Archive for the ‘exploration’ Category

Exoplanets up to 90 times closer to their star than Earth is to the Sun.

Exoplanets up to 90 times closer to their star than Earth is to the Sun.


We did know something about this system already, but more work has led to today’s announcement.

Astronomers have never seen anything like this before, says Space.com: Seven Earth-size alien worlds orbit the same tiny, dim star, and all of them may be capable of supporting life as we know it, a new study reports. 

“Looking for life elsewhere, this system is probably our best bet as of today,” study co-author Brice-Olivier Demory, a professor at the Center for Space and Habitability at the University of Bern in Switzerland, said in a statement. 
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venus_atm
A wave from pole to pole in the cloud tops that doesn’t move – but then disappears? Another Venus conundrum emerges.

A massive, un-moving structure has been discovered in the upper atmosphere of Venus, reports the IB Times.

Scientists detected the feature with the Jaxa’s Akatsuki spacecraft and they believe it is some sort of gravity wave – although they do not understand how it ended up at the altitude of cloud tops.

The bow-shaped structure was first spotted in December 2015 and a team led by scientists from Rikkyo University in Japan were able to observe it over several days.

It measured 10,000km in length and was brighter and hotter than the surrounding atmosphere. When scientists attempted to observe it again a month later, it had disappeared. The team published their findings in the journal Nature Geoscience.
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Still from pulsar animation.  [Image credit: NASA]

Still from pulsar animation. [Image credit: NASA]


The exoplanet revolution began 25 years ago today. On Jan. 9, 1992, astronomers Alex Wolszczan and Dale Frail published a paper in the journal Nature announcing the discovery of two planets circling an incredibly dense, rapidly rotating stellar corpse known as a pulsar.

It was a landmark find: while several alien-world “candidates” had recently been spotted, Wolszczan and Frail provided the first confirmation that planets exist beyond our own solar system, reports Mike Wall.

“From the very start, the existence of such a system carried with it a prediction that planets around other stars must be common, and that they may exist in a wide variety of architectures, which would be impossible to anticipate on the basis of our knowledge of the solar system alone,” Wolszczan, who’s based at Pennsylvania State University, wrote in a note about the pulsar planets for the “Name Exoworlds” contest sponsored by the International Astronomical Union.
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Ancient Mars may have looked like this - artist's impression [credit: Ittiz / Wikipedia]

Ancient Mars may have looked like this – artist’s impression [credit: Ittiz / Wikipedia]


Finding the right conditions to melt Martian ice could be tricky. Space.com reporting.

A giant deposit of buried ice on Mars contains about as much water as Lake Superior does here on Earth, a new study reports. The ice layer, which spans a greater area than the state of New Mexico, lies in Mars’ mid-northern latitudes and is covered by just 3 feet to 33 feet (1 to 10 meters) of soil.

It therefore represents a vast possible resource for future astronauts exploring the Red Planet, study team members said.

“This deposit is probably more accessible than most water ice on Mars, because it is at a relatively low latitude and it lies in a flat, smooth area where landing a spacecraft would be easier than at some of the other areas with buried ice,” co-author Jack Holt, of the University of Texas, Austin, said in a statement.

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NASA space robot [image credit: phys.org]

NASA space robot [image credit: phys.org]


After all, there’s no ‘C’ in NASA.
H/T GWPF/Sunday Times

US President-elect Donald Trump is set to slash Nasa’s budget for monitoring climate change and instead set a goal of sending humans to the edge of the solar system by the end of the century, and possibly back to the moon.

Mr Trump, who has called climate change a “Chinese hoax”, is believed to want to focus the agency on far-reaching, big banner goals in deep space rather than “Earth-centric climate change spending”.

According to Bob Walker, who has advised Mr Trump on space policy, Nasa has been reduced to “a logistics agency concentrating on space station resupply and politically correct environmental monitoring”.

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Familiar sight in Texas [image credit: StateImpact Texas]

Familiar sight in Texas [image credit: StateImpact Texas]


Close to a trillion dollars worth of oil at today’s prices – this should be music to the ears of the incoming Trump administration. Anti-fossil fuel groups not so much.
H/T GWPF

The US Geological Survey said Tuesday that it found what could be the largest deposit of untapped oil ever discovered in America, reports Business Insider.

An estimated average of 20 billion barrels of oil and 1.6 billion barrels of natural gas liquids are available for the taking in the Wolfcamp shale, which is in the Midland Basin portion of Texas’ Permian Basin. Based on a West Texas Intermediate crude oil price of $45 per barrel, those deposits are worth about $900 billion.

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The Kuiper Belt region [credit: theplanets.org]

The Kuiper Belt region [credit: theplanets.org]


Details are sketchy but the object is said to be ‘beyond the pull of Neptune’s gravity’, so we can only speculate what and where its planetary master(s) might be.

A team of space scientists at the University of Michigan has discovered a dwarf planet that is approximately half the size of Pluto and twice as far from the sun, reports Phys.org.

The sighting was reported by NPR, which interviewed team lead physicist David Gerdes. He told them credit goes to a group of students who were challenged to find some new objects to add to the ongoing construction of a galaxy map.

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Synchronized orbits of the Kepler-80 system [Credit: Florida Institute of Technology]

Synchronized orbits of the Kepler-80 system [Credit: Florida Institute of Technology]

Another example of planetary resonance has been discovered thanks to NASA’s Kepler space telescope.
H/T Phys.org

Located about 1,100 light years away, Kepler-80, named for the NASA telescope that discovered it, features five small planets orbiting in extreme proximity to their star.

