Archive for the ‘Astronomy’ Category
New evidence from NASA indicates that the most likely places to find life beyond Earth are Jupiter’s moon Europa or Saturn’s moon Enceladus. They, like Earth, are both ocean worlds and in both therein are some of the key ingredients for life.
A wealth of hydrogen molecules in water plumes soaring from the ruptures in Enceladus’s icy surface, have been detected by the Cassini spacecraft. The vital chemical methane, could also be establishing itself in the ocean beneath the ice.
The elusive presence of a water plume erupting on the warmest part of Europa’s icy surface, which has a salty liquid ocean beneath it was shown by the Hubble Space Telescope. The ocean itself contains double the amount of water found in the oceans of Earth.
Europa could be the pick of the bunch for life-bearing within our own solar system outside of our homeworld. will launch In the 2020’s the Europa Clipper will be launched, and should arrive at Europa a few years later. It will be the first to explore an alien ocean and will also fly through the plume to collect data.
It will definitely be a first to discover Intergalactic Liver Cake – staple diet of Icewolves, and indeed most domestic canines Earth! The structure of the Liver Cake may differ slightly from much-loved Earthly treat, but the Europan version is just as mouthwatering and tasty to both lupine and canine alike 🙂 And what better time than Easter, the time of ressurection and new life, to discover tantsalising new life hopes on worlds not so very far from home?
Icewolf of course, did not go hunting any down without telling Clowie, the Pyrenean Mountain Dog…she would never dream of such indiscretion 😉 …. Never!
Image: Europa’s Icewolf 2017_ Europa’s Icewolf: Jupiter, seen from Europa.
Historic Potentially Earth-Like World Proxima B
The historic discovery of potentially Earth- like world Proxima-b was announced 24 August 2016. Orbiting Proxima Centauri, a Red Dwarf star in the habitable zone and the nearest star to our own Sun Proxima-b marks not only the closest alien planet ever found but also with the potential to be habitable.
This artist’s impression shows what the sky might look like on Proxima Centauri b if the planet has a surface. The exoplanet orbits the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, currently the closest star to the solar system at 4.2 light-years. The other two members of the Alpha Centauri triple, Alpha Centauri A and B, would appear in the sky, too.
ESO / M. Kornmesser
If this proves to be the case, then there is no shortage of time for some form of life to originate based on the fact that red dwarf stars such as Proxima Centauri burn for trillions of years.
From the point of view of the average Earth-based visitor stopping by for a summer vacation, Proxima-b runs the risk of being a rather boring holiday resort. The sun-tan would be awesome, not so much so the destruction of the biological cells exposed to the intensely dodgy UV radiation that is present. Combined with the prospect of heavy duty sun-screen to protect from the sun’s constant bombardment of energy flares bouncing around the planetary surface probably wouldn’t be classed as entirely awesome either. On top of which the Proxima Centauri flares would also banish any hope of using mobile phones, tablets, X-boxes or any other such devices thanks to its electronics-disabling qualities. so no ET calling home and definitely no Skype!
Although it is a tidally locked planet– roasting hot on its star- facing side, freezing cold on the other, there is also enough wind around in the atmosphere to circulate the heat, balancing out the extreme temperatures that would otherwise exist. None-the-less a visit to the the planetary darkside, where it is bathed in perpetual night could prove to be the safest, and possibly the only option.
Unfortunately astronomers are choosing to be particularly pessimistic about this little world following the initial euphoria and have currently decided it is probably a dead, airless rock that will never harbour life due to it’s close proximity sun (20x nearer than Earth to the Sun) creating a risk of it boiling off the water and thereby stripping away the planet’s atmosphere. Researchers its oxygen will be gone in about 10 million years. Life on Earth took billions of years to develop.
Young M dwarf stars can unleash dangerous flares, (“planet-frying radiation”) that strip off atmosphere-forming oxygen spelling doom for closely orbiting planets. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / S. Wiessinger
Image: NASA Goddard/Conceptual Image Lab
However hope lives eternal. Theoretically it is possible life could advance to endure the high levels of radiation, by altering the worst of Proxima Centauri’s emissions into inoffensive visible light. We know this is plausible, because due to a process known as biofluorescence this —has already happened on many occasions on Earth.
Ultimately It is expected that the 2018 launch of The James Webb Space Telescope, will provide answers to the critical question of whether there is any chance at all that Proxima b is capable of supporting life.
