Featured image: Trajectory of the Rosetta spacecraft between October and December of 2014. Credit: ESA.
Well, my crappy internet is down, and this was a hell of a crazy week, so, while my brother is on the phone trying to figure out why we’re internetless, I guess it is a good time to write about the things that happened on the last days. Let’s start with the astronomy stuff.
It’s all over the news: we landed on a comet. And I don’t think I can say anything that hasn’t already been said about it. Fact is: ESA launched the Rosetta mission 10 years ago (after 10 previous years of planning), and on 12 of November, 2014, Rosetta (some kind of satellite) deployed the small robot Philae on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. And this is a big thing, because landing on an object 500 thousand kilometers away from Earth and traveling as fast as firearm bullet is extremely difficult, besides these measurements of position and velocity having uncertainties on them (because we can never be 100% certain). Just think about this: if we were 1% uncertain of the distance, we could have Rosetta pass by the comet up to 5 km away from it. Luckily for us, I would guess the uncertainties are not as high as 1%, and I believe Rosetta is able to make small manouvers. Anyway, I just want to acknowledge the European Space Agency, NASA and every person involved in such a feat (including the European tax payers, because they helped fund this mission). Congratulations!
Also, still on the astronomy notes: New Horizons is waking up next month. This satellite is on its long and cold way to the dwarf planet Pluto, and it will study this [Kuiper belt] object in a level of detail that has never been done before. Just like Rosetta, the spacecraft is, right now, in some kind of sleep mode (I guess just like our computers) in order to save precious power, and will be awaken in order to be ready to probe Pluto and its moons in 2015. Unfortunately, this is not going to be a long-lasting orbiting mission like Cassini on Saturn, because it will quickly escape Pluto system’s gravity and go ever so distant from us. Luckily, the scientists found a good second target to study after New Horizons leaves Pluto, and it’s another Kuiper belt object, but an even more remote one. Again: congratulations to the teams working on NH, it’s another step towards knowing more about our own unexplored cosmic backyard.
Now, moving on to something more on the personal side. During October, I was a bit silent here on the blog. But the truth is that I had two blog posts completely written and revised, ready for publishing, and another text half written. However, I decided not publish them. During October, we had elections here in Brazil, and that is the subject of the two posts I wrote. The reason why I did not publish them is because they were too personal. While this is my personal website, I feel like I should keep the content as free as possible from non-astronomy-and-science related cluttering. Even though politics heavily influence the scientific community, I believe that, on expressing myself publicly, I should just nudge my way through the political stream. This means that I will not openly state my votes (because they’re too personal, and secret by the way), but I might make things clear on subjects that directly affect my interests.
On the same line, let me point out something that made me quite happy: this TED talk. Michael Green, along with other business and foundations leaders, have come up with this new (and seemingly better) way to measure the social welfare of a country, the Social Progress Index. It is based on a series of objective analysis (see their methodology) that branch into many more aspects of social and economic qualities than other indexes, such as the GDP (only income) and HDI (income, life expectancy and education). The cool thing is that, as the study points out, Brazil has come a long way in the last years into becoming the developing country with the highest SPI, which means that, in general, Brazilians have been living in a better social environment than countries like Russia, China and India. Of course, we are not in the same level as USA, New Zealand or Finland, but the path seems promising. In fact, Brazil is seen, among the international community, as an example of effective social policies that aim to fix many urging issues, such as extreme poverty and famine. All this, alongside many other improvements to basic and advanced education are reasons for me to be proud of being part of this amazing country. On the other hand, there are certain aspects that can potentially bother and shame me, such as the Chamber of Deputies delaying the Brazil/ESO ratification on a weekly basis.
And, for the last item, the one that made my week very crazy, is an idea that I have been cooking on my mind ever since I got into studying astronomy, but ended up happening a little bit sooner than I thought: I will get my Master’s degree at the University of São Paulo (USP). After coming back from Netherlands, I and my peers had some conversations that ended up pushing me over the edge, and I decided to make the application for the Master’s before I finish my Physics graduation. The thing is that I am already almost done with it anyway, and since I already have a diploma (on engineering), I might as well just try and make things more efficient for me. Besides, I am completely fed up of traditional college classes. So, last month, I did the admission exam for USP, and the past week, results came in: I passed! There are two next steps: passing on the curriculum analysis, and then getting a scholarship (which will probably be the hardest part). But I’m pumped up. It’s not 100% guaranteed that I will end up starting my Master’s at USP next semester, but I’m fighting for it. I spent the last days filling forms and getting some documents (among them the letters of recommendation – thanks to my supervisors for arranging them) ready in order to make the application, and also just talking to people about the things that need to be addressed (such as choosing a research supervisor and a project). The next results will be out around December 1st, so I will probably write about it as soon as they’re out.
And that was it. Yeah, maybe it doesn’t sound like crazy and exciting week. But it was for me. Also, I got my hands on a little item that will let me take a few steps further into photography, and I might post a review in the coming days. Stay tuned!