Archive for the ‘Astronomy’ Category

The distance from the Oort cloud to the interior of the Solar System, and two of the nearest stars, is measured in astronomical units. The scale is logarithmic; each indicated distance is ten times farther out than the previous distance. The red arrow indicates the location of the space probe Voyager 1, which will reach the Oort cloud in about 300 years [credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech]


Note that the Oort Cloud referred to in the article, although often discussed as though it exists, has to date never been directly observed, perhaps due to its supposed great distance from Earth.
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Stars and comets make unlikely dance partners, says Live Science.

Their gravitational partnership is one that astronomers have long suspected but have never seen — until now. For the first time, a Polish group has identified two nearby stars that seem to have plucked up their icy partners, swinging them into orbits around our sun.

The astronomers found the stellar duo after studying the movements of over 600 stars that came within 13 light-years of the sun. The new findings validate a theory born more than a half-century ago, and in doing so have also shown just how rare these stellar dances can be.

Out on the far edge of the solar system, hanging like wallflowers around the planetary dance floor, is the Oort Cloud.

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Artist’s impression of the Kepler telescope [credit: Wikipedia]


So said researchers in their 2015 study which had that title. Then a third planet was seen.

In the abstract they say:

Methods. Our search through two separate pipelines led to the independent discovery of K2-19b and c, a two-planet system of Neptune-sized objects (4.2 and 7.2 R⊕), orbiting a K dwarf extremely close to the 3:2 mean motion resonance. The two planets each show transits, sometimes simultaneously owing to their proximity to resonance and the alignment of conjunctions.

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Credit: reference.com


There are many reasons NASA is pursuing the Artemis mission to land astronauts on the moon by 2024: It’s a crucial way to study the moon itself and to pave a safe path to Mars, says Phys.org.

But it’s also a great place to learn more about protecting Earth, which is just one part of the larger Sun-Earth system.

Heliophysicists—scientists who study the Sun and its influence on Earth—will also be sending up their own NASA missions as part of Artemis. Their goal is to better understand the complex space environment surrounding our planet, much of which is driven by our Sun.

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The predicted ninth planet has so far proved elusive, with searches of 50 per cent of the sky in the range where it ‘should’ be having turned up nothing. But planetary theorists Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin insist the evidence shows they are on the right track. Others talk of broken glass and fingerprints – shades of Sherlock Holmes.

Beyond Neptune, a handful of small worlds are moving in harmony.

Astronomers think they might be dancing to the tune of a third world lurking in the darkness, one that’s four times bigger than Earth and significant enough to be named our Solar System’s ninth planet.

Now they think they know exactly where to look for it, says Science Focus.

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In 2011, astronomers were saying:
“We’ve crossed a threshold: For the first time, we’ve been able to detect planets smaller than the Earth around another star.”

The planets in question were Kepler-20 e and Kepler-20 f.

In the end six planets were detected: b,e,c,f,d, and g (in order of proximity to their star). Orbit periods range from about 9.38 to 63.55 days, all the planets being closer to the star than Mercury is to the Sun.

A NASA article had the title: Kepler-20, An Unusual Planetary System — referring to the alternate large/small sizes of the planets.

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The Mysterious Movements of GOES-13

Posted: September 14, 2019 by oldbrew in Astronomy, satellites, Uncertainty

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Conspiracy theorists will probably like this one…

Spaceweather.com

Sept. 11, 2019: Scott Tilley has an unusual hobby. He scans the skies for satellites where they shouldn’t be. Using an S-band receiver, the amateur radio operator has tracked many classified spacecraft orbiting Earth and famously found NASA’s IMAGE satellite when it woke up from the dead last year. This past weekend he bagged another one: GOES-13.

“This was quite a surprise,” says Tilley. “I thought GOES-13 was in a graveyard orbit–yet I found it quite active and wandering on Sept. 8th.”

GOES-13 is a NOAA weather satellite. It was retired in January 2018 after a storied 12-year career during which it monitored some of the most notorious weather events in recent U.S. history – including Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and the triple disaster of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in 2018. The satellite also experienced significant space weather: In December 2006, GOES-13 observed a solar flare so intense it…

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Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center


First the report, then a brief Talkshop analysis.

