Posts Tagged ‘solar system’

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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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.

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Planetary theory lives on, even if it now has to nod towards trace gases in the atmosphere to be in fashion with the times.

Scientists have long posited that periodic swings in Earth’s climate are driven by cyclic changes in the distribution of sunlight reaching our surface, says Phys.org.

This is due to cyclic changes in how our planet spins on its axis, the ellipticity of its orbit, and its orientation toward the sun—overlapping cycles caused by subtle gravitational interplays with other planets, as the bodies whirl around the sun and by each other like gyrating hula-hoops.

But planetary paths change over time, and that can change the cycles’ lengths. This has made it challenging for scientists to untangle what drove many ancient climate shifts.

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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 Phys.org.

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

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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.
– – –
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?

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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.

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See a passing comet this Sunday

Posted: December 15, 2018 by oldbrew in Astronomy, News, solar system dynamics
Tags:

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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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.
QW322

astroengine.com

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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Saharan dust storm [image credit: BBC]


The researchers report that ‘Titan displays particularly energetic meteorology at equinox in equatorial regions’. Associated strong winds ‘are expected to occur in downbursts during rare equinoctial methane storms—consistent with the timing of the observed brightenings’. On Earth, auroral activity is strongest at the equinoxes, so solar wind strength could be a factor in both phenomena.

Data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has revealed what appear to be giant dust storms in equatorial regions of Saturn’s moon Titan, reports Phys.org.

The discovery, described in a paper published on Sept. 24 in Nature Geoscience, makes Titan the third Solar System body, in addition to Earth and Mars, where dust storms have been observed.

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NASA mission to Jupiter’s
trojan asteroids


Could evidence from a specific binary asteroid pair upset existing planetary theories? ‘The Jupiter trojans, commonly called Trojan asteroids or just Trojans, are a large group of asteroids that share the planet Jupiter’s orbit around the Sun.’ – Wikipedia. There are over a million of these, inhabiting two oval-shaped zones based around what are known as the Lagrangian points L4 and L5 of Jupiter’s orbit (see animation below).

Scientists at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) studied an unusual pair of asteroids and discovered that their existence points to an early planetary shake-up in our solar system.

These bodies, called Patroclus and Menoetius [see flyby 6 in the graphic], are targets of NASA’s upcoming Lucy mission to the Trojan asteroids. They are around 70 miles wide and orbit around each other as they collectively circle the Sun.

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The highly tilted orbit of Eris compared to the orbits of Ceres (light blue), Jupiter (maroon), Saturn (orange, Uranus (green), Neptune (blue), Pluto (olive, and MakeMake (red) [image credit: Fandom]


Could a ‘rogue’ star passing nearby have disturbed outer parts of the early solar system? Beyond Neptune things become somewhat different.

The outer reaches of our solar system harbor a number of mysterious features. Astrobites reports on whether a single stellar fly-by could help explain them all.

A star is born from the gravitational collapse of a cloud of gas and dust. Yet not all of the material ends up in the star, and instead forms a flat protoplanetary disk that surrounds the new star. Over time, the materials in this disk coalesce to form planets, moons, asteroids, and most other objects you might expect to find near a typical star.

Since protoplanetary disks are flat, the expectation is that all of the planets and objects orbiting a star that formed out of a protoplanetary disk should orbit on a single plane. So when we find stars with planets that orbit at multiple different inclinations, this raises questions.

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Here we find a match between the orbit numbers of Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus and see what that might tell us about certain patterns in the solar system.

715 U = 60072.044 years
2040 S = 60072.895 years
5064 J = 60072.282 years
Data source: Nasa/JPL – Planets and Pluto: Physical Characteristics

The Jupiter-Saturn part of the chart derives directly from this earlier Talkshop post:
Why Phi? – Jupiter, Saturn and the de Vries cycle

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Room for one more? [image credit: NASA]


There’s a suspicion of confirmation bias, or seeing what you wanted to see, in stories like this. But we’ll look for any merits in the ideas anyway. Claims that Planet 9 can’t hide much longer haven’t proved correct so far.