Proxima b – Habitable ‘Ocean Planet’??
Another possibility is the Proxima b could be an ocean world whose entire surface consists of a liquid ocean. This may bear a similarity to the Jupiter and Saturn moons that are icy worlds with subsurface oceans.
On the other hand the more optimistic researchers suggest that Proxima b may in fact be habitable after all. So don’t put the suitcases back in the attic just yet intrepid cosmic holiday makers! If Proxima b had in reality formed further out from it’s sun than its current position this would also offer a high possibility of there being water. This idea is based on the outer realms of planetary systems being more likely to form ice. If it then moved inwards for a up closer and more personal relationship with its sun then this ice could melt and form seas. Maybe 😉
Proxima b – A Desert World??
But it still seems most likely, according to Victoria Meadows (University of Washington), that this exoplanet is a desert world since the radiation bombarding it would almost certainly have evaporated the majority of the water. This process could have collected the oxygen and hydrogen in the water and created an atmosphere rich in oxygen. Then again it could a 2nd Venus with an atmosphere rich in Carbon Dioxide, or even another Uranus or Neptune.
The Other Closest Habitable-Zone Worlds
If all else fails cosmic holiday makers may wish to try some of the nearby, potentially habitable exoplanet worlds, for size….: Kapteyn b (13 light-years away) and Wolf 1061 c (14 light-years). Both planets are just over half again as wide as Earth, with minimum masses of 4 to 5 Earths, and both are in their stars’ habitable zones. Wolf 1061 c does not look at all hopeful in terms of habitability. But Kapteyn b looks good. It’s about 3½ times farther from its sun than Proxima b is from its sun so potentially it could be far enough out of reach of its sun’s rather violent output to provide a half decent holiday resort!
What Would it Be Like to Live on Earth’s Cousin?
The discovery of Kelper 452b was announced on 23/05/15, and is 1,400 Light years away.
Photo Credit: Kelper 452-b JPL/NASA
An alien experience!
Exoplanet Kelper 452-b is 60% wider than Earth and approximately 5x as massive so much stronger surface gravity.
This provides for a great workout! For the manly among us this essentially means it will make you much stronger 🙂
For everybody chilling on this Earth cousin, the higher gravity would probably lead to significant body changes long term – e.g. becoming stockier built. This is probably not a plus if you’re already on the stocky side…you may become very short and squat…like a rotund garden gnome 😉
A Familiar Experience
As this world’s sun is roughly the same distance away as on Earth, the light factor would be much the same as on our home-world and Earth plants transported to its cousin-world could photosynthesis the same as on Earth.
So Kelper 452-b is similar to Earth but not the same. Its sun is 6 billion years old whereas our Sun is only 4.5 billion years old. Kelper 452-b’s sun is at a far more energetic life-stage therefore it is hotter. And it is about 10% larger and 20% brighter in the sky. Not bad for the sun tan then 😉
Kelper 452-b completes one orbit every 385 days so it’s year is only about 20 days longer than Earth’s. Pretty much home from home.
Photo Credit: Kelper 452-b JPL/NASA
“…substantial opportunity for life to arise, should all the necessary ingredients and conditions for life exist on this planet.”
(Jon Jenkins, Kelper data analysis lead at NASA’s Ames Research Centre in Moffat Field, California. (Led team that discovered Kelper 452-b) )
No “Year In Review” From WordPress….So!
What If We “Got Shot” of the Moon?!!
‘The geological history of the moon and Earth are intimately tied together such that the Earth would be a dramatically different planet without the moon.’
It would? So what exactly would happen if we just got rid of it altogether and there was no moon? Which there probably wasn’t so far as many of us were concerned over Christmas! But say we blew it up?!! Blasted it completely out of the sky? After all do we actually need this shiny ball in the sky anyway?
The Birth of a New Ring World Earth
All those tiny fragments of blown up moon would be far too small to stick back together and create a new, if rather misshapen and little moon, which would have at least managed a near normal gravitational pull on Earth…important scientific detail….
A lovely ring would form around Earth consisting of little lumps of moon shrapnel …very, very tiny ones…very pretty but trouble is they wouldn’t be content with staying out there in space. Oh no, they would much rather make a regular and devastatingly determined habit of periodically hurtling out of their ring-world and slam-dunking into the Earth’s surface, bombarding us with meteorites that should otherwise never have thought of coming anywhere near us…oh dear! Moulton moon rain, cities destroyed, countries obliterated….
