Category: Exploration

Earth Watch Report Banner photo FSPEarthWatchReport900x228Blogger_zps53ef6af0.jpg



Mars to get planetary ring set to rival Saturn, with moon Phobos set to break up from tidal stress

Updated Mon at 2:50pm

Mars is destined to get a spectacular new planetary ring system to rival that of Saturn, but don’t hold your breath because it will not be for another 30 million years or so, according to scientists.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, are based on a new study to determine the fate destined to befall the diminutive Martian moon Phobos.

Over time Phobos is creeping inwards towards Mars at a couple of centimetres per year.

Dr Benjamin Black

“We found that Phobos is too weak to withstand tidal stresses from Mars and we expect it to break apart in a few tens of millions of years and form a ring around Mars,” the study’s lead author Dr Benjamin Black of the University of California said.

Only the giant planets of the outer solar system have rings at the moment.

Phobos — the larger of the two moons circling Mars — orbits just 6,000 kilometres above the surface of the red planet, closer than any other moon in the solar system.

“Over time Phobos is creeping inwards towards Mars at a couple of centimetres per year,” Dr Black said.

“We wanted to figure out whether Phobos crashes into Mars or breaks apart to form a ring, so we needed to know how strong it was — is it going to be able to stand the increasing tidal stresses that are going to be pulling this little moon apart, or will it eventually succumb to these forces?”

Dr Black and co-author Tushar Mittal found that Phobos will be pulled apart by the red planet’s gravitational tidal forces in about 20 to 40 million years’ time.

“We concluded that Phobos would break apart between 2.4 and about 1.1 Mars radii, somewhere between 8,500 kilometres down to around 4,000 kilometres or so,” Dr Black said.


Read More Here

Earth Watch Report Banner photo FSPEarthWatchReport900x228Blogger_zps53ef6af0.jpg



Discovery News

This Massive Exoplanet Is Being Born Right Now



The baby planet circles a very young, sun-like star located in a giant cloud of molecular gas 430 light-years from Earth in the constellation Taurus.

PHOTOS: The Most Horrific Alien Planets In Our Galaxy

Astronomers had previously noted a hefty gap in the disk of gas and dust surrounding the star, known as LkCa 15. They suspected the gravitational pull of an evolving planet had cleared out an orbital zone, similar to how some moons circling Saturn create gaps in its rings.

Now, a new series of observations adds key details of the planet-in-the-making, showing for the first time how it is feeding on hydrogen gas.

“This discovery has far-reaching implications for our understanding of the planet-forming process and of the properties of young planets,” Princeton University astrophysicist Zhaohuan Zhu wrote in a commentary in this week’s Nature.



Read More Here


For the first time, astronomers have directly observed a planet in the making.

Play Video
Earth is in what’s called the habitable zone. It’s far enough from the sun that it doesn’t get fried, and close enough that it gets the best of its warmth. We like to think we’re special for this, but it turns out we might be pretty run of the mill.

Earth Watch Report Banner photo FSPEarthWatchReport900x228Blogger_zps53ef6af0.jpg



Read More Here

Earth Watch Report Banner photo FSPEarthWatchReport900x228Blogger_zps53ef6af0.jpg



Science News



5:54pm, November 9, 2015

OUT-OF-THIS-WORLD LANDSCAPE The latest data from the New Horizons mission has helped create topographical maps of Pluto (blue shows lower elevations, brown, higher elevations) that have revealed surprises such as these two possible ice volcanoes, the first of their kind in the outer solar system.


OXON HILL, Md. — At this point, the only thing unsurprising about Pluto is that it continues to offer up surprises.


A wide variety of landscapes, ongoing surface transformations and a family of wildly spinning moons are among the riddles reported by the New Horizons mission team November 9 at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences.


“Pluto is like a graduate course in planetary science,” mission leader Alan Stern said at a news briefing. “It’s going to take the larger planetary science community many years to digest all this.”


The New Horizons spacecraft, which buzzed the dwarf planet on July 14, has so far sent back only about 20 percent of the data it acquired from the Pluto system. And every new nugget continues a story that’s pretty familiar by now: Pluto is a weird place.


Terrains both new and old sit side-by-side on Pluto’s surface. Some heavily cratered regions are roughly 4 billion years old, about as old as Pluto itself. Others, like the now famous heart, appear to have been laid down within the last 10 million years, judging by the total lack of craters.



Read More Here

Earth Watch Report Banner photo FSPEarthWatchReport900x228Blogger_zps53ef6af0.jpg


Eaten away by ‘vog’: Acid fog eroding rocks on Mars

The planet Mars showing showing Terra Meridiani is seen in an undated NASA image. © Greg Shirah
Scientists believe they have figured out why rocks on Mars are eroding. They say an acidic fog created by volcanic eruptions on the red planet is the probable culprit.

Planetary scientist Shoshanna Cole came up with the theory after studying a 100-acre area on Husband Hill in the Columbia Hills of the Gusev Crater on Mars using data gathered by a number of instruments on the 2003 Mars Exploration Rover Spirit.

She found that acidic vapors released by eruptions may have been responsible for eating away rocks on the Watchtower Class outcrops on the Cumberland Ridge and Husband Hill summit.

View image on Twitter

Acid fog corroded the surface of Mars: a new discovery from NASA’s long-dead Spirit rover. 

“The special thing about Watchtower Class is that it’s very widespread and we see it in different locations. As far as we can tell, it is part of the ground there,” which means that these rocks record environments that existed on Mars billions of years ago, Cole said in a press release submitted by the Geological Society of America.


Read More Here


by Dr. Tony Phillips.

All Sky Fireball Network

Every night, a network of NASA all-sky cameras scans the skies above the United States for meteoritic fireballs. Automated software maintained by NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office calculates their orbits, velocity, penetration depth in Earth’s atmosphere and many other characteristics. Daily results are presented here on

On Apr. 25, 2014, the network reported 9 fireballs.
(9 sporadics)

In this diagram of the inner solar system, all of the fireball orbits intersect at a single point–Earth. The orbits are color-coded by velocity, from slow (red) to fast (blue). [Larger image] [movies]

On Apr. 24, 2014, the network reported 19 fireballs.
(15 sporadics, 4 April Lyrids)

In this diagram of the inner solar system, all of the fireball orbits intersect at a single point–Earth. The orbits are color-coded by velocity, from slow (red) to fast (blue). [Larger image] [movies]

Near Earth Asteroids

Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) are space rocks larger than approximately 100m that can come closer to Earth than 0.05 AU. None of the known PHAs is on a collision course with our planet, although astronomers are finding new ones all the time.

On April 26, 2014 there were 1466 potentially hazardous asteroids.

Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:

Miss Distance
2014 GG49
Apr 19
3.9 LD
31 m
2014 HP2
Apr 24
3.8 LD
15 m
2014 HU2
Apr 25
3.7 LD
22 m
2014 HM4
Apr 25
1.6 LD
18 m
2014 HW
Apr 27
2.1 LD
10 m
2007 HB15
Apr 28
6.7 LD
12 m
2014 HL2
Apr 28
8.8 LD
26 m
2014 HV2
Apr 29
1.4 LD
33 m
2010 JO33
May 17
4 LD
43 m
2005 UK1
May 20
36.7 LD
1.1 km
1997 WS22
May 21
47.1 LD
1.5 km
2002 JC
May 24
48.7 LD
1.4 km

Notes: LD means “Lunar Distance.” 1 LD = 384,401 km, the distance between Earth and the Moon. 1 LD also equals 0.00256 AU. MAG is the visual magnitude of the asteroid on the date of closest approach.

Enhanced by Zemanta

March 31, 2014

Organic Ejecta –Clues to Violent Events in the History of the Universe




Exploding stars, random impacts involving comets and meteorites, and even near misses between two bodies can create regions of great heat and high pressure. Researchers from Imperial College London have now developed a method for analysing the pressure experienced by tiny samples of organic material that may have been ejected from dying stars before making a long journey through the cosmos. The researchers have investigated a type of aromatic hydrocarbon called dimethylnaphthalene, which should enable them to identify violent events in the history of the universe.

The team also believe that their new technique could be applied on Mars, potentially using the existing technology on-board roving laboratories such as the one on the Mars Science Laboratory Mission to glean information about sources of organic matter on the red planet. Recognising the pressures recorded in the aromatic hydrocarbons can help to reveal whether it came from processes generated from ancient living organisms.Samples of dimethylnaphthalene are found in meteorites. Previously, scientists have only had the ability to investigate how they have been affected by heat. The Imperial researchers say their method for detecting periods when dimethylnaphthalenes have experienced high pressure will now allow for a much more comprehensive analysis of organic materials.


Read More Here

Enhanced by Zemanta

Universe Today

Now’s the Time to See Asteroid Pallas at its Best

by David Dickinson on February 18, 2014

2 Pallas

Images of 2 Pallas taken by Hubble (right) and a simulation (left) of the surface. Credit: NASA/JPL.

Looking for something off of the beaten celestial path to observe? The coming weeks will offer telescope users a rare chance to catch a well known asteroid, as it puts on its best show for over two decades.

Over the coming weeks, 2 Pallas, one of the “big four” asteroids – or do you say minor/dwarf planet/planetoid? – reaches a favorable observing point known as opposition. Gliding northward through the constellations of Hydra and Sextans through February and March 2014, 2 Pallas presents a favorable binocular challenge for both northern and southern hemisphere observers as it rises to the east opposite to the setting Sun and transits the local meridian around midnight.

And although 2 Pallas reaches opposition roughly every 16 months as seen from our Earthly vantage point, 2014 provides a chance to catch it under exceptional circumstances. And to top it off, the other “Big 4” asteroids – 1 Ceres, 3 Juno and 4 Vesta – are all currently visible as well and reach opposition in the January through April time frame.

Pallas HST

2 Pallas as imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: NASA

Pallas and its brethren also have a checkered history though the course of 19th century astronomy.  The second minor planet to be discovered, Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers spied 2 Pallas near opposition on the night of March 28th, 1802. Olbers made this discovery observing from his home rooftop observatory in Bremen, Germany using a five foot – telescopes were often measured in focal length rather than aperture in those days – Dollond refractor.

Olbers discovered 2 Pallas on the border of the astronomical constellations of Virgo and Coma Berenices shining at magnitude +7.5.

Pallas orbit

A simulation of the orbit of 2 Pallas near opposition this month. Credit: NASA/JPL Horizons.

If the name Olbers sounds familiar, it’s because he also lent it to the paradox that now bears his name. Obler’s paradox was one of the first true questions in cosmology posed in a scientific framework that asked: if the universe is actually infinite in time and space, then why isn’t the sky infinitely bright? And, on a curious side note, it was American horror author Edgar Allan Poe that delivered the answer.

But now back to our solar system. Olbers also discovered 4 Vesta just five years after Pallas.

He was definitely on a roll. The discoveries of these space rocks also grabbed the attention of Olbers contemporary, Johann Bode. Bode had formulated a law now known as the Titus-Bode Law that seemed to put the spacing of then known bodies of the solar system in tidy order. In fact, the Titus-Bode law seemed to predict that a body should lie between Mars and Jupiter, and for a brief time in the 18th century — and again in 2006 when the International Astronomical Union let Eris and Pluto in the door before kicking them back out — Ceres, Pallas, Juno and Vesta were all considered planets.

Read More Here

Enhanced by Zemanta

Universe Today

A mosaic of two wide field images taken from the Nevada desert, with the view stretching from Cepheus to the Milky Way core in Sagittarius. Credit and copyright: Tanja Sund. A mosaic of two wide field images taken from the Nevada desert, with the view stretching from Cepheus to the Milky Way core in Sagittarius. Credit and copyright: Tanja Sund.

This gorgeous view of the Milky Way was taken by astrophotographer Tanja Sund during a trip to the desert in Nevada. Made from just two images, this long exposure (180 seconds) mosaic has incredible detail and stunning clarity. You seriously need to click on this image to see a larger version!

Read More Here

Enhanced by Zemanta

Milky Way Galaxy May Have Formed Inside-Out, Study

Jan 21, 2014 by

Our Milky Way Galaxy formed by expanding out from the center, suggests analysis of first data from the Gaia-ESO survey – the ground-based extension to the Gaia space mission, launched by the European Space Agency at the end of 2013.

Radial metallicity gradients and age-metallicity relation of stars in the Milky Way disk. Image credit: University of Cambridge.

Radial metallicity gradients and age-metallicity relation of stars in the Milky Way disk. Image credit: University of Cambridge.

The astronomers involved with the Gaia-ESO project took detailed observations of stars with a wide range of ages and locations in the Galactic disc to accurately determine their ‘metallicity’: the amount of chemical elements in a star other than hydrogen and helium, the two elements most stars are made from.

Immediately after the Big Bang, the Universe consisted almost entirely of hydrogen and helium, with levels of “contaminant metals” growing over time. Consequently, older stars have fewer elements in their make-up – so have lower metallicity.

“The different chemical elements of which stars are made are created at different rates – some in massive stars which live fast and die young, and others in sun-like stars with more sedate multi-billion-year lifetimes,” said Prof Gerry Gilmore from the University of Cambridge, who is a co-author of the paper submitted to the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics ( version).

Massive stars, which have short lives and die as ‘core-collapse supernovae’, produce huge amounts of magnesium during their explosive death throes. This catastrophic event can form a neutron star or a black hole, and even trigger the formation of new stars.

Read More Here

Enhanced by Zemanta

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,185 other followers