Why not go to an exoplanet?

by Dawna Peterson

An exoplanet is not just a planet outside of our Solar System, but it’s a planet that holds new and debateable discoveries waiting to be found. Although we cannot directly view these planets, scientists infer that an exoplanet is there based on inductive reasoning such as the fact that they are able to detect shifts in the light coming from a star if there’s a planet orbiting it.

If we can conclude that these exoplanets exist, why not design a mission for astronauts to travel there? If we can infer that they are there, what’s stopping us from further exploring an exoplanet?

An exoplanet is a planet outside of our Solar System. The nearest exoplanet is approximately 4.42 light years away, 26 trillion miles from Earth, which is nearly 10,000 thousand times the distance from Pluto to the Sun. If we are able to go at the speed of light, 3.0 x 10^8, then this would only take us 4.42 years to get there. However, the current technology is only able to go 20,000 miles per hour, so it would take 142,000 years to reach the nearest exoplanet to Earth. Scientists have not yet developed an aircraft that has been able to even come close to traveling at the speed of light. 

This trip would require generations of people to live in space because of how long it will take, and we don’t have that many people that are willing to live their full lives in space. Think about the fact that living here on Earth will be nothing like living in space for your entire life. When going to space, one needs to carry light because the more weight that we put inside of the aircraft, the more energy needed to actually move the aircraft. We don’t need a lot of fuel to travel, but we do need it to actually get to the exoplanet. Because of the need to save space and energy, there can only be a limited amount of the things needed to survive. So, when things such as food, water, or fuel runs out there is no way to renew these things for the people in space. Scientists need to find a way to renew these important things and this is something that is stopping them from traveling to an exoplanet.

Technology regarding the aircraft itself and a person’s health becomes a huge problem when it comes to attempting to travel to anything outside of our solar system. Earth’s atmosphere usually protects us from the solar rays and cosmic rays. In space, astronauts no longer have that protection, so it’s important that the deeper we are into space the better protection we have to protect our technology and our astronauts. The problem that they face presently is the fact that statistically, a week in space’s cosmic ray environment will shorten an astronaut’s life by about a day. We can only guess how much shorter someone’s life will be with a generation of people needing to be in space for 142,000 years.

The cosmic rays during the trip to an exoplanet would do serious damage to most of our technology presently because of the high energies coming off of cosmic rays, especially if we would need to go to a quicker speed than ever before. Scientists do not yet know whether or not the deeper depths of space hold high energy rays or low energy rays. There is no real way to detect the energy of the rays that are in the path of traveling to an exoplanet.Therefore, it is quite difficult to know what they are actually preparing for when building an aircraft for an area not as well known. Whatever the energy of the rays are the technology still needs to be able to withstand these high amounts of cosmic rays for a distance that is almost 4.42 light years away. Our spacecrafts that we have aren’t able to withstand cosmic rays for this long amount of time and distance. There are ideas to advance this technology such as using hydrogen- rich plastics or adding an extra sheet of metal or aluminum on the aircraft.  There are ideas such that they would build the metal on an aircraft thicker but this still will make the actual craft heavier, and it wouldn’t be much of any help because metal can’t withstand high cosmic rays for a long period of time. In addition, it is believed that this would cause an increase to secondary radiation and cause an increase to the risk of radiation depending on the energy source itself. The longer scientists take to figure out a plan to advance the technology for space travel, the longer it will take for there to be a real mission to an exoplanet in the deeper depths of space, unfortunately.

When attempting to travel outside of our solar system to an exoplanet, there is so much time, money, and brainpower that needs to go into it. There are so many things that needs to be fixed before any expedition to space can happen. There are things such as the lives of people, the cosmic rays’ power in space, the fact that we can’t renew valuable resources, and the power of current technology that goes into it. Scientists still are thinking about ways to improve these things, so that maybe one day there will be successful mission to our nearest exoplanet.

Telescopes in Space

by Karyn Dukes

If you are a person that is interested in astronomy as much as I am, you too have always wondered how astronomers know as much as they do about the earth and our galaxy, the milky way. I can’t get into all of the details, but I know that telescopes play a huge role in the contribution to the knowledge of our galaxy. The advancement of technology used to build telescopes has allowed astronomy to flourish into the field that we know today.

