World of Asteroids

 Two sides of Bennu as imaged by the OSIRIS-REx approaching closer by the hour! Image credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

Two sides of Bennu as imaged by the OSIRIS-REx approaching closer by the hour! Image credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

Hello Lifeforms!

Welcome back to another segment of Universe Playpen! This Monday, we’re looking at the exciting missions ongoing or upcoming for asteroids in the Solar System!

OSISRIS-REx: Today marks the last course correction maneuver for this small spacecraft to reach in synchronous orbit with the asteroid Bennu! It will then arrive at Bennu on December 3rd, 2018! It will then orbit the asteroid and look for a target site. Once the target site is selected, the maneuver Touch-and-Go will be put into play! This is where an arm of OSIRIS-REx will scoop the surface for up to 5 seconds. From there, more course corrections will occur to bring back the sample to Earth!

 OSIRIS-REx in the clean room at Lockheed Martin in April 2016 after the completion of testing and the final stowage of the TAGSAM arm. Image credit: University of Arizona/Christine Hoekenga

OSIRIS-REx in the clean room at Lockheed Martin in April 2016 after the completion of testing and the final stowage of the TAGSAM arm. Image credit: University of Arizona/Christine Hoekenga

PSYCHE: This in-the-works mission, set to launch in 2022, will have 4 scientific instruments to study the metal-rich asteroid, Psyche. Psyche has many theories as to its origin, so having a mission dedicated to this asteroid will help determine many characteristics of metal-heavy asteroids- possibly even theories on planetary core formation!

 NASA-JPL mock-up of the design for Psyche orbiter. Image credit: NASA/JPL

NASA-JPL mock-up of the design for Psyche orbiter. Image credit: NASA/JPL

ARRM: NASA is very keen on Near Earth Object (NEO) safety. This mission, the Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission (ARRM), still on the drawing board, will hope to develop technologies on redirecting asteroids to orbit the Moon or further out (away from Earth essentially!)

 Preliminary design of the arm mechanics for ARRM. Image credit: NASA

Preliminary design of the arm mechanics for ARRM. Image credit: NASA

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at winter seasons on other planets!

Swirls on the Moon!

 Reiner Gamma lunar swirl. Image credit: NASA/LRO

Reiner Gamma lunar swirl. Image credit: NASA/LRO

Welcome back, Earthlings!

The moon has some mysterious looking “tattoos” that swirl and look like coffee creamer. What could cause these mysterious swirls? Turns out, we may have an answer!

The answer may point to the moon’s internally-generated magnetic field and previous volcanic activity! A joint study between Rutgers University and University of California Berkeley researchers are on the case!

We have known recently that the lunar swirls share space with localized magnetic fields and that when those fields deflect particles from solar wind, parts of the moon’s surface weathers more slowly than other regions. But in what capacity and evolution? This is what makes these markings so mysterious!

What could the geology be? Let’s think of it like a magnet beneath the surface!

Researchers think that these subsurface magnets are actually long, narrow lava tubes formed by ancient flowing lava! Past experiments have shown that, when heated above 1,112 degrees Fahrenheit in a zero-oxygen environment, certain minerals in moon rocks break down and release metallic iron, making the rocks extremely magnetic!

 LROC image of more lunar swirl patterns!

LROC image of more lunar swirl patterns!

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at upcoming asteroid missions and discoveries!

Spoooooooky Astronomy

Happy Halloween, Earthlings!

While you ponder on which piece of candy to eat while reading this post, here are some spook-tacular astronomy images for 2018! Enjoy! (These images came from the APOD archive!)

5127020922_a5977dcbf1.jpg

1- SKULLS! This skull was seen by the Chandra Observatory in the x-rays. This is typically a cluster of galaxies, but the amount of interstellar gas in this region gives it a spooky glow in the x-rays!

LeluVDB141_1rot1024.jpg

2-Ghosts! This region is in the Cepheus constellation. The “ghosts” are wisps of interstellar dust that is backlit by surround starlight reflections!

NGC6543-BYU-L1024.jpg

3-Cat’s Eye! This is the planetary nebula, Cat’s Eye Nebula, which has numerous halos. These halos are a telltale sign that the nebula has cycles of explosions as the white dwarf in the middle dies off!

