If you've spent time on the internet over the last week or so, you've probably noticed a LOT of people talking about one of the most exciting announcements ever, for space nerds like us The solar system might have nine planets! And this time, the debate has nothing to do with Pluto. Last April, we told you about some asteroids way out past Neptune and Pluto with orbits that make some astronomers think there might be an unknown planet out there or even two herding them around. And last week, researchers at the California Institute of Technology announced that a ninth.
Planet isn't just a possible explanation for these oddities. It's actually the most likely explanation. The planetary scientists were trying to explain something peculiar about the orbits of a bunch of bodies out in the Kuiper Belt, a region of icy asteroids and dwarf planets including our old friend Pluto left over from the formation of the solar system. See, some of the most distant Kuiper Belt objects we know of seem to follow a similar pattern their orbits all kind of line up. Basically, their orbits are just differently sized copies of each other They tilt the.
Same way, they're stretched out the same amount, and they bring the asteroids closest to the Sun at the same place. If everything in the Kuiper Belt had a random orbit and we were finding them in a random order, the chances of finding such a high percentage of similar orbits would only be about 1 in 14,200. Those odds aren't too tiny, but they're small enough that it's probably more than just luck. Which is why, over the past couple of years, different groups of researchers have been proposing different explanations like a ninth planet, and maybe even a tenth, affecting.
The orbits of these asteroids. But there were problems with these predictions For the math to work out, our solar system would've had to have a close encounter with another star at some point in our history. Except, if that actually happened, it should have also affected orbits in the inner solar system and astronomers haven't seen evidence of that. So the team from Caltech decided to take another approach what if there were just one extra planet out there, with a tilted orbit stretched out in the opposite direction, shepherding.
All those asteroids around They found that a ninth planet, around ten times the mass of Earth and more than 250 times farther from the Sun, would explain the weird asteroid orbits we're seeing without complications like our solar system brushing past other stars. And the math works out really well! That's why everyone's so excited. So the next step is to look for more evidence of this new planet 9. But it's going to be hard to find it directly partly because it could have many different orbits, and partly because so far from the Sun, it would take tens of thousands of years.
To complete just one orbit. Plus, wherever it is, it's bound to be almost unobservably dim. Luckily, there is a way of testing for the planet without having to see it. The authors of the study make a clear, testable prediction If the planet is out there, we should be able to find asteroids that are kind of a mirror image of the ones that we talked about before, but on the opposite side of the solar system. So, if astronomers find the predicted asteroids in the coming years, it would be strong evidence.
For the existence of a new ninth planet. And! If we find more asteroids with similar orbits, it might help to narrow down just where this new planet is. This might all seem like a very indirect way of finding a planet, but it's exactly how we found Neptune in the 1840s. At the time, astronomers knew that something weird was happening with Uranus's orbit, and they used these strange features to predict where Neptune had to be and once they knew where to look, they eventually found it using telescopes.
Mission Solar System Soft Landing Design Squad
Three, two, one. Hey, I'm Nate from ltigtDesign Squad.ltigt I'm here with David, Robbie, and Dylan. DYLAN Our mission is to use craft sticks, balloons, and rubber bands to design an airbag system that can safely land an egg from a threefoot drop. Because rovers are fragile, like eggs, NASA needs to find a way to help them land softly on the surface, so they won't break. For three of the rovers, NASA wrapped the whole rover system in a layer of balloons to cushion the impact and let it bounce softly across the surface.
That's exactly what we're trying to do here. Our landers have a good amount of kinetic energy as they move toward the ground. We're trying to safely dissipate that without crushing the egg. My design is to have three balloons at the top to make drag. I have two cups, each with a balloon inside. So that when it goes down, it scrunches up and it's almost like miniature airbags. DAVID My idea was more like a suspension kind of thing. It's going to be like a net underneath it. The egg's going to sink into that net.
NATE We've got a builtin suspension system, and when we step off something tall, we go boing, and we're doing the same thing to protect our own bodies as you're going to do to protect your egg. Our legs compress our hips and knees. So instead of hips, and knees and muscles doing it, you're going to use the rubber bands. So what I'm building is supposed to land on this balloon just to soften the landing for this egg. NATE For the test run, let's use a hardboiled egg. And then for the real deal, we're going to put in a raw egg.