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has discovered a world between the sizes of Mars and Earth orbiting a bright, cool, nearby star, reports MessageToEagle.com.

The planet, called L 98-59b, marks the tiniest discovered by TESS to date.

Two other worlds orbit the same star.

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A Sunspot from the Next Solar Cycle

Posted: July 11, 2019 by oldbrew in Astronomy, Solar physics
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The transition from solar cycle 24 to 25 is…out there somewhere. But it seems AR2744 is likely to become known as ‘the first official sunspot of Solar Cycle 25.’

Spaceweather.com

July 8, 2019: Solar Cycle 25 is coming to life. For the second time this month, a sunspot from the next solar cycle has emerged in the sun’s southern hemisphere. Numbered “AR2744”, it is inset in this magnetic map of the sun’s surface from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory:

How do we know this sunspot belongs to Solar Cycle 25? Its magnetic polarity tells us so. Southern sunspots from old Solar Cycle 24 have a -/+ polarity. This sunspot is the opposite: +/-. According to Hale’s Law, sunspots switch polarities from one solar cycle to the next. AR2744 is therefore a member of Solar Cycle 25.

Solar cycles always mix together at their boundaries. Right now we are experiencing the tail end of decaying Solar Cycle 24. AR2744 shows that we are simultaneously experiencing the first stirrings of Solar Cycle 25. The transition between Solar Cycle 24 and Solar Cycle…

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Get ready: “In June 2019 the Earth will approach within [0.06 AU or 9 million km] of the center of the Taurid swarm, its closest post-perihelion encounter with Earth since 1975”. Is there a Tunguska link?

Spaceweather.com

May 24, 2019: In November 2032, Earth will pass through the Taurid Swarm, a cloud of debris from Comet 2P/Encke that makes brilliant fireballs when its gravelly particles occasionally hit Earth’s atmosphere. Previous encounters with the Swarm in 2005 and 2015 produced showers of bright meteors observed around the world; in 1975 the Swarm contacted the Moon, making Apollo seismic sensors ring with evidence of objects hitting the lunar surface. If forecasters are correct, we’re in for similar activity 13 years from now.

Some researchers are beginning to wonder if there might be more to the Taurid Swarm than the pebble-sized particles that make fireballs–something, say, that could level a forest. On June 30, 1908, a forest in Siberia did fall down when a 100-meter object fell out of the sky and exploded just above the Tunguska River. Back-tracking the trajectory of the impactor suggests it may have come from…

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Saturn seen across a sea of methane on Titan by Huygens probe 2005


Not sure they mean Earth also has eerie lakes – apart from Lake Erie perhaps. Titan, billed here by a researcher as ‘the most interesting moon in the solar system’, has some observed similarities with Earth, plus some quirks of its own.

There’s one other place in the solar system where liquid rains, evaporates, and seeps into the surface to create deep lakes: Saturn’s moon Titan, says Tech Times.

In this alien world, the Earth-like hydrologic cycle does not take place with water, but with liquid methane and ethane. In Titan’s ultra-cold environment, these gases behave just like water.

Two new papers published in the journal Nature Astronomy detailed the findings of the concluded Cassini mission, particularly the details on Titan’s lakes and their composition.

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Solar flare erupting from a sunspot [image credit: space.com]


Another of the sun’s secrets comes into view.

The sun’s magnetic field is ten times stronger than previously believed, new research from Queen’s University Belfast and Aberystwyth University has revealed.

The new finding was discovered by Dr. David Kuridze, Research Fellow at Aberystwyth University, reports Phys.org.

Dr. Kuridze began the research when he was based at Queen’s University Belfast and completed it when he moved to Aberystwyth University in 2017. He is a leading authority on the use of ground-based telescopes to study the sun’s corona, the ring of bright light visible during a total eclipse.

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Jupiter dominates the solar system


Scientists predict the next parting of Jupiter’s veil of clouds for 2019. We like ‘regular pattern’ planetary mysteries.

New research finds a pattern of unique events at Jupiter’s equator, reports ScienceDaily.

A regular pattern of unusual meteorological events at Jupiter’s equator has been identified by planetary scientists at the University of Leicester.

Jupiter’s striped appearance of light zones and dark brown belts provides breathtaking views through amateur and professional telescopes alike. But Jupiter’s stripes can change and shift over poorly-understood timescales, sometimes expanding and contracting, sometimes fading away entirely.