GhostShipTrails_kotsiopoulos.jpg

4- Ghost ship! Star trails arc over this abandoned old ship off the coast of Greece. If you look at the picture close enough, you could actually see the photographer (accidentally as a ghost!)


Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at some Moon Swirls!

Touch the Sun!

 A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA's Parker Solar Probe on a mission to touch the Sun, on Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018 from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.  Image credit: NASA

A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA's Parker Solar Probe on a mission to touch the Sun, on Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018 from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Image credit: NASA

Greetings, Earthlings!

There is still much to learn about our own Sun! Such questions and exploration studies, such as helio-physics, solar seismology, plasma, radiation, and solar sunspot cycles, are but a few themes for the Parker Solar Probe!

The Parker Solar Probe launched in August 2018 and will travel to the Sun and be the closest man-made object EVER to explore the Sun!

Here are some extraordinary facts about the Parker Solar Probe:

1-The spacecraft will fly close enough to the Sun to watch the solar wind speed up from subsonic to supersonic!

2-The spacecraft and instruments will be protected from the Sun’s heat by a 4.5-inch-thick (11.43 cm) carbon-composite shield, which will need to withstand temperatures outside the spacecraft that reach nearly 2,500 F!!!

3-According to NASA, at closest approach, the Parker Solar Probe hurtles around the Sun at approximately 430,000 mph! That's fast enough to get from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., in one second!!!

4-The Parker Solar Probe will fly to within 3.8 million miles of the Sun's surface — more than seven times closer than the current record-holder for a close solar pass, the Helios 2 spacecraft, which came within 27 million miles in 1976, and about a tenth as close as Mercury, which is, on average, about 36 million miles from the Sun.

5-It is comprised of 4 main instruments: IOSIS, SWEAP, WISPR, and FIELDS

6-Currently, the Parker Solar Probe used Venus as a gravity assist planet to sling shot the probe closer and FASTER to the Sun!

 Interior of Parker Solar Probe inside the shield after final clean room testing.  Image credit: NASA

Interior of Parker Solar Probe inside the shield after final clean room testing. Image credit: NASA

Thank you for reading, and come back next week for a look at some SPOOOOOKY astronomy!

Dusty, dusty Titan

 This compilation of images from nine Cassini flybys of Titan in 2009 and 2010 captures three instances when clear bright spots suddenly appeared in images taken by the spacecraft's Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer.   Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/University Paris Diderot/IPGP/S. Rodriguez et al. 2018

This compilation of images from nine Cassini flybys of Titan in 2009 and 2010 captures three instances when clear bright spots suddenly appeared in images taken by the spacecraft's Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/University Paris Diderot/IPGP/S. Rodriguez et al. 2018

Hello, Earthlings!

Earth and Mars have very similar geologies, mainly due to similar minerals and crustal material! Plus the dust storms! On Mars, however, dust storms can engulf the entire planet for weeks or months at a time! These are the only planets to have significant dust storms…until now.

Welcome in Saturn’s largest moon, Titan- just recently discovered to have dust storms!

“Dust” however to a geologist means tiny particles of material, so not necessarily the same material as Mars and Earth, and certainly not just sand!

Instead, Titan has sand of ice and organics. On Earth such rivers, lakes and seas are filled with water, while on Titan it is primarily methane and ethane that flows through these liquid reservoirs. In this unique cycle, the hydrocarbon molecules evaporate, condense into clouds and rain back onto the ground.

Plus, just like Earth and Mars, these dust storms appear to regulate on a seasonal cycle, some seasons more prominent than others. However, as the data was taken from the Cassini mission which spun around and around the Saturnian system, not every season was captured by Cassini- so some data is missing.

Just means we have to go back!

Come back next week for a look at the Parker Solar Probe!

Cosmic Tadpoles

 The Tadpole Galaxy recorded with the Hubble Space Telescope.

The Tadpole Galaxy recorded with the Hubble Space Telescope.

Hello, Earthlings!

This week, let us journey beyond our galaxy to look at a weird structure of interacting galaxies…Tadpoles! Tadpole galaxies are a classification of massive, elongated, disrupted galaxies!

