Tag: Planets

Over The Past Nineteen Years, This Man Has Dedicated His Work To The Study Of Our Solar System

Dr. Franck Marchis is a senior planetary astronomer and chair of the exoplanet group at the Carl Sagan Center of the SETI Institute and Chief Scientific Officer and Founder at Unistellar.

He began full-time work at the Institute in June 2011 after leaving a joint position with Institute and the department of astronomy at University of California, Berkeley.

Marchis moved to the United States in October 2000 shortly after getting a Ph.D. from the University of Toulouse in France that he acquired while traveling around the world for his research and for the sake of exploration.

Over the past nineteen years, he has dedicated his work to the study of our solar system, specifically the search for asteroids with moons, using mainly ground-based telescopes equipped with adaptive optics (AO).

More recently he has been also involved in the definition of new generation of AOs for 8 -10 m class telescopes and future Extremely Large Telescopes.

He has also developed algorithms to process and enhance the quality of astronomical and biological images.




He is currently the collaboration manager of the Gemini Planet Imager Exoplanet Survey, which consists in imaging and characterizing Jupiter-like exoplanets using an extreme AO system designed for the Gemini South telescope.

Today, Marchis dedicates most of his energy to instruments capable of imaging and characterizing Earth-like exoplanets by being involved in education, public outreach, technology, and scientific investigations related to those ambitious projects both in the United States and in Europe.

Marchis is also involved in startups related to astronomy so he joined Unistellar as a Chief Scientific Officer and VR2Planets as a scientific advisor in 2017.

Marchis is a member of numerous science committees including the SETI Science council, the GPI steering Committee, the TMT Science Definition Team, PLOS One editor board, the Project Blue and the PLANETS Foundation Advisory board.

He has co-authored more than 380 scientific publications, trained numerous students, and served as a science consultant and interviewee for numerous documentaries and movies in English, French, and Spanish.

The asteroid (6639) was named Marchis in honor of his discovery of the first triple-asteroid system in 2007. He has been an affiliated Astronomer at Observatoire de Paris since 2003.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

Saturn’s Northern Pole Is Home To A Six-Sided Feature That Mystifies Scientists

This stunning new image reveals the massive hexagonal storm at Saturn’s North Pole, and its gigantic rings. Each latitudinal band represents air flowing at different speeds, and clouds at different heights, compared to neighboring bands.

At first glance, it looks like a serene planet.

However, stunning new images reveals the massive hexagonal storm at Saturn’s North Pole, and its gigantic rings.

In reality, the planet’s atmosphere is an ever-changing scene of high-speed winds and evolving weather patterns, punctuated by occasional large storms, Nasa says.

The latest image shows Saturn’s north polar region’s bands and swirls, which Nasa says somewhat resemble the brushwork in a watercolor painting.

Each latitudinal band represents air flowing at different speeds, and clouds at different heights, compared to neighboring bands.

Where they meet and flow past each other, the bands’ interactions produce many eddies and swirls.

The northern polar region of Saturn is dominated by the famous hexagon shape which itself circumscribes the northern polar vortex – seen as a dark spot at the planet’s pole in the above image – which is understood to the be eye of a hurricane-like storm.




Such collisions play a key role in the rings’ numerous waves and wakes, which are the manifestation of the subtle influence of Saturn’s moons and, indeed, the planet itself.

The long duration of the Cassini mission has allowed scientists to study how the atmosphere and rings of Saturn change over time, providing much-needed insights into this active planetary system.

It has long baffled astronomers, and now the strange hexagon at Saturn’s north pole has a new mystery.

The mysterious six-sided hexagon on Saturn’s North Pole has long captivated astronomer, and is thought to be nearly 20,000 miles (32,190 km) wide.

The hexagon is made of a band of upper-atmospheric winds which creates its shape.

A polar cyclone can be seen at its centre.

Recent natural colour images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft show the changing appearance of Saturn’s north polar region between 2012 and 2016.

It shows a clear change from blue to gold – and nobody knows why.

The stunning image reveals the massive hexagonal storm at Saturn’s North Pole, and its gigantic rings. The rings, consist of countless icy particles, which are continually colliding.

Scientists are investigating potential causes for the change in color of the region inside the north-polar hexagon on Saturn.

The colour change is thought to be an effect of Saturn’s seasons.

In particular, the change from a bluish color to a more golden hue may be due to the increased production of photochemical hazes in the atmosphere as the north pole approaches summer solstice in May 2017,” Nasa said.

Researchers think the hexagon, which is a six-sided jetstream, might act as a barrier that prevents haze particles produced outside it from entering.

