One in Six Stars Has Earth-Sized Planet
The quest for a twin Earth is heating up. Using NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, astronomers are beginning to find Earth-sized planets orbiting distant stars. A new analysis of Kepler data shows that about 17 percent of stars have an Earth-sized planet in an orbit closer than Mercury. Since the Milky Way has about 100 billion stars, there are at least 17 billion Earth-sized worlds out there.
Francois Fressin, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), presented the analysis in a press conference at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Long Beach, Calif. A paper detailing the research has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2013/01/one-six-stars-has-earth-sized-planet
Vesta Once Had Active Dynamo
About 4.6 billion years ago, the solar system was little more than a tenuous disk of gas and dust. In the span of merely 10 million years, this soup evolved to form today’s massive, complex planets. In the intervening period, however, the solar system contained a mixture of intermediary bodies — small chunks of rock, the remnants of which today are known as asteroids.
Although not much is known about the early composition of asteroids, some scientists suspect that such information may reveal an unexpected diversity of planetary bodies within the early solar system.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2012/10/vesta-once-had-active-dynamo
this ring shadow is gorgeous!
sometimes I wish Earth had rings.
Saturn’s southern reaches are draped in the shadow of the huge planet’s iconic ring system in a spectacular new picture from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.
The near-infrared photo was snapped on June 15 beautifully captures the ring shadow on the planet.
Rover’s Laser Zaps its First Mars Rock
NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity fired its laser for the first time on Mars, using the beam from a science instrument to interrogate a fist-size rock called “Coronation.” The mission’s Chemistry and Camera instrument, or ChemCam, hit the fist-sized rock with 30 pulses of its laser during a 10-second period. Each pulse delivers more than a million watts of power for about five one-billionths of a second.
The energy from the laser excites atoms in the rock into an ionized, glowing plasma. ChemCam catches the light from that spark with a telescope and analyzes it with three spectrometers for information about what elements are in the target.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2012/08/rovers-laser-zaps-its-first-mars-rock
Curiosity sets down safely on Mars
Although not a beautiful image — it was shot through a lens cover by the rover’s rear hazard camera — the picture was enough to show one of Curiosity’s wheels resting firmly on the Martian soil. Off in the distance, the curving horizon beckons.
After an 8-month journey, Curiosity survived its violent, 7-minute fall through the thin atmosphere of Mars before touching down with a speed of less than 1 metre per second, the softest landing in Mars exploration history. The feat proved that the mission’s wickedly complicated landing system was as robust as advertised.
…Ed Weiler, NASA’s recently retired science chief was among the cast of senior officials on hand. “I was there for the conception of this 12 years ago,” he told Nature. “It was a long, long pregnancy. But the baby sure is beautiful.”
Afbeelding van den weg der planeet Venus Nicholas Ypey, 1761. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress. A beautiful drawing of the transit of Venus of 1761, by Nicholas Ypey. Although the coronal detail on the sun is not actually observable, the path of the transit is accurately depicted.
Google Goes into Space?
This upcoming Tuesday, during a press conference at the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery (located in the Museum of Flight in Seattle), a new company called Planetary Resources will come into existence.
Two of the men behind the mystery project are Larry Page and Eric Schmidt of Google. Others involved include director James Cameron, Chief Software Architect of Microsoft Charles Simonyl, Google Board of Directors member K. Ram Shiram, and Chairman of the Perot Group Ross Perot, Jr.
The cryptic press release didn’t give any details save a name and vague description of the company’s goals. It will “overlay two critical sector – space exploration and natural resources – to add trillions of dollars to the global GDP.” It goes on the say that the innovative startup will “create a new industry and a new definition of natural resources.”
It may be convoluted, but it’s enough information to give some scientists a pretty clear idea of what Planetary Resources might do. It’s likely an asteroid mining company. That’s really the only thing in space that we need on Earth and could redefine natural resources.
Scientists have long suspected asteroids, which are believed to be made of material leftover from the Solar System’s formation or a mystery planet’s destruction, might hold valuable resources. There are tens of thousands of astroids in orbit between Mars and Jupiter – the so-called asteroid belt – and occasionally one comes close enough to Earth to pose a threat. But, they also come close enough to make a sample or resource collection mission possible.
Explanation: Last week Mercury wandered far to the west of the Sun. As the solar system’s innermost planet neared its greatest elongation or greatest angle from the Sun (for this apparition about 27 degrees) it was joined by an old crescent Moon. The conjunction was an engaging sight for early morning risers in the southern hemisphere. There the pair rose together in predawn skies, climbing high above the horizon along a steeply inclined ecliptic plane. This well composed sequence captures the rising Moon and Mercury above the city lights of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia. A stack of digital images, it consists of an exposure made every 3 minutes beginning at 4:15 am local time on April 19. Mercury’s track is at the far right, separated from the Moon’s path by about 8 degrees.
