Archive for the ‘Space’ Tag
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) )
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, 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.
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." 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 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.
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.
Fire Wolves of Io (Revised Re-post)
Copyright Europa’s Icewolf – All Rights Reserved
Silent cosmic explosion of shattered worlds colliding. Volcanic furls of solar fire lighting up the burnt golden worldscape displaying in flaming bursts of moulton gold heralding the birth of the “Fire Wolves of Io.” Melting plumes of moon- fire moulding the dancing array of DNA into burning smouldering embers of life-giving essences, forming and changing in an altered reality, until the birthing cry of the founding Fire Wolf of Io resounded in a wild, agonised shriek through the roaring maelstrom of a world newly and violently born.
Burnished gold orbs surveying the smouldering world the first of the Fire Wolves had been brutally and dreadfully born into. Its cindered moon- black mask was in startling eclipse to its sun-bronzed coat, an otherworldly glint caught the astral light, shadowing across the volcanic land forms dotted across the newly formed solar terrain. The air tasted hot and of sulphur, twisting pockets of flames still flaring from the cracks and crevices of the scorched surface ground. Shaking itself tentatively, testing each newly formed limb, tasting the alien atmosphere it was born to with sensitive nose it tensed in its own sense of power, feeling the call of its sun-fired heritage to run and hunt and know the furnace of exhilaration that threatened to explode from deep within its burning, sultry-golden form.
It uttered a strange and involuntary noise – a deep rumbling growl of anticipation. An unfamiliar sound to the new born of Io, before leaping away untouched by the pockets of flames that were an integral part of its Fire Wolf make-up. It moved in moulton luxury feeling the flow of bone and muscle, sliding under glittering cosmic coat, searing wind currents lifting it hotly as the star wolf itself flew on winged paws across red-tinged terrain, caught in the joy of being, of its own wild untamed vitality,untouched and all instinct and wild primal hunter. “FIRE WOLVES OF IO….”
All too often in life we cling with the utmost urgency onto the very thing we cannot keep hold of and even when we know it is lost to us our lives are shaped by that all-consuming longing and the fierce refusal to give ourselves over to the process of adaptation. So it is with those who become like fired moulton rock – they are trapped in an unchanging form. We force ourselves into the form of unyielding moulton rock because we FEAR TO CHANGE.
Snow White – World of Ice and Methane
US Astronomers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have discovered that the dwarf planet 2007 OR10 known as Snow White –once a small volcanically active world firing slushy water ice from ancient volcanoes, and boasting an atmosphere, is today an icy, frozen, dead world, tinged red and enveloped in a thin layer of methane that is slowly slipping away to be lost into space.
Snow White — orbits the sun at the edge of the solar system and is about half the size of Pluto, making it the fifth largest dwarf planet. Part of a larger group of icy bodies called Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs).Ironically Snow White has actually proved to be one of the reddest objects in the solar system.
However last autumn using a newly designed instrument called the Folded-port Infrared Echellette (FIRE), with the 6.5-meter Magellan Baade Telescope in Chile, Adam Burgasser, a former graduate student and now a professor at UC San Diego, and Wesley Fraser, postdoctoral scholar were shocked to find out although Snow White was indeed red, it’s surface was also covered in water ice.
“Water ice is not red! Although ice is common in the outer solar system, it’s almost always white~ Mike Brown, the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor and professor of planetary astronomy.
One other dwarf planet that shares these characteristics is Quaoar, discovered in 2002. Slightly smaller than Snow White, Quaoar is still big enough to have had an atmosphere and a surface covered with volcanoes that sent-up and slush and ice, which as with Snow White flowed over the surface before freezing solid.
But smaller than dwarf planets like Pluto or Eris, it was unable to hold onto volatile methane, carbon monoxide, or nitrogen compounds as long. And two billion years after its formation Quaoar inevitably began to lose its atmosphere to space; now, and today all that remains is the space-irradiated methane which rests on the icy surface Quaoar’s, giving it a glowing reddish hue.
It is clear from indications on the spectrum of Snow White 2007 OR10 which clearly shows the presence of water ice that it too for the last ½ billion years it has followed in the footsteps of Quaoar, still and silent amongst the stars, slowly losing its atmosphere into space until now only a small part remains."
The existence of methane is still open to debate. But the use of a large telescope such as the Keck Observatory will show clearly whether methane exists on Snow White or not. If this proves to be so it will join Quaoar as one of only two dwarf planets that bridge the gap between the tiny selection of entities large enough to hold onto hazardous composites, and the smaller entities that constitute the vast majority of KBOs.
NASA YEAR OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM!
