Posts Tagged ‘planetary’

The ability to recognize patterns in Earth’s behaviour by sifting through masses of geological data could be programmed into machines.

Scientists seeking to understand Earth’s inner clockwork have deployed armies of sensors listening for signs of slips, rumbles, exhales and other disturbances emanating from the planet’s deepest faults to its tallest volcanoes.

“We measure the motion of the ground continuously, typically collecting 100 samples per second at hundreds to thousands of instruments,” said Stanford geophysicist Gregory Beroza. “It’s just a huge flux of data.”

Yet scientists’ ability to extract meaning from this information has not kept pace, reports


Image credit: Wikipedia

The next step is to find the source(s) of the dust, with as yet undetected asteroids thought to be the leading suspects.

Two dusty discoveries may shake up our understanding of the inner solar system, says Fox News.

Mercury shares its supertight orbit with a big ring of wandering dust, a recent study suggests. And a cloud of as-yet-undiscovered asteroids likely gave rise to a similar halo in Venus’ neighborhood, another new paper concludes.


Kepler’s trigon – the orientation of consecutive Jupiter-Saturn synodic periods, showing the repeating triangular shape (trigon).

This of course follows on from the very recent Part 1 of the model. Since Jupiter and Saturn are the dominant planets in our solar system, we can speculate that they may have a significant effect on the obliquity of smaller bodies. Or they may not – no-one knows, but we can look at possible evidence.
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Precession of the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction (J-S) was worked out by Kepler centuries ago, as shown in his diagram to the right.

‘As successive great conjunctions occur nearly 120° apart, their appearances form a triangular pattern. In a series every fourth conjunction returns after some 60 years in the vicinity of the first. These returns are observed to be shifted by some 7–8°’ – Wikipedia.


Earth’s Axial Tilt, or Obliquity [Credit: Wikipedia]

First let’s get the approximate target numbers for the model.

‘The inclination of Earth’s orbit varies with respect to the solar system’s invariant plane with a period of roughly 71000 years.
. . .
Taken in conjunction with the 26000-year spin-axis precession, the 71000-year orbit precession causes a 41000-year oscillation in the tilt of the earth’s axis, about plus or minus 1.3 degrees from its average value of 23.3 degrees. This number is not absolutely stable – it depends on the combined positions of all the planets through time.’

Astronomy: precession of Earth (Washington State University)
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Origin of the 100 kyr Glacial Cycle: eccentricity or orbital inclination?

‘Spectral analysis of climate data shows a strong narrow peak with period ~ 100 kyr, attributed by the Milankovitch theory to changes in the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit. The narrowness of the peak does suggest an astronomical origin; however the shape of the peak is incompatible with both linear and nonlinear models that attribute the cycle to eccentricity or (equivalently) to the envelope of the precession. In contrast, the orbital inclination parameter gives a good match to both the spectrum and bispectrum of the climate data.’

Richard A. Muller — University of California, Berkeley and
Gordon J. MacDonald — University of California, San Diego


Saturn from the Cassini orbiter [image credit: NASA]

This has been a tricky problem for years as explained below, and now appears to have been resolved. But whether that’s the end of the story remains to be seen.

Saturn’s distinctive rings were observed in unprecedented detail by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, and scientists have now used those observations to probe the interior of the giant planet and obtain the first precise determination of its rotation rate, reports

The length of a day on Saturn, according to their calculations, is 10 hours 33 minutes and 38 seconds.



The researchers say the key to this is a phenomenon closely connected to Earth’s polar jet streams.

A Japanese research group has identified a giant streak structure among the clouds covering planet Venus based on observation from the spacecraft Akatsuki, reports

The team also revealed the origins of this structure using large-scale climate simulations.


Arctic region

At last – something that can’t be blamed on Brexit! Just joking of course, and wandering poles can be a serious matter for navigators.

Erratic motion of north magnetic pole forces experts to update model that aids global navigation.
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Something strange is going on at the top of the world, a Nature article says.

Earth’s north magnetic pole has been skittering away from Canada and towards Siberia, driven by liquid iron sloshing within the planet’s core.

The magnetic pole is moving so quickly that it has forced the world’s geomagnetism experts into a rare move.


Image credit: BBC

These climatic swings (cycles) were in sync with changes in the Earth’s tilt, say the researchers. They therefore believe ice ages are not the primary factor in these swings.

The Sahara desert is one of the harshest, most inhospitable places on the planet, covering much of North Africa in some 3.6 million square miles of rock and windswept dunes.

