Daily Space 8/21/2019

By on August 21, 2019 in

The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. Today’s #spacenews includes the following stories:

In today’s top story, we are almost done with this phase of mapping Bennu! Yes, that’s right, 4509 images that each needed viewed by at least 15 people, we have not within tens of views of no more views being needed! We can’t exactly predict when that moment will happen, but it looks like it will be today! When it happens, we’ll be doing a small celebration on Twitch, and we’ll hopefully be joined by members of the science team. We will raise a toast to you and all that you do. Have a beverage of your choice on ice and ready to go, and be prepared to join.

Later this semester, we will be doing an online party, that includes opening the loot crate that we are rewarded with completion, announcing the names of everyone who contributed to marking the potential landing sites, and celebrating what we can do together.

As time allows, I’ll be working today to set up galleries so you can review all the images you’ve marked, and this is building toward potentially even getting to name features on Bennu.

And of course… as we work on putting together research results, we’ll be bringing those to you.

From one rock to another, our next story takes us to Mars, a red planet with a whiff of methane in the atmosphere. The exact source of this methane, is one of the greatest mysteries in planetary science, and trying to understand when there is and isn’t Mars just might help us understand where it comes from.

Both the Mars Curiosity Rover, and ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter have detected methane from the Gale Crater, where Curiosity is currently exploring. The amounts they were detecting seemed to be in conflict however – but, because the rover is busy doing many things, and because the orbiter isn’t always directly over Gale Crater, their observations weren’t made at the same time. Now, researchers at the Australian National University have used atmospheric models that combine all the available data to see that methane has a double cycle. It appears to have both a seasonal variation, and also a day night variation. Specifically, the methane is produced during warm months, and is dense closer to the ground at night, when everything is cooler. In addition to reconciling the different measurements made by the different detectors, they were also able to calculate that 2.8kg of methane seeps into the Gale Crater region every day.

This still doesn’t let us tell the difference between a biological source, such as subsurface microbes, and a geologic source, such as melting ice that contains trapped methane. It is, however, evidence that this likely isn’t due to volcanic or magma related processes.

From one of the biggest planetary science mysteries, we jump to one of the largest cosmological mysteries: What is dark matter? Slightly more than 25% of the mass-energy of the universe is made up of stuff that doesn’t seem to interact with light. This is the ill-named Dark Matter of our universe. Images like this, use color to highlight areas where we know dark matter is present by examining how it bends the light of background objects. This particular image is of the Bullet Cluster, a giant galaxy cluster in the process of forming through the merger of two smaller clusters. In this image, the pink shows where X ray observation see hot gas, and the blueish purple blobs are where dark matter is detected via gravitational lensing. The way the pink gas appears to be distorted from the impact of the two clusters while the dark matter is just hanging out in nice ovals seems to indicate that the dark matter doesn’t interact much, if it all, and like neutrinos, it is referred to as a non-collision particle.

But what is that particle? So far the Large Hadron Collider hasn’t turned up anything predicted in earlier predictions. This means, new theories are needed, and the folks at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics have a theory with observable predictions. This is my kind of a theory. Starting with an article by Hermann Nicolai and Krysztof Meissner in Physical Review Letters, they dive into the Standard Model of Particle Physics and say that all those particles predicted by Super Symmetry and other many particle theories just aren’t going to be found.

To explain this theory I need to start by saying, we say Dark Matter doesn’t interact with light because we just can’t see it. We even go so far as to say it doesn’t interact with the electromagnetic force…. But this doesn’t have to be the case if dark matter is something that is high mass and low density. Instead of a fog of small particles, DM observations can be explained by placing 1 acme brick in each solar system sized volume of space. … or, as a new paper suggests, but have a very low density of extremely dense heave gravitinos. The suggest that 1 particle per 10,000 cubic kilometers of space would be enough. This would mean there are about 100 million gravitinos in an Earth sized volume… which means we kind of aren’t going to easily find one of these. If you divided the earth into 40 square mile cones that reach to the core, and give each person on earth one of these cones to search for a gravitino, only 1 in 75 people would find a particle.

But… these particles are findable because they would interact in all the normal ways a particle can interact. Over the history of the earth, our world would have interacted with many massive gravitinos, and as it did, these particles could have left straight ionization tracks through crystalline minerals that can still be observed today. I have no idea how one goes about finding truly ancient volumes of this kind of rock – I suspect it involves going to Canada or Australia – but if this long lived stable crystalline material can be found, it can be searched for the theorized defects… and we can say something I never expected – that dark matter is just stuff, normal stuff, and it is just a brute of a particle called a gravitino.

From that heavy story, I think we need to move to something light, and I actually have a historic anniversary with a side dose of silly

August 24 will mark the anniversary of Pluto losing its planethood in 2006. While that decision made by the IAU isn’t always popular, it has led to a lot of great memes and parodies. Here at CosmoQuest, we couldn’t let the opportunity pass to make our own T-Shirt, celebrating Planet Pluto Classic. Love or hate the New Pluto designation, I think we can all agree this world was a planet and its history should be celebrated. This design is available on shirts, stickers, and a myriad of other stuff. Check it and all our designs out a redbubble.com/shop/cosmoquest.

We really wouldn’t be here without you – thank you for all that you do.

Join us tomorrow for more Daily Space news!

About Susie Murph

Susie Murph is a Communications Specialist at CosmoQuest. She produces the Astronomy Cast, the Weekly Space Hangout and Daily Space.

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