(January 2011 to August 2012)
NASA has designated New Year 2011 the YEAR OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM. Spanning a Martian year of 23 months The Year of the Solar System honours the unparalleled discoveries made during NASA’s missions to explore both our neighbouring planets and also the outer edges of the Solar System. Throughout 2011 and into 2012 there will be new missions in the pipeline for the continued exploration of Jupiter, Earth’s satellite – the Moon, and Mars. Other exploratory missions will include ones to the asteroids and comets, the Sun, Mercury, Saturn and our home world Earth.
FEBRUARY 14 STARDUST NExT SPACECRAFT encounters COMET TEMPL 1, and MESSENGER enters orbit around MERCURY ON MARS 18 FEBRUARY 2011.
JULY 2011 DAWN SPACECRAFT will enter orbit round giant ASTEROID VESTA. The space probe has will spend one full year hopefully impressing researchers with ground breaking new information from this alien world.
AUGUST 11TH JUNO SPACECRAFT TO JUPITER will be launched. And the roving SCIENCE LAB’ CURIOSITY will be launched to MARS IN NOVEMBER 2011.
2012 Mars Rover OPPORTUNITY will head out into the heart of city sized impact crater ENDEAVOUR having travelled almost 2 miles from Opportunity’s original landing site.
The DAWN SPACECRAFT will fire up its ion engines and prepare to leave ASTEROID VESTA and for the first time in space history a spacecraft orbiting an alien world will break orbit and head out for another.
Spacecraft on its way to the Asteroids
The YEAR OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM ends in August 2012 when the roving nuclear-powered SCIENCE LAB CURIOSITY lands on MARS. CURIOSITY with its advanced sensors and unmatched mobility is expected to open a whole new chapter in the exploration of the Red Planet.
News Flash!!…New Moon Rising!
Start Howling! New Moon rising (4 Jan) marks the first phase of the 2011 JANUARY FULL WOLF MOON (19 Jan)
Early morning January 4th will see the New Moon passing in front of a portion of the Sun creating a PARTIAL ECLIPSE, one of four throughout the year but the only one visible from Europe, Africa and E Asia, and from London at 07:47.
Also the darkness of the New Moon makes this an ideal time to view the QUADRANTID METEOR SHOWER on 3/4th January which with up to 90 meteors/hour will be the best and brightest shower of the New Year. So don’t forget to go check it out!
Solar Sail Space Crafts
Space craft propelled directly by the power of sunlight (solar cells are indirect power).
Two projects are set for launch this year:-
(These are demonstrations to show that it can work, but they are very tiny!)
Solar Sail Craft Basics
Constructed from Gossamer – thin reflective sails capture photons
The sails gain momentum from the photons as they are reflected from their surface. Energy gained pushed the craft forwards gently. The force of sunlight is very little but this is fine as their CO2 acts against it in the vacuum of space.
Future sails could be made of nanotube mesh – 30 times lighter, and could increase acceleration dramatically.
Travel and Speeds
With the Sun set to shine for a good billion years or so yet, it can be considered an endless fuel supply therefore a Solar Sail Craft could in theory, reach speeds of hundreds of kilometres per hour making travel to Pluto a mere three years and to the outer limits of the Solar System years rather than decades. NASA’s Voyager craft took thirty years to reach these limits. A Solar Sail Craft launched today would pass it in ten years.
Other Solar Sails
They would need sails 100m across and a boost from a large and unrealistically expansive laser system as the Sun’s energy decreases with distance. However laser-boosted systems could see a Solar Sail Craft travelling at speeds of up to 20% speed of light (60,000km/hr or 45,000mph) every second. This would make visiting neighbouring stars in our lifetime our best possibility.
- Concept first proposed by German astronomer Johannes Kelper in seventeenth century
- 1862 Scottish physicist James Clark Maxwell discovers that light exerts a pressure on a surface.
- 1867 Jules Vernes suggests light pressure could provide a mechanical means of propulsion.
4. 1924 Russian scientist Fridrickh Arturovich Tsander wrote “For flight in Interplanetary Space I am working on the idea of flying using tremendous mirrors of very thin sheets capable of achieving favourable results.“
5. 1971 When NASA’s probe Mariner ran low on steering thrusters fuel en route to Venus engineers angled its solar panels into the Sun and used solar radiation pressure to steer it back on course.
6. 2005 Cosmos-1 a Solar Sail designed by US Planetary Society failed its test, due to rocket failure on launch vehicle, resulting in it being unable to reach its intended orbit.
7. 2008 NASA’s Nanosail-D mission, to test the Solar Sail’s deployment techniques. Lost during launch failure.