A group of its own

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Meteorites, just like famous diamonds, are given special names- at least those at the top of their class used for comparison reasons. Campo de Cielo, Canyon Diablo, Murchison, Sikhote-Alin to name a few...

But there is one that recently has taken it's own classification- Black Beauty.

Formally known as NWA 7034, the exact drop point is unknown due to it being collected haphazardly and eventually donated for research purposes. 

Here's some incredible facts about this beautiful specimen from space!

1-it is a volcanic breccia (or broken pieces of minerals melded together from extreme temperature and pressure) from Mars! Minerals include pyroxene and feldspars. 

2-The iron/manganese chemical ratio matches other samples from Mars

3-The oxygen isotopes, however, do not correlate with other Martian samples, suggesting it had once been buried in the crust or impact temperatures messed up the oxygen isotopes!

4-Found in 2011 and recognized officially by the Meteoritical Society in 2013. It was then that it received its own meteorite category "Martian breccia"

5-Has the highest water content in any Martian sample to date! Reasons are still unknown.

6- It is claimed to be the second oldest Martian meteorite to date! (It dates back about 2 billion years!)

Thank you for reading and next week- what is graphite like on Mercury?

45 Years After Apollo 17

Looking south from the Apollo 17 landing site. Image credit: NASA

Looking south from the Apollo 17 landing site. Image credit: NASA

Happy Monday, Earthlings!

Wow...45 years after Apollo 17's exploration of the Taurus-Littrow Valley and we are still fascinated by the mysteries of our own natural satellite. 

This year's Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (March 2018) will feature the Apollo 17 Flight Director, G. Griffin, and numerous presentations by planetary scientists who have studied the Valley, mission, and moon samples brought back by the astronauts. 

Here is a summary of major findings from this Valley:

1- Lunar samples have been identified as once been material from the deep mantle of the Moon!

2-Some material suggests pyroclastics and possible early volcanic events

3-Discovery of a thrust fault dated at about 75 million years!

4-Certain minerals will be used to "date" these rocks by the amount of radiation and weathering. 

Marked map of Taurus-Littrow Valley Apollo 17 landing site. Image credit: NASA

Marked map of Taurus-Littrow Valley Apollo 17 landing site. Image credit: NASA

Thanks for reading and come back next week for a look at the Black Beauty meteorite. 

Pluto's Ocean?

Thicknesses of Pluto's subsurface layers and possible ocean are yet to be determined! Image credit: NASA/SwRI/JHUAPL

Thicknesses of Pluto's subsurface layers and possible ocean are yet to be determined! Image credit: NASA/SwRI/JHUAPL

Happy Monday, Earthlings!

This week we are going to look at what lurks beneath Pluto's bright heart shape surface. This heart, Sputnik Planitia, is an in-filled impact basin. And a HUGE one at that. 

The impact would have caused extensive stresses and large cracking. For the dwarf planet to "settle" from such an event, two things would need to happen.

First, the in-filling of the basin from any subsurface material to essentially "heal" itself. We see this with most icy bodies where subsurface materials are slushy and cover any exposed areas and freeze. Nitrogen several miles thick has now covered it. 

Second, the impact would have made the orientation of Pluto wobble. Pluto has now regained control for several thousand years and re-oriented itself!

For both things to happen though, according to modeling, a subsurface ocean would have to be a major factor!

What kind of ocean? For it to be denser than nitrogen, the logical explanation would be water. 

But how warm and if there are any salts involved? What about silicate materials? That we are not sure YET!

Stay tuned next week for a look at the 45th anniversary of Apollo 17 journeys!

Salty Mars?

Happy Monday, everyone!

Mars has a surprising amount of salt! But what are the implications of this?

Salt on Earth is typically formed by the evaporation, or drying, of salty water (sea water) which contained dissolved sodium and chlorine ions. Rock salt deposits on dry lake beds and enclosed bay areas in arid regions around the world. 

