Space Thread

spaminator

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UAE spacecraft takes close-up photos of Mars' little moon
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Marcia Dunn
Published Apr 24, 2023 • 2 minute read
This image provided by the UAE Space Agency shows the planet Mars and its moon, Deimos, in the foreground. The United Arab Emirates' Amal spacecraft - Arabic for Hope - flew within 62 miles of Deimos in March 2023. (UAE Space Agency via AP)
This image provided by the UAE Space Agency shows the planet Mars and its moon, Deimos, in the foreground. The United Arab Emirates' Amal spacecraft - Arabic for Hope - flew within 62 miles of Deimos in March 2023. (UAE Space Agency via AP) THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A spacecraft around Mars has sent back the most detailed photos yet of the red planet’s little moon.


The United Arab Emirates’ Amal spacecraft flew within 62 miles (100 kilometers) of Deimos last month and the close-up shots were released Monday. Amal — Arabic for Hope — got a two-for-one when Mars photobombed some of the images. It was the closest a spacecraft has been to Deimos in almost a half-century.


The spacecraft also observed the little explored far side of the odd-shaped, cratered moon, just 9 miles by 7 miles by 7 miles (15 kilometers by 12 kilometers by 12 kilometers).

Mars’ other moon, Phobos, is almost double that size and better understood since it orbits much closer to Mars — just 3,700 miles (6,000 kilometers) away, the closest of any planet’s moon in our solar system.

Deimos’ orbit around Mars stretches 14,000 miles (23,000 kilometers) out. That’s close to the inner part of the spacecraft’s orbit — “which is what made observing Deimos such a compelling idea,” said the mission’s lead scientist Hessa al-Matroushi.


“Phobos has got most of the attention up until now — now it’s Deimos’ turn!” she added in an email.

Al-Matroushi and other scientists with the UAE Space Agency said these new images indicate Deimos is not an asteroid that got captured in Mars’ orbit eons ago, the leading theory until now. Instead, they say the the moon appears to be of Martian origin — perhaps from the bigger Martian moon or from Mars itself.

The findings were presented Monday at the European Geosciences Union’s general assembly in Vienna.

Amal will continue to sweep past Deimos this year, but not as closely as the March 10 encounter, according to al-Matroushi.

NASA’s Viking 2 came within 19 miles (30 kilometers) of Deimos in 1977. Since then, other spacecraft have photographed Deimos but from much farther away.

Amal rocketed to Mars on July 19, 2020, one day shy of the 50th anniversary of humanity’s first moon landing — Earth’s moon, that is — by Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

—— The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
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Taxslave2

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I like how they're pretending the utter failure and destruction of the rocket was some kind of win.

That's kind'a like playing against the worst team in the NHL and getting shelled by them 8-0 and then thinking it's some kind of win because hey, at least you didn't lose anyone to injury.
It is when one is experimenting. A failed test can be just as important as a successful experiment. This one was a tad on the costly side though.
 

Tecumsehsbones

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It is when one is experimenting. A failed test can be just as important as a successful experiment. This one was a tad on the costly side though.
Elon Schmuck can afford it.

The important question is. . . When Elon launches the world's biggest bottle rocket, is it an American spacecraft, a Canadian spacecraft, or a South African spacecraft?
 

spaminator

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Star swallows planet in one big gulp
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Marcia Dunn
Published May 03, 2023 • 2 minute read
This illustration provided Caltech/IPAC by depicts a planet skimming the surface of its star.
This illustration provided Caltech/IPAC by depicts a planet skimming the surface of its star. PHOTO BY K. MILLER, R. HURT/CALTECH/IPAC /THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — For the first time, scientists have caught a star in the act of swallowing a planet — not just a nibble or bite, but one big gulp.


Astronomers on Wednesday reported their observations of what appeared to be a gas giant around the size of Jupiter or bigger being eaten by its star. The sun-like star had been puffing up with old age for eons and finally got so big that it engulfed the close-orbiting planet.


It’s a gloomy preview of what will happen to Earth when our sun morphs into a red giant and gobbles the four inner planets.

