Monthly Archives: April 2018

Happy Earth Day!

Today is Earth Day! We spend this day celebrating Earth, raising awareness of things threatening the planet, and learning how to fix those problems! This year’s theme is plastic pollution and the threat it poses to humans and other life.

Plastics can be very useful, but the huge amount that is discarded incorrectly and dangerously is a serious issue. In one year alone, the state of New York uses enough plastic bags that, if they were tied together, they could reach the moon and back – 18 times! Worldwide, about 1 trillion bags are used and disposed of every year. And that’s not including other plastic items like drinking straws, plastic bottles, and single-use plastic containers.

earth day 18Much of what we use is not disposed of correctly! Each year, about 8 trillion tons of plastic waste ends up in our oceans. The waste congregates together, forming enormous “islands” of floating plastic where fish and other sea life cannot live. There are currently 5 of these huge clumps around the world – the largest of these is the size of Texas! If the current trend of littering continues, there will be more plastic by weight in the ocean than fish by the year 2050.

All this means, however, is that we have a long way to go to fixing this problem. And you can help out, too! Here are some steps that you can follow to start:

  • earth dayReduce! Minimize your use of plastics, because recycling is far from perfect, and many recycled plastics will end up in landfills anyways.
  • Refuse! Similar to reduce, but making a more conscious effort to reject using plastic products, such as not taking a straw at a restaurant.
  • Reuse! If you do use plastic products, be sure to avoid single-use items and instead choose something that you can continue to utilize over a longer period of time; or better yet, get yourself reusable, non-plastic items.
  • Recycle! When you do end up using and needing to dispose of plastic products, recycle them! But be smart about it. Only recycle products that you know are recyclable. Educate yourself on local recycling management procedures and what kinds of material they take.
  • Remove! Help to clean up the plastic that is already littering our planet! Helping can be anything from picking up trash yourself to supporting organizations that are tackling the problem at a larger level.

All in all, there is a lot to do, but education is the first step to solving these issues. Tell a friend or a family member what they can do to help! Let’s work together to make the world a better place.

If you want to learn even more about what to do or how to help, here’s the link to the official Earth Day 2018 website: https://www.earthday.org/

Written by Scott Yarbrough

Supernovas!

Believe it or not, supernovas have been known to humans for thousands of years. That’s not to say that ancient civilizations knew exactly what was happening when they saw them, but they were witnesses to some of the most powerful events in our universe. When certain stars reach the end of their lifetime, they explode in a spectacular way. These stars are most commonly very large, anywhere from a few times as massive as our sun to a few hundred times as large. These supernovas emit an incredible amount of light, the brightest of which can be billions of times more luminous than our sun.Supernovas

However, these explosions occur fairly rarely. Scientists believe that only a handful happen in the Milky Way every thousand years. But when they do, they are bright enough to be seen from Earth. In the year 1054, Chinese astronomers observed a new star near the constellation of Taurus. It quickly grew, until it appeared even brighter than the planets in our solar system. This visitor star lasted for about two years, eventually dimming until it could no longer be seen.

Supernovas 1In the 1700s, astronomer John Bevis discovered the Crab Nebula in the Taurus constellation, and it was later recorded by Charles Messier as the first object in his 110-object catalogue. Two hundred years later in 1928, another astronomer named Edwin Hubble connected the records of the Chinese astronomers and the object known as the Crab Nebula to be the same thing, separated by almost a thousand years. His theory was that the nebula was the remnants of a supernova, which was the source of the visitor star.

This turned out to be correct, and later it was determined that at the center of the nebula was a pulsar – a very quickly spinning neutron star left over by the explosion. This revelation led to the discovery of dozens of other supernova remnants. Over the past few decades, research into supernovas has greatly expanded our knowledge of astronomy and stellar evolution. We haven’t seen a supernova in our galaxy for a long time, and we’re due one in the near future. Astronomers have identified several stellar candidates that may explode sometime soon – and when one of them does, we’ll get to experience another visitor star for the first time in hundreds of years.

Written by Scott Yarbrough

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We would like to thank you for visiting our blog. AstroCamp is a hands-on physical science program with an emphasis on astronomy and space exploration. Our classes and activities are designed to inspire students toward future success in their academic and personal pursuits. This blog is intended to provide you with up-to-date news and information about our camp programs, as well as current science and astronomical happenings. This blog has been created by our staff who have at least a Bachelors Degree in Physics or Astronomy, however it is not uncommon for them to have a Masters Degree or PhD. We encourage you to also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter, and Vine to see even more of our interesting science, space and astronomy information. Feel free to leave comments, questions, or share our blog with others. Please visit www.astrocampschool.org for additional information. Happy Reading!

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