#FalconHeavy Launch 2018

Falcon Heavy launch 2018 | Astronomers make the strange leap from smeared light from a distant galaxy | JWST is making it's way to California

4121 Views | Published on 10th Feb, 2018

Hello Space Fans and welcome to another edition of Space Fan News. In this episode, I’ll share with you some of my experiences at the Kennedy Space Center where I attended the launch of the Falcon Heavy Rocket; astronomers suggest that they may have made the first detection of planets outside of our galaxy; and all of the parts of the James Webb Space Telescope are together in one place in California to begin assembly.

I’m sure by now you’ve all heard the big news this week about the launch of the Falcon Heavy Rocket at the Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday. I was lucky enough to get tickets and I arrived early at KSC a full six hours before launch.

It was a good thing I did too because I’ve never seen lines like this at Kennedy. I’ve been here many, many times (I hold an annual pass, because that’s what you do) and I can say I’ve not ever seen it like this.

Hundreds of people queued up to get the to busses that were going to take us to the launch viewing site at the Apollo complex, which was the closest we unwashed masses could get to a launch at about 6 miles away. It was still amazing, I can’t imagine even wanted to get any closer and hats off to the KSC guys for not overselling tickets, there was plenty of space and there wasn’t a bad seat anywhere to watch the launch from.

I guess if I had a complaint, it would be the festival nature of the launch. While they had free food and beer (always a good thing), everything was very orchestrated. There were EmCee’s there and even Bill Nye showed up to get more Planetary Society members and answer questions.

You probably don’t know this about me, but I’m actually a pretty private guy, I would have loved just having an area where like-minded people could just pull up a seat and enjoy the launch. I didn’t really need all that extra stuff.

But that’s just me.

So I tried to live stream from there and it worked initially. I was able to do a quick stream a couple of hours before launch and throughput was decent. Many of you joined in as well to ask questions and comment.

By the way, YouTube did flag that video for copyright when the Monty Python music played. I knew they would. You should have seen the content ID providers claiming they own that tune.

As most of you already know, the launch was delayed due to high wind warnings, but it did eventually go off.

[Footage]

Just like Downtown.

And another really cool thing, I got to see two of the boosters return. Something I had never seen before.
[Footage]

All in all, it was an amazing experience, it wasn’t quite like I remember the Saturn V launches from when I was a kid, those seemed louder and ground-shakier, but maybe I’m just inflating that memory.

This was a tremendous launch though and it has to be said, that SpaceX is the company to beat now in this new corporate race to space that we’re in the midst of.

I mean, the Starman stunt was brilliant. Putting that spacesuit in the Tesla then live streaming the dash cam? Absolutely brilliant. What a great way to make space exciting again for those who aren’t normally into it. As for me, I think about the Heavy Metal movie from the 80’s every time I see that stream.

Astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray telescope to look at the environment around a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy 6 billion light years away, think they’ve seen evidence of planets in a galaxy that’s inbetween us and that distant galaxy.

The far away galaxy has a very bright quasar that is spewing material in X-rays as the supermassive black hole devours stuff falling into it. It’s called RX J1131-1231 and is one of the best gravitationally lensed quasars in the sky.

In order to see that quasar better with Chandra in X-rays, astronomers were going to use a intermediate galaxy that was between us and the quasar as a lens to magnify it and make it brighter. That galaxy was about 3.8 billion light years away.

Gravitational lensing is very common and helps astronomers see things that are very far away a little bit brighter.

When you look at distant galaxies this way, what you get are multiple images of the same galaxy spread out across the image. You can then use that signal to see things a lot better than if all you had was one image of the galaxy.

Essentially the researchers found that there were peculiar line energy shifts in the quasar's light that could only be explained by planets in the galaxy lensing the quasar.

It turned out - they say - to be around 2,000 unbound planets with masses ranging between the Moon and Jupiter, between the galaxy's stars.

OK, let me just take a break here and talk about press releases. They are often hyperbolic and they want to make everything sound amazing and first ever or whatever. But this one is a little misleading. There are many things that could explain the energy line shifts they saw, not just planets.

What they did was played with the clumpiness that’s in all galaxies due to stars, globular clusters, dust and gas, from their models and found that they couldn’t really explain what they were seeing by just messing with the stars.

Next they added some planetary material in there, assuming those hypothetical planets were not connected to any stars and found that HEY! they could make that energy shifts happen. Then they said, ‘Hey this could be planets in the galaxy!’

This is an indirect inference of the existence of something based on a model. They haven’t seen these planets directly, all they’ve said is they’ve seen a peculiar smearing of the light that came from a gravitationally lensed quasar that aren’t explained by a galaxies normal clumpiness and may be due to planets. Maybe.

If our model is right. And our assumptions are good. And I want there to be planets there.

So there’s your reality check, what we need is what you hear astronomers say all time - we need more observations. Especially from telescopes designed to look at stuff like this, the James Webb Space Telescope.

And speaking of JWST, the latest news is that it’s all in one place now. All of the components of the largest telescope ever to be launched in sitting in a room at Northrop Grumman’s facilities in Redondo beach California.

Webb’s optical telescope and integrated science instrument module (OTIS) arrived at Northrop Grumman Feb. 2, from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where it successfully completed cryogenic testing.

Next up is, during this summer, OTIS will be combined with the spacecraft element to form the complete Webb observatory. Once the telescope is fully integrated, the entire observatory will undergo more tests during what is called observatory-level testing.

Then they are going to start putting on the sun shields and all the other accoutremeaux and get ready to cram it all into the Arianne V rocket where they will launch it off to the L2 point sometime in 2019.

Well that is it for this episode Space Fans. All of this happens because you guys watch our stuff, link to our stuff, like and thumbs up our stuff and most importantly you support our stuff with small financial contributions via patreon and other places.
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Thanks to all of you for watching and as always, Keep Looking Up!

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