Archive for the ‘Astrobiology’ Category

Silence In The Shadows (3)   89 comments

 

Silence in the Shadows ~ 3

Where are you going??!!”  She eyed him appraisingly apparently unfazed. “You’re going back to the zone??”  He glared at her as if she had grown two heads. “And how exactly do you expect to get past the check points?!”

“They’ll never know…” she smiled secretively, confident…and in a shimmer of moulton fire she became before his eyes something else… He started, muttering a string of expletives. A glowing black-gold star wolf stood before him in her place, tail wagging gently, head lowered, watching him. When she spoke again it was silently, in his mind – telepathy. “The wolf is more tolerant of the radiation. …if the levels increase and the risks become too great I’ll turn back…” (Silence in the Shadows ~ 2)

Copyright: Europa’s Icewolf 2013 ~ All Rights Reserved.

Night on an alien world

Exclusion zone_beyond the checkpoints

Liquid night moved fluidly in its telepathic touch reaching out with the diversity of a thousand worlds – worlds that lay far beyond the stars – probing, touching in a subtle quest for the tundra of secrets beneath the carefully layered protection of dark and light, blending in the alien moon touch.

Dark shadows raced across the darkened tundra of the exclusion zone plains skating across a rock strewn terrain.

Twin satellites – huge and radiant, hung silently in the star scope beyond; their shivering iridescence dancing and playing in an alien night, casting slivers of satellite suns chasing ghost-like across a cratered planetscape.

Night on an alien world

 

Sirian she-wolfBathed in an otherworldly glow_N-reactor plant structure

Shimmering in the diamond-kissed emissions of the zone’s twin satellites, and bathed in an other-worldly glow, the devastated N-reactor plant structure stood sentinel to the visiting Sirian she-wolf flitting wraith-like amongst the toxic, stellar structures, elongated shadows sliding smoothly into the soundless tranquillity of the void.

Howling_in_the_Land_of_Wolves-The Deadlands

 

Yelena was alone other than the ever present zone wolves flickering in and out of eerie rock formations beyond the irradiated deadlands. Alone, whilst the light of a thousand worlds burned down in remote, icy indifference-brilliant and piercing in a cool, exotic night. And a glittering myriad of new constellations teased an unearthly light into pirouetting effortlessly across an unfamiliar planetscape.

 

The radiation count was high here. Yelena could taste it in the air, her coat and skin prickly with its unseen presence, strands of alien wolf hair crackling in the radioactivity, darkening to smoke black in the monochromatic light of the zone’s twin satellites, the collar-mounted Geiger counter chirping frantically.

Barren beauty_remote and foresakenMystical shrouded structures rose up like vaguely menacing spectres in the dark regions of the starry arrays that were her world. She was beautiful. Yet it was a barren beauty, remote and forsaken in this unnatural radio-active Land of Wolves.

Night in an alien exclusion zone.

Ears flicking, nose raised to catch the untold scents of the mysteries of the zone, Yelena strained to hear above and beyond the absolute silence infusing the shivering planetscape, timeless and disturbingly bereft of all sound other than the empty stirring of the wind. The beating heart of eternity cool and changeless and the ominous chitter of the Geiger counter, a constant reminder that all was far from well in this contaminated land.

Nuclear_Contaminated land

Night shone down on the foreboding sentinel of the toxic reactor skeletising the gaunt structures and embracing the cool, concrete bases. Sudden spectral light slid uneasily through the exposed reactor cores throwing sinister and outlandish shadows chasing across insubstantial stadia into the critically contaminated lands that lay beyond.

             Zone Wolves_N-ReactorsContaminated Lands

Caught in dazzling primeval shards restless Zone Wolves glimmered in sudden cloud-cleared lunar arrays, setting alight the frothy, and platinum-frost coat-overlay characteristic of the packs of radio-active N-wolves that roamed wary and shadowlike within the hostile environs of the exclusion zone.

Hunting in the Land of Wolves.

Yelena watched silently

 

Yelena watched silently shielded by the haunting sentinels and alien crags, rock faces, dusted with layers of dark and radio-active regolith. The aloof glitter of distant stars abnormally bright in the clear skies. Eclipsing pools of lunar light sinking without a sound into the mystery of veiled, astrophysical musings, catching briefly, the remote, rippling beams in fluid star black eyes. Dark shadows played across her eyes fire sparking across her fine boned muzzle in layers of dark chocolate and golden sunsets.

