Tag: jupiter (page 1 of 9)

Saint Germain, Mother dethrones Babylon, August-01-2016

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Sea Salt Discovered on Jupiter’s Moon Europa

This image shows a view of the trailing hemisphere of Jupiter's ice-covered satellite, Europa, in approximate natural color. Long, dark lines are fractures in the crust, some of which are more than 3,000 kilometers (1,850 miles) long.   Image via Galileo spacecraft in 1996.

Europa is thought to have a subsurface ocean. Salt from this hidden sea might be emerging in long fractures visible in the moon’s crust.



Excerpt earthsky.org


Laboratory experiments have lead to new information about the chemical composition of the mysterious dark material in the long, dark fractures on the surface of Europa, a large moon of Jupiter. Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) mimicked conditions on Europa’s surface. They now say that the dark material is discolored salt, likely sea salt from below the moon’s icy crust. The journal Geological Research Letters published their study on May 15, 2015.

The scientists say this new insight is important in considering whether this icy moon might be hospitable for extraterrestrial life. The life question is a key one for Europa, since this world is believed to have a liquid ocean beneath its crust. The presence of sea salt on Europa’s surface suggests the ocean is interacting with its rocky seafloor.

Scientists have been intensely curious about Europa since Galileo discovered it in 1610. In recent years, they’ve puzzled over the dark material coating the long, linear fractures on Europa’s observable surface. The material was associated with young terrain on this moon of Jupiter, suggesting that it had erupted from within Europa.
However, the chemical composition of the dark material remained elusive, until now.
Planetary scientist Kevin Hand at JPL led the new study. He said in a statement:
If it’s just salt from the ocean below, that would be a simple and elegant solution for what the dark, mysterious material is.
Europa is immersed radiation from Jupiter’s powerful magnetic field, causing high-powered electrons to slam into the moon’s surface. Hand and his team created a laboratory test that mimicked the conditions of Europa’s temperature, pressure, and radiation exposure. They tested a variety of samples including common salt – sodium chloride – and salt water in a vacuum chamber at Europa’s chilly surface temperature of minus 280 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 173 Celsius). They also bombarded the samples with an electron beam to imitate Jupiter’s influence. 

After several hours – a time period corresponding to over a century on Europa, the researchers said – the salt samples were observed to go from white to a yellowish brown, the color similar to the features on the icy moon. Hand said:
This work tells us the chemical signature of radiation-baked sodium chloride is a compelling match to spacecraft data for Europa’s mystery material.
A
A “Europa-in-a-can” laboratory setup at NASA-JPL mimics conditions of temperature, near vacuum and heavy radiation on the surface of Jupiter’s icy moon. Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech


A close-up of salt grains discolored by radiation following exposure in a
Close-up of salt grains discolored by radiation following exposure in a “Europa-in-a-can” test setup at JPL. Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech


Until now, telescopic observations have only shown glimpses of irradiated salts. No telescope on Earth can observe Europa’s surface with enough resolution to identify them with certainty. Researchers suggest additional spacecraft observation to gather more evidence.
A visit to this icy world would help answer the most tantalizing questions about Europa. Long believed to have a liquid ocean of salt water below its icy surface, this moon continues to display promising conditions for extraterrestrial life. 

As Europa orbits Jupiter, it experiences strong tidal forces similar to Earth and the Moon. These forces from Jupiter and the other Jovian moons cause Europa to flex and stretch, which creates heat, and results in Europa having a warm internal temperature than it would with just the heat from the Sun alone. 

Recent observable geological activity also creates strong evidence that the subsurface ocean interacts directly with Europa’s rocky interior, making geothermal vents, like those in Earth’s oceans, a strong possibility as well. 

These hydrothermal vent ecosystems on Earth thrive with no energy from the sun. Bacteria, shrimp and crustaceans have all been observed in these extreme environments, surviving on what researchers have deemed chemosythesis.

With Europa’s enormous amount of liquid salt water, essential chemical elements and geological activity, this long discovered icy moon appears to be one of the solar systems most promising locations for habitable requirements for life. 

However, until a devoted spacecraft visit’s, nothing beyond hopeful speculation can be proven, the researchers say.

Bottom line: Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory created laboratory conditions that mimicked those on Jupiter’s large moon Europa, to learn the chemical compositions of the material in long, dark fractures in the moon’s surface. They now believe this material is sea salt, which has emerged to Europa’s surface from its liquid ocean below.

