Train Your Brain to Remember Anything You Learn With This Simple, 20-Minute Habit

Not too long ago, a colleague and I were lamenting the process of growing older and the inevitable increasing difficulty of remembering things we want to remember. That becomes particularly annoying when you attend a conference or a learning seminar and find yourself forgetting the entire session just days later.

But then my colleague told me about the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve, a 100-year-old formula developed by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, who pioneered the experimental study of memory. The psychologist’s work has resurfaced and has been making its way around college campuses as a tool to help students remember lecture material. For example, the University of Waterloo explains the curve and how to use it on the Campus Wellness website.

I teach at Indiana University and a student mentioned it to me in class as a study aid he uses. Intrigued, I tried it out too–more on that in a moment. The Forgetting Curve describes how we retain or lose information that we take in, using a one-hour lecture as the basis of the model. The curve is at its highest point (the most information retained) right after the one-hour lecture. One day after the lecture, if you’ve done nothing with the material, you’ll have lost between 50 and 80 percent of it from your memory.

By day seven, that erodes to about 10 percent retained, and by day 30, the information is virtually gone (only 2-3 percent retained). After this, without any intervention, you’ll likely need to relearn the material from scratch. Sounds about right from my experience. But here comes the amazing part–how easily you can train your brain to reverse the curve.


With just 20 minutes of work, you’ll retain almost all of what you learned.

This is possible through the practice of what’s called spaced intervals, where you revisit and reprocess the same material, but in a very specific pattern. Doing so means it takes you less and less time to retrieve the information from your long-term memory when you need it. Here’s where the 20 minutes and very specifically spaced intervals come in.

Ebbinghaus’s formula calls for you to spend 10 minutes reviewing the material within 24 hours of having received it (that will raise the curve back up to almost 100 percent retained again). Seven days later, spend five minutes to “reactivate” the same material and raise the curve up again. By day 30, your brain needs only two to four minutes to completely “reactivate” the same material, again raising the curve back up.

Thus, a total of 20 minutes invested in review at specific intervals and, voila, a month later you have fantastic retention of that interesting seminar. After that, monthly brush-ups of just a few minutes will help you keep the material fresh.


Here’s what happened when I tried it.

I put the specific formula to the test. I keynoted at a conference and was also able to take in two other one-hour keynotes at the conference. For one of the keynotes, I took no notes, and sure enough, just shy of a month later I can barely remember any of it.

For the second keynote, I took copious notes and followed the spaced interval formula. A month later, by golly, I remember virtually all of the material. And in case if you’re wondering, both talks were equally interesting to me–the difference was the reversal of Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve.

So the bottom line here is if you want to remember what you learned from an interesting seminar or session, don’t take a “cram for the exam” approach when you want to use the info. That might have worked in college (although Waterloo University specifically advises against cramming, encouraging students to follow the aforementioned approach). Instead, invest the 20 minutes (in spaced-out intervals), so that a month later it’s all still there in the old noggin. Now that approach is really using your head.

Science has proven that reading can enhance your cognitive function, develop your language skills, and increase your attention span. Plus, not only does the act of reading train your brain for success, but you’ll also learn new things! The founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, said, “Reading is still the main way that I both learn new things and test my understanding.”

By: Scott Mautz

Source: Pocket

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Critics:

Dr. John N. Morris is the director of social and health policy research at the Harvard-affiliated Institute for Aging Research. He believes there are three main guidelines you should follow when training your mind:

  1. Do Something Challenging: Whatever you do to train your brain, it should be challenging and take you beyond your comfort zone.
  2. Choose Complex Activities: Good brain training exercises should require you to practice complex thought processes, such as creative thinking and problem-solving.
  3. Practice Consistently: You know the saying: practice makes perfect! Dr. Morris says, “You can’t improve memory if you don’t work at it. The more time you devote to engaging your brain, the more it benefits.”
  4. If you’re looking for reading material, check out our guides covering 40 must-read books and the best books for entrepreneurs.
  5. Practice self-awareness. Whenever you feel low, check-in with yourself and try to identify the negative thought-loop at play. Perhaps you’re thinking something like, “who cares,” “I’ll never get this right,” “this won’t work,” or “what’s the point?” 
  6. Science has shown that mindfulness meditation helps engage new neural pathways in the brain. These pathways can improve self-observational skills and mental flexibility – two attributes that are crucial for success. What’s more, another study found that “brief, daily meditation enhances attention, memory, mood, and emotional regulation in non-experienced meditators.”
  7. Brain Age Concentration Training is a brain training and mental fitness system for the Nintendo 3DS system.
  8. Queendom has thousands of personality tests and surveys. It also has an extensive collection of “brain tools”—including logic, verbal, spatial, and math puzzles; trivia quizzes; and aptitude tests
  9. Claiming to have the world’s largest collection of brain teasers, Braingle’s free website provides more than 15,000 puzzles, games, and other brain teasers as well as an online community of enthusiasts.

 

Richard Branson Plans To Get To Space Before Jeff Bezos

US-ECONOMY-NYSE-VIRGIN

The “billionaire space race” just got a bit more literal Thursday, as Virgin Galactic announced that it would be opening up the flight window for its first fully crewed mission to space on July 11, and that one of its first passengers would be Richard Branson. That’s 9 days prior to Jeff Bezos’ planned launch on July 20 on a capsule from his company Blue Origin.

If everything goes as planned, Branson wouldn’t be the first billionaire to go to space, but he would be the first to go on his own company’s spacecraft. Shares of Virgin Galactic stock soared in after-hours trading, up to over $51 at the time of publication. The stock had closed down at $43.19 on Thursday.

The “Unity 22” mission, as the company has dubbed it, is part of a series of test flights Virgin Galactic is conducting before it opens up its space tourism business to paying customers. The mission’s goal, the company says, is to accomplish several things: first, to evaluate the customer experience, including the periods of weightlessness and views of Earth. Second will be to test aspects of conducting research experiments, another revenue stream for the space. Third is to ensure that the company’s training program adequately prepares customers for the experience.

Joining Branson on the flight are Beth Moses, Virgin’s chief astronaut instructor; Colin Bennett, the company’s lead operations engineer; and Sirisha Bandla, the company’s VP of researcher operations, who will be conducting a science experiment for the University of Florida.

Virgin Galactic was founded by Branson in 2005, and began publicly trading on the New York Stock Exchange in 2019. If July’s flight is successful, the company plans two more test flights evaluating other aspects of the experience before beginning commercial service in 2022.

“It’s one thing to have a dream of making space more accessible to all; it’s another for an incredible team to collectively turn that dream into reality,” Branson said in a statement. “As part of a remarkable crew of mission specialists, I’m honoured to help validate the journey our future astronauts will undertake and ensure we deliver the unique customer experience people expect from Virgin.”

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website. Send me a secure tip.

I’m a senior editor at Forbes covering healthcare, science, and cutting edge technology.

Source: Richard Branson Plans To Get To Space Before Jeff Bezos

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Critics:

Virgin Galactic is not the only corporation pursuing suborbital spacecraft for tourism. Blue Origin is developing suborbital flights with its New Shepard spacecraft. Although initially more secretive about its plans, Jeff Bezos has said the company is developing a spacecraft that would take off and land vertically and carry three or more astronauts to the edge of space.

New Shepard has flown above the Karman line and landed in 2015 and the same vehicle was reflown to above the Karman line again in 2016. In April 2021, they completed their fifteenth test flight, with the next mission, NS 16, aiming to carry a crew as early as 20 July 2021.

On 16 September 2014, SpaceX and Boeing were awarded contracts as part of NASA’s CCtCap program to develop their Crew Dragon and CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, respectively. Both are capsule designs to bring crew to orbit, a different commercial market than that addressed by Virgin Galactic.

Now-defunct XCOR Aerospace had also worked on rocket-powered aircraft during many of the years that Virgin Galactic had; XCOR’s Lynx suborbital vehicle was under development for more than a decade, and its predecessor, the XCOR EZ-Rocket experimental rocket powered airplane did actually take flight, but the company closed its doors in 2017.