During the seven-year-long Saturnian winter, the polar atmosphere became clear of aerosols produced by photochemical reactions – reactions involving sunlight and the atmosphere.

This helps to explain why the hexagon is not influenced by seasonal changes, said the researchers.

It is hoped that by studying the movement of the hexagon it may be possible to understand more about the winds that are hidden beneath the stormy clouds in the gas giant’s upper atmosphere.

Speaking to Space.com, Professor Morales-Juberías said: “With a very simple model, we have been able to match many of the observed properties of the hexagon.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

Atomic Iron And Titanium In The Atmosphere Of The Exoplanet KELT-9b

To constrain the formation history of an exoplanet, we need to know its chemical composition.

With an equilibrium temperature of about 4,050 kelvin, the exoplanet KELT-9b (also known as HD 195689b) is an archetype of the class of ultrahot Jupiters that straddle the transition between stars and gas-giant exoplanets and are therefore useful for studying atmospheric chemistry.

At these high temperatures, iron and several other transition metals are not sequestered in molecules or cloud particles and exist solely in their atomic forms




However, despite being the most abundant transition metal in nature, iron has not hitherto been detected directly in an exoplanet because it is highly refractory.

The high temperatures of KELT-9b imply that its atmosphere is a tightly constrained chemical system that is expected to be nearly in chemical equilibrium and cloud-free, and it has been predicted that spectral lines of iron should be detectable in the visible range of wavelengths.

Here we report observations of neutral and singly ionized atomic iron (Fe and Fe+) and singly ionized atomic titanium (Ti+) in the atmosphere of KELT-9b.

We identify these species using cross-correlation analysis of high-resolution spectra obtained as the exoplanet passed in front of its host star.

Similar detections of metals in other ultrahot Jupiters will provide constraints for planetary formation theories.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

Mars Is Spectacular This Month – Here’s The Best Way To Spy The Red Planet

If you look at the sky tonight and spot a very bright star, it may well be a planet. Mars is the closest it has been to Earth for 15 years – and therefore the brightest.

Mars shines through reflected light,” says Robert Massey, the deputy executive director of the Royal Astronomical Society.

That means that when it’s closer to the Earth it appears brighter, because its apparent size is bigger.” It won’t be this visible again until 2035.

So, how best to see it? First, make sure tall trees or buildings are not obscuring the view. Ideally, you want a clear horizon. Then, look south.




It will be obvious, because it’s bright, it doesn’t twinkle and it has a distinct reddish tinge,” says Massey, who suggests Somerset, Devon and Dorset as good locations for spotting it.

The best Mars-gazing time is 1am, but it rises earlier in the evening.

You can see Mars with the naked eye, but a pair of binoculars would help,” says Massey. “If you have a small telescope, you may be lucky to see a polar ice cap.

If you are an amateur with good equipment, the details to look out for are two polar ice caps, mountains or volcanoes, and sunken, crater-like features. Massey suggests contacting your local astronomical society about public viewing events.

Hubble’s views of Mars at two recent oppositions

When is the best time to see Mars?

According to NASA, Mars Opposition begins Friday, July 27 around midnight.

Mars will be visible between Friday, July 27 and Monday, July 30, making its closest approach — 35.8 million miles to be exact — on Tuesday, July 31 at around 4 a.m. E.T.

Mars will be at its brightest Friday night due to an opposition surge that is affected by the planet’s angle of the sun — giving you the clearest view of the Red Planet.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

Astronomers Have Found A New Crop Of Moons Around Jupiter, And One Of Them Is A Weirdo

Ten more moons have been confirmed to orbit around Jupiter, bringing the planet’s total known satellite count to 79.

That’s the highest number of moons of any planet in the Solar System. And these newly discovered space rocks are giving astronomers insight as to why the Jupiter system looks like it does today.

Astronomers at Carnegie Institution for Science first found these moons in March 2017, along with two others that were already confirmed in June of last year.

The team initially found all 12 moons using the Blanco 4-meter telescope in Chile, though finding these objects wasn’t their main goal.

Instead, they were searching for incredibly distant small objects — or even planets — that might be lurking in our Solar System beyond Pluto.

But as they searched for these fringe space rocks, they decided to take a peek at what might be lurking around Jupiter at the same time.




Now, the moons they found have been observed multiple times, and their exact orbits have been submitted for approval from the International Astronomical Union, which officially recognizes celestial bodies.

These moons are all pretty tiny, ranging between less than a mile and nearly two miles wide. And they break down into three different types. Two orbit closer to Jupiter, moving in the same direction that the planet spins.