“If it’s any consolation, this will happen in about 5 billion years,” said co-author Morgan MacLeod of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

This galactic feast happened between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago near the Aquila constellation when the star was around 10 billion years old. As the planet went down the stellar hatch, there was a swift hot outburst of light, followed by a long-lasting stream of dust shining brightly in cold infrared energy, the researchers said.


While there had been previous signs of other stars nibbling at planets and their digestive aftermath, this was the first time the swallow itself was observed, according to the study appearing in the journal Nature.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher Kishalay De spotted the luminous outburst in 2020 while reviewing sky scans taken by the California Institute of Technology’s Palomar Observatory. It took additional observations and data-crunching to unravel the mystery: Instead of a star gobbling up its companion star, this one had devoured its planet.

Given a star’s lifetime of billions of years, the swallow itself was quite brief — occurring in essentially one fell swoop, said Caltech’s Mansi Kasliwal, who was part of the study.


The findings are “very plausible,” said Carole Haswell, an astrophysicist at Britain’s Open University, who had no role in the research. Haswell led a team in 2010 that used the Hubble Space Telescope to identify the star WASP-12 in the process of eating its planet.

“This is a different sort of eating. This star gobbled a whole planet in one gulp,” Haswell said in an email. “In contrast, WASP-12 b and the other hot Jupiters we have previously studied are being delicately licked and nibbled.”

Astronomers don’t know if more planets are circling this star at a safer distance. If so, De said they may have thousands of years before becoming the star’s second or third course.

Now that they know what to look for, the researchers will be on the lookout for more cosmic gulps. They suspect thousands of planets around other stars will suffer the same fate as this one did and, eventually, so will our solar system.

“All that we see around us, all the stuff that we’ve built around us, this will all be gone in a flash,” De said.
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spaminator

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Webb telescope spots debris belts around luminous star Fomalhaut
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Will Dunham
Published May 09, 2023 • 3 minute read
This handout image from the James Webb Space Telescope released by NASA/ESA/CSA on Tuesday, May 9, 2023, shows for the first time the inner asteroid belts that encircle the nearby star Fomalhaut.
This handout image from the James Webb Space Telescope released by NASA/ESA/CSA on Tuesday, May 9, 2023, shows for the first time the inner asteroid belts that encircle the nearby star Fomalhaut. PHOTO BY NASA / ESA / CSA / HANDOUT / AFP /Getty Images
WASHINGTON — There has been plenty of excitement in recent decades about planets detected orbiting various stars beyond our solar system. But planets provide an incomplete picture of the complex framework that exists around stars, leaving out components like the belts of rocky and icy debris orbiting our sun.


Scientists on Monday unveiled observations by the James Webb Space Telescope showing new details about such features around a luminous star called Fomalhaut in our own neighbourhood of the Milky Way galaxy. These observations of three concentric dusty rings of debris orbiting Fomalhaut provide the fullest view to date of such structures outside our solar system.


Fomalhaut, one of the brightest stars in our night sky and the brightest in the southern constellation Piscis Austrinus, is located 25 light years from Earth. A light year is the distance light travels in a year, 5.9 trillion miles (9.5 trillion km).

Astronomers first discovered a single belt of debris around Fomalhaut in 1983. Webb’s observations revealed two additional rings nearer the star – a bright inner one and a narrow intermediate one.


These three belts appear to be populated by objects called planetesimals, some of which are thought to join together early in a star system’s history to form planets while others remain as debris like asteroids and comets.

“Much like our solar system, other planetary systems harbour disks of asteroids and comets – leftover planetesimals from the epoch of planet formation – that continuously grind themselves down to micron-sized particles via collisional interactions,” said University of Arizona astronomer Andras Gaspar, lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

Fomalhaut is 16 times more luminous than the sun and almost twice as massive. It is about 440 million years old – less than a tenth the age of the sun – but is probably nearly halfway through its lifespan.


The three nested belts extend out to 14 billion miles (23 billion km) from Fomalhaut, about 150 times the distance of Earth to the sun.

While no planets have been discovered yet around Fomalhaut, the researchers suspect the belts were carved out by gravitational forces exerted by unseen planets. Our solar system has two such belts – the main asteroid belt between the rocky planet Mars and the gas giant Jupiter, and the Kuiper belt beyond the ice giant Neptune.