See also

 

A Mars Orbiter Just Detected Something It’s Never Seen Before

water on mars

  • The atmosphere of Mars is thin and, compared to Earth, barely even there at all, but it can still teach us about the history of the planet and its present-day status.
  • The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, which is a project from the European Space Agency and Russia’s Roscosmos, recently detected a gas that it never found before.
  • Hydrogen chloride, which requires specific conditions in which to form, has been detected in the atmosphere, raising many questions. 

The Mars we see today is mostly dry, dusty, and barren. Sure, there is some water locked away in ice near the poles, and possibly some melting that happens during the Martian year, but aside from that there’s very little that offers clues as to the planet’s potentially rich and life-giving history. Projects like the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, sent to Mars by the European Space Agency and Russia’s Roscosmos space group, are helping to pull the curtain back and reveal some of the secrets the planet still holds.

Now, in a pair of new studies published in Science Advances, researchers using data from the Trace Gas Orbiter reveal that they’ve found a gas they’ve never seen before around Mars. The newfound gas, hydrogen chloride, which is the first halogen gas found in the Martian atmosphere, seems to be linked to seasonal changes, but the discovery ultimately raises more questions than it answers.

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A planet’s atmosphere might not seem like a super important thing to study, especially in the case of an atmosphere as thin as that of Mars. But while the atmosphere of Mars may not be enough to support life on its surface, it can still serve as an indicator of what processes are playing out on the surface of the planet. The exciting part about discovering hydrogen chloride in the Martian atmosphere is that it suggests that water was (or still is) a significant component of the planet’s climatology.

“You need water vapour to free chlorine and you need the by-products of water—hydrogen—to form hydrogen chloride. Water is critical in this chemistry,” Kevin Olsen, co-author of the research, said in a statement. “We also observe a correlation to dust: we see more hydrogen chloride when dust activity ramps up, a process linked to the seasonal heating of the southern hemisphere.”

But what exactly does this mean? It’s still hard to say. Whatever is generating the gas appears to be linked to summer in the planet’s southern hemisphere, but beyond that, it’s difficult to determine the chain of events that is leading to its generation.

In the second paper, researchers reveal that measurements of the ratio of deuterium to hydrogen in the planet’s atmosphere point to huge losses of water over the planet’s history. This supports the idea that Mars was once rich with water and potentially even supported massive lakes, rivers, and oceans on its surface.

Mike Wehner has reported on technology and video games for the past decade, covering breaking news and trends in VR, wearables, smartphones, and future tech. Most recently, Mike served as Tech Editor at The Daily Dot, and has been featured in USA Today, Time.com, and countless other web and print outlets. His love of reporting is second only to his gaming addiction.

Source: A Mars orbiter just detected something it’s never seen before – BGR

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The US space agency NASA has released the first audio from Mars, a faint crackling recording of wind captured by the Perseverance rover. A microphone did not work during the rover’s descent to the surface, but it was able to capture audio once it landed on Mars. The first-of-its-kind audio has been released along with extraordinary new video footage of the rover as it descended and landed last Thursday.
On the show we are joined by Dr Swati Mohan, the Indian American scientist who led the guidance and control operations of the Mars 2020 mission. She talks about the what the ‘Seven Minutes Terror’ was and about the tiny bindi she wore that has generated a huge buzz on social media. NDTV is one of the leaders in the production and broadcasting of un-biased and comprehensive news and entertainment programmes in India and abroad. NDTV delivers reliable information across all platforms: TV, Internet and Mobile. Subscribe for more videos: https://www.youtube.com/user/ndtv?sub… Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ndtv Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ndtv Download the NDTV Apps: http://www.ndtv.com/page/apps Watch more videos: http://www.ndtv.com/video?yt​.
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With Toyota’s Help, This Secretive Entrepreneur May Finally Give Us Flying Cars

JoeBen Bevirt first thought about building an airplane that could take off and land like a helicopter in second grade while trudging up the 4.5-mile road to his family’s home in an off-grid hippie settlement among the redwoods in Northern California. “It was a lonnnnng hill,” Bevirt says, laughing. “It made me dream about a better way.” 

Four decades later, Bevirt is closing in on that goal. On a ranch outside Santa Cruz, the surfing mecca near where he grew up, Bevirt has secretively developed an electric airplane with six tilting propellers that he says can carry a pilot and four passengers 150 miles at up to 200 miles per hour, while being quiet enough to disappear among the hum of city life. He envisions the as-yet-unnamed aircraft, which experts speculate could cost $400,000 to $1.5 million to manufacture, as the foundation for a massive rooftop-to-rooftop air-taxi network—one he plans to build and run himself. His aspiration is to free urbanites from snarled roads and save a billion people an hour a day at the same price (he hopes) as an UberX ride, or roughly $2.50 a mile. 

It sounds crazy, but Bevirt, 47, has some powerful believers. Toyota pumped roughly $400 million into his Joby Aviation in January, joining investors including Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective and Jeff Skoll’s Capricorn Investment Group, the latter of which was also an early Tesla backer. In all, Joby has raised $745 million, most recently at a valuation of $2.6 billion. Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda told Bevirt he hopes, through Joby, to realize the flying-car dreams of his grandfather Kiichiro, Toyota Motors’ founder, who developed aircraft before World War II. Toyota engineers are refining components of Joby’s aircraft to make it easier to build on a mass scale more akin to the auto industry than aviation, and helping Bevirt set up a factory in Monterey County where he plans to produce thousands of aircraft a year.

Joby is the best-funded and most valuable of an explosion of startups leveraging advances in batteries and electric motors to try to wean aviation off fossil fuels and create new types of aircraft, including autonomous ones, to serve as air taxis. No one knows how big the industry could get—or if it will get off the ground at all—but Wall Street is spitballing some big numbers. One report from Morgan Stanley estimates the category could generate $674 billion a year in fares worldwide by 2040. 

“If we can fly, we can turn our streets into parks and fundamentally make our cities much nicer places to live in,” Bevirt says. 

Dreamers have been trying (and failing) to build flying cars for 100 years. Skeptics think Joby and its competitors are still at least a decade too early: Today’s best batteries pack 14 times less usable energy by weight than jet fuel. Given how much brute power is needed to propel an aircraft straight up, they say, until batteries improve, electric air taxis will have too little range and carrying capacity to make business sense. Then there’s the tough task of convincing regulators they’ll be safe to fly. 

Bevirt says he can produce a viable, safe aircraft now with top-of-the-line lithium-ion battery cells that currently power electric cars. And Joby is the only startup to commit to Uber’s ambitious timeline of launching an urban air-taxi service in 2023. Bevirt says he’s on track to win safety certification from the Federal Aviation Administration that year, which would likely make Joby the first electric air-taxi maker to clear that daunting hurdle. 

Bevirt was raised in a back-to-the-land community in which he got an early education in engineering, helping fix farm equipment and building homes alongside his father, Ron Bevirt, who was one of the LSD-tripping Merry Pranksters back in the 1960s. (JoeBen is named after a character in Sometimes a Great Notion, written by Pranksters ringleader Ken Kesey, famous for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

As an adult, Bevirt re-created that community with a decidedly capitalistic twist on his secluded 440 acres of woodlands and meadows overlooking the Pacific. The sprawling property, which he purchased with the proceeds from selling earlier businesses—Velocity11, which built liquid-handling robots used for testing potential drugs, and the company behind GorillaPod, a flexible camera tripod—includes a former quarry where Bevirt conducted early test flights. Employees have lived in small cottages on the property and built houses nearby. Before locking in on developing an aircraft, he incubated other startups there, with everyone working together in a cavernous barn. Bevirt started an organic farm to feed them, with chickens and bees yielding eggs and honey. 

The environment bred a tight-knit team – some Joby Aviation staffers start their day surfing together and end it with pizza parties around an outdoor oven. Group meetings are punctuated by choruses of “woots.”

“It’s a high-fiving, hugging culture, and that really flows from JoeBen,” says Jim Adler, managing director at Toyota AI Ventures, who convinced his colleagues to invest in Joby in 2017. “He’s high-energy, and it’s contagious.” 

While Joby is participating in Uber’s aerial ride-sharing plans, a big part of Bevirt’s business model involves running his own ride-sharing network. That helped attract investors. “If it was just a vehicle, I would not have been moved to invest if there wasn’t a service wrapped around it,” Adler says. 

