from the world's big
Hollywood has created an idea of aliens that doesn't match the science.
- Ask someone what they think aliens look like and you'll probably get a description heavily informed by films and pop culture. The existence of life beyond our planet has yet to be confirmed, but there are clues as to the biology of extraterrestrials in science.
- "Don't give them claws," says biologist E.O. Wilson. "Claws are for carnivores and you've got to be an omnivore to be an E.T. There just isn't enough energy available in the next trophic level down to maintain big populations and stable populations that can evolve civilization."
- In this compilation, Wilson, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, Bill Nye, and evolutionary biologist Jonathan B. Losos explain why aliens don't look like us and why Hollywood depictions are mostly inaccurate.
Ever want to smell like an astronaut? Now you can!
- After years of trying, a group has produced the smell of outer space in a perfume.
- Astronauts have described the smell of space as similar to "ozone," "gunpowder," and "fried steak."
- Exactly what causes the scent is still debated.
In Space, nobody can figure out what that smell is.<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="zAZNB0yY" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="90e83939c0919d5669cff58bf331cb90"> <div id="botr_zAZNB0yY_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/zAZNB0yY-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/zAZNB0yY-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/zAZNB0yY-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>NASA has been concerned about what space smells like for years, primarily to reduce the surprise to astronauts who go up for the first time. According to Eau de Space's Kickstarter video, the space agency has been using a reproduction of the smell of space for decades.</p><p>In 2008, they asked Steve Pearce, a chemist who founded <a href="https://www.omegaingredients.co.uk/" target="_blank">Omega Ingredients</a>, to help them create the <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/28/us/eau-de-space-fragrance-scn-trnd/index.html" target="_blank">smell for an exhibition</a>, presumably a more difficult task than giving new astronauts a spritz. Now, thanks to what they dub "sheer determination, grit, a lot of luck, and <em>a couple of</em> Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests," the team behind the Kickstarter hopes to bring the scent to the public. <br> <br> Descriptions of what it smells like are all over the place, and include raspberries, rum, "spent gunpowder," hot metal, fried steak, and "ozone."</p><p>For those wondering when you'd get a chance to notice the smell with a helmet on, as is required for spacewalks or moonwalks, the scent follows astronauts as they return from spacewalks. According to a researcher who spoke to <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/07/what-space-smells-like/259903/" target="_blank">The Atlantic</a>, the odor is created by "high-energy vibrations in particles brought back inside which mix with the air."</p><p>As to why it smells like the various things mentioned above, the jury is still out. One <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/what-does-space-smell-like-2016-3" target="_blank">suggestion</a> is that at least some of the particles are hydrocarbons, which can also be found in things like tobacco smoke and car exhaust here on Earth. NASA argues that at least some of the smell is caused by oxidation of these particles, whatever they may be, as they enter the oxygen-rich <a href="https://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2006/30jan_smellofmoondust/" target="_blank">environment of the spacecraft</a>. </p><p>The plan is for the fragrance to be used primarily as an educational tool, sparking conversations about outer space in the classroom. To this end, each purchase includes a one bottle donation to a K-12 school. According to <a href="https://www.engadget.com/nasa-smell-of-space-perfume-kickstarter-145104834.html" target="_blank">Engadget</a>, there are currently no plans to mass-produce the fragrance after the Kickstarter ends.</p><p>If you want some, you might want to make that move before the countdown hits zero. </p>
Manly Bands wanted to improve on mens' wedding bands. Mission accomplished.
- Manly Bands was founded in 2016 to provide better options and customer service in men's wedding bands.
- Unique materials include antler, dinosaur bones, meteorite, tungsten, and whiskey barrels.
- The company donates a portion of profits to charity every month.
A gigantic star makes off during an eight-year gap in observations.
- The massive star in the Kinsman Dwarf Galaxy seems to have disappeared between 2011 and 2019.
- It's likely that it erupted, but could it have collapsed into a black hole without a supernova?
- Maybe it's still there, but much less luminous and/or covered by dust.
A "very massive star" in the Kinman Dwarf galaxy caught the attention of astronomers in the early years of the 2000s: It seemed to be reaching a late-ish chapter in its life story and offered a rare chance to observe the death of a large star in a region low in metallicity. However, by the time scientists had the chance to turn the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Paranal, Chile back around to it in 2019 — it's not a slow-turner, just an in-demand device — it was utterly gone without a trace. But how?