Jupiter and Io
This is a thermal-infrared image of Jupiter, obtained by the ISAAC multi-mode instrument at the 8.2-m VLT ANTU telescope on Paranal on November 14, 2000; the Universal Time (UT) of exposure is indicated. It is part of a series of images showing the dramatically different appearance of Jupiter”s disk and the aurorae when viewed through different thermal-IR imaging filters. Note also the motion of the moon Io (left). The contrast has been enhanced to better show the faint details in the aurorae.
Histroy and Naming
- Mercury is the closest planet to the sun. As such, it circles the sun faster than all the other planets, which is why Romans named it after the swift-footed messenger god Mercury.
- Mercury was also given separate names for its appearance as both a morning star and as an evening star. Greek astronomers knew, however, that the two names referred to the same body. Heraclitus believed that both Mercury and Venus orbited the Sun, not the Earth.
- The surface of Mercury can reach a scorching 840 degrees F (450 degrees C). However, since this world doesn’t have a real atmosphere to entrap any heat, at night temperatures can plummet to minus 275 degrees F (minus 170 degrees C), a more than 1,100 degrees F (600 degree C) temperature swing that is the greatest in the solar system.
- Since it has no significant atmosphere to stop impacts, the planet is pockmarked with craters.
- Amazing, as close to the sun as Mercury is, ice may exist in its craters.
- Mercury is the second densest planet after Earth, with a huge metallic core roughly 2,200 to 2,400 miles (3,600 to 3,800 kilometers) wide, or about 75 percent of the planet’s diameter. In comparison, Mercury’s outer shell is only 300 to 400 miles (500 to 600 kilometers) thick.
- Mercury possessed a magnetic field.
Composition & Structure
- Atmospheric composition (by volume). No atmosphere: Mercury possesses an exosphere containing 42 percent oxygen, 29 percent sodium, 22 percent hydrogen, 6 percent helium, 0.5 percent potassium, with possible trace amounts of argon, carbon dioxide, water, nitrogen, xenon, krypton, neon.
- Magnetic Field. Roughly 1 percent the strength of Earth’s.
Also known as rocky planets, these bodies are composed primarily of rock and metal and have very high densities. They also tend to be relatively small in size and have slow periods of rotation. The terrestrial planets in our solar system are Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. They are the planets closest to the Sun. Terrestrial planets tend to have very few natural satellites, or moons. Of the four terrestrial planets in our solar system, only two have moons. Earth has one moon while Mars has two.
Images Credit: solarsystem.nasa.gov
Solar Eclipse vs. Lunar Eclipse
Although many people confuse the terms and use them interchangeably, there is, of course, a distinct difference between these two types of eclipse. As soon from Earth, a solar eclipse is when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth - effectively blocking out the sun. In this case, one would only seen the moon, with a bright ring around it (shown above on the left.) Seeing the moon is what causes people to confuse it with a lunar eclipse. Solar eclipses can only happen when the lunar calendar is in the total eclipse phase. A solar eclipse does not necessarily mean the entire sun is blocked out - but this is called a total solar eclipse.
Interestingly, if the moon was in a perfectly circular orbit - there would be a total solar eclipse during every new moon, or once a month. Unfortunately, the Moon’s orbit is angled at about 5 degrees relative to the Earth’s orbit, so it doesn’t line up as often! Don’t believe it when people say it is safe to look directly at the eclipse, it is still dangerous!
In contrast with only occurring during a new moon, a lunar eclipse can only occur during a full moon. During a lunar eclipse, the Earth is aligned in between the Moon and the Sun - exactly or as closely as possible. In this way, the Earth blocks the Sun’s rays from striking the Moon directly.
Additionally, solar eclipses can only be seen from small areas of the Earth - while a lunar eclipse can be seen anywhere on whatever is the night side of the Earth at the moment. Lunar eclipses also last much longer, a few hours compares to a mere few minutes!
In this illustration, the blue ball represents the volume of all the water on earth, relative to the size of the earth. The tiny speck to the right of the blue ball represents Earth’s fresh water. CREDIT: David Gallo/WHOI
If Earth was the size of a basketball, all of its water would fit into a ping pong ball.
How much water is that? It’s roughly 326 million cubic miles (1.332 billion cubic kilometers), according to a recent study from the U.S. Geological Survey. Some 72 percent of Earth is covered in water, but 97 percent of that is salty ocean water and not suitable for drinking.
“There’s not a lot of water on Earth at all,” said David Gallo, an oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts.