Archive for the ‘exploration’ Category

During a total solar eclipse, the Sun’s corona and prominences are visible to the naked eye [image credit: Luc Viatour / https://Lucnix.be ]


Perhaps the probe will be able to shed some light, so to speak, on the Sun’s famous coronal heating problem.

On Aug. 6, the Parker Solar Probe will launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for one extremely intense mission: to fly closer to the sun than any spacecraft before, reports CBC News.

The probe will fly through and study the sun’s atmosphere, where it will face punishing heat and radiation. At its closest, it will come within 6.1 million kilometres of the sun.

“A lot of people don’t think that’s particularly close,” said Nicola Fox, the project scientist for the Parker Solar Probe. “But if I put the sun and the Earth in the end zones in a football field, the Parker Solar Probe will be on the four-yard line in the red zone, knocking on the door for a touchdown.”

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Newgrange UNESCO World Heritage Site


The story of an amazing chance discovery by amateur drone enthusiasts at the UNESCO world heritage site near Newgrange in Ireland this week.

“What the f*** is that?”

It materialised out of almost nowhere, reports ScienceAlert.

Thousands of years after disappearing from human sight and knowledge, an ancient ‘henge’ site has been discovered hidden within the archaeological landscape of Ireland’s Brú na Bóinne.

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The secret on the ocean floor

Posted: February 21, 2018 by oldbrew in exploration, government, History, innovation

Hughes Glomar Explorer at Long Beach, California (1976) [image credit: TedQuackenbush @ Wikipedia]


One mining forecast claims ‘an emerging undersea industry in oceans around the world could be worth $30bn a year by 2030.’ Do the origins of this go back to the Cold War?

Did a 1970s CIA plot spark a boom in deep sea mining? – asks BBC News.

In the summer of 1974, a large and highly unusual ship set sail from Long Beach in California.

It was heading for the middle of the Pacific where its owners boasted it would herald a revolutionary new industry beneath the waves.

Equipped with a towering rig and the latest in drilling gear, the vessel was designed to reach down through the deep, dark waters to a source of incredible wealth lying on the ocean floor.

It was billed as the boldest step so far in a long-held dream of opening a new frontier in mining, one that would see valuable metals extracted from the rocks of the seabed.

But amid all the excited public relations, there was one small hitch – the whole expedition was a lie.

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Triton: Neptune’s odd moon

Posted: January 27, 2018 by oldbrew in Astrophysics, exploration
Tags: ,

Neptune and Triton (below) [credit: NASA]


Triton has the second-biggest ratio of moon-to-planet to Neptune, being only lower than the ratio between Earth and its own Moon. As well as having over 400 times the mass of any other Neptunian moon, Triton has some peculiarities about its environment, including the fact that it orbits backward to Neptune’s rotation and seems to have undergone a huge melt in the past, as Space.com explains. NASA believes it has similarities to Pluto. In 2006, a model published in Nature suggested Triton was originally a member of a binary system that orbited the sun.

Triton is the largest of Neptune’s moons. Discovered in 1846 by British astronomer William Lassell — just weeks after Neptune itself was found — the moon showed some strange characteristics as astronomers learned more about it.

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Exoplanet – NASA impression


YZ Ceti is a recently discovered star with three known planets (b,c and d) orbiting very close to it. Although some types of mean motion resonance, or near resonance, are quite common e.g. 2:1 or 3:2 conjunction ratios, this one is a bit different.

The orbit periods in days are:
YZ Ceti b = 1.96876 d
YZ Ceti c = 3.06008 d
YZ Ceti d = 4.65627 d

This gives these conjunction periods:
c-d = 8.9266052 d
b-c = 5.5204368 d
b-d = 3.4109931 d
(Note the first two digits on each line.)

Nearest matching period:
34 c-d = 303.50457 d
55 b-c = 303.62403 d
89 b-d = 303.57838 d

34,55 and 89 are Fibonacci numbers.
Therefore the conjunction ratios are linked to the golden ratio (Phi).

