Space Findings: Astronauts, New Planet?, Harassment

26047804 – the cosmic cloud orion nebula – 1,500 light-years away from earth retouched

creativemarc / 123RF Stock Photo

Chaos at the Heart of the Orion Nebulae 

Protecting Astronauts from Radiation

Dr. Mohsen Rahmani, an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Research Fellow at the Nonlinear Physics Centre within the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering, has developed a nanomaterial capable of reflecting or transmitting light. It is so thin that it can fit on the top of a needle and can be applied to any surface. The material can be tailored to other spectrums as well and although the main purpose is to shield astronauts from radiation there are plenty of applications. Some examples they give are, “…architectural and energy saving applications. For instance, you could have a window that can turn into a mirror in a bathroom on demand, or control the amount of light passing through your house windows in different seasons…” Next, we’ll look at life outside our planet.

Radiation Nanomaterial


Methanol was recently detected in a smoke plume on Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Since methanol is an organic molecule people were hoping it would be indicative for life on the moon. Unfortunately, according to Dr. Emily Drabek-Maunder, this isn’t a sign of life in the possible sub-surface ocean but an external chemical process which would mean no aliens. For now…….


New Planet?

If you are interested in space you should have heard of the mysterious Planet 9. For anyone unaware, sci-fi authors have long envisioned a lost planet amongst the outer reaches of our solar system, some unknown world, hiding right under our nose. In recent times the concept has been repeatedly had attention heaped upon it for its ability to explain what we cannot. Kat Volk and Renu Malhotra of the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL) will present a paper that they claim helps explain the movement of Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs). The Kuiper Belt extends from Neptune outward (yes this means Pluto lives in the belt) and consists of the various rocks, ice balls and gaseous materials that lie outside the main part of our solar system but haven’t left yet. The paper asserts that the most distant KBOs, whose orbits around the Sun are quite different from the inner objects, are being influenced by the gravity of a planet in the outer belt. For the study they looked at 600 different objects and accounted for their tilt angle and orbital plane. They determined that a planet could be influencing their orbits but refer to it as a planetary mass object because planets are supposed to clear their neighborhoods, not be surrounded by large objects. They do propose a passing star as an alternative however rule it out as unlikely. Now let’s shift the focus to scientists.

New Planet?

Harassment in Science

This next piece is a research article on the people behind the scene and specifically, their bias. An online survey in early 2015 asked 39 questions to academics, students, postdoctoral researchers and administrators in astronomy and planetary science regarding their workplace experience. 88% reported, “…hearing, experiencing or witnessing negative language or harassment relating to race, gender or other physical characteristics at work within the last five years.” Out of 423 people, 39% reported verbal harassment and 9% claimed that they had suffered physical harassment. Most of the negative comments were reported to come from peers however substantial amounts were coming from supervisors. 40% of women of color reported feeling unsafe with substantial numbers of white women saying the same. Around 13% also stated that they skipped a work related event due to this abuse with some minority men doing the same. This is quite unfortunate to hear despite how far we have come and especially within a science department, where knowledge is supposed to be the most important. Further investigation would be needed to verify how widespread this is but just hearing the results is disheartening. Moving on.

Harassment in Astronomy and Planetary Science


This isn’t really a new research discovery but interesting to space historians. NASA has launched itself into an uploading frenzy from all of its past projects on their site and YouTube. The link below contains some samples but check some out, you just may become enamored. Thanks for reading about space and come back next time for new discoveries!

NASA Footage

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