Night in an alien exclusion zone.

 

A wretched undulating wind eddied amongst the structures echoing inconsolably with tales of another time and place. It lifted Yelena’s soft black-ash fur touching her mind and spirit with the mournful sound of its desolate keening, till she too flung back dark, silken head and howled. A chilling, sound that evoked the devastating sense of loss and anguish of those abandoned or who had chosen to linger a little too long – lost to the Land of Wolves. Discharging the tortured suffering of the land, the catastrophic heartbreak and the numbing despair; its contamination and its abandonment and the dying ghost towns left in its wake; the tragic, soul-destroying song of the stars as the dark, stricken she-wolf called her grief to the interstellar void. A distant, unfeeling void…

Howling in the Land of Wolves

Howling in the land of Wolves.

His passage was confident… deliberate… His advance a single, measured move calculated to block any further headway -The exclusion zone Alpha Male, polished starlight glinting off his radio-active form. Powerful and not of her world, claiming not only leadership of the pack but demanding also mating rights to the visiting alien she-wolf. Defiant She-wolf! … Yelena bared glistening teeth at him both in stark momentary warning and also quick sun-flamed invitation as she sought comfort in the zone wolves Alpha under the light of another star…..

       Exclusion zone AlphaBlending in the alien moon touch

She-wolf! Night Caller!

Liquid night moved fluidly in its telepathic touch reaching out with the diversity of a thousand worlds – worlds that lay far beyond the stars – probing, touching in a subtle quest for the tundra of secrets beneath the carefully layered protection of dark and light, blending in the alien moon touch.

 

Night in an alien exclusion zone

Copyright: Europa’s Icewolf 2013 ~ All Rights Reserved.

Alien Sunsets   33 comments

Watching the sunset on another world 150 light years from Earth….

What would it look like?

Osiris

HD 209458 b (Osiris) is a large exoplanet or extrasolar planet that orbits the Sun-like star HD 209458 in the constellation Pegasus, some 150 light-years from Earth’s solar system. First discovered on November 5, 1999 during “Spectroscopic studies.”

Osiris_HD 209458bOsiris

Osiris is a 7th magnitude world, visible from Earth with good binoculars or a decent telescope. Osiris (HD209458b), 150 Ly from Earth orbits very closely to its sun. Measured by the Spitzer Infrared Space Telescope on March 23. 2005 it had an atmospheric temperature of around 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,800 degrees Fahrenheit) it’s year lasts just 3.5 Earth days long. Very bad for the aging process!

Osiris Firsts:

First PrizeHD 209458 b was the first transiting extrasolar planet discovered:

  • Known to have an atmosphere
  • Observed to have an evaporating hydrogen atmosphere
  • Found to have an atmosphere containing oxygen and carbon
  • One of the first two extrasolar planets to be directly spectroscopically observed
  • The first extrasolar planet found to have water vapour in its atmosphere. (April 2007)

(Sunset On HD 189733 – Osiris)

Sunset on HD209458b (reconstructed from the HST/STIS transmission spectrum): Image: Frederic Pont of the University of Exeter: based on data form a camera on-board the Hubble Space Telescope)

Osiris doesn’t actually have as surface on which to sit peacefully watching an alien sunset but for the purposes of this post we will pretend it does. What it does have however is an atmosphere, which when passed through by the light from its star (sun) – it does this every so often when Osiris passes between Earth and its own sun (transits)– allows the scientific types here on sunny Earth to figure out in a scientific way mostly beyond the understanding of the average Earthling, exactly which colours its sun would set in, should Osiris have a surface – as already stated it doesn’t but… and we were spending a happily romantic evening sitting on the (make-believe) surface.

I said it HASN’T got one!!! So don’t try it!! It won’t be any good for you!!

In the image to the right Osiris’s sunset can be seen as it would appear if having travelled at light speed to reach it, you were floating 6,200 miles/10,000 km above the planetary surface – preferably not in a deckchair unless you’re wearing a heavy duty space suit 😉 a space station would do nicely.

Floating 6,200 miles above the planetary surface...The Osirisian sun- HD 209458– it’s star, is, much like Earth’s Sun, white – yes I know…The Sun is yellow…but if there was no atmosphere it would look white – not that we would see it because without an atmosphere life on Earth would have survived for approx. 20 seconds before exploding into instant extinction.