But it wasn’t always so desolate and parched, reports


Does it snow on Mars?

Posted: December 30, 2018 by oldbrew in atmosphere, Clouds, solar system dynamics
Tags: ,

Clouds on Mars [image credit: NASA]

H/T Discover Magazine

This wasn’t the first question that came to mind when I photographed these clouds, says Tom Yulsman @ ImaGeo.

But the beautiful phenomenon I witnessed eventually led me to it.
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Mars is certainly cold. With temperatures that can plunge to more than negative 100 degrees Celsius, it’s bloody frigid!

But as cold as it might get, does it snow on Mars?


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.


The orbit of 2014 MU69 with the path of New Horizons [credit: NASA@Wikipedia]

“Ultima Thule” (2014 MU69) means “beyond the borders of the known world.” It takes nearly 300 years to orbit the Sun. Scientists ‘have no idea what to expect’.

After several weeks of sensitive searches for rings, small moons and other potential hazards around 2014 MU69, a Kuiper belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule, the dozen-member New Horizons hazard watch team gave the ‘all clear’ for the spacecraft to remain on a path that takes it about 2,200 miles (3,500 km) from Ultima Thule, instead of a hazard-avoiding detour that would have pushed it three times farther out, reports Sci-News.

“New Horizons is now targeted for the optimal flyby, over three times closer than we flew to Pluto. Ultima, here we come,” said New Horizons principal investigator Dr. Alan Stern, a researcher at Southwest Research Institute.

New Horizons will make its historic close approach to Ultima Thule at 12:33 a.m. EST on January 1, 2019.


Note: red lines added to original image.

In a word – no. As usual the massive atmospheric pressure at the surface of Venus is ignored.
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I saw a article today entitled, Can Venus teach us to take climate change seriously?

While writers should know quite a bit about the other planets, the article was a fount of misinformation and gross exaggeration, says Dr Roy Spencer.


Layers of Earth’s atmosphere

Some fairly advanced theorising here, but the possibilities look interesting. For example, could ‘resonant trapping’ exist?

Resonating oscillations of a planet’s atmosphere caused by gravitational tides and heating from its star could prevent a planet’s rotation from steadily slowing over time, according to new research by Caleb Scharf, who is the Director of Astrobiology at Columbia University.

His findings suggest that the effect is enhanced for a planet with an atmosphere that has been oxygenated by life, and the resulting ‘atmospheric tides’ could even act as a biosignature, reports


Even today, more than eighty percent of our ocean is unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored. How many more hidden volcanoes may remain to be discovered?

The find offers a glimpse into a previously unknown marine ecosystem — and spotlights just how little we know about the seafloor, says Euronews.

While mapping the seafloor some 250 miles off the coast of the Australian island of Tasmania, scientists recently discovered what’s being called a “volcanic lost world” deep underwater.

The chain of volcanic seamounts — huge undersea mountains that loom as tall as 9,800 feet, or more than six times taller than the Empire State Building — offer a glimpse into a previously unknown ocean ecosystem.


In the solar system and the universe too, ‘weird’ may well be another way of saying ‘we haven’t figured it out yet’.

Planet Pailly

When I did my yearlong Mission to the Solar System series back in 2015, the planet Neptune stood out as having the weirdest and wackiest magnetic field.  Here’s a totally legit photograph from 1989 taken by the Voyager 2 space probe.  As you can see, Neptune is really confused about how magnetic fields are supposed to work.

But since 2015, science has learned more about the other three gas giants in our Solar System.  Neptune’s magnetic field is still really weird, but it’s no longer clear that it is the definitive weirdest.

  • Jupiter: Based on data from the Juno mission, it looks like Jupiter has three poles instead of two.  There’s a north pole, right about where you’d expect it to be.  Then the magnetic field lines emanating from the north pole connect to two separate south poles.  The first south pole is about where you’d expect a south pole…

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More twins than couple, as this 2008 blog post explains. It takes them 25-30 years to orbit each other and 290 years for the binary system to orbit the Sun.

2001 QW322 is a highly split Kuiper Belt pair, orbiting eachother at a distance of 125,000 km

The highly-split Kuiper Belt pair 2001 QW322 (CFEPS)

The Kuiper Belt is an eerie, mysterious and cold region of the Solar System. In it, there are billions of small pieces of rocks with lots of fancy names. As a general designation, all objects in the Kuiper belt are called “Kuiper-belt objects” (KBO’s for short). As the Kuiper belt is located in a region just beyond Neptune, they may also be known as trans-Neptunian objects (TNO’s). Inside the Kuiper belt, we have Pluto-like objects known as “Plutoids”, classical KBO’s called “Cubewanos” (the largest being the recently discovered Makemake) and a whole host of other objects such as icy objects soon to become the next generation of periodic comets.