And really see if it works. Ready Let's go to the ladder. NATE Oh, man. ROBBIE You see the crack NATE Oh, yeah. What did you see happen when it hit the ground ROBBIE Well, instead of hitting from the bottom, it hit on it side so the shock absorbers never got to do their job. NATE Holy cow. Did it bounce out DAVID Yeah. You basically built an egg trampoline. It went down, hit the ground, and then sprung the egg out because there wasn't a system to retain the egg from the top.
DAVID So I added rubber bands on the top, and I put this cup here so it would have extra protection if it bounced and, like, hit the top. ROBBIE I'm just adding extra cushioning. So when it comes down, no matter which way it lands, it's always going to be shock absorbed. NATE What's the plan for your egg DYLAN I think by putting tons and tons of balloons on, it can protect the egg better. NATE All right, everybody. This is the real test with the raw eggs. Let's do it.
Mission Solar System Tracy Drain, Flight Systems Engineer Design Squad
This is Jupiter. It's one of my favorite planets personally because it's just gorgeous to look at. My name is Tracy Drain, and I'm a flight systems engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. You can kind of think of the systems engineer as the nerve center where the whole project comes together. So a systems engineer needs to know what everyone is doing and how every part of the spacecraft is supposed to work and how it all fits together. They call it the big picture outlook. Where there are engineers.
Who need to focus on certain small areas, things can get lost in the cracks, so a systems engineer looks across the broad project and makes sure we don't forget any little things that could crop up and cause us problems later. It's a big job, it's a huge job. MISSION CONTROL Three, two, one, ignition and liftoff of the Atlas V with Juno on a trek to Jupiter, a planetary piece of the puzzle on the beginning of our solar system. The current mission I'm working on is called Juno.
This is Juno, and it is the first solarpowered spacecraft to go to Jupiter. Juno is an unmanned deep space mission which is going to a place where it'd be really, really hard to send humans, at least with the technology that we have today. Juno is like a big, giant robot with eight science instruments on it that will be collecting data about the planets and the planets' magnetic fields. It's important for us to be able to send robotic autonomous spacecraft out there to go and gather the information we would need.
To learn more about the environment there for when we do manage to send people out to those distances. So here we are at the Environmental Test Lab at JPL, and what you're seeing here is a couple of large thermal vacuum chambers that the team can use in order to check out equipment that's going to be going up into space. And you can think of the thermal vacuum chamber like a soda can that you can suck all the air out without it crushing and make the outside really, really cold.
And when you put something inside in the vacuum with a cold outside, it's going to be like it's in space. And when we shut this door, we would end up sucking all the air out of this chamber and creating a vacuum to simulate what the instrument would see when it's in space. We can then shine light through this window from the solar simulator. There it goes! The energy that it produces is so strong, you can actually cook a hot dog right here. You can think of it as a giant flashlight through,.
Which simulates the Sun shining on something in space. And that way, we can simulate as closely as possible the conditions that this instrument is going to see on the spacecraft out in space. We discovered that when the spacecraft was going to be at its closest approach to the Sun, that instrument was going to get way warmer than it was supposed to be. It's going to be warm enough that we might worry that the instrument could not be able to do its job at Jupiter as well as it was designed to.
Being creative and problemsolving is one of the very top things that a systems engineer has to be comfortable with. There are problems out there that you will never have seen before. They're going to be really complicated. I like to do all sorts of things in my spare time. I like to read scifi and fiction books, and I also like stuff where you can run around and have fun, like laser tag. I caught the space bug probably when I was around seven years old, and I loved being outside and looking up at the stars.
Mission Solar System Allison Bolinger, Flight Systems Engineer Design Squad
I'm Allison Bolinger, and I work as a spacewalk flight controller and trainer here at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. So my job is we actually get the astronauts ready to go to the International Space Station and perform all aspects of spacewalking. people talking on radio And now we're focused on the International Space Station, maintaining it while it's serving out its mission. But meanwhile, folks within my organization and astronauts as well, who have this spacewalking experience, are thinking about, How can we improve this spacesuit How can we modify this spacesuit.
to make it more suited for a mission on an asteroid, or more suited for a mission to Mars or to the Moon So we're constantly thinking about how can we modify our existing spacesuit. A majority of the training takes place in the neutral buoyancy lab. One of the largest indoor pools in the world. It's roughly 200 feet by 100 feet and it's 40 feet deep, and we use this to simulate space and it's how we train astronauts to perform spacewalks on the International Space Station. Because the space station is so large,.