As early as 2012, Kepler scientists found that all five planets orbit in an area about 150 times smaller than the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, with “years” of about one, three, four, seven and nine days.

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uk-piggy-bankResidents affected by fracking could be paid a proportion of the proceeds of shale gas projects, the government has suggested.

A shale wealth fund was unveiled in 2014 to set aside up to 10% of the tax proceeds from fracking to benefit communities in the UK hosting wells.

The PM is now considering paying the money directly to individual households instead of councils and local trusts.

The plan is one option due to be outlined in a consultation on Monday.

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Aurora on Jupiter [image credit: NASA/ESA]

Aurora on Jupiter [image credit: NASA/ESA]


NASA’s Juno spacecraft is closing in on Jupiter. Here the Daily Mail Online reviews the project from a layman’s perspective. Plus we get some Hubble pics.

On Earth they produce mesmerising riots of colour that light up the night sky around the poles. But our planet is not the only world to enjoy stunning aurora – better known as the northern and southern lights.

Now scientists are hoping to unravel the secrets of the biggest such polar light show in our solar system by focusing their attention on Jupiter’s aurora.

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The Kepler-223 planetary system, which has long-term stability because its four planets interact gravitationally to keep the beat of a carefully choreographed dance as they orbit their host star. [credit: W.Rebel]

The Kepler-223 planetary system, which has long-term stability because its four planets interact gravitationally to keep the beat of a carefully choreographed dance as they orbit their host star.
[credit: W.Rebel]


As the report says: ‘Kepler-223’s two innermost planets are in a 4:3 resonance. The second and third are in a 3:2 resonance. And the third and fourth are in a 4:3 resonance.’ They are ‘far more massive than Earth’. Interesting to say the least.

The four planets of the Kepler-223 star system seem to have little in common with the planets of Earth’s own solar system. And yet a new study shows that the Kepler-223 system is trapped in an orbital configuration that Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune may have broken from in the early history of the solar system.

“Exactly how and where planets form is an outstanding question in planetary science,” said the study’s lead author, Sean Mills, a graduate student in astronomy & astrophysics at the University of Chicago. “Our work essentially tests a model for planet formation for a type of planet we don’t have in our solar system.”

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Ultraviolet image of Venus' clouds [credit: NASA]

Ultraviolet image of Venus’ clouds [credit: NASA]


Is it the cloud cover or the enormous atmospheric pressure at the surface that makes Venus hot? Whatever, it seems the poles are colder than Earth, and by a wide margin, as Astronomy.com reports. Models based on a ‘greenhouse effect’ weren’t expecting this.

Thanks to a thick layer of cloud cover trapping in heat, Venus is the hottest planet in our solar system, with temperatures boiling over at 850 degrees Fahrenheit (454 C). But in a study published last week in Nature Physics, the European Space Agency found something surprising at the planet’s poles: temperatures more frigid than anywhere on Earth.

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Space: the final scrapyard?

Posted: December 23, 2015 by oldbrew in exploration, Travel
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Space debris [credit: NASA]

Space debris [credit: NASA]


So far there are no scrap metal collectors for space junk, as this Science/AAAS report illustrates.

Humans are messy, and not just here on Earth. Now, you can see all the junk we’ve launched into space for yourself with a data-driven animation created for the United Kingdom’s Royal Society by Stuart Grey, an astronomer at University College London.

It all begins in 1957 when the Soviet Union launches Sputnik, a 58.5-centimeter-wide ball emitting radio pulses. A piece of the rocket that took it into orbit was the very first piece of space junk. The United States launched its own satellite, Explorer 1, the next year.

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Strange orbits of some outer solar system bodies

Strange orbits of some outer solar system bodies


A newly found object may set a new record for the most distant dwarf planet in the solar system. The object, called V774104, lies about nine and a half billion miles from the sun, or two to three times farther away than Pluto.

V774104 is a little less than half Pluto’s size, and like Pluto it may move closer toward or farther away from the sun during its orbit, but those details of its motion cannot yet be determined.

“That’s pretty much all we know about it. We don’t know its orbit yet because we only just discovered it about two weeks ago,” astronomer Scott Sheppard, of the Carnegie Institution for Science and one of the co-discoverers of the new object, said in an interview with Space.com .

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This image of Ceres is part of a sequence taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft on May 5 and 6, 2015, from a distance of 8,400 miles (13,600 kilometers)

This image of Ceres is part of a sequence taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft on May 5 and 6, 2015, from a distance of 8,400 miles (13,600 kilometers)

It’s ‘baffled scientists’ time again, but now they want the public to help them out, reports phys.org

Throwing open the doors to the hallowed halls of science, stumped researchers welcomed help from the public Wednesday in solving a number of nagging mysteries about dwarf planet Ceres.

NASA’s space probe Dawn, which travelled seven-and-a-half years and some 4.9 billion kilometres to reach Ceres in March this year, is the first to orbit a dwarf planet.The probe is seeking to learn more about the structure of Ceres, which circles the Sun between Mars and Jupiter, in a bid to better understand the formation of Earth and other planets.

But many of the features of Ceres have left researchers scratching their heads — including a six-kilometre (four-mile) high protrusion they have dubbed “Lonely Mountain”.

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Pluto_probe
Squeaky bum time over at NASA for the team handling the Pluto probe with a sudden technical hitch – now resolved – days before the crucial fly-by, reports The Verge.

The New Horizons team is breathing a big sigh of relief this Monday. Over the weekend, the NASA team resolved a glitch that caused their Pluto probe to go into “safe mode” on July 4th. The spacecraft switched to its backup computer and briefly ceased communication with ground control.

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