The two leading theories about what happened are that either it's still there, still erupting its way through its death throes, with less luminosity and perhaps obscured by dust, or it just up and collapsed into a black hole without going through a supernova stage. "If true, this would be the first direct detection of such a monster star ending its life in this manner," says Andrew Allan of Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, leader of the observation team whose study is published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Between astronomers' last look in 2011 and 2019 is a large enough interval of time for something to happen. Not that 2001 (when it was first observed) or 2019 have much meaning, since we're always watching the past out there and the Kinman Dwarf Galaxy is 75 million light years away. We often think of cosmic events as slow-moving phenomena because so often their follow-on effects are massive and unfold to us over time. But things happen just as fast big as small. The number of things that happened in the first 10 millionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang, for example, is insane.
In any event, the Kinsman Dwarf Galaxy, or PHL 293B, is far way, too far for astronomers to directly observe its stars. Their presence can be inferred from spectroscopic signatures — specifically, PHL 293B between 2001 and 2011 consistently featured strong signatures of hydrogen that indicated the presence of a massive "luminous blue variable" (LBV) star about 2.5 times more brilliant than our Sun. Astronomers suspect that some very large stars may spend their final years as LBVs.
Though LBVs are known to experience radical shifts in spectra and brightness, they reliably leave specific traces that help confirm their ongoing presence. In 2019 the hydrogen signatures, and such traces, were gone. Allan says, "It would be highly unusual for such a massive star to disappear without producing a bright supernova explosion."
The Kinsman Dwarf Galaxy, or PHL 293B, is one of the most metal-poor galaxies known. Explosive, massive, Wolf-Rayet stars are seldom seen in such environments — NASA refers to such stars as those that "live fast, die hard." Red supergiants are also rare to low Z environments. The now-missing star was looked to as a rare opportunity to observe a massive star's late stages in such an environment.
In August 2019, the team pointed the four eight-meter telescopes of ESO's ESPRESSO array simultaneously toward the LBV's former location: nothing. They also gave the VLT's X-shooter instrument a shot a few months later: also nothing.
Still pursuing the missing star, the scientists acquired access to older data for comparison to what they already felt they knew. "The ESO Science Archive Facility enabled us to find and use data of the same object obtained in 2002 and 2009," says Andrea Mehner, an ESO staff member who worked on the study. "The comparison of the 2002 high-resolution UVES spectra with our observations obtained in 2019 with ESO's newest high-resolution spectrograph ESPRESSO was especially revealing, from both an astronomical and an instrumentation point of view."
Examination of this data suggested that the LBV may have indeed been winding up to a grand final sometime after 2011.
Team member Jose Groh, also of Trinity College, says "We may have detected one of the most massive stars of the local Universe going gently into the night. Our discovery would not have been made without using the powerful ESO 8-meter telescopes, their unique instrumentation, and the prompt access to those capabilities following the recent agreement of Ireland to join ESO."
Combining the 2019 data with contemporaneous Hubble Space Telescope (HST) imagery leaves the authors of the reports with the sense that "the LBV was in an eruptive state at least between 2001 and 2011, which then ended, and may have been followed by a collapse into a massive BH without the production of an SN. This scenario is consistent with the available HST and ground-based photometry."
A star collapsing into a black hole without a supernova would be a rare event, and that argues against the idea. The paper also notes that we may simply have missed the star's supernova during the eight-year observation gap.
LBVs are known to be highly unstable, so the star dropping to a state of less luminosity or producing a dust cover would be much more in the realm of expected behavior.
Says the paper: "A combination of a slightly reduced luminosity and a thick dusty shell could result in the star being obscured. While the lack of variability between the 2009 and 2019 near-infrared continuum from our X-shooter spectra eliminates the possibility of formation of hot dust (⪆1500 K), mid-infrared observations are necessary to rule out a slowly expanding cooler dust shell."
The authors of the report are pretty confident the star experienced a dramatic eruption after 2011. Beyond that, though:
"Based on our observations and models, we suggest that PHL 293B hosted an LBV with an eruption that ended sometime after 2011. This could have been followed by
(1) a surviving star or
(2) a collapse of the LBV to a BH [black hole] without the production of a bright SN, but possibly with a weak transient."
Watch as the small mirror joins millions of other pieces of space junk currently orbiting the planet.
- The incident occurred while astronauts were servicing the International Space Station during a scheduled spacewalk.
- The spacewalk was successful and NASA said the mirror poses no immediate danger to the station.
- Space debris remains a big problem for space agencies worldwide.