Spot The Station

The International Space Station is the third brightest object in the sky. Moving at 8 km/second,  ISS completes one orbit every 92 minutes. How fast is 8 km/second? Fire a rifle bullet at one end of a football field, ISS would be gone before that bullet reached 30 meters. Quick as ISS is, it can be seen much like a fast moving airplane, provided we know when to look up.

NASA takes all the guess work out of ISS identification with their Spot the Station app. Click on the link below, enter your location and view time, direction, angle and duration of ISS sightings for the next week. True or aspiring space geeks can sign up for text or email alerts. I have no prizes, just kudos and admiration for those who “spot the station” with their very own eyes.

Dark Matter Ting

On April 3 the scientific community stood up and took notice of a rather astounding bit of news released by MIT Nobel Laureate Samuel Ting. The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), aboard the International Space Station (ISS) has detected over 400,000 positrons since 2011.

Far from being a scientist, I`ll try my best to explain why Ting is starching his shirt.

A positron is to antimatter what electrons are to matter. The AMS is designed to analyse `cosmic ray events`; a task it has completed 25 billion times in the last 18 months. Cosmic rays consist of sub-atomic particles, blasted into hyper speed by super novas and other violent cosmic happenings. Science has known for a few years that these rays contain the odd splattering of antimatter. Since the universe has very little antimatter, the question became – where were all the positrons coming from.

The conclusion points to the elusive ghost known as dark matter. Dark matter has gravity but produces no light, we know it makes up 70% of our universe. Beyond that science becomes fiction. The best theory we have is that dark matter consists of neutralino particles; collisions of these particles are creating the positrons.

A cautiously optimistic Ting expects to rule out pulsars as the only other possible source within the next year.

AMS (splash)

A new ScienceCast video explores the possibility that signs of dark matter have been detected onboard the International Space Station. Play it