Farther out from those, about 15.5 million miles from the planet, there are nine that revolve in the opposite direction, moving against Jupiter’s rotation.

But in this same distant region, one strange moon that astronomers are calling Valetudo is moving with Jupiter’s spin, like the two inner moons.

That means it’s going in the opposite direction of all the other moons in the same area. “It’s basically driving down the highway in the wrong direction,” Scott Sheppard, an astronomer at Carnegie who led the discovery team said.

That’s a very unstable situation. Head-on collisions are likely to happen in that situation.

Valetudo isn’t the only moon of Jupiter that acts this way. Another moon called Carpo also orbits far out from Jupiter, moving in the opposite direction of many other moons in the area.

The small dot between the yellow lines in these photographs is the newly discovered moon Valetudo.

However, Valetudo orbits much farther away than Carpo, and it may actually be the smallest moon Jupiter has.

Now with this discovery, astronomers think it’s good evidence that moon-on-moon collisions have happened in Jupiter’s past, and these are responsible for the lunar landscape around the planet today.

Valetudo, at just 1 kilometer across, is probably the last remnant of a much larger moon that’s been ground down into dust over time,” says Sheppard.

Finding moons around Jupiter can be tough. As the biggest planet in our Solar System, it has a very large area of influence, so there’s a lot of space where moons could potentially be.

It’s difficult to search that area in a timely manner with a telescope. “It’s like looking through a straw, and you’re just covering as many points around Jupiter as you can looking for these things,” says Sheppard.

And since Jupiter is so large, it reflects a whole lot of light. That means there can be a lot of glare when searching for super faint moons around the planet.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

Puzzling Cosmic Glow Is Caused by Diamond Dust Glamming Up Stars

Diamond dust is responsible for a mysterious glow emanating from certain regions of the Milky Way galaxy, a new study reports.

Astronomers have long known that some type of very small, rapidly spinning particle is throwing off this faint light, which is known as anomalous microwave emission (AME). But they couldn’t identify the exact culprit — until now.

In the new study, researchers used the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and the Australia Telescope Compact Array to search for AME light in 14 newborn star systems across the Milky Way.

They spotted the emissions in three of these systems, coming from the planet-forming disks of dust and gas swirling around the stars.

This is the first clear detection of anomalous microwave emission coming from protoplanetary disks,” study co-author David Frayer, an astronomer with the Green Bank Observatory, said in a statement.




The study team also detected the unique infrared-light signatures of nanodiamonds — carbon crystals far smaller than a grain of sand — in these same three systems, and nowhere else.

In fact, these [signatures] are so rare, no other young stars have the confirmed infrared imprint,” study lead author Jane Greaves, an astronomer at Cardiff University in Wales, said in the same statement.

The researchers don’t think this is a coincidence.

One to 2 percent of the total carbon in these protoplanetary disks has been incorporated into nanodiamonds, according to the team’s estimates.

Another leading AME-source candidate, a family of organic molecules known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), doesn’t hold up under scrutiny, the researchers said.

The infrared signature of PAHs has been identified in multiple young star systems that lack an AME glow, they noted.

The new results could help astronomers better understand the universe’s early days, study team members said.

Scientists think the universe expanded far faster than the speed of light shortly after the Big Bang, in a brief period of “cosmic inflation.

If this did indeed happen, it should have left a potentially detectable imprint — an odd polarization of the cosmic microwave background, the ancient light left over from the Big Bang.

The new study provides “good news for those who study polarization of the cosmic microwave background, since the signal from spinning nanodiamonds would be weakly polarized at best,” said co-author Brian Mason, an astronomer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, Virgina.

This means that astronomers can now make better models of the foreground microwave light from our galaxy, which must be removed to study the distant afterglow of the Big Bang,” Mason added.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

 

‘Diamonds From The Sky’ Approach Turns CO2 Into Valuable Products

Finding a technology to shift carbon dioxide (CO2), the most abundant anthropogenic greenhouse gas, from a climate change problem to a valuable commodity has long been a dream of many scientists and government officials.

Now, a team of chemists says they have developed a technology to economically convert atmospheric COdirectly into highly valued carbon nanofibers for industrial and consumer products.

The team will present brand-new research on this new CO2 capture and utilization technology at the 250th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). ACS is the world’s largest scientific society.

The national meeting, which takes place here through Thursday, features more than 9,000 presentations on a wide range of science topics.




We have found a way to use atmospheric CO2 to produce high-yield carbon nanofibers,” says Stuart Licht, Ph.D., who leads a research team at George Washington University.

