Archive for the ‘NASA’ Tag

Raining Glass on Exotic Blue Marble Planet   14 comments

 

Exotic Blue-Marble Planet Raining Glass…Sideways!

Exo-Planet HD 189733b

We all know exotic alien planets can be very strange and bizarre, and turbulent blue marble exo-planet HD 189733b in the constellation of Vulpecula (The Fox) is no exception. In fact this alien world is a shining example of wild and exotic alienness. Scoring a first for humanity (and Europan Ice Artist impression of HD 189733b_Image credits: NASA, ESA, M. KornmesserWolves if you happen to be lucky enough to be part of the Pack) those clever NASA and ESA astronomer types with a smidgling of help from the Hubble Space Telescope have figured out the real planetary colours of an alien world circumnavigating another sun; something it does this in 2.2 Earth days tucking in very close and cosy with its parent star (sun).

Although at first glance, and this would have to be a very close up glance, this deep azure blue world, a giant gas planet known as a “hot Jupiter” bears a remarkable similarity to the heart-warming blue colour of Earth as seen when floating just above it in a cosmic deck chair whilst sipping an intrepid tequila in intergalactic space and admiring the view. Smile

However, before you all go rushing off to dust off those aeon old telescopes lying forgotten in the attics and lofts of the home world, don’t! Not a good idea at all. Leave them right where they are…gathering very un-alien like Earth dust! HD 189733b is one of the closest exo-planet’s to Earth but it still lies 63 light years (630 trillion kilometres) from Earth and despite the fact that it shares pretty much the same size and mass stat’s as the Europa’s Ice wolves mother world, Jupiter, and still shines with that beautiful star-blue glow, and even has awesome sunsets, you won’t be able to see it!! No… not even a little blue dot so just take a nice deep breath of Earth air and calm down!

Colour is where the similarity between this exotic exo-planet and Earth end, swallowed hungrily by its dramatically unstable and exotic, atmosphere where it rains glass sideways (drops of molten magnesium silicate particles) in a furious frenzy of hurricane-force winds hitting a ferocious, hyperactive 7000 kilometres-per-hour (4,350 mile per hour). With a searing atmospheric temperature of 1000+ degrees Celsius (1,832 degrees Fahrenheit/1000 degrees C day side, 1,200 degrees F/650 degrees C night side – tidally locked so one side always faces its sun) atmospheric water exists in the form of steam, intermingled with vapour mists and fierce, blazing flares. 1,000 tons of its atmosphere is blown away with each passing second by its sun’s (star’s) intermittent solar surges.

Blue Planet_Credit:GoogleAnd why is HD 189733b a deep and shiny azure blue colour? I hear you ask…albeit very quietly in a “don’t tell Wolfie we asked or we’ll be here all night” kind of tone. The sideways-raining glass (magnesium silicates) in its hyperactive atmosphere, scatter blue light very effectively to create this effect. Earth shines bold and blue due to the blue colours in the sunlight scattering in the atmosphere. Yes, the sun is still there to achieve this very important end even if you can’t mostly see it through all that lovely grey cloud cover. Cold, distant Neptune is also a blue planet, but for the entirely different reason that its air has copious levels of methane gracing it. This decidedly non-breathable Neptunian methane does a pretty good job of absorbing red light blotting it out altogether to human eyesight so that Earth dwellers beady little eyes will only see the blue light reflecting back to them and therefore Neptune is blue. This is a very therapeutic and relaxing colour for the average Earth dweller to cast their beady little eyeballs on according to the therapists.

Exo-planet temperature map data revealed by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope In 2007 allowed scientists the opportunity to chart the bizarre weather environment of the exotic, alien world of exo-planet HD 189733b. It was concluded that there are roughly 500 degrees Fahrenheit (260 degrees Celsius), differences between the daytime side and night-time side temperatures, and these are also responsible creating the wild, gale force winds buffeting this beautiful marble blue world amongst the stars.

Sources:

softpedia

liveleak.com

space.com

NASA and ESA

Roll up! Roll up! 2023: Martian Inhabitants Wanted!   34 comments

 

Mars_MSSS,JPL,NASA

Image Credit:MSSS, JPL, NASA

NASA to Mars 2030

"Interest in sending humans to Mars I think has never been higher. We now stand on the precipice of a second opportunity to press forward to what I think is man’s destiny — to step onto another planet."  NASA chief Charles Bolden at the Humans 2 Mars Summit at George Washington University. (May 6-8 2013)

Yet the road to Mars is long and challenging, and the difficulties are scientific, technological, political and economic,”

“Sending astronauts to the Red Planet (as President Barack Obama has directed NASA to do and to land humans on Mars by the 2030s)  “will likely require at least three missions: one to launch the crew and the vehicle that will take them to Mars, one to launch the habitat humans will live on at the planet’s surface, and one to launch the vehicle that will lift off from Mars to take the crew home,“ said Doug Cooke, a former NASA associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate who now heads a space consulting firm.

