a map so you can try to spot them when they’re over your area. The location and orbit of the X-37B spacecraft has not been announced by the government.

However, a group of amateur astronomers and sky watchers believe they have enough sightings to identify the craft and it’s orbit. The space plane has been tough to spot since it seems to be operating in a low orbit, similar to the height of military spy satellites. There are a lot of satellites in the sky, 75 military satellites plus 15 search and rescue; 37 gps and 19 Navy navigation satellites. Then, there are thousands of other satellites for communications, science and entertainment uses.

China and Iran are both on edge about what this space plane is capable of. According to China, it may signal the start of a space arms race.

Experts believe the X-37B is just another spy plane, except it can stay in the air for 270 days before returning for fuel. The sky watchers who are tracking the space plane have seen it over Iraq and Afghanistan and believe it is currently testing surveillance equipment. Because it can return to earth and be redeployed very quickly, it’s likely that it will serve a number of different roles as needed.

As for the name, it’s just a test plane series number. For example, the X-24A was the model of the plane used in 1963 to test the re-entry heat-shields that would end up on the bottom of modern day space shuttles.

When the X-37B does return to earth, it will land on a runway in California. If it veers too far off course, it will self destruct. Seriously.

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Sources: Yahoo, Space.com, Wikipedia 1 2, n2yo

May 31, 2010 at 5:00 am 4 comments

Neil Armstrong’s Famous Words Include a Mistake

The famous words from the Apollo 11 “Journey to the Moon” were spoken by Neil Armstrong after his first step on the lunar surface, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

Most people know these words well because the recording is frequently played in everything from TV commercials to training videos. But, depending on your age, you might not know that’s not what he intended to say. He meant to say, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” He apparently said “man” instead of “a man.”

Armstrong was sure he said the “a” but later stated, “Damn, I really did it. I blew the first words on the moon, didn’t I?” Armstrong has since indicated that he intended to say the “a” and when the quotation is written he would prefer the “a” is included in parenthesis: “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

There has been great debate over what he actually said. In 2006, a researcher in Australia claimed that the “a” was spoken, but that it was inaudible due to transmission and recording equipment of the time. Using high-tech computer software, he was apparently able to detect the missing word. Other researchers have disputed this claim. Since one theory is that the “a” is inaudible, that will be a hard case to prove. I think another clue is the gap between the words. You can decide for yourself if there was room for an “a” between the words “for” and “man” — I have embedded the video, which includes the famous quote.

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Written By: Chad Upton

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Sources: Snoops, Wikipedia, Wikiquote, Space Week

April 5, 2010 at 12:25 am 4 comments


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