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NASA Releases New Pictures of Ceres

Bright spots on Ceres continue to puzzle astronomersExcerpt from sciencetimes.com NASA has released the most brilliant images of Ceres to date, truly showcasing the surface of the dwarf planet located in the asteroid belt.  The new images could...

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‘Hats Off’ To HATS-6b: Discovery of ‘puffy’ new planet brings scientists closer to finding new life in outer space

An artist's impression of the planet HATS-6b, orbiting the star, HATS-6. (Supplied: ANU) Excerpt from abc.net.au A "puffy" new planet orbiting a small, cool star has been discovered 500 light years away from Earth, by a team of scientists c...

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Local Lick Observatory Astronomers Discover ‘Supersized Earths’ Surrounding Relatively Nearby Star


A telescope at Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton. (CBS)
A telescope at Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton. (CBS)


Excerpt from cbslocal.com


SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – Astronomers at the Lick Observatory atop Mount Hamilton have confirmed the existence of three planets described as “supersized Earths” orbiting a star 54 light years away.
Researchers from the University of California, University of Hawaii, the University of California Observatories and Tennessee State University have been working for years to confirm the planets were there.

The planets orbit a star called HD 7924. They orbit at a distance closer than Mercury orbits our sun (35.9 million miles), and complete their orbits in five, 15 and 24 days, respectively.
“The three planets are unlike anything in our solar system, with masses seven to eight times the mass of Earth and orbits very close to their host star,” UC Berkeley graduate student Lauren Weiss said in a written statement.

The researchers used a robotic telescope called the “Automated Planet Finder,” which searches for planets around nearby stars that could be suitable for life. Most distant planets discovered by astronomers so far are gas giants like Jupiter.

Astronomers first found evidence of planets surrounding HD 7924 six years ago. The planets are not visible to the naked eye.

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NASA wants your vote on Ceres’ mysterious bright spots

NASA wants your vote on Ceres’ bright spots

The nature of the bright spots has yet to be elucidated.




Excerpt from thespacereporter.com

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has set up a website at which members of the public can register their votes as to the identify of the strange and unexpected bright spots seen on Ceres by the Dawn probe. Although Dawn will study the spots in much greater detail in the near future, having just assumed its first scientific orbit, in the meantime the nature of spots in anyone’s guess. This author voted for “ice”.

It seems ice is the most popular possibility so far, with 33 percent of the vote. The next most popular choice is “other”, with 28 percent. “Volcano” and “geyser” both have 11 percent, “salt deposit” has nine percent, and “rock” has eight percent.

At about 590 miles in diameter, Ceres is the largest body in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Dawn had imaged Ceres’s surface throughout its approach. Dawn entered orbit of Ceres on March 6, the first spacecraft to orbit a dwarf planet. From 2011 to 2012, Dawn also orbited the asteroid Vesta, the second-most massive body in the asteroid belt. Having studied both Vesta and Ceres, Dawn is the first spacecraft in history to orbit two extraterrestrial objects. Dawn’s investigations of Vesta and Ceres will shed light on the early evolution of our solar system; both bodies represent incipient planets, gravitationally perturbed early in their formation.

“The approach imaging campaign has completed successfully by giving us a preliminary, tantalizing view of the world Dawn is about to start exploring in detail. It has allowed us to start asking some new and intriguing questions,” said Marc Rayman, Dawn’s mission director and chief engineer at the JPL, in a separate NASA statement.

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Extremely distant exoplanet discovered



 



Excerpt from  thespacereporter.com

According to a NASA statement, the agency’s Spitzer Space Telescope has taken part in the discovery of one of the most distant exoplanets yet found. Spitzer observations were combined with data from the Polish Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment’s Warsaw Telescope, part of the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. The newly found exoplanet is approximately 13,000 light-years from Earth, and could yield new clues as to the distribution of planets throughout the Milky Way.

The Warsaw Telescope gathers data through the phenomenon known as microlensing, which occurs when a star passes in front of another, more distant star as seen from Earth’s vantage point. The gravity of the nearer star magnifies and intensifies the distant star’s light; any planets orbiting the distant star appear as small disruptions in the magnification. So far, the microlensing methods has identified around 30 exoplanets, the most distant of which is around 25,000 light-years away.