The gravitational influence of Jupiter, our solar system’s largest planet, corrals the main asteroid belt. The inner edge of the Kuiper belt, which is home to dwarf planets Pluto and Eris as well as other icy bodies of varying sizes, is shaped by the outermost planet Neptune.


“The secondary gap we see in the system is a strong indication for the presence of an ice giant in the system,” Gaspar said.

The observations from Webb, which was launched in 2021 and began collecting data last year, were made by its Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI).

“Nearly all of the resolved images of debris disks thus far had been for the cold, outer regions analogous to the solar system’s Kuiper belt,” like Fomalhaut’s outer belt, said astronomer and study co-author Schuyler Wolff of the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory.

MIRI now can resolve the relatively warmer belts of material analogous to our main asteroid belt, Wolff said.

Studying these debris belts offers insight into planetary beginnings.

“Planets form within the primordial disks surrounding young stars. Understanding this formation process requires a complete understanding of how these disks form and evolve,” Wolff said.

“There are many open questions about how the dust in these disks coalesces to form planetary embryos, how the planetary atmospheres form, et cetera. Debris disks are remnants of this planet formation process and their structure can provide valuable clues to the underlying planet population and the dynamical histories,” Wolff added.
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spaminator

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Scientists identify polar cyclone swirling on mysterious Uranus
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Will Dunham
Published May 25, 2023 • 3 minute read
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A polar cyclone is seen on Uranus
NASA scientists use microwave observations to spot the first polar cyclone on Uranus in this handout image released on May 25, 2023. PHOTO BY NASA/JPL-CALTECH/VLA /Handout via REUTERS
WASHINGTON — It is a world wrapped in mystery – the seventh planet from the sun, Uranus, seen up close just once nearly four decades ago by a passing NASA probe and still warily guarding its secrets.


But new observations from a telescope located in New Mexico are providing a fuller understanding of its atmosphere, including the detection of a polar cyclone whose center measures a quarter of Earth’s diameter, swirling near its north pole.


Scientists were able to gaze more deeply into the atmosphere of Uranus – a planet classified as an ice giant, like its planetary neighbor Neptune – than ever before. The findings painted a picture of a planet more dynamic than previously known.

“While the general makeup of its atmosphere and interior are similar to Neptune – as far as we know – Uranus has some pretty unique features,” said planetary scientist Alex Akins of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, lead author of the research published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.


“It spins on its side. And even then, its magnetic field is still misaligned with its rotational axis. The atmospheric circulation and internal heat release appear weaker than Neptune, but there are still a range of dynamical features and storms that have been observed,” Akins added.

Uranus, blue-green in color due to the methane contained in an atmosphere comprised mostly of hydrogen and helium, is the third-largest planet in our solar system. It has a diameter of about 31,500 miles (50,700 km) and is big enough to fit 63 Earths inside it. Uranus orbits the sun at a distance of about 1.8 billion miles (2.9 billion km), almost 20 times further than Earth does. One orbit lasts 84 years.

Its unusual tilt makes Uranus appear to orbit the sun like a rolling ball.


The researchers used the Very Large Array telescope in New Mexico to see below the clouds at the top of the atmosphere, finding circulating air at the north pole that was warmer and drier, evidence of a strong cyclone. They were able to estimate the size of the storm’s center but not the entire cyclone’s diameter, though it potentially could be wider than Earth.

The research confirmed that polar cyclones are present on every body in our solar system with a substantial atmosphere – all the planets but Mercury and even Saturn’s moon Titan.

“Polar cyclones are regions of high winds moving in a direction determined by the planet’s rotation – clockwise on Venus, Uranus and anti-clockwise for the rest – with differing air properties between the inside and out,” Akins said.


“The way they form is different from planet to planet,” Akins added. “On Earth, their strength is modulated by season due to the amount of sunlight. We aren’t quite sure yet how they form on Uranus. It’s different from other cyclones in the sense that it’s generally longer-lived and most likely forms from a different balance of atmospheric processes, and therefore is a more characteristic (enduring) feature of the atmosphere. That is unlike hurricanes, which form, move and dissipate on relatively short time scales.”