"To me this is one of the biggest challenges," Mike Raftery, director of space station utilization and exploration at Boeing, the primary contractor for NASA’s heavy-lift rocket being developed to go to Mars. "We have to essentially land a launch pad on the surface that’s then ready to launch the crew back to Earth.”

This will be no small challenge as to date, NASA has been unable to land more than 1 metric ton at a time on the surface of Mars — the Curiosity Rover. With a total 200 to 400 metric tons of equipment requiring delivery to the surface of Mars after being launched from Earth at the rate of 40 metric tons per trip, clearly this could prove problematic.

k_cburns_redorbit_dailyorbit_3-19-13_001_001_previewEngineers will have to develop a means to shield the Mars crews from dangerous radiation both en-route and on the surface of the Red Planet where the atmosphere is too thin to shield them as it does on Earth. They will also have to bring their own life-support systems, medicine, food, communications systems and navigation equipment.habitat_science1.nasa.gov

"It’s very likely that we’ll send some kind of lander or rover to the site we want to send people to first, to drill a couple meters down to tell us if we have fresh water," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s science mission directorate. Such a spacecraft could also serve as a beacon to guide the crewed lander down to the chosen spot on Mars. 

"We’re going to have to rely on being able to live off the land," said James Reuther of NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist. "Those will require significant technology investments in order to actually bring that about."

Explore Mars.Org

ExploreMars Summit_h2m.exploremars.org

Despite the challenges involved, many NASA and industry experts expressed confidence it can be done. In the words of Artemis Westenberg, president of Explore Mars Inc., the non-profit space advocacy group that organized the conference:Dragon_landing_on_Mars_exploremars.org

"In the coming days we have the opportunity to write history, to determine the future of humankind. We of Explore Mars give you this platform of this three-day summit. Now all you have to do is tell each other and the world the ‘how’ of getting to Mars.” (via Space.com)

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Mars One 2016

Mars_One_theregister.co.uk

The organisers of the Mars One project (a Dutch group, led by Bas Lansdorp, a researcher from the Netherlands with a Masters in Science from Delft University of Technology) think they have the answers to this quandary. They have seemingly jumped ahead of NASA, announcing ambitious plans to, execute the first fully commercial campaign of human exploration and development of Mars,” and have high hope of establishing the first settlers of a Mars colony by 2023.

By 2016 they intend to send a communications satellite to the Red Planet, following it up with additional time phased flights across succeeding years, before the actual landing of a foundation crew of permanent Mars colonists. The optimistic claim on their website states that:

“Mars One will establish the first human settlement on Mars in 2023. A habitable settlement will be waiting for the settlers when they land.”

Following the establishment of the foundation crew on the Red Planet, an additional group of new settlers will be sent to join them on a regular two-yearly basis, thereby expanding the colony.

Mars One_thetimes.co.ukmars20one20infographics

Mars One has no shortage of industry support and their suppliers include, ILC Dover, MDA Corporation, Paragon Space Development, SpaceX, Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL), and Thales Alenia Space.

“SSTL believes that the commercialization of space exploration is vital in order to bring down the costs and schedules. Mars-One is an imaginative venture making use of existing technology and SSTL is highly motivated to support this initiative,”  Sir Martin Sweeting, Founder and Executive Chairman of SSTL.

“I believe that the endeavour holds great promise and Paragon is prepared to manufacture and integrate the Mars One life support, thermal control, and space suit systems,” Jane Poynter, President and Chairwoman at Paragon Space Development Corporation

          Entrance_to_SpaceX_headquarters_en.wikipedia.orgFalconheavy_zeenews.india.comspacex_mars_colony_space4peace.org

The cost of launching the initial crew of four Martian colonists and landing them on the Red Planet, in addition to the utilisation of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launcher, will involve costs in the region of $6 billion, according to Mars One. Besides building their environment the colonists will also be tasked with answering questions regarding the on-going mystery of whether life in fact does exist on Mars and also the history of the neighbouring planet.

