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The Search For

E x o p l a n e t s BLACK HOLES “Not even light can escape it,”


Table of Contents 03-

Letter from the Editor


Contributers Page


Recreating the Sky


Mapping the Stars


Texas Museum of S&T




Advancments in Telescopes


Telescopes Buyers Guide


Alien Worlds


Journey to the Red Planet




The Evolution of Stars


Letter From the Editor Ever since I was very little, the idea of extraterrestrial life and planets has excited me more than anything else. My goal was to become an astronaut and have the oppurtunity to visit the moon. As I grew older, I began to discover my passion was not just to understand our galaxy, but all of the vast galaxies scattered across space. My interests exposed me to abstract and daunting ideas, like quantum mechanics, which I would use to entertain myself in my freetime. In just a few pages, you will be able to see intense information in a reader-friendly format so you too can see the night sky as brilliantly as I do.


JULIA VANCE Julia Vance is a freshman at LASA High School and the editor of this publication. She excels in science and math, especially if it deals with engineering, medicine, the environment, or astronomy. Vance is looking forward to the mission to Mars is 2030, the Juno mission to put a satellite in orbit around Jupiter, and further investigation of the possibility of life on other planets.

BENNETT MITCHELL Bennett Mitchell has always been intrigued by the cosmos above him at a young age. He enjoys learning about the history and the future of space exploration. He attends LASA High School in Austin, Texas and may pursue a career in astronomy in the future.

CAMERON SHUGART Cameron Shugart was born in Austin, Texas and still resides there. Space has always interested him, and he thoroughly enjoys Computer Science and Math subjects. Shugart is very excited for the future of space and the world. Shugart designed this page, as a matter of fact!

ARSH GAMARE Arsh Gamare is a freshman at LASA High School and suggested the idea of a space magazine. He has been fascinated with black holes and galaxies ever since he went to the NASA Headquarters in Washington. He loves robotics and is on the LASA robotics team 9875. He wants to become an aerospace engineer, combining his two favorite interests. The cover page of the publication was created by Arsh himself.

LIAM MCMILLAN Liam McMillan is an devoted writer who is presently attending LASA High School. He is riveted in what the future may hold career-wise, and how the cosmos may play into it. His intellect shows promise, his future holding endless possibilities. Liam has been studying telescopes for the past few months determining what it will take to observe the minute details in the seemingly endless cosmos.



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Recreating the Sky How teachers are changing the face of the night sky


hen she was about 8 years old, Amy Jackson, the founder, director, and educator of Starry Sky Austin, enthusiastically visited the Johnson Space Center to watch mission control work on their latest project through a window. Space was her passion. During one of her adventures in the iconic space center, she found a guestbook where visitors could sign their name if wanted wanted to become an astronaut. “I’ll never forget signing my name,” Jackson said. Throughout history, the geometry of the sky has fascinated civilizations all over the world, allowing them to discover the secrets of primitive inventions and refining skills, such as calendars, clocks, and navigation. The human race has learned information about the rhythms of the Earth from the stars, but in 1957, a movement to learn more about space began with the launching of Sputnik, the first manmade satellite. Concepts that are discovered today are abstract or mess with the way one can perceive the world, but astronomy teachers, such as Amy Jackson, Alison Earnhart, and Randy Brittain have different teaching teaching methods to explain this information so even the youngest children will understand what is going on out there. “The main thing I feel like is it allows us to be more connected to the cosmos,” said Jackson. That connection has allowed the human

race to learn, thrive, and invent. However, there certain inventions that are disconnecting us from the night sky. “You can live your whole life in New York City and see maybe a handful of stars ever, and so, your view is completely disconnected from that natural part of the world and those rhythms of the seasons and the rhythms of the Earth going around the sun and I think there is something to be said for that,” astronomy teacher at the Liberal Arts and Science Academy and sponsor of the LASA Astronomical Society Alison Earnhart said. All of the lights in New York and other urban areas compete with the starlight, and because city lights are physically closer to people than the stars, the city lights overpower all but the brightest stars. This issue is known as light pollution “Most of those lights have been very terribly designed so that they shoot light directly up into the at- into the air as well as on the ground, so you’re actually wasting electricity and wasting money as well as contributing to light pollution,” Earnhart said. In areas with heavy light pollution, there are only about 12 visible stars out of the thousands that could be seen. In places without light pollution, it is possible to see the Milky Way with the naked eye. “But the reason why I think studying astronomy is really important is because it gives you perspective and I think perspective is something that is extremely important to quality of life and being, and just how you do everything. When you truly learn about the universe being 13.7 billion years old, and how tiny we are and how vast and big everything else is and how everything works by these physical

“I feel like, why bother studying anything else? Space is it. Space is the biggest, most awesomest thing,”

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The mobile planetarium at the Texas Museum of Science and Technology. Photo Credit: Julia Vance

The LASA Astronomical Association and Astronomy at the McDonald Observatory. Photo Credit: Danny Martienez

principles it’s, it’s truly amazing and to me it’s life changing,” Earnhart said. Seeing and hearing about all of the worlds and stars surrounding the universe inspires people to ask questions and learn more about the workings and philosophy of space. “You feel more connected with the universe and you can look up and see a star but then when you get to look at it a bit closer and learn more about it, you really feel, you feel more connected and you also have about a million more questions and it just spawns this whole thread of wanting to learn more,” Jackson said. Questions are what drove creative space engi neers to put a man on the moon and send up the

Hubble telescope to take photos of vibrant nebulae and foreign planets almost too large to imagine. “Sometimes concepts are really hard to grasp because they’re very abstract. Things are either so big or so far away or just so, so different from what we do in our day to day lives that sometimes that becomes difficult to grasp as a student,” Earnhart said. The sheer distance between foreign bodies and the Earth makes teaching astronomical concepts challenging, but teachers have ways to make difficult subjects more accessible. “I think the challenge in astronomy education is really making it, grounding it where you feel like it’s more tangible,” Jackson said.


