Tag Archives | Jupiter

NASA Plans Mission to Europa

PIC: NASA (PD)

PIC: NASA (PD)

NASA plans on sending an unmanned vehicle to search for life in the oceans of Europa, Jupiter’s sixth-closest moon. The exciting news was practically buried in a press release regarding agency funding. The communique also mentions the agency’s intention to develop technologies for an “asteroid redirect program” that will lead to a manned mission to Mars.

Clearly NASA doesn’t remember the Monolith’s warning from 2001: A Space Odyssey:  “All these worlds are yours, except Europa. Attempt no landing there.

Via NASA:

“This budget ensures that the United States will remain the world’s leader in space exploration and scientific discovery for years to come. The budget supports the administration’s commitment that NASA be a catalyst for the growth of a vibrant American commercial space industry, and keeps us on target to launch American astronauts from right here in the USA by 2017, ending our reliance on others to get into space and freeing us up to carry out even more ambitious missions beyond low-Earth orbit.

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Jupiter And Saturn May Experience Rain Of Liquid Diamonds

raining diamondsOn other planets, it rains diamonds. Nature writes:

It may actually be raining diamonds on Saturn and Jupiter, according to two planetary scientists.

In their scenario, lightning zaps molecules of methane in the upper atmospheres of Saturn and Jupiter, liberating carbon atoms. As the soot particles slowly float down through ever-denser layers of gaseous and liquid hydrogen, it is compressed into graphite, and then into solid diamonds before reaching a temperature of about 8,000 °C, when the diamond melts, forming liquid diamond raindrops. Saturn may harbor about 10 million tonnes of diamond produced this way.

“If you had a robot there, it would sit there and collect diamonds raining down,” Baines says. In their vision of the year 2469, diamonds would be collected on Saturn and used to make the ultra-strong hulls of mining ships delving deep into the planet’s interior to collect helium-3 for clean-burning fusion fuel.

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NASA Planning Mission To Search For Life On Jupiter’s Moon Europa

Mars gets the attention, but apparently a moon in the far reaches of our solar system is the spot with the greatest chance of harboring extraterrestrial beings. Via the Sydney Morning Herald:

US astronomers looking for life in the solar system believe that Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter, which has an ocean, is much more promising than desert-covered Mars, which is currently the focus of the US government’s attention.

“Europa is the most likely place in our solar system beyond Earth to possess …. life,” said Robert Pappalardo, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). “Europa is the most promising in terms of habitability because of its relatively thin ice shelf and an ocean … And we know there are oxidants on the surface of Europa.”

The JPL and the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland developed a new exploration project named Clipper with a total coast of two billion US dollars minus the launch.

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There’s More Water On Europa (Jupiter’s moon) Than On Earth

EuropaALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS EXCEPT EUROPA. ATTEMPT NO LANDINGS THERE.

Well after reading this story, enthusiasts will probably want to ignore the Monlith creators’ advice. As Robert T. Gonzalez writes on io9.com:

Remember that image from a few weeks back that showed Earth with all its water gathered up in a sphere beside it? Well here’s that image again, only this time, it also features Jupiter’s moon Europa, along with all of its water. Notice anything interesting?

Based on data acquired by NASA’s Galileo satellite, astronomers think the global oceans sloshing around beneath Europa’s icy exterior are likely 2 to 3 times more voluminous than the oceans here on Earth. Not 2 to 3 times more proportionally, 2 to 3 times more in total volume.

Yeah. That “little” moon is packing quite the supply of H2O—and with it, scientists think, a significant chance of harboring life…

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Jupiter Swallowed A Super-Earth: It’s One BAMF

Everyone knows Jupiter is the largest planet in the Solar System, but new research suggests it was the baddest MF around, knocking off its competition before it could grow. David Shiga writes in New Scientist:
Jupiter Is A Gangster

Jupiter might have secured its position as the solar system’s mightiest planet by killing an up-and-coming rival, new simulations suggest. The work could explain why the planet has a relatively small heart, and paints a grisly picture of the early solar system, where massive, rocky “super-Earths” were snuffed out before they could grow into gas giants.

Jupiter and Saturn are thought to have begun life as rocky worlds with the mass of at least a few Earths. Their gravity then pulled in gas from their birth nebula, giving them dense atmospheres.

In this picture, all gas giants should have cores of roughly the same size. Yet spacecraft-based gravity measurements suggest Jupiter’s core weighs just two to 10 Earth masses, while Saturn’s comes in at 15 to 30.

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Jupiter Loses A Stripe

David Shiga writes on New Scientist:
Jupiter Loses A Stripe

Jupiter has lost one of its prominent stripes, leaving its southern half looking unusually blank. Scientists are not sure what triggered the disappearance of the band.

Jupiter’s appearance is usually dominated by two dark bands in its atmosphere — one in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern hemisphere.

But recent images taken by amateur astronomers show that the southern band — called the south equatorial belt — has disappeared.

The band was present at the end of 2009, right before Jupiter moved too close to the sun in the sky to be observed from Earth. When the planet emerged from the sun’s glare again in early April, its south equatorial belt was nowhere to be seen.

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