Tag: planemos

Hubble Survey Spots Two New Objects Beyond Pluto


Excerpt from

news.discovery.com

Scientists looking for targets beyond Pluto for NASA’s New Horizon’s spacecraft to visit will get more time on the Hubble Space Telescope, managers decided after a two-week pilot study revealed at least two candidate objects.

The New Horizons team had spent three fruitless years using ground-based telescopes to find a Kuiper Belt Object that will be within range of New Horizons after its July 14, 2015, flyby of Pluto. Last month, scientists got two weeks of observing time on Hubble for initial scans.

The deal was that if they found at least two candidates, they could have another 160 orbits worth of telescope time to ferret out a second suitable target for New Horizons...

The Kuiper Belt is an area of icy bodies left over from the formation of the solar system...

Analysis of an initial 200 Hubble images, taken between June 16 and June 26, showed that at least two Kuiper Belt Objects might be within range of New Horizons...


A more detailed search is scheduled to begin this month and conclude in August.

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Lunar Lava Left "Strikingly Geometric" Shapes on the Moon’s Surface


moon lava


scientificamerican.com

A massive feature on the moon formed due to lunar rifts, in a surprise revision to earlier theories, research shows. Previously, scientists thought the moon's Ocean of Storms was a round crater left after a giant impact, but now researchers have found it is underlain by a giant rectangle created by cooling lunar lava as the moon formed.
This finding reveals the early moon was far more dynamic than previously thought, scientists added.
The Ocean of Storms, or Oceanus Procellarum, is the largest of the moon's maria, giant dark spots visible on the near side of the moon. Early astronomers, mistaking these features for oceans, named them maria, Latin for seas. However, they are actually giant plains of the dark rock basalt. 
Stormy history for Ocean of Storms
Scientists had previously thought the Ocean of Storms was created by a giant cosmic impact that left a crater about 2,000 miles wide (3,200 kilometers) that filled with lava. Now, data from NASA's GRAIL mission reveals that Procellarum is not round, but instead is surrounded by a strange giant rectangle underneath the moon's surface. This suggests the Ocean of Storms was not caused by a meteor strike on the moon. Instead, researchers suggest, it formed as the moon's surface rifted apart.

"GRAIL has revealed features on the moon that no one anticipated before we had this data in hand," said lead study author Jeffrey Andrews-Hanna, a planetary scientist at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden. "One can only wonder what might lie hidden beneath the surfaces of all of the other planets in the solar system." 
NASA's twin GRAIL spacecraft, named Ebb and Flow, orbited the moon and measured how the strength of the moon's gravitational pull varied over its surface. Anything that has mass has a gravitational field that pulls objects toward it, and the strength of this field depends on the amount of mass in the object. Variations in the strength of the moon's gravitational pull can therefore help reveal how mass is concentrated there below the surface. NASA launched the GRAIL moon gravity probes (the name is short for Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory) in September 2011. The mission ended in December 2012 when the two spacecraft were intentionally crashed into the moon's surface.
The ultra-precise gravity map of the moon from the GRAIL mission unexpectedly revealed a set of linear structures arranged in a rectangular shape about 1,600 miles (2,600 km) wide around Procellarum. The angular shape of the Ocean of Storm's borders reveal it was not created by a cosmic impact, which would have left a crater with a circular rim.
"The observed pattern of gravity anomalies on the moon is so strikingly geometric and in such an unexpected shape that it is forcing us to think in new and different ways about the processes operating on the moon and planets in general," Andrews-Hanna told Space.com.
Lunar lava and moon geometry
The researchers suggest these newfound structures are the remnants of valleys filled in with frozen lava. These valleys arose as the surface of the moon rifted open.