“Such nanofibers are used to make strong carbon composites, such as those used in the Boeing Dreamliner, as well as in high-end sports equipment, wind turbine blades and a host of other products.”

Previously, the researchers had made fertilizer and cement without emitting CO2, which they reported.

Now, the team, which includes postdoctoral fellow Jiawen Ren, Ph.D., and graduate student Jessica Stuart, says their research could shift CO2from a global-warming problem to a feed stock for the manufacture of in-demand carbon nanofibers.

Licht calls his approach “diamonds from the sky.”

That refers to carbon being the material that diamonds are made of, and also hints at the high value of the products, such as the carbon nanofibers that can be made from atmospheric carbon and oxygen.

Because of its efficiency, this low-energy process can be run using only a few volts of electricity, sunlight and a whole lot of carbon dioxide.

At its root, the system uses electrolytic syntheses to make the nanofibers.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

New Telescope In Chile Unveils Stunning First Images

The first released VST image shows the spectacular star-forming region Messier 17, also known as the Omega Nebula or the Swan Nebula, as it has never been seen before. This vast region of gas, dust and hot young stars lies in the heart of the Milky Way in the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer)

A new state-of-the-art telescope has snapped its first impressive images of the southern sky over the Paranal Observatory in Chile.

The VLT Survey Telescope (VST) is the latest addition to the European Southern Observatory’s network of telescopes at Paranal in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile.

The first image released from the VST shows the spectacular star-forming region Messier 17, also known as the Omega nebula or the Swan nebula, as it has never been seen before.

This nebula, full of gas, dust and hot young stars, lies in the heart of our Milky Way galaxy, in the constellation of Sagittarius.

The VST’s field of view is so large that is able to observe the entire nebula, including its fainter outer parts.

The second of the newly released images is a portrait of the star cluster Omega Centauri in unprecedented detail. Omega Centauri is the largest globular cluster in the sky and the VST’s view includes about 300,000 stars.

ESO’s new telescope

The VST is a 2.6-meter telescope with a 268-megapixel camera, called OmegaCAM, at its core. The visible-light telescope is designed to map the sky both quickly and with precise image quality.

The VST is a wide-field survey telescope with a field of view twice as broad as the full moon. It is the largest telescope in the world designed to exclusively survey the sky in visible light.

ESO officials oversee many telescopes based at three observing sites in Chile’s high Atacama Desert. In addition to the telescopes atop the summit of Cerro Paranal, the observatory has sites at La Silla and Chajnantor.




Mapping the cosmos

Over the next five years, the VST and its OmegaCAM will make three detailed surveys of the southern sky, and the data will be made public for astronomers around the world to analyze.

The KIDS survey will image several regions of the sky away from the Milky Way. The study aims to further astronomers’ understanding of dark matter, dark energy and galaxy evolution, and find many new galaxy clusters.

The VST ATLAS survey will cover a larger area of sky and focus on understanding dark energy and supporting more detailed studies using the VLT and other telescopes.

The third survey, VPHAS+, will image the central plane of the Milky Way to map the structure of the galactic disc and its star formation history.

VPHAS+ will yield a catalogue of around 500 million objects and is expected to discover many new examples of unusual stars at all stages of their evolution.

The VST project is a joint venture between ESO and the National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) in Naples, Italy.

TRAPPIST-1 Planets Probably Rich In Water

Planets around the faint red star TRAPPIST-1, just 40 light-years from Earth, were first detected by the TRAPPIST-South telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in 2016.

In the following year further observations from ground-based telescopes, including ESO’s Very Large Telescope and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, revealed that there were no fewer than seven planets in the system, each roughly the same size as the Earth.

They are named TRAPPIST-1b,c,d,e,f,g and h, with increasing distance from the central star.

Further observations have now been made, both from telescopes on the ground, including the nearly-complete SPECULOOS facility at ESO’s Paranal Observatory, and from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and the Kepler Space Telescope.

A team of scientists led by Simon Grimm at the University of Bern in Switzerland have now applied very complex computer modelling methods to all the available data and have determined the planets’ densities with much better precision than was possible before.




Simon Grimm explains how the masses are found: “The TRAPPIST-1 planets are so close together that they interfere with each other gravitationally, so the times when they pass in front of the star shift slightly.

“These shifts depend on the planets’ masses, their distances and other orbital parameters. With a computer model, we simulate the planets’ orbits until the calculated transits agree with the observed values, and hence derive the planetary masses.”

Team member Eric Agol comments on the significance: “A goal of exoplanet studies for some time has been to probe the composition of planets that are Earth-like in size and temperature.

