In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and misinformation, give yourself the benefit of doubt. This is one skeptic's view of the Universe; natural wonders and supernatural blunders.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens

 

10 Space Myths We Need to Stop Believing

Why you shouldn’t get your facts from Hollywood.

1. We explode in space

Like many of the myths that will follow, this idea was mostly created by Hollywood. Oftentimes, moviemakers aren’t really that concerned with the facts. They will readily take liberties with reality in order to make a scene look more interesting. From movies, we know that the instant a human is exposed to outer space without a protective suit, he’s a goner who, most likely, will explode in a splatter of blood and guts (depending on the rating of the film).

Exposure to space will definitely kill you, but not instantly and not in such a visceral way. A human being can survive exposed to space for about half a minute with no permanent damage. It won’t be pleasant, but it’s not instant death. You would probably die of asphyxiation due to lack of oxygen. There is one movie that got this right - Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

2. Venus and Earth are identical

Venus is often referred to as our twin but this shouldn’t give you the impression that it is exactly like our planet. We’ve covered Venus in-depth before so we won’t go into detail, but this idea came about mainly when we had no clue exactly what the surface of the planet is really like. Due to its incredibly thick atmosphere, it wasn’t until we sent a spacecraft to Venus that we discovered how deadly and unwelcoming the surface of the planet really is.

3. The Sun is a ball of fire

The Sun is actually glowing, not burning. This might seem like an insignificant distinction to the average person, but the heat generated by the sun is actually the result of a nuclear reaction, not a chemical one which is what burning is. While we’re at it…

4. The Sun is yellow

Ask anyone to draw a Sun and they will immediately reach for the yellow crayon. It seems normal. We’ve been using that yellow crayon for the Sun ever since we were little and all we could draw was the crappy front of a house and the Sun smiling in the corner (come on, that definitely wasn’t just me, right?). If we ever needed more evidence, we could just go outside and look at the sun and it definitely appears to be yellow….

Makes good sense to revere the sun and stars because we are their children. The silicon in the rocks, the oxygen in the air, the carbon in our DNA, the iron in our skyscrapers, the silver in our jewelry were all made in stars billions of years ago. Our planet, our society, and we ourselves are stardust.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (Ep 8: Sisters of the Sun)

(Source: ckerouac)

Sun Revolves Around Earth According to 1 in 4 Americans

According to The National Science Foundation, one in four Americans believe the sun revolves around the earth. The results were released from a 2012 survey whereby 2,000 people were asked various science questions. After analysis of the survey was completed, researchers concluded that 26 percent of Americans don’t know the basic rules of our solar system. Scientists describe the statistics as “frightening” and believe it emphasizes the importance of increasing funding in science programs in American schools.

These weren’t the only surprising findings, as the survey also found that 48 percent of those questioned believed that humans evolved from an earlier species of animals, relating to the evolution vs. creationism debate. Creationism and criticisms of evolution are still taught in some schools in America. It was noted that almost all public schools in America taught creationism until the late 19th century, and it is still hotly debated today on whether it should still be taught in classrooms. Another question in the survey was whether antibiotics kill viruses; 51 percent answered that no they do not. While this questions may not have to do with the knowledge of the earth revolving around the sun, it does means that half of the sample do not know the difference between viruses and bacteria or rather they simply do not know about one of the most common prescription medications used today. When questioned about how the universe began, 39 percent believed that the universe began from a massive explosion. The other 60 percent do not believe this, and while the survey did not divulge into what other answers they may have for how the universe came to be, it was estimated by a Gallop Poll that 46 percent of Americans believe in creationism. The survey also noted that less than 65 percent of Americans were aware that it is the father’s gene that determines the sex of the child – again, this is a basic biological fact that many would think most of the population should know…

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

teachthemhowtothink:

Theist:  People sure believed some strange things back then, huh?Other theist:  Sure did.Theist:  Ready to go partake of the body and blood of Christ? Other theist:  Sure am.

teachthemhowtothink:

Theist: People sure believed some strange things back then, huh?

Other theist: Sure did.

Theist: Ready to go partake of the body and blood of Christ?

Other theist: Sure am.

(Source: theamericanatheist)

skeptv:

Eskimo Nebula Sheds Light On Sun’s Eventual Demise

Observations of planetary nebula NGC 2392 by the Chandra and Hubble Space Telescopes reveals the complexities of the death of a star like our own. The Sun still has about 5 billion years before it suffers a similar fate.

via Video From Space.


sagansense:

NASA to Launch New Sun-Watching Satellite This Month
A new NASA spacecraft is weeks away from launching into orbit to study a region of the sun that will help scientists better understand how the solar atmosphere works, scientists said today (June 4).
The Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) probe is slated to launch on June 26 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The satellite will be carried aboard an Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL rocket, which will be released from the company’s L-1011 aircraft at an altitude of 39,000 feet (about 12,000 meters). 
IRIS will study the sun’s lower atmosphere, which is an area known as the “interface region. “The satellite is expected to provide the most detailed look at this part of the solar atmosphere, which has been largely unexplored until now,” said Jeffrey Newmark, an IRIS program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
“IRIS will fill crucial gaps in our understanding of the role the interface region plays in powering its million-degree atmosphere, called the corona,” Newmark told reporters in a news briefing today.
The sun’s atmosphere
“The sun’s interface region, where most of the star’s ultraviolet emissions are generated, is located between the sun’s visible surfaceand its upper atmosphere. Activity in this area powers the sun’s atmosphere and drives solar wind,” said Alan Title, principal investigator of the IRIS mission at Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Center in Palo Alto, Calif.
Temperatures in the interface region reach approximately 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit (more than 5,500 degrees Celsius), and IRIS will examine how solar material moves, gathers energy and heats up as it travels through this part of the lower atmosphere.
“Immediately above [the interface region], temperatures rise to a million degrees in the corona, but how that happens is a mystery,” Title said.
“Previous solar observations have suggested that massive structures in the lower atmosphere help funnel energy into the sun’s upper atmosphere. These jet-like features, which occupy an area roughly the size of Los Angeles, can stretch up to 100,000 miles (161,000 kilometers) long and travel at a blistering pace of 360,000 miles per hour (579,000 km/h),” Title said.
“IRIS will be able to observe these structures in unprecedented detail, including gathering information about the structures’ velocity, temperature and density,” Title said.
Satellite specs
IRIS is equipped with an ultraviolet telescope that is designed to take high-resolution images every few seconds and provide observations of areas as small as 150 miles (241 km) on the sun, according to NASA officials.
The satellite will circle Earth in a sun-synchronous polar orbit, which means it will fly along the planet’s dawn/dusk line, looking toward the sun, said John Marmie, IRIS assistant project manager at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.
Each orbit will take 97 minutes to complete, which will allow IRIS to circle the planet about 14 or 15 times each day, from an altitude of about 373 miles (600 km). This path, which is designed to take the spacecraft over the equator at the same local time every day, allows for nearly continuous looks at the sun, mission planners said.
After IRIS reaches orbit, mission managers will spend about a month checking the onboard instruments before the satellite officially begins collecting scientific data.
The IRIS probe weighs 400 pounds (181 kilograms), and measures 12 feet across (3.7 meters) with its solar panels fully extended.
The $181 million mission is designed to operate for about two years, but mission planners say IRIS could operate for much longer, since the satellite will not be carrying any fuel or other consumable materials.
“If, after two years, the observatory is healthy and productive, NASA has the option to extend operations,” Title said.
When launched, IRIS will join a fleet of sun-watching spacecraft operated by NASA and its partner agencies, including the Solar Dynamics Observatory and the Hinode probe.
“Together they will explore how the solar atmosphere works, and how it impacts Earth,” Newmark said.
——————————————————————————————————
Can we just pause for a moment to revel in awe at the reality that we, a lowly species on such a quaint position in this solar system, have been studying our home star for millennia? 
Think about the GRAIL probes. Just yesterday it seems, the GRAIL probes were sending to us information recovered from their journey next door, to which forever would alter and enhance our understanding of our moon and its rich and turbulent history. These twin probes were a fascinating pair, fulfilling their mission requirements and then, sadly, bittersweetly, were terminated. Mission over complete. 
Staying in that same perspective, realize we have even less sophisticated spacecraft studying the magnificent and complex structure of the sun, unveiling processes we are just beginning to understand. With IRIS, we have another engineering marvel being deployed and like the GRAIL probes, temporarily adopted into the local spacecraft family. I expect she will no doubt advance our understanding of these hidden solar relationships and so much more. 
Fulfilling a 2(+?) year mission, IRIS will aid not just in our understanding of the substructure of the solar corona, but propel us further to grasp the effects of space weather on all worlds the Earth, updating the field of all fields astrophysics, enlightening us further more about the (to quote Feynman) “nature of nature”, the universe, and our childhood question, “why do the stars shine?”