Phi = 1.618034
(c-d) / (b-c) = 1.6170106
(b-c) / (b-d) = 1.618425

Data source: exoplanets.eu

K2-138 could even have more than five planets. [image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech]


And it’s a good one. The abstract says: ‘The periods of the five planets are 2.35, 3.56, 5.40, 8.26, and 12.76 days, forming an unbroken chain of near 3:2 resonances.’

The Exoplanet Explorers project has led to the first discovery of a multi-planet system solely through crowdsourcing efforts, as Futurism reports.

Through a project called Exoplanet Explorers, a band of citizen scientists has discovered K2-138, a far-off planetary system that houses least five exoplanets.

This is the first time that a multi-planet system has been discovered entirely through crowdsourcing.

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Jupiter-sized exoplanet [Wikipedia]


It seems the planetary structure of our solar system is an oddity compared to most of the exoplanetary systems so far discovered. On the other hand it’s easier to find planets close to their stars than those a long way away, so what is known so far might not be giving us the whole picture.

An international research team led by Université de Montréal astrophysicist Lauren Weiss has discovered that exoplanets orbiting the same star tend to have similar sizes and a regular orbital spacing, says Phys.org.

This pattern, revealed by new W. M. Keck Observatory observations of planetary systems discovered by the Kepler Telescope, could suggest that most planetary systems have a different formation history than the solar system.

Thanks in large part to the NASA Kepler Telescope, launched in 2009, many thousands of exoplanets are now known. This large sample allows researchers to not only study individual systems, but also to draw conclusions on planetary systems in general.

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Norway’s Goliat oil platform [image credit: T3n60 @ Wikipedia]


Another attempt to use the law to get a court to take on the role of government over supposed climate issues bites the dust, assuming no appeal. The green groups were ordered to pay the state’s $94,000 legal costs.

Oslo District Court on Thursday ruled that Norway’s drilling for oil in the Barents Sea does not violate a constitutional right to a healthy environment, reports The Barents Observer.

The government acts in accordance with the law when awarding new petroleum exploration licenses for the Barents Sea, the ruling by Oslo District Court reads. Greenpeace, one of the three organizations which filed the lawsuit, has published the court’s 49-pages comprehensive ruling.

The lawsuit was challenging Norway’s 23rd oil licensing round arguing that opening up the Arctic continental shelf would violate the country’s Paris agreement commitments to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

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Image credit: NASA


We now know that Saturn’s rings share a process with spiral galaxies, and the unique co-orbital pattern of two of its moons get some attention.

This view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft shows a wave structure in Saturn’s rings known as the Janus 2:1 spiral density wave, reports Phys.org.

Resulting from the same process that creates spiral galaxies, spiral density waves in Saturn’s rings are much more tightly wound.

In this case, every second wave crest is actually the same spiral arm which has encircled the entire planet multiple times. This is the only major density wave visible in Saturn’s B ring.

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frackareaExcerpt from the Evening standard:

Until a few years ago Europe and America paid more or less the same amount for their petrochemical feedstock — the US had a slight advantage but not so great after transport and other costs had been factored in. (Middle East plants, sited right by the oilfields, did have such a price advantage but lacked scale.)

This is no longer the case thanks to the fundamental changes across the Atlantic. The Marcellus field, which spreads over several states and is just one of many in the US, produces 15 billion cubic feet of gas a day which is almost twice the UK’s entire consumption. But the result is that US prices have disconnected from the rest of the world and the subsequent feedstock prices have given American chemical plants so vast a price advantage that, on paper at least, there’s no way Europe can compete. It is staring down the barrel of bankruptcy, not now, but in a few short years, unless it can find some way to get its raw-material costs down to American levels.

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Credit: phys.org


Methane hydrates have been known about for years, but cost and technical difficulties have so far been barriers to exploiting them on any kind of scale. Claims that they could ‘flood the atmosphere with climate-changing greenhouse gases’ are the usual over-the-top propaganda.

Commercial development of the globe’s huge reserves of a frozen fossil fuel known as “combustible ice” has moved closer to reality after Japan and China successfully extracted the material from the seafloor off their coastlines, says Phys.org.