Most of the mass of Uranus is a dense fluid of icy materials – water, methane and ammonia. Uranus is surrounded by two sets of faint rings and orbited by 27 small moons. Its atmosphere is the coldest of any of the eight planets, including outermost Neptune.

Its only close encounter with a spacecraft came when Voyager 2 flew by in 1986.

“There are a lot of unknowns,” Akins said. “How did it get tilted on its side? Is its interior really ‘icier’ than the gas giants (Jupiter and Saturn)? Why do we see atmospheric banding features that aren’t aligned with the measured wind speeds? Why is the pole so much drier than the equator? Are its satellites (moons) ocean worlds?”
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spaminator

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NASA talks UFOs with public ahead of final report on unidentified flying objects
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Marcia Dunn
Published May 31, 2023 • 1 minute read

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA held its first public meeting on UFOs Wednesday a year after launching a study into unexplained sightings.


The space agency televised the hourslong hearing featuring an independent panel of experts. The team includes 16 scientists and other experts selected by NASA including retired astronaut Scott Kelly, the first American to spend nearly a year in space.


Several committee members have been subjected to “online abuse” for serving on the team, which detracts from the scientific process, said NASA’s Dan Evans, adding that NASA security is dealing with it.

“It’s precisely this rigorous, evidence-based approach that allows one to separate the fact from fiction,” Evans said.

The study is a first step in trying to explain mysterious sightings in the sky that NASA calls UAPs, or unidentified aerial phenomena.

The group is looking at what unclassified information is available on the subject and how much more is needed to understand what’s going on in the sky, according to astrophysicist David Spergel, the committee’s chair who runs the Simons Foundation.

No secret military data are included, such as anything surrounding the suspected spy balloons from China spotted flying over the U.S. earlier this year.

The meeting was held at at NASA headquarters in Washington with the public taking part remotely.

A final report is expected by the end of July.

— The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
 

spaminator

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Fast-track military space projects and have PM head new council for space priorities, industry group says
“Investments in new space innovations are essential for defence and national security."

Author of the article:David Pugliese • Ottawa Citizen
Published Jun 01, 2023 • Last updated 22 hours ago • 3 minute read
In December 2022, the House of Commons defence committee heard concerns that Canada’s main satellite surveillance system — the RADARSAT Constellation — would reach the end of its useful life in October 2026.
In December 2022, the House of Commons defence committee heard concerns that Canada’s main satellite surveillance system — the RADARSAT Constellation — would reach the end of its useful life in October 2026.
The Canadian government should accelerate military satellite programs and create a national council headed by the prime minister to co-ordinate space priorities for the country, an organization representing country’s top space companies and researchers says.


The Liberal government has committed to spending billions of dollars on new military communications and weather satellites as part of its defence strategy.


But Space Canada, which represents 50 high-tech firms and research groups, says in a new report that those programs aren’t expected to be in place until the 2030s, a process too slow to keep pace with emerging technologies.

The group also wants to see the establishment of a National Space Council, chaired by the prime minister, to coordinate space priorities across government and to develop strategic space policy and directives.

“Investments in new space innovations are essential for defence and national security,” said Brian Gallant, CEO of Space Canada and former premier of New Brunswick. “Numerous countries are already recognizing the tangible benefits stemming from the prioritization of space.”


Last year, Defence Minister Anita Anand outlined Canada’s contributions to the modernization of the North American Aerospace Defence Command, many of which will involve space sensors, new radars and cutting-edge technology. The Canadian portion of the over-the-horizon radar project, part of the NORAD modernization effort, is worth at least $1 billion, according to National Defence briefing documents obtained by this newspaper. Also included is a new surveillance satellite system worth more than $5 billion.

The domestic space industry can provide the full range of capabilities that Canada has prioritized for continental defence, Space Canada pointed out.

But there is growing frustration among some domestic aerospace and defence companies that the Liberal government has been passing over Canadian technology and is instead opting for foreign systems. In addition, companies are warning that some projects are stalled.


