#AstroMiniBR: What would it be like if we saw the sky in radio waves?

Every week, the TecMundo and the #AstroMiniBR bring together five relevant and fun astronomical curiosities produced by the collaborators of the profile on twitter to spread the knowledge of this science that is the oldest of all!

#1: Mapping the Solar System

The last week started on a high for astronomers: last Monday (13), the European Space Agency (ESA) made public the new data catalog of the Gaia telescope, launched into space in 2013. Developed for astrometry, the Gaia telescope measures the positions, distances, spatial motions and many physical characteristics of countless bodies in our Solar System and the Milky Way.

The telescope can provide three-dimensional distributions and the spatial movements of asteroids and stars with gigantic precision, down to just a few millionths of an arcsecond. This week’s data release, the Gaia Data Release 3 (DR3) has an impressive catalog of 158,152 Solar System objects, containing the information and orbits not only of asteroids, but also of 31 moons of planets in our Solar System. These data will make it possible to improve the estimation of the movement of these celestial bodies, even taking into account the subtle effects caused by the presence of satellites or small non-gravitational forces.

The asteroid catalog of the last data release (DR2) had only about 14,000 objects, while DR3 significantly expands that number to more than 150,000.

#2: And speaking of the Gaia telescope…

Gaia’s astrometry doesn’t just live on asteroids! On the contrary, most of the space telescope’s scientific activity consists of mapping our galaxy, the Milky Way, for the first time with a 3D distribution.

With the initial aim of measuring with high precision the distance of about 100 million stars, the extent of scientific results that have been achieved with the Gaia data is unprecedented in astronomy. With its high technological sophistication, Gaia was also able to obtain spectroscopic information from more than 5 million stars, making it possible to determine their chemical composition. In addition, the results will make it possible to obtain detailed information about stellar evolution and the formation of “neighboring” stars and about the origin and history of the formation of our own galaxy.

With these data it will also be possible to identify the remnants of accretion by the effects of tidal interactions and detect and categorize the fastest stages of stellar life, placing restrictions by age, characteristics of internal structure and by evolutionary moment.

#3: What would it be like to look at the night sky if we saw radio waves?

Although the human eye is able to discern, on average, between seven and ten million different color frequency values, our eyes are actually sensitive to only a small part of the entire electromagnetic spectrum, corresponding to wavelengths in the range of 400 to 700 nanometers: what we call visible light.

Above and below these bands are different segments of the spectrum that are invisible to us, varying in wavelength and frequency. Astronomers observe the Universe at all wavelengths because many objects and phenomena can only be detected in bands other than visible light. If our eyes were able to see, for example, radio waves in the same way that we see visible light waves, the world and the Universe would be seen very differently!

The colors would disappear and we would only see the distinct bands for high and low frequencies. At night, in the sky, instead of seeing point stars, we would see distant pulsars, star-forming regions and supernova remnants would dominate the nighttime darkness.

Our eyes could also detect quasars: a radio-emitting celestial object that resembled stars in past observations in certain physical ways. Quasars are very energetic, with some emitting up to around 1,000 times more energy than the entire Milky Way!

#4: How far did a human go into space?

That’s not a difficult question, especially for those excited about space exploration. The human beings who moved the furthest from Earth were the astronauts of NASA’s Apollo missions, which took place between the late 60’s and early 70’s. Among these, the record for the longest distance from Earth was broken in April 1970, when the Apollo 13 mission crew circled the far side of the moon at an altitude of 254 kilometers, putting them 400,171 kilometers away from Earth. It’s the furthest our species has ever been from our planet, and it’s a record that has stood for over 50 years.

#5: Keep an eye on the sky!

In the autumn period, which ends on the 21st, one of the most easily identifiable constellations in the sky is the constellation of Leo. This is one of 48 constellations first identified by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy in the 2nd century and borders the constellations Cancer, Coma Berenices, Crater, Hydra, Leo Minor, Lynx, Sextans, Ursa Major and Virgo. Leo is also one of the thirteen constellations of the zodiac.

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