This is just the beginning.

sagansense:

NASA to Launch New Sun-Watching Satellite This Month

A new NASA spacecraft is weeks away from launching into orbit to study a region of the sun that will help scientists better understand how the solar atmosphere works, scientists said today (June 4).

The Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) probe is slated to launch on June 26 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The satellite will be carried aboard an Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL rocket, which will be released from the company’s L-1011 aircraft at an altitude of 39,000 feet (about 12,000 meters).

IRIS will study the sun’s lower atmosphere, which is an area known as the “interface region. “The satellite is expected to provide the most detailed look at this part of the solar atmosphere, which has been largely unexplored until now,” said Jeffrey Newmark, an IRIS program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“IRIS will fill crucial gaps in our understanding of the role the interface region plays in powering its million-degree atmosphere, called the corona,” Newmark told reporters in a news briefing today.

The sun’s atmosphere

“The sun’s interface region, where most of the star’s ultraviolet emissions are generated, is located between the sun’s visible surfaceand its upper atmosphere. Activity in this area powers the sun’s atmosphere and drives solar wind,” said Alan Title, principal investigator of the IRIS mission at Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Center in Palo Alto, Calif.

Temperatures in the interface region reach approximately 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit (more than 5,500 degrees Celsius), and IRIS will examine how solar material moves, gathers energy and heats up as it travels through this part of the lower atmosphere.

“Immediately above [the interface region], temperatures rise to a million degrees in the corona, but how that happens is a mystery,” Title said.

“Previous solar observations have suggested that massive structures in the lower atmosphere help funnel energy into the sun’s upper atmosphere. These jet-like features, which occupy an area roughly the size of Los Angeles, can stretch up to 100,000 miles (161,000 kilometers) long and travel at a blistering pace of 360,000 miles per hour (579,000 km/h),” Title said.

“IRIS will be able to observe these structures in unprecedented detail, including gathering information about the structures’ velocity, temperature and density,” Title said.

Satellite specs

IRIS is equipped with an ultraviolet telescope that is designed to take high-resolution images every few seconds and provide observations of areas as small as 150 miles (241 km) on the sun, according to NASA officials.

The satellite will circle Earth in a sun-synchronous polar orbit, which means it will fly along the planet’s dawn/dusk line, looking toward the sun, said John Marmie, IRIS assistant project manager at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

Each orbit will take 97 minutes to complete, which will allow IRIS to circle the planet about 14 or 15 times each day, from an altitude of about 373 miles (600 km). This path, which is designed to take the spacecraft over the equator at the same local time every day, allows for nearly continuous looks at the sun, mission planners said.

After IRIS reaches orbit, mission managers will spend about a month checking the onboard instruments before the satellite officially begins collecting scientific data.

The IRIS probe weighs 400 pounds (181 kilograms), and measures 12 feet across (3.7 meters) with its solar panels fully extended.