An alien sunset on Osiris really does look alien – unlike Earth’s. Osiris’s atmosphere consists of sodium which when starlight (sunlight) zips through it, absorbs the red light. (think prisms and colours of rainbows when white light is split) This results in the remaining starlight appearing blue. It makes perfectly good sense if you were paying attention in your school science lessons. If you weren’t then it’s your own fault and you should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself!!

As back home on Earth the blue light from the star is scattered (“Rayleigh scattering,” a mechanism also responsible for the Earth’s sky being blue) creating a progressive change through the blue end of the spectrum through to a pretty green and later a deep, dark shade of green as its star dips further beneath the horizon.

The more sensible approach to watching the Osirian sunset...In such colours you should be able to get a good view of Osiris’s sun without going instantly blind in which case you will notice it looks oddly flat around the southern half. The same effect occurs when we watch the sun setting from Earth. This is the consequence of diffraction (light bending) and nothing to worry about..

Osiris, Eygptian god of the Underworld_Credit Jeff DahlWhilst you are relaxing in the Osirisian sunset you can reflect on the little snippet of mythology attached to it’s title… Osiris was an Egyptian god, usually identified as the god of the afterlife, the underworld and the dead. He was classically depicted as a green-skinned man with a pharaoh’s beard, partially mummy-wrapped at the legs, wearing a distinctive crown with two large ostrich feathers at either side, and holding a symbolic crook and flail. His green skin is symbolic of new birth. This image is based on New Kingdom tomb paintings.

    

      AND FOR COMPARISION PURPOSES, THE SUNSET ON HD 189733 b

    Sunset on HD 189733 bSunset on HD 189733 b looks like an especially awesome Earth sunset when the sky is very clear and there is only a small amount of dust in the atmosphere. HD 189733 b is much closer to its star (sun) than Earth is to our Sun so its star looks considerably bigger 25 times larger than Earth’s sun when viewed at sunset compared.

Soaking up the atmosphere on HD 189733b

HD 189733 b’s sun is orange and nowhere near as hot as Earth’s Sun and consequently is coloured orange as oppose to the white of our Sun. Instead of undergoing a gradual change of colour as it sets, this alien sun transforms straight from its original orange colour to deepest red in the thick layers of the lower atmosphere.

Jupiter and HD 189733 b size comparison

HD 189733b discovered in 2005 is an extrasolar planet of similar size to Jupiter. It orbits a star (it’s sun) in a binary system called HD 189733 in the constellation of Vulpecula in two Earth days. The aging process on this world would be terribly fast in our terms and those wrinkles would appear in a frighteningly super-smart short time!! The star system itself one of the closest planet-star systems known making it extremely hot. It is located near the Dumbell Nebula, approximately 62 light years from Earth and is known as a “Hot Jupiter.”

HD 189733 and M27, the Dumbbell Nebula. Credit: Daniel Jaroschik

HD 189733b shares many similar characteristics as HD 209458b (a.k.a. “Osiris) Although HD 189733b’s atmosphere isn’t thought to be evaporating like Osiris’, atmospheric gases extend far beyond it and out into space. This is significant in that starlight can also pass through meaning that scientists have been able to figure out that the atmosphere contains water and methane resulting in the probability that HD 189733b may have a blue hue, reminiscent of Uranus.

The atmosphere also contains iron, silicate and aluminium oxide particles. These would seem to collect in HD 189733b’s upper atmosphere, forming a thin, hazy, reflective cloud in the exosphere. This leads to the natural conclusion that the weather on HD 189733b is hot and cloudy.

Thanks to the Spitzer telescope it was discovered in February 2007 for the first time that the atmosphere of exoplanet HD 209458b (Osiris) is relatively dry, thick and dusty. Osiris even contains grains of sand (silicates).

Exoplanet

Although it is not suitable for the existence of alien life it is an exciting step on the road to discovery of such worlds.

Sources:

PhysOrg.com

Prof. Frédéric Pont

ExoClimes.com

Kelper Mission Discovers Twin Earth! (Updated 28th April 2012)   31 comments

 

Gliese 667C – Kelper Mission Discovers Twin Earth!