Building the required landing pads, booking software and other infrastructure, though, will require a lot more cash—and patience—from investors. Joby has no plans to sell its aircraft outside of building its own fleet, further delaying the day when investors can recoup the billions that will likely be needed to scale up. 

Joby’s five-seat design boosts its revenue potential for ride sharing compared to the smaller, more mechanically simple two-seat multicopters being developed by Germany’s Volocopter and China’s EHang. The downside of Joby’s size: weight. A big part of that heft comes from the batteries, and it’s unclear if they’ll have enough juice to do the job, according to modeling by the lab of Carnegie Mellon battery expert Venkat Viswanathan, based on aircraft specs Bevirt shared with Forbes. 

For Joby to achieve the 150-mile range it says the 4,800-pound gross weight aircraft is capable of (but has yet to achieve in flight testing), plus FAA-required reserves, Viswanathan’s team estimates it needs a 2,200-pound battery pack. Subtracting 1,000 pounds for five passengers leaves only 1,600 pounds for the airframe, seats and avionics—a slim 33% of gross weight. That’s 35% lower than any certified production airplane. The upshot: Either Joby has built an unprecedentedly light and efficient airframe, as Bevirt maintains, or its range will turn out to be lower. (For more details on Joby’s batteries, click here.) Another concern: Getting approval from the FAA might require safety tweaks that weigh it down. 

“What we’re doing, it’s an insanely hard undertaking,” Bevirt says. “Not only the technical challenge of the aircraft [but] then changing the way everyone on Earth moves around on a daily basis.”  

See also: ‘Has Joby Cracked The Power Problem To Make Electric Air Taxis Work?’

Get Forbes’ daily top headlines straight to your inbox for news on the world’s most important entrepreneurs and superstars, expert career advice, and success secrets.

Joby’s five-seat design boosts its revenue potential for ride sharing compared to the smaller, more mechanically simple two-seat multicopters being developed by Germany’s Volocopter and China’s EHang. The downside of Joby’s size: weight. A big part of that heft comes from the batteries, and it’s unclear if they’ll have enough juice to do the job, according to modeling by the lab of Carnegie Mellon battery expert Venkat Viswanathan, based on aircraft specs Bevirt shared with Forbes. 

For Joby to achieve the 150-mile range it says the 4,800-pound gross weight aircraft is capable of (but has yet to achieve in flight testing), plus FAA-required reserves, Viswanathan’s team estimates it needs a 2,200-pound battery pack. Subtracting 1,000 pounds for five passengers leaves only 1,600 pounds for the airframe, seats and avionics—a slim 33% of gross weight. That’s 35% lower than any certified production airplane. The upshot: Either Joby has built an unprecedentedly light and efficient airframe, as Bevirt maintains, or its range will turn out to be lower. (For more details on Joby’s batteries, click here.) Another concern: Getting approval from the FAA might require safety tweaks that weigh it down. 

“What we’re doing, it’s an insanely hard undertaking,” Bevirt says. “Not only the technical challenge of the aircraft [but] then changing the way everyone on Earth moves around on a daily basis.”  

See also: ‘Has Joby Cracked The Power Problem To Make Electric Air Taxis Work?’

Get Forbes’ daily top headlines straight to your inbox for news on the world’s most important entrepreneurs and superstars, expert career advice, and success secrets.Jeremy Bogaisky

I help direct our coverage of autos, energy and manufacturing, and write about aerospace and defense. Send tips to jbogaisky[at]forbes.com

Joby’s five-seat design boosts its revenue potential for ride sharing compared to the smaller, more mechanically simple two-seat multicopters being developed by Germany’s Volocopter and China’s EHang. The downside of Joby’s size: weight. A big part of that heft comes from the batteries, and it’s unclear if they’ll have enough juice to do the job, according to modeling by the lab of Carnegie Mellon battery expert Venkat Viswanathan, based on aircraft specs Bevirt shared with Forbes. 

For Joby to achieve the 150-mile range it says the 4,800-pound gross weight aircraft is capable of (but has yet to achieve in flight testing), plus FAA-required reserves, Viswanathan’s team estimates it needs a 2,200-pound battery pack. Subtracting 1,000 pounds for five passengers leaves only 1,600 pounds for the airframe, seats and avionics—a slim 33% of gross weight. That’s 35% lower than any certified production airplane. The upshot: Either Joby has built an unprecedentedly light and efficient airframe, as Bevirt maintains, or its range will turn out to be lower. (For more details on Joby’s batteries, click here.) Another concern: Getting approval from the FAA might require safety tweaks that weigh it down. 

“What we’re doing, it’s an insanely hard undertaking,” Bevirt says. “Not only the technical challenge of the aircraft [but] then changing the way everyone on Earth moves around on a daily basis.”  

See also: ‘Has Joby Cracked The Power Problem To Make Electric Air Taxis Work?’

Get Forbes’ daily top headlines straight to your inbox for news on the world’s most important entrepreneurs and superstars, expert career advice, and success secrets.Jeremy Bogaisky

I help direct our coverage of autos, energy and manufacturing, and write about aerospace and defense. Send tips to jbogaisky[at]forbes.com

Jeremy Bogaisky

I help direct our coverage of autos, energy and manufacturing, and write about aerospace and defense. Send tips to jbogaisky[at]forbes.com

.

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Santa Cruz Works

JoeBen Bevirt from Joby Aviation at The Second Annual – Titans of Tech on Jan. 25, 2018. http://santacruzworks.orghttp://www.jobyaviation.com Filmed by Bitframe Media – https://www.bitframemedia.com

What Is ‘Panspermia?’ New Evidence For The Wild Theory That Says We Could All Be Space Aliens

Imagine if NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover—now on its way to the red planet—discovered microbial life there.

It would change everything we know about life in the Solar System and far beyond.

Or would it? What if we accidentally transported life to Mars on a spacecraft? And what if that is how life moves around the Universe?

A new paper published this week in Frontiers in Microbiology explores the possibility that microbes and extremophiles may migrate between planets and distribute life around the Universe—and that includes on spacecraft sent from Earth to Mars.

What is ‘panspermia?’

It’s an untested, unproven and rather wild theory regarding the interplanetary transfer of life. It theorizes that microscopic life-forms, such as bacteria, can be transported through space and land on another planet. Thus sparking life elsewhere.

It could happen by accident—such as on spacecraft—via comets and asteroids in the Solar System, and perhaps even between star systems on interstellar objects like ʻOumuamua.

However, for “panspermia” to have any credence requires proof that bacteria could survive a long journey through the vacuum, temperature fluctuations, and intense UV radiation in outer space.

Cue the “Tanpopo” project.

The bacterial exposure experiment took place from 2015 to 2018 using the Exposed Facility located on the exterior of Kibo, the Japanese Experimental Module of the International Space Station.
The bacterial exposure experiment took place from 2015 to 2018 using the Exposed Facility located on … [+] JAXA/NASA

What is the ‘Tanpopo’ mission?

Tanpopo—dandelion in English—is a scientific experiment to see if bacteria can survive in the extremes of outer space.

The researchers from Tokyo University—in conjunction with Japanese national space agency JAXA—wanted to see if the bacteria deinococcus could survive in space, so had it placed in exposure panels on the outside of the International Space Station (ISS). It’s known as being resistant to radiation. Dried samples of different thicknesses were exposed to space environment for one, two, or three years and then tested to see if any survived.

They did, largely by a layer of dead bacteria protecting a colony beneath it. The researchers estimate that a colony of 1 mm of diameter could potentially survive up to 8 years in outer space conditions. MORE FROM FORBESThe Brightest Star In The Night Sky Rises Today (And No, It’s Not The North Star)By Jamie Carter

What does this mean for ‘panspermia?’

“The results suggest that deinococcus could survive during the travel from Earth to Mars and vice versa, which is several months or years in the shortest orbit,” said Akihiko Yamagishi, a Professor at Tokyo University of Pharmacy and Life Sciences and principal investigator of Tanpopo.

That means spacecraft visiting Mars could theoretically carry microorganisms and potentially contaminate its surface.

However, this isn’t just about Earth and Mars—the ramifications of panspermia, if proven, are far-reaching.

