Once it’s in place, though, the Webb [Space Telescope] is quite literally expected to unlock a universe of discoveries. Positioned so far from the Earth and shielded from outside infrared interference, the telescope will be able to see things the Hubble never could. Chief among them: seeing back in time. Since light only travels so fast, the further you look out, the further you look back. The Webb is expected to be able to peer into some of the universe’s earliest moments, before even stars existed. This could give insight into how the cosmos came into being.
On top of that, the Webb is going to be looking at how the first galaxies were formed. From observations from Hubble and other telescopes, we know know most galaxies have huge black holes at their centers, but questions remain about how this symbiotic pairing of black holes and stars emerges. The answer likely has to do with “dark matter,” the term for the missing matter in the universe that scientists can observe the gravitational effects of, but can’t see directly. By looking into the formation of galaxies, the Webb may unlock the secrets of this mysterious substance.
Finally, the Webb may help answer the question of whether life exists elsewhere in the universe. The telescope will be able to see better than ever before planets in other star systems and more importantly—which ones have water. A planet with large amounts of water is a prime candidate for life, and the Webb could point us right to them.
In the US, we rely on the National Hurricane Center to forecast storms. The NHC is in turn a division of the National Weather Service, itself a part of the NOAA. Which, in the GOP’s 2011 budget bill, had its funding slashed by $1.2 billion from what was proposed in the president’s own budget bill, a bill that very notably included a $700 million increase over the previous year to cover needed upgrades to the satellites that gather the data that gets crunched in order to predict storms and weather in general.
According to the model of the solar system I used when I was taking courses involving planets, Pluto's orbit intersects Neptune's at two points. Is it possible, given Neptune's mass and enough time, that Pluto could be pulled into Neptune's orbit and become a moon, or would it strike Neptune directly? (Or am I completely misunderstanding this?)
Despite the fact that Pluto and Neptune temporarily change places in their distance from the Sun, they will never collide. This is due to two reasons: First, Pluto’s orbit is inclined to the ecliptic. by 17 degrees. (To see an illustration of this, take a look at http://nineplanets.org/overview.html.) So even though we say their orbits “cross”, Pluto is actually quite a distance “above”Neptune. Secondly, Pluto orbits the Sun twice for every three orbits of Neptune. The two planets are said to be in a “resonance orbit”. For such orbits, the two bodies never get close to each other. In fact, the closest the two planets come to each other is 2 billion kilometers.
Jim Lochner & Karen Smale for Ask an Astrophysicist
Please please please would you at least show your subscribers a video on the safe way to build, launch and recover a model rocket? I would hate to think some kid would follow the video you posted and get hurt, cause a fire or worse.
I agree, the video we posted here grossly overlooked safety protocol. Here is a video I found at TeacherTube that goes over the Model Rocket Safety Code. It won’t embed properly, so I’ve added a link below.
If we are moving faster at the equator (which also has a slight bulge, correct?) than we are at the pole, would that mean, rotational speed ('centrifugal force') coupled with the slight bulge, that there is a weakened effect or less-felt sense of the Earth's gravity there?
The best way I can explain it is in terms of satellite orbital mechanics.
You are correct in that the Earth is an oblate spheroid, meaning it is somewhat flattened at the poles and bulges at the equator. Because of this, the Earth has more mass around the equator, and the force from that mass’ gravity does not act directly through the Earth’s center. Rather, this gravitational force tries to “pull” the satellite’s orbital plane toward the equatorial plane. Because the orbit has angular momentum, the result of the applied torque is called precession, and the effect is called the J-2 Effect, named after the complex mathematics used to analyze it. This causes the rotation of perigee, and has a major effect on operational satellites.
So in layman’s terms, the effects of gravity are actually stronger at the equator than at the poles because there is more mass there.
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As always, keep up the good work. *salute*