"As a solid cools and contracts, fractures and faults can form, and these fractures will commonly take on a polygonal pattern," Andrews-Hanna explained. "An excellent example of this is found in cooling lava flows on Earth where the lava breaks up into hexagonal columns, as can be seen at Devil's Postpile National Monument in California. These hexagons form because when three cracks intersect, they do so at 120-degree angles, and the only polygon on a flat surface that you can make with all 120-degree angles is a hexagon. These 120-degree intersections are seen at all scales, from the intersections of centimeter-scale cracks in drying mud to the intersections of giant rift valleys in eastern Africa."
On the moon, these ancient rift zones took on a rectangular order.
"Geometry on a sphere is different than geometry on a flat surface — this is why airplanes appear to follow curved paths when you look at their flight trajectories on a map," Andrews-Hanna said. "For a feature of the size of the Procellarum region, a polygon with 120-degree corner angles has four sides instead of six — or, stated another way, a square the size of Procellarum on the surface of a sphere the size of the moon has 120 degree angles instead of the 90 degree angles you expect on a flat surface."
The rift valleys filled in with lava until 3.5 billion years ago. This lava likely came from sources within the rift valleys themselves, Andrews-Hanna said. It remains uncertain whether the rift valleys formed before or during the volcanism that filled Procellarum with the lava that cooled to form the black rock that currently dominates the area, he added.
Rift zones are well known on Earth, Venus and Mars, but previously unknown on the moon. "This reveals a much more dynamic early moon than we had previously envisioned," Andrews-Hanna said. "I think we are only just beginning to understand the earliest history of the moon."
The newfound pattern of structures on the moon is quite similar to the structures seen on Saturn's icy moon Enceladus, which may have experienced a similar geological history, the researchers noted. Prior research had not predicted these structures on either the moon or Enceladus, "which tells us that we have much left to learn in order to understand the full spectrum of planetary evolution," Andrews-Hanna said.
The research is detailed in the Oct. 2 edition of the journal Nature.

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The Mystery Behind Moon’s Strange Shapes

Earth's moon is pictured as observed in visible light, left, topography, center, where red is high and blue is low, and the GRAIL gravity gradients, right. The Procellarum region is a broad region of low topography covered in dark mare basalt. The g...

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How viewing Earth as an exoplanet can help search for alien life





An extraterrestrial spacecraft lurking in a satellite's orbit near Earth would be able to see city lights and pollution in our atmosphere. But what if it searched for signs of life on Earth from afar?
This question has great pertinence to those searching for other Earths outside of our solar system. NASA's Kepler space telescope is among a fleet of telescopes and spacecraft searching for rocky planets similar to our own. Once the size and location of these worlds are plotted, the next step is examining the chemical composition of their atmospheres.
From afar, Earth-like worlds appear as tiny points of light, making it hard to imagine ever finding out much about them. The best we can do with telescope technology at the moment is to examine some atmospheric components of worlds that are larger than Jupiter. But that doesn't mean we should discount the possibility of ever finding a planet similar in size to our own, researchers say. Telescopes are only getting more powerful. 
"We’re trying to think about how to use observations of the Earth itself to understand the kinds of things we’ll be able to do in the future with possibly the next generation of telescopes," said Robert Fosbury, an emeritus astronomer with the European Southern Observatory (ESO) who participated in the research.
Fosbury and leading researcher Fei Yan, an astronomer with ESO and the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, examined the shadow of the Earth during a lunar eclipse. While there is no facility at ESO that is dedicated to astrobiology, Fosbury said the researchers are thinking closely about the implications for life beyond Earth.
The paper, "High resolution transmission spectrum of the Earth’s atmosphere: Seeing Earth as an exoplanet using a lunar eclipse," is available on the pre-publishing site Arxiv and has been accepted in the International Journal of Astrobiology.
Shadow glance
Observations took place during a total lunar eclipse on Dec. 10, 2011. A lunar eclipse appears as the Earth moves between the moon and the sun, and is visible anywhere the sky is dark and clear with the moon above the horizon.
A lunar eclipse is easier to observe than a total solar eclipse, which appears when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun. During a solar eclipse, the moon's shadow is so small that it creates a brief few minutes of totality and a small "track" of shadow visible from the Earth's surface.
In this study, the researchers made observations with the High Resolution Spectrograph mounted on a 2.16-meter telescope at Xinglong Station, China, and focused the telescope near the moon's Tycho Crater because that is where the moon has high reflectivity.
The researchers hoped to learn more about the Earth's spectrum, which is shown in the moon's reflection. A spectrum is the band of colors that makes up visible light, and is most readily recognized in a rainbow. Certain elements preferentially emit certain wavelengths of light, and absorb others. By using a spectrograph to examine another planet, for example, you can see what atoms or molecules are present in its atmosphere or surface.
Watching the Earth's light reflected by the moon is similar to watching an exoplanet transit across the face of its parent star, the astronomers said. In both cases, finding the absorbing molecules in the atmosphere is a process of subtraction. In the case of an exoplanet, astronomers compare the molecular absorptions in the starlight during and after the transit. In the case of the moon, astronomers compared the elements found in the Earth's shadow, and when the moon was clear of the shadow.
During the eclipse, the science team took spectra when the moon was in the shadow (umbra) of the Earth. The moon turns red during this time because most of the light you see is a refraction of sunlight through the Earth's atmosphere (it's all the sunsets and sunrises on the Earth seen at once). The scientists also compared the spectrum of the moon when it was completely out of the shadow.
Water and pollution
After removing some effects generated by the local atmosphere, the researchers examined the spectrum of colors to see what molecules were visible. A few surprises popped up.
For example, they didn't see as much water vapor in the signature as observers saw in a 2009 eclipse that encompassed much of the Northern Hemisphere. (That paper, "Earth’s transmission spectrum from lunar eclipse observations," was published in the journal Nature.)
Researchers in the newer study concluded that the absence of water vapor was because the "path" of the 2011 transit in the Earth's atmosphere included the Antarctic, where much of the water is presumed to be frozen out of the atmosphere.
Another surprise was the abundance of nitrogen dioxide. Normally the nitrogen dioxide is regarded as a pollutant produced by human activities. The Antarctic, however, is quite a barren location — but it did have a volcano.
"We found that the track we observed is close to a volcano, and this volcano can potentially produce nitrogen dioxide," Yan said. 
He added that other explanations could be possible. In this case, the volcano (Mount Erabus) may not be active enough to produce large amount of nitrogen dioxide. Further investigation found that the nitrogen dioxide was a bio-product of nitrous oxide (which is produced naturally by microbes) that then lingered in the atmosphere and reacted with ozone, creating nitrogen dioxide.
"This was during the spring, and the ice melted in the spring, and according to the vulcanologists this melt releases a lot of nitrous oxide," Fosbury said.

