What do Astrophysicists do?

From left - Bill Nye (American Television Personality), Barack Obama (44th US President) and Neil deGrasse Tyson (American Astrophysicist and Science communicator)

In a broad spectrum, Astrophysicists are people who create physical theories about the bodies that are in space. Astrophysics, compared to astronomy, is much younger and embryonic. Astronomy (which studies the positions, luminosities, movements and other characteristics of celestial bodies), was born with the first sedentary human tribes, while Astrophysics was born with Isaac Newton.

Newton assumed that a single theory was sufficient to describe the movement of planets and moons, effectively summarizing the conclusions that ancient astronomers had described long ago.

Currently, astrophysicists are dedicated to understanding the theories already proposed, to innovate our knowledge in the physics of the celestial bodies. They constantly study concepts such as space-time, magnetic fields, relativity, among many other theoretical concepts.

The European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japanese Agency (JAXA) sent the BepiColombo mission last October to try to understand, among other things, the origin and evolution of Mercury as a planet. The mission consists of two satellites; MPO and MMO. The agencies estimated that the orbit around Mercury will be 400 x 1500 kilometers (with a period of 2.3 hours) for the MPO, and 400 x 12,000 kilometers (with a period of 9.2 hours) for the MMO. Those responsible to determine the aforementioned data for the mission were astrophysicists.

ESA and JAXA's BepiColombo MMO satellite | Credits - bit.ly/2HiR0nD

On February 19, 2019; we discovered that the oldest and coldest known white dwarf could be the first white dwarf with multiple dust rings. According to John Debes, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute (Baltimore), the discovery is very intriguing because until now dust disks and rings had only been observed surrounding white dwarfs about one-third J0207's age. The discovery forces researchers to reconsider models of planetary systems and could help us learn about the distant future of our solar system.

J0207 was found through Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, a project led by Marc Kuchner, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Probably, without Kuchner’s passion and persistence for finding new horizons in the space, we could not have been able to hypothesize the presence of rings in J0207. Precisely, psychological features like “passion” and “persistence” are features that astrophysicists must keep in mind for dealing with their daily work.

'Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet' - Stephen Hawking.

Written by: Andres Felipe Pinzon Pulecio

Andres Felipe Pinzon Pulecio is volunteering for Voyager Space Outreach to write blog posts on Space/STEM oriented topics.

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