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Author Topic: NEWS ON SPACE AND OUR PLANETARY SYSTEM  (Read 2566 times)
Rad
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« Reply #135 on: Sep 02, 2015, 05:16 AM »

September 1, 2015

Neptune will be the closest to Earth tonight!

by Emily Bills
Red Orbit

Neptune comes closest to Earth today – but by close, we don’t actually mean close. Neptune is very far away, and is more than 30 times as far from the sun as Earth, or about 4.5 billion km (or 2.8 billion miles) away from the sun, according to NASA. We're almost as excited as Mrs. Puff from Spongebob.

Neptune will also reach opposition tonight – a fancy word for being opposite the sun in our sky. According to Earthsky.com, Neptune will rise in the east for the sunset, reach its highest point in the sky around midnight, and then set in the west close to sunrise.

It will be visible (with a telescope or a good pair of binoculars!) in front of the constellation Aquarius. Even then, it will just look like a faint star, and it’s about 5 times fainter than the very dimmest star, so you’ll definitely need to get your star charts or apps out.

Although Neptune is the fourth largest planet, it’s just too far away to even see in our night sky – usually. At just a hair smaller than Uranus, four Earths side by side would equal the diameter of both planets. It’s very difficult (but possible!) to see Uranus unaided by a telescope or binoculars, unlike Neptune.


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« Reply #136 on: Sep 02, 2015, 05:46 AM »

CS Monitor

Blood moon prophesy: The science behind the hype

The lunar eclipse happening later this month has some ministers prophesying the end of the world. Here, we explain the science behind those predictions.

By Olivia Lowenberg, Staff September 1, 2015   

The lunar eclipse set to occur later this month has both skywatchers and some Christians excited, but for very different reasons.

John Hagee, founder and current leader of the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, has been prophesying for months that the upcoming "blood moon," so named for the reddish hue that the moon takes on as it is illuminated by sunlight passing through the Earth's atmosphere, will bring calamity.

Hagee's 2013 book, "Four Blood Moons" sought to draw parallels between previous lunar eclipses and important events in Jewish history, such as the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492 to the creation of the Israeli state in 1948.

The upcoming eclipse is the fourth in a series that began on April 15 last year. Pastor Hagee told the London-based evangelical Christian news site Christian Today this next one will "point to dramatic events in the Middle East."

John Hagee Ministries' website also sells "Four Blood Moons" T-shirts, for $15, to spread the word about the link between the movements of celestial bodies and events on Earth.

"The heavens are God's billboard. He's been sending signals to Earth, and we haven't been picking them up," Hagee told Christian Today.

NASA, it is safe to say, does not share Hagee's interpretation. According to the space agency, the clustering of lunar eclipses is not a divine harbinger, but merely a consequence of the inclination of the moon's orbit around the Earth and the decreasing eccentricity of the Earth's orbit around the sun.

If the moon orbited us on the same plane that we orbit the sun, lunar eclipses would be a monthly occurrence. But instead, the moon orbits about five degrees off, meaning that the moon passes through the Earth's shadow much less frequently, between two and five times per year.

Eclipses, including this one, frequently occur in "tetrads," or groups of four. As the Monitor's Liz Fuller-Wright pointed out after the April 2014 eclipse, tetrads tend to happen in clusters.

For example, she writes, the years 1582 to 1908 saw no tetrads, but the period from 1909 and 2156 has 17. The most recent tetrad fell in 2003-2004.

Fuller-Wright continues:

    The tetrad "seasons" are tied to the slowly decreasing eccentricity of Earth's orbit, which is still slightly oval-shaped. Once Earth's orbit becomes a perfect circle, in the distant future, tetrads will no longer be possible.

In the past, when apocalyptic predictions have peaked, NASA has sought to reassure the public. In 2012, amid anxieties of a Mayan armageddon, NASA was called upon to offer its comments as to whether or not the world would, in fact, end. "The Maya calendar did not end on Dec. 21, 2012, and there were no Maya prophecies foretelling the end of the world on that date,” said Dr. John Carlson, director of the Center for Archaeoastronomy.

Geoffrey Gaherty, a writer for Starry Night Education, comments, “As an ardent skywatcher who derives much pleasure from beautiful events like lunar eclipses, it saddens me that there are ‘prophets of doom’ in the world who view these life-enriching events as portents of disaster.”

The fourth lunar eclipse of the tetrad is set to begin with a penumbral eclipse at 8:11 p.m. Eastern Time on September 27 and end at 1:22 a.m. Eastern Time on the 28th.


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« Reply #137 on: Sep 03, 2015, 05:14 AM »

September 2, 2015

Distant rocky planets’ interiors may be far different than Earth

by Chuck Bednar
Red Orbit

Rocky planets orbiting distant stars may not necessarily have the same basic type of chemical or mineral composition as Earth, researchers from the Carnegie Institute of Science, the University of Chicago and Stony Brook University claim in a recently published study.

Writing in the journal Scientific Reports, Carnegie's Sergey Lobanov, Nicholas Holtgrewe, and Alexander Goncharov demonstrated that the interiors of these far-off worlds may have different magnesium compounds than those commonly found on our home planet.

Along with oxygen, magnesium is one of the most abundant elements in the Earth’s mantle, the researchers explained. However, that doesn’t mean that other rocky planets would have a similar mantle mineralogy, as the composition of these planets are likely every bit as different from one another as their respective stars are from each other.

For instance, some stars that are home to rocky worlds have been found to have elevated levels of oxygen. This in turn could make the element more abundant in the interior of the planets, as the chemical makeup of a star has a direct impact on the chemical makeup of every planet that formed around it.

Proving MgO2 can synthesize under the right conditions

If it is possible for a planet to be more oxidized than Earth, this could also have an impact on the various compounds found in its interior as well. The researchers focused on the abundance of two magnesium compounds – magnesium oxide (MgO) and magnesium peroxide (MgO2).

MgO, they said, is known to be extremely stable, even under high pressures, and is not reactive under the conditions found in the Earth’s lower mantle. MgO2, on the other hand, can be formed in the laboratory under high-oxygen concentrations but tends to be unstable when heated, which would be the case in the interior of a forming rocky planet.

Building on previous theoretical calculations, Lobanov’s team used a laser-heated, diamond-anvil cell to bring small samples of magnesium oxide and oxygen to different pressure levels in order to mimic planetary interiors, determining whether or not it is possible to synthesize stable magnesium peroxide under such conditions.

They exposed MgO2 to ambient pressure 1.6 million times normal atmospheric pressure (0-160 gigapascals) and temperatures of more than 3,140 degrees Fahrenheit (2,000 Kelvin), and discovered that at under about 950,000 times normal atmospheric pressure (96 gigapascals) and at temperatures of 3,410 degrees Fahrenheit (2,150 Kelvin), MgO reacted with oxygen to form magnesium peroxide.

Lobanov: Exoplanet mineralogy may be vastly different than Earth’s

“Planetary physical properties are dependent on its composition,” Dr. Lobanov told redOrbit via email. “Our study is just an example of how exoplanet deep mineralogy may be different from our Earth. In fact, we may think of many new minerals that for some reasons are absent on Earth. MgO2 may be one of the most abundant minerals on a planet where oxygen is more abundant than on our Earth, but we don't really know how abundant such oxidized planets are.”

“As we discover more and more about exoplanets it would become increasingly interesting to explore how unique our Earth is,” he added. “As of now, it really seems that there are a lot more types of planets than we have in Solar System. One of the key questions is how planetary interiors composed of yet unknown minerals control some planetary features we are used to on Earth such as plate tectonics and life, for example.”


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« Reply #138 on: Sep 03, 2015, 05:19 AM »

September 2, 2015

Researchers shoot lasers to de-spin tiny ‘asteroids’

by Shayne Jacopian
Red Orbit

A team of researchers from the University of California in Santa Barbara has figured out how to deflect asteroids and stop them from spinning—using lasers. Yes!

The Directed Energy System for Targeting of Asteroids and exploRation (or DE-STAR) system was designed to stop the rotation of spinning asteroids and propel them elsewhere.

A group of students led by Travis Brashears ran a series of tests simulating just how this would work in space conditions. They used basalt to simulate an asteroid (basalt and known asteroids have similar composition) and directed a laser at the small rock until it was white hot.

As the laser eroded material from the rock, in a process called laser ablation, the rock sample’s mass changed and in effect produced a “rocket engine” where the asteroid uses itself as a propellant—in space, this could alter the asteroid’s trajectory.

Watch the video here.

"What happens is a process called sublimation or vaporization, which turns a solid or liquid into a gas," explained Brashears, who is now a freshman at UC Berkeley—he began working in the lab during high school as part of UCSB's Research Mentorship Program.

"That gas causes a plume cloud—mass ejection—which generates an opposite and equal reaction or thrust —and that's what we measure."

Slow her down

Additionally, the team tested whether they could actually slow down an asteroid’s spinning with lasers. It turned out, they could. Using magnets to spin a basalt sample, they aimed the laser in the opposite direction, successfully stopping and reversing its rotation.

"Our video shows the basalt sample slowing down, stopping and changing direction and then spinning up again," said Brashears. "That's how much force we're getting. It's a nice way to show this process and to demonstrate that de-spinning an asteroid is actually possible as predicted in our papers."

This has major implications for the future of asteroid mining. The ability to manipulate a spinning asteroid’s speed is important if we want to capture, explore, and subsequently mine an asteroid—something that NASA plans to do with its Asteroid Redirect Mission. It remains only a theoretical mission, but these small-scale experiments could help pave the way for it to become a reality.


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« Reply #139 on: Sep 03, 2015, 06:07 AM »

CS Monitor

Did Curiosity really find a levitating spoon on Mars?

Mars has seen its fair share of pareidolia in recent months. But a soup spoon? The debate goes on.

By Michelle Toh, Staff writer September 2, 2015   

For a while, there was the Mars rat – or if you squinted, maybe some kind of lizard.

Then came the Martian jelly doughnut – later shown to be a piece of broken rock moved by the Opportunity rover. This summer, it was a pyramid, theorized by some to be the creation of intelligent life. NASA said it was just an ordinary rock.

For years, the curiouser and curiouser have speculated about structures on the Red Planet, and for all of NASA’s official dismissals, can’t seem to stop from hypothesizing about the Curiosity rover’s latest “sighting”: a floating spoon.
Recommended: Could you pass Astronomy 101? Take the quiz!

Users on Unmanned Spaceflight, an online forum moderated by the Planetary Society, described the object as “ridiculously long and delicate” and a “soup spoon.”

    Look at this freaking LEVITATING SPOON SHAPED OBJECT on Mars that Fredk found in a @MarsCuriosity image! #WheresFork pic.twitter.com/TMwxreVSuf
    — Austin Braun (@Braun23Austin) September 1, 2015

    A spoon of Mars. Without caramel. Ok, it was awful. https://t.co/3FBCCjenW7
    — Veronica Remondini (@PherosNike) September 1, 2015

“Once you spot it, it becomes obvious; it really does look like a spoon hanging in the air, just above the surface of some layered rock,” reports Discovery News’ Ian O’ Neill. “But as Mars is devoid of any civilization, advanced or otherwise, that is capable of manufacturing said spoon, there’s probably a more logical answer.”

“It's unclear how old the delicate feature may be or how long it will be able to survive on the surface before its worn down by Martian weather,” writes ABC News.

NASA has not confirmed what the object is, but it did say that the image could simply be another case of Martian pareidolia, according to the Tech Times. The term refers to a psychological phenomenon of people interpreting things they see as a familiar pattern or object.

The “spoon” could be an optical illusion caused by the shadows, writes Discovery's Mr. O’ Neill. He goes on to conclude:

    So, once again, this little nugget of Mars pareidolia is a rock that happens to be shaped like a spoon. But it’s a fascinating rock, and an awesome find, providing some geological hints as to the erosion processes that can etch out such delicate formations on the surface of the Red Planet.


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« Reply #140 on: Today at 06:12 AM »


Why NASA wants to bring hoverboard technology to space

NASA is teaming up with a technology company that has made a functional hoverboard. The space agency aims to use hoverboard technology to control small satellites in space without touching them.

By Mike Wall, Space.com September 3, 2015   

It's a vision of the future that may even have eluded Marty McFly: hoverboard tech in space.

NASA wants to make this vision a reality, and soon. The space agency is teaming up with California-based company Arx Pax, which has developed a real-life hoverboard using a technology called Magnetic Field Architecture (MFA).

The collaboration — which takes the form of a Space Act Agreement — aims to find a way to manipulate tiny satellites called cubesats without actually touching them.

"Arx Pax and NASA will work together to design a device with the ability to attract one object to another from a distance," Arx Pax representatives said in a statement today (Sept. 2). "The device will draw, as well as repel, satellites at the same time, meaning it will hold a satellite at a distance and won't allow it to move away or toward the capture device. This will enable the capability to capture, and possibly manipulate, microsatellites or other objects without making physical contact with them."

Arx Pax has built MFA tech into engines that create and manipulate magnetic fields, allowing them to hover over conductive surfaces. One such "hover engine" drives Arx Pax's Hendo Hoverboard, which was introduced in October 2014.

The same principle can theoretically be applied to move and control cubesats, which can be smaller than a cereal box. (The basic building blocks of cubesats are "units" that measure 4 inches, or 10 centimeters, on a side. "3U" cubesats are the size of three of these units put together, 6U cubesats are as big as six of them, and so on.)

But a space-based hover engine wouldn't draw spacecraft in from far away like a tractor beam from "Star Trek."

"We're talking on the scale of centimeters," Arx Pax co-founder and CEO Greg Henderson told The Verge.


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« Reply #141 on: Today at 06:21 AM »

Astronomers glimpse huge, eco-conscious space shrimp

The Prawn Nebula is shown generating new stars in "cosmic recycling" in a new telescope image.

By Sarah Lewin, Space.com September 3, 2015   

Nebula shows "cosmic recycling" at work: Glowing clusters of newborn stars illuminate surrounding gas, expelled from an earlier stellar generation, which will eventually form into even newer stars.

The 2.2-meter telescope at the European Southern Obsevatory's La Silla Observatory in Chile snapped a choice section of the reddish nebula studded by young blue stars in a newly released image. The nebula, also called Gum 56 and IC 4628, is hard to see with the naked eye although it's around 250 light-years across — it is very faint, and mostly emits light at wavelengths not visible to humans.

That invisibility conceals a lot of action, as new stars form from the stellar nursery of the nebula's gas and debris: "The material forming these new stars includes the remains of the most massive stars from an older generation that have already ended their lives and ejected their material in violent supernova explosions," ESO officials said in a statement. "Thus the cycle of stellar life and death continues." When the dust and gas grows dense enough, a portion will collapse down into the beginnings of a star.

Large clouds of charged hydrogen gas provide the red glow to the nebula. As ultraviolet energy is emitted from the young stars, it hits the nearby hydrogen and excites it, prompting the release of light with hydrogen's distinct reddish tinge.

The source of most of that radiation is a pair of rare, extremely bright blue giant stars (out of view in this photo). The huge, powerful stars have short life spans — only a million years or so before exploding into a supernova — and they generally appear in areas with rapid star growth.

Despite the rare stars, the area has not been carefully explored (besides in an extremely detailed 2013 image): "Given the two very unusual blue giants in this area and the prominence of the nebula at infrared and radio wavelengths, it is perhaps surprising that this region has been comparatively little studied as yet by professional astronomers," ESO officials said in the statement.

Click to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwzWiEwuNYo


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