Space Canada pointed out that no progress is planned for this year or next on the key satellite programs that the government’s defence strategy outlined as critical to national security.

“The Canadian space industrial base has the capabilities to deliver these programs at a speed of relevance, either as a traditional capital project from concept to development through to implementation and in-service support, or as commercially procured capabilities and services,” Space Canada’s paper sasid. “Canada’s space innovators are ready to move forward with these programs now.”

Leadership from the political level has also been identified by Space Canada as critical. With a National Space Council chaired by the prime minister, government would have a forum to co-ordinate strategies for commercial, civil and military space priorities, it noted.


“Canada lacks a unifying federal body to coordinate national space strategy and policy to keep Canada competitive in the new space economy,” the group wrote. “The National Space Council will enable a whole-of-government approach to the development of space capabilities across government departments.”

Such a federally-led approach would allow co-ordination for increasing the country’s space industrial base and potential exports of Canadian-made systems and technology.

Some of Canada’s closest allies have established similar national-level councils to provide government-wide coordination of space policy and national strategy. In the United States, the national space council is led by Vice-President Kamala Harris.


In December 2022, the House of Commons defence committee heard concerns that Canada’s main satellite surveillance system — the RADARSAT Constellation — would reach the end of its useful life in October 2026.

But a replacement for those spacecraft, outlined in the Liberals’ defence policy, would not be in orbit until 2035, Auditor General Karen Hogan warned.

“What we’re looking for is for the government to have a bit of a contingency plan,” Hogan told MPs on the Commons defence committee. “What will happen should these satellites reach the end of their useful lives? Right now, the government either buys information commercially or turns to its allies.”
 

spaminator

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Vegas cops, residents claim to have seen UFO, aliens
Author of the article:postmedia News
Published Jun 08, 2023 • Last updated 3 days ago • 1 minute read
Las Vegas residents claim they saw non-human beings on their property.
Las Vegas residents claim they saw non-human beings on their property.
Did Vegas hit the UFO jackpot?


Maybe.


Body-cam footage from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department captured what is suspected by some to be a UFO flying across the sky before a nearby resident made the call to report seeing something “100% not human” on their property, local TV channel 8 News Now reported, according to the New York Post.

A Sin City cop’s camera apparently recorded the object around 11:50 p.m. on April 30, according to the American Meteor Society — and its flash was seen as far away as neighbouring states Utah and California.

Soon after that first reported sighting, another man who lives some 128 kilometres from Area 51 made a chilling 911 call, saying there were a pair of unknown objects in his backyard after he and his family saw a similar object fall from the night sky.


Witnesses say a pair of non-human entities were seen on a Las Vegas property.
Witnesses say a pair of non-human entities were seen on a Las Vegas property.
“There’s like an 8-foot person beside it and another one is inside us (sic) and it has big eyes and it’s looking at us — and it’s still there,” the homeowner told police dispatch, according to audio obtained by the TV channel.



“In my backyard. I swear to God this is not a joke, this is actually — we’re terrified,” he added.

“They’re very large. They’re like 8 foot, 9 feet, 10 foot. They look like aliens to us. Big eyes. They have big eyes. Like, I can’t explain it. And big mouth. They’re shiny eyes and they’re not human. They’re 100% not human,” he claimed.

Responding units were frightened, according to audio from their body-cams.

“I’m so nervous right now,” said one officer. “I have butterflies, bro — saw a shooting star and now these people say there’s aliens in their backyard.”
 

spaminator

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This alien ocean is first known to have all elements crucial for life
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Joel Achenbach
Published Jun 14, 2023 • Last updated 1 day ago • 3 minute read
In this NASA handout image obtained Wednesday, June 14, 2023, a combination of high-resolution images taken during a 2005 flyby of NASA's Cassini spacecraft were combined into this mosaic to show Saturn's moon Enceladus, with long fissures at the moon's south pole that allow water from the subsurface ocean to escape into space.
In this NASA handout image obtained Wednesday, June 14, 2023, a combination of high-resolution images taken during a 2005 flyby of NASA's Cassini spacecraft were combined into this mosaic to show Saturn's moon Enceladus, with long fissures at the moon's south pole that allow water from the subsurface ocean to escape into space. PHOTO BY NASA / HANDOUT / AFP /Getty Images
Saturn’s moon Enceladus has enticed scientists for years with its plumes fizzing their way up from an ocean beneath a thick crust of ice. Now there’s a new element to the story, literally: That cold, dark ocean appears to contain a form of phosphorus, an essential ingredient for life as we know it.


