Archive for the ‘Atmosphere’ Tag

Other Worldly Voices: 3–Your Venutian Voice!   12 comments

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Next up, our neighbouring planet Venus: that roasting hot hell-hole of a world not even vaguely conducive to human existence, with a surface temperature hot enough to melt lead, a crushingly high pressure (think 900m under the sea!) and thoroughly poisonous, largely carbon dioxide atmosphere (aprox. 70 x the density of Earth’s – all thick and soupy) On this basis your lungs would be crushed and you wouldn’t be able to shout, scream, yell or even sing no matter how much you might like to, and you certainly wouldn’t be having a chat since you wouldn’t be able to speak. All these delights coupled up nicely with a choking cover of sulphuric acid clouds. If you survived long enough, due to Venus’s retrograde orbit you could enjoy the curious pleasure of watching the sun rise – in the west and set in the east! As you probably wouldn’t survive you might still have just enough time to see the Venutian night sky. You wouldn’t see any stars but it would be suitably dark and black. If on the other hand your untimely demise happened to occur during the day you would be able to enjoy an orangy-red sky for a few seconds – the result of the sunlight being scattered around by those deadly carbon dioxide molecules. Returning to your vocalisations, should you be lucky enough to try having any, the high atmospheric density would lead to much slower vibrations of your long-suffering vocal cords so your vocalisations would sound very deep bass-toned. However, since the sound waves you produce, if you’re really, really lucky, move through Venus’s atmosphere much quicker than they would in Earth’s so you would also be speaking in a decidedly squawky, squeaky fashion! Not great for your final yell of protest at your pending demise on Venus!

Lunar Eclipse Fire Wolves–Eclipse Mythology Of The World   34 comments

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“Eclipses are a chance to see the universe working. It’s the solar system doing its thing right before your eyes and it’s a deep and personal pleasure.”

– E.C Krupp director of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California

clip_image006clip_image008Blood moon eclipses – the moon is bathed in a red orange hue of refracted (bent) light coming from around the Earth. This April 4, 2015 blood moon eclipse, is part of the series of 4 consecutive Lunar Eclipses known as a “tetrad.” These are set approximately 6 months apart. April 15, 2014 – October 8, 2014 – our most recent one on April 4, 2015 and the shortest Total Lunar Eclipse of the 21st Century and the final one on September 28, 2015. The longest Total Lunar Eclipse this century will last 1 hour 24 minutes and will take place on July 27, 2018. Both Lunar and Solar Eclipses habitually occur in 18 year-long cycles known as Saros Cycles. Eclipses separated by a Saros Cycle are incorporated into a Saros Series. The recent Lunar Eclipse is part of Saros Series 132 which includes 71 Lunar Eclipses – the last one being on June 26, 2754.

“It’s an amazing experience, even though you know it’s just the moon moving in front of the sun. That’s why there are so many eclipse chasers”

Eclipse Fire Wolves

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Lunar Eclipse Myths from around the World

The Chinese word for “eclipse” is shih or chi meaning “to eat.” In many cultures people were of the firm belief that demons or animals were swallowing the sun or the moon at the times of eclipse. As a result of this belief they went to great pains to drive them away, commonly banging pots and pans or playing drums to this end.

clip_image012The Vikings view was that two “sky wolves” were chasing the Sun or the Moon and lunar or solar eclipses occurred whenever the wolves caught one of them. Similarly in Korea’s eclipse myths eclipses occurred when “fire dogs,” acting on orders of the king try catch and steal the Sun or the Moon. Although they only ever manage to bite their prey of “fire or ice” their actions spark an eclipse.The_Hunt_resized

Vietnam have slightly different ideas in so far as they believe it is a frog/toad that consumes the Sun or the Moon and on the West Canadian coast the Kwakiuti tribe is convinced that during the occurrence of an eclipse the “mouth of heaven” eats the Sun or the Moon.

– E.C Krupp director of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California

In the minds of The Inca lunar eclipses were a result of a Jaguar attacking and eating the Moon. This bloodshed explained the red-brown hue of the “Blood Moon” commonly seen during a total lunar eclipse such as seen recently (4th April 2015) The Inca would fiercely shake their spears at The Moon and make as much noise as possible, often “beating their dogs to make them bark and howl” in the hope of scaring the Jaguar away, afraid that it would fall to Earth and eat the Inca people too!