Did you know?

Illustration by Donna Paredes Written by Amy Jackson

Amy Jackson recently published a book called Cassandra and the Night Sky. It is a story about Cassandra, a young girl who grows up in a world without stars. The book is meant to inspire children to tell their own stroies about the stars and to wonder and ask questions about the night sky.

The Starry Sky Austin excels at that by using kinesthetic teaching methods to educate young children on how many things on earth are affected by space and how to use telescopes. Other programs, such as the mobile planetarium, do outreach programs by travelling to places within the city and projecting the night sky on the ceiling of a large inflatable dome. “We bring that to all the kids who wouldn’t have really been looking for that in the first place,” mobile planetarium teacher Randy Brittain said. There are plenty of people who have lots of potential but for whatever reason, cannot get access to other organizations to build off of their previous knowledge. The mobile planetarium gives those people a chance to have that opportunity. “When you’re actually inside of a planetarium, then you can actually go outside and see those exact things,” Brittain said. Even in areas with light pollution, people can see stars, making the mobile planetarium relatable for people no matter where they live. “My favorite thing would probably be just having people walk away with a sense that they have learned something. Sometimes it’s easier to tell than others, but when you see kids starting to make sense of what’s happening, you know, when you start getting to

the third, fourth question and they start putting things together from the other ones, Photo By that’s sort of the moment that you see them learning,” Brittain said. That same type of learning can be seen in the astronomy class at the Liberal Arts and Science Academy and the LASA Astronomical Society. “I like blowing kids’ minds. I like presenting crazy material that no one’s ever heard of before that radically screws with people’s perspective and radically changes the way you think about the universe and reality,” Earnhart said Size and reality can be very complex subjects for one to wrap their heads around, but the astronomical society members and classmates create a supportive community and encourage the learning process.


Jackson searches for sunspots using one of her telescopes Photo Credit: Julia Vance

“I feel like, why bother studying anything else? Space is it. Space is the biggest, most awesomest thing,” Earnhart said. While space fascinates many, travel through it been stunted at NASA due to a serious lack of funding. With more funding, NASA would be able to continue their research and organizations like the Starry Sky Austin and the mobile planetarium could enrich their programs to spread that information. “It is just about time so we can get out of our solar system. I mean, we haven’t physically been past the moon!” Jackson said. That is about to change as people look forward to the manned mission to Mars in 2030 “I think we’re on the dawn of a new era. The true kickstart of the space age. We, like, had a sudden burst

in the 50’s and 60’s, there was a lull, and I think we’re about to see the next giant leap in the space travel that hopefully will be more sustained over the next few decades,” Earnhart said. As everybody’s excitement grows as 2030 grows closer, the interest of learning about space will take off as well. “If you are passionate about space, share your passion with others. I feel like when you share your passion with others, it just gives more fuel to what your passion was already, and it becomes this beautiful, this beautiful cycle, ” Jackson said Sharing interests can help people inspire each other and be encouraged to learn and ask questions. “You can find anything you want. Just go out there, try to find these answers, and just by doing that, you’ll keep running, and hopefully that inspires you to learn more and have more questions,” Brittain said. There are so many questions about space, and the answers are just being discovered. There is so much out there that is waiting to be discovered, and space organizations are figuring those out because the sky is not the limit anymore. ttt


Mapping the Stars


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elcome to the world of the night sky, where stars connect to create shapes with stories woven into each one. In this, there are 2 major constellations and the 12 zodiac constellations. There are 12 zodiac constellations that coorelate with brithdays: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. Each appears during the opposite time of year than their zodiac dates. Together, the zodiac dates span the entire year. Based on one’s birthday, they are organized into one of the 12 zodiacs. Each zodiac is coorelated with specific traits and talents. While the zodiacs are not scientifically proven, they are important to know because they show up in literature and art.

Cancer (The Crab) When it is up: Spring Cancer Zodiac Dates: June 21- July 22 Lore: This is the giant crab the Hercules fought as penance for killing his family Traits: Emotional, especially towards family.

Leo (The Lion) When it is up: Spring Leo Zodiac Dates: July 23-August 22 Lore: This is the Nemean Lion that Hercules fought as one as his 12 Trials Traits: Charismatic and loyal

Virgo (The Virgin) When it is up: Spring and Summer Virgo Zodiac Dates: August 23-September 22 Lore: It is linked with Persephone, daughter of Demeter. There was eternal spring until Persephone was kidnapped by Hades Traits: Considerate with highstandards

Capricorn (The Sea Goat) When it is up: Autumn-Winter Capricorn Zodiac Dates: December 22-January19 Lore: It is Amalthea, a magic goat that fostered Zeus as a baby Traits: Cautious and responsible

Aquarius (The Water Bearer) When it is up: Autumn-Winter Aquarius Zodiac Dates: January 20- February 18 Lore: In Egyptian mythology, the jar of water in this causedthe Nile’s spring overflow. Traits: Smart and a leader

Pisces (The Fish) When it is up: Autumn Pisces Zodiac Dates: February 19-March 20 Lore: This is the Syrian godess of love and fertility, Atagartis, who is half-fish half-woman. Traits: Talented and understanding

Aries (The Ram) When it is up: Autumn Aries zodiac dates: March 21-April 19 Lore: This is the Golden Ram that was sacrificed for the Golden Fleece. Traits: Adventurous and active

Taurus (The Bull) When it is up: Winter Taurus Zodiac Dates: Arpil 20-May 20 Lore: Zeus fell in love with Europa, the Phonecian Pricess, and turned into a bull to take here away to Crete. Traits: Introverted and loving

Gemini (The Twins) When it is up: Winter-Spring Gemini Zodiac Dates: May 21June 20 Lore: The twins are Castor and Pollux in Greek mythology. They had the same mother but different fathers. Helen of Troy was their sister. Traits: Fun and talkative

Libra (The Scales) When it is up: Summer Libra Zodiac Dates: September 23October 22 Lore: In Roman mythology, these are the scales being held by the godess Virgo. Traits: Harmony and peace

Scorpio (The Scorpio) When it is up: Summer Scorpio Zodiac Dates: October 23November 21 Lore: Orion was going to kill all animals on earth, so Artemis and her mother sent down the scorpion to kill him. Traits: Powerful and dramatic

Sagittarius (The Hunter) When it is up: Autumn Sagittarius Zodiac Dates: November 22- December 21 Lore: The constellation is of a centaur aiming to shoot Scorpio before it kills Orion. Traits: Idealist and confident

Orion (The Hunter) When it is up: Fall-Winter Lore: Orion believed he was the greatest hunter in the world and tried to kill all of the animals. Hera sent down a scorpion to kill him.

Ursa Major (The Great Bear) When it is up: Spring Lore: Zeus had an affair with Callipso. Out of jealousy, Hera turned her into a bear.


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Texas Museum of Science and Technology What does it have to offer?


eople meander around the exhibits as many odd noises -- chicken calls, dog barks, and deep ringing sounds -- could be heard. A single spherical planetarium can be seen standing alone in a corner and voices can be heard from inside. An archaeology sect can be visited across from it. The Texas Museum of Science and Technology is alive with just as many sounds as people. With a large exhibit count -- likely around 30 or more -- to try and helpful staff, the Texas Museum of Natural Science and Technology is a good place to visit whether it be during the summer or on the weekends. Established in March of 2015 to help learning in that area of town, it offers a diverse selection of interesting experiments to try out, including a long pipe that pings when one claps near it, a device that tests one on how well they can detect where sound comes from and a booth that plays a sound to identify. The planetarium features seats that let people lie down and watch a short film over a number of topics,including the space race and the mission for the moon. For many older patrons of the museum, the moon movie can assist by helping them remember the missions themselves. “The planetarium was inspiring, because it makes me remember when I was a kid

and watched the men land on the moon, I stayed up late [to] watch Apollo 11.” says David Shugart, a visitor to the museum. Not only featuring the planetarium, there are also sound exhibits to explore. The room is scattered with things like Theremins and hand-batteries to try and touch; creating an atmosphere of comfort. “[I] liked the interactive part where you can do the sound or the light and make things work yourself and demonstrate the principles” says Shugart, “The long tube with the pinging sound [was my favorite,] it was very science fiction-like. And the theremin was good too.” A theremin is a musical instrument that utilizes oscillators and a user to create a sound.

The mobile planetarium, taken by Cameron Shugart

The beginning of the Timewalk, taken by Cameron Shugart

A skeleton of the smilodon, taken by Cameron Shugart

The end of the Timewalk, taken by Cameron Shugart


“The Timewalk [is my favorite part]. And that’s because I am an archaeologist, interested in the evolution of consciousness so I’m a little bit later than that; I’m more like evolution of human consciousness. But, it’s still- we were just talking about the front questions, like you look at the dinosaurs and go ‘Did they realize at the end that they were the last ones of their kind,’ is there any kind of awareness there that it’s hard for us to know now, so that’s my favorite. Timewalk.” The museum is also planning ahead to expand later on. In one interview, Rivera states that “The idea, the last I heard, is that we’ll be here about five years [before we move]. And then, and in the meantime, we’re gonna be looking for a permanent spot.” The museum is quite entertaining already, but more can be achieved.

Rachel Rivera, taken by Cameron Shugart

Additionally, there is an archaeology section in the other third. Made by real archaeologists, a “Timewalk” where the history of Earth is compressed into a little 24-hour clock, and bones of extinct animals are present for all to admire. Some archaeologists will even strike up conversation. Rachel Rivera, an archaeologist, thoroughly enjoys the Timewalk.