The well known physicist and astronomer Galileo is credited as the first person to point a telescope towards the sky and observe Earth’s moon and the solar system in such a manner. Although these telescopes were fairly simple to construct, they exhibited limiting factors such as their small field of view and the difficulty to find the right type of glass for the lenses. This was in 1609; the images from the telescope were blurry, but they were also useful because they were better than the human eye at making out characteristics of our moon such as its craters and mountains.

Telescopes had a humble beginning, however the telescopes of the twenty first century are much more advanced. They can view the outer reaches of space which would not be possible without the advancement of technology. The telescopes of today use electronic imaging devices. A couple of the telescopes used by astronomers are the active Kepler telescope and the  James Webb telescope (to be launched in the next couple of years). Inventions were made and specialized for the function of both of these telescopes. Both are space telescopes, which gives scientists the advantage of clearer pictures of other galaxies and exploding stars.

The Kepler telescope is named after 17th century astronomer Johannes Kepler. Its goal is to discover and explore exoplanets. The mission itself launched in March 2009. Although there have recently been problems with repairing and keeping the telescope in superb condition, program managers have decided to keep Kepler in space and to continue the exploration of exoplanets. Kepler is an optical telescope that is used to search for earth-like planets in habitable zones as they pass in front of their star. 

The James Webb is an infrared optical telescope that will be used to search for signs of the early universe. This more recent telescope is named after the NASA administrator who crafted the Apollo program. The mission of the James Webb telescope is to discover the first stars that were formed in the first universe and connect the big bang to our galaxy. The telescope, additionally, attains the mission to explore and discover stars forming planetary systems. The telescope is hopeful to launch in 2018.

Telescopes are essentially the basis of astronomy – without them we wouldn’t know much of the universe. The more they advance, the closer we get to learning if there actually are other forms of life on planets in space.

Dark Energy: Taking Over the Universe

by Tatiana Burns

In the early 1900’s, we thought the universe stood still. However, that changed later on in the century. Now we believe that the universe is expanding rapidly its movement is called Dark Energy. Dark energy takes up about 68% of the universe, Dark matter takes up about 27% of the universe, and the other percent is the “normal” stuff. However, how is it we didn’t catch this in the early part of the century?

Albert Einstein had an equation to explain how and why the universe stood still. His equations came up with the idea that we lived in a static universe. However, there was a part that didn’t add up. Einstein called this part the fudge factor. Subsequently in 1929, Edwin Hubble realized that universe was actually expanding. Now Einstein’s equation was actually making some sense. The “fudge factor” was the universe expanding; however, when Einstein came up with the equation there was no evidence for the movement so Einstein just called it the fudge factor.

After Hubble realized the universe was expanding, it changed the way we viewed the entire universe. Then in 1998, two astrophysicists added more to this continuous discovery. The universe was actually expanding at an accelerating pace. So, not only were we wrong about  a static universe, or a universe that stood still, we were also wrong about how the universe was expanding. When Hubble first realized the universe was expanding, he believed the universe was expanding at a steady pace.

However, the question still remains, what happens to the universe if it expands to the furthest it can go? Does the universe break apart? Will that be the end for us? If the universe expands too much, will it slowly build itself back together? These are the questions scientist are yet to figure out the answers to, but sooner or later we will find out the answers.



Impressions from Girls Do Hack

 Peer Interviews:

I had the chance to interview one of the girls that participated in Girls Do Hack after session 2 had ended, and they seemed very excited about having participated in the program. I asked them about the things that they had done, and they had made an app for MIT’s competition. They said that it was really interesting because they never knew there were so many complex steps involved in one simple task for a phone, such as clicking ‘answer’ when someone calls. What was most interesting about the exoplanet workshop was the fact that they learned that there were planets outside of our solar system. She said how she had never known there were planets outside of our solar system and only thought that was fiction. She told me that a planetary transit was when a planet goes in front of its sun but it doesn’t fully block the sun. She found out about the program through an advertisement and that she was really happy she had chosen to come because it was an amazing experience and something she definitely wouldn’t mind participating in again.  - Dawna Peterson

