Preserving the Past
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is raising money with their Kickstarter campaign to preserve Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit from the Apollo 11 mission and put it on display for the public. It currently resides in a climate-controlled facility and is not accessible to museum patrons. While it may seem as easy as sticking the suit in a glass case and calling it a day, the process is much more complicated. The museum intends to use the latest technology to document the current condition of the suit. A detailed map of the suit will be constructed through 3D mapping, chemical tests and photogammetric analysis. All this information will help the museum design the best environment for the suit to keep it in top condition for public display. The suit is very much like an old and dusty tome, with layers of fabric and materials that are slowly degrading. The suit was meant to protect the human body in space for a limited period of time; without proper preservation it will eventually fall apart. With so many unseen layers it’s not possible to tell the condition of the suit from the outside and how to slow the natural deterioration. Can you lend a helping hand so the museum can have the historic spacesuit ready for viewing for the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing in 2019?
The Kepler mission has stumbled upon a new planet that is the closest to Earth’s size that has ever been discovered in a habitable zone. Kepler-452b is the smallest planet discovered so far that could have liquid water on its surface. It is 60 percent larger than Earth, and its orbit is only 5% longer and farther from its central star. While the star is about 1.5 billion years older than our Sun, its temperature is about the same. It’s believed that Kepler-452b has been orbiting its star for 6-billion years, which is longer than Earth has orbited the Sun. This has researchers very excited as Kepler-452b has had more time to cultivate life, thus increasing the chances that life could be present. Up until this point, most of the planets found to be in habitable zone are much larger in diameter and on the fringes of the habitable zone, some too hot and others too cold. The Kepler-452 system is 1,400 light-years away in the Cygnus constellation.
Along with Kepler-452b, 11 new planets have recently been discovered and considered to be in the habitable zone; this brings the count up to 4,696 planets that could harbor life. Since 2013, 521 planets have been added to the list thanks to automated techniques to find planet candidates from all of the transit data collected by Kepler. Now more time can be spent learning more about the composition of each planet, including their mass.
Ground-based telescope observations after planets are identified help pin down the important properties of each candidate, such as its size and orbit, along with the size and brightness of the host star to determine if it has the basic conditions to harbor life as we know it. It seems we are one step closer to finding our celestial neighbors.