Billions of potentially habitable alien planets in the Milky Way Smile

Double sunset from Gliese 667C

(Alien Landscape: Artists impression of sunset scene from the Super Earth orbiting the star Gliese 667C (GJ 667C) which is part of the triple star system. The two more distant stars Gliese 667A and Gliese 667B appear in the sky to the right of the image. Astronomers estimate there of tens of billions of small, rocky habitable worlds, in the Milky Way orbiting faint red dwarf stars within their ‘habitable zones,’ where surface water could support life, and dozens within 30 Light Years of Earth. Image Credit: L.Calgada/ESO)

“This was expected to be a rather unlikely star to host planets. Yet there they are very nearby, metal-poor examples of the most common type of star in our galaxy. The detection of this planet and so nearby, and this soon implies that our galaxy must be teeming with billions of potentially habitable rocky planets.” ~ Steven Vogt

Super-Earth Gliese 667C (GJ 667C)

GJ 667C is an M class red dwarf star in a triple star system. The alien ‘super-Earth’ is situated about 22 Light Years away where it is orbiting it’s red dwarf host star in a period of 28 days, and is about 4.5 times larger than Earth. It is temperate enough to allow liquid water to exist on its surface. It is accompanied by orange K class dwarf stars GJ 667A and B.

clip_image004

GJ 667C receives 90% of light received by Earth, most of which is infra-red, so a higher percentage of incoming energy is absorbed by the planet.

Well worth checking out! Though given the distance it is not likely to be in our lifetime, unless warp speed becomes a reality anytime soon!

“This planet is the best candidate to support liquid water and perhaps life as we know it…”

~ Guillem Anglada-Escude

Artists impression of Super-Earth

About 80% of the Milky Way (160 billion) stars are red dwarfs so it is likely that there are around 65 billion stars with habitable Super Earth’s in our galaxy. About 100 lie within 10 parsecs (32.6 Light Years) of Earth.

“Because red dwarfs are so common – there are about 160 million of them in the Milky Way – this leads us to the astonishing result that there are tens of billions of these planets in our galaxy alone.”~ Dr Xavier Bonfils from Grenoble University in France, who led the international team.

Star spectral classes comparison

THE STUDY – Between February 2008 and April 2009 researchers at the European Southern Observatory, La Sill Observatory in Chile, studied 102 Class M (Red Dwarf) stars situated at a distance of less than 32.6 Light Years away. New planets, new life?New planets are discovered by detecting the subtle wobbles that occur when the planets are orbiting their star. 41% of them are orbiting their stars inside the habitable zone, where they could potentially support life.

GJ 667C was discovered by Astronomers from UC Santa Cruz, Steven Vogt and Eugenio Rivera, led by Guillem Anglada-Escude and Paul Butler of Carniegie Institution for Science.

The HARPS high-precision ‘Planet Hunter’ device works with the 3.6m telescope at the Silla Observatory in Chile to bring us these results.

When the information obtained via a telescope was input into the instruments nine super-Earth planets were detected by astronomers. These included Gliese (GJ) 581 and Gliese(GJ) 667C both of which are within the habitable zones of their stars.

clip_image012However, it should also be remembered that Red dwarf stars are not as super-hot as our star – The Sun. Consequently the super-Earth planets that orbit them must Flares from alien sundo so at a considerably closer range in order to obtain the necessary heat. With their habitable zones in such close proximity to their stars compared to the distance of Earth to the Sun there is a danger that the potential for life could be inhibited by the dangerous X-ray and ultraviolet flares emitted by their stars, which could successfully frazzle any life!

NEWS UPDATE: REPORTS CONFIRM EXISTENCE OF HABITABLE EXO-PLANET! (28TH APRIL 2012)

After re-evaluating information collected back in February, scientists reportedly confirmed on Friday that they had indeed discovered a planet outside of our solar system that is capable of supporting life.

On Friday, the Telegraph published a report confirming the findings.

“Re-analyzing data from the European Southern Observatory, the astronomers found Gliese 667Cc is a solid planet with roughly four and a half times the mass of Earth,” they said, adding that astronomers from the University of Göttingen and the University of California “have calculated the planet receives ten per cent less light from its red dwarf star than the Earth gets from the Sun.”

“It’s the Holy Grail of exo-planet research to find a planet orbiting around a star at the right distance so it’s not too close where it would lose all its water and not too far where it would freeze,” University of California astronomer Steven Vogt said, according to the UK publication. “It’s right there in the habitable zone — there’s no question or discussion about it. It is not on the edge. It is right in there.”

(Source: redOrbit)

 

New Discovery! Great Lake On Jupiter’s Icy Moon Europa!   40 comments

Great Lake of Europa

INTRODUCTION –SEARCHING FOR LIFE BEYOND EARTH

A large liquid lake has been discovered just below Europa’s icy shell may provide a habitat for life.

Europa's icy surface_plains of bright ice

Europa’s icy surface, as viewed from NASA’s Galileo spacecraft. Visible are plains of bright ice, jumbled cracks an indication of a sub-surface heat source that run to the horizon, and dark patches that likely contain both ice and dirt. CREDIT: NASA/Ted Stryk

HOW HAVE SCIENTISTS DETERMINED THE EXISTENCE OF THESE LAKES ON EUROPA?

  • New research studies show Jupiter’s moon could have numerous large lakes just beneath its icy shell, and consequently closer to energy from the Sun, potentially providing a habitat for life.

JUPITER’S ICY MOON EUROPA IN BRIEF

  • Europa is one of the four Galilean moons of Jupiter which has at least 63 moons in total including Europa
  • Europa is slightly smaller than Earth’s moon and orbits Jupiter every 3.5 days. It has an iron core, a rocky mantle (shell), a radius of 1,569 km and it is 670,900 km distant from Jupiter.
  • Although Europa is about 500 million miles away from earth it comes closer to resembling our planet and providing potential for life than anything else in the solar system
  • There is a large, subsurface ocean of salty water deep beneath its frozen, ice pack crust thought to be in some areas tens of kilometers thick.
  • Recently discovered lakes appear to be embedded closer to the surface.
  • Europa has more water than all the oceans of Earth

EUROPA’S GREAT LAKE

  • New research: A large liquid lake discovered approximately just 1.5 miles (3km) below Europa’s icy shell. Estimated to be equal in volume to all the North American Great Lakes combined.
  • Europa could have numerous large shallow lakes just beneath its icy shell placing them closer to energy from the Sun.

Thera Macula

One such lake lies underneath Thera Macula, one of Europa’s chaos terrains. Thera Macula (false color) is a region of likely active chaos production above a large liquid water lake in the icy shell of Europa. Color indicates topographic heights relative to background terrain. Purples and reds indicate the highest terrain.
CREDIT: Paul Schenk/NASA

  • Research also explains how nutrients and energy could get from the moon’s surface to its buried ocean.
  • In doing so they could possibly provide a habitat for life which would be a key finding in the search for places where life might exist beyond Earth.

Europa's Great Lake

Europa’s "Great Lake." Scientists speculate many more exist throughout the shallow regions of the moon’s icy shell.
CREDIT: Britney Schmidt/Dead Pixel VFX/Univ. of Texas at Austin

HABITAT FOR LIFE

Scientists believe that

  • The interaction between the Europa ice pack and the subsurface bodies of water transfer nutrients and energy that may lead to life existing under the Europa surface.
  • Life in the oceans of Europa would be similar to that which exists deep beneath the oceans on Earth where light does not penetrate.
  • Liquid water is thought to be necessary for life,
  • Microbial organisms may survive in this buried sea.

The “lake” holds potential as a habitat for life, and there may be many more such lakes throughout the shallower regions of Europa’s shell, said lead author Britney Scmhidt, postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Geophysics.

“The potential for exchange of material between the surface and subsurface is a big key for astrobiology. Europa’s subsurface harbours much of what we believe is necessary for life but chemical nutrients found at the surface are likely vital for driving biology.”~Wes Patterson, a planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. and a co-author of the study.

“Now we see evidence that it’s a thick ice shell that can mix vigorously, and new evidence for giant shallow lakes. That could make Europa and its ocean more habitable. The material cycled into the ocean via these lakes may make Europa’s ocean even more habitable than previously imagined. The lakes may even be habitats themselves."~Britney Schmidt, lead author.