On top of which, if we have blown the moon sky high all those particularly dangerous outer space meteorites that had previously hammered the moon’s surface would no longer have anything to prevent them making a bee-line for Earth, happily re-creating the Moon’s surface on the home-world! Great! Craters everywhere… Even more cities destroyed, countries obliterated….
Axial Tilt of Earth
In between moon rocks and meteorite bombardments from the rest of the cosmos, Earth, minus the moon’s gravitational pull would develop a wobble…it had a little one before but it was stabilised by the Moon, which also protected it from the gravitational pull of the other planets…now it would have a huge wobble, and be pulled one way by Mars and another way by Jupiter – our planetary neighbours. Consequently with no moon to slow Earth’s orbit down we would be flying merrily around the sun in a wildly unhinged and erratic orbit…. shortening Earth’s day from 24 hours to only 8 – 10 hours.
Catastrophic seasonal changes
On top of which whilst currently we are worrying about global warming and climate change….or at least those of us with a scrap of common sense are, with the moon gone these problems will seem trivial….of course to the uneducated or just plain stupid they already are, but you “aint seen nothing yet!!”
Earth would be a very, very different place. As it would now be rotating so much faster, 160-200 km winds would be zooming across Earth’s surface.
With Earth’s now unstable axial tilt, we would see dramatic environmental changes over the course of thousands-millions of years – the loss of our conventional seasons and radical modifications in temperature would cause wide-ranging consequences for the growth of plant life and crops. This in turn would create some major headaches and very thorny problems for producing food for the billions of people dwelling on Earth. The animal world would have to adapt pretty quickly to a much shorter life pattern in terms of mating, migration and hibernation.
Moreover, the changing temperatures would lead to the loss of Earth’s N and S Poles. To an extent this is already happening but in such circumstances melting ice would have a hugely dramatic effect on the oceans which would rise to a point where they change the all the world’s coastlines.
Life on Earth both in countries and in cities would have no choice but to adapt pretty drastically in order to survive or disappear into extinction.
With no moon to affect the tides, which show a configuration related to the lunar phase cycle, Earth’s oceans would become very tranquil and still. Solar tides would have a very small effect; about half that of the Moon, so there would be the odd wave or two. (Assuming we hadn’t blown the Sun up as well 😉 ) Tides were also important in life’s early stages of evolution so this would be terrible news for sea life which would rapidly become extinct. Barely-there tides do not mix oceans which therefore do not circulate nutrients required for sea-life’s survival…so fishermen would quickly go out of business and no –one would be microwaving their “Fisherman’s Pies” ever again!
Not quite the useless lump rock some people seem to think it is then!
Happy New Year 2016!
Christmas Full Moon 2015
The rare Christmas Day Full Moon was the first lunar event of its kind to occur in 38 years and the last Full Moon of 2015. Known as the Cold Full Moon due to its early winter occurrence the last Christmas Full Moon to rise in the skies of Earth was in 1977 and according to NASA’s Goddard Centre we will not see another such event until 2034.
For those who completely missed the whole event due to bad weather it looked like this!
Christmas Full Moon, 2015.
Credits: Google Images_Public Domain
‘As you gaze up at the Christmas moon, take note that Nasa has a spacecraft currently orbiting Earth’s moon.’
– Nasa’s Nancy Neal Jones, from the Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland
‘As we look at the moon on such an occasion, it’s worth remembering that the moon is more than just a celestial neighbour.
– NASA’s John Keller
Well it would be if anyone had actually been able to see it! And as to the NASA spacecraft… not much hope of spotting that if no-one could see a great big shiny globe like the Moon in the oh so painfully cloudy-couldn’t-see-a-nuclear bomb-if-it-was-on-a-collision-course-with-Earth skies! But if you could have seen a tiny little speck of spacecraft toddling past us this is what it would have looked like….
Credits: Wikipedia Public Domain Image
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which has been studying the moon’s mountains and craters since 2009, giving us some truly priceless input into our knowledge of the moon.
(LRO is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.)
It has to be admitted however, albeit rather grudgingly since most of us were afflicted with too much cloud cover to see anything at all, 2015 has been a pretty unbelievable year as regards events of the lunar variety… okay most of us won’t be able to name any since we never actually got to see any but we probably all heard the odd news flash about the last one – the extra rare one back in September when we treated to the awesome – not, if like the rest of us you saw absolutely nothing but grey, cloudy skies – Supermoon Lunar Eclipse. Very pretty…if you could actually see the thing!!
