GRS 1915 is an x-ray binary star system consisting of a star and a black-hole, and it’s got a heartbeat.
Well, a pulsating x-ray light that is, one pulse every 50 seconds.
And you’re like, “bro, what’s CAUSING this pulse?, that’s strange and I’m interested in science so I need to know..”
Turns out the black hole (spinning at 1,150 times per sec) is sucking in the matter from it’s companion star at 50% the speed of light though letting some of that energy escape. “The jet of materials being ejected is occasionally choked off by a hot wind blowing off the accretion disk. The wind deprives the jet of materials needed to sustain it. When the wind dies down, the jet returns (wiki)”, giving us the “pulse.”
“It’s very easy to make fun of this, just like it also would have been funny to make fun of Magellan before he sailed around the world," Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer with SETI, told Congress. "We looked in particular directions at a few thousand star systems—the fact we haven’t found anything means nothing. This is like asking Christopher Columbus two weeks out of Cadiz if he’d found any new continents yet. We have to look at a few million star systems to have a reasonable chance." [Motherboard]
The reality is, we’re on an unprecedented exponential growth curve fueled by Moore’s Law, whereby advancements across multiple fields of science and technology are yielding new and transformative achievements, propelling us into a future of faster data processing at the helm of many disruptive technologies. A universal Rosetta Stone may not be attainable regarding our ability to generally decode transmissions from everywhere (and in any form) amid the past/present universe, but we certainly do have the tools for deciphering messages as we have from our ancestors’ hieroglyphics and artifacts.
The question I continue to submit when this topic is brought up, however: if we detect it, what will we do, and will we care?
We no longer live in a world where today’s news is tomorrow’s headline. News now is relative to weather…always fluctuating…when the storm is over, we go back outside. If it’s bitterly cold, we complain until it warms up. When we’re warm, the complaints pour in that it’s too hot. And similarly, when “breaking news” becomes breaking news, it ends up at the bottom of our news feeds and online dashboard threads.
Our society is plagued with alarmist tendencies. As X Prize Co-Founder Peter Diamandis reminds us, “the news media preferentially feeds us negative stories because that’s what our minds pay attention to. And there’s a good reason for that. Every second of every day, our senses bring in way too much data that we can possibly process in our brains. And because nothing is more important to us than survival, the first stop for all that data is an ancient sliver of the temporal lobe called the amygdala….our early warning detector, our danger detector. So given a dozen news stories, we will preferentially look at the negative news." This has more to do with how little attention we pay to how fast the technologically driven world is moving and how tremendous of a time we’re living, but it’s a worthy comparison to how we process that information to our advantage as a species which belongs to the cosmos…and to with whom we share this cosmic neighborhood.
Some may rush to say that we would plan some kind of hostile takeover. However, it’s unlikely we will detect a neighbor close enough to visit, let alone “shout across the street.”
So again, I wonder: what will humanity’s response be to the detection of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe?
Aerogel, also know as frozen smoke, is the world’s lowest density solid, clocking in at 96% air. If you hold a small piece in your hand, it’s practically impossible to either see or feel, but if you poke it, it’s like styrofoam. It supports up to 4,000 times its own weight and can withstand a direct blast from two pounds of dynamite. It’s also the best insulator in existence.
This is quite what staring into a black hole would feel like as the material above is so dark the human eye struggles to discern what it is that it is seeing. However, that bizarre experience is just a bonus about the recently created ‘new black’ of the science world – the material called Vanta black, or super black, is a major breakthrough in the application of nanotechnology to optical instrumentation.
Vanta black was created by the UK company Surrey NanoSystems using carbon nanotubes, which are 10,000 thinner than human hair and so miniscule that light cannot get in but can pass into the gaps in between. The material is revolutionary in its ability to be applied to light-weight, temperature-sensitive structures such as aluminium whilst absorbing 99.96% of incident radiation, believed to be the highest-ever recorded.
“For example, it reduces stray-light, improving the ability of sensitive telescopes to see the faintest stars, and allows the use of smaller, lighter sources in space-borne black body calibration systems. Its ultra-low reflectance improves the sensitivity of terrestrial, space and air-borne instrumentation”, said Ben Jensen, Chief Technology Officer of Surrey NanoSystems. (company’s news article here»)
The cameras on NASA’s Cassini spacecraft captured this rare look at Earth and its moon from Saturn orbit on July 19, 2013. Taken while performing a large wide-angle mosaic of the entire Saturn ring system, narrow-angle camera images were deliberately inserted into the sequence in order to image Earth and its moon. This is the second time that Cassini has imaged Earth from within Saturn’s shadow, and only the third time ever that our planet has been imaged from the outer solar system.
Earth is the blue point of light on the left; the moon is fainter, white, and on the right. Both are seen here through the faint, diffuse E ring of Saturn. Earth was brighter than the estimated brightness used to calculate the narrow-angle camera exposure times. Hence, information derived from the wide-angle camera images was used to process this color composite.
Both Earth and the moon have been increased in brightness for easy visibility; in addition, brightness of the Moon has been increased relative to the Earth, and the brightness of the E ring has been increased as well.
The first image of Earth captured from the outer solar system was taken by NASA’s Voyager 1 in 1990 and famously titled “Pale Blue Dot”. Sixteen years later, in 2006, Cassini imaged the Earth in the stunning and unique mosaic of Saturn called “In Saturn’s Shadow-The Pale Blue Dot”. And, seven years further along, Cassini did it again in a coordinated event that became the first time that Earth’s inhabitants knew in advance that they were being imaged from nearly a billion miles (nearly 1.5 billion kilometers) away. It was the also the first time that Cassini’s highest-resolution camera was employed so that Earth and its moon could be captured as two distinct targets.
“A new consciousness is developing which sees the earth as a single organism and recognizes that an organism at war with itself is doomed. We are one planet. One of the great revelations of the age of space exploration is the image of the earth finite and lonely, somehow vulnerable, bearing the entire human species through the oceans of space and time.”