Ozone on other planets
If we were to look at Earth as an exoplanet, could the nitrogen dioxide be interpreted as a sign of pollution, of microbial life or of a volcano? Fosbury said it depends on context. If the planet had an abundance of volcanoes on its surface, you would assume it was likely, principally, from the volcanoes. If those weren't easily visible, it would be harder to draw conclusions about life, but it would be possible.
He pointed out that nitrogen dioxide is normally associated with pollution.
"It's over Los Angeles and Beijing and all of those places because of how the catalysis of exhaust [from cars] works," Fosbury said.
When looking for an extraterrestrial civilization, pollution chemicals should be included on the list of "signs" of life, he added.
Ozone might also be visible. Fosbury pointed out that at higher latitudes, at the edge of the umbra on the moon, you can see blue.
"It's one of the indicators that there's a lot of ozone," he said.
Ozone is also the reason that the sky looks blue during twilight at dusk dawn. (Daylight blue is because of a phenomenon called Rayleigh scattering, which preferentially scatters blue light from the sun through the air.)
"Ozone actually is a very prominent and very important marker for Earth-like planets," Fosbury said.
ESO, whose astronomical facilities are based in Chile, also has at least two major contributions to exoplanet research.  The High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) at the ESO La Silla 11.8-feet telescope measures small variations in stellar velocities as planets orbit them. This instrument was used for the first-ever detection of an exoplanet.
Also under construction is the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), a 128-feet beast that will not only do these velocity measurements, but also image some planets and possibly characterize their atmospheres. This research will come in handy when the E-ELT and NASA's James Webb Space Telescope are working.
"This will be quite an investment over a long period of time," Fosbury added. "As we learn more about the practicalities of doing these observations, we'll be in a better position to not only perform the observations, but design the kinds of instruments that will be needed."

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Jupiter’s Europa Has Earth-Like Plate Tectonics And May Support Life



Europa's sliding 'continents' of ice: Jupiter's moon has plate tectonics like Earth