CHAOS TERRAIN ON EUROPA POINTS TO SUBSURFACE LAKES

Determining the existence of such a body of water

Chaos terrain on Europa

Chaos terrain on Europa points to subsurface lakes. (NASA/JPL/Ted Stryk)

  • Europa’s surface is cold, around minus 170 degree Celsius (minus 100 K). The bottom of the ice is slightly warmer.
  • Two circular bumpy features on Europa’s surface called "chaos terrains." similar to features on Earth suggest that Europa is still geologically active heated likely by tidal forces. These tidal forces provide more heat on Europa than would normally be the case for a celestial body that far away from the sun.
  • That means plumes of warm water well up against the Europa ice cap, fracturing them, to churn the ice and subsurface water causing the "chaos" terrain features.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE POSSIBILITY OF LIFE ON EUROPA?

Nutrients and energy are transferred from the frozen surface to the vast ocean below resulting in the possibility that environments suitable for life could exist under the Europa surface. Life in the oceans of Europa would be similar to that which exists deep beneath the oceans on Earth where light does not penetrate. This could also mean that Europa is more likely to harbour extra-terrestrial life than Mars.

"On Earth, it is the volcano [melting the ice]. On Europa, it is the warm ice plume coming up from below” ~Schmidt

"You and I might not notice the difference, but geologically it’s very different. Heat melts some of the ice into enormous lakes beneath the crust. Think of Europa as one giant ice shelf floating on a global ocean, with a really rocky core.” ~ Paul Schenk, of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston.

Europa rising above Jupiter

The icy moon Europa rising above Jupiter’s cloud tops. The picture was one of a handful of the Jupiter system that New Horizons took primarily for artistic, rather than scientific, value.
CREDIT: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

CONFIRMATION? – the next step in confirming liquid water under Europa?

  • Confirmation of the existence of these lakes will involve a thorough investigation of both above and below the icy surface of Europa meaning a future mission to Europa is essential. The National Research Council’s Planetary Science Decadal Survey gave such missions one of the highest priority ratings.

FUTURE EUROPA EXPLORATION MISSIONS PROPOSALS

A joint NASA/EUROPEAN SPACE STATION SPACE mission to Europa known as the EUROPA JUPITER SYSTEM MISSION is being considered. The intention being that the EUROPA ORBITER probe, which is estimated to launch in 2020 arriving in orbit off Europa in 2028 will by remote study hopefully give clues as to how the ice layers and the subsurface ocean interact. It will also study the organic exchange between them which could result in the existence of microscopic life in the subsurface ocean and lakes.

The EUROPA ICEPICK MISSION would involve the drilling through of Europa’s ice pack and a unique opportunity to explore the subsurface ocean, in the hope of finding some form of life and also other valuable scientific data.

"Europa is likely to have a deep ocean of liquid water beneath its icy crust, making it an object of enormous interest as a possible abode for life," ~Planetary scientist Steve Squyres, with Cornell University

Funding for such missions to Europa is very uncertain. Most likely the Europa landers would cost anything from $800 million to $2 billion and that is only a rough estimate. This would involve input from several nations in order to obtain the necessary funding to make any one of these missions a reality.

NASA Discover Alien Planet Earth Twin –Kelper-22b   46 comments

 

Alien Earth-Twin: Planet Kelper-22b

NASA Kelper: Planet Hunting Spacecraft

Kepler 22b, the new alien planet discovered by NASA’s Kepler space telescope, which NASA scientists say embraces the most hopeful possibility to date for potential future human habitation. Scientists also believe there is a tantalising option for the presence of continents, oceans and even alien life forms living on its surface. Kepler-22b is the first of many such planets that it is hoped will be discovered by the Kepler space telescope.

The Kepler Mission is a NASA Discovery Program for detecting potentially life-supporting planets-. those where liquid water might exist on the surface of those around other stars in the habitable zone. Terrestrial planets. (i.e. those one half to twice the size of the Earth)

Kelper Telescope

NASA’s Kelper planet-hunting spacecraft, a Space Observatory, that has been orbiting Earth since it was launched in March 2009 is the most powerful telescope in space. It needs a large field in order to observe the necessary large number of stars.