But experts said Friday that large-scale production remains many years away—and if not done properly could flood the atmosphere with climate-changing greenhouse gases.

Combustible ice is a frozen mixture of water and concentrated natural gas. Technically known as methane hydrate, it can be lit on fire in its frozen state and is believed to comprise one of the world’s most abundant fossil fuels.

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Credit: NASA/JPL


After 20 years of service its time is up, but due to its plutonium power source Cassini can’t be left to find its own final destination. Before its September demise it will weave through Saturn’s rings making yet more observations.

Cassini has used a gravitational slingshot around Saturn’s moon Titan to put it on a path towards destruction, reports BBC News.

Saturday’s flyby swept the probe into an orbit that takes it in between the planet’s rings and its atmosphere.

This gap-run gives the satellite the chance finally to work out the length of a day on Saturn, and to determine the age of its stunning rings. But the manoeuvre means also that it cannot escape a fiery plunge into Saturn’s clouds in September.
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Renewables’ deep-sea mining conundrum 

Posted: April 14, 2017 by oldbrew in exploration, Geology
Tags:

Deep sea mining for rare earth minerals [image credit: BBC News]


To what extent do ‘renewables’ depend on finding sources of non-renewables? Mining is involved – the raw materials have to be found and extracted from the earth.

British scientists exploring an underwater mountain in the Atlantic Ocean have discovered a treasure trove of rare minerals, reports BBC News.

Their investigation of a seamount more than 500km (300 miles) from the Canary Islands has revealed a crust of “astonishingly rich” rock. Samples brought back to the surface contain the scarce substance tellurium in concentrations 50,000 times higher than in deposits on land.

Tellurium is used in a type of advanced solar panel, so the discovery raises a difficult question about whether the push for renewable energy may encourage mining of the seabed. The rocks also contain what are called rare earth elements that are used in wind turbines and electronics.
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Planetary detective work [credit: superwasp.org]


Pattern recognition is still best left to humans it seems.

You don’t need to be a professional astronomer to find new worlds orbiting distant stars, as Phys.org reports.

Darwin mechanic and amateur astronomer Andrew Grey this week helped to discover a new exoplanet system with at least four orbiting planets. But Andrew did have professional help and support.

The discovery was a highlight moment of this week’s three-evening special ABC Stargazing Live, featuring British physicist Brian Cox, presenter Julia Zemiro and others.
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Size comparison of GJ 1132 b (aka Gliese 1132 b) with Earth [credit: Wikipedia]


Early indications from models suggest that ‘an atmosphere rich in water and methane would explain the observations very well.’

Astronomers have detected an atmosphere around the super-Earth GJ 1132b, reports the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy.

This marks the first detection of an atmosphere around a low-mass Super-Earth, in terms of radius and mass the most Earth-like planet around which an atmosphere has yet been detected.

Thus, this is a significant step on the path towards the detection of life on an exoplanet. The team, which includes researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, used the 2.2 m ESO/MPG telescope in Chile to take images of the planet’s host star GJ 1132, and measuring the slight decrease in brightness as the planet and its atmosphere absorbed some of the starlight while passing directly in front of their host star.

While it’s not the detection of life on another planet, it’s an important step in the right direction: the detection of an atmosphere around the super-Earth GJ 1132b marks the first time an atmosphere has been detected around a planet with a mass and radius close to that of Earth (1.6 Earth masses, and 1.4 Earth radii).
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shining_sun

With sadness, I’m sharing the news that my Talkshop co-blogger Tim Channon passed away on Friday. Tim had been bravely battling with cancer for some time, and was still upbeat and lively-minded when I spoke with him last week. Since then unfortunately, medical complications set in.

Tim was one of a kind. A humorous, thoughtful and technically brilliant individual. His contribution to our understanding of cyclic phenomena through the analysis software he wrote propelled me into my own research. His patient recording of weather data and survey of UK weather stations demonstrate the depth of interest and passion he had for bringing facts to bear on the climate debate. His dedication, skill and good natured rebukes against uninformed speculation and bad theory puts him in the Pantheon of great sceptical thinkers and scientists.

Tim will be missed and remembered.

_____________________________________

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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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