Tag: Dust

Here’s How To Send Your Name Hurtling Into The Sun This Year

If you’ve ever wanted to send a part of you hurtling into the Sun, this is your lucky day. NASA is offering you the chance to send your name rocketing towards our favorite ball of gas aboard the Parker Solar Probe.

The $1.5-billion mission will be the first-ever probe to “touch” the Sun, traveling directly into its atmosphere later this year.

The mission will go seven times closer to the Sun than any other man-made object, in order to study its atmosphere.

It’ll go hurtling towards the center of our solar system at speeds of 700,000 kilometers per hour. “That’s fast enough to get from Philadelphia to Washington, DC, in one second,” NASA wrote.

Your name, if you fancy it, will be included on a memory card within the probe’s payload, traveling at speeds previously unknown to any of your nametags.

The mission will study how energy and heat move through the solar corona. By studying the Sun – the only star available for us to study up close – scientists also hope to learn more about stars throughout the Universe.

The probe will seek to discover what accelerates solar wind and solar energetic particles, which NASA says it has sought answers to for over 60 years.

Now with thermal engineering advances, NASA is finally able to send a probe that can withstand the immense heat.

At its closest approach, the probe will face temperatures of 1,370°C (2,500°F), but the probe’s solar shields will astonishingly keep the payload at around room temperature.

So your name will stay cool, don’t worry. Unless it’s something like “Nigel”, which has never been cool in the first place.

The initiative of sending your name along for the ride, dubbed “Hot Ticket“, was launched this week by Star Trek actor and musical legend William Shatner.

The first-ever spacecraft to the Sun, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, will launch this year on a course to orbit through the heat of our star’s corona, where temperatures are greater than 1 million degrees,” Shatner said in a video launching the project.

The spacecraft will also carry my name to the Sun, and your name, and the names of everyone who wants to join this voyage of extreme exploration.

In order to get your name aboard the probe, it really is as simple as applying. Just go to NASA’s Parker Solar Probe website and enter your details before April 27, 2018.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

No ‘Alien Megastructure’ Around Tabby’s Star, Only Cosmic Dustbunnies

Sorry to burst your bubble, folks, but the mysteriously dimming Tabby’s Star isn’t due to an “alien megastructure” after all – it’s just obscured by dust, according to a paper published today.

KIC 8462852 (but Tabby’s Star is catchier) was first spotted by NASA’s Kepler telescope.

It quickly became an object of fascination for citizen scientists working for the Planet Hunters project, hoping to discover why its brightness levels weirdly dipped for prolonged periods.

Other than that, it’s a pretty regular flaming gas ball.

Located in the Cygnus constellation, the F-type main sequence star is about 1,000 light years away, and is about 50 per cent bigger and 1,000oC (1,832oF) hotter than the Sun.

Several hypotheses have been suggested for the dimming light. Some people thought it was due to cold comet fragments circling the star in a highly eccentric orbit. Others believed it was a sign of extraterrestrial life trying to communicate.

Over 1,700 people donated more than $107,000 (£73,708) through a Kickstarter campaign to support a team of more than 200 researchers to observe the star at the Las Cumbres Observatory in Goleta, California, from March 2016 to December 2017.

The results have now been published in The Astrophysical Journal and suggest the dimming is all just down to, er, dust. NASA also proposed dust in uneven rings as the cause back in October last year.

Jason Wright, co-author of the paper and an astrophysics assistant professor at Pennsylvania State University, said: “We were hoping that once we finally caught a dip happening in real time we could see if the dips were the same depth at all wavelengths.

If they were nearly the same, this would suggest that the cause was something opaque, like an orbiting disk, planet, or star, or even large structures in space.

But careful analysis showed that the intensity of the dimming of the light varied across different wavelengths.

Tabetha Boyajian, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of astrophysics at Louisiana State University, said: “Dust is most likely the reason why the star’s light appears to dim and brighten.

The new data shows that different colors of light are being blocked at different intensities. Therefore, whatever is passing between us and the star is not opaque, as would be expected from a planet or alien megastructure.”

Although the results rule out more exotic explanations, they still raises interesting questions, Wright said.

Boyajian said the prospect was “exciting”.

I am so appreciative of all of the people who have contributed to this in the past year – the citizen scientists and professional astronomers.

“It’s quite humbling to have all of these people contributing in various ways to help figure it out.

“If it wasn’t for people with an unbiased look on our universe, this unusual star would have been overlooked.”

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Study Suggests That House Dust May Spur Growth Of Fat Cells


Could something as simple as household dust be contributing to America’s obesity epidemic?

Small amounts of household dust appear to contain many of the compounds that can spur fat cells to accumulate more fat at least in lab settings, according to research published this week in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

The researchers took samples of indoor dust from 11 North Carolina homes, and tested extracts from those samples in a mouse pre-adipocyte cell model.

According to the researchers, extracts from seven of the samples triggered the cells to develop mature fat cells and accumulate fat.


Extracts from nine samples spurred the cells to divide, creating a bigger pool of precursor fat cells. Only one sample showed no effects. The researchers concluded that house dust is a likely source of chemicals that can derail metabolic health.

The study, which is notably small, suggests that the conversation around reducing obesity, which is often anchored in questions of diet and exercise, needs to expand to incorporate a better understanding of environment and pollution.


It doesn’t take much dust to see a negative impact, at least under lab conditions: dust amounts as small as 3 micrograms showed measurable effects, according to the researchers.

Looking beyond simple household dust, environmental pollution poses a deadly threat to children worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates that 1.7 million children under the age of 5 die annually due to the effects of living in polluted environments.

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Pass it on: Popular Science