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Spacetime!

Spacetime will suck up all your time...and space!

Spacetime will suck up all your time...and space!

Charae and Bryce take us on a trip into spacetime, with a song about everything they’ve learned from Astrofacts, to the tune of Rihanna’s Disturbia.

Listen here [2:50m]:

Download here [2.7 Mb]: ftp://space.mit.edu/pub/ajb/radiopio/astrofacts_090730_spacetime.mp3

What’s the Facts:

Charae & Bryce have put together a song that’s rich in astrofacts. Let’s break down the lyrics to see what they will encounter on their trip into spacetime.

Lyrics:

Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus, Plut-
Whao! Hold up. Not Pluto.
What?!? Not Pluto?
Yeah, Not Pluto.
I’m goin’ crazy now

Here’s our planets of the Solar System, up to Pluto, which has been “reclassified” as a dwarf planet.  Pluto might be feeling a bit down about it, and plenty of people are not happy either!  By the way, Neptune comes after Uranus, our mistake!

To the moon in this ship,
We’re gonna get it started,
Fuel tanks filled to the rim,
Discover the uncharted,
Breaking through atmospheres,
It’s not for the fainthearted,
We’re gonna go into space, yeah

Want to go into space?  Be prepared for an explosive ride!  You only need enough force to overcome Earth’s gravitational pull to go toward space – which you can do briefly by jumping!  But to sustain the upward trajectory requires lots of fuel and thrust.  The rockets that carry the Space Shuttle have a combined thrust of 13 million Newtons – 20,000 times the force you exert when jumping – to lift the 4.5 million pounds (2 million kg) that hold 7 lucky astronauts!

It’s real hot on the Sun,
Forgot my sunscreen,

It’s definitely hot on the Sun – 9,800 degrees Farenheit! That’s so hot that everything is essentially evaporized on the surface, and atoms are even stripped of their electrons to form a 4th state of matter called plasma.

The day’s long here on Mars,
I need some caffeine,

A day on Mars take 24 hours, 39 minutes, and 35 seconds – about 3% longer than that of Earth.  So it’ a little longer, but you’ll adjust.

2.9 times 10 to the 13
Miles a minute, I’m carsick.

That’s a pretty big number, and  one would hazard to guess that it’s the speed of light.  However, the speed of light is only about 11 million miles per minute.  290,000,000,000,000 miles is about 5 light-years, a little further than the nearest star to the Sun, Alpha Centauri.  If you could do that in a minute, you would certainly be carsick!

We’re in great heights,
In one of Saturn’s rings, yeah
You ain’t go bling like mine,
Meteors made for kings,
We watch the stars shine,
From Polaris to Betelgeuse,
The universe is mine.

Some of the most beautiful things in our Universe! Saturn’s rings are definite bling, comprised of small particles of water ice and dust that are extremely reflective – that’s why Saturn it so bright despite being further from the Sun than JupiterMeteors are of course another dazzling night sky event, while Polaris (the North Star, in the constellation Ursa Minor, or Little Bear) and Betelgeuse (in Orion’s armpit!) are two of the brightest stars in the sky.

We’re all in Space-time,
Two words in one continuum,
Space-time,
1, 2, 3, 4 Dimensions,
Your mind’s in Space-time
Beyond comprehension,
Space-time, Space-time.

Space-time is that idea of three-dimensional space (length, width and height) combined with one-dimensional time as the “framework” of the Universe.  You probably already think this way, as in “I need to get to the third floor of the building on the corner of Main and 1st Avenue at 3pm”.  These dimensions appear to be completely separate in our slow, small-scale world, but when you travel close to the speed of light, or near a massive object like a black hole, Einstein’s theory of general relativity tells us that the continuum of space and time can get mixed up, resulting in some bizarre effects!

There’s a guy in the sky,
His names Orion,
Not a man, he’s made of stars,
Emitting carbon.

This refers to the massive giant star Betelgeuse in Orion, which is currently losing mass and size as it sheds its outer atmospheric layers.  It will eventually supernova, releasing many elements such as carbon into space.  It is all part of the cycle of life in the Universe, as the elements shed from stars like Betelgeuse when they die make their way to form other stars, planets and even people!

Acid rain falls,
It burns my eyeballs.
Venus lighting strobe light.

Remember our weather report from Venus?  Acid rain doesn’t quite make it the surface of the planet, but there are plenty of lightning strikes that might make the surface of Venus feel like a disco!

Lots of holes out in space,
They try to grab you,
They can creep up behind you and consume you,
Not even light can escape,
Nothing can breakthrough,
Spa-ghe-tti-fi-ca-tion.

Black holes are the massive remnants of stars that are so dense that nothing, not even light, can escape being swallowed up. If you’re not careful you’ll get pulled into it and never come out again.  And on the way in you’ll get stretched out long and slender, like spaghetti. That’s called spaghettification!

We’re in great heights,
In on of Saturn’s rings, yeah
You ain’t go bling like mine,
Meteors made for kings,
We watch the stars shine,
From Polaris to Betelgeuse,
The universe is mine.

We’re all in Space-time,
Two words in one continuum,
Space-time,
1, 2, 3, 4 Dimensions,
Your mind’s in Space-time,
Beyond comprehension,
Space-time, Space-time.

Lyrics by Charae and Bryce

Intergalactic Weather Channel: Dive into Europa!

Icy harbor for life?

Icy harbor for life?

Intergalactic Weather Channel’s cub reporter Timmy Cratchit reports from both the cold icy surface of Europa and its (relatively) warm subterranean sea.  Look out for that crevasse Timmy!