“The origin of life on Earth is the biggest mystery of human beings (and) scientists can have totally different points of view on the matter,” said Dr. Yamagishi. “Some think that life is very rare and happened only once in the Universe, while others think that life can happen on every suitable planet.”

“If panspermia is possible, life must exist much more often than we previously thought.” MORE FROM FORBESA Waxing Moon Visits Jupiter And Saturn: What To Watch For In The Night Sky This WeekBy Jamie Carter

What is ‘lithopanspermia?’

This is bacteria surviving in space for a long period when shielded by rock—typically an asteroid or a comet—which could travel between planets, potentially spreading bacteria and biologically-rich matter around the Solar System.

However, the theory of panspermia goes even further than that.

What is ‘interstellar panspermia’ and ‘galactic panspermia?’

This is the hypothesis—and it’s one with zero evidence—that life exists throughout the galaxy and/or Universe specifically because bacteria and microorganisms are spread around by asteroids, comets, space dust and possibly even interstellar spacecraft from alien civilizations.

In 2018 a paper concluded that the likelihood of Galactic panspermia is strongly dependent upon the survival lifetime of the organisms as well as the velocity of the comet or asteroid—positing that the entire Milky Way could potentially be exchanging biotic components across vast distances.

Such theories have gained credence in the last few years with the discovery of two extrasolar objects Oumuamua and Borisov passing through our Solar System.

However, while the ramifications are mind-boggling, panspermia is definitely not a proven scientific process.

There are still many unanswered questions about how the space-surviving microbes could physically transfer from one celestial body to another.

Illustration of NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover studying a Mars rock outcrop (not to scale). Mars 2020 is targeted for launch in July/August 2020 aboard an Atlas V-541 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Illustration of NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover studying a Mars rock outcrop (not to scale). … [+] NASA/JPL-Caltech

How will Perseverance look for life on Mars?

NASA’s Perseverance rover is due to land on the red planet on February 18, 2021. It will land in a nearly four billion-year-old river delta in Mars’ 28 miles/45 kilometers-wide Jezero Crater. 

It’s thought likely that Jezero Crater was home to a lake as large as Lake Tahoe more than 3.5 billion years ago. Ancient rivers there could have carried organic molecules and possibly even microorganisms.

Perseverance’s mission will be to analyze rock and sediment samples to see if Mars may have had conditions for microorganisms to thrive. It will drill a few centimeters into Mars and take core samples, then put the most promising into containers. It will then leave them on the Martian surface to be later collected by a human mission in the early 2030s. 

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes. Follow me

on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website or some of my other work here.

Jamie Carter

 Jamie Carter

I’m an experienced science, technology and travel journalist interested in space exploration, moon-gazing, exploring the night sky, solar and lunar eclipses, astro-travel, wildlife conservation and nature. I’m the editor of WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com and the author of “A Stargazing Program for Beginners: A Pocket Field Guide” (Springer, 2015), as well as many eclipse-chasing guides.

Source: FORBES

How To See Comet NEOWISE From Your Backyard This Week

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It’s time to see a comet in 2020—complete with a tail! After a few weeks of will-it, won’t-it, Comet NEOWISE appears to have survived a close encounter with the Sun (unlike Comet ATLAS and Comet SWAN, which both fell apart) and has become easy to see in binoculars in the northern hemisphere—and has even become a naked-eye object.

Imaging Comet NEOWISE on July 5, 2020, Flagstaff, Arizona-based photographer Jeremy Perez described it on Twitter as “an easy naked-eye object, but really rewarding through binoculars.”

Comet NEOWISE was also captured on July 5, 2020 from Austria by astrophotographer Philipp Salzgeber:

It might be wise to catch Comet NEOWISE before it potentially wanes.

It’s destined to be at its brightest and easiest to see in mid-July as it races back to the outer Solar System, but Comet F3 NEOWISE (also called C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is already surpassing expectations for its naked-eye brightness.

In fact, a few weeks before its predicted naked-eye visibility Comet NEOWISE is already being observed and photographed from the northern hemisphere.

However, comets are notoriously unreliable, and it could fizzle-out at any moment. How it looks now could be the best it gets.

Here’s another image of Comet NEOWISE, this time from the UK by space writer Paul Sutherland, who has written a guide to spotting Comet NEOWISE:

Best time to see Comet NEOWISE

The best time and place to look will be about 10º above the northeastern horizon before dawn. Comet NEOWISE is currently in the constellation of Taurus. It will soon enter Gemini, then visit Auriga, Lynx and Ursa Major.

However, as July wears on, Comet NEOWISE should—if it remains this bright—be easier to see because it will be higher above the horizon.

Comet NEOWISE will be closest to the Earth on July 23, 2020, so that’s going to be the peak week to look if it remains bright.

That’s also when Comet NEOWISE will be visible before midnight and during a New Moon, so the night skies will be dark.

That’s all well and good, but it could fizzle out at any time, so have a look soon if you can get up (very) early.

How to see Comet NEOWISE

For now, your best chance is binoculars—any pair will do (I recommend 10×50 binoculars for all kinds of astronomy)—but by mid-July it could well be a naked-eye object. Typically, comets are faint, so comet-spotting usually requires a telescope.

Who discovered Comet NEOWISE?

A long period comet, Comet NEOWISE was first discovered by NASA’s Near Earth Objects Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) space telescope on March 27, 2020.

It got closest to the Sun—its perihelion— on July 3, 2020, which is the most dangerous time for a comet. Often comets break-up and reduce in size around their perihelion, but not so Comet NEOWISE—at least, so far.

Comet NEOWISE is next expected back in the Solar System in about 6,800 years.

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website or some of my other work here.

I’m an experienced science, technology and travel journalist interested in space exploration, moon-gazing, exploring the night sky, solar and lunar eclipses, astro-travel, wildlife conservation and nature. I’m the editor of WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com and the author of “A Stargazing Program for Beginners: A Pocket Field Guide” (Springer, 2015), as well as many eclipse-chasing guides.

Source: https://www.forbes.com

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17 Odd Things We’ve Sent to Space for Some Reason

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Artifacts, personal and pop cultural totems, and even the dead have made the journey from our planet to the outer reaches of the heavens. We’ve covered some odd items that have gone to space before; here are 16 more unusual things that took a trip to the cosmos.

1. Human remains

Thanks to Celestis, a company that specializes in booking “memorial spaceflights,” and an agreement with private rocket company SpaceX, the remains of several people who have died have been launched into the great beyond (for a couple of hours, at least). Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s remains were on the inaugural Celestis flight in 1997; his remains took flight again in 2012 with the remains of actor James Doohan, who played Scotty. Astronaut Gordon Cooper’s ashes were also on that flight.

2. A toy dinosaur

In 2020, astronauts aboard SpaceX’s first crewed missions packed an unusual travel companion: a plush dinosaur. During the historic flight, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley were accompanied by “Tremor,” a sparkly Apatosaurus. The crews’ sons chose the toy, which acted as a zero-g indicator.

3. Actual dinosaurs

In 1985, astronaut Loren Acton brought small bits of bone and eggshell from the duck-billed dinosaur Maiasaura peeblesorum along on a mission on SpaceLab 2. Thirteen years later, the skull of a meat-eating Coelophysis from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History was a passenger on a trip to the Mir space station.

4. A car

In 2018, Elon Musk took off roading to a whole new level. SpaceX launched a red Tesla Roadster into space as part of the Falcon Heavy rocket’s test flight. “Starman,” a mannequin clad in a spacesuit, sits in the car’s driver’s seat. You can track Starman’s cosmic journey here.

5. Salmonella

Lots of strange things have been brought to space in the name of science—including salmonella. Two shuttle flights to the International Space Station (ISS) contained samples of salmonella to determine how the bacteria would react to low gravity, and the findings were kind of scary. When the salmonella returned to Earth after being in orbit for 12 days on the space shuttle Atlantis, the bacteria became even more virulent. In the first study to examine the effect of space flight on the virulence of a pathogen, the bacteria that had taken a space trip was three times as likely to kill the lab mice as the salmonella that was kept on Earth in as close to similar conditions as possible.

