Posts Tagged ‘planetary’

Much media attention on this new paper this week. Is there a surprise lurking in the details now that the orbit period of the seventh planet has been confirmed?.

What the numbers in the diagram show is the orbits per planet in a fixed period (top row), the conjunctions per planet pair in the same period (second row), and the ratios that represents (third row).

The number of conjunctions of any two planets is the difference between the two orbit numbers in a given period, which in this case is equivalent to just under 1446 Earth days (see data below).

Apart from the obvious symmetry of the ratios, something else arose from the science paper.


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.

Quote: ‘Flying through Steve, the temperature 300 km above Earth’s surface jumped by 3000°C’.

Thanks to social media and the power of citizen scientists chasing the northern lights, a new feature was discovered recently, as ESA reports.

Nobody knew what this strange ribbon of purple light was, so … it was called Steve. ESA’s Swarm magnetic field mission has now also met Steve and is helping to understand the nature of this new-found feature.

Speaking at the recent Swarm science meeting in Canada, Eric Donovan from the University of Calgary explained how this new finding couldn’t have happened 20 years ago when he started to study the aurora.

While the shimmering, eerie, light display of auroras might be beautiful and captivating, they are also a visual reminder that Earth is connected electrically to the Sun.

The 1,100 year orbit of ‘DeeDee’

The solar system’s dwarf-planet population is about to increase by one, reports The far-flung object 2014 UZ224 — informally known as DeeDee, for “Distant Dwarf” — is about 395 miles wide (635 kilometers), new observations reveal.

That means the frigid object probably harbors enough mass to be shaped into a sphere by its own gravity, entitling it to “dwarf planet” status, researchers said.

Astronomers first spotted DeeDee in 2014 using the optical Blanco telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile (though they didn’t announce the discovery until 2016).

The satellites won’t land as the surface pressure – 92 times that of Earth – and heat of Venus would destroy them. Instead they will look for a ‘mysterious substance’ thought to be lurking in its atmosphere.

NASA has spent $3.6 million to build 12 small satellites to explore the planet Venus in search of a mysterious substance that absorbs half the planet’s light, reports The Daily Caller.

The CubeSat UV Experiment (CUVE) mission will launch the satellites to investigate atmospheric processes on Venus. The 12 satellites vary in size. One is less than four inches across and weighs a few ounces. Another weighs 400 pounds.

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).

View from Titan [artist’s impression]

‘The grains that cover Saturn’s [largest] moon act like clingy packing peanuts.’ An obvious question might be: where is Titan’s electrical charge coming from?

Experiments led by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology suggest the particles that cover the surface of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, are “electrically charged.”

When the wind blows hard enough (approximately 15 mph), Titan’s non-silicate granules get kicked up and start to hop in a motion referred to as saltation. As they collide, they become frictionally charged, like a balloon rubbing against your hair, and clump together in a way not observed for sand dune grains on Earth — they become resistant to further motion.

They maintain that charge for days or months at a time and attach to other hydrocarbon substances, much like packing peanuts used in shipping boxes here on Earth. The findings have just been published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

“If you grabbed piles of grains and built a sand castle on Titan, it would perhaps stay together for weeks due to their electrostatic properties,” said Josef Dufek, the Georgia Tech professor who co-led the study. “Any spacecraft that lands in regions of granular material on Titan is going to have a tough time staying clean. Think of putting a cat in a box of packing peanuts.”

The electrification findings may help explain an odd phenomenon. Prevailing winds on Titan blow from east to west across the moon’s surface, but sandy dunes nearly 300 feet tall seem to form in the opposite direction.

Credit: IB Times

It’s not yet known what the origin of asteroid (or comet) ‘Bee-Zed’ is or if it’s one of a class of similar objects in retrograde co-orbital resonance, as reports. The researchers say ‘how it got there remains a mystery.’

For at least a million years, an asteroid orbiting the “wrong” way around the sun has been playing a cosmic game of chicken with giant Jupiter and with about 6,000 other asteroids sharing the giant planet’s space, says a report published in the latest issue of Nature.

The asteroid, nicknamed Bee-Zed, is the only one in this solar system that’s known both to have an opposite, retrograde orbit around the sun while at the same time sharing a planet’s orbital space, says researcher and co-author Paul Wiegert of Western’s Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The largest ‘TNOs’

This is about the ‘no-name’ dwarf planet 2007 OR10, which has the unusual property of being 3 times further from the Sun at aphelion (furthest) than at perihelion (nearest).

Everybody gets a moon! With the discovery of a small moon orbiting the third-largest dwarf planet, all the large objects that orbit beyond Neptune now have satellites, reports New Scientist.

Trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) spend most or all of their orbits beyond Neptune. Last April, the dwarf planet Makemake became the ninth of the ten TNOs with diameters near or above 1,000 kilometres known to have a moon.

So when dwarf planet 2007 OR10 was found to be rotating more slowly than expected, it was suspected that a moon might be the culprit.

Image credit: NASA

Image credit: NASA

From the research paper: ‘We suggest the possibility that the Earth’s atmosphere of billions of years ago may be preserved on the present-day lunar surface.’

A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in Japan, examining data from that country’s moon-orbiting Kaguya spacecraft, has found evidence of oxygen from Earth’s atmosphere making its way to the surface of the moon for a few days every month, reports

In their paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy, the researchers describe what data from the spacecraft revealed.