– David Dearborn, a researcher at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California

clip_image015Chinese mythology states the Dragon, a “masculine solar energy” causes lunar eclipses when he tries to eat the Moon. The Chinese too would make much noise to chase it away and as late as 19th century cannons were fired by the Chinese navy to this end.

The ancient Mesopotamians whose culture stated that their king also symbolised the land believed that the seven demons they considered to be attacking the Moon at the time of lunar eclipse were also attacking their king. Therefore at such times they would substitute a temporary king – who if he survived the demons attack would probably be killed off later when the real king was reinstated!

Healing Lunar Eclipse Myths

clip_image017In contrast to the more aggressive lunar eclipse myths, The Luisno tribe – Southern California, would sing and chant and say prayers to restore the Moon back to good health and well-being, believing that an eclipse indicated that the Moon was very sick and feeling thoroughly under the weather!

Lunar eclipses are seen as a time of reconciliation by the people of Togo and Benim in Africa – The Batammaliba. In their culture, during an eclipse the Sun and the Moon are in battle with one another. The people work hard to discourage the discord between the two heavenly bodies and it is seen as a time when families and friends get together, and old arguments and disputes are resolved.

– Jarita Holbrook, cultural astronomer at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa.

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Eclipses are considered to be simply another natural part of the balance of the universe’s cosmic order, by The Navago. It is considered a special time and a time to take a break and reflect on the cosmic order. In order to stay in balance with the universe avoid looking at, sleeping during or eating and drinking for its duration of the eclipse. Instead the time can be spent safely indoors singing special songs and enjoying time with family.

– Nancy Maryboy, President on San Juan Island, Washington working with NASA to bring indigenous astronomy into mainstream awareness

The Hupa were of the mind that 20 wives and an array of pets (Mountain Lions and snakes) were an important part of the Moon’s life. The Moon was required to supply food for them all and when he fell short on his duty he was attacked by the Mountain cats and the snakes. This of course led to blood-letting for the Moon – Blood Moon Eclipses – But luckily for the Moon his 20 wives would come to his aid, protecting him and dutifully collecting his blood so as to restore him to his former glory and good health. This was believed to bring an end to the lunar eclipse.

– E.C Krupp director of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California.

clip_image004In astrology many believe wars and conflicts, political events and acts of nature such as earthquakes can occur as a result of eclipses. Tibetan Buddhists say that during a lunar eclipse regardless of whether they are good or bad our actions increase by a thousand fold! So if you were naughty during the eclipse look out!!!

Sources:

lifeasmyth.com

Wikipedia

NASA

National Geographic

Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble   44 comments

Beijing Bubbling Towards A Smog-Free

 Future?

china_beijing_air_pollution_Photo_EPABeijing smog alert! Recently raised to Level Orange – the alert system’s second highest smog threat category (levels consisting of blue, yellow, orange and red) which can lead to outdoor sports class cancellations and transport usage restrictions, highlights the shocking air quality crisis in China’s capital city. Citizens have been advised to stay indoors and to wear face masks if they do have to go out. This is the first time the pollution level has reached the smog alert system’s second worst threat level, and is a direct consequence of the notorious combination of coal burning power plants and the excessive number of cars on Beijing’s roads.

Levels of PM2.5 – tiny pollutant particles in Beijing’s atmosphere have been recorded as standing at 400 micrograms per cubic metre. The acceptable limit is 25 micrograms per cubic metre.

Park in a Bubble

Orproject – a London-based, British architecture and design company have a dedicated team working on the innovative idea of a dome-covered botanical garden which would be large enough to also enclose offices, shops and residential buildings.

Bubbles

bubble-Photo_OrprojectThe Bubble as it is known, would be helpful to those living with environmental pollution, and although it is not an alternative to finding ways to control pollution destroying the environment, it would offer a safe haven; a clean-air environment in a dangerously polluted city.