6. Tardigrades

Tardigrades, a.k.a. water bears, became the first animals to survive exposure in outer space. The eight-legged creatures typically spend their days on a moist piece of moss or enjoy feasting on bacteria or plant life at the bottom of a lake, but they survived being frozen at -328°F or heated to more than 300 degrees on their trip to space. The water bears, which typically don’t grow more than 1 millimeter in length, were dehydrated and exposed in space for 10 days by a group of European researchers. Back on Earth and rehydrated, 68 percent of the tardigrades that were shielded from the radiation survived. A handful with no radiation protection not only came back to life, but later produced viable offspring. Excitedly, an “amateur tardigrade enthusiast” theorized the water bears must be extraterrestrial in origin if they can handle such conditions, but that claim has boringly been denied by the Swedish and German scientists, who made up for it by naming their experiment “Tardigrades in space,” or TARDIS.

7. Sperm

Without gravity, samples of animal sperm don’t work the way they should. Putting bull sperm in orbit made the tiny cells move faster than usual. Meanwhile, in sea urchin sperm that flew on NASA missions, the process of phosphorylation screeched to a halt when the enzyme known as protein phosphatase didn’t do its job. In 1979, two female rats that went to space became pregnant but didn’t carry the fetuses to term, and the males’ testes shrank along with their sperm count. Fortunately (or unfortunately), one creature has been able to reproduce far from our planet: the cockroach.

8. See-through fish (medaka)

Since the medaka’s organs are clearly visible because of its transparent skin, this species of fish was the obvious choice for scientists to test the effects of microgravity on marine life—and to help determine why astronauts suffer from a decrease in bone density while in orbit. Bones naturally break down and rebuild, and osteoclasts help break down bones while they’re under construction, as it were. In space, the process gets wonky, which is why astronauts endure two-hour high-intensity exercise routines and take vitamin D supplements. With the medaka’s help, scientists discovered the time-consuming space exercise could be avoided, and by finding the mechanism in bone metabolism, it may lead to the development of an osteoporosis treatment.

9. Soft drinks

In 1984, Coca Cola decided it wanted to put the first carbonated beverage on a space shuttle. The company spent $250,000 developing a can that would work without gravity, keep the drink fizzy, and not spill all over the place—even changing some of their formula in the process. After NASA agreed, Pepsi responded by saying it felt left out. NASA then announced that any soft drink manufacturer could participate if they created a viable container. In 1985, four cans of Pepsi and four cans of Coke were on board the Challenger; the day shifters drank Coke, and the night owls consumed the Pepsi. Neither of the sodas were to their liking.

10. Pizza

Pizza Hut wasn’t satisfied with simply being the first company to advertise on a rocket in the year 2000, so one year later it paid the Russian space agency about $1 million to become the first company to deliver a pizza to someone in space. The pizza delivered to cosmonaut Yuri Usachov included a crispy crust, pizza sauce, cheese, and salami (because pepperoni grows moldy over a certain period of time). Extra salt and spices were also added to compensate for the deadening of taste buds from space travel, and it was delivered in a vacuum seal. Usachov gave the pizza a thumbs up.

11. A cheese wheel

In 2010, SpaceX placed a wheel of Le Brouere cheese on an uncrewed spaceship to honor the classic Monty Python’s Flying Circus cheese shop sketch. To add to the pop culture celebration, SpaceX sealed the cheese wheel in a metal cylinder bearing the image of the film poster from the 1984 Val Kilmer movie Top Secret!. It was claimed to the first cheese to travel to orbit on a commercial spacecraft.

12. A corned beef sandwich

Astronaut John Young smuggled a corned beef sandwich on board the Gemini 3 in 1965. The following exchange was recorded:

Gus Grissom: What is it?
Young: Corn beef sandwich
Grissom: Where did that come from?
Young: I brought it with me. Let’s see how it tastes. Smells, doesn’t it?

The entire incident lasted 30 seconds, with the sandwich only being consumed for 10 of those seconds, before being put back away inside Young’s flight suit.

While legend has it that Yuri Gagarin was accompanied by a homemade salami sandwich in 1961, the Russians had a specialized vacuum kit so they could clean up after eating to prevent any clogging of shuttle equipment. The Americans were just supposed to consume food from tubes, so Young was putting himself somewhat at risk for the five-hour mission. The astronaut got a stern talking to; he later landed on the Moon during the Apollo 16 mission.

13. Guns

Unlike astronauts, Soviet cosmonauts went into space locked and loaded, carrying a triple barrel TP-82 capable of 40 gauge shotgun rounds. The heavy duty weapon was deemed necessary after 1965, when cosmonauts landed on Earth and became stranded in the Ural Mountains. The isolated cosmonauts feared the local wolves and bears would attack them. In 2006, the TP-82s were replaced with a standard semi-automatic.

14. Buzz Lightyear

A Buzz Lightyear toy spent 467 days in space, orbiting the Earth on the ISS before having a ticker-tape parade in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom thrown in his honor. The toy’s namesake, Buzz Aldrin, was a special guest.

15. Amelia Earhart’s watch

Amelia Earhart was the first president of an international organization of licensed women pilots called The Ninety-Nines. One member of that group is astronaut Shannon Walker, who in October 2009 was presented with a watch, owned by current group director Joan Kerwin, that Earhart wore during her two trans-Atlantic flights to bring onboard the ISS. Earhart, of course, was the first female trans-Atlantic passenger in 1928, and flew from Newfoundland to Northern Ireland solo on May 20, 1932. She gave her watch to H. Gordon Selfridge Jr., who passed it along to Ninety-Nines charter member Fay Gillis Wells. Kerwin acquired the watch at an auction.

16. A treadmill named after Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert, as he is wont to do, managed to crash an online contest. He garnered enough write-in votes and technically won the right to name a room at the space station after himself. Though NASA reserved their right to ignore write-in votes, the agency compromised by naming their second-ever model of treadmills after him, dubbing it the Combined Operational Load-Bearing External Resistance Treadmill, or COLBERT. The treadmill’s manufacturer nickel-plated the parts, and unlike a standard treadmill, there are elastic straps that fit around a runner’s shoulders and waist to keep them from careening across the space station. The announcement was made by astronaut Sunita Williams on an episode of The Colbert Report; Williams ran a marathon on the previous treadmill while living at the space station in 2007, jogging in place with the concurrent Boston Marathon.

17. An issue of Playboy Magazine

Some members of the backup crew of Apollo 12 included some Playboy spreads on the crew’s checklists, which were attached to Pete Conrad and Alan L. Bean’s wrists as they explored the lunar landscape. Astronaut Richard Gordon, who stayed in orbit around the Moon during the mission, also found a topless DeDe Lind calendar hidden in a locker, which was labeled “Map of a Heavenly Body.”

By: Roger Cormier

Source: https://www.mentalfloss.com

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NASA Chooses Three Landers to Return Americans to the Moon

It’s been nearly half a century since the U.S. had a spacecraft capable of landing human beings on the moon. As of today, it has not one, but three—if everything goes right.

NASA officials announced on April 30, in a teleconference with space-industry leaders, the three finalists it has chosen to build the 21st century version of the Apollo-era’s well loved lunar excursion module (LEM), the four-legged, gold-foil, so-ugly-it-was-beautiful machine that landed six crews on the surface of the moon from 1969 to 1972. Unlike the LEM, which was effectively designed by NASA and then built to order by the Grumman corporation, the new landers are being designed entirely by private companies, which will then compete to prove to NASA that theirs is the ship the agency should pick.

The company names were announced alphabetically at the teleconference, but the first one called out—Blue Origin, of Kent, Washington, founded and owned by Amazon boss Jeff Bezos—might be the best bet for success anyway. Blue Origin is working with three other companies (Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Draper) to design a two-stage lander similar to the LEM. The LEM landed on the moon in a single piece and the astronauts then blasted back off in just the vehicle’s upper portion, using the bottom half as a sort of launch platform.

The second company, Dynetics, of Huntsville, Alabama, is proposing to simplify things, building a one-stage vehicle that will land in a single piece and take back off that way. The third contender, SpaceX, headquartered in Hawthorne, California, submitted the most audacious proposal: its much-touted, 50-meter (160-foot) tall, 100-passenger Starship spacecraft, which it would launch atop its own 68-meter (223-foot) tall Falcon Super Heavy rocket. Once at the moon, the Starship would land and take off in a single piece using its own set of engines.

