Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I See the Light

Day 2

Astronomy is an observation-based science, which means if an astronomer can’t see it, they can’t study it. Light is integral because it is the only way we can perceive what’s in the universe.

“But wait,” you say, “if we can only study what we see, doesn’t that severely limit our understanding of space?”

To that I say, “No.”

Light comes in different forms and wavelengths, most of which cannot be perceived by humans. The different light types are: gamma rays, x-rays, infrared, the visible spectrum (what we actually see), microwaves, and radio*.

Since we can’t perceive most light with our own eyes, we have to create telescopes to do it for us. We have infrared scopes, radio scopes, and others that help us see things in space. The specific telescope takes pictures, then sends the data back to computers on Earth. The astronomers do whatever they need to with that data, and that helps us understand more about what’s out there.

We talked about dust. You wouldn’t think it, but space is a very dirty place. The focus here was how dust sometimes gets in the way and doesn’t allow the astronomer to see what’s behind it. But using infrared, we can see right through it. Dust is also another tool to understanding the makeup of the universe.

The focus of today was light. It got pretty in depth. A lot of it I didn’t understand, and I’m sure I had a glazed look in my eye, so I’m not even going to attempt to explain it to you. We did some experiments with light and looked at different elements spectral fingerprints. It was cool.

The final speaker of the day talked about medical issues in space and the types of dangers humans face when out there. These include:
Loss of atmosphere
Exposure to toxins
Mechanical trauma
Acceleration and deceleration
Extreme temperatures
Meteoroids and space debris
Circadian rhythms and sleep
Adverse biological effects of microgravity

Each one of these topics had several more specific medical issues that could occur. They are quite numerous, so I don’t really want to get into too much detail here.

Radiation is the greatest risk in space. On Earth, our atmosphere blocks out most types of radiation, but in space, what do you have to protect you? Your ship and suit will do it to an extent, but the molecules can get through that stuff.

I’m pretty sure I don’t want to go to space after hearing all that. I would be the one who got everything. I don’t travel well. Sometimes traveling in the state upsets my stomach and it takes me a day or more to recover. Can you imagine what would happen to me traveling offplanet? No, thank you!

*I was actually surprised that “radio” is a light wave. I thought for sure it was sound. It made me very curious to know how it’s translated from light into sound, and one day, when I have time, I’m going to look it up!

1 comment:

Tamara said...

Keep coming with the great conference posts! :-)