Beginning in the Star Fields

Kelper will be searching constantly in the Cygnus star field, staring unblinkingly at around 155,000 stars every half hour, looking for tiny drops in brightness that betray the presence of planets, for the duration of it’s 3.5 years+ mission. Cygnus is ideal as it lacks in bright stars that would hamper the instruments and it contains many stars similar to our Sun

image

Kepler’s targetd star field in nearby region of the Milky Way. Credit: NASA

The star around which Kepler 22b orbits in the region of the constellations of Lyra and Cygnus, is slightly smaller than our Sun and about 25% less bright. The alien planet was discovered after making a "transit" across the front of its parent star – when a planet crosses in front of its star (Sun) it blocks a small fraction of the light from that star.

                               Cygnus Star field                                       Kelper's Transit Method

Image 1. Kepler’s targeted star field. Credit: Carter Roberts of the Eastbay Astronomical Society   \mage 2. Artist’s rendering of Kepler’s Transit Method of Detecting Extrasolar Planets. Credit: SETI Institute

It is these microscopic variations in the star’s brightness that Kelper can detect. These tell the planet size. The time between ‘transits’ indicates the size of the planet’s orbit and estimates the planet’s temperature. These factors determine possibilities for life on the planet.

Alien Planet Kelper-22b

kepler22b-artwork

This artist’s conception illustrates Kepler-22b, a planet known to comfortably circle in the habitable zone of a sun-like star.
CREDIT: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech

2.4 times the size of earth Kelper 22b orbits a star similar to, but smaller and cooler than, our own sun. Scientists say it is 15% closer to its own star than Earth is to our Sun and is located at the somewhat daunting distance of 600 light years away from our own Solar System. At 290 days, the duration of a year on Kepler-22b is not far off our own and the planet’s surface temperature is an agreeable 22deg C. (72deg F) (Sign up here if you wish to join Wolfie on a summer holiday) 😉

Its atmosphere is of a nature that could potentially support life and Kepler-22b is the first “Earth twin” known that is situated in the ‘habitable zone’ of another Sun-like star. This allows for temperatures fitting to the existence of liquid surface water throughout its orbit. I.e. Kelper- 22b could have Earth-like continents and oceans…and where there is liquid water there is also a strong possibility of life. It is even possible, according to scientists that Kelper-22b is in fact already inhabited!

However scientists have yet to figure out whether Kepler-22b is of a primarily rock, liquid or gas composition. A rocky surface would be the best ideal for life. However, a certain Professor Abel Mendez of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory has pessimistically suggested that the chances are that the new and alien planet is likely to be too big to be a habitable world… well there’s always one!

To date the Kepler space telescope has discovered a grand total of 48 planets in the habitable zone of their own solar systems. (The “Goldilocks zone”) Kepler-22b is just the first alien world within such a zone to have been confirmed by other telescopes observations.

NASA announced the discovery of Kepler-22b on Dec. 5 2011.

 Planets and orbits to scale

Comparison chart of our own solar system and  Kepler-22, a star system containing the first "habitable zone" planet discovered.

"This discovery supports the growing belief that we live in a universe crowded with life," ~ Dr Alan Boss, from the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington DC, helped identify the planet from data collected by the Kepler space telescope.

"This is a major milestone on the road to finding Earth’s twin," ~ Douglas Hudgins, a member of the Kepler telescope team.

“Fortune smiled upon us with the detection of this planet," ~ William Borucki, who led the team that discovered Kepler-22b.

A Scorched World-Kelper 10B_And Host Star   30 comments

A Scorched World-Kelper-10B And Host Star

Kelper 10b Scorched World    Imagined canyon on Planet Kelper 10b

Scorched And Blistered – The World of Planet Kelper-10B 

Planet Kepler-10b is a scorched blistering world, orbiting at a distance that’s more than 20 times closer to its star than Mercury is to our own Sun and takes less than one Earth day to orbit its star. The daytime temperature’s expected to be more than 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, hotter than lava flows here on Earth, hot enough to melt iron! Intense radiation from the star has kept the planet from holding onto an atmosphere. Flecks of silicates and iron may be boiled off a molten surface and swept away by the stellar radiation, much like a comet’s tail when its orbit brings it close to the Sun.

 

The Kepler team has determined that Kepler-10b who’s discovery was announced in Jan. 2011 is a rocky planet, with a surface you could stand on, a mass 4.6 times that of Earth, and a diameter 1.4 times that of Earth and an average density of 8.8 grams per cubic centimetre – similar to that of an iron dumbbell. It is the smallest exoplanet – a planet located outside our solar system (dark spot against yellow sun) and the first concrete evidence of a solid rocky planet orbiting a star other than our Sun discovered to date.