However, the microlensing method cannot always show how far away are the more distant stars and their planets; the distances to about half of the exoplanets found with microlensing cannot be ascertained. Fortunately, Spitzer is able to help. Located 128 million miles from Earth, Spitzer is able to observe a microlensing event at a different time from the Warsaw Telescope, a method called parallax. In the case of the newly discovered exoplanet, the microlensing event was longer than norman, lasting 150 days. 
Spitzer observed the event 20 days earlier than Warsaw. This time delay allowed the distance to the newly found planet to be calculated. With the distance, the planet’s mass, approximately half that of Jupiter, also was determined.

“We’ve mainly explored our own solar neighborhood so far,” said Sebastiano Calchi Novati of NASA’s Exoplanet Science Institute at the California Institute of Technology. “Now we can use these single lenses to do statistics on planets as a whole and learn about their distribution in the galaxy.”

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Guiding Our Search for Life on Other Earths


The James Webb Telescope


Excerpt from space.com

A telescope will soon allow astronomers to probe the atmosphere of Earthlike exoplanets for signs of life. To prepare, astronomer Lisa Kaltenegger and her team are modeling the atmospheric fingerprints for hundreds of potential alien worlds. Here's how:
The James Webb Space Telescope, set to launch in 2018, will usher a new era in our search for life beyond Earth. With its 6.5-meter mirror, the long-awaited successor to Hubble will be large enough to detect potential biosignatures in the atmosphere of Earthlike planets orbiting nearby stars.
And we may soon find a treasure-trove of such worlds. The forthcoming exoplanet hunter TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite), set to launch in 2017, will scout the entire sky for planetary systems close to ours. (The current Kepler mission focuses on more distant stars, between 600 and 3,000 light-years from Earth.) 

Astronomer Lisa Kaltenegger




While TESS will allow for the brief detection of new planets, the larger James Webb will follow up on select candidates and provide clues about their atmospheric composition. But the work will be difficult and require a lot of telescope time.
"We're expecting to find thousands of new planets with TESS, so we'll need to select our best targets for follow-up study with the Webb telescope," says Lisa Kaltenegger, an astronomer at Cornell University and co-investigator on the TESS team.
To prepare, Kaltenegger and her team at Cornell's Institute for Pale Blue Dots are building a database of atmospheric fingerprints for hundreds of potential alien worlds. The models will then be used as "ID cards" to guide the study of exoplanet atmospheres with the Webb and other future large telescopes.
Kaltenegger described her approach in a talk for the NASA Astrobiology Institute's Director Seminar Series last December.
"For the first time in human history, we have the technology to find and characterize other worlds," she says. "And there's a lot to learn."

Detecting life from space  

In its 1990 flyby of Earth, the Galileo spacecraft took a spectrum of sunlight filtered through our planet's atmosphere. In a 1993 paper in the journal Nature, astronomer Carl Sagan analyzed that data and found a large amount of oxygen together with methane — a telltale sign of life on Earth. These observations established a control experiment for the search of extraterrestrial life by modern spacecraft.
"The spectrum of a planet is like a chemical fingerprint," Kaltenegger says. "This gives us the key to explore alien worlds light years away."
Current telescopes have picked up the spectra of giant, Jupiter-like exoplanets. But the telescopes are not large enough to do so for smaller, Earth-like worlds. The James Webb telescope will be our first shot at studying the atmospheres of these potentially habitable worlds.
Some forthcoming ground-based telescopes — including the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), planned for completion in 2020, and the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), scheduled for first light in 2024 — may also be able to contribute to that task. [The Largest Telescopes on Earth: How They Compare]
And with the expected discovery by TESS of thousands of nearby exoplanets, the James Webb and other large telescopes will have plenty of potential targets to study. Another forthcoming planet hunter, the Planetary Transits and Oscillations of stars (PLATO), a planned European Space Agency mission scheduled for launch around 2022-2024, will contribute even more candidates.
However, observation time for follow-up studies will be costly and limited.
"It will take hundreds of hours of observation to see atmospheric signatures with the Webb telescope," Kaltenegger says. "So we'll have to pick our targets carefully."

Giant Magellan Telescope
Set to see its first light in 2021, The Giant Magellan Telescope will be the world’s largest telescope.

