On Science – Three’s Company in Space

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 7,732
    1-16-14: On this episode of On Science, Gaia is orbiting in L2 to protect itself from the Sun’s, Earth’s and the Moon’s heat, women who lead sedentary lifestyles live shorter lives, and men who drink alcohol excessively suffer from memory loss 6 years faster than men who drink less or nothing.

    Do good things come in threes?  When it comes to new planets they do!


    Exactly what is the Gaia spacecraft orbiting?


    How can solar energy last through the night?


    And warnings for both men and women out there coming up today… On Science!


    Hello and welcome to On Science.  I’m Emerald Robinson.


    Add a “plus three” to the new planet category.  Astronomers have discovered three new planets in the star cluster known as Messier 67 using the European Southern Observatory’s HARPS instrument.  What’s particularly interesting is that two of the three are orbiting stars similar to our own sun while the other one, in fact, circles a star that is the first and only twin to our Sun found yet.  Two of the planets are considered “hot Jupiter’s” because they orbit closer to their host star. The cluster contains 500 stars and is located 2500 light years from the constellation Cancer so HARPS really had to push itself to make planet discoveries.  Astronomers say the age and composition of these stars are similar to our Sun so it makes Messier 67 a perfect laboratory for studying planet formation and “whether they form around mostly massive or less massive stars.”  What an illuminating discovery!


    ESA’s Gaia spacecraft has finally made it to orbit around nothing.  Yep, you heard me right—nothing.  Well, not necessarily nothing.  The spacecraft will be orbiting a virtual point known as L2 that provides optimal Universe viewing while be able to use its sunshield as protection from light and heat from the Sun, the Earth, and the Moon.  Keeping its instruments cool will allow for extended life in space.  L2 is known as a Lagrange point where gravitational forces between two masses, like the Earth and Sun, add up to compensate for the centrifugal force of Earth’s motion around the Sun.  And they’re great observation points!


    There’s one company here on Earth that doesn’t want any sun-shielding, rather their looking to soak it up!  The Energy Frontier Research Center at the University of North Carolina has supposedly developed a system that surpasses the pitfalls of solar energy, making a 24 hour power source.  How?  Their new system known as dye-sensitized photoelectrosynthesis cell, phew long name, creates chemical fuel by using the solar power to divide water molecules into constituent parts: hydrogen and oxygen.  The hydrogen is isolated and stored as fuel to be used later. Sounds simple, but it’s a very novel process that involves a nanoparticle drawing electrons away from water molecules to make the hydrogen fuel.  Fortunately, these scientist know how it works and they say that it has the potential to revolutionize the energy world.


    And all my ladies if you’re low energy and lazy, you better get up out of your seat.  New information from the Women’s Health Initiative Study reveals that a sedentary lifestyle can lead to major health problems.  The study of 93,000 postmenopausal American women found that those with the most waking sedentary time died earlier than the least inactive group of participants despite any other factors.  And think if you getting in that hour at the gym even though your sit around on your tukus the rest of the day you’re safe?  Think again.  Those who did habitual exercise but still had large amounts of inactivity saw no risk difference.  A woman with over 11 hours of inactivity per day had a 12% increased risk of untimely death compared to those who had four or less sedentary hours.  So to my young ladies, take heed.  Researchers suggest adopting “small changes that make a difference.”  My suggestion “get up out of your seat, and dance til you feel better!”  Dancing helps everything.


    Now here’s a word of warning to a male viewers out there.  Research shows that middle-aged men who drink more than 36 grams of alcohol, or two and a half US drinks per day, speed up their memory loss by up to six years later on.  You can thank the folks at the University College London for that information.  Participants, whose drinking habits had been assessed 3 times over 10 years, were then given a memory and executive function test at the average age of 56. The study showed that heavy drinkers showed memory and function declines between 1 and a half to six years faster than those that had fewer or nothing to drink.  So fellas, keep it in moderation for your memory—now and later.


    And that’s what’s going on today On Science. See you right back here tomorrow!