We can't fit the entire space station in the pool. We have to break the different components apart to simulate the entire space station. This suit weighs about 175 pounds, so once the crew member gets inside this suit, they actually have a large crane that just will lift this whole stand up, and they'll take it over the water and just lower it down into the water. We train them about the tools that they're going to use when they're out performing the spacewalk. They do a whole choreographed spacewalk where they learn.
About the different components of the space station and how they can fix them. The next part of my job is to actually be in Mission Control and to help choreograph the spacewalk, especially when things go wrong. We're considered the experts, and we can help tell the astronauts how to fix the situation. Okay, the next thing we're going to have you guys do is get inside the airlock and then work on hooking up your safety tether. The wall is lined with, um, we call them the big boards,.
And you've got big tutorial monitors where you're watching either what the crew is doing or what the crew is seeing, and you've got all the data displayed in front of you and then you've got computer monitors in front of you where you've got pulled up all the different. we call them the parameters of the spacesuit. So the spacesuit is constantly downlinking data to the Earth. MISSION CONTROL Four, three, two. BOLINGER The first time I sat in the front room by myself was the STS134 mission, which was the final flight.
Of Space Shuttle Endeavour in May of 2011. You sit down and initially it's completely overwhelming because you're realizing, Wow, I'm finally here after all these years. I'm finally here doing my dream job. So it was pretty cool. I was able to go to space camp in sixth grade at the Kennedy Space Center. We were able to meet a bunch of kids from around the country that were all very passionate about space. We did some different training exercises, and that's what I'm actually doing now, you know, it's how I'm actually training astronauts now,.
So it's neat to think back that I was able to experience it as a child. For me personally, I've found out that training the astronauts is the best of both worlds, because you still get a lot of the same experiences that the astronauts get, but you don't actually have to strap yourself into a rocket and launch into space to do it. The really neat thing is occasionally, when they're out actually doing a spacewalk, they'll mention your name or they'll say, I want to say hi to Houston and specifically our EVA team,.
And it's always really fun to get a shoutout from space. I definitely feel like I'm with them every step of the way outside, and one of my personal favorite sayings, and it's actually on the back of this charm, is it says, Shoot for the Moon. Even if you miss, you'll be among the stars. I had confidence in myself that I could eventually achieve my goals, but I'm still just blown away when I'm sitting in Mission Control and watching crew members that I trained actually perform spacewalks. I'm doing the job that I absolutely love.
The Awe Factor Of God Francis Chan
In what what what you're seeing right now first of all this is the earth okay business tissue taken off from the earth from southern california and we're gonna we're gonna rise up for a little bit here okay we're gonna pull away from it program for hire now this is abt about ten kilometers like a decline mount everest is what you'd see you'd see the curvature of the earth distance now you can it work lined up even higher this is that a hundred aka lawmakers and your fourth of the weight of the space station now this is what you'd see if you.
Get to this level you're considered an astronaut to ever get there okay now we're going a hundred thousand commenters on two thousand congressman or three or four th away to the moon that's what the earth would look like now when a poll weights one million columbus at a million commoners there's the moon there's someone you can barely see the repaired a million column eters now you're past the past the moon and uh now we're going to go to hundred million clunkers a hundred million com here still not to the sun.
The sun's ninety three million miles away but now we go to ten trillion commoners tech there's the sun it just past the sun now you would see all of the planet's attend shrill yin commoners and now were attended the fifteen th power i means ten with fifteen zeros on with the numbers fifteen zeros and this sounds like a break dot amidst other stars and now we're going to candle light years away at ten a light years away mod soon there you go ten light years away now you just see the sign.
With like eleven other stars that are kind of its neighbors you know that that that that's our son and now we're gonna go thousand light years away at the house and light years away you would even see our son anymore these are just a bunch of stars close to end this clustered inside the milky way now we're gonna zoom out even further and that's the milk you'll hear we live in six lester stars those are about a hundred thousand stars that are closest or some you can see our sonny.
Moore at this point nouns are milky way galaxy and forget about the earth tears are milky way galaxy that we live in um and work is buried in there somewhere and we're gonna pull out even further and you'll see the our galaxy is actually it's it's a big galaxy and uh and all those other things you're seeing now or galaxies and we're gonna pull wait ten million light years now his neck scenes ten million light years those are all galaxies you see amidst our milky way several hundred galaxies now we go a hundred million light years away.
