Category Archives: Solar System

We May Have Already Detected Signs of Alien Microbes on Saturn’s Moon Enceladus

According to a new study, microbes like those found in Earth’s deep ocean could potentially thrive in the underground ocean of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus. Both molecular hydrogen (H2) and methane (CH4) already have been detected in the plume. Researchers have shown that Methanothermococcus okinawensis, a methanogenic archaeon first isolated from a deep-sea hydrothermal vent on the western Pacific Ocean, can produce methane under conditions known to exist on Enceladus.

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Asteroid Mining: We Need Powerful Rockets like Falcon Heavy

On February 6, 2018, SpaceX successfully tested Falcon Heavy, the most powerful rocket that the American company ever built. When lifted off, it became also the most powerful operational rocket in the world. Powerful rockets like Falcon Heavy may one day carry humans to the Moon or Mars. But there might be an even more important use of powerful rockets like SpaceX’ Falcon Heavy and BFR, Blue Origin’s New Glenn or NASA’s SLS: asteroid mining.

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OSIRIS-REx Captures New Earth-Moon Image from 39.5 Million Miles

NASA’s asteroid-sampling OSIRIS-REx spacecraft captured a new Earth-Moon image on Jan. 17, 2018, from a distance of 39.5 million miles (63.6 million kilometers). Spacecraft used its NavCam1 imager to take this photo, as part of an engineering test. In the image, The Earth and the moon are just two bright dots against the vastness of black space – which reminds us of Carl Sagan’s famous speech“That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.”

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New Horizons beats Voyager 1’s Record for being farthest from Earth while capturing images

It took 27 years, but finally, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft beat Voyager 1’s record for being farthest from Earth while capturing images. Taken on December 5, 2017, New Horizons image of the open star cluster NGC 3532 (also commonly known as the Football Cluster or the Wishing Well Cluster) became the farthest image ever made by any spacecraft, breaking a 27-year record set by Voyager 1. But for a very short time! About 2 hours later, New Horizons broke its own record with images of two Kuiper Belt objects.

For a short time, the image below, New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) frame of the galactic open star cluster NGC 3532 (aka the Football Cluster or the Wishing Well Cluster), taken on December 5, 2017 (released on February 8, 2015), was the farthest image ever made by a spacecraft, breaking a 27-year record set by Voyager 1. New Horizons was 3.79 billion miles (6.12 billion kilometers or 40.9 astronomical units-AUNotes 1) from Earth when LORRI took the routine calibration image.

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Super Blue Blood Moon 2018

Today (January 31), with popular terms, there was a “super blue blood moon”. It will be the first full total moon eclipse since September 27/28, 2015. What’s more, it was the first Blue Moon / Blood Moon visible from the United States since 1866.

UPDATE: NASA is live now, saying “We’re live online with views of the #SuperBlueBloodMoon from @UHawaiiNews.” (Click here to watch the live stream)

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Why meteoroids explode before they reach Earth?

On 15 February 2013, an approximately 20-meter (66 feet) meteoroidNotes 1 entered Earth’s atmosphere over Russia, with a speed of 19.16 ± 0.15 kilometers per second (60,000-69,000 km/h or 40,000-42,900 mph). Its mass is estimated at 7,000 to 10,000 tons, one of the largest meteoroids entered Earth’s atmosphere in the recent history. Then, at 9:20 am local time (03:20 UTC), it exploded some 20 to 30 kilometers above the city of Chelyabinsk and created a gigantic fireball (known as a superbolideNotes 1) brighter than the Sun. An estimated 500 kilotons of energy was released by the explosion. For a comparison, the “Little Boy”, the atomic bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 exploded with an energy of approximately 15 kilotons of TNT. So, the Chelyabinsk meteor’s explosion was about 33 times stronger. The shock waves damaged several thousand buildings and injured approximately 1,500 people. No deaths were reported.

Scientists estimate such events occur on average once every 100 years. The most well-known was the Tunguska event, which occurred near the Stony Tunguska River in Yeniseysk Governorate (now Krasnoyarsk Krai), Russia, on the morning of 30 June 1908. It is also the largest impact event on Earth in recorded history. Studies have yielded different estimates of the meteoroid’s size, on the order of 60 to 190 meters (200 to 620 feet), depending on whether the body was a comet or a denser asteroid.

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Want faster data and a cleaner planet? Start mining asteroids

Mining asteroids might seem like the stuff of science fiction, but there are companies and a few governments already working hard to make it real. This should not be surprising: compared with the breathtaking bridges that engineers build on Earth, asteroid-mining is a simple, small-scale operation requiring only modest technological advances. If anything is lacking, it is the imagination to see how plausible it has become. I am afraid only that it might not arrive soon enough to address the urgent resource challenges that the world is facing right now.

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A new star in heavens: how Crab Nebula was born

In 1054 A.D, a new, very bright star has appeared in Earth’s sky, in the constellation Taurus. Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Arab astronomers observed the event and noted: “a new bright star emerged in the heavens”. The star was so bright: for nearly three weeks, it was visible even during the daytime, under the hot, shiny summer sun, and remained visible for around two years (653 days to be exact). Today, we know that that “heavenly star” was actually a supernova (SN 1054), and its remnant is what we now know as the Crab Nebula today (catalogue designations M1, NGC 1952, Taurus A).

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Earth and Moon in the same photo

An amazing image showing both the Earth and Moon. The distance between our planet and its satellite is actually much more than many would conceptualize. It is 384,400 kilometers (about 239,000 miles) on average, but as usual, our brains cannot deal with such large numbers. Only seeing that distance makes us realize how far even the closest body in the solar system to us – and gives some clues about how big is our Solar system actually. What’s more, we’ve actually been there, the humanity managed to cover that vast distance and walked on the moon!

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Watch: How to tell if a planet harbors life?

Are we alone in the universe? Or are there any other “living planets” other than Earth? Until 1992, we even don’t know if there are any other planets around the other stars or not. In 1992, two Swiss astrophysicists, Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz the first “exoplanet” (a planet orbiting another star than the Sun). Then discoveries continued. Especially after the launch of Kepler space telescope on March 7, 2009, which is a space observatory launched by NASA to discover Earth-size planets orbiting other stars, we quickly learned that our Solar System is not a rare phenomenon at all. As of November 2017, scientists have confirmed more than 3,500 exoplanets in more than 2,700 star systems. Now, the question is: are any of these planets (or the planets waiting to be discovered in the future) harbor life? If so, how we can find out? How to tell if a planet harbors life?

Currently, we have only one example: the Earth itself. Studying Earth and trying to figure out how we’d conclude the Earth harbors life from a distance (from space) can show us how to find out if a planet harbors life or not. Since 1997, NASA satellites have continuously observed all plant life at the surface of the land and ocean.

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