The $181 million mission is designed to operate for about two years, but mission planners say IRIS could operate for much longer, since the satellite will not be carrying any fuel or other consumable materials.

“If, after two years, the observatory is healthy and productive, NASA has the option to extend operations,” Title said.

When launched, IRIS will join a fleet of sun-watching spacecraft operated by NASA and its partner agencies, including the Solar Dynamics Observatory and the Hinode probe.

“Together they will explore how the solar atmosphere works, and how it impacts Earth,” Newmark said.

——————————————————————————————————

Can we just pause for a moment to revel in awe at the reality that we, a lowly species on such a quaint position in this solar system, have been studying our home star for millennia?

Think about the GRAIL probes. Just yesterday it seems, the GRAIL probes were sending to us information recovered from their journey next door, to which forever would alter and enhance our understanding of our moon and its rich and turbulent history. These twin probes were a fascinating pair, fulfilling their mission requirements and then, sadly, bittersweetly, were terminated. Mission over complete.

Staying in that same perspective, realize we have even less sophisticated spacecraft studying the magnificent and complex structure of the sun, unveiling processes we are just beginning to understand. With IRIS, we have another engineering marvel being deployed and like the GRAIL probes, temporarily adopted into the local spacecraft family. I expect she will no doubt advance our understanding of these hidden solar relationships and so much more.

Fulfilling a 2(+?) year mission, IRIS will aid not just in our understanding of the substructure of the solar corona, but propel us further to grasp the effects of space weather on all worlds the Earth, updating the field of all fields astrophysics, enlightening us further more about the (to quote Feynman) “nature of nature”, the universe, and our childhood question, “why do the stars shine?

image

image

This is just the beginning.

thenewenlightenmentage:

What the Death of the Sun Will Look Like
About 1.1 billion years from now, the sun will begin to change. As the hydrogen fuel in its core is used up, the burning will spread outward toward the surface. This will make the sun grow brighter. This increased radiation will have a devastating effect on our planet. Here’s what that might look like.
Continue Reading

thenewenlightenmentage:

What the Death of the Sun Will Look Like

About 1.1 billion years from now, the sun will begin to change. As the hydrogen fuel in its core is used up, the burning will spread outward toward the surface. This will make the sun grow brighter. This increased radiation will have a devastating effect on our planet. Here’s what that might look like.

Continue Reading

awkwardsituationist:

solar flares (up to 300 000 km long) and sunspot (approx 27 000 km across) captured by the swedish solar telescope in 2002.

That close up is fantastic.

sciencesoup:

Making Stars on Earth

Nuclear fusion is the reason our sun shines. It’s the process by which two atomic nuclei fuse into one, heavier nuclei—and the process by which stars produce energy. The heart of our Sun is a vast powerhouse, where the nuclear fusion of two hydrogen atoms into one helium atom radiates huge amounts of energy. Earth’s current nuclear reactors use nuclear fission, which produces energy by splitting one atom into two. This process creates harmful radioactive waste, but nuclear fusion is cleaner, safer, and more efficient. If we could effectively build our own star here on Earth—our own celestial power plant—we would have access to unlimited clean energy, but although decades of research has created glimpses of fusion reactions such as the JET (Joint European Torus) experimental fusion reactor pictured above, we have yet to learn how to usefully harness this energy. But what we’ve managed to create so far is still amazing. In Brian Cox’s words: “Scientists have learned how to create and hold star matter—a cocktail of gases heated to 100 million degrees. For a moment, a little piece of the sun springs into life on the Earth.”

(Image Credit: Wonders of the Universe)

The American flags on the moon are all white

doobybrain:

Hmm, I didn’t know it at the time, but apparently those all-white American flags that I posted not only look cool but they actually have some truth behind them. Gizmodo reports that the flags posted on the Moon’s surface have all lost their color due to the extreme conditions and lack of atmosphere on the lunar surface. Just like things fade in the sun here on earth, they also do so on the moon but at a much quicker pace.