On Mars, it may prove something similar. What was once a water-filled landscape turned dry and dusty may still hold water beneath the surface. As that liquid reaches the surface, the exposure to radiation immediately dries it out, creating a film of hydrated salts. 

Cameras from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the spectral camera CRISM have caught glimpses of these salt deposits. 

What kind of salt are these? We still don't know. Graduate students here at the Arkansas Space and Planetary Science Center are working on that very problem!

What are the implications? Salt would have to come from some sort of liquid base to dry out. And where there is liquid, there might be the potential for microbial life!

Thank you for reading and come back next week for how there might be an ocean under Pluto!

Mars HIRISE image of a possible chloride salt deposit. Image credit: NASA/HiRISE/ASU

Mars HIRISE image of a possible chloride salt deposit. Image credit: NASA/HiRISE/ASU

Water, water everywhere...

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Happy Monday, everyone!

You wouldn't think two hydrogen atoms with an oxygen atom could be so complex, but in the grand scheme of our universe, it truly is!

The cool question to ask in all this- where did water actually begin? Turns out, in the atmospheres of dying stars as gases are flung out into space, hydrogen and oxygen molecules are squeezed together as water projectiles. The Hubble Space Telescope actually verified this by observing water within the Helix Nebula.

So our water comes from dying stars! Now what?

Well, how does that water get to planets? Water, in the freezing temperatures of space, conglomerate, and potentially form comets. Comets can then be gravitationally attracted to other Solar Systems and eventually planets. OR- ice can be within a baby solar system and concentrate in certain areas around the host star.

For our Solar System, this is still a debatable topic. Every Solar System has a "frost line"- or a limit where water is too frozen to be liquid at a distance from the host star. That's why Earth is very much liquid, and Mars and beyond are solid. 

But there are some exceptions to this rule. This rule only applies to the surface! We have quite a bit of ocean worlds- mainly moons- that house deep oceans! This includes Europa and Enceladus mainly, but asteroids and Pluto/Triton may have pockets of water!

The term "ocean" to apply to moons and other solar system bodies is being re-defined recently depending on the content of the oceans, thickness, and distribution throughout the planetary body.

Take a look at this NASA link for more information! https://www.nasa.gov/specials/ocean-worlds/

Thank you for reading and next week, we'll look at how salty Mars can be!

Frosty Dunes

Northern dune in the early spring season defrosting! Image credit: NASA/HiRISE/ASU

Northern dune in the early spring season defrosting! Image credit: NASA/HiRISE/ASU

Greetings, Earthlings! Hope everyone is keeping warm!

Meanwhile on Mars...

When the winter season overtakes the hemispheres of Mars, a light covering of carbon dioxide frosts over the northern or southern sandy hills and plains, almost preserving the sandy dunes in time. As sunlight is able to penetrate through this frost layer, the carbon dioxide *pops* and blackens the sand temporarily due to immediate exposure!

Ice spiders emerging! Image credit: NASA/HiRISE/ASU

Ice spiders emerging! Image credit: NASA/HiRISE/ASU

These little black spots are affectionately known as "ice spiders"!

Thanks for reading and come back next week for what ocean worlds are up to!

Larger and longer dune fields defrosting! Image credit: NASA/HiRISE/ASU

Larger and longer dune fields defrosting! Image credit: NASA/HiRISE/ASU

Mars- the Debate continues

Recurring Slope Lineae (RSL) in the Southern Latitude summer season. Image credit: HiRISE-ASU.

Recurring Slope Lineae (RSL) in the Southern Latitude summer season. Image credit: HiRISE-ASU.

Hello Earthlings!

Some of you may not know, but Martians are still arguing what is called the Wet versus Dry Debate. And recently, some more light has been shed on the matter...

The Wet versus Dry debate relates to, well, is Mars actively and currently wet or completely dry? What spurred this debate? It's always been a debate with geologic markers pointing to previous glacial activity and the like....but recently?

Well, let us talk about Recurring Slope Lineae. These are warm seasonal flows that are found in specific areas on Mars. And we still have no clue what generates them. Not to be confused with slope streaks, these annual streaks are smaller and pop out every Martian spring/summer season. 

These little streaks have been making a HUGE deal in the Martian Wet versus Dry debate!

If they were wet- why don't we see them all over Mars during the changing seasons?

If they were dry- why don't we see them all over dunes and more dusty areas?

November 2017, a group from Arizona published a small paper bringing up the Dry side of the debate, and thus the debate re-sparked interest!

Could it be granular flows? Could something under the surface be causing a push of material?

RSL activity in Coprates Chasma. Image credit: HiRISE-ASU.

RSL activity in Coprates Chasma. Image credit: HiRISE-ASU.

Hopefully, we will find out soon enough!

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at frosted dunes!

Highlights from ANSMET 2017

Amazing Antarctic ice mountains! Bottom-center is a skidoo for size reference! Image credit: ANSMET

Amazing Antarctic ice mountains! Bottom-center is a skidoo for size reference! Image credit: ANSMET

Happy New Year!

Our first blog of the season will feature some highlights from the ANSMET (Antarctic Search for Meteorites) field group, which goes on a 3 month journey into the Antarctic region to hunt stones from space! While out there, they keep an online journal full of fun and fantastic views! Here are some highlights:

1-Nov. 29, 2017: Here we got some orientation first about what to expect tomorrow for our deployment (basically being squished like sardines into a bit military airplane for 8 hours), how to be smart and protect the pristine and amazing environment of Antarctica, rules and regulations about living there, dangers and hazards that the harsh climate poses on us, and how to protect the fauna and flora from us people. Then our computers were inspected and some of us got their flu vaccinations (which is a must have when going to Antarctica).

2-Dec. 25, 2017: Well, let us give you an impression of the conditions here at the moment. It is constant daylight; that’s a good thing. It is cold, -20C, it is windy, 25-40 mph gusts, -70C windchill. Taking relief outside doesn’t sound appealing does it? Those Nalgenes have a name in McMurdo; in fact, they’re famous. They’re called “pee bottles”. 

3-Dec. 26, 2017: Our meals however have been almost strictly plant based to ensure good health: so far we have had expired frying-pan bread with cranberries (fruit) and lots of butter (the best thing about tent days is that we don’t eat freakin oatmeal for breakfast!), lots of chocolate (technically a fruit), maple-syrup (totally plant based) candies, Pringles (potatoes are veggies), lots of tea (self-explanatory), hot chocolate (see above), and fruit juice (also self-explanatory). For dinner we will have tater tots (potatoes this technically veggies) and cheese (we totally need some non-plant based protein to keep body heat production up). We decided against other frozen veggies like green beans since you don’t get much body heat out of those. 

4-Dec. 27, 2017: However, the meteorites we find are not pristine falls. They have been transported by glaciers, knocked against other rocks, and been exposed to the katabatic wind. So oftentimes, the meteorites we find are partially broken, having only some of their original fusion crust. They may have some sharp broken edges. They may show some of their insides too.

5-Jan. 3, 2018: Antarctica is magical, beautiful, and mesmerizing, but it tries to kill you every second you are here. 

You can read more from their archives: http://caslabs.case.edu/ansmet/

Thank you for reading and next week- some updates on Mars!

Chandra X-Ray Observatory

Cassiopeia A supernova remnant as imaged by Chandra! Each color corresponds to a particular element! Image credit: NASA/CXC/JHUAPL

Cassiopeia A supernova remnant as imaged by Chandra! Each color corresponds to a particular element! Image credit: NASA/CXC/JHUAPL

Hello hello hello!

X-rays in space is a window into the dynamics of the universe- mainly through intense radiation signatures. Luckily, Earth does not receive x-rays directly onto the ground by the Sun because of our protective atmosphere! In space, however, x-rays are everywhere in some of the most extraordinary explosive regions in the universe. The observatory that helps us make these discoveries is the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. Launched in 1993, Chandra must escape Earth's atmosphere, but still be in its gravitational hold to save on fuel. Chandra is located at an altitude of 86,500 miles!