Costing in the region of £400/square metre the bubbles would be constructed with the same material as has been used in the Eden project (Cornwall, UK) inside the biomes panels. As it would not be designed using glass the structure would be much lighter and consequently far more cost effective. Highly heat resistant this stretchy plastic – a polymer known as ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) also has the potential to reduce energy costs and has already been tried and tested at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, both at the Aquatics Center and the Birds’ Nest National Stadium.

An interesting idea is the dome’s roof which the designers would craft by combining technology with nature, using a computer algorithm with the ability to initiate and grow roof-top patterns such as those on butterfly wings and on leaves…

Structural surface solar panels would provide electric for the clean-air bubble and humidity and temperature would be controlled internally. By necessity the bubble would be airtight therefore the air pumped into the proposed park and the buildings contained within it would have to be filtered beforehand.

Source: metro.co.uk

Valhalla Basin Winter Galactic Olympics–Do YOU Have What It Takes?!!   23 comments

Valhalla Basin Winter Galactic Olympics Latest! (Events and Locations)

Galactic Olympic Wannabe?? Do You Have What It Takes?!!!

 

                                 Moons of the Solar System_Image Credit NASAsaturn-compositesolarsystem_astro.cornell.edu

As any self-respecting Galactic Olympic enthusiast will be very happily well aware, the 2014 Valhalla Basin Galactic Olympics is now in full swing. Meteoritic medals are being won, and a variety of arms and legs are in danger of being broken, along with a smattering of other appendages as brave and heroic Galactic athletes take breath-taking risks hurtling down icy bob sleigh runs and mind-blowing ski slopes, snowboarding at break-neck speeds on tiny little “tea trays.” 😉 and spinning gracefully around zero-gravity ice rinks to name but a few.

Naturally the hard-core Galactic Olympic enthusiast will have been overcome by an all-consuming desire to participate in these exciting, heart-stopping winter sports events…so where can you show off your finely honed skills?!! And what’s on offer for you excitable Galactic Olympian wannabes?!!! Look no further for all you need to know about the Galactic Winter Olympic Events and Locations!

Callisto_Credit_nssdc.gsfc.nasa.govCallsito [Jupiter’s Moon] – Valhalla Basin

Ice Events (Figure Skating, Ice Dancing and Short Track Speed Skating)

  • Ice skating on the frosty bright-floored 360 km wide central basin.
  • Snowboarding and hi-speed skating around the 8+ concentric frozen mountainous ridges

Asgard Crater

Nordic Events (X-country skiing and Ski Jumping) Snowboarding events

  • X-country skiing around the multi ring structure
  • Snowboarding jumps and ski jumping from the centrally-situated domed Doh impact crater dominating Asgard.
  • The uneven terrain and tenuous CO2 atmosphere allows athletes to pull off some very impressive stunts during these events!

Europa [Jupiter’s Moon]:

europa_solarsystem.nasa.gov_Credit_NASA_JPL-Caltech europa1_Credit apod.nasa.govSkiing Events (Alpine and Freestyle) Nordic Event (Ski Jumping)

It should also be noted that skiing on Europa will involve:

  • Slower acceleration when skiing downhill (Gravity compared to Earth’s, Mars <1/3, Europa <1/7, Moon 1/6)
  • Bigger skis maybe necessary to help with turning
  • Ski jumping will require longer ramps as there is less acceleration – no air resistance. No air at all in fact!
  • Crashes and falls will not lead to lost marks as you will be dead!!!

Snowboarding:

  • Naturally occurring ½ pipes stretching for 100s miles (caused by gravitational tides changing the shape of the surface)
  • Tenuous atmosphere means no aerodynamic drag so snowboarders can stand tall going downhill, not the usual crouch. Steering is also easier.

Ice Event: Curling:

  • Europa is ideal for this activity having the smoothest surface in the solar system.

WARNING!!

Radiation is very harsh on Europa; the result of dangerous belts of radiation from Jupiter’s planetary magnetosphere – the largest and most powerful in the Solar System. So don’t forget your radiation suit and iodine tablets! And remember! Snowboarding/skiing in lead lined radiation suits will provide an excellent muscle workout!

Martian Ice Caps:

Skiing Events and Ice Events: Bob sledding, Ice Hockey

                             Mars ice cap_rutgersprep.orgMars_Chasma Boreale_N Polar Ice Cap_themis.asu.edu

WARNING!!