It is truly nice to see somebody making a good effort with a private venture.

“Perhaps, they had already looked for a spot in downtown Austin but it ended kinda a political thing, so it fell through. Cedar Park really likes us being here, but it’s just a matter of finding a big space because the idea is to expand. So yes, big vision, here.” states Rivera. Shugart also agrees with that notion. is to expand. So yes, big vision, here.” states Rivera. Shugart also agrees with that notion. “It is truly nice to see somebody making a good effort with a private venture.” All in all, the Texas Museum of Science and Technology is making a good impression on many Austinites. With a good start and plan in hand, they head towards the future. here.” states Rivera. Shugart also agrees with that notion. “It is truly nice to see somebody making a good effort with a private venture.” All in all, the Texas Museum of Science and Technology is making a good impression on many Austinites. With a good start and plan in hand, they head towards the future. ttt

An exhibit at the museum of Natural Science, taken by Cameron Shugart.

An exhibit at the museum of Natural Science, taken by Cameron Shugart


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n 1991 in a little observatory in Utah known as the Fly’s Eye, a proton flew ove with an astonishing speed. This tiny particle was flying over with a velocity of .9999999999999999999999951% the speed of light. This particle, after flying over, was dubbed the “Oh-My-God particle,” because that was the reaction of anyone lucky enough to see this phenomenon. Many more of these little guys have been spotted throughout the past ~10 years, and it has still been just as much of a mystery then as it is nowadays. The Fly’s Eye used big mirrors to detect cosmic rays, and on that date it wit-

nessed the Oh-My-God Particle. The speed of this particle was just out right insane. This proton carried enough energy that it had the force of a 55 mph American baseball. The Large Hadron Collider cannot get anywhere near this speed while it accelerates particles. All in all, the Oh-My-God Particle is a puzzling mystery that shouldn’t be solved for awhile. Just another enigma in the store of mysteries space contains. and it has still been just as much of a mystery then as it is nowadays.

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“We can determine what constituents the planet or exoplanet is in as well as the stellar atmosphere, using a light prism to change to an infrared grating,�

All quotes by Cynthia Brooks, Research Engineer Scientist Associate at The University of Texas Involved in the production of the GMT All Photos from NASA Public Domain

Advancements in Telescopes Peering into galaxies and observing the most distant stars and nebulae, Advancements in Telescope is an article about major advanced telescopes and their recent production, looking at what technological boundaries they will be able to leap over, as well as how these mechanical marvels are created by engineers.


elescopes have the ability to show humans the past, reflecting light from thousands or even millions of years ago, and now the human race can look at the past in vivid detail. They are such a big advancement that they fall under a completely new category. These telescopes are able to study the sky with such detail that they can observe distant exoplanets and other objects that would normally be impossible to observe. Various different telescopes like the GMT (Giant Magellan Telescope), E-ELT (European - Extra Large Telescope), the 30-Meter Telescope, and the James Webb Space Telescope, are currently under construction and are scheduled to be released in the next 10-20 years. The three telescopes down here on earth and up in space will help uncover some of the most sought after inexplicable mysteries of the universe, and greatly exceed the previous standards set by telescopes

This is a segment of the pillars of creation nebula, one of the many nebulae that these telescopes will be able to observe in great detail, focus and magnification.

like the Hubble Space Telescope. A great deal of components are involved in building a telescope, especially casting 8 mirrors that are 27.6 meters in diameter, so delving into the anatomy of one of these telescopes can help expand one’s knowledge on how they function. The size of the mirrors used to refract light influences not only the viewing distance, but as well as the quality of the image created. This means telescopes will need to expand in size to advance,so the size of the mirror is the largest variable in advancement. But recently there’s been proposals to construct some telescopes with mirrors that collectively reach the size of 350 square meters. The grating within the telescope is also another variable that’s been changing in more advanced telescopes. This lets the telescope collect the light and convert it into infrared light, making data much easier to collect for astronomers. Glass prisms are the way the telescopes receive infrared light, because glass, water, and acrylic plastic all have infrared absorption coefficients. Simply putting it, the glass prism absorbs the infrared light and makes it visible on a computer screen to humans. Infrared gratings are very helpful tools in telescopes

that help astronomers study planets and other objects in the sky by receiving heat waves from stars and other objects in the universe. The universe sends earth electromagnetic radiation, and most of this energy is infrared, which humans can’t see with the naked eye. Infrared gratings aid astronomers in collecting far more data about the universe, see it. These massive mirrors would be able to receive large amounts of light that will aid in studying not only specific exoplanets, but also distant stars. Proxima Centauri b, is a high priority in astronomy, considering that it is earth’s neighbor, so having the ability to study it with telescopes is very important and a high priority. For the human race to be able to view the planet at such a distance we would need telescopes with massive mirrors, and some are already well under construction.


“Well it’s close relatively speaking- The kinds of instruments in the future would not only be capable to study Proxima Centauri b, but it would also be capable of studying much more distant stars,”

The Milky Way Galaxy, orbiting around the galactic center, a black hole. All of the specks within this galactic mass are stars that could possibly host life substaining exoplanets, that humans will possibly be able to discover with the magnification and power these telescopes.