We are only scraping the surface, finding only a small portion of KBOs. We know of a thousand, but astronomers believe there may…

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Coriolis Effect [credit:]

There are numerous attempts to explain the Coriolis effect on the internet, with varying success in terms of how confused the reader may be afterwards. This report may or may not clear things up, but best expect the latter.

The earth’s rotation causes the Coriolis effect, which deflects massive air and water flows toward the right in the Northern Hemisphere and toward the left in the Southern Hemisphere.

This phenomenon greatly impacts global wind patterns and ocean currents, and is only significant for large-scale and long-duration geophysical phenomena such as hurricanes.

The magnitude of the Coriolis effect, relative to the magnitude of inertial forces, is expressed by the Rossby number. For over 100 years, scientists have believed that the higher this number, the less likely Coriolis effect influences oceanic or atmospheric events, says


A new tweak to tidal theory is proposed. The research team hopes that ‘understanding continental configurations and tidal strengths will impact the development of climate models’.

Daily tides are driven primarily by Earth’s rotation and the gravitational force of the moon on oceans, says Earth magazine.

However, in a new study in Geophysical Research Letters, researchers suggest that tidal magnitudes are also influenced, on longer timescales, by the size and shape of the ocean basins, and are therefore driven by plate tectonics.

Plate tectonics gives rise to the formation of supercontinents — massive aggregations of continental lithosphere — which form and break apart in cycles that last about 400 million to 500 million years. With the breakup of the last supercontinent, Pangea, about 180 million years ago, and the projected formation of a new supercontinent, known as Aurica, in about 200 million years, Earth is currently in the middle of a supercontinent cycle.

Because the size and shape of ocean basins impact ocean circulation and tides, researchers led by Mattias Green, a physical oceanographer at Bangor University in England, hypothesized that tides may be linked to the supercontinent cycle in a so-called supertidal cycle.

Current tides, particularly those in the North Atlantic, are very large, Green’s team noted because of tidal resonance, which occurs when ocean basins and continental shelves reinforce and amplify the natural oscillation of tides as they sweep back and forth across oceans. “So the tides are larger at present because the continents are configured the way they are.”

To model Earth’s future oceanic tides, the researchers used predictions of continental configurations for the next 250 million years, through when Aurica is predicted to form. Ocean basin size was the main factor considered in the modeling, but the team also accounted for the moon’s gravitational pull on the oceans, Earth’s axial tilt, and simplified ocean bathymetries for future plate tectonic reconstructions.

Simplification of these fine details does affect the team’s modeling, notes David Waltham, a mathematical geologist at the Royal Holloway University of London, who was not involved in the study. But the simplifications used likely do not change the overall results, he adds.

Green and his colleagues reported that global tides are likely to increase over the next 50 million years “due to an enhanced tide in the North Atlantic and Pacific at 25 million years, followed by a very large Pacific tide at 50 million years.”

Continued here.

Saturn’s north polar vortex and hexagon along with its expansive rings. The hexagon is wider than two Earths [image credit: NASA]

Another case of observing something that wasn’t thought possible. As the report notes: ‘The presence of a hexagon way up in Saturn’s northern stratosphere, hundreds of kilometres above the clouds, suggests that there is much more to learn about the dynamics at play in the gas giant’s atmosphere.’

The long-lived international Cassini mission has revealed a surprising feature emerging at Saturn’s northern pole as it nears summertime: a warming, high-altitude vortex with a hexagonal shape, akin to the famous hexagon seen deeper down in Saturn’s clouds.

This suggests that the lower-altitude hexagon may influence what happens up above, and that it could be a towering structure spanning hundreds of kilometres in height, reports


Credit: NASA

Temporary weather effects and more. For more background, there are several extra links in the original ScienceNews article.

A year after the total solar eclipse of 2017, scientists are still pondering the mysteries of the sun.

It’s been a year since the total solar eclipse of August 21, 2017, captured millions of imaginations as the moon briefly blotted out the sun and cast a shadow that crisscrossed the United States from Oregon to South Carolina.

“It was an epic event by all measures,” NASA astrophysicist Madhulika Guhathakurta told a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in New Orleans in December. One survey reports that 88 percent of adults in the United States — some 216 million people — viewed the eclipse either directly or electronically.