How are they disrupted? When galaxies collide, some collide at an angle and different speeds, usually morphing a beautiful spiral galaxy into a long, stretched out galaxy that looks like…well…a tadpole!

The original galaxy, the Tadpole Galaxy (or UGC 10214), is the prime example and has led other astronomers to observe other galaxy interactions that resulted in the same fashion.

Here’s some fun fats about the Tadpole Galaxy:

1-The tail is around 280,000 light years long!

2-The interaction caused the tail to create many newer stars from dust interacting and clumping together!

3-According to astronomers, a smaller compact galaxy (the intruder galaxy) passed or crossed from in front of the Tadpole Galaxy from left to right.

4- The interaction is estimated to have happened 100 million years ago

5-There are two clusters of stars in the tail. These two clusters will very likely turn into dwarf galaxies and they will orbit in the halo of the Tadpole Galaxy.

 36 young galaxies caught in the act of merging with other galaxies. Astronomers have dubbed them "tadpole galaxies" because of their distinct knot-and-tail shapes.  Credit:   NASA , A. Straughn, S. Cohen, and R. Windhorst (Arizona State University), and the HUDF team (  Space Telescope Science Institute

36 young galaxies caught in the act of merging with other galaxies. Astronomers have dubbed them "tadpole galaxies" because of their distinct knot-and-tail shapes. Credit: NASA, A. Straughn, S. Cohen, and R. Windhorst (Arizona State University), and the HUDF team ( Space Telescope Science Institute

Thank you for reading! Next week, we’ll take a look at dust storms on Titan!

Chang'e-4 Mission Awesome Facts!

 Von Karman crater for Chang’e-4 landing site!

Von Karman crater for Chang’e-4 landing site!

Greetings Lunar Fanatics, which I’ll lovingly call Lunatics!

This week I want to give an update on the cool Chang’e-4 mission from the China National Space Administration (CNSA)! This mission is part of the growing Chinese Lunar Exploration Program, which is designed to build and operate orbiters, landers, and rovers to the lunar surface!

In December 2018, the Chang’e-4 mission will deploy the lander and rover, and we’re so excited!

Here are some awesome updates about the upcoming Chang’e-4 mission!

1- The landing site is Crater Von Karman, which is situated in the South Pole-Aitken Basin! It is also observed to be the oldest crater on the Moon!

2-spacecraft is named after Chang’e the Chinese Moon goddess.

3-The orbiter has been there since May 2018, but the lander and rover will land in December 2018. The rover is only 120 kg! (The Curiosity rover on Mars is 899 kg!)

4- Some of the science objectives include: measuring lunar surface temperature, measure the chemical compositions of lunar rocks and soils, low-frequency radio astronomical observations, and solar radiation/cosmic ray effects.

5-In addition, the lander will carry a container with seeds and insect eggs to test whether plants and insects could hatch and grow together. The experiment includes seeds of potatoes and Arabidopsis thaliana (flowering plant in Eurasia), and silkworm eggs!  

  Arabidopsis thaliana  plants to be taken to the Moon onboard the Chang’e-4 rover!

Arabidopsis thaliana plants to be taken to the Moon onboard the Chang’e-4 rover!

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at Tadpole Galaxies!

The Galileo Mission

 Surface of Ganymede from the Galileo probe! Image credit: NASA

Surface of Ganymede from the Galileo probe! Image credit: NASA

Hello, Earthlings!

While the planetary community is gearing up for the Europa Clipper mission and the excitement of high-definition Juno images of Jupiter’s swirling storms of awe and DOOM, let us remember the Galileo mission, which gave us quite a few accomplishments to better study the Jovian system! Here are some fun facts about the Galileo Mission:

1-Launch date was October 18th, 1989. Mission ended on September 21, 2003 and plummeted it into Jupiter (on purpose) so that we don’t accidentally hit Europa on a collision course!

2-It actually went to Venus first so that it may sling-shot outward to catch up in Jupiter’s orbit! Got some nice Venusian cloud images!

3-It had 9 spacecraft instruments and 6 atmospheric probe detectors!