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See a passing comet this Sunday

Posted: December 15, 2018 by oldbrew in Astronomy, News, solar system dynamics
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Comet 46P/Wirtanen [image credit: NASA]


The comet can be found near the Pleiades star cluster, conditions permitting.

On Sunday, Dec. 16, the comet known as 46P/Wirtanen will make one of the 10 closest comet flybys of Earth in 70 years, and you may even be able to see it without a telescope, says Phys.org.

Although the approach will be a distant 7.1 million miles (11.4 million kilometers, or 30 lunar distances) from Earth, it’s still a fairly rare opportunity.

“This will be the closest comet Wirtanen has come to Earth for centuries and the closest it will come to Earth for centuries,” said Paul Chodas, manager of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

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It has been billed as The Comet of The Year.

Spaceweather.com

Nov. 26, 2018: Small but hyperactive Comet 46P/Wirtanen is approaching Earth and could soon become visible to the naked eye. On Dec. 16th, the kilometer-wide ball of dirty ice will be less than 11.5 million km away–making it one of the 10 closest-approaching comets of the Space Age. It already looks magnificent through amateur telescopes. On Nov. 26th, Gerald Rhemann took this picture using a 12-inch reflector in Farm Tivoli, Namibia:

“The comet is currently gliding through the southern constellation Fornax,” says Rhemann. “If you look carefully at the image, you can see galaxy NGC 922 near the comet’s head, and another galaxy ESO 479-2 on the left.”

Rhemann says that the comet’s emerald green atmosphere is 50 arcminutes wide. In other words–almost twice as wide as a full Moon. Its apparent diameter could double in the weeks ahead as the comet comes even closer. Because Wirtanen’s brightness is spread…

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Image credit: howstuffworks.com


The ancients may even have recorded the supposed ‘Younger Dryas’ comet strike.

Some of the world’s oldest cave paintings have revealed how ancient people had relatively advanced knowledge of astronomy, says Phys.org.

The artworks, at sites across Europe, are not simply depictions of wild animals, as was previously thought. Instead, the animal symbols represent star constellations in the night sky, and are used to represent dates and mark events such as comet strikes, analysis suggests.

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Credit: NASA


Meet ‘The Goblin’. This body’s maximum distance from the Sun is a massive 2300 times further out than Earth’s.

A newly spotted dwarf planet, 2015 TG387, adds to the mounting evidence that an unseen super-Earth prowls the edge of the solar system, reports Cnet.

Astronomers have found a small object far beyond Pluto that orbits the sun in a lonely, oblong loop, a discovery that supports the notion of a larger, more distant planet — often referred to as Planet X — wandering the edge of our solar system.

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A rapid-fire lecture on solar-planetary links, sunspots, volcanoes, ice cores, climate and a whole lot more, including a closer look at the Spörer Minimum.

CO2 is Life

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Solar system cartoon [NASA]


If a planet – assuming it exists – is very far away, extremely faint, could be almost anywhere, and is barely moving relative to its background (maybe one degree every few decades), then however large it may be the chances of finding it any time soon are not great.

Astronomers think that Planet Nine exists at the edge of the Solar System, says the Tech Times.

Here’s one possible reason why the body remains elusive despite circumstantial evidence that it exists beyond planet Neptune.

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Water ice found on the Moon

Posted: August 21, 2018 by oldbrew in Astronomy, News, solar system dynamics

Mosaic of images of the Moon taken by the Moon Mineralogy Mapper. Blue shows the signature of water [image credit: NASA]


Even Mercury has polar water ice, despite being much closer to the Sun, so perhaps this shouldn’t be too much of a surprise.

Lunar scientists have confirmed the ‘definitive’ discovery of water ice on the surface of the Moon, reports the BBC’s Sky At Night magazine.

Astronomers have ‘definitively’ proven the existence of water ice on the surface of the Moon.

The ice deposits could be ancient, and have been found at the lunar poles.

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There’s a new paper coming out in Astronomy and Astrophysics from Wu, Usoskin et al that is of interest to us. It reconstructs solar activity over 9 millennia. When I get a copy of the data, I’ll compare it to Steinhilber et al’s 2012 effort.

solar-9k-usoskin

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