Mesa provides planetary exploration update

Lara Catalano, Staff Writer

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Mesa College’s Fall 2016 STEM Lecture Series continued on Oct. 6, with a “Planetary Exploration Update”, presented by Dave Coleman and Irena Stojimirovic. The STEM series are events held by the school of mathematics and natural sciences that take place at Mesa College. These series of lectures are open to the public, giving everyone a chance to dive into science and learn a bit more on specific subjects. This particular talk gravitated toward our solar system and current updates within it.

Stojimirvic was the first speaker, and captured the audience’s attention by discussing Juno, the device that has just recently entered the orbit of Jupiter. The device will attempt to make history with its goal of mapping the magnetic field of the Jupiter and discovering other unanswered questions of the planet. Juno’s current success was seen as exciting news in the scientific community because there has been no other spacecraft to date that has reached a location so close to Jupiter. In fact, there has not been any mission thus far that will be able to solve as many of the mysteries of Jupiter as Juno will potentially answer. The news of Juno entering Jupiter’s orbit is thrilling scientists from all around the world.

An additional update to current planetary exploration, as taught by Stojimirvic, is a possible planet nine. This potential addition to the solar system has been discovered through mathematics. Theoretical models have been composed to predict the location and existence of this planet, a method that has been previously used to find other plants of our solar system, such as Neptune. Though it is not an official planet yet, there is a possibility our solar system will be home to nine planets once again.

Coleman, the second professor to present, provided the crowd with an update on a trip that has been taken to pluto- the former ninth planet. The craft arrived at pluto in July 2015, and only had one day to take photographs, before eventually passing through its orbit completely because of the machine’s great speed. These photos are slowly but surely being sent back to Earth.

Coleman presented some of the photos on a projector, and talked about the results of the images. One discovery made was that Pluto appears to have a very thin atmosphere that is composed of mostly nitrogen. He further explained that there have been some pictures that show a possibility of minimal clouds on the former-planet. The photos captivated the crowd, as spectators got to see pluto from a closer perspective. Overall, the new information on Pluto seemed to suggest that it is a very cold, icy planet that probably has a rocky center.

Both presenters were very enthusiastic about their topics and made their lectures exciting for the audience to hear. Their passion for astronomy was obvious, and made for a very thought provoking and enhancing learning experience. The rest of the STEM lecture series will continue throughout the Fall Semester with more intellectually stimulating topics to do with mathematics and natural sciences.

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