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Exploring the Universe with Lasers

Could lasers be the key to faster smartphone data rates and communication to space ships and satellites?  

Current wireless data connections we use (namely wifi, Bluetooth, 4G, and 5G) utilize radio-frequency electromagnetic waves. Researchers from Western Australia University have been working on a laser signal sent from satellites, without any atmospheric disturbance, producing a data transfer rate of up to 100 times the speed of traditional radio waves.   

Normally, slight changes in air pressure and temperature change the path of light-based signals. However the team was able to circumvent this issue using a technique called “phase stabilization,” and were able to produce the steadiest beam in history.   

If we’re able to perfect this technology, speeds at which we would be able to download video would improve exponentially, leading to better communication with regards to smartphones, driverless cars, and even space travel. Laser-based connection would come along with greater security, improving communication for the armed forces as well.   

Needless to say, SpaceX, Facebook, and Europe’s Space Agency (ESA) have big plans for this technology from Down Under.   

As our cosmic footprint expands, lasers could shine a light on our most provocative discoveries. One story in particular we’ve been following, involves our other sister planet, Venus.  

Phosphine or no Phosphine? That is the question. Professor Jane Greaves of Cardiff University announced the discovery, indicating a possibility of life, living in the upper atmosphere  

Greave’s team based their discovery on observations from two earth-based radio telescopes, however - a University of Washington  

Has now reinterpreted their observations with a robust Venetian atmospheric model to authenticate the initial Phosphine claim. Based on their study published in the Astrophysical Journal, the UK team wasn’t detecting phosphine at all.   

According to Victoria Meadows, a UW professor of astronomy and co-author of the paper, “Instead of phosphine in the clouds of Venus, the data is consistent with an alternative hypothesis: They were detecting sulfur dioxide.”   

Most astronomical studies see conflicting reports at the onset. We’ll have updates as this story develops.   

Farther from the Sun, NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn is still generating valuable data more than 3 years after its mission ended.   

Back in 2014, a flyby of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, revealed a massive lake on the surface called Kraken Mare. Data from this flyby suggested Kraken Mare was at least a 1000 feet deep, roughly the equivalent height of the Eiffel tower. If Kraken Mare was a lake on Earth, it would be larger than all of the US Great Lakes combined.   

Although Titan’s chemistry is toxic compared to Earth’s, it’s the only known body in space other than Earth where we’ve found clear evidence of stable bodies of water.   

I don’t know about you, but I’d love to hear more about this enormous lake on Titan. And as the famous astronaut Davy Jones once said, “Research the Kraken.” … that doesn’t sound right...   

More on these stories to come. Subscribe to our Flight crew newsletter for the latest updates.

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