4-It was the first spacecraft to visit an asteroid -- two in fact, Gaspra and Ida!

5-It also provided direct images of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet as it plunged into Jupiter in 1994!

6-Discoveries included evidence for the existence of a saltwater ocean beneath Europa, volcanic processes on Io, and a magnetic field generated by the moon Ganymede!

 Surface of Io from the Galileo probe! Image credit: NASA

Surface of Io from the Galileo probe! Image credit: NASA

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at the Chang’e-4 mission!

Devon Island: Mars or Bust!

 Climbing out of the Habitat onlooking the Haughton crater rim. Image credit: FMARS/Mars Society

Climbing out of the Habitat onlooking the Haughton crater rim. Image credit: FMARS/Mars Society

Hello, Earthlings! Let's take a trip to Devon Island!

Devon Island, in the far, cold, desolate reaches of the Arctic in Canada lies one of the most studied meteor crater areas on the planet Earth! This is Haughton Crater, one of the best Mars analogue places! This area is home to several Mars-specific research groups from around the world. Here are some interesting facts about this area:

1- Haughton Crater has been compared to Endeavour Crater on Mars, not only for its size and shape, but also the geologic aspects, such as the dryness and frost compaction in the soil- which is very relevant to Mars!

2- Other factors, such as the Arctic day and night cycle and restricted communications, offer fitting analogs for the challenges that crewmembers will likely face on long-duration space flights.

3- NASA has the Haughton Mars Project and the Mars Society sponsors the international FMARS: Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station- both using Devon Island to its full potential

4- White dome structures are built to allow crewmembers to test habitat living, safety, and isolation. 

5- A number of different researchers have been brought in, including psychologists to study the isolation and lack of communication to the outside world psychology toward crewmembers. Biologists are also brought in to see if the dry soil can be treated regularly for planting of small low-maintenance crops. 

 Crewmembers after a long day of geologic sampling of Devon Island and testing custom spacesuits for their study. Image credit: FMARS/Mars Society

Crewmembers after a long day of geologic sampling of Devon Island and testing custom spacesuits for their study. Image credit: FMARS/Mars Society

Thank you for reading and come back soon for a look at the past Galileo mission!

Sunspotting!

Hello, Earthlings!

Viewer discretion advised: Before you start any solar observing program, make absolutely certain that you have safe filters and a safe set-up!

Sunspotting can be quite the sport, very similar to bird-watching, in that there are different classifications of sunspots!

Before we learn how to name them, let's look at what are sunspots...

Sunspots are temporary phenomena on the Sun's photosphere that appear as dark spots (noticeable in a solar telescope). They are regions of "relatively cooler" surface temperatures caused by concentrations of convecting magnetic fields.

So why do we need a classification system? Well, sunspots tend to be all sorts of shapes and sizes! By learning about the classification, solar astronomers use this as a tool for understanding our Sun's magnetic field and solar cycles!

There are two main sunspot classification systems:

Modified Zurich Sunspot Class: A seven class (A-F, H) system of describing a sunspot group, mainly by the size of the group and distribution 

McIntosh Sunspot Classification System: Adds classes for the type of the largest sunspot and sunspot distribution to the Modified Zurich Class by this three-letter system. (For example, a small lone sunspot with a penumbra might be coded as Hsx. A very large complex group might be Fkc.) 

Here's the diagram that solar astronomer's use for classifying:

zonnevlekclassificatie.jpg

One this to notice about sunspots is that sometimes they'll have a halo effect called the "penumbra". The dark sunspot is called the umbra. 

Here is an example of a sunspot group with a penumbra effect:

 Notice the lighter gray halo around the darker sunspots? That's the penumbra!

Notice the lighter gray halo around the darker sunspots? That's the penumbra!

Would you like to classify sunspots? Take a look at completing the Sunspotter Observing Program by the Astronomical League: https://www.astroleague.org/al/obsclubs/sunspot/sunsptcl.html

Thank you for reading and come back next week on a segment about Devon Island!

 

Welcome back!

Welcome back, Earthlings, to another exciting year of space! Get ready for some awesome planetary updates and some activities you- YES YOU- can get involved with!