I had the chance to interview Izabel. She is a 18 year old senior from Limbloom. She decided to do girls do hack because it was different and she liked doing she liked doing different things. Her favorite activity of the day was the building a mobile app. She said it was really fun and exciting. During that workshop, she made two apps, a magic 8 ball app and a painting app.  -Tatiana Burns

 On the Exoplanet Workshop:

 After we learned the official methods scientists use when identifying exoplanets in the first half of the workshop, we began the second half. The second event was a scavenger hunt, which sounded simple enough. In truth, it was the exact opposite. Most scavenger hunts involve pictures or other objects, but this one involved searching for planets and stars spread throughout the Milky Way galaxy. Simple, right? Luckily, we used computer software to help find planets that had a filter to search by name and type. Plus, the help from my group, made what seemed like an impossible task achievable -London Westley

The second event of the workshop was a scavenger hunt which turned out to be way harder than you think. In the scavenger hunt you had to find an exoplanets name, host star, and what constellation the host star is in. For example, one Hot Jupiter’s name that we found was HD 192263b. During the event it was all girls besides London and I so I felt like males should win the scavenger hunt. -Xavier Elliot

Girls Do Hack was an all day event where girls got to work with  female professionals in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. There were several workshops throughout the day where participants got to learn things like how to build iPhone apps, how to detect exoplanets, and how to use a 3D printer.  While these events were happening, Adler Astrojournalists were on the scene reporting, participating, and having a little fun. For more info on Girls Do Hack, check out: http://www.adlerplanetarium.org/events/girls-do-hack

Learning From Being a Camps Intern

by Terry Melo

My first intentions for coming in contact with the Adler were to get ahead of the game by completing community service hours requested from my school. I never thought that volunteering at the Adler would lead me to a newfound passion for space and an awesome job working with children.

I came to appreciate how magnificent and unique this museum by obtaining the characteristic of contributing interaction between the guest and staff. In my own experience, Volunteering as a Floor Programs Facilitator allowed me to interact with the visitors by demonstrating science rules and having an educational conversation with them. It also granted me the opportunity to obtain my own definition of volunteering and insight on why the Adler staffs the museum floor with mission specialists, who are proficient in using their voice to engage museum visitors, volunteers, and other program facilitators for the guest to interact with. It soon became clear to me that being able to interact and engage visitors was a beneficial key to complete the evening. Applying for the Summer Internship at the Adler Planetarium I knew I wanted a job where I would be able to interact with people, or in the case of my position, campers. After learning so much from a short time as volunteering, I was ready to take on an everyday job for my summer vacation.

Following the application due in early April and group interview taken place in late May, I became a Summer Camps Intern at the Adler. As this type of intern I was given the responsibilities of being a second hand for the instructor of the specific age group of the camp by helping to provide an experience that engages yet still allows campers to have fun. For this being my first job I didn’t expect the amount of dependability and experience I would gain from being in Summer Camps. This internship also requires an individual project each intern must complete by the time of our Intern hosted event named Community Bash in order to showcase what we have been working on over the course of 6 weeks. For my specific individual project I created a lesson plan for first graders through kindergarteners that the instructor of that age specific camp informed them how Earth looked from outer space with the help of their own experiences. After they learned how daytime and nighttime affected our home planet, they were able to create their own models of Earth.

Brainstorming an idea and an execution plan for my project wasn’t easy but with the help coming from observing the selected age groups in camps and guidance from my supervisor allowed me to revise my lesson plan to perfection. Watching the very lesson I created being done and lighting up the campers faces and minds was an experience I would never forget and forever cherish. The development of creating the lesson plan offered a view of what teachers of every grade go through. Teachers brainstorm, create, test, and finalize their lesson plans constantly to bring the best of what they could offer to their students. During the creation of my lesson plan I felt I had the responsibilities of a teacher; therefore, I had to soak up every inch of advice and request for clarity given to me. Acquiring these responsibilities made me appreciate and obtain a desire of becoming a teacher. Watching the instructor astonish the campers with her invisible magic through science topics and engagement caught my attention and appreciation for what they do to, which lead to the desire of not only wanting to teach but learn from those around me in a educationally environment.

This internship is more than just a paycheck but rather an experience that can guarantee an acceptable way of leading when using the skills I’ve learned here at the Adler. It has provided a summer of gaining the knowledge of a workplace, of a teacher and an outlook of my desired career. Throughout one’s life each should encounter in a learning experience that grants a future prospect of what they might want to take on as a career. Adler Planetarium has become a milestone in my life that I will continue to keep in contact with and continue my learning experience.