The GMT Telescope The Giant Magellan Telescope is planned to include seven of the world’s largest mirrors, in the Andes Mountains in Chile. Each mirror will be 27.61 feet in diameter, 5 out of 7 of the mirror segments have already been cast. As Rory Barnes writer of pale red dot said, a telescope like this is what would be needed to study Proxima Centauri b. The size of the Giant Magellan Telescope’s mirrors are twice the size of the previously lar gest telescope’s mirrors. Although this isn’t the largest telescope being planned, University of Texas and a few other colleges are in collaboration on its production. GMTNIRS is the infrared spectrograph that Brooks referred to. This will let astronomers using the Giant Magellan Telescope

observe our universe in the infrared. The Giant Magellan telescope will supposedly have a resolving power 10 times that of the hubble space telescope, which is extraordinarily powerful. Eleven different colleges and organizations are collaborating in the production of the Giant Magellan Telescope. Examples of some colleges involved would be Harvard University, the University of Chicago, The University of Texas at Austin, and A&M to name a few. Surprisingly, these engineers are following the same principles that regular consumer grade telescopes follow, but on a much larger scale. The Giant Magellan Telescope will actually be able to acheive 4 times the resolution that the James Webb Space Telescope will.

A watercolor of a space telescope approaching a gatious planet to observe and collect data. This represents possibly the James Webb Space Telescope in the future and it’s usefulness to observe planets closer.

The 30-Meter Telescope A telescope called the 30-Meter Telescope was planned to have mirrors with a diameter of 98 ft, which beats the Giant Magellan Telescope. However, there has been such a public response to the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope that the Hawaii residents actually had the 1.4 billion dollar project postponed. Although the people constructing the telescope had all the right permits, the Hawaii natives protested against the telescope being constructed on the “sacred” Mauna Kea Summit. The people in the Southern Hemisphere see a different part of the sky than the people in the Northern Hemisphere. Having two large telescopes in each hemisphere can be very useful so humans can observe all the stars in the sky. The condition of the region also heavily affects the telescope’s ability to observe the sky, more mountainous regions with clearer skies are ideal while tropical regions closer to sea level more prone to storms is less ideal. The GMT is being constructed in the Andes Mountain range in Atacama Desert in Chile, which is a very elevated region much higher

than sea level, so all of these large telescopes are being constructed in mountainous regions. Making large strides towards knowledge about the cosmos may seem just out of reach, but it’s closer than most people think. The GMT has made exceptional progress, and has already casted 5 out of the 7 mirrors, and even Cynthia Brooks herself said that first light is only 5 - 10 years away. Although the 30-meter telescope has been disappointingly postponed, the E-ELT and the James Webb Space Telescope are still well under construction. It’s important that the youth understand telescopes and how they function, because the youth today will be responsible for discoveries in the future. ttt

Galileo Gallilei is the iconic astrologist and inventor who influenced modern physics and astronomy. He is also an inventor of one of the first telescopes that refracts light from the stars . He supported the theory of Copernican Heliocentrisism, that the earth merely revolves around the sun and isn’t the center of the universe, which was denied by the catholic church. He is known for presenting the public with solid evidence of the copernican theory, which is what Copernicus lacked because he had no way to prove the Catholic Church wrong.



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Alien Worlds Astronomers Search for Exoplanets

In the heights of the Davis Mountains in West Texas sits an array of telescopes pointed towards the stars. It is here at the McDonald Observatory that people look into the darkness of space looking for alien Worlds. The search for the elusive all begins with one type of people: astronomers. Since the 1990s, the astronomers of the world have been finding thousands of worlds beyond our sun called exoplanets. Exoplanets are any planets that orbit a star other than our own. The discovery of these planets have told us about the history of our universe and may be the key to finding life. “Curiosity. A desire to understand our place in this wonderful universe,” said G. Fritz Benedict, an astronomer at Mcdonalds Observatory. This is the reason astronomers like Benedict explore the cosmos. An opportunity to be the next Columbus and unlock the secrets of the universe

but the life of an astronomer is not what it seems. “A lot of people think I spend a lot of my time looking through a telescope but that’s not at all it,” William Cochran, a research scientist at the University of Texas, said. The job is not looking through the lens of the telescope but more analyzing data and writing papers. According to Cochran, the tasks are boring and mundane and often are repetitive. “Log into computers. Download data. Process data. Model data. Write papers. Write proposals to

obtain telescope access, to collect more data in order to write more papers,” said Benedict.

“A lot of people think I spend a lot of my time looking through a telescope but that’s not at all it,” William Cochran, a research scientist at the University of Texas.