Listen here [3:00m]:

Download here [2.8 Mb]: ftp://space.mit.edu/pub/ajb/radiopio/astrofacts_090804_iwc-europa.mp3

What’s the facts:

Europa is Jupiter’s 4th largest moon and the smallest of the Galilean satellites (discovered by Galileo Galilei in 1610), all of which are visible with the aid of a small telescope or binoculars.  One of the smoothest and shiniest objects in the Solar System (it reflects 64% of the light striking it), Europa has a surface that is made up mostly of water ice and is essentially free of craters, indicating that it is continually refreshed.    It even has a thin atmosphere of oxygen, formed from sputtering of ice from its surface.  But the most intriguing part of Europa may be underground, where a deep ocean is believed to exist, heated internally by gravitational tidal forces from Jupiter (the Moon induces similar forces on Earth that give rise to ocean tides).  Water breaking through Europa’s surface may explain its overall smoothness and some low-lying features, including “chaos” regions such as Conamara Chaos.   Liquid water may be one of the ingredients necessary for life, mitigating the chemical reactions that spawned life on Earth – the only planet with surface water known.  Hence, the presence of water in Europa implies life may exist there, perhaps in the form of extremophiles that don’t need sunlight to derive energy.  Hopefully Timmy has found a nice extremophile to play with!

Original air date 4 August 2009.

Intergalactic Weather Channel: It’s Electric on Venus

It's not a party unless Venus is there!

It's not a party unless Venus is there!

Intergalactic Weather Channel’s Trisha Takanawa and Dwayne Lamark report on the raging thunder storm on Venus. Do you hear club music?

Listen here [2:30m]:

What’s the facts:

Venus is covered with an opaque layer of highly reflective clouds of sulfuric acid, and has the densest atmosphere of all the planets. Because the surface is so hot, none of Venus’ acid rain ever reaches the surface. It evaporates first! It’s very humid and there are no fluctuations in temperature and winds. American, Russian and European probes have all recorded tremendous lightening storms on the planet’s surface. One Russian probe recorded over 25 lightening flashes per second when it descended! Click here to see you weekly Venus weather report.

Original air date 7 July 2009.

Intergalactic Weather Channel: It’s Hot on Mercury

Bring sunscreen!

Bring sunscreen!

Intergalactic Weather Channel’s Trisha Takanawa and Ricardo Busamonte report on the continuing heat wave gripping Mercury this summer – and every summer. Don’t forget your water!

Listen here [1:44m]:

What’s the facts?

Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun, orbiting at an average distance of only 58 million kilometers (about 36 million miles).  That’s about 1/3 the distance between the Sun and the Earth, so Mercury gets roughly 9 times as much Solar radiation.  Mercury also spins exactly 3 times around for every 2 orbits, which means that a Mercury day (noon to noon) takes just as long as a Mercury year (for an explanation why, see this link).  So the surface of Mercury can get very hot in the daytime, with temperatures as high as 425 degrees Celsius (800 degrees Fahrenheit).  But when it finally does become night – after 88 days! – the temperatures can get as cold as -160 degrees Celsius (-260 degrees Fahrenheit).  Don’t worry Ricardo, relief is on the way!

Original air date 2 July 2009.

Intergalactic Weather Channel: It’s Cold on Pluto

Folks aren't happy out on Pluto these days

Folks aren't happy out on Pluto these days

Intergalactic Weather Channel’s Trisha Takanawa and disgruntled reporter Jake Jacobs bring you weather conditions from distant dwarf planet Pluto.  Seems like Jake has a chip on his shoulder about this assignment. [1:21m]

Listen here:

What’s the facts?

Tiny Pluto is one of our most far-flung worlds, orbiting at a distance of between 4.4 billion and 7.3 billion kilometers (2.7 billion to 4.5 billion miles) from the Sun.  Because it is so far away, Pluto receives a small fraction – only 0.04% – of the Sun’s radiation as compared to what we get here on Earth.  As a result, the surface of Pluto gets down to a chilly -240 degrees Celsuis (-400 degrees Farenheit).  It is so cold that Pluto’s thin atmosphere, made mostly of the gases nitrogen and methane,  almost completely freezes out in the winter.  The great distance of Pluto from the Sun also means its pretty dark there, so it’s important to keep track of your flashlight!

Original air date 23 June 2009.

Intergalactic Weather Channel: It’s Stormy on Jupiter

Expect stormy conditions on Jupiter

Expect stormy conditions on Jupiter

Intergalactic Weather Channel’s Trisha Takanawa and spot reporter Shaine Laine give us the latest conditions in the Great Red Spot on Jupiter – be sure to bring your umbrella! [1:20m]

Listen here:

What’s the facts?

The Great Red Spot is a massive hurricane-like storm in the upper atmosphere of Jupiter, currently measuring about 24,000 kilometers (15,000 miles) across and 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles) tall.  About two Earths would fit nice and snug inside.  The Great Red Spot was first seen by Robert Hooke and Giovanni Cassini back in 1664-1665, and has been slowly shrinking over the past century, now about half the width it was in 1900.  The winds in the Great Red Spot are greatest around its edge, about 430 kilometers per hour (260 miles per hour), larger than a Category 5 hurricane on Earth.  In 2000-2006, three smaller, white storms just below the Great Red Spot merged and turned into a single red storm called “Red Spot, Jr.” (scientists call it Oval BA), which is now about the size of Earth.  Why these storms appear red remains a mystery!

Original air date 23 June 2009.