Here are some more fascinating adventures of Chandra:

1-Just posted yesterday on Twitter, Chandra is observing protostars (very early developing stars) in Orion nearly 6,400 light years away!

2-Cassiopeia A, a massive supernova remnant, was observed by Chandra to be million of degrees in radiative heat!

3-Chandra hopes to help with the Gravitational Wave research by looking at very distant objects and "bending" of x-rays!

4-Chandra just recently discovered that some galaxies may house more than 1 black hole! Very exciting stuff!

5-Chandra pointed at Pluto during the New Horizons fly-by and surprisingly found that Pluto is interacting with the solar wind, glowing a little from x-ray radiation!

Pluto as seen by New Horizons (left) and Chandra (right). Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/JHUAPL/R.McNutt et al; Optical: NASA/JHUAPL   

Pluto as seen by New Horizons (left) and Chandra (right). Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/JHUAPL/R.McNutt et al; Optical: NASA/JHUAPL   

Thank you for reading! Happy holidays and come back in the New Year for more exciting SPACE!!!!

Helene

Helene in front of Saturn. Image credit: NASA Cassini

Helene in front of Saturn. Image credit: NASA Cassini

Helene, a small moon of Saturn, still has some mysteries about its orbit and surface!

Not much can be said about this moon, but there are some cool facts about it! Here's the Top 5 cool facts about Helene!

1-It was discovered in 1980, and named in 1988 after Helen of Troy, the granddaughter of Cronus (Saturn) of Greek Mythology. 

2-It is not a round moon, so the longest portion of it is measured at 43.3 kilometers. 

3-The Voyager flybys gave us somewhat close up views in the 1980s, but it wasn't until Cassini in 2010 that we got our first glimpse at the weird surface!

4-The surface shows almost flowing features. What could make the surface do these intricate patterns is still unknown. We guess it may be a mixture of ice and clays!

5-It is one of four Trojan moons, broadly meaning it has a co-moon habitat. 

Helene as seen by Cassini. Note the complexity of the surface flows! What could have caused these?! Image credit: NASA Cassini

Helene as seen by Cassini. Note the complexity of the surface flows! What could have caused these?! Image credit: NASA Cassini

Thank you for reading and visit next time for a look at the Chandra Telescope!

Starquakes!

Illustration of magnetized star (pulsar) with bursts of radiation from the poles. Image credit: NASA

Illustration of magnetized star (pulsar) with bursts of radiation from the poles. Image credit: NASA

Out in the far reaches of the galaxy lie hundreds of rapidly spinning and highly magnetized stars. Then, somewhat unexpectedly, the star surges with immense energy, spinning faster and bursts out intense radiation. This is a star quake. Literally, an earthquake, but on a very dense spinning star!

Star quakes, or star glitches, according to Kouveliotou, Duncan & Thompson in 2003, are the source of gamma ray flares that occur about once every decade. There are currently two theories for the mechanism behind what makes these stars tick off!

Theory #1: Huge stresses exerted on the star's surface produced by twisting of the ultra-strong magnetic fields.

Theory #2: Spindown, or relaxation, could cause dragging of the surface, essentially bleeding off energy and re-shaping its surface. This is possibly on the order of micrometer changes in less than a millionth of a second!

In December 2004, the largest star quake was recorded from SGR 1806-20 with a magnitude roughly equal to an earthquake magnitude 32!

Illustration of pressure points and oscillations on the surface of a star. Image credit: University Birmingham

Illustration of pressure points and oscillations on the surface of a star. Image credit: University Birmingham

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at another mysterious moon of Saturn!

Earth as our Space Lab III

Pavilion Lake underwater laboratory. Image credit: http://www.pavilionlake.com/analogue-research

Pavilion Lake underwater laboratory. Image credit: http://www.pavilionlake.com/analogue-research

Welcome back, people of Earth!