People tend to shy away from the life of an astronomer but not when they have a chance to discover alien worlds called exoplanets.According to Cochran, the discovery of these planets have helped people realize the solar system is really not all that unique. “This is an example of scientific inferencing, you know we see planets around our star and then think ‘Ok so if there is nothing distinguishing our star from other stars,’ the inference is the other stars should have planets too and so that’s the hypothesis we have and so we go out and try and use it… Assuming it’s right,” said Cochran. Scientists like Cochran use this inference and search for exoplanets with several different techniques. The two main techniques used are with Direct Detection Methods and Indirect Detection methods. “With direct detection you are trying to actually see the planet in some manner. The problem here is that the planet is a lot fainter than the star. Most planets at least invisible light can only reflect light from the host star and sort of you can go through a little calculation to find the amount of light that reflects is about 1 billionth the amount of light from that of the star. Well, that’s not the inherent problem. I mean we build big telescopes to see really faint things. The problem is the really faint thing is right next to this really giant, and bright star. So imagine a giant searchlight pointed at you; you can’t see a little candle next to you because it’s lost in the glare,” Cochran said. Astronomers believe that a way to get rid of the immense blind-

ing light from the star is High Contrast Imaging. The imaging would use relative brightness to get a clear image of a planetary system but that technology will be well out of reach for the next decade. Cochran said, “There are techniques that are called high contrast imaging and so forth and you don’t really see that but that really requires ; probably to do what well the next generation of telescopes.” Since the glare can not be eliminated yet astronomers must find other ways to uncover exoplanets. Instead of being disabled by the star astronomers like Cochran use the light The direct detection method of they can see to find the exofinding exoplanets tries to see the planets. planet passing in front of the star. “So of course you were taught that planets in our solar system orbit the sun, Did anybody raise there hand and ask, ‘Well how does the sun know to sit still?’ Well the sun doesn’t know it’s supposed to sit still. And in fact the planet, let’s just take jupiter as the prime example, it’s the most massive planet, it and the sun basically orbit each other and jupiter is 1/1000 the mass of the sun so its orbit is 1000 times bigger so they’re both orbiting sort of an imaginary balance point between the two of them,” said Cochran as he made imaginary circles with his hands. “If you’re out on a teeter totter and there’s a big heavy person and there’s a small one, he has A telescope at Mcdonald to sit way on the end and the Observetory dearches the darkness of heavy one has to sit more tospace. wards the middle so they go up and down well that’s the same situation here but a lot more extreme so that means every time Jupiter orbits the sun the sun orbits, they’re both


orbiting sort of an imaginary balance point between the two of them,” said Cochran as he made imaginary circles with his hands. “If you’re out on a teeter totter and there’s a big heavy person and there’s a small one, he has to sit way on the end and the heavy one has to sit more towards the middle so they go up and down well that’s the same situation here but a lot more extreme so that means every time jupiter orbits the sun the sun orbits, they’re both sort of orbiting this balance point,” Cochran said. Using this information astronomers can use the movement of light from the star to discover the size of the exoplanet causing the stars shift. “What I do is during part of that orbit part of the star will be going towards you and part of it will be going away from you. The light from this star will suffer a Doppler shift as a result so as it comes toward you all the light is shifted slightly towards the blue side of the spectrum and when it is going away from you it shifts slightly towards the red side of the spectrum. But we have some instruments out at Mcdonald Observatory where we can actually detect that kind of shift and we can actually see the spectrum moving back and forth because of the light from the star and so we use that to measure changes in the velocity of the star and we look for the velocity to change in some periodic manner.” said Cochran. They can then use this information to determine how long it takes for a star to complete a cycle which can reveal the presence of an exoplanet.

And so the time it takes to complete one cycle is then the time it takes for this planetary cycle to complete one orbit and how much the velocity changes tells something about the mass of the planet because if the planet is more massive than that balance point will be closer to the planet the star is going to have to move faster and make a bigger circle in the same length of time and so that’s how we use the velocity of a star to reveal the presence,” Cochran said. The search for these planets could wield the discovery of life if the conditions are correct on the planet. According to scientists you need several key components to have a possibility of the formation of life. “We think you need you need the right amount of chemicals so you ask, ‘Ok what is life here made of?’ Well all the chemistry is based on carbon and then it’s carbon with some amount of water and then things like nitrogen, oxygen magnesium and so forth so, these are the elements you really need for life. Fortunately these are the most common and abundant elements in the universe,” said Cochran. The elements are all there but the most important part of the whole equation is liquid water. As far as science knows now water must be present to provide life on a planet but the conditions must be perfect. “We think liquid water so you have to have the right temperature on the planet and so that leads to a concept that we call the habitable zone where if the right temperature

on the planet can be achieved by having it be the right distance from the star if it’s too close it will be way too hot and if it is further on out all the water is gonna be frozen in the form of ice so there’s sort of a goldilocks zone in there if you will where the temperature is just right for liquid water to exist,” Cochran said. The discovery of life on other worlds could help us immensely letting us cure diseases, explain molecular biology, prove evolution and show us how common life is in the universe. “Finding even a microbe on Mars would be incredibly useful. Our biology seems incredibly complicated. What aspects of cell mechanics are essential? What parts are peculiar to Earth? What parts are peculiar to a Mars bug? The parts that are the same are the essential parts. Knowing that will help find cures to diseases that affect cells,” said Benedict. As technology keeps advancing the future discovery of exoplanets becomes more bright and interesting. More advanced telescopes launched into space will have the

An artists repersentation of a distant water filled exoplanet.

technology to study the galaxy and beyond in never before ways. “The Giant Magellan Telescope, the Large Scale Synoptic Telescope, and the James Webb Telescopes. All of these will explore in ways we have thus far been unable to explore,” said Benedict As we discover new worlds and chances of life on other planets our science and human experience will change. ttt

“Finding even a microbe on Mars would be incredibly useful. Our biology seems incredibly complicated. What aspects of cell mechanics are essential? What parts are peculiar to Earth? What parts are peculiar to a Mars bug? The parts that are the same are the essential parts. Knowing that will help find cures to diseases that affect cells,”

Did you know? The Kepler Space Telescope was developed by NASA after planets were discovered orbiting other stars in the early 1990s. On March 7, 2009, a rocket put Kepler into orbit around Earth. As of 2016 Kepler has discovered 1,284 exoplanets.