Astronaut selections (40 in total will be chosen) for the first manned Mars mission have already begun and applications have rolled in, in vast numbers. Potential applicants should however remember; this is a one-way trip! Mars One has no plans and no way of bringing you back! You will never set foot on Earth again…you will never breathe the air of Earth again…and you certainly won’t be able to Skype your friends and family!

Mars One_overclock.net

Further Information:

Mars One Mission and Vision

Mars 2023: Inhabitants Wanted! Apply Now!

Sources:  redOrbit.com

       space.com

mars-one.com

Russian Fireball Explodes over Chelyabinsk–And it’s all the US’s Fault!!!!   65 comments

 

Meteoroid Explodes Over Russia ~ Blame The USA!!!*

 

Image Credit: AP/Nasha gazeta (Meteoroid Flare)

A massive meteoroid flared through the skies over Russia’s sparsely inhabited region of Chelyabinsk, situated about 930 miles east of Moscow where it exploded early on Friday, triggering an atomic bomb-sized shock wave that injured more than a thousand people, blew out windows and caused some of the older Russian population to fear “the end of the world was nigh.”

Although there were no reported fatalities a report by Russia’s Interior Ministry showed medical care was requested after the shock wave by 1,100 people, approximately 50 of whom were hospitalised. The majority of injured people suffered glass cuts after windows shattered in the shock wave caused by the blast. Chelyabinsk schools reported that 200+ children were among the injured.

 Image Credit: A meteorite contrail is seen over Chelyabinsk (AP)NASA said the flash momentarily shone brighter than the Sun. The vapour trail it left in its wake could be seen hundreds of miles around, extending to the neighbouring location of Kazakhstan.

1908 Tunguska Event

NASA said it was the largest reported fireball since the Tunguska event in 1908 — an asteroid explosion that impacted a remote region of the Siberian forest flattening millions of trees over 820 square miles in the process.

The 50-foot-wide (15-meter-wide), meteoroid – estimated to be about 10 tons – entered the Earth’s atmosphere at a speeds of a minimum of 54,000kph (33,000mph) exploding into fragments 12 to 15 miles (20 to 25 kilometres) approximately above ground level. The energy it released at this point was equal to 300 to 500 kilotons of TNT. ~ Russian Academy of Sciences. This amounted 10 times+ as much energy as the atom bombs that exploded over Japan at the end of World War II released. Even estimates released by NASA were based on readings from infrasound sensors to detect nuclear blasts, set up by the “Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization”.

Asteroid 2012 DA14

The fireball hit just hours before asteroid2012 DA14, 150-foot-wide and big enough to flatten London came within a 17,200 miles (28,000 km) flyby of Earth. NASA officials said the two events were purely incidental. "It’s simply a coincidence. It looks like they were moving in different directions and weren’t on the same orbit." ~ Paul Chodas, an asteroid researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Image Credit: A circular hole in the ice of Chebarkul Lake where a meteor reportedly struck the lake near Chelyabinsk (AP) 

A photo provided by the Chelyabinsk regional police department released a photo displaying a hole in the iced-over lake near Chebarkul, 20-foot-wide (6-meter-wide) discovered whilst searching for surviving fragments of the explosion. Military officials reported that radiation levels around the site of impact had shown to be normal, according to “Interfax.”

*Conspiracy Theories

Inevitably in these circumstances the conspiracy theories are doing the rounds… Vladimir, ultra-nationalist leader of the Russian Liberal Democrat party, has the idea that the massive meteoroid was in reality America’s new weapon.

Although not confirmed there are reports that sources from the military claim that the meteoroid was intercepted by Russian air defence forces, who it is suggested used a missile to obliterate it at heights of 20km.

"It’s not a meteorite falling – it’s a test of new American weapons. Neither the US nor Russia had the capability to bring down such objects.” ~ Zhirinovsky

So there you have it! It’s all America’s fault…Really America Winking smile Stop being so naughty and put those toys down immediatelyWinking smile and go sit on the naughty step lol Smile

Sources:

Reuters

Associated Press

NBC News

MSN

Mars Rover CURIOSITY Is Coming to Town!   38 comments

 

CURIOSITY Phone Home!

clip_image002

Launched by NASA aboard an Atlas V 541 rocket on November 26 2011 the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) – Mars Rover ‘Curiosity’ due to land 05:31 GMT (06:31 BST) on clip_image003August 6, 2012, (22:31 PDT August 5,2012) in ‘Gale Crater’- in the region of Mars 5km high Mountain, Aeolis palus (Mount Sharp) having travelled 570 million km (352 million miles) to reach Mars. It’s mission, part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program; managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of California Institute of Technology is expected to last for a minimum of one Martian year (687 Earth days) and will cover an area of 5 x 20 km – larger than any other previous Mars Rover.