  • Scientists have found the first sign of this geologic activity on a solar system world other than Earth a year after discovering jets of water on Europa
  • Experts from the University of Idaho and the Johns Hopkins University, Maryland, say Europa could be more Earth-like than experts imagined
  • Latest find appears to solve a puzzle that has perplexed planetary scientists
  • It shows where old crust was destroyed and how the icy crust is expanding
  • Europa’s surface is considered to be relatively young at between 40 and 90 millions of years old, which can perhaps now be explained by plate tectonics
  • It is regarded as the most probable place in the solar system to host alien life.
    And now Jupiter’s moon Europa has been found to have tectonic activity like Earth.
    It is also the first time this specific type of geological activity has been observed in the solar system other than on our planet.
    Scientists have found evidence of plate tectonics on Jupiter's moon Europa (pictured)  ¿ the first sign of this geologic activity on a solar system world other than Earth, raising hopes that life could one day be found there
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    Scientists have found evidence of plate tectonics on Jupiter's moon Europa (pictured)  – the first sign of this geologic activity on a solar system world other than Earth, raising hopes that life could one day be found there
    Less than a year ago, scientists discovered plumes of water vapour erupting from Jupiter's moon’s south polar region, so it may be possible for a robotic probe to sample Europa’s liquid water at a distance without landing on it.
    The latest find appears to solve a puzzle that has perplexed planetary scientists for years.
    Until now, researchers have had visual evidence of Europa’s icy crust expanding, but they could never find areas where the old crust was being destroyed to make room for the new. 
    Examining images of the moon taken by Nasa’s Galileo orbiter in the early 2000s, planetary geologists Simon Kattenhorn of the University of Idaho and Louise Prockter of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland, discovered some unusual geological boundaries.
    The surface of Europa is slightly smaller than the Earth’s moon and is riddled with cracks and ridges. Blocks on the surface are known to have shifted in the same way blocks on either side of the San Andreas Fault move past each other on Earth.
    The surface of Europa is slightly smaller than the Earth¿s moon and is riddled with cracks and ridges. Blocks on the surface are known to have shifted in the same way blocks on either side of the San Andreas Fault move past each other on Earth
    +5
    The surface of Europa is slightly smaller than the Earth’s moon and is riddled with cracks and ridges. Blocks on the surface are known to have shifted in the same way blocks on either side of the San Andreas Fault move past each other on Earth

    JUPITER'S MOON EUROPA: THE 'MOST LIKELY PLACE IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM TO SUPPORT LIFE'

    Europa is the sixth closest moon to Jupiter and the smallest of the four Galilean satellites that belong to the planet.
    It was discovered by Galileo Galilei in January 1610 and is named after a Phoenician noblewoman in Greek mythology who was courted by Zeus and became the Queen of Crete.
    Europa orbits Jupiter in around three-and-a-half days with an orbital radius of 670,900km.
    It is slightly smaller than the Earth's moon, but at 3,100km in diameter it is the sixth largest moon and 15th largest object in the entire solar system.
    It is likely to have an outer layer of water, some 100km thick.
    The outer layer of the water is believed to be frozen with a liquid ocean underneath.
    The moon has plate tectonics like on Earth.
    It is one of the smoothest objects in the solar system with few craters on its surface, which is tectonically active and relatively young.
    Many parts of Europa’s surface show evidence of extension, where wide bands - up to tens of miles wide - formed as the surface ripped apart, and fresh icy material from the underlying shell moved into the newly created gap, a process akin to terrestrial seafloor spreading, according to the study published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
    ‘We have been puzzled for years as to how all this new terrain could be formed, but we couldn’t figure out how it was accommodated. We finally think we’ve found the answer,’ Dr Prockter said.
    Scientists studying Europa often reconstruct the moon’s blocks into their original configuration to get a picture of what the surface looked like before disruption occurred.
    It was when they were rearranging the terrain that the two experts discovered that more than 12,000 square miles (nearly 20,000 square km) of the surface in the moon’s high northern latitudes was missing.
    Further evidence suggested that the missing terrain had moved under a second surface plate - a scenario commonly seen on Earth at plate-tectonic boundaries.
    The two scientists said that ice volcanoes on the overriding plate possibly formed through melting and absorption of the slab as it moved below the surface, while a lack of mountains at the subduction zone, implies that material was pushed into the interior rather than crumpled up as the two plates mashed against each other.
    The surface of Europa is slightly smaller than the Earth's moon and is riddled with cracks and ridges. Blocks on the surface are known to have shifted in the same way blocks on either side of the San Andreas Fault (pictured in San Luis Obispo in California) move past each other on Earth
    +5
    The surface of Europa is slightly smaller than the Earth's moon and is riddled with cracks and ridges. Blocks on the surface are known to have shifted in the same way blocks on either side of the San Andreas Fault (pictured in San Luis Obispo in California) move past each other on Earth