“The discovery of TRAPPIST-1 and the capabilities of ESO’s facilities in Chile and the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope in orbit have made this possible — giving us our first glimpse of what Earth-sized exoplanets are made of!

The measurements of the densities, when combined with models of the planets’ compositions, strongly suggest that the seven TRAPPIST-1 planets are not barren rocky worlds.

They seem to contain significant amounts of volatile material, probably water, amounting to up to 5% the planet’s mass in some cases — a huge amount; by comparison the Earth has only about 0.02% water by mass!

TRAPPIST-1b and c, the innermost planets, are likely to have rocky cores and be surrounded by atmospheres much thicker than Earth’s.

TRAPPIST-1d, meanwhile, is the lightest of the planets at about 30 percent the mass of Earth. Scientists are uncertain whether it has a large atmosphere, an ocean or an ice layer.

Scientists were surprised that TRAPPIST-1e is the only planet in the system slightly denser than Earth, suggesting that it may have a denser iron core and that it does not necessarily have a thick atmosphere, ocean or ice layer.

It is mysterious that TRAPPIST-1e appears to be so much rockier in its composition than the rest of the planets.

In terms of size, density and the amount of radiation it receives from its star, this is the planet that is most similar to Earth.

TRAPPIST-1f, g and h are far enough from the host star that water could be frozen into ice across their surfaces.

If they have thin atmospheres, they would be unlikely to contain the heavy molecules that we find on Earth, such as carbon dioxide.

Astronomers are also working hard to search for further planets around faint red stars like TRAPPIST-1. As team member Michaël Gillon explains: “This result highlights the huge interest of exploring nearby ultracool dwarf stars — like TRAPPIST-1 — for transiting terrestrial planets.

“This is exactly the goal of SPECULOOS, our new exoplanet search that is about to start operations at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

Pictures Show A Mysterious Planet Get More Surreal Over Time

Since entering orbit on July 4 2016, NASA’s Juno spacecraft has been revealing a world coated in curling clouds that loop and spiral around one another, creating filigreed bands speckled with roiling oval storms.

Some of these storms dapple the planet’s previously unseen poles, and they all join the best known of the Jovian tempests, a splotch called the Great Red Spot that stretches more than an Earth across.

The new images “look like Van Gogh paintings,” says Juno’s principal investigator Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute.




I kind of expected some of this, because a long time ago, Voyager took pictures, and other spacecraft that have gone near Jupiter have taken some images, but they’re usually global ones and boy, when you get close, and you see these swirls, they look like art.

These stunning clouds are produced by Jupiter’s incredibly complex atmospheric dynamics—things like winds and turbulence—combined with certain chemistries that produce their vibrant colours.

But the precise reason why Jupiter alone is so fantastically painted isn’t clear.

You don’t see that on Saturn, Uranus, or Neptune for some reason,” Bolton says. “Maybe what you’re seeing is the fact that Jupiter is so big that it has triggered some other special dynamics that are star-like, to some extent.”

Streams of clouds spin off a rotating, oval-shaped cloud system in the Jovian southern hemisphere. Citizen scientist Roman Tkachenko reconstructed the colour and cropped the image, which was taken on February 2 from just 9,000 miles above the storm.

Juno is doing more than simply ogling this magnificent planetscape.

Designed to tease out the intricacies of Jupiter’s innards, the spacecraft carries eight instruments that monitor the planet’s gravity, auroras, atmosphere, magnetosphere, cloud depths, and electric fields.

Together, they should help scientists learn more about the planet’s origins and what, exactly, lies beneath those clouds—straight down to the planet’s heart, which could be made from heavy elements or rock wrapped in a fluid form of metallic hydrogen.

So far, though, seeing the planet’s poles for the first time has been one of the highlights of the mission.

This close-up view of Jupiter, taken from a mere 5,400 miles away, captures the turbulent region just west of the Great Red Spot. Citizen scientist Sergey Dushkin processed and cropped the image to draw viewers’ eyes to the dynamic clouds.

These regions are strikingly different from equatorial Jupiter, with a blue tinge, numerous cyclones, and a lack of distinct cloudy bands.

On March 27, Juno swung low over Jupiter during its fourth science orbit, coming within 2,700 miles of those magnificent cloud tops. Images from that orbit will be released soon.

And over its next set of orbits, Juno will continue focusing on Jupiter’s deep atmosphere and interior structure, gathering data that scientists will eventually combine into a global view of this mysterious world.

Until then, we can bask in the beauty of the biggest planet in the solar system.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science