Science Saturday: Venus Transit + Track Scotty + Earhart Mystery + Galactic Collision + More

This week on Science Saturday, witness a rare transit of Venus this Tuesday, track Scotty’s ashes in space, help unravel the Amelia Earhart mystery, prepare for a galactic collision, and more! All this, plus our video of the week: Didgeridoos in Space!


Rare Transit of Venus This Tuesday, June 5th
A transit of the planet Venus across the disk of our sun is a rare and historical event, and this June 5th will be the last change to see one until the year 2117. Stargazers all across the globe will gather to witness one of the rarest astronomical events, which is only safe to view with the use of special filters — #14 welder’s glass works well –, a full-aperture solar filter attached to a telescope or binoculars, or through the use of a pinhole camera. The transit will be visible from many places around the world (click here for a viewing map), but don’t worry if you aren’t in a good spot to watch the entire thing — NASA will be broadcasting the whole thing live on their website.

Lots more info and FAQ available at

Track James Doohan’s Ashes in Earth Orbit
Last week, history was made with the launch of the first ever commercial vehicle to take orbit and dock with the ISS. Aboard it was the Dragon capsule, which went on to perform a successful docking maneuver with the ISS and recently splashed down back here on Earth, and the Celestis 11 vehicle, inside of which are the ashes of James “Scotty” Doohan.

The recovered Dragon capsule after splashdown

Celestis 11 is still in orbit around Earth, and you can track it – LIVE – thanks to the N2YO satellite tracking website. God speed, Mr. Scott. We know you’re up there given the Celestis 11 all ya got.

Click for the LIVE tracking website

Can a Cosmetics Jar Help Unravel Amelia Earhart Mystery?
New evidence might shed light on what exactly happened to Amelia Earhart after her mysterious disappearance during her historic 1937 flight around the world. A small glass jar, believed to be a jar of anti-freckle cream, plus some new analyses of previously dismissed radio signals, might indicate Earhart’s final resting place — a remote, uninhabited island in the southwestern Pacific. “It’s well documented Amelia had freckles and disliked having them,” says Joe Cerniglia, a researcher on the project. The jar, among other artifacts found around what appear to be an old campfire, indicate that someone was probably a cast away here. Reports from 1940 say that two skeletons – a male and a female – were also found at the site, but those have since been lost. ‭According to Ric Gillespie, executive director of the group that made the discovery, “the ‬bottles and other artifacts we have found at the Seven Site tell a fascinating,‭ ‬but still incomplete,‭ ‬story of ingenuity,‭ ‬survival,‭ ‬and,‭ ‬ultimately,‭ ‬tragedy. Whether it is Amelia Earhart’s story remains to be seen.”

Read more at Discovery News.

Could this anti-freckle cream jar be Amelia Earhart’s?

Hold Onto Your Butts — Andromeda Galaxy to Collide with Milky Way
Astronomers announced that they can now predict with certainty the next major cosmic event to affect our galaxy: the collision of our Milky Way with the nearby Andromeda Galaxy. Calculations say that, in about 4 billion years, the two galaxies will collide head on, but that the stars within the galaxies are so far apart that they will not collide with stars of the other galaxy. However, they won’t be entirely unaffected. Stars will be thrown into different orbits around a new, merged galactic center. Simulations say that our solar system will be flung out much farther from the galactic center than it is today.

Read more at Science at NASA.

A series of illustrations showing the view of the galactic collision from a vantage point here on Earth. The first frame is present day; the last is 7 billion years from now.

Video of the Week: Didgeridoos in Space!

Science Bytes
Not enough science for you? Here’s a warp-speed look at some more science tid-bits that are worth a peek.


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Wait. I thought Janeway established that Earhart had been abducted by aliens.

We all know Amelia Earthart was abducted by aliens and brought to the Delta Quadrant.

“Hold Onto Your Butts” – Does it have to be my own butt?
4 billion years. I’ll mark my calendar to panic then.

In space, no one can hear you blow. (tg) Cool, but really… is that what we’re doing on the ISS? I seriously think it’s time to come up with a mission.

Thanks, Kayla.

Terrific articles! Keep up great work, Kayla! :)

They’d know for sure, using DNA, if somebody could remember where the bodies were buried. Presumably the source of such reports, would have done that at least? Taken any jewellery, engraved or otherwise, that could identify who they were? A bit mysterious that skeletons are described as male and female, but nobody thought to investigate any further than that.

In criticizing the ISS, I mean that I don’t think NASA has done a good job for decades in informing the American and World public of the practical uses of space exploration. There may be experiments going on that don’t get much press. But, I think we need to do more up there than just keep that oversized Erector Set spinning. Please join me in naming things you’d like to see happen on the ISS. I’ll throw out these:

Develop/test an emergency re-entry system. Could they actually build a glider aboard ISS that could hold 2 people? Would a real orbital skydive work? That would be VERY useful if a future “Columbia” disaster crops up.

Energy generation. Even on a small scale for now, could we see whether they could build a generator in space and beam back a reasonbly useful percentage of its output to a land station on Earth? Has this been done? If I missed that headline, let me know.