“We want to be a customer,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said on the teleconference, stressing that the responsibility for designing the hardware and delivering the goods lies with the finalists. “We want to drive down the costs and increase access to space. This little agency is moving forward.”

But the little agency needs a lot of money. For the Trump Administration to reach its target of having astronauts back on the moon by 2024, NASA will need a funding boost of $3 billion—to $25 billion total—in 2022, with additional bumps that bring it up to $26 billion and $27 billion in 2023 and 2024, respectively.

That’s a big ask given years of flat funding for the U.S. space program, but NASA is hoping to benefit from Congress opening its wallets to help keep the economy afloat during coronavirus pandemic. Without that money, NASA will be unable to fund the lunar lander, or the Orion crew vehicle and the Space Launch System—the modern-day version of the Apollo orbiter and the Saturn V rocket—that will also be necessary to bring humans to the moon.

What’s more, NASA may wind up needing money to pay for the services of more than one of the three contending lander groups. Over the course of the next 10 months, the teams will be refining their plans, and, in the process, pitching their wares, with an eye toward February of 2021, when NASA will choose a winner. But the ostensible losers may eventually fly anyway.

NASA is stressing both speed—getting to the moon by 2024—and sustainability, going there to stay, rather than making the brief Apollo-style visits that have since been disparagingly dubbed the “flags and footprints” model. In the same way NASA will be paying both SpaceX and Boeing to ferry crews to and from the International Space Station, so too it might pay for the services of a company that is not chosen to build the lunar lander, but goes on to develop its own moon capability anyway.

By Jeffrey Kluger April 30, 2020 6:09 PM EDT

Source: NASA Chooses Three Landers to Return Americans to the Moon

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Seeking ideas for landing systems to return humans to the Moon, showcasing our aeronautics research efforts, and the science connection to Apollo 11’s splashdown … a few of the stories to tell you about – This Week at NASA! This video is available for download from NASA’s Image and Video Library: https://images.nasa.gov/details-NHQ_2…

How Far Is It To The Edge Of The Universe?

Artist's logarithmic scale conception of the observable universe. Galaxies give way to large-scale... [+] structure and the hot, dense plasma of the Big Bang at the outskirts. This 'edge' is a boundary only in time.

If you were to go as far out into space as you can imagine, what would you encounter? Would there be a limit to how far you could go, or could you travel a limitless distance? Would you eventually return to your starting point, or would you continue to traverse space that you had never encountered before? In other words, does the Universe have an edge, and if so, where is it?

Believe it or not, there are actually three different ways to think about this question, and each one has a different answer. If you consider how far you could go if you:

    • left today in an arbitrarily powerful rocket,
    • considered everything that could ever contact us or be contacted by us from the start of the hot Big Bang,
    • or used your imagination alone to access the entire Universe, including beyond what will ever be observable,

You can figure out how far it is to the edge. In each case, the answer is fascinating.

We often visualize space as a 3D grid, even though this is a frame-dependent oversimplification when... [+] we consider the concept of spacetime. In reality, spacetime is curved by the presence of matter-and-energy, and distances are not fixed but rather can evolve as the Universe expands or contracts.

ReunMedia / Storyblocks

The key concept to keep in mind is that space isn’t how we normally conceive of it. Conventionally, we think about space as being like a coordinate system — a three-dimensional grid — where the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and where distances don’t change over time.

But both of those assumptions, so thoroughly good in our everyday lives, fail spectacularly when we begin looking at the larger-scale Universe beyond our own planet. For starters, the idea that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line falls apart as soon as you start introducing masses and energetic quanta into your Universe. Because spacetime is subject to curvature, which the presence of matter and energy is the cause of, the shortest distance between two points is inherently dependent on the shape of the Universe between those points.

Instead of an empty, blank, three-dimensional grid, putting a mass down causes what would have been... [+] 'straight' lines to instead become curved by a specific amount. In General Relativity, we treat space and time as continuous, but all forms of energy, including but not limited to mass, contribute to spacetime curvature. If we were to replace Earth with a denser version, up to and including a singularity, the spacetime deformation shown here would be identical; only inside the Earth itself would a difference be notable.

Christopher Vitale of Networkologies and the Pratt Institute

In addition to that, the fabric of spacetime itself does not remain static over time. In a Universe filled with matter and energy, a static, unchanging Universe (where distances between points remain the same over time) is inherently unstable; the Universe must evolve by either expanding or contracting. If Einstein’s General theory of Relativity is correct, this is mandatory.

Observationally, the evidence that our Universe is expanding is overwhelming: a spectacular validation for Einstein’s predictions. But this carries with it a series of consequences for objects separated by cosmic distances, including that the distance between them expands over time. Today, the most distant objects we can see are more than 30 billion light-years away, despite the fact that only 13.8 billion years have passed since the Big Bang.

The farther a galaxy is, the faster it expands away from us and the more its light appears... [+] redshifted. A galaxy moving with the expanding Universe will be even a greater number of light years away, today, than the number of years (multiplied by the speed of light) that it took the light emitted from it to reach us. But we can only understand redshifts and blueshifts if we attribute them to a combination of motion (special relativistic) and the expanding fabric of space (general relativistic) contributions both.

Larry McNish of RASC Calgary Center

When we measure how distant a variety of objects are from their physical and luminous properties — along with the amount that their light has been shifted by the Universe’s expansion — we can come to understand what the Universe is made of. Our cosmic cocktail, at present, consists of:

  • 0.01% radiation in the form of photons,
  • 0.1% neutrinos, an elusive, low-mass particle almost as numerous as photons,
  • 4.9% normal matter, made mostly of the same stuff we are: protons, neutrons, and electrons,
  • 27% dark matter, an unknown substance that gravitates but neither emits nor absorbs light,
  • and 68% dark energy, which is the energy inherent to space that causes distant objects to accelerate in their recession from us.

When you combine these effects together, you get a unique and unambiguous prediction for how far it is, at all times past and present, to the edge of the observable Universe.

A graph of the size/scale of the observable Universe vs. the passage of cosmic time. This is... [+] displayed on a log-log scale, with a few major size/time milestones identified. Note the early radiation-dominated era, the recent matter-dominated era, and the current-and-future exponentially-expanding era.

E. Siegel

This is a big deal! Most people assume that if the Universe has been around for 13.8 billion years since the Big Bang, then the limit to how far we can see will be 13.8 billion light-years, but that’s not quite right.

Only if the Universe were static and not expanding would this be true, but the fact is this: the farther away we look, the faster distant objects appear to speed away from us. The rate of that expansion changes in a way that is predictable based on what’s in the Universe, and in turn, knowing what’s in the Universe and observing how fast objects expand tells us how far away they are. When we take all of the available data together, we arrive at a unique value for everything together, including the distance to the observable cosmic horizon: 46.1 billion light-years.

The observable Universe might be 46 billion light years in all directions from our point of view,... [+] but there's certainly more, unobservable Universe, perhaps even an infinite amount, just like ours beyond that. Over time, we'll be able to see more of it, eventually revealing approximately 2.3 times as many galaxies as we can presently view.

Frédéric MICHEL and Andrew Z. Colvin, annotated by E. Siegel

This boundary, however, is not an “edge” to the Universe in any conventional sense of the word. It is not a boundary in space at all; if we happened to be located at any other point in space, we would still be able to detect and observe everything around us within that 46.1 billion light-year sphere centered on us.

This is because that “edge” is a boundary in time, rather than in space. This edge represents the limit of what we can see because the speed of light — even in an expanding Universe governed by General Relativity — only allows signals to travel so far over the Universe’s 13.8 billion year history. This distance is farther than 13.8 billion light-years because of the Universe’s expansion, but it’s still finite. However, we cannot reach all of it.

The size of our visible Universe (yellow), along with the amount we can reach (magenta). If we... [+] accelerated at 9.8 m/s^2 for approximately 22.5 years and then turned around and decelerated for another 22.5 years, we could reach any galaxy within the magenta circle, even in a Universe with dark energy, but nothing outside of it.