Don’t forget your scarf! And remember Mar’s atmosphere is very thin so you don’t get any protection from the Sun’s energy bursts. You also don’t get to enjoy snowball fights on the Ice Caps – the atmosphere’s too weak and cold meaning snowballs can’t /hold together like they’re supposed to. And no! You can’t throw the ice; it’s very, very bad form!

A Martian Ice Cap sounds like the ideal skating rink but it is actually not that great for skating being cold and dark and snowing carbon dioxide. In fact it is probably better suited to Roller Skating!

Tethys [Saturn’s Moon] : Ithaca Chasm and Odysseus Crater:

Tethys_JPL_map_Credit celestialmotherlode.nettethys-ithaca-chasmaAll Nordic Events: X-country skiing and Biathlon

  • Great valley named after Greek Island Ithaca and the country ruled by Odysseus in mythology.
  • 100 km wide, 3-5 km deep and 2000km long running ¾ of the way round the circumference making it one of the longest valleys in the Solar System.
  • Runs approximately concentric with the massive Odysseus Crater, located on the opposite side of Tethys
  • Giant Impact Crater – Odysseus 400 km diameter is almost 2/5 of the whole of Tethys.

WARNING!!

Cold, airless and heavily cratered world! Surface temperature -187 degrees, very icy, and very reflective. Don’t forget the woolly scarf, thermal undies and snow/sun-glasses!!

Triton [Neptune’s Moon]:

triton-cryovolcanos_Credit wanderingspace.netNordic Combi: Ski Jumping, X-Country Skiing, and Snowboarding

  • Relatively flat, sparsely cratered surface with extensive ridges, troughs, furrows, plateaus and valleys, and icy, smooth volcanic plains
    • Perfect for X-Country Skiing.
  • Highly reflective polar caps consisting of nitrogen and methane.
    • A great spot to catch Galactic Olympic Ski Jumping!
  • Mounds and round pits formed by icy lava flows; long double ridges of ice with troughs in the middle.
    • Particularly well suited to Cosmic Snowboarding events.

WARNING!!

To aid launch jumping Nitrogen-gas heated shoes for generating explosive puffs of gas when feet touch the ground, are strongly recommended for all competitors.

Crashing is not recommended!!

Sources:

space.com

solar system.nasa.gov

 

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

The Sounds of Mars, Venus and Titan   63 comments

 

The Sounds of Mars, Venus and Titan –

Symphonic Orchestras of the Stars

Source: University of Southampton press release

 

curiosity-mars-landing-mount-sharpHiggs Bosen (ATLAS Preliminary data)

Despite many years of space exploration, we have no evidence of the sound of other planets.

Many years of space exploration, in huge diversity of forms has taken place but in all that time, and despite all the technology available to us no-one, ever, has heard the “sound of another world.”

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“Hearing the sounds communicates ideas about the different atmospheres and highlights the sheer alienness of the other worlds in our solar system.”

~Dr. Jenny Shipway, Planetarium Manager at INTECH

The Sheer Alienness of Other Worlds

Venutian lightning, Martian whirlwinds, Titan’s (Saturn’s largest satellite-moon) icy volcanoes – the natural sounds of other worlds all from the utilisation of maths and physics! Proving that there really is a valid point and reason to our enduring long and torturous maths classes and endless hours spent in the school physics lab!

Mars_Viking_Dog

A Southampton University team led by Professor Tim Leighton of the University’s Institute for Sound and Vibration Research have, using unique transforming software been able to model the sound of a human voice on Earth to one on another world/alien planet.

Mars, Venus and Titan all have very different and varied temperatures, atmospheres and pressures. These factors all play a valid role in affecting how the human vocals sound in different off-worldly environments.