Pharmaceuticals, metalurgy, more… We’ve been up there for over a decade, spending 59 billion dollars. I know we’ve done some things… but, I don’t get much of a sense of WHAT? I sorta get the argument that we have to take baby steps, and just being up there is practice. But, really. I want a new “Tang” or Velcro or Teflon or something tangible. What has the ISS done that no other project could do?

@3 CmdrR …LOL-CAON (coffee almost out nose)

maj keep up the good work


I agree. It would be great to see NASA do more in the publicity department, but with their meager budget I guess they have to spend every red cent on space hardware, fuel and the like.

But really, we see commercials for every branch of the military. It would be nice to see NASA recruitment spots on TV some day. Or big sponsorships: “This timeout brought to you by the folks at NASA. And be sure to stay tuned for the SpaceX halftime show later in the game.”

Hey, a guy can dream.

The Andromeda/Milky Way ‘collision’ is hardly news; it’s been known for a long time, really. Hardly anything to freak over. And “collide” is really the wrong word to describe what will happen in 4 billion years when Andromeda and the Milky way intersect. It’ll more like a gradual merger than a collision. Stars won’t actually impact stars; their outer boundaries will ‘rub together’ at most.

I’m more interested in what the night sky will look like after the merger….

And the Dragon capsule is about the coolest idea in space innovation since Bert Ruttan’s Spaceship One won the X-Prize in 2004. Better in fact, as the Dragon can reach orbit! Very cool.

Can’t wait until it’s rated and safe for manned flights someday….. ;-)

# 9

“I’m more interested in what the night sky will look like after the merger….”

Editing my own postt!

In four billion years, our earthly night sky will be a mess as the then-giant sun will have eaten most of the inner solar system.
Maybe I should’ve said, ‘the night sky of Pluto’…. ;-D

Go Dragon! SpaceX really has their act together.
Take politics out of the mix and you get progress!

I hope they cleaned off the end of the hose before they did that!

(Also, these guys wouldn’t happen to have worked at Aperture Labs previously, would they?)

An island in the SW Pacific? That’s not canon! JJ must be behind this. ;)

Interesting video. The intended audience is obviously kids.

Obviously, after Amelia and Fred lived their lives in the Delta Quadrant, Dulmer, Lucsly, and agents Captain Braxton and Commander Seven returned their bodies in time to Earth… Yep. I’m sure they’ll write a novel where exactly that happens.

I hope when the ISS is ready to be scraped they instead find a way to strap some rockets and supplies on it, add a crew, and send it out on a mission to the moon or Mars instead, it has far more potential than just ending up on the bottom of the ocean!

That photograph of the recovered Dragon capsule really illustrates the power and danger of re-entry to earth from space. It’s amazing the capsule survives such forces. It takes a huge amount of courage to travel in that.

Earth is only expected to be able sustain life for another 800 million years when the oceans are supposed boil off, so no one should be around on Earth 7 billion years from now, if of course the planet hasn’t also been consumed by the sun’s expansion into a Red Giant by then.

15. Yay. Canon is restored. Talk about writing your way out of a tight spot.

You mean I can’t just stare into the sun and look for Venus?

I like freckles.

20 go ahead and stare, what could go wrong!?

“God speed, Mr. Scott. We know you’re up there given the Celestis 11 all ya got.”

Well put, Kayla!

Colliding galaxies. Oh no we’re all going to die.


In order to run such a power generation experiment, the ISS would need to be in a geo-synchronous orbit, to stay in sync with any sort of ground station. Unfortunately, the ISS orbits the earth 12 or 13 times daily, I think.

When galaxies collide.

“It’s killing Independent George!”




I, for one, welcome our future Kelvan overlords.

The stuff about Earhart is fascinating. But is there any way to confirm her presence? Too bad about the lost bones, perhaps they could be the clue with today’s DNA analysis.



Some opportunistic scavengers probably made off with the remains.

So, instead of Earhart getting abducted by the Briori and brought to the Delta Quadrant, the LOST Island got her :S


No, they landed on Fantasy Island and were killed by Khan! :-)

So if Andromeda is coming to us, then why did the Kelvans bother traveling to our galaxy?

Thanks again for the fun sciencey goodness Kayla

35… Those darned impatient Kelvans, they couldn’t even wait a measly 4 billion years…

30. The only thing that will really prove TIGHAR’s theory about Earhart would be finding something on the island that unequivocally belonged to her or Noonan, or finding the wreck of her Electra somewhere at the bottom of the sea just offshore. Both will be needle-in-a-haystack affairs. I personally think they’re correct, but I also think they’ll never prove it.

I don’t think Earhart’s plane will ever be found. It took 73 years to find the Titanic which in of itself was an incredibly difficult find. A tiny plane would be that much harder to find, assuming it didn’t fall victim to the elements and get eaten up by rust and bacteria, or covered by corals.

Earhart and Noonan obviously didn’t live long after the crash. They probably starved to death, or died from any serious wounds they may have suffered.

If Gus Grissom’s sunken Mercury space capsule could be located and recovered after 35 years, it’s not impossible to find Emilia’s plane.

I meant Ameila’s plane…