That means Enceladus has the only ocean beyond Earth known to contain all six elements needed for life.


The claimed discovery of dissolved sodium phosphate, announced in a report published Wednesday in the journal Nature, makes Enceladus all the more intriguing in the search for habitable worlds beyond Earth.

The report is based on data from an instrument on board NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which explored Saturn and its moons for 13 years before engineers sent it plunging into the gas giant’s atmosphere in 2017.

“We now really have found that Enceladus’s subsurface ocean is the most habitable place in the solar system, at least as far as we know,” said lead author Frank Postberg, a professor at the Free University of Berlin.


“But that doesn’t mean that it’s actually hosting life, that it’s inhabited,” he added.

Modest in size at just a few hundred miles in diameter, Enceladus seems to have what scientists call a “soda ocean” — carbonated, bubbly, salty. Postberg suggests it might taste a little soapy if you had a glass of it. The ocean is hidden beneath a layer of ice many miles thick, but frozen particles migrate through cracks in the ice and spurt into space. The plumes have sometimes been called “geysers,” but Postberg doesn’t like the term, as it suggests Old Faithful-like eruptions of liquid water.

The detection of phosphorus required years of analysis of data from particles impacting an instrument on Cassini as it hurled past the icy moon.


Phosphorus is the “P” in CHNOPS, which stands for carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur — the sextet of elements that, along with water and energy, are foundational to biochemistry on Earth. Because it is relatively rare, phosphorus has been considered a “bottleneck” for life, Postberg said.

But it’s abundant in the Enceladus ocean, according to Postberg and his colleagues. That means the soda ocean has no bottleneck. Phosphorus, the report states, is “thus extremely unlikely to be a limiting factor in the survival of putative life on Enceladus.”

Despite their great distance from the sun, the ice moons orbiting Jupiter and Saturn can host liquid oceans because they get energy from gravity. The small bodies are squeezed and stretched by tidal forces generated in their circuits around the huge planets, action that produces internal heat. Jupiter’s rocky moon Io, covered with volcanoes, is the star exhibit of that phenomenon. On Enceladus, tidal heating may be driving hydrothermal vents akin to the ones that spew nutrient-rich water into the ocean on Earth.


Biology remains a sufficiently embryonic science that a basic definition of “life” remains elusive. We have one sample to work with, Earth life, and although we can say with confidence what it requires, no one knows if this is a universal rule.

Earth life is constructed with common ingredients. It is not made of uranium, for example. But of the six essential elements, phosphorus plays an outsize role in terrestrial biochemistry. It’s necessary, for example, to the structure of DNA and RNA and for energy transfer in cells.

“Could there be an alternative biochemistry that doesn’t need to use P or uses something else? I suppose, but P as an element has the optimal properties to serve the roles that it does in life-as-we-know-it,” said Jonathan Lunine, a Cornell University planetary scientist who has studied ocean worlds and was not part of the new research.


Enceladus, he said in an email, “has such an earth-like interior ocean that if life is present, we will recognize it.”

Mikhail Zolotov is an Arizona State University planetary geochemist who served as a reviewer of the new paper and wrote a perspective article for Nature. He said he still favours Mars as the most likely abode of life beyond Earth. But he added that he is a scientist and not a science-fiction writer, and there are so many unknowns.

“We don’t know how life originated, and under what conditions,” he said.

Europa, one of Jupiter’s big moons, also might have the whole suite of CHNOPS elements. NASA’s Europa Clipper, a Jupiter orbiter scheduled for launch next year, will get a closer look. But for now, Enceladus is arguably the most fascinating world in our solar system — other than the one we’re standing on.
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spaminator

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Scientists have controversial theory for how — and how fast — Earth formed
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Kasha Patel, The Washington Post
Published Jun 16, 2023 • 4 minute read

More than 4.5 billion years ago, Earth began forming from a blend of dust and gas that was around our young Sun. Eventually, it grew larger and larger until it became similar to the planet we live on today — a process scientists now say happened much faster than they once thought. That formation, they say, also included water, a detail indicating that finding another habitable planet is not out of the question.


In a new study released in Nature this week, researchers state that Earth formed within just 3 million years. That’s notably faster than previous estimates placing the timeline up to 100 million years.


Millions of years may not seem quick to mere humans, but on an astronomical scale, it’s incredibly fast. In the 4.6 billion years of our solar system’s existence, 3 million years is like a blink. That is the equivalent of less than a minute in a 24-hour day. (If Earth had formed over tens of millions of years, that would be equivalent to 5 to 15 minutes in a day.)

“Planets can go from their infancy to the size of Earth and Mars within just a few million years, which is really, really fast compared to the hundreds of millions of years that was previously thought,” said Isaac Onyett, lead author of the study and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Copenhagen. “We can also predict that if other planets formed … by the same mechanism, then the ingredients required for life such as water, should be present on other planets and other systems, so there’s a greater chance that we have water worlds elsewhere in the galaxy.”


The authors assert that this rapid genesis occurred through a theory called pebble accretion. The general idea, according to co-author and cosmochemist Martin Bizzarro, is that planets are born in a disk of dust and gas. When they reach a certain size, they rapidly attract those pebbles like a vacuum cleaner. Some of those pebbles are icy and could provide a water supply to Earth, thought of as pebble snow. This would have led to an early version of our planet, known as proto-Earth, that is approximately half the size of our present-day planet. (Our current rendition of Earth likely formed after a larger impact about 100 million years later, which also led to the formation of our moon.)

This pebble accretion theory for Earth’s formation is a controversial one, though.


Scientists agree that this theory explains the formation of gas giants in our solar system, such as Jupiter and Saturn — pebble accretion is the only way for a giant planet to grow fast enough before its planetary disk dissipates. But it’s disputed for their terrestrial counterparts. Others have pointed out issues of where did the pebbles around the terrestrial planet come from or why the planets aren’t bigger.

A more traditionally accepted theory is that terrestrial planets, like Earth, formed through a sequence of collisions from asteroids that got progressively larger and larger, said Onyett. That process would mean it took Earth around 100 million years or more to form. In this mechanism, the occurrence of water on Earth may have been lucky, perhaps delivered by an asteroid or comet.


Co-author Martin Schiller said he and his colleagues want others to rethink how terrestrial planets form. “Yes, of course, pebbles are available everywhere. Of course, terrestrial planets will also grow by pebble accretion,” said Schiller, also a cosmochemist at the University of Copenhagen.

Bizzarro added this study provides “the strongest evidence” that terrestrial planets formed via pebble accretion.

The team determined the time scale of Earth’s formation by looking at silicon isotopes from more than 60 meteorites and planetary bodies in the vicinity of Earth, which represent the rubble leftover after planet formation. Silicon is a main element in rocks and a vital building block of a planet, akin to what carbon is for life. Because it’s so abundant in the universe, it is produced easily and commonly and can act as a good tracer for planetary formations.


By analyzing the silicon compositions in samples of different ages, Onyett said they can piece together a time sequence of what was happening in the disk of dust before Earth formed. They found that, as the samples increased in age, the composition of the asteroids changed toward the composition of the cosmic dust that was being accumulated by Earth.

“That’s very strong evidence that this dust was also being swept up as it was drifting inwards towards the Sun,” said Onyett. “It would have been swept up by Earth as it was growing by accretion.”

Birger Schmitz, an astrogeologist at Lund University who was not involved in the research, said these results are “very compelling” and could shift how we think about our planet’s formation.


“If these interpretations hold (which I think they will) this represents a major paradigm shift in our understanding of Earth’s formation,” Schmitz, a research associate at the Chicago Field Museum, wrote in an email. “Paradigm shifts always come as big surprises … how wrong we were for such a long time!”