    Less than a year ago, scientists discovered plumes of water vapour erupting from the moon¿s south polar region (illustrated), so it may be possible for a robotic probe to sample Europa¿s liquid water at a distance without landing on it
    +5
    Less than a year ago, scientists discovered plumes of water vapour erupting from the moon’s south polar region (illustrated), so it may be possible for a robotic probe to sample Europa’s liquid water at a distance without landing on it
    They believe the subducted slab has been absorbed into Europa's ice shell – which may be up to 20 miles (about 30 kilometers) thick - rather than diving through it into the moon’s underlying ocean.
    Europa’s surface is considered to be relatively young at between 40 and 90 millions of years old, which can perhaps now be explained by plate tectonics as older material was destroyed.
    Scientists have previously seen evidence of material moving up from under the shell, but until now, no mechanism had been found for moving material back into the shell, and possibly into the large ocean below the ice. 
    ‘Europa may be more Earthlike than we imagined if it has a global plate tectonic system,’ Dr Kattenhorn said.
    He told Space.com: ‘Earth may not be alone. There may be another body out there that has plate tectonics. And not only that, it's ice!’
    There have been various proposals to explore Europa over the years, such as the Cryobot (pictured) which would be taken underground by a larger drill before it was then released into the ocean, searching for signs of past or present alien life
    +5
    There have been various proposals to explore Europa over the years, such as the Cryobot (pictured) which would be taken underground by a larger drill before it was then released into the ocean, searching for signs of past or present alien life
    ‘Not only does this discovery make it one of the most geologically interesting bodies in the solar system, it also implies two-way communication between the exterior and interior – a way to move material from the surface into the subsurface – a process which has significant implications for Europa’s potential as a habitable world.’
    Some scientists said that plate tectonics were essential to how life evolved on Earth. The theory goes that tectonics replenished nutrients and helped to stabilise the Earth’s climate.
    Jupiter's moon’s shell is thought to be 12 to 19 miles (20 to 30 kilometres) thick to subducting plates probably plunge a mile below the surface, so it is unlikely that nutrients from the surface are carried down to the ocean quickly. But Dr Kattenhorn said that this could possibly happen over time.

    NASA SETS ASIDE $25 MILLION TO PROBE EUROPA

    Nasa has set aside £14.6 million ($25 million) to design probes that could reveal whether Europa is habitable.
    In July, the agency asked scientists to come forward with potential experiments for a Europa probe that could be launched in the 2020s and arrive at the icy satellite within three years of take-off.
    It said that next year, about 20 proposals will be chosen to receive shares of the £14.6 million ($25 million) for further study.
    The mission is designed to characterise the extent of Europa's ocean and its relation to the deeper interior.
    It will also look at the ice shell and determine global surface, compositions and chemistry, especially related to whether life could survive in that environment.
    Previous scientific findings point to the existence of a liquid water ocean located under the moon's icy crust.
    This ocean covers Europa entirely and contains more liquid water than all of Earth's oceans combined.
    Although Europa and Jupiter's other moons have been visited by other spacecraft, they were each limited to a single distant flyby of these satellites.
    Nasa’s Galileo spacecraft, launched in 1989 by the space shuttle, was the only mission to make repeated visits to Europa, passing close by the moon fewer than a dozen times.
    In December 2013, Nasa’s Hubble Space Telescope observed water vapour above the moon's frigid south polar region.
    This provided the first strong evidence of water plumes erupting off the moon's surface, and a spacecraft could even be designed to fly through the plumes to make measurements of the composition of the underground ocean.

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NASA spacecraft en route to historic look at mysterious Pluto

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft captured this view of the planet Neptune and its large moon Triton on July 10, from a distance of about 2.45 billion miles,  more than 26 times the distance between the Earth and sun.  New Horizons traversed ...

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Is Extraterrestrial Life More Probable on Exomoons?

ufocasebook.com Paula Marie Navarra Scientists have found a trail of radio wave leading to an exomoon that could prove life exists beyond the Earth. Exomoons, otherwise called extrasolar moons, are natural satellites that orbit an exoplanet ...

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Is this a Lunar Base Found with Google Moon? August 2014 ~ Video


Coordinates: 19°43'02.81" N 20°30'52.97” E
Date of discovery: August 2014
Location of discovery: Google Moon
This building on the moon was pointed out to me by a reader here at UFO Sightings Daily. From this angle, we can clearly see that it is a structure. It has many right angles in the front and on the ground around it is a fence-like structure. I talked many times about the black structures on the moon. This is one of them. Not regular reflective black, but stealth flat black. Makes them radar resistant. SCW
Click to zoom

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