Trace Gas Orbiter


Mars Orbiter Mission



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Ever since humans have traveled to space Mars has been the planet of most intrest. 7 space agencys have sent missions but many failed.

-India -China -FAIL: Mars M1 no.2 Octiober 14 1960 Failed to orbit. -FAIL: Mars 2MV-4 no.1 October 24 1962 Booster disenegrated in Earth orbit. -FAIL: Mars 1 November 1 1962 Communications lost. -FAIL: Mars 2MV-3 no.1 November 4 1962 Never left Earth Atmosphere. -FAIL: Mariner 3 November 5 1964 - SUCCESS: Mariner 4 November 28 1964 Successful Flyby. -FAIL: Zond 2 November 30 1964 Communications lost. -SUCCESS: Mariner 6 February 25 1969 Close Flyby of Mars. -FAIL: 2M no.521 March 27 1969 Failed Orbit of Earth. -SUCCESS: Mariner 7 March 27 1969 Close Flyby of Mars. -FAIL: 2M no.522 April 2 1969 Failed Orbit of Earth. -FAIL: Mars M1 no.1 May 9 1971 Failed to orbit Earth. FAIL: Kosmos 419 May 10 1971 Timer for Booster rocket Set incorrectly. SUCCESS: Mariner 9 May 30 1971 Achieved Martian Orbit for 516 days.



-United States

SUCCESS: Mars 2 May 19 1971 Achieved Martian Orbit for 362 orbits. SUCCESS: Mars 3 May 28 1971 Achieved Martian Orbit for 20 orbits. FAIL: Mars 4 July 21 1973 Failed to orbit Mars. FAIL: Mars 5 July 25 1973 Only orbited for 9 days. FAIL: Mars 6 Lander August 5 1973 Lander lost communications on surface. FAIL: Mars 7 Lander August 9 1973 Failed to enter Martian atmosphere. SUCCESS: Viking 1 Orbiter August 20 1975 Orbited Mars for 1385 orbits. SUCCESS: Viking 1 Lander August 20 1975 Operated for 2241 sols(martian days) SUCCESS: Viking 2 Orbiter September 9 1975Orbited Mars for 700 orbits. SUCCESS: Viking 2 Lander September 9 1975 Operated for 1281 sols Fobos 1 July 7 1988 Failed to enter Martianorbit. FAIL: Fobos 2 July 12 1988 Achieved Orbit but lost communications.

FAIL: Mars Observer September 25 1992 Lost Communications. SUCCESS: Mars Pathfinder November 7 1996 Orbited Mars for 7 years SUCCESS: Sojourner December 4 1996 Drove on Martian surface for 84 days. FAIL: Nozomi July 3 1998 Ran out of fuel. FAIL: Deep Space 2 January 3 1999 No data returned. SUCCESS: Mars Express June 2 2003 Will remain in orbit until 2026. SUCCESS: Phoenix August 4 2007 Landed on Surface. FAIL: Fobos-Grunt November 8 2011 Never left Earth orbit. FAIL: Ying-huo 1 November 8 2011 Did not deploy from Fobos-Grunt. SUCCESS: Curiosty November16 2011 Still Operational SUCCESS: Mars Orbiter Mission November 5 2013 Still Operational SUCCESS: MAVEN November 18 2013 Still orbiting SUCCESS: ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter March 14 2016 Still Orbiting


e am ar G h rs A

Entwined Anatomizing black holes and galaxies


lack holes and galaxies have been together since the first billion years of the universe. These two come in all different sizes, are joined at the hip, and float through the cosmos arm in arm. There are supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies such as the one at the center of our own Milky Way, which has the mass of 4 million suns. A theory once predicted by Albert Einstein in 1916 was finally found true with LIGO, a hundred years later. Black holes fling off their magnetic fields because they go too fast sometimes. There is one thing that stands out above all, black holes are powerful gravitational fields that can swallow the en-

tirety of the solar system in a couple seconds. Black holes have had very intertwined connections with galaxies. What: Galaxies, clusters of stars held together by their own gravitational attraction, are being found every day. Black holes, a region of space where the gravitational field is so intense that no matter or radiation can escape it, are increasingly being found in galaxies nearby and the Milky Way. The first of these massive individuals are hypothesized to have come together during the first 500 million years of the universe’s birth because of the collapse of enormous stars. Milos Milosavljevic,

an associate professor of massive black holes, galaxy formation, computational astrophysics, and plasma astrophysics at the University of Texas at Austin, has an easy to understand explanation as to how galaxies are created. “So there may be one region of the universe that had the slightly denser than the mean, and another region was slightly less dense. But if you had one place that had a denser gravity, then it would pull that matter toward that center of density from where it was less dense. Everything pulls everything else to gravity. But if you have more matter in one place, it’s going to pull the surrounding matter a bit more. Little bits of

