Prepare for surprises

Image: ESA, Rosetta blog
Image: ESA, Rosetta blog

Friday, November 13th, at a conference, Professor Hannu Koskinen, gave a speech about space as an almost infinite source of surprises. Being a part of the Rosetta team, he reminded the audience about comments on the first images showing the duck-shaped comet 67P/Chyryumov-Gerasimenko. The images of Pluto, captured by New Horizons, also were more surprising than familiar. Every time we enter a new environment in space we will be surprised!

 

To the left: A 2010 map of Pluto reconstructed from Hubble Space Telescope data. Image to the right: Four images from New Horizons’ LORRI were combined with color data from the Ralph instrument was used to create this global view of Pluto. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
To the left: A 2010 map of Pluto reconstructed from Hubble Space Telescope data. To the right: Four images from New HorizonsLORRI were combined with color data from the Ralph instrument was used to create this global view of Pluto. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Voyager 1, the probe furthest from the Earth at present, reached the interstellar medium in August 2012. Then it had been on its journey for almost 35 years. Now it’s about 2×1010 km, more than 134 AU, away from us. Escaping our solar system at a speed of 17 km/s, it still is “only” 18½ light hours from the Earth. Traveling at its current speed, the Voyager 1 has to spend more than 17000 years to complete its first light year. We have no stars within that range.

New exoplanet in our neighbourhood …, near enough for study of its atmosphere Headlines like this are increasing at the same rate we get better tools to search for exoplanets. The article, linked to above, is about a rocky inhabitable planet 39 light years away. If Voyager 1 was heading in that direction for about 660 000 years; and if it still would be functioning as close to that exoplanet as New Horizons was to Pluto capturing the image above; and if it was able to send us an image, I’m pretty sure we would be surprised.

 


JanJan teaches mathematics and interdisciplinary science to pupils 13-16 years of age at Sursik School, Pedersöre, Finland. Space-related science often gives some sort of answer to the question “Why?”, a question quite common in math class. It also triggers curiosity, one key component in progress.

 

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