Most importantly, he said the results show there is nothing special about our water-carrying planet. “It is just a very ordinary planet in our galaxy. This is important in our attempts to understand how common higher forms of life are in the universe.”

Isotope cosmochemist Francois Tissot, who was not involved in the study, said the new research presented a fascinating analysis of the isotopic composition of silicon across so many planetary materials. But he isn’t sure that pebble accretion is the simplest explanation for the trends in the silicon data. He said additional analysis of how the new Si isotope data fits, doesn’t fit, into other models is needed.

Nonetheless, “these are exciting results that will bring key new constraints to our understanding of Earth’s formation,” said Tissot, based at the California Institute of Technology. “It is an exciting time for the community, and an undeniable step forward.”
 

55Mercury

rigid member
May 31, 2007
4,292
996
113
millions of years...

gotta make ya wonder if it's still forming, don't it?

8?o

anyway, it's all conjecture posing as 'science'.

I think it's pretty obvious that God used a surfactant to speed up this planet building process.

cuz He was so fucken lonely.

:?P
 

spaminator

Hall of Fame Member
Oct 26, 2009
36,480
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Humans have used enough groundwater to shift Earth's tilt
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Aara'L Yarber, The Washington Post
Published Jun 27, 2023 • 3 minute read

Rampant removal of groundwater for drinking and irrigation has altered the distribution of water on Earth enough to shift the planet’s tilt, according to a sweeping new study. The finding underscores the dramatic impact that human activity can have on the planet.


Humans pump most of our drinking water from natural underground reservoirs called aquifers. Researchers calculate that between 1993 and 2010, we removed a total of 2,150 gigatons of groundwater — enough to fill 860 million Olympic swimming pools.


According to the new study, published on June 15 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, moving all that water has shifted Earth’s tilt 31.5 inches eastward.

Many people might imagine Earth’s shape as a perfect sphere, but it’s not; it’s an oblate spheroid, with high mountains and deep ocean trenches that distribute mass unevenly and make the planet resemble a lumpy potato. The whole thing is also spinning like a top, and if you move enough mass from one place to another, the planet will wobble as it spins.


“I kind of liken it to a waterlogged softball,” said James Famiglietti, a hydrologist at Arizona State University who was not involved in the study. “When a softball or baseball gets soaked, it gets waterlogged, and when you throw it, it wobbles funny. That’s what’s happening here.”

The spin axis, or the imaginary line around which the planet rotates, is known as Earth’s rotational pole. The pole is tilted about 23.5 degrees relative to our plane of orbit around the sun, which is why we have seasons. The exact position of this pole changes a lot as the planet wobbles around, a phenomenon called polar motion, said Ki-Weon Seo, a geophysicist at Seoul National University and the lead author of the study.

“It changes every moment — around 10 metres a year,” Seo said. “Winds, [ocean] currents, barometric pressure or glaciers — any kind of mass change can cause polar motion.”


It’s only recently, however, that scientists realized how much human activity can also cause polar motion.

A 2016 study demonstrated that climate-driven changes in water mass distribution can cause Earth’s poles to drift. But the activities examined in that study didn’t perfectly explain the observed polar motion.

With observational data spanning 17 years, Seo and his colleagues used a computer model to simulate which hydrological sources significantly affected Earth’s tilt. To Seo’s surprise, modeled polar drift only matched the observations when groundwater pumping was included.

“We have a lot of dams, and there are a lot of reservoirs on land, so I originally thought that should be very important,” said Seo, “but actually it’s not. After including the groundwater effect, I finally could explain all [of the] observations.”


The shift in Earth’s tilt is far too small to impact weather or seasons, Seo said. However, the team of scientists discovered that polar drift can be used to estimate the effect of groundwater pumping on sea level rise.

When water is sucked from the ground to irrigate crops and meet global freshwater demands, it eventually travels through rivers and other pathways into the world’s oceans. From 1993 to 2010, the researchers found, groundwater pumping shifted enough mass to contribute to 0.24 inches in global sea level rise.

“Groundwater pumping is one of the few management decisions that can be made about how to slow the rate of sea level rise,” said Famiglietti. “We are really having an impact on this planet, and we really need to be better stewards of Earth’s resources.”