Weekly News Roundup: March 16th, 2018

Our Thanks to a Scientific Giant – written by Jessica Blackburn

Obituary: Stephen Hawking

Published March 14th, 2018


This week, science communities around the world are mourning the loss of esteemed physicist Stephen Hawking.

Image Credit: NASA

He was a titan in the science community and not only discovered

Hawking radiation but also suggested a “theory of everything.” His many contributions to his field inspired generations of young scientists around the globe, who will be living proof of his commitment to science education.


Thank you, Dr. Hawking, for everything you’ve done for the science community. You will be sorely missed.

-AGV Team





The following stories are a small collection of other news from the past week. It is not exhaustive, but instead represents some of the highlights.


Flames in…Space?

The Power of Studying Combustion on the ISS

Published March 13th, 2018


Image Credit: NASA

What happens when you burn something on a space station? It turns out, combustion still happens, but the physics of the flame is different. Instead of the flickering you see on Earth, the microgravity in orbit creates a round flame that stays in position. This is because objects on the International Space Station are weightless due to the lack of gravity. The lighter, hot air from combustion does not create an updraft, which is the effect that creates the flames we know on Earth. Instead, flames are round rather than elongated. We highly recommend checking out the video attached to the story.


Another (Bigger) Earth?

Potentially Habitable Super-Earth Found During Exoplanet Search

Published March 14th, 2018


We take liquid water for granted on Earth. It is everywhere (even here in the Sonoran Desert), and at room temperature it facilitates the chemistry that makes life as we know it possible. 

Image Credit: NASA

Beyond Earth, however, the search for liquid water is a constant thought on the minds of scientists. This is why a recently-discovered planet has piqued their interest. It is a super-Earth, about 1.6 times the diameter on our planet, and exists with an orbit that may be close enough to its star to host liquid water. Astronomers are still determining information about the star, but if their calculations are favorable, the chances of liquid water on another world become far greater.


Big Planets, Big Storms

Hubble: Weather Watcher of the Outer Solar System

Published March 14th, 2018

Image Credit: NASA/JPL

Let’s discuss the weather, shall we? Earth isn’t the only planet with weather, and while our hurricanes are bad enough they are nothing compared to the storms on the gas giants. The average diameter of a terrestrial hurricane is 300-400 miles, the Great Red Spot on Jupiter is about 30 times bigger with wind speeds gusting at more than 400 miles an hour. How do we check up on storms like these? It turns out, the Hubble space telescope helps. Every year, the telescope is directed toward the gas giants to observe the changes in their respective atmospheres. There are definite challenges that come with this process. How can someone possibly understand a weather system if you only see it once a year?



Getting to Know Steve

Published March 16th, 2018

Image Credit: U.S. Air Force

When someone says they saw bright lights in the sky, they usually follow up by saying it was aliens. But sometimes it turns out to be something both explainable and extraordinary. Steve was discovered in 2016. It was a flash of light reported to the ESA by amateur scientists who noticed a purple flash of light. Upon further investigation using the ESA’s Swarm mission, it was discovered that Steve is actually related to the Aurora Borealis. The same reaction produces the effect, but this is the first instance scientists have been shown a visual effect for the “Steve” phenomena. Steve is now named S.T.E.V.E.: Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement.