Space News Update october 2017

Rhiannon Williams 2017-10-07

This time spacefans, we’ve some history to celebrate with the Apollo missions and the 60th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik, we’re also looking at Tabby’s Star and how you can go to mars!


Lets start with a gorgeous short film made up from thousands of NASA still images in an animated collage about the Apollo missions, I hope you love it as much as I did. Yes I know its dated 20th of May but I only found it yesterday and this needs sharing! The music seems so Eve like…Just saying..

Film Credits: Christian Stangl

I personally was awed by this.


Its been 60 years now since the lauch of the Sputnik craft, a tiny metal object, bleeping cutely that changed the world as we know it almost instantly, sputnik was the first satellite to be put in orbit around the Earth. It was launched by the former USSR and effectively started the space race between the US and Russia. Politics aside however, it launched an explosion in science and technology, which thankfully has led to the peaceful sharing and co-operation on space missions to this day.

At the time though it unfortunately did lead to some unfortunate chaos and paranoia

Credits: David Hoffman whose full documentary is well worth the time and nostalgia.

The little craft only lasted three weeks until it’s batteries failed, but it still managed to send back the first data we’ve had on our upper atmosphere as well as how well radio signals can travel though it. Its launch naturally inspired the US to follow up with their own missions, eventually leadimg to the creation of NASA thanks to the ‘Matriach of space law’ Dr Eilene Galloway. Again, leaving the politics aside, what really happened is that the scientists behind their respective space programmes started talking amongst themselves to exchange information. Happily this still continues to this day with ever more scientists from many more countries contributing to an expanding pool of knowledge. As a space scientist, I can only approve.


Tabby’s Star (Uninspiringly officially named KIC 8462852, but known colloquially after its discoverer Tabetha Boyajian, an assistant professor of astrophysics at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge) is still baffling the science community. It first acheieved notoriety  after the Kepler space telescope showed data that its brightness changed dramatically between 2011 and 2013. The light from the star dipped over a huge range up to 22 percent for long periods of time. Nothing like this peculiar object has ever been observed amongst the 200,000 other stars that Kepler looked at during its initial four-year mission.

Artist’s impression of Tabby’s Star Credit: NASA

This [dimming] behavior was not something we were looking for or had trained our algorithms to find,” Boyajian said. “In fact, we were first alerted to the star’s unique activity by citizen scientists participating in the Planet Hunters program.”

Much speculation has of course ensued, amongst them, alien megastructures, dyson spheres, comets, asteroid belts, a large object?

“When I first saw the data, I was immediately reminded of the eclipsing triple-star systems discovered by Kepler – systems like KOI-126, which show similar patterns of irregular, eclipse-like dimmings,” said Natalie Batalha, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. But, again, a star engaged in such a complicated relationship would feel the gravitational pull of its partners, bringing a strange rhythm to its dance: a systematic wobble of the center of mass of the system. “I was very surprised to learn that follow-up measurements with ground-based telescopes revealed no evidence of a stellar-mass companion.”

The latest theory is is about dust. This is entirely possible as researchers found far less dimming in the infrared light from the star than in the ultraviolet waveband. Due to this, any object more massive than dust particles would dim light at all wavelengths equally when transiting across Tabby’s Star.

“This pretty much rules out the alien megastructure theory, as that could not explain the wavelength-dependent dimming,” said Huan Meng, at the University of Arizona, Tucson, who is lead author of the new study published in The Astrophysical Journal. “We suspect, instead, there is a cloud of dust orbiting the star with a roughly 700-day orbital period.”

The reasons for the star’s dimming over the longer term are easier to work out than the dimming observed over shorter periods earlier this year. Now that Kepler is examining different parts of the sky though its updated mission, it can no longer focus on this star, but future telescopes will I’m certain be able to reveal further secrets of this mysterious object.

“Tabby’s Star could have something like a solar activity cycle. This is something that needs further investigation and will continue to interest scientists for many years to come,” Vanaverbeke said.

A ring of dust, much like the rings of Saturn, only of course, with much smaller particles, could explain its behaviour, imagine how dust in the atmosphere can cause amaing sunsets due to its scattering of sunlight. The jury is, however, still very much out on this mystery. I will of course keep you updated.


Well of course you do! NASA, bless them has given everyone another chance to get their names onto the InSight mission (I did it 2015 slackers), however NASA is adding a second data chip full of names until November 1st, so get a wiggle on and earn your frequent flyer pass like his Holiness the Spacepope and I both have. The frequent flyer points are earned simply by spamming space missions with your, or you loved ones names across assorted missions and is a great way of getting family and friends involved in space science.

“Mars continues to excite space enthusiasts of all ages,” said Bruce Banerdt, the InSight mission’s principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “This opportunity lets them become a part of the spacecraft that will study the inside of the Red Planet.”

See you next time spacefans!









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  • Pew Pew

    “This pretty much rules out the alien megastructure theory”


    October 7, 2017 at 8:06 am
    • phuzz Pew Pew

      Yes, but maybe the massive cloud of dust is left over from testing an alien DeathStar?

      October 9, 2017 at 11:22 am
  • Alot

    Thats right folks
    Get your name to some place safe
    To appear in the credits of the human race -.-

    October 9, 2017 at 11:11 am