Come back every Monday for a new blog segment!

Today, I'd like to talk about Venusian craters!

Venus is the hottest planet in our Solar System. With that power, the crust is almost like a plastic- it deforms, but we're not entirely sure if it is brittle enough to crack from an impact, like Earth. 

Turns out, there is a type of terrain on Venus- called tessera- that is the most deformed and cratered terrain on Venus. And it is surrounded by fresh, smooth lava plains. From this, geologists suggest that this terrain is considered the "oldest" of the Venusian geologic layering, and that more recent (at least in the last couple thousands of years!) volcanic activity would surround these terrains like islands. Another interesting thing to note about this terrain type is that it is usually found in the higher latitudes of Venus.

Two main features are currently puzzling planetary geologists: 

1) the craters do not show any ejecta and rarely a central peak, leading to the mystery of Venus' plastic-like crust

2)Most craters found in this terrain were followed by volcanic in-filling (or volcanic material slushing into the crater after impact). How much infilling and what type of material is still being explored. 

 Dickinson Crater, Venus. Image credit: NASA/JPL

Dickinson Crater, Venus. Image credit: NASA/JPL

Figure: Magellan image centered at 74.6 degrees N, 177.3 E, Atalanta Region, Venus. The image is approximately 185 kilometers (115 miles) wide at the base and shows Dickinson, an impact crater 69 kilometers (43 miles) in diameter. Extensive radar-bright flows that emanate from the crater's eastern walls may represent large volumes of impact melt, or they may be the result of volcanic material released from the subsurface during the cratering event.

Thank you for reading and join us next week for a look at Sunspot Classification!

Summer break!

Hello Earthlings!

I'm boarding my spaceship to go venture for more awesome space science! I shall return in August!

If there are any space news in the meantime, I'll be sure to transmission them here!

Keep looking up- there's much to discover! Have a fantastic summer!

We need to go back...to the Moon!

  APOD August 27, 2016 image from Lunar Orbiter 1 looking at an Earthrise! Image Credit:   NASA  /  Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project

APOD August 27, 2016 image from Lunar Orbiter 1 looking at an Earthrise! Image Credit: NASA / Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project

Good morning Earthlings and Lunatics alike!

Did you know it's been almost 50 years since our very first step onto the Moon with Apollo 11? Did you know it's been 46 years since our last mission to the Moon with Apollo 17?

Since then, we've sent numerous rovers and cameras to Mars and beyond. But what about our celestial neighbor? Have we really learned everything there is to learn about our Moon? Far from it...

The debate is still on-going, mainly scientists vs government. But scientists even have debates among themselves about whether we should go back to the Moon. It is mainly looking like YES, but it is a question of HOW and WHAT. 

HOW: We have advanced our rocket systems for robotics, but not necessarily for people in a (long) while...

Maybe we need to send rovers to the Moon?

WHAT: what are some objectives to get our feet back onto the lunar soil? What are some outstanding questions we have about the Moon?

The one major debate point to date is this: our technology has changed SO MUCH that we are not 100% sure that our technology can withhold to better standards than those of the 1960s...

Hopefully, we'll find out soon!

Thank you for reading and enjoy the summer night skies!

Pyroclastics!

 Mars HiRISE image of Aureum Chaos pyroclastic textured terrain.  Image credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona 

Mars HiRISE image of Aureum Chaos pyroclastic textured terrain.  Image credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona 

Hello again, Earthlings!

Let's talk about what in the world are pyroclastics!

Pyro- meaning fire, and clastics- meaning rock chunks, are referring to globs of rock spewed from volcanoes! Pyroclastics can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but finding them can tell us many secrets about the surrounding volcanoes- mainly- how destructive they can be!

Pyroclastics on Mars was once a tricky thing to decipher from low resolution images, but the recent HiRISE camera has given us many images to look for such pyroclastic grounds. 

Why look for pyroclastics? Because finding how much and how concentrated in an area could give us insight into the past ancient dynamics of Mars' large volcanoes!

So far, recent research led by Dr. Broz of the Institute of Geophysics, The Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, has found that pyroclastic mounds are relatively recent and from majorly explosive volcanic sources! His paper is here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S001910351100457X

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at why we should go back to the Moon!