matter, they get pulled, but ferometer Gravitational-Wave waves. Black they don’t get pulled straight Observatory. holes are found towards the gravity, they get “LIGO is a lab in when gravitational pulled sideways and they Louisiana, one in Washingwaves are detected. end up orbiting the center of ton, and one in Germany “Black holes orbitgravity,” said Milosavljevic. somewhere. And they have ing each other are emitting Galaxies accrete, or take in two test masses that are kind ripples in spacetime. So what mass by spinning, and even- of suspended and then they will happen when one of tually get bigger by doing so. have laser beams in between these ripples of spacetime is “Well, galaxies rotate belike in a long tube. So a laser traveling like this. If there is cause the gas, the matter that beam is going back and a strong one but if you were collapses on the gravity to forth. Electron interference closer there the whole space form a would “The equation is essentially mass divided by the size galaxy shrink equals the square of the escape velocity,” has and what’s excalled angular momentum” which has to do with how the pand. So you know you can said Milosavljevic. way of the light. Essentially have a pair of black holes a Angular momentum is a way to detect to measure billion light years away, they basically how much rotation a tiny distance in bodies. It are orbiting each other and is in a body. A formula has is one of the greatest disare emitting these ripples in been developed to calculate coveries of the century,” said spacetime. These ripples are it. It is the product of its mo- Milosavljevic. making distances shrink and ment of inertia and its angu- In 2015, LIGO found expand,” said Milosavljevic. lar velocity. Black holes have the evidence for the theory The merging of these recently been detected with that was proposed by Alblack holes happened almost gravitational waves, accordbert Einstein, which was the 1.3 billion years ago and seeing to LIGO, the Laser Interevidence for gravitational ing the gravitational waves

The Milky Way Galaxy on a starry night at the McDonald’s Observatory in West Texas. Photo from Videezy


Black hole gouache painting by Dmytro Ivashchenko -Wikimedia Commons A pictural representation of a supermassive black hole.

now, almost 12.7 billion years later, is inexplicable. “When you look at distant stars in the universe, you are observing the universe when it was younger. Right around us, if you look around, we don’t have stars like that. Those are gone because the Milky Way is already a bit old in that sense,” said Milosavljevic. There is a supermassive black hole in the middle of most galaxies although there are some exceptions such as Messier 33. Most galaxies actually have multiple black holes within them. John Kormendy, a professor of supermassive black holes in galactic nuclei, structure and dynamics of galaxies, dark matter, and galaxy formation and evolution at the University of Texas at Austin explains black holes in our own galaxy. “Essentially all galaxies are believed to contain dead stars that turned into black holes when they died. Milky Way,” said Kormendy.

Nothing, not even light can escape a black hole. In fact, the escape velocity from the event horizon, the outer surface of the black hole is exactly the speed of light. If an object crosses this event horizon, then the escape velocity will increase. “The equation itself is very simple. It is essentially mass divided by the size equals the square of the escape velocity,” said Milosavljevic. Using this equation, astronomers can figure out things like how fast the moon needs to go to escape the gravitational pull of the Earth.. “Today galaxies are being created through the merging of galaxies. For example we have the Milky Way and Andromeda, and the other one you mentioned was M33 which is actually a satellite galaxy to Andromeda.

“Public awareness to the success of this process in advancing our knowledge and understanding of the universe is important in attracting young people to become aspiring scientists,”

A galaxy that resmebles a sombrero typically called a sombrero galaxy.

And some point in the future the Milky Way and Andromeda are going to collide and merge,” said Milosavljevic. Their enormous mass, power, and speed, have led some to believe that black holes could be used as an energy source. “Probably not, but technically there is a way to get energy from a black hole. But it would be hard for humans to do it. You get energy coming out from black holes all the time in the universe. And the energy that can come out of the black hole. It’s not so much the mass of the black hole, because of course it’s a black hole so it has energy in the mass. There is energy in the rotation of the black hole,” said Milosavljevic. The scientists of tomorrow will have to gain the knowledge of yesterday for the human race to be successful. Abraham Loeb, the professor of science at Harvard University explains why public awareness is important.

Messier 104 taken by NASA - Wikipedia

“Public awareness to the success of this process in advancing our knowledge and understanding of the universe is important in attracting young people to become aspiring scientists,” said Loeb. The frontier of the universe is ever expanding and there will be more to find the next day. ttt Photo from Wikimedia Commons and taken by Arthur Sasse in 1951

Albert Einstein is considered the most influential physicist of the 20th century.

Did you know? Albert Einstein is the scientist who first theorized black holes in 1916. A century ago he predicted it with his general theory of relativity. The term black hole was created by John Wheeler in 1967 and the first black hole was discovered in 1971. According to the relativity theory , gravity is generated by a distortion of space and time. Objects that speed up, send small distortions, or ripples, through space and time.

“Essentially all galaxies are believed to contain dead stars that turned into black holes when they died. Such black holes have masses of roughly 10 to 20 times the mass of our Sun, and there must be thousands in our Milky Way,” 36


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