E. Siegel, based on work by Wikimedia Commons users Azcolvin 429 and Frédéric MICHEL

Beyond a certain distance, we can see some of the light that was already emitted long ago, but will never see the light that is being emitted right now: 13.8 billion years after the Big Bang. Beyond a certain specific distance — calculated (by me) to be approximately 18 billion light-years away at present — even a signal moving at the speed of light will never reach us.

Similarly, that means that if we were in an arbitrarily high-powered rocket ship, all of the objects presently contained within this 18 billion light-year radius would be eventually reachable by us, even as the Universe continued to expand and these distances continued to increase. However, the objects beyond that would never be reachable. Even as we achieved greater and greater distances, they would recede faster than we could ever travel, preventing us from visiting them for all eternity. Already, 94% of all the galaxies in the observable Universe are beyond our eternal reach.

As vast as our observable Universe is and as much as we can see, it’s far more than we can ever... [+] reach, as only 6% of the volume that we can observe is presently reachable. Beyond what we can observe, however, there is certainly more Universe; what we can see represents only a tiny fraction of what must be out there.

NASA, ESA, R. Windhorst, S. Cohen, and M. Mechtley (ASU), R. O’Connell (UVa), P. McCarthy (Carnegie Obs), N. Hathi (UC Riverside), R. Ryan (UC Davis), & H. Yan (tOSU)

And yet, there is a different “edge” that we might want to consider: beyond the limits of what we can observe today, or even what we can potentially observe arbitrarily far into the future, if we run our theoretical clock towards infinity. We can consider how large the entire Universe is — the unobservable Universe — and whether it folds in on itself or not.

The way we can answer this is based on an extrapolation of what we observe when we try to measure the spatial curvature of the Universe: the amount that space is curved on the largest scale we can possibly observe. If the Universe is positively curved, parallel lines will converge and the three angles of a triangle will sum to more than 180 degrees. If the Universe is negatively curved, parallel lines will diverge and the three angles of a triangle will sum to less than 180 degrees. And if the Universe is flat, parallel lines will remain parallel, and all triangles will contain 180 degrees exactly.

The angles of a triangle add up to different amounts depending on the spatial curvature present. A... [+] positively curved (top), negatively curved (middle), or flat (bottom) Universe will have the internal angles of a triangle sum up to more, less, or exactly equal to 180 degrees, respectively.

NASA / WMAP science team

The way we do this is to take the most distant signals of all, such as the light that’s left over from the Big Bang, and examine in detail how the fluctuations are patterned. If the Universe is curved in either a positive or a negative direction, the fluctuation patterns that we observe will wind up distorted to appear on either larger or smaller angular scales, as opposed to a flat Universe.

When we take the best data available, which comes from both the cosmic microwave background’s fluctuations and the details of how galaxies cluster together on large scales at a variety of distances, we arrive at an inescapable conclusion: the Universe is indistinguishable from perfect spatial flatness. If it is curved, it’s at a level that’s no more than 0.4%, meaning that if the Universe is curved like a hypersphere, its radius is at least ~250 times larger than the part that’s observable to us.

The magnitudes of the hot and cold spots, as well as their scales, indicate the curvature of the... [+] Universe. To the best of our capabilities, we measure it to be perfectly flat. Baryon acoustic oscillations and the CMB, together, provide the best methods of constraining this, down to a combined precision of 0.4%.

Smoot Cosmology Group / LBL

If you define the edge of the Universe as the farthest object we could ever reach if we began our journey immediately, then our present limit is a mere distance of 18 billion light-years, encompassing just 6% of the volume of our observable Universe. If you define it as the limit of what we can observe a signal from — who we can see and who can see us — then the edge goes out to 46.1 billion light-years. But if you define it as the limits of the unobservable Universe, the only limit we have is that it’s at least 11,500 billion light-years in size, and it could be even larger.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the Universe is infinite, though. It could be flat and still curve back on itself, with a donut-like shape known mathematically as a torus. As large and expansive as the observable Universe is, it’s still finite, with a finite amount of information to teach us. Beyond that, the ultimate cosmic truths still remain unknown to us.

In a hypertorus model of the Universe, motion in a straight line will return you to your original... [+] location, even in an uncurved (flat) spacetime. The Universe could also be closed and positively curved: like a hypersphere.

ESO and deviantART user InTheStarlightGarden

Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website or some of my other work here.

Ethan Siegel Ethan Siegel

I am a Ph.D. astrophysicist, author, and science communicator, who professes physics and astronomy at various colleges. I have won numerous awards for science writing since 2008 for my blog, Starts With A Bang, including the award for best science blog by the Institute of Physics. My two books, Treknology: The Science of Star Trek from Tricorders to Warp Drive, Beyond the Galaxy: How humanity looked beyond our Milky Way and discovered the entire Universe, are available for purchase at Amazon. Follow me on Twitter @startswithabang.

Source: How Far Is It To The Edge Of The Universe?

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This Is How We’d All Die Instantly If The Sun Suddenly Went Supernova

As far as raw explosive power goes, no other cataclysm in the Universe is both as common and as destructive as a core-collapse supernova. In one brief event lasting only seconds, a runaway reaction causes a star to give off as much energy as our Sun will emit over its entire 10-12 billion year lifetime. While many supernovae have been observed both historically and since the invention of the telescope, humanity has never witnessed one up close.

Recently, the nearby red supergiant star, Betelgeuse, has started exhibiting interesting signs of dimming, leading some to suspect that it might be on the verge of going supernova. While our Sun isn’t massive enough to experience that same fate, it’s a fun and macabre thought experiment to imagine what would happen if it did. Yes, we’d all die in short order, but not from either the blast wave or from radiation. Instead, the neutrinos would get us first. Here’s how.

An animation sequence of the 17th century supernova in the constellation of Cassiopeia. This... [+] explosion, despite occurring in the Milky Way and about 60-70 years after 1604, could not be seen with the naked eye due to the intervening dust. Surrounding material plus continued emission of EM radiation both play a role in the remnant's continued illumination. A supernova is the typical fate for a star greater than about 10 solar masses, although there are some exceptions.

NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration. Acknowledgement: Robert A. Fesen (Dartmouth College, USA) and James Long (ESA/Hubble)

A supernova — specifically, a core-collapse supernova — can only occur when a star many times more massive than our Sun runs out of nuclear fuel to burn in its core. All stars start off doing what our Sun does: fusing the most common element in the Universe, hydrogen, into helium through a series of chain reactions. During this part of a star’s life, it’s the radiation pressure from these nuclear fusion reactions that prevent the star’s interior from collapsing due to the enormous force of gravitation.

So what happens, then, when the star burns through all the hydrogen in its core? The radiation pressure drops and gravity starts to win in this titanic struggle, causing the core to contract. As it contracts, it heats up, and if the temperature can pass a certain critical threshold, the star will start fusing the next-lightest element in line, helium, to produce carbon.

This cutaway showcases the various regions of the surface and interior of the Sun, including the... [+] core, which is where nuclear fusion occurs. As time goes on, the helium-containing region in the core expands and the maximum temperature increases, causing the Sun's energy output to increase. When our Sun runs out of hydrogen fuel in the core, it will contract and heat up to a sufficient degree that helium fusion can begin.

Wikimedia Commons user Kelvinsong

This will occur in our own Sun some 5-to-7 billion years in the future, causing it to swell into a red giant. Our parent star will expand so much that Mercury, Venus, and possibly even Earth will be engulfed, but let’s instead imagine that we come up some clever plan to migrate our planet to a safe orbit, while mitigating the increased luminosity to prevent our planet from getting fried. This helium burning will last for hundreds of millions of years before our Sun runs out of helium and the core contracts and heats up once again.

For our Sun, that’s the end of the line, as we don’t have enough mass to move to the next stage and begin carbon fusion. In a star far more massive than our Sun, however, hydrogen-burning only takes millions of years to complete, and the helium-burning phase lasts merely hundreds of thousands of years. After that, the core’s contraction will enable carbon fusion to proceed, and things will move very quickly after that.

As it nears the end of its evolution, heavy elements produced by nuclear fusion inside the star are... [+] concentrated toward the center of the star. When the star explodes, the vast majority of the outer layers absorb neutrons rapidly, climbing the periodic table, and also get expelled back into the Universe where they participate in the next generation of star and planet formation.