Observations made a thousand years ago could help modern scientists find the theoretical “Planet Nine” in the outer reaches of the solar system, says Live Science.

The far reaches of the outer solar system may be home to an icy giant — a hypothetical planet scientists have dubbed “Planet Nine.”

Meanwhile, archives back on Earth are home to dozens of medieval records documenting the passage of comets through the heavens. Now, two researchers from Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland are hoping to use these old scrolls and tapestries to solve the modern astronomical mystery of Planet Nine.

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Cyclones in Jupiter’s atmosphere [image credit: NASA]


Octagon and pentagon (8:5) shapes at the poles, with groups of cyclones in a 9:6 (= 3:2) polar ratio. Fascinating.

Jupiter’s poles are blanketed by geometric clusters of cyclones and its atmosphere is deeper than scientists suspected, says Phys.org.

These are just some of the discoveries reported by four international research teams Wednesday, based on observations by NASA’s Juno spacecraft circling Jupiter.

One group uncovered a constellation of nine cyclones over Jupiter’s north pole and six over the south pole. The wind speeds exceed Category 5 hurricane strength in places, reaching 220 mph (350 kph).

The massive storms haven’t changed position much—or merged—since observations began.

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Giant planets of the solar system [image credit: universetoday.com]


This post on the ice giants Uranus and Neptune follows on from this one:
Why Phi? – Jupiter, Saturn and the inner solar system

The main focus will be on Uranus. A planetary conjunction of three bodies (e.g. two planets and the Sun, in line) is also known as a syzygy.

Here’s the notation for the table shown below:
J-S = Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions
S-U = Saturn-Uranus conjunctions
U-N = Uranus-Neptune conjunctions



Each of the columns: U, S-U, J-S shows a Fibonacci progression.

Accuracy of best match is between 99.965% and 99.991%.

Quoting Wikipedia: ‘The mathematics of the golden ratio and of the Fibonacci sequence are intimately interconnected.’
The Greek letter φ (phi) represents the golden ratio.

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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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Sun at solar system barycentre 1990 [via Arnholm’s solar simulator]


H/T Michele Casati

INFLUENCE OF SOLAR RETROGRADE MOTION ON TERRESTRIAL PROCESSES
N.S.Sidorenkov, Ian Wilson

ABSTRACT. The influence of solar retrograde motion on secular minima of solar activity, volcanic eruptions, climate changes, and other terrestrial processes is investigated. Most collected data suggest that secular minima of solar activity, powerful volcanic eruptions, significant climate changes, and catastrophic earthquakes occur around events of solar retrograde motion.

Keywords: barycentric motion of the sun; secular minima of solar activity, volcanic eruptions, climate changes; the historical process of humankind.

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Credit: BBC


The fact is we live in a *solar* system. As the author concludes: ‘It is time … to focus on understanding the sun-climate connection. We need to see the sun in climate change.’

There is a lot of debate about the sun’s role in global warming and climate change says David Wojick, Ph.D.. Some scientists argue that the sun plays the dominant role, making human activity insignificant.

Much of this argument is based on statistical analysis of very long proxy records. One can see a very good example of this thinking, as well as the debate surrounding it, in a recent article on Judith Curry’s Outstanding “Climate, Etc.” science blog.

The article is titled “Nature Unbound VI Centennial to millennial solar cycles.”

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Getting any response from 13 billion miles away is quite a feat.
But what will the aliens make of Chuck Berry?

Engineers experience “joy and incredulity” as a successful test extends the life of the farthest human-made object from Earth, reports Sky News.

NASA has been able to extend the life of one of its space probes travelling 13 billion miles from Earth by firing up dormant thrusters not used for 37 years.

Voyager 1 was launched in September 1977 and is the only human-made object in interstellar space – the environment between the stars.

But after four decades of exploration which have taken in fly-bys of Jupiter and Saturn, engineers found that the primary thrusters which orient the space probe had severely degraded.

So, in an attempt to keep Voyager 1 operable, NASA tested four thrusters on the back side of the spacecraft which have not been used 1980.

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