#AstroMiniBR: what is the ‘dark side’ of the moon like?

every saturday, the TechWorld and #AstroMiniBR bring together five relevant and fun astronomical curiosities produced by collaborators of the non-Twitter profile to spread the knowledge of this science which is the oldest of all!

This week, we’re going to look at the dark side of the Moon and new photos of the Solar System’s biggest asteroids!

#1: What is the hidden side of the Moon like?

We’re not talking about one of the most iconic albums in rock history, the famous The Dark Side of the Moon from Pink Floyd, but from the real “dark side” of the Moon which, to the dismay of some, is not as dark as you think. It would be more accurate to call it the hidden side or far side of the Moon, as no one has ever seen it from Earth in the night sky. For that reason, the images above may not look familiar. Attached to a phenomenon called synchronous rotation, the Moon always presents the same side of its surface to the Earth, since its rotation time is equal to its orbital period. In other words, the time the Moon rotates around its own axis is equal to the time it takes to rotate around the Earth.

By placing probes and space vehicles in lunar orbit, however, humanity became able to know in detail this opposite side, which is also illuminated by the sun’s rays. This surface also has numerous impact craters and a ground that is possibly thicker than the common side.

#2: The Solar System’s Largest Asteroids!

This month, unpublished high definition photographs of the 42 largest asteroids discovered in the Solar System were released! Using data from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) VLT telescope, located in Chile, a group of astronomers obtained extremely high quality images of the largest objects present in the so-called asteroid belt, which is located in an orbit more external than Earth’s, between the planets Mars and Jupiter. Until then, only the biggest and most massive asteroids had been photographed in detail. The two largest of them, Ceres and Vesta, with 940 and 520 kilometers in diameter, respectively, are also known as Pluto’s companions in the category of dwarf planets. The images will allow scientists to discover more about the physical properties of these asteroids and better understand their origin and dynamics.

#3: How rare is a cosmic event in the Universe?

How big is the Universe? Everything we can see, however far away, is part of the so-called observable universe, which has a diameter of approximately 93 billion light years. Estimates indicate that in this region there may be from 100 billion to 2 trillion galaxies, each with hundreds of billions of stars. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, has about 100 billion to 400 billion stars. Because these astronomical quantities are so huge, even rare phenomena, such as a supernova explosion or a galaxy collision, occur all the time somewhere. Whereas in our galaxy a star explodes every 50 years, on average, considering the universe as a whole, such an event occurs at least once every second!

#4: The mighty hydrogen clouds of galaxy M33!

About 2.7 million light-years away from us, the Milky Way’s cosmic neighbor, galaxy M33 is a spiral galaxy known also by the popular name of the Triangle Galaxy. A member of the so-called local group of galaxies, M33 has a diameter of about 40,000 light years. Its innermost region comprises about 30,000 light years away and presented with emphasis in the image above. In it, large clouds of reddish colored ionized hydrogen atoms (caused by intense ultraviolet radiation), known as HII regions, are visible. These regions represent some of the largest stellar nurseries known to date, characterized by forming stars that will be short-lived, but which in turn will be extremely massive. In the image, these stellar nurseries spread out at various points along the spiral arms around the core of M33.

#5: Captain Kirk has gone into space!

Last Wednesday (13), the Blue Origin space company carried out its second manned flight aboard the New Shepard capsule. The NS-18 mission was the second time that the company has taken human beings beyond the so-called Kármán line that conventionally limits the space and is located at an altitude of 100 km. The mission featured a distinguished crew member: 90-year-old Canadian actor William Shatner, famous for playing Captain Kirk in the classic Star Trek television series, who became the oldest person in history to go into space. Beside him were three more crew members who experienced a few minutes of the apparent feeling of weightlessness and a privileged view of our planet. Similar to Jeff Bezos’ previous mission, NS-18 took off from a base in Texas, USA, flew for about 10 minutes, and returned safely to the Earth’s surface.

Leave a Comment