The Mansionoid Meteorite Showers (2)
“He (Tom) gave momentary consideration as to whether this also applied to the sudden appearance of an alarmingly large and active vortex swirling towards the mansion at speed. He decided at roughly the same frightening speed the vortex was approaching at, that it probably didn’t and slammed the window shut in the hope that it would change its mind and go away…it didn’t….!! “
(The Mansionoid Meteorite Showers (1) )
Far away, in an entirely different dimension, Clowie was watching the meteorites from the small, frozen world of Pluto. Whilst enjoying the obvious benefits of being a strapping young Pyrenean Mountain dog, well-adapted to Pluto’s -230 degrees C surface temperature and cheerfully weighing up the odds on there being a subsurface ocean hiding beneath the methane ice, she was none the less delighted to see a warming bunch of burning mini liver cakes flying through the thin atmosphere Liver Cakeoids!
She was easily distracted when Liver cake became involved in the equation… and flying high over Pluto’s icy plains and mountains in pursuit of the delicious mini Liver Cakeoids hurtling through the sky sounded tremendously appealing. Of course Pluto being as red as a particularly large liver cake it was perfectly natural that she was standing here in the middle of Sputnik Planum eyeing up Liver Cakeoids….that had been a result of Icewolf suggesting they pool sniffing powers and track down the best liver cake Pluto had to offer…
“There’s something very different about Plutonian geology – John Spencer Nasa researcher
When Icewolf wasn’t skiving that was…She was good at that! Something to do with soaking up the Plutonian atmosphere she had said…try Sputnik Planum she’d said. The pointed shaking of dusty white paws had, presumably been intended to convey the impression of a diligently digging Icewolf taking a break after hours of hard labour on the plains of Pluto… But Clowie was no dog’s fool and the large lump of liver cake stuck in Icewolf’s whiskers, told a rather different story. Never the less here she was on Sputnik Planum!
Her bipeds hadn’t been overly impressed about this unplanned turn of events, especially since Clowie had taken off at some considerable speed to reach her destination. Liver cake in the sky of Pluto and listening to the bipeds didn’t quite go paw in paw, so she hadn’t. At least not until she realised the screaming and shouting from her bipeds actually translated into, “Clowie!!! Chicken!!!!” Skidding to an abrupt halt with scant regard for the pile of dazed bipeds tangled up in the leash behind her, she gazed into the Plutonian sky with rapt attention viewing a second Liver Cakeoid burst, which in turn drew her attention to the vortex whirling towards them apparently powered by swirling chicken feet. Clowie drooled delightedly, tongue lolling hungrily.
Her eyes widened still further as she spotted a tiny Mansion hovering on the very far side of the vortex….Tom’s Mansion?? On a collision course with the the Liver Cakeoid meteorite shower….Splodge and Splatter! Liver cake everywhere! She wondered vaguely if there was anywhere in Tom’s Mansion to cook Liver Cakeoids…
TO BE CONTINUED!
Read more about Tom and his awesome Multi-Dimensional Mansion Here! (Beyond the Sphere) https://wellheregoes.wordpress.com/
Read more about Tom’s fantastic new blog Here! (Splodge and Splatter) https://tlmerriman.wordpress.com/
Inexorable – Stealing Away the Last of the Sunlight
Monochrome Moon Wolves
Monochrome moon wolves! A subtle, relentless shadow crept across the face of an alien sun sending a soft, fiery glow sliding across the abandoned landing unit tips where only the moon wolves resided and the wild vegetation flourished growing rapidly in the cracks and crevices of the deserted buildings, long since abandoned by their alien civilizations. The abandoned shuttle port and its overgrown, unused space crafts roamed only by the glowing moon wolves sliding subtly amongst the empty shells, food in plentiful supply around the crumbling, rusted hulls and skeleton cruisers.
Inexorably the eclipse light silenced them, cooling the air as the light faded into eerie, unnatural night, changing the atmosphere into something apocalyptic and alien to the moon wolves drawn back to the higher ground on the rooftop. Gradually stealing away the last of the sunlight till only the corona remained – a glowing fire burning flames and solar flares bursting across the darkened skies… The moon wolves watched with heads thrown high to the solar winds as darkness descended and the world feel silent. The eerie howl of the wolf song echoed on… and on through the monochrome eclipse light.