 Imagined view from Kelper 10b Kelper 10-b orbiting it's host star Kelper-9

“One day, the oceans we cross will be the galaxy itself, but for now, we imagine the worlds we discover…”

        KeplerArtistConcept_Family Portrait                          

The Kepler-10 star system is located about 560 light-years from our solar system. Planet Kepler-10b orbits one of the 150,000 stars that the Kelper spacecraft is monitoring with a 42 strong array of detectors aimed between the constellations of Cygnus and Lyra and just above the plane of the Milky Way Galaxy.

The star itself (Kelper 9)is very similar to our own sun in temperature, mass and size, but older with an age of over 8 billion years, compared to the 4-and-1/2 billion years of our own sun. . It’s one of the brighter stars that Kepler is monitoring and is a quiet star, slowly spinning with a weak magnetic field and few of the sun spots that characterize our own sun. It was the first star identified as potentially harbouring a very small transiting planet. The transits of the planet were first seen in July of 2009.

Artists concept of Kelper 10- Saturn sized planets

 

 

In May 2011, the Kepler team is announced another member of the Kepler-10 family, called Kepler-10c. It’s bigger than Kepler-10b with a radius of 2.2 times that of Earth’s, and it orbits the star every 45 days. Both planets would be blistering hot worlds. The Kepler-10 star system is the first star system found to have multiple transiting planets.

Kelper 10 orbiting its host star

Picture Credits: NASA/Kepler Mission

The Kepler Mission, NASA Discovery mission #10–Kelper-16B   23 comments

Planet Hunting Spacecraft – Search for habitable planets

WHERE THE SUN SETS TWICE-PLANET KELPER-16B

-In the Light to Two Suns

 

double sunset

NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered a world where two suns set over the horizon instead of just one.

The existence of a world with a double sunset has, until now, been “the stuff of science fiction” confined to sci-fi movies such as Star Wars.

Over three decades later a world with double suns is now a scientific fact.

 

 

The new planet “Kepler-16b” is located 200 light-years from Earth, and like Tatooine, the home world of Star Wars Luke Skywalker, is a circumbinary planet – a planet which orbits two stars.

StarWars-Planet TatooineLuke SkywalkerTatooines Two Suns

A cold and inhospitable world similar in size to Saturn, KELPER-16B is thought to consist of about 50 percent rock and 50 percent gas. A gas giant like Jupiter in the Earth’s system rather than another terrestrial type world. Much too cold for life. The parent stars are smaller than our sun. One is 69 percent the mass of the sun and the other only 20 percent. KELPER-16B orbits around both stars every 229 days, similar to Venus’ 225-day orbit, but lies outside the system’s habitable zone, where liquid water could exist on the surface, because the stars are cooler than our sun.

                   In the Light of Two Suns_Kelper-16BKelper-16B orbiting two starsWhere the Sun Sets Twice_Kelper-16B

Researchers in Austin, Texas have been busy calculating the likelihood of Earth-like planets existing around twin stars. Worlds with two suns.

The existence of Earth-like worlds in the habitable zones around binary systems is now thought possible by astrophysicists from the University of Texas at Arlington. These regions are the right temperature to support liquid water on its surface, as in oceans and seas, and therefore life, in a form familiar to us.

Extrasolar-Moon: CREDIT: David A. Aguilar

 

Using the Kepler-16 double sun system as a basis and beginning point it has been established that as with our own the habitable zone of this system is centered mostly on the system’s primary star and extends in a region around it equal to 0.36 to 0.71 the distance of the Earth to the sun. A roughly similar distance as that between Earth and neighboring planet Venus, out to about the distance of red planetary neighbor Mars.

One possibility the researchers have also explored the possiblility that a planet the size of Earth could be orbiting beyond the twin star system which would put it ouside the area considered the habitable zone. An area known as the extended region.

There have not been any "exomoons" found so far but the planned Space Telescope – the James Webb, will have the necessary facilities to study the atmosphere of an alien exomoon, detecting and analysing vital gases for example carbon dioxide and oxygen.

The Kelper Space Telescope has so far discovered:

  • 21 confirmed planets
  • 1235 Planetary Candidates
  • 2165 Eclipsing Binary Stars

        And this is only the beginning!!!!!