“We are confident of our calculations; we have been rigorous in our use of physics taking into account atmospheres, pressure and fluid dynamics.” ~ Professor Leighton

Venus_Atmosphere

“On Venus, the pitch of your voice would become much deeper. That is because the planet’s dense atmosphere means that the vocal cords vibrate more slowly through this ‘gassy soup’. However, the speed of sound in the atmosphere on Venus is much faster than it is on Earth, and this tricks the way our brain interprets the size of a speaker (presumably an evolutionary trait that allowed our ancestors to work out whether an animal call in the night was something that was small enough to eat or so big as to be dangerous). When we hear a voice from Venus, we think the speaker is small, but with a deep bass voice. On Venus, humans sound like bass Smurfs.” ~ Professor Leighton

The latest research has led to the capturing of the sound of the Martian and Venutian atmospheres extending the science further and also adding to the portfolio, the sounds of Martian thunder and dust storms, Venutian thunder, and the sound of thunder on Titan and of it’s ice cold cryo-volcanoes.

~ Research conducted by MSc students Nikhil Banda and Benoit Berges working with Professors Leighton and White

Mars_Panoramic

Professor Leighton and Dr. Andi Petculescu at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette have also investigated in detail how musical instruments accompanied by human singing would sound if conducted in an alien planet environment. In the future, if mankind is able to create Martian settlements they might well decide to take the “sounds of Earth” with them in the form of music and instruments or maybe design something new during their time on Mars. Perhaps even creating a galactic orchestra with Martian symphonies! It would be interesting to hear how they would sound and be affected by such an extreme environment. The song of the stars!

            Symphony_of_the_StarsTitan_Credit Cassini-Huygens_Orchestra of the Stars

            Titan_Credit Cassini-Huygens_Music of the Starsvenus-volcano-surface-artwork-desk-bg2D-001

There is also another sound not heard before on Mars… Chickens Smile It is worth noting that the Galactic Olympic Stadium on Olympic Host World, Mars has currently been converted into a “Super Chicken Coop”… They have since been eaten…by Clowie the Pyrenean Mountain Dog so there is only one left….Winking smile 

 

chicken on mars song “curiosity has a friend” remix

“Chicken on Mars Song” provides the sounds of the one remaining chicken on Mars Winking smile (There were a lot more before Clowie arrived Smile ) This Martian Chicken is also clear evidence that there is indeed life on Mars!

Is There Life On Other Worlds?   11 comments

Does Life Exist Elsewhere In The Universe?

 

The presence of water is absolutely vital to the existence of life no matter where it may lie in the universe.  In searching for the best habitat to harbour life, the essential criteria could be viewed as a rocky planet with a liquid surface ocean – plant and animal life living near the surface would need to utilise the sunlight.  An atmosphere would also be necessary to prevent the freezing or evaporating of the ocean and it would offer protection from potentially lethal ultra violet light. 

 

Tidal Heating is an important factor in ensuring water is kept warm in multiple-moon systems such as those orbiting Jupiter.  Three of Jupiter’s moons – Europa, Ganymede and Callisto show indications of possible vast oceans beneath thick icy crusts.  Tidal heating prevents the oceans from freezing and heated water bubbling up from the ocean bed provides energy for the beginnings of life’s processes.

 

Europa

Although largely an icy frozen world it could provide a suitable environment for life to form.  Its surface is one of the brightest in the galaxy, and also one of the smoothest. Surface images show strong similarities to thawing pack-ice on Earth’s polar seas, and there is strong evidence suggesting the existence of a subsurface global ocean, sustained in liquid form as a result of tidal heating.

 

Titan

Saturn’s largest moon and 2nd largest in Solar System is composed of rock and water ice, and has a nitrogen-methane atmosphere with a reddish cloud layer above the surface.  Liquid methane can produce the same effect as water on Earth in terms of cloud formation, rain and liquid pools and possibly even lakes and oceans.

 

Enceladus

Saturn’s moon and the shiniest in the solar system.

The part of the atmosphere over its south pole consisting of water vapour gives rise to the notion that below its icy crust could be a hidden ocean. The newly discovered surface geyser, “Cold Faithful,” jetting water ice and vapour out of the fissures backs this theory.

  

Mars

2001-2002 Mars Odyssey found evidence of water ice near the surface. Polar ice caps are underlayed by caps of water ice. 2008 Phoenix Lander confirmed the existence of Martian water in frozen soil.  September 2008 snow was detected falling from Martian clouds. Whether any reaches the ground before evaporating remains to be seen.

 

(Related photos in album “Europa(Homeworld Of The Icewolf)And Beyond”)