NASA / CXC / S. Lee

Carbon fusion can produce elements such as oxygen, neon, and magnesium, but only takes hundreds of years to complete. When carbon becomes scarce in the core, it again contracts and heats up, leading to neon fusion (which lasts about a year), followed by oxygen fusion (lasting for a few months), and then silicon fusion (which lasts less than a day). In that final phase of silicon-burning, core temperatures can reach ~3 billion K, some 200 times the hottest temperatures currently found at the center of the Sun.

And then the critical moment occurs: the core runs out of silicon. Again, the pressure drops, but this time there’s nowhere to go. The elements that are produced from silicon fusion — elements like cobalt, nickel and iron — are more stable than the heavier elements that they’d conceivably fuse into. Instead, nothing there is capable of resisting gravitational collapse, and the core implodes.

Artist's illustration (left) of the interior of a massive star in the final stages, pre-supernova,... [+] of silicon-burning. (Silicon-burning is where iron, nickel, and cobalt form in the core.) A Chandra image (right) of the Cassiopeia A supernova remnant today shows elements like Iron (in blue), sulphur (green), and magnesium (red). We do not know whether all core-collapse supernovae follow the same pathway or not.

NASA/CXC/M.Weiss; X-ray: NASA/CXC/GSFC/U.Hwang & J.Laming

This is where the core-collapse supernova happens. A runaway fusion reaction occurs, producing what’s basically one giant atomic nucleus made of neutrons in the star’s core, while the outer layers have a tremendous amount of energy injected into them. The fusion reaction itself lasts for only around 10 seconds, liberating about 1044 Joules of energy, or the mass-equivalent (via Einstein’s E = mc2) of about 1027 kg: as much as you’d release by transforming two Saturns into pure energy.

That energy goes into a mix of radiation (photons), the kinetic energy of the material in the now-exploding stellar material, and neutrinos. All three of these are more than capable of ending any life that’s managed to survive on an orbiting planet up to that point, but the big question of how we’d all die if the Sun went supernova depends on the answer to one question: who gets there first?

The anatomy of a very massive star throughout its life, culminating in a Type II Supernova when the... [+] core runs out of nuclear fuel. The final stage of fusion is typically silicon-burning, producing iron and iron-like elements in the core for only a brief while before a supernova ensues. Many of the supernova remnants will lead to the formation of neutron stars, which can produce the greatest abundances of the heaviest elements of all by colliding and merging.

Nicole Rager Fuller/NSF

When the runaway fusion reaction occurs, the only delay in the light getting out comes from the fact that it’s produced in the core of this star, and the core is surrounded by the star’s outer layers. It takes a finite amount of time for that signal to propagate to the outermost surface of the star — the photosphere — where it’s then free to travel in a straight line at the speed of light.

As soon as it gets out, the radiation will scorch everything in its path, blowing the atmosphere (and any remaining ocean) clean off of the star-facing side of an Earth-like planet immediately, while the night side would last for seconds-to-minutes longer. The blast wave of the matter would follow soon afterwards, engulfing the remnants of our scorched world and quite possibly, dependent on the specifics of the explosion, destroying the planet entirely.

                        

But any living creature would surely die even before the light or the blast wave from the supernova arrived; they’d never see their demise coming. Instead, the neutrinos — which interact with matter so rarely that an entire star, to them, functions like a pane of glass does to visible light — simply speed away omnidirectionally, from the moment of their creation, at speeds indistinguishable from the speed of light.

Moreover, neutrinos carry an enormous fraction of a supernova’s energy away: approximately 99% of it. In any given moment, with our paltry Sun emitting just ~4 × 1026 joules of energy each second, approximately 70 trillion (7 × 1013) neutrinos pass through your hand. The probability that they’ll interact is tiny, but occasionally it will happen, depositing the energy it carries into your body when it happens. Only a few neutrinos actually do this over the course of a typical day with our current Sun, but if it went supernova, the story would change dramatically.

A neutrino event, identifiable by the rings of Cerenkov radiation that show up along the... [+] photomultiplier tubes lining the detector walls, showcase the successful methodology of neutrino astronomy and leveraging the use of Cherenkov radiation. This image shows multiple events, and is part of the suite of experiments paving our way to a greater understanding of neutrinos. The neutrinos detected in 1987 marked the dawn of both neutrino astronomy as well as multi-messenger astronomy.

Super Kamiokande collaboration

When a supernova occurs, the neutrino flux increases by approximately a factor of 10 quadrillion (1016), while the energy-per-neutrino goes up by around a factor of 10, increasing the probability of a neutrino interacting with your body tremendously. When you work through the math, you’ll find that even with their extraordinary low probability of interaction, any living creature — from a single-celled organism to a complex human being — would be boiled from the inside out from neutrino interactions alone.

This is the scariest outcome imaginable, because you’d never see it coming. In 1987, we observed a supernova from 168,000 light-years away with both light and neutrinos. The neutrinos arrived at three different detectors across the world, spanning about 10 seconds from the earliest to the latest. The light from the supernova, however, didn’t begin arriving until hours later. By the time the first visual signatures arrived, everything on Earth would have already been vaporized for hours.

A supernova explosion enriches the surrounding interstellar medium with heavy elements. The outer... [+] rings are caused by previous ejecta, long before the final explosion. This explosion also emitted a huge variety of neutrinos, some of which made it all the way to Earth.

ESO / L. Calçada

Perhaps the scariest part of neutrinos is how there’s no good way to shield yourself from them. Even if you tried to block their path to you with lead, or a planet, or even a neutron star, more than 50% of the neutrinos would still get through. According to some estimates, not only would all life on an Earth-like planet be destroyed by neutrinos, but any life anywhere in a comparable solar system would meet that same fate, even out at the distance of Pluto, before the first light from the supernova ever arrived.

https://www.forbes.com/video/6111169884001/

The only early detection system we’d ever be able to install to know something was coming is a sufficiently sensitive neutrino detector, which could detect the unique, surefire signatures of neutrinos generated from each of carbon, neon, oxygen, and silicon burning. We would know when each of these transitions happened, giving life a few hours to say their final goodbyes during the silicon-burning phase before the supernova occurred.

There are many natural neutrino signatures produced by stars and other processes in the Universe.... [+] Every set of neutrinos produced by a different fusion process inside a star will have a different spectral energy signature, enabling astronomers to determine whether their parent star is fusing carbon, oxygen, neon, and silicon in its interior, or not.

IceCube collaboration / NSF / University of Wisconsin

It’s horrifying to think that an event as fascinating and destructive as a supernova, despite all the spectacular effects it produces, would kill anything nearby before a single perceptible signal arrived, but that’s absolutely the case with neutrinos. Produced in the core of a supernova and carrying away 99% of its energy, all life on an Earth-like would receive a lethal dose of neutrinos within 1/20th of a second as every other location on the planet. No amount of shielding, even from being on the opposite side of the planet from the supernova, would help at all.

Whenever any star goes supernova, neutrinos are the first signal that can be detected from them, but by the time they arrive, it’s already too late. Even with how rarely they interact, they’d sterilize their entire solar system before the light or matter from the blast ever arrived. At the moment of a supernova’s ignition, the fate of death is sealed by the stealthiest killer of all: the elusive neutrino.

Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website or some of my other work here.

I am a Ph.D. astrophysicist, author, and science communicator, who professes physics and astronomy at various colleges. I have won numerous awards for science writing since 2008 for my blog, Starts With A Bang, including the award for best science blog by the Institute of Physics. My two books, Treknology: The Science of Star Trek from Tricorders to Warp Drive, Beyond the Galaxy: How humanity looked beyond our Milky Way and discovered the entire Universe, are available for purchase at Amazon. Follow me on Twitter @startswithabang.

Source: This Is How We’d All Die Instantly If The Sun Suddenly Went Supernova

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Our Sun would never undergo a Supernova explosion. But what if it does? Video clips from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and ESA/Hubble Images by: ESA/NASA, pixabay.com Music: Olympus by Ross Budgen – Music ( https://youtu.be/BnmglWHoVrk ) Licensed under CC BY 4.0 International License We’re on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/astrogeekz/ We’re on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/astrogeekz/ Support us on Patreon.

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