Saturn and the lunar year

Posted: January 28, 2017 by oldbrew in Maths, solar system dynamics

Comparison of Saturn and Earth [image credit: NASA]

Comparison of Saturn and Earth [image credit: NASA]

In a recent post: Sidorenkov and the lunar or tidal year we were looking at the match between tropical years and periods of 13 lunar months (i.e. the lunar, or tidal, year):
353 tropical years = 363 tidal years (where 1 lunar year = 13 lunar tropical months)

Here we want to see if Saturn links to the lunar year.
From the JPL ephemeris [target body: Saturn] we have:
Saturn orbit period = 10755.698 days

Jupiter-Saturn-Earth orbits  chart

Jupiter-Saturn-Earth orbits chart

From another post we produced a chart [right] based on 85 Saturn orbit periods:
85 x 10755.698 days = 914234.33 days

One tidal year = 13 x 27.321582 days = 355.18056 days
914234.33 / 355.18056 = 2573.9987 tidal years (2574)
So 85 Saturn orbits = 2574 tidal years

Since 2574 is divisible by 6 (= 429) we can use the chart to say:
403 Saturn-Earth conjunctions (S-E) = 429 tidal years
or, dividing by 13:
31 S-E = 33 tidal years
therefore, multiplying by 11:
341 S-E = 353 tropical years = 363 tidal years (the original match, see above)

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.

Jupiter-Saturn-Earth orbits  chart

Jupiter-Saturn-Earth orbits chart

Browsing through some of the PRP papers I came across this at the end of the introduction to R.J. Salvador’s paper – A mathematical model of the sunspot cycle for the past 1000 yr:

Another well-known oscillation found in solar records is
the de Vries cycle of 208 yr (see McCracken et al., 2013).
The frequency of 1253 yr, together with the Jose frequency of
178.8 yr, produces a beat of 208 yr and is used in the model.

Looking back at this Talkshop post from 2014 I wondered if these numbers could be linked to it.

From the chart [top line: ‘2503 E’] I’d suggest the ‘frequency of 1253 years’ could be the half-period of the 2503 year cycle i.e. 1251.5 years, a difference of only 0.0012%.

With the ‘Jose frequency of 178.8 years’ being the mean period of 9 Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions (by definition), we see from the chart that 1251.5 years would be 63 J-S, since it’s half the full period of 2503 years or 126 J-S [= 63 * 2].

Therefore the two periods would be in a simple ratio of 1:7.

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. 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.


2012 Venus transit [credit:  JAXA/NASA/Lockheed Martin

2012 Venus transit [credit: JAXA/NASA/Lockheed Martin]

Venus is certainly an oddball in various ways. Is that the ghost of Velikovsky lurking in the background to this story?

Venus and Mercury have been observed transiting the Sun many times over the past few centuries. When these planets are seen passing between the Sun and the Earth, opportunities exist for some great viewing, not to mention serious research.

And whereas Mercury makes transits with greater frequency (three times since 2000), a transit of Venus is something of a rare treat. In June of 2012, Venus made its most recent transit – an event which will not happen again until 2117.

Luckily, during this latest event, scientists made some very interesting observations which revealed X-ray and ultraviolet emissions coming from the dark side of Venus.


The Kuiper Belt region [credit:]

The Kuiper Belt region [credit:]

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

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.


Charon's 'red spot' [image credit:]

Charon’s ‘red spot’ [image credit:]

Scientists have discovered ‘atmospheric transfer’ taking place between Pluto and its binary partner Charon.

In June 2015, when the cameras on NASA’s approaching New Horizons spacecraft first spotted the large reddish polar region on Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, mission scientists knew two things: they’d never seen anything like it elsewhere in our solar system, and they couldn’t wait to get the story behind it, as reports.

Over the past year, after analyzing the images and other data that New Horizons has sent back from its historic July 2015 flight through the Pluto system, the scientists think they’ve solved the mystery.


Sci News reports scientific findings that ‘winds, the water content, and the cloud composition – are somehow connected to the properties of Venus’ surface itself’.

Using data from ESA’s Venus Express spacecraft, European planetary researchers have shown how weather patterns seen in Venus’ cloud layers are directly linked to the topography of the surface below.

Venus is famously hot. The average temperature on the Venusian surface is 864 degrees Fahrenheit (462 degrees Celsius).


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.


 More details The orbit of 2007 OR10 compared to the orbit of Eris, Pluto, and the outer planets [credit: Gravity Simulator by Tony Dunn]

More details
The orbit of 2007 OR10 compared to the orbit of Eris, Pluto, and the outer planets
[credit: Gravity Simulator by Tony Dunn]

What the report doesn’t say is that the second largest dwarf planet Eris is a close neighbour of “Snow White”. Eris completes 52 orbits of the Sun to every 53 of “Snow White”. Both have highly inclined orbits.

A faraway object nicknamed “Snow White” is considerably larger than scientists had thought, and is in fact the third-largest dwarf planet in the solar system, a new study suggests.

Snow White is about 955 miles (1,535 kilometers) in diameter rather than 795 miles (1,280 km) wide as previously believed, according to the new study. That makes it the largest still-unnamed object in our solar system, NASA officials said. (The dwarf planet has not yet been formally named and currently goes by the placeholder designation 2007 OR10.)