Getting a head start

To guide that process, Kaltenegger and her team are putting together a database of atmospheric fingerprints of potential alien worlds. "The models are tools that can teach us how to observe and help us prioritize targets," she says.
To start, they have modeled the chemical fingerprint of Earth over geological time. Our planet's atmosphere has evolved over time, with different life forms producing and consuming various gases. These models may give astronomers some insight into a planet's evolutionary stage.
Other models take into consideration the effects of a host of factors on the chemical signatures — including water, clouds, atmospheric thickness, geological cycles, brightness of the parent star, and even the presence of different extremophiles.
"It's important to do this wide range of modeling right now," Kaltenegger said, "so we're not too startled if we detect something unexpected. A wide parameter space can allow us to figure out if we might have a combination of these environments."
She added: "It can also help us refine our modeling as fast as possible, and decide if more measurements are needed while the telescope is still in space. It's basically a stepping-stone, so we don't have to wait until we get our first measurements to understand what we are seeing. Still, we'll likely find things we never thought about in the first place."
 

A new research center

The spectral database is one of the main projects undertaken at the Institute for Pale Blue Dots, a new interdisciplinary research center founded in 2014 by Kaltenegger. The official inauguration will be held on May 9, 2015.
"The crux of the institute is the characterization of rocky, Earth-like planets in the habitable zone of nearby stars," Kaltenergger said. "It's a very interdisciplinary effort with people from astronomy, geology, atmospheric modeling, and hopefully biology."
She added: "One of the goal is to better understand what makes a planet a life-friendly habitat, and how we can detect that from light years away. We're on the verge of discovering other pale blue dots. And with Sagan's legacy, Cornell University is a really great home for an institute like that."

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Our sun is five billion years younger than most other stars in our galaxy






Excerpt from stgist.com



The sun, or the nearest star from Earth, was formed around 5 billion years after the Milky Way galaxy’s peak production of stars, a new research published in the Astrophysical Journal. 

Using multiple ground based, and space telescopes, including the Magellan Telescopes located at Las Campanas Observatory in South America, a new study was able to confirm that the closest star from us, the Sun, was formed after the so-called stellar “baby boom” of the Milky Way galaxy.

It’s like traveling back in time. Researchers from Texas A&M University in College Station, headed by astronomer Casey Papovich, were able to see the undepicted past of our own galaxy by observing similar regions located billions of light years away from us.

The “baby boom” happened around 10 billion years ago, the new study published in Astrophysical Journal revealed. At that time, the Milky Way galaxy was producing 30 times more stars than today. If so, then our solar system’s 4.6 billion years old Sun was formed more than 5 billion years after the production peak.

Sun’s late formation allowed the solar system we know today to produce planets with heavier elements. Scientists say elements heavier than hydrogen and helium became more abundant in “late to the game systems”, and the death of massive stars that were formed before the Sun had provided materials needed to form planets, including Earth and its complex life forms.

Scientists scanned through a collection of more than 24,000 galaxies, and took at least 2,000 snapshots of galaxies that closely resemble our own. The census has provided the most complete picture yet of how spiral galaxies similar to Milky Way form in the universe.

According to Mr. Papovich, the lead author of the study who also serves as an associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at A&M University in Texas, they know where to find traces by analyzing how galaxies like our own were formed.

Papovich said his team has provided a data that clearly show the rapid phase of growth around 9 to 10 billion years ago, or at least more than 5 billion years after our Sun formed. They also found the connection between the size of the galaxy, and the formation of stars.

Surprisingly, the robust collection of distant galaxies confirmed that stars formed inside the Milky Way, instead of forming in other smaller baby galaxies that later merged to join the system.

In separate studies, scientists were able to confirm that our own solar system is wetter than thought. Beyond Earth, celestial objects like Jupiter’s Galilean moons Europa and Ganymede, Saturn’s Enceladus, and even the dwarf planet Ceres in the asteroid belt, are hosting fluid slightly similar to Earth’s — and it is highly possible that the Sun’s late formation allowed this setup to exist.

Papovich who worked alongside Texas A&M postdoctoral researchers Vithal Tilvi and Ryan Quadri, were joined by at least two dozen astronomers from other countries. The research is published April 9th entitled “ZFOURGE/CANDELS: ON THE EVOLUTION OF M* GALAXY PROGENITORS FROM z = 3 TO 0.5*.” The research was funded by NASA

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Huge Alien Planet Bathes in the Light of Four Suns



30 Ari with its newly discovered companion stars
Karen Teramura

Excerpt from nbcnews.com


Astronomers have spotted a fourth star in a planetary system called 30 Ari, bringing the number of known planet-harboring quadruple-sun systems to two. 

"Star systems come in myriad forms. There can be single stars, binary stars, triple stars, even quintuple star systems," study lead author Lewis Roberts, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement. "It's amazing the way nature puts these things together." 