My Experience So Far

by Surizaday Hernandez

Five days a week for five hours a day you will find me working at the Adler planetarium. I am having an awesome time working here. I am learning A LOT of great information about anything to do with the outer Earth. One specific topic that my internship has made me appreciate is comets. I am fascinated by the fact the all of Earths water comes from comets that crashed into this planet billions of years ago. What I like most about comets it that they are only made out of ice and dust. I find that quite fascinating because these are simple materials the I can easily find at my house. I’ve gained a lot of knowledge on comets that’s for sure.

I’ve made so much progress with speaking skills. In the beginning of the internship I made some goals for what I was expecting to gain from this internship, and the main one was to improve in my speaking skills. I have never been good at communicating or just talking in general. During the years of elementary I developed a very insecure personality because of some really bad experiences with some school peers. I’ve beeing coming out of my shell little by little since then. During this internship I had to act as an actual staff member and do activity carts. There are different kinds of activity carts, but the very first one I tried out was Balloon rockets. For this activity I have to explain the law of physics “for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction” by launching a balloon rocket with a just straw and tape. The first time I did the activity by myself I was shaking, sweating, getting goosebumps, tearing up; you name it I probably went through it. I stuttered a bit but I was able to suck it up and launch a rocket to the moon because I had a lot of support from michael Simms and his crew. I am confident enough to go out and encourage people to come join my for a rocket launch.

My favorite part of the day is lunch time! I always eat at Galileo’s Cafe at the any table really close to the window so I can stare at lake michigan. Sometimes I start eating alone because of my schedule for the day. Lunch has always and forever will be my favorite part of every day. I love how we have the freedom to eat wherever we want because I can go outside and eat by the lake. Lunch gives me time to get myself together, so I always look forward to that. The best lunch is when I get to spend it with all my co workers because we just spend the whole time laughing. Another awesome thing about working here at the Adler Planetarium is that we get a 20% discount for Galileos cafe. I think the chicken tenders are awesome there and I love how i get a discount when I buy them.

Even though I didn’t really get to go out with my friends in the summer it was still one of the best summer vacations of my life. I got to meet new people and make friends with all of them. I learned what it’s like to have a job with a lot of requirements. Everything I learned here got me really excited because this isn’t the usual stuff I learn at school. For example I learned the difference between dressing up business casual and just business. For some people this might not be important, but to me it is because business casual to me used to be jeans and a nice blouse. The small things of this internship make a big difference in my life.

Adler Teen Interns

by Simeon Norfleet

This summer has been a wonderful experience working with summer camps at the Adler Planetarium. It all went by so fast but I know that I have learned some valuable skills applicable to anything I want to do in the future. Teamwork is one thing that I worked on this summer with my fellow interns ( #Terry #DejaMiaGraceWouldfolk #Amanda ). We all know the struggle of Oobleck, a non-newtonian substance made of water and cornstarch that does not follow newton’s law of liquids, from the mixing to get the right consistency to cleaning the never ending pile of dishes and Oobleck (cement) mixer. We overcame this vigorous manual labor by banding together and making, playing with, and cleaning that oobleck. Oobleck wasn’t all bad though. It might have been best part of the curriculum in the #SummerWorldsTour camps. The kids had so much fun testing it with their rovers. The assignment was to build rovers that could float on oobleck for 15 seconds and be pulled out of the OObleck easily with 2 fingers. There were some rovers with the inability to float but almost every single camper tried their best to construct a successful rover and was a good sport about it. But there are always the exceptions and that brings me to another skill that i developed this summer: Patience.

Kids will naturally be rowdy but different grade levels deserve different levels of patience from the leader of the class. For example the kindergarten through 1st grade group of camp required a lot more patience because of how young they were and the fact that they were still learning how to correctly behave. But the same level of patience would not be applied to the seventh through ninth graders in tech camp because they are old enough to know what’s right and wrong in most situations. Learning how to gauge the way I interact with people is vital with the campers and in any other situation as well. For example I have to approach people just as old as me differently in the workspace, than I would on the street.