Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Happy Pi Day! Here's how Pi aids NASA, from Mars landing to planet exploration


From landing parachutes on Mars to seeing if far off exoplanets are livable, this is the way NASA involves Pi in its ordinary work.

March 14. 3/14 if you follow the American calendar. One of the few days a year when mathematicians and scientists who use it are honored is Pi day. But are you aware of how the American space agency NASA uses Pi on a daily basis?

The ratio between a circle's diameter (the length of the longest line that can pass through its center and end at its border) and its circumference (essentially, the length of its border if it were a straight line) is called pi, or.

Pi's most likely value is 3.14. Because of this, March 14 is observed as the day to honor one of the most well-known mathematical symbols. NASA has published a list of the many ways it uses the symbol in its work to show how important it is to science. Here are a few examples.

Making maps of unknown worlds Ancient explorers of the Earth, such as Christopher Columbus and others, made maps as they traveled to various nations and land masses. Similar to this, when spacecraft visit other planets, they create maps of the planet's processes, such as how water moves around the world.

Spacecraft create these maps as they orbit other planets. But they have cameras with rectangular fields of view that take pictures of the planet's surface in "bands" with them. Scientists use a formula that includes Pi to figure out how many images are needed to map an entire planet.

Scientists need Pi to search for distant planets in addition to when they reach a planet and make a map of it. Space and terrestrial powerful telescopes measure the amount of light emitted by distant stars. The telescope will observe a decrease in the amount of light emitted by a star when an exoplanet (a planet outside our solar system) passes by it.

Researchers will utilize this rate figure and the recipe for the region of a circle to determine the size of the planet that passed before the star.

After discovering new exoplanets, one of the most intriguing questions is whether those planets are capable of supporting life as we know it. They are referred to as "potentially habitable" if they can. It presumably shocks no one, however researchers use Pi to comprehend whether exoplanets are tenable.

A planet must be in a "Goldilocks zone" where it is neither too far nor too close to the star it is orbiting in order to be habitable. It needs the right amount of heat to live, but too much heat can stop it from living at all. Researchers use pi to figure out the inward and external edges of the goldilocks zone around a specific star.

After that, they use Pi and Kepler's third law to figure out how long it takes an exoplanet to complete one full orbit around a star. This will tell them where the planet is and if it is in the Goldilocks zone.

What if scientists want to land on Mars? Now that you know how scientists use Pi to learn more about other planets, what if they want to parachutist on Mars? Pi comes in handy once more here. NASA engineers use Pi to land Mars rovers and landers.

The space agency claims that no two landings on Mars are identical, but they all share one thing in common: parachutes. It is absolutely necessary for the object being dropped on the Martian surface to be slowed down by the thin atmosphere.

Engineers must take into account a wide range of factors when designing these parachutes, including the spacecraft's mass and velocity, elevation of the landing site, and atmosphere density. Pi assists them in determining the appropriate size of the parachute to generate sufficient drag to halt an object's descent.

Tracking asteroids and comets Pi can be used to study not only planets but also asteroids and comets! The task of determining, among other things, the rate of rotation of asteroids and comets falls under the purview of scientists working at NASA's Center for Near-Earth Objects.

Scientists are able to estimate how long it takes for an object to complete one complete rotation on its axis using observations made from Earth. Scientists are able to estimate the angular velocity of an asteroid or comet by using this figure and the formula with pi.

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