30 Ari lies 136 light-years from the sun in the constellation Aries. Astronomers discovered a giant planet in the system in 2009; the world is about 10 times more massive than Jupiter and orbits its primary star every 335 days. There's also a pair of stars that lie approximately 1,670 astronomical units away. (One AU is the distance between Earth and the sun — about 93 million miles, or 150 million kilometers).

The newfound star circles its companion once every 80 years, at a distance of just 22 AU, but it does not appear to affect the exoplanet's orbit despite such proximity. This is a surprising result that will require further observations to understand, researchers said. 

To a hypothetical observer cruising through the giant planet's atmosphere, the sky would appear to host one small sun and two bright stars visible in daylight. With a large enough telescope, one of the bright stars could be resolved into a binary pair. 

The discovery marks just the second time a planet has been identified in a four-star system. The first four-star planet, PH1b or Kepler-64b, was spotted in 2012 by citizen scientists using publicly available data from NASA's Kepler mission. 

Planets with multiple suns have become less of a novelty in recent years, as astronomers have found a number of real worlds that resemble Tatooine, Luke Skywalker's home planet in the Star Wars films. 

The research was published online this month in the Astronomical Journal.

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Why Luke Skywalker’s binary sunset may be real after all






Excerpt from csmonitor.com

Researchers have found Jupiter-scale gas giants orbiting binary stars and estimate that Earth-like planets orbiting binary stars could be as numerous as rocky planets orbiting single-star systems.


For all the sci-fi charm of watching a pair of suns sink below a distant horizon on a planet in a galaxy far, far away, conventional wisdom has held that binary-star systems can't host Earth-scale rocky planets.

As the two stars orbit each other like square-dance partners swinging arm in arm, regular variations in their gravitational tug would disrupt planet formation at the relatively close distances where rocky planets tend to appear.

Not so fast, say two astrophysicists. They argue that only are Tatooine-like planets likely to be out there. They could be as numerous as rocky planets orbiting single-star systems – which is to say, there could be large number of them.

Building rocky planets in a binary system not only is possible, it's "not even that hard," says Scott Kenyon, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., who along with University of Utah astrophysicist Benjamin Bromley performed the calculations.
Researchers have found Jupiter-scale gas giants orbiting binary stars and have estimated that such gas giants are likely to be as common in binary systems as they are in systems with a single star.
"If that's true, then Earth-like planets around binaries are just as common as Earth-like planets around single stars," Dr. Kenyon says. "If they're not common, that tells you something about how they form or how they interact with the star over billions of years."

The modeling study grew out of work the two researchers were undertaking to figure out how the dwarf planet Pluto and its largest moon Charon manage to share space with four smaller moons that orbit the two larger objects. 

Pluto and Charon form a binary system that early in its history saw the two objects graze each other to generate a ring of dust that would become the additional moons.

The gravity the surrounding dust felt as Pluto and Charon swung about their shared center of mass would vary with clock-like precision.

Conventional wisdom held that this variable tug would trigger collisions at speeds too fast to allow the dust and larger chunks to merge into ever larger objects.

Kenyon and Dr. Bromley found that, in fact, the velocities would be smaller than people thought – no greater than the speeds would be around a single central object, where velocities are slow enough to allow the debris to bump gently and merge to build ever-larger objects.

They recognized that binary stars hosting planets are essentially scaled-up versions of the Pluto-Charon system. So they applied their calculations to a hypothetical binary star system with a circumstellar disk of dust and debris.

"The modest jostling in these orbits is the same modest jostling you'd get around a single star," Kenyon says, allowing rocky inner planets to form.

As for the Jupiter- or Neptune-scale planets found around binary stars, they would have formed farther out and migrated in over time, the researchers say, since there is too little material within the inner reaches of a circumstellar disk to build giant planets.

The duo's calculations imply that as more planets are discovered orbiting binary stars, a rising number of Tatooines will be among them. 

Tatooine "was science fiction," Kenyon says. But "it's not so far from science reality."

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Jupiter May Be Behind The Mysterious ‘Gaping Hole’ In Our Solar System

Excerpt from huffingtonpost.comWhen astronomers began studying other solar systems in the Milky Way galaxy back in the 1990s, they noticed something peculiar: most of these systems have big planets that circle their host stars in tight orbits, a fin...

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New spin on Saturn’s peculiar, err, spin

 Excerpt from spacedaily.comAccording to the new method, Saturn's day is 10 hours, 32 minutes and 44 seconds long. Tracking the rotation speed of solid planets, like the Earth and Mars, is a relatively simple task: Just measure the time it tak...

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