clip_image006 AtlasV Rocket Launching_Image Credit: NASA

                                                                                                                                      

Curiosity will have four scientific goals and objectives:

  1. Discover if the Martian environment is or was ever capable of supporting life

  2. Martian climate study

Mars Curiosity Rover_Image Credit: JPL-Caltech/NASA-APMars Curiosity_Image Credit: Reuters

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Curiosity in its disposable capsule heading for Mars_Google Images

  3.  Study of the Martian geology

  4.  Planning and preparation for a future manned Mars mission

    • Including the measurement of internal spacecraft radiation exposure during flight to Mars

Curiosity’s progress can be followed HERE!>>>

Follow Curiosity Rover on Twitter!Curiosity visits Times Square USA!_Image Credit: news.discovery.com <<<And here!! (Times Square USA)

The Great Galactic Ghoul!   39 comments

The Curse Of The Great Martian Galactic Ghoul!

Phobos GruntThe Martian Curse

As the ill-fated Russian space probe “Phobos Grunt” (Phobos Soil) meets it dramatic demise, crashing back to Earth in a blaze of flame and fire once again the Mars curse of the Great Galactic Ghoul lives up to it’s reputation as a (fictitional) space monster that lives very happily on a diet of Mars probes!!

Originally dreamed up by NASA space engineers, it was designed to counter the disappointment of the hazards encountered by and only occasionally survived by, seemingly endless failed Mars missions with a sense of humour, in the form of a fantasy space ghoul!

The Great Galactic Ghoul is supposed to be a sea serpent lying in malevolent and hungry wait en route to Mars. It is akin to the mischevious gremlins RAF pilots in WW2 often held responsible for their aircraft problems.

Phobos Grunt Crashing Back to EarthMars’ Ghoulish Curse of Terror!

Mars itself has long been associated with war and destruction, its best known guise being the Roman God of War, It was known by the Egyptians as “The Red One” and by the Babylonians as the “Star of Death.” By the 20th century it was widely considered to be inhabited by dangerous and violent aliens whos warmongering natures would lead them to destroy mankind and claim the Earth for themselves.

The dawn of the space age brought with it a whole new reign of terror of a very different kind. Despite the Red Planet proving to be a benign and lifeless world it also proved to be a ghoulish curse of terror devouring galactic technology as fast as it could…

Missions Impossible!

  • 1961/62: FIVE missions to Mars failed, of which FOUR never made it past Earth’s gravity
  • 1964: NASA MARINER 3 failed to deploy its solar panels and the batteries went flat
  • 1965: Russian probe ZOND 2 was lost contact with and lifeless as it was simply floated straight on past its target
  • 1971: RUSSIAN LANDER crashed into Mars creating the first man-made crater
  • 1993: MARS OBSERVER (NASA) went AWOL spinning out of control with a leaking fuel tank
  • 1999: MARS CLIMATE ORBITER burned up in Mars’ atmosphere during the crafts approach
  • 9 November 2011: Russian probe PHOBOS GRUNT (SOIL) launched to collect and return to Earth, soil samples from Mars’ moon Phobos. Stopped communicating within hours with mission control. Crashed back to Earth in a pile of junk January 2012.

clip_image006Search Continues for Lost Mars Lander Beagle 2

The 33 kilogram (73 lb) Beagle 2 separated from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express satellite in Mars orbit six days before atmospheric reentry… then nothing…silence. Nine years later, we still have no idea, to this day, about what happened to Britain’s sole British Mars mission. If you feel like doing a spot of lost Beagle 2 searching, here are some instructions about how to do so.

The Ghoul seems to have developed something of a taste for Russian space craft…. Phobos-Grunt crashed back to Earth recently after its rocket failed, 15 years after Russia’s first Mars mission.. Prior to that in 1989 Phobos 2, although it did manage to arrive at Mars in one piece, was knocked out by a faulty computer before mission completion. Phobos 1 had the grave misfortune to mysteriously vanish before it even got to Mars after losing its lock on the Sun. This resulting in a fatal system failure due to the additional loss of vital solar power, all caused by yet another computer error.

Between 1961 and 2011, 22 space craft were lost to the Great Galactic Terror!

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.