June 30, 2015

Griffith Observatory Report

After going to Griffith Observatory, I feel I had learned almost too many facts. The exhibits, as well as the workers who were walking around, answered most of my questions. I was able to clear up any misunderstandings I had before. Living right next to the beach, I had to get used to the tides raising and lowering. The waves would always grow much bigger during the late afternoon. I learned that this happens because of the gravitational pull from the Moon and the Sun.
The Observatory has this enormous layout of deep space on the wall of one of the rooms, called “The Big Picture.” This is the largest astronomical image ever put on display. Embedded in the picture are hundreds of thousands of stars from our own Milky Way Galaxy, along with a million other galaxies, and nearly a thousand quasars. I also learned that the photo was taken with the Samuel Oschin Telescope, by a team of astronomers from Caltech and Yale, observing the sky in the constellation Virgo. The Moon, 238,000 miles away, has craters from billions of years of impacts. The Moon’s smooth plains, like Mare Imbrium, are ancient lava flows. Also, it is believed that the Moon formed when something collided with Earth, meaning they are closely related. The Observatory also holds a piece of the biggest rock taken from the Moon, as a sample. Big Bertha is a 19.8 pound moon rock collected by the Apollo 14 mission.
Comet dust, as well as other tiny pieces from asteroids, is smaller than grains of sand. I learned that some space-dust particles begin their journey to Earth after being hit by hit by another asteroid, or shed from a comet passing near the Sun. Also, the larger space-dust particles fall through our atmosphere and flash as meteors we see in the sky. This happens plenty during meteor showers. Another thing I learned is that most space dust is vaporized before it reaches Earth’s surface. Asteroids that melt can separate into several layers, including an iron core. Also, when objects in space run into one another at high speeds, they generate an enormous amount of energy on impact... enough to heat them and break them into pieces.
When a star explodes, or even when the Sun erupts in a flare, protons and electrons are shot away as cosmic rays. These rays travel across space at really high velocities, always coming in contact with Earth. I also learned that cosmic rays are not rays, but high-energy particles from space. Also, muons and other “secondary rays” are created when cosmic rays collide with gas molecules in our upper atmosphere.