As I stated before, our planet is a magnificent playground for science! By learning from our planet's geology and interactions of surface and sky can we figure out what in the world is going on on other planetary surfaces! Be sure to check out previous blogs for Part 1 and Part 2!

1-Pavilion Lake, Canada: Home of the Pavilion Lake Research Project through the partnership with CSA and NASA, Pavilion Lake is home to some of the earliest forms of life (~2.5 billion years), mainly microbes in harsh conditions. This underwater laboratory is useful for ancient astrobiology studies. 

2-Trinidad: Several dozen mud volcanoes have been studied in the southern region of Trinidad as a means for comparison of possible mud volcanoes found on Mars. Mud volcanoes could potentially harbor microbial life in their warm subsurface environments. 

3-Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Utah: This site provides insight to the formations of different shaped and active dune fields and directional winds to compare to Martian sand dunes. 

4-Concordia, Antarctica: While mostly being used as a psychological and fitness study for isolation studies, Antarctica provides a fantastic wonderland of glaciology, atmospheric studies, and radiative astronomy. 

Thank you for reading and tune in next week for some star quake action!

Pink Coral Sand Dunes State Park in Utah. Image credit: Utah.com

Pink Coral Sand Dunes State Park in Utah. Image credit: Utah.com

SOFIA- the Space Plane!

SOFIA mission logo! Image credit: NASA

SOFIA mission logo! Image credit: NASA

Greetings, Earthlings!

We're going to take to the skies with SOFIA and look at how awesome this instrument is to astronomy!

SOFIA (the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) is a collaboration between NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR). SOFIA is an airborne observatory, meaning the telescope, lenses, and cameras are on board a Boeing 747SP. 

Here's come more cool facts about this incredible observatory:

1-The telescope used is a 2.5 m (8.2 ft) inch reflector

2-There are a total of nine instruments that can be used, each spanning a different wavelength, spectral range, and photometry. 

3-The mirror has to be recoated in California about 1-2 times per year!

4-Primary science objectives include: exoplanetary atmospheres, structure of comets, chemistry and structure of stars and interstellar medium

5-June 2015, Pluto passed between a star and Earth, allowing the backlight of that star to help us determine the atmosphere of Pluto!

SOFIA taking flight! Image credit: NASA/Jim Ross

SOFIA taking flight! Image credit: NASA/Jim Ross

You can track where SOFIA is: https://flightaware.com/live/flight/NASA747

Thank you for reading and next week- Earth as our Space Lab III

Hyperion: The Space Sponge!

HYPERION! Image credit: NASA / JPL / SSI / Gordan Ugarkovic

HYPERION! Image credit: NASA / JPL / SSI / Gordan Ugarkovic

Greetings Earthlings and welcome back!

Today, I would like to travel to Hyperion, one of Saturn's lesser known moons. Actually, it was the first non-round moon to be discovered!

This tiny moon measures to be 223.8 miles at its longest! Very tiny moon! In comparison, our Earth moon is 1,079 miles in radius!

Hyperion is a very strange moon due to its appearance. We still don't know why it looks like the fantastic space sponge that it does! There is some hypotheses that it could be a mixture of clay and ice! However, we have discovered that it has very dark material under its surface- darker than most moons of Saturn. What is it? Where did it come from?

How does it look spongy? This is still being experimented in laboratories. We think it might be due to its low surface gravity and very porous crust. So when an impactor hits it, the surface molds like putty, instead of shattering into a crater. Instead of ejecta, the material is flown back into space. 

Close up of Hyperion! Image credit: NASA / JPL / SSI / Gordan Ugarkovic

Close up of Hyperion! Image credit: NASA / JPL / SSI / Gordan Ugarkovic

Thank you for reading and we'll soar the skies with SOFIA next week!

Finding "Life" with the Drake Equation

Frank Drake, creator of the Equation, in 1961 at the NRAO Green Bank Observatory, West Virginia. Image credit: SETI

Frank Drake, creator of the Equation, in 1961 at the NRAO Green Bank Observatory, West Virginia. Image credit: SETI

Good morning, Earthlings!

The Drake Equation through the years has been labeled a probability means of discovering life outside of the Earth. However, it's much more complicated than that. What it really means is how Earth, with limited technology, would be able to detect or find intelligent life elsewhere AND would they be able to receive it? 

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Let's look at a run down of the Drake Equation:

N = The number of civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy whose electromagnetic emissions (radio all the way to gamma ray waves) are detectable.

R* = The rate of formation of stars suitable for the development of intelligent life.

fp = The fraction of those stars with planetary systems.

ne = The number of planets, per solar system, with an environment suitable for life.

fl = The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears.

fi = The fraction of life bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges.

fc = The fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space.

L = The length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space.

SETI describes using the Drake Equation: "Within the limits of our existing technology, any practical search for distant intelligent life must necessarily be a search for some manifestation of a distant technology. In each of its last four decadal reviews, the National Research Council has emphasized the relevance and importance of searching for evidence of the electromagnetic signature of distant civilizations."

Debates are still on-going as to the definitions of "intelligent life" and what is "life"? Not to sound philosophical, of course. Rather, what if our limited technology can not currently receive any incoming calls? Where would we fit on this scale of the Drake Equation?

We'll keep searching...

Thank you for reading, and next week we'll take a look at a really weird moon!

Spooky Astronomy 2017!

The Ghost of Jupiter! Credit: HST/NASA/ESA.

The Ghost of Jupiter! Credit: HST/NASA/ESA.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA!

Ok, needed to get that out of my system. Good morning and welcome to a Top Ten Spooky Halloween Astronomy! This is a list of cool facts relating to such a creepy, haunted time of the year! Enjoy!

10- Sure, Halloween means "All Hallow's Eve" and was originated at a British Isles sacred festival, but the significance of the particular day of celebration was actually due to astronomy. Astronomers realized that October 31 is a "cross-quarter day"- a day in between the autumnal equinox and winter solstice! However, due to our planet's rotation changing little by little through the years, the true cross-quarter day in modern times is actually November 5, but October 31 is fixed for traditional purposes of Halloween holiday.

9-Auroras are spectacular and oftentimes ghostly colors streaming across the sky. The ISS and other radio instruments on board other satellites have captured the eerie sounds of auroras! (Refer to my post September 25, 2017 to listen!)

8-The Ghost Head nebula is 50-light years across and resides in our little sister galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud. 

7-The Ghost of Jupiter nebula is a planetary nebula (NGC 3242) in the constellation Hydra, discovered in 1785 by Herschel. 

6-The Cat's Eye Nebula is a planetary nebula 3 light years away, sloughing off layers and layers of colorful gaseous layers. 

5-The year 2004 was the last time we had a lunar eclipse close to Halloween (October 27, 2014 to be exact)!

4-Black Widow Pulsars almost literally drains the life-force out of its orbiting companion star! More details on this from my previous post!

3-The Perseus Cluster of Galaxies, as revealed by the Chandra Space Observatory using powerful x-ray imaging, shows this cluster to be nicknamed "The Perseus Skull"!

The Perseus Skull! OOOOOOOH SPOOKY! Image credit: A. Fabian (IoA Cambridge) et al., NASA

The Perseus Skull! OOOOOOOH SPOOKY! Image credit: A. Fabian (IoA Cambridge) et al., NASA

2-Orson Welles's 1938 radio dramatization of War of the Worlds was widely played on Halloween. Most people did not realize it was a radio program, and in hearing the destruction of Martians to Earth, there was mass chaos!

1-The Witch Head Nebula is a ghostly blue reflection nebula in the constellation Orion. It is a reflection nebula due to its reflecting the host star's light, emitting blue colors. 

The Witch Head Nebula! Image credit: NASA/STScI Digitized Sky Survey/Noel Carboni

The Witch Head Nebula! Image credit: NASA/STScI Digitized Sky Survey/Noel Carboni

Thank you for reading, and next week, we'll take a look into the Drake Equation!

