August 21, 2013
After 36 Years, Voyager 2 Still Moving Through Space – The Daily Orbit
Voyager 2 voyages on.
Are scientists hallucinating about the effects of hallucinogens?
Google’s getting “loony.”
And lightning strikes on the Daily Orbit!
Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit. I’m Emerald Robinson.
Not to be confused with its slightly younger sibling Voyager 1, Voyager 2 is also approaching the interstellar border. Voyager 2 was launched 36 years ago, about two weeks before Voyager 1, and was the first spacecraft to fly by Jupiter back in 1979 and then Saturn two years later. And it made history in 1986 by becoming the first spacecraft to visit Uranus, then again in 1989 by visiting Neptune. Talk about a voyage, these sister spacecraft were very appropriately named. Two is still the only spacecraft to ever have visited Uranus and Neptune to this day. We look forward to more discoveries and adventures. Godspeed Voyager 2!
And a few Earthlings using psychedelic drugs may seem like they’re in interstellar space…or just plain crazy! But a new study out of Norway looking at a large randomized group of people says that LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs don’t increase your risk of mental illness, and in some cases they saw a decrease in mental health issues. So I guess all you kids from the 60s are gonna be ok after all. However, they did emphasize that this was a generalized study, and doesn’t rule out negative effects on individuals. Obviously, they’ve never walked down Hollywood Blvd.
And how appropriate to move on to the latest Google X Project, “Loon.” Though it may seem like we’re still talking about psychedelic drug use, Project Loon’s goal is to provide 21st century high-speed broadband to remote areas using balloons. The project involves a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space. They’ll float twice as high as airplanes and the weather and people well get connected via special Internet antennas attached to buildings. Tests of the Internet balloon service have already been conducted in California and New Zealand. But the program is not without its opponents, most notable Bill Gates, who argues that poor regions of the world need healthcare and food more than internet connectivity. But Google is moving forward and currently looking volunteers to try out Loon. Anyone out there want to get “loony?”
Looks like our 2014 stellar visitor is going to arrive a little early. Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko will begin emitting gas and dust earlier than expected, and we should see it from Earth by March 2014. Comets spend most of their life as lumps of ice and rock, but as they approach our neck of the woods, heat from the sun starts to melt the ice and that’s when the fireworks start so to speak. ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft will place a lander on the comet’s surface to accompany it on its journey towards the sun to learn more about unanswered questions concerning comets.
Fly by? Wait, the comet isn’t supposed to be here until March! What was that? Ball lightning. And if you aren’t familiar with this phenomenon it consists of a floating, glowing ball that drifts eerily through the sky and then explodes violently. It can be dangerous too—sometimes injuring people and damaging buildings. This phenomenon has puzzled scientists for thousands of years, from Aristotle to Nikola Tesla. Now, scientists at the US Air Force Academy have successfully recreated ball lightning in a lab to understand more about this fireball. Fun fact: some people believe that ball lightning may behind many reported UFO sightings. We’ll let you be the judge!
And that’s all for your Daily Orbit.