The Venus Debate: Should We Go Back?

 Image taken of the surface of Venus by Venera 13 in 1982. These images depict the distorting effects of the thick Venusian atmosphere. SOURCE: C.M. Pieters, et al., The color of the surface of Venus, Science 234:1379-1383, 1986. 

Image taken of the surface of Venus by Venera 13 in 1982. These images depict the distorting effects of the thick Venusian atmosphere. SOURCE: C.M. Pieters, et al., The color of the surface of Venus, Science 234:1379-1383, 1986. 

Venus, the hottest planet in our Solar System, has been through years of "should we go back?" and "why do we want to go back?" debates...

In recent development, NASA keeps choosing outer Solar System bodies, such as Titan or cometary bodies, for further investigations. Recently, the Venus planetary community strengthens their determination toward a Venus mission. 

Here are some facts to think about:

1- the U.S. has never landed on Venus. The U.S. sent several probes to image the atmosphere and surface via RADAR, but the landers were actually the Soviet Union. 

2-We know very little about the surface of Venus. We know there are a lot of volcanoes (A LOT- more than 400!), but not enough to know how these volcanoes are built or what kind of minerals the surface actually has!

3- Did water exist on Venus? That's a debate currently regarding the shape and locale of some of the major volcanoes and certain lava flows. Hopefully a soil sample could help us with that question!

4- What are storm systems like on Venus? We have detected lightning on Venus, but to what effect, how powerful, or how frequent- we still don't know!

Hopefully the Venus community will gain enough support to allow NASA to approve a mission to Venus!

More about the Venus Community and news: https://www.lpi.usra.edu/vexag/VISE/

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at what are "pyroclastics"?

BepiColombo!

 Artist rendition of BepiColombo approaching Mercury.  Credit: ESA/ATG medialab; Mercury: NASA/JPL

Artist rendition of BepiColombo approaching Mercury. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab; Mercury: NASA/JPL

October 2018 will be an exciting month for Mercury lovers! 

The BepiColombo spacecraft is set to launch in October as Europe's first mission to Mercury. The BepiColombo is also partnered with the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA). 

It will arrive at Mercury by 2025, swinging around Venus a few times and test out its instruments there!

Here are some more fun facts about this cool new mission!

1- It will be exposed to temperatures over 600 degrees Fahrenheit!

2-Comprises of two main parts: the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO), each with its own set of instruments!

3- It will launch from French Guiana after some more review testing for stability!

4- BepiColombo is named after Professor Giuseppe (Bepi) Colombo (1920-1984) from the University of Padua, Italy, a mathematician and engineer of astonishing imagination. He was the first to see that an unsuspected resonance is responsible for Mercury's habit of rotating on its axis three times for every two revolutions it makes around the Sun. He also suggested to NASA how to use a gravity-assist swing-by of Venus to place the Mariner 10 spacecraft in a solar orbit that would allow it to fly by Mercury three times in 1974-5.

Thank you reading and come back next week for a look at some Venus debates!

Hazy, crazy days of Titan

 (Top view) near-infrared wavelength image. (Bottom view) longer wavelength image of same location at same time! Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Univ. Arizona/Univ. Idaho

(Top view) near-infrared wavelength image. (Bottom view) longer wavelength image of same location at same time! Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Univ. Arizona/Univ. Idaho

Hello Earthlings!

This week we peer into the mysterious cloud cover of Saturn's largest moon, Titan!

Titan is home to some extraordinary and rather unique features for such a large moon, one of which being the only moon with a thick atmosphere and similar surface pressure to that of Earth! With the clouds, planetary scientists were able to image with the Cassini probe weather and a type of cycle, similar to our Earthly water cycle. 

Except water is too cold at Titan's temperatures...what else is a liquid at the surface? Methane!

Cassini took images in the near-infrared of the cloud tops of Titan...and found very little. Some little wispy cloud bands and that's about it.

BUT when the images were taken in longer wavelengths...large blotches of clouds appear!

