Part of our Hey, Look at That! Science and Technology Series
The scope and scale of science is a never-ending fascination. Nothing else helps us relate to life like science. Science gives us scope, balance, and perspective. Not to mention a huge WOW factor.
It’s easy to forget how vast and complex a thing the Universe is. Science comes through to remind us of that fact. Sometimes it does so with such breadth and depth it takes our breath away. Today, samples of two such discoveries.
Moons? Yeah, We Got Moons
First, the easier one. Astronomers have recently discovered another 12 moons around Jupiter. Reflect on that a bit. We have known our big brother Jupiter for a long time. We have long appreciated Jupiter. It’s gravity has kept Earth from being a catcher’s mitt for all sorts of matter looking for a place to crash.
We have had eyes on Jupiter, in the form of our most advanced telescopes and space craft, for decades now. The first observation of some of its moons go back to Galileo, for goodness sake. And yet, we “found” another dozen moons, bringing the known total to seventy-nine. And this may not be the end of it. There is speculation that we may discover more. The size and orbit of some of these have led to thoughts about convening a conversation. The subject would be what is a moon, exactly. Watch out, moons. They did that to Pluto and it did not end well. To read more on this, see https://www.sciencenews.org/article/jupiter-has-12-more-moons-and-one-is-bizarre
So, stay humble, human beings. We “know” something well and a surprise awaits the next turn. It is fair to say we know what we know, but we don’t know what we don’t know. A healthy dose of curiosity and skepticism serves us well.
How Much Ice Would You Like?
The second story for today is one that is hard to get a mental grip around. After a long search, scientists have detected neutrinos from a distant galaxy. Neutrinos are difficult to find. Seriously difficult. We are talking here about really, really, really small. They have no electrical charge. They pass through matter with no interaction. They travel at near the speed of light. Yet, science found some and traced them back to their galaxy of origin. Think that is mind blowing? The discovery was by an “Observatory in the Ice,” known as IceCube (no, not the rapper).
IceCube consists of a billion tons of diamond-clear Antarctic ice. It is about two kilometers deep. More than 5,000 light detectors track the system. Got that? In late 2017, IceCube detected an unusual neutrino. This one had 20 times the energy of any particle that could be man-made.
This meant it had come from outer space. IceCube measured the direction of neutrino travel within a quarter of a degree. It traced the path back to a large and violent galaxy about 4.5 billion light years from Earth. Wow. That is quite a tracking feat.
I invite you to read more about this remarkable discovery by the amazing IceCube. You will learn how many others joined this hunt and what all this might mean in defining the universe. Enjoy the excellent article in Scientific American, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/neutrinos-on-ice-astronomers-long-hunt-for-source-of-extragalactic-ghost-particles-pays-off/
Science. It makes us smarter, makes us humble, makes us better.
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