Black Widow Pulsars

Bow shock around Black Widow Pulsar as seen by Chandra XRay Observatory. Image credit: NASA/CXC/ASTRON/B.Stappers et al.; Optical: AAO/J.Bland-Hawthorn & H.Jones

Bow shock around Black Widow Pulsar as seen by Chandra XRay Observatory. Image credit: NASA/CXC/ASTRON/B.Stappers et al.; Optical: AAO/J.Bland-Hawthorn & H.Jones

Good morning, Earthlings! As we near Halloween, I thought I'd share something very spooky- Black Widow Pulsars!

No, there's no spiders in space (...or is there?!)...

Pulsars are rapidly spinning neutron stars that emit large amounts of electromagnetic radiation and magnetic fields! We call them pulsars due to their pulsating effect that we detect using radio telescopes!

There is a special type of pulsars called the "millisecond pulsar"- and as the name suggests, these pulsars spin faster than a millisecond per turn. Very fast!

And then we have the Black Widow pulsars- millisecond pulsars that had a giant star companion..."had" is the keyword here...

Yes, the pulsar spins so fast and close to its companion that the radiation shreds the outer layers of its companion and draws it closer until the companion is helpless and left to get shredded piece by piece by something smaller than the size of Arkansas!

We can detect these pulsars by their "glitching" or addition of energy as the companion is adding energy to the spinning. Using xray telescopes, like Chandra, we can detect bow shocks of energy from the companion enveloping over the Black Widow Pulsar!

Depiction of a companion star getting torn apart into the Black Widow pulsar's spinning web of destruction! Image credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Depiction of a companion star getting torn apart into the Black Widow pulsar's spinning web of destruction! Image credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Cool? Creepy? Both.

Thanks for reading and next week, we'll reveal some cool stuff for Halloween!

BREAKING NEWS!

The collision of two neutron stars, seen in an artist's rendering, created both gravitational waves and gamma rays. Image credit: Robin Dienel/Carnegie Institution for Science

The collision of two neutron stars, seen in an artist's rendering, created both gravitational waves and gamma rays. Image credit: Robin Dienel/Carnegie Institution for Science

Good morning, fellow space fans!

Well, folks, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) has done it again! After the leaders have been awarded the Physics Nobel Prize two weeks ago for detecting gravitational waves from four black hole mergers

...but such events should be completely dark.

This morning it has been released that this is the first time that light associated with a source of gravitational waves has been detected!

Isn't that cool?!

"We have been working for years to predict what the light from a neutron merger would look like," said Daniel Kasen, an associate professor of physics and of astronomy at UC Berkeley and a scientist at Berkeley Lab. "Now that theoretical speculation has suddenly come to life."

That's right! Here's an excerpt from Eurekalert.org:

"The neutron star merger, dubbed GW170817, was detected on August 17 and immediately telegraphed to observers around the world, who turned their small and large telescopes on the region of the sky from which it came. The ripples in spacetime that LIGO/Virgo measured suggested a neutron star merger, since each star of the binary weighed between 1 and 2 times the mass of our sun. Apart from black holes, neutron stars are the densest objects known in the universe. They are created when a massive star exhausts its fuel and collapses onto itself, compressing a mass comparable to that of the sun into a sphere only 10 miles across.

Only 1.7 seconds after the gravitational waves were recorded, the Fermi space telescope detected a short burst of gamma rays from the same region, evidence that concentrated jets of energy are produced during the merger of neutron stars. Less than 11 hours later, observers caught their first glimpse of visible light from the source. It was localized to a known galaxy, NGC 4993, situated about 130 million light years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Hydra."

More here: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-10/uoc--asc101517.php

To see it so bright and so nearby gives the LIGO team so many possibilities! 

Thanks for reading and we'll be back on schedule with next Monday on Black Widow Pulsars!

Chaos, chaos everywhere...

Chaos terrain on Europa! Image credit: NASA/JPL/UA

Chaos terrain on Europa! Image credit: NASA/JPL/UA

Good morning, Earthlings!