How? Why? We still don't know...but it may have something to do with that methane water-like cycle and the concentration of clouds around the larger polar lake regions!

Hopefully the mystery will unveil itself as planetary scientists are still sifting through the last of Cassini's data. 

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at what BepiColombo is all about!

 

Paleolakes! On Mars?

 Possible Intravalley Paleolake in Shalbatana Vallis. Image credit: HiRISE/ASU PSP_010316_1830

Possible Intravalley Paleolake in Shalbatana Vallis. Image credit: HiRISE/ASU PSP_010316_1830

Good morning, Earthlings!

Let us dive right in to what is one of the most discussed debates in the Martian community- water on Mars! Not just if there is present water on this dusty red planet, but rather how much water would there have been in the planet's dynamic past?

Well, we have some geologic clues...One of which are paleolakes!

Paleolakes, as the name suggests, are ancient, dried, flat plains that have clues about once having some sort of water interaction. But these are not little ponds, but rather larger standing bodies of water. 

The hypothesis goes that the northern latitude has large lowland plains and basin-like features, enough to house plentiful water. On a timescale though, this may have been relevant over 3.7 million years ago!

The existence of seas or lakes is supported by a large variety of morphologic landforms, including ridges and coastal cliffs. Some of these morphologies appear along two global “paleoshorelines” that represent the two most continuous contacts on Mars. 

If interested, here is a 2014 blog post from Dr. Erkeling with more information about paleolakes on Mars! Great read! https://planetarygeomorphology.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/paleolakes-on-mars/

 Paleolake candidate on Mars. Image credit: HiRISE/ASU ESP_012541_1600

Paleolake candidate on Mars. Image credit: HiRISE/ASU ESP_012541_1600

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look into cloud systems on Titan!

Say what, Seyfert?

 NGC 1275 Type I Seyfert Galaxy. Image credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration

NGC 1275 Type I Seyfert Galaxy. Image credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration

Here's to another week in 2018! Let's chat about Seyfert Galaxies...

Seyfert Galaxies are in the category of "active galaxies" along with quasars. Both are very luminous, distant, and with intense radiation. Seyfert Galaxies, however, have a clear host galaxy!

To the telescope, Seyfert Galaxies look like young spiral galaxies. But looking at these through multiple wavelengths reveals that Seyfert galaxy cores could be as large as the Milky Way! WOW!

Seyfert galaxies make up about 10% of all galaxies and are considered one of the most highly studied astronomical objects. 

There are two main types of Seyferts- Type I and Type II- depending on the wavelengths and compositions seen in emission spectroscopy. Type I are mainly very bright in the xray and ultraviolet wavelengths, whereas Type II is mainly in the infrared and visible. 

 NGC 3081 Type II Seyfert Galaxy. Image credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration

NGC 3081 Type II Seyfert Galaxy. Image credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at paleolakes on Mars!

Venus Tectonics

 Sample of Venus' surface taken from Magellan. Image credit: NASA/JPL

Sample of Venus' surface taken from Magellan. Image credit: NASA/JPL

Good morning, Earthlings!

Earth has faults, mountains, folds, volcanoes all due to plate tectonics. These plates of rock slide and crash into each other, creating such interesting geologic features!

Venus ALSO has volcanoes, mountains, folds...and no plate tectonics...

That is due to Venus being extremely hot and dry, so the crust is not broken into sliding pieces, but rather like a bendable plastic. A good example of how folds work on Venus is to squeeze a stress ball. As you squeeze it, crease lines form, then relax. We think Venus works the same way!

If something were to "break" on the surface of Venus, it is still volcanically active and fluid that it can essentially "heal" itself. This is why we think we don't see noticeable craters- volcanic fluids cover those up too!

A type of ridge-like faults, known in the planetary community as rupes, are found across the surface of Venus. This is the result of what is called "crustal shortening", or when the crust overlaps and sticks. 

 Magellan image of Lakshmi Planitia (north of image) bounded by Danu Montes mountain range (south). Image credit: NASA/JPL

Magellan image of Lakshmi Planitia (north of image) bounded by Danu Montes mountain range (south). Image credit: NASA/JPL

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at what Seyfert Galaxies are!