DSN Top Builder Poster Coaster Design Squad
DEYSI cheering We're challenging you to design and build your own roller coaster using poster board or file folders, tape, paper towel tubes and books for the supports, a marble, and a cup. I plan to try to get my marble to go inside the cup at the end of the track. The first thing I want to do is stack all the books that I need to give my ramp some height. I took some file folders and I cut them into strips, so I folded the edges to make a track.
So that my marble doesn't roll off. Now let's start building! Right there. You can curve them, you can make them straight, however you want. Remember, it's a roller coaster. Now, we've hit the bottom of our track, but I want to give it some curvature, so what I'm going to do is I'm going to snip my paper towel tube so that my support is safe. Let's try it out! marble clattering So it looks like it wants to roll off from here, so I'm going to build a wall.
No Small Steps Episode 1 Getting to Mars
Gtgt STEPHEN The thing that makes space travel difficult is that everything we use to do it is so massive. To get to orbit, let alone to the Moon or Mars, you have to lift a lot of very heavy stuff. So how do you do that How do you escape gravity, the force that holds us to Earth. Well, let's talk. Space Shot takes off Woooo! Fast paced music That's one small step for man Traveling through space is hard. That's why NASA's Space Launch System will have to be the most powerful rocket in history.
How is SLS able to meet the challenges of exploring deep space Well, when it comes to our journey to Mars and beyond There are NO small steps. Let's talk about lowEarth orbit first, which, compared to Mars, is relatively close. The International Space Station is only 220 miles over our heads. For years, the Space Shuttle got us to lowEarth orbit. It weighed 4.4 million pounds and could carry around 54,000 pounds into orbit. That's only about 18 family sedans worth of stuff, and that's because, of that 4.4 million pounds of weight,.
3 million pounds was fuel. The Shuttle's fuel weighed more than twice the shuttle, its external tank, and solid rocket boosters combined! It's like driving a car that requires a 1,000 gallon gas tank. The Shuttle got us to low Earth orbit, But what about the Moon The Moon is 240,000 miles away, which is 1,000 times farther than the Shuttle can take us. Thankfully, we don't need 1,000 times as much fuel. The cool thing about space is that you can coast. We've just got to go fast enough to reach the Moon.
And let its gravity pull us into orbit. So you don't need 1,000 times as much fuel, but you do need more. But the more fuel you have, the heavier your vehicle has to be, and the heavier your vehicle is, the more fuel you need. Tricky, huh The Saturn V is the rocket that took us to the Moon. It could carry 260,000 pounds into orbit. That's almost five times what the Shuttle could carry, and it could carry 100,000 pounds to the Moon. However, to do that, it weighed 6.5 million pounds,.
And 6 million pounds of that was fuel. That's right to get to the Moon we had to build a vehicle that was over 90 fuel. Now, what about Mars When we go to Mars, it'll be around 50 million miles away Highspeed wind sound About 200 times further away than the Moon. The Space Shuttle won't get us there, the Saturn V won't get us there and we'd kinda like to come back. So the family sedan isn't going to get us there. We need something bigger. Maybe a van.
Or a bus or maybe the biggest rocket in the history of the world. We need SLS. The first version of SLS will get us to the Moon. The second version will be the tallest rocket in history, it'll produce the greatest thrust, and it'll get the most stuff into orbit. The second version of the SLS will have about the same fuel as a Saturn V, but where the Saturn V could only go to the moon, the SLS will go to Mars. Next time, we'll talk about how the SLS is so powerful,.
Top Poster Coaster Design Squad
Hi, it's Deysi from Design Squad. You might remember our last top builder challenge, where we challenged you to build a roller coaster from poster board and paper towel tube. We got some great poster coasters, like this one from smsscience. This coaster rolled around a stack of books like a corkscrew, and then dropped from a desk into a cup. Good job, smsscience! Oh, and here's another cool one from legofan2010, who mounted a poster coaster to a wall. Legofan2010 added plenty of jumps and drops to make it more pleasing to the eye.
Nice job! Now take a look at this awesome coaster from Tars. Tars' coaster starts high, curves down, has two tunnels, and a jump where the marble flies through the air. And here's another cool one from raisingaz5. Raisingaz5's poster coaster is made from cut poster board. It's decorated for raisingaz5's home state of New Mexico. But the poster coaster that got the most votes was drum roll please. makes drum roll with her hands on the desk Kneilson's poster coaster has two tracks that wrap around a tube of a poster board.
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