I have traveled far and wide to look at this week's topic! I present to you the fascinating insight of chaos terrain! What is chaos terrain? We don't know!

No, seriously...we call it "chaos terrain" because it's a geologic nightmare of jumbled mountains and boulders and sometimes ice!

Here are some interesting places and geologic findings about chaos terrain!

1-Mercury! Caloris Baisn is one of the largest craters in the Solar System found on Mercury! It was so large, that shock waves bent the surrounding rock and jumbled it together to form chaos terrain!

2-Mars! It is possible that these areas are formed by past upheavals of water and valley construction all at once! 

Chaos terrain, called Ister Chaos, on Mars! Image credit: NASA/JPL/UA

Chaos terrain, called Ister Chaos, on Mars! Image credit: NASA/JPL/UA

3-Europa! These are disruptions of the surface cracking under pressures or impacts and then "self-healing" with patches of fresher ice!

4-Pluto! Yes, New Horizons caught some beautiful jumbled glaciers and boulders bordering Sputnik Planitia! How were they formed? We hope to find out!

Chaos terrain on Pluto! Image credit: NASA/SWRI.

Chaos terrain on Pluto! Image credit: NASA/SWRI.

Thank you for reading and next week, we'll look at something very spooky!

The Captured Moons of Mars

Phobos (left) and Deimos (right). Notice how differently colored they are! Image credit: NASA

Phobos (left) and Deimos (right). Notice how differently colored they are! Image credit: NASA

Happy Monday, Earthlings!

This segment is brought down to Earth by the two trouble-making moons of Mars- Phobos and Deimos. Don't let their names fool you- these small moons are actually not true moons, but rather captured asteroids stuck in Mars's gravitational pull. 

Here are some fascinating facts about these moons!

1-The moons were discovered in 1877 by American astronomer Asaph Hall. Phobos (fear) and Deimos (dread) were children of Ares (Roman name for Mars and God of War) to accompany in battle. 

2-Jonathan Swift's satire Gulliver's Travels (1726) describes Laputa's astronomers discovering two moons of Mars. This description refers to Keplerian laws of planetary motions and had these moons described to be at 3 and 5 Martian diameter orbits with periods of 10 and 21.5 hours. ACTUAL: Phobos and Deimos are at 1.4 and 3.5 Martian diameter orbits with 7.66 and 30.35 hour orbits, respectively. 

3-In 1752, Voltaire wrote a short story (Micromegas) that had predicted two moons of Mars. For Swift's and Voltaire's "predictions", two craters on Deimos are named after them in their honor. 

4-Although having two moons, they are too small to block out the Sun for a total eclipse. However, total lunar eclipses of Phobos are so common, they happen almost every night!

5-Just like our Moon, both Phobos and Deimos are tidally locked (the same side of the moon is always facing its planet). Phobos, however, is slowly descending its orbit into Mars. At some point in time, Phobos will be ripped apart by these extreme gravitational forces!

6-The origin of these Moons is still controversial. The compositions are still being studied and to rule out what type of asteroids (maybe?) these are. 

7-Future missions to study these moons: NASA's PADME in 2020 (flyby), NASA OSIRIS-REx II (concept mission), Russia's Fobos-Grunt (2024).

This set of three images shows views three seconds apart as the larger of Mars' two moons, Phobos, passed directly in front of the sun as seen by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity. Curiosity photographed this annular, or ring, eclipse with the telephoto-lens camera of the rover's Mast Camera pair (right Mastcam) on Aug. 20, 2013, the 369th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems/Texas A&M Univ. 

This set of three images shows views three seconds apart as the larger of Mars' two moons, Phobos, passed directly in front of the sun as seen by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity. Curiosity photographed this annular, or ring, eclipse with the telephoto-lens camera of the rover's Mast Camera pair (right Mastcam) on Aug. 20, 2013, the 369th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems/Texas A&M Univ. 

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at what in the world is chaos terrain?