Tag Archives | Solar System

Earth Always Has Two Moons

Fig_250rA group of Cornell astrophysicists say that at any given time, Earth always has a very small second moon orbiting. That’s the moon I like most. Phenomenica writes:

The Earth has always had a temporary second moon, new study has claimed. When astronomers caught sight of a mysterious titanium white object circling around the Earth in 2006, they assumed it was a spent rocket. But it was actually a small asteroid captured by the Earth’s gravitational field that rotated around the Earth until June 2007.

In the new study, astrophysicists at Cornell claim that this little moon was not an anomaly as these asteroids come and go so often it means our planet always has a temporary second moon.

According to Cornell University’s Mikael Granvik, Jeremie Vaubaillon and Robert Jedicke, they have calculated the population of “irregular natural satellites that are temporarily captured” by Earth.

In their study, researchers say that while these moons are small, the scientific implications of this discovery are phenomenal.

Read the rest

Continue Reading

Earth (Usually) Has Two Moons

Two MoonsSo reports MIT’s Technology Review:

Back in 2006, the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona noticed that a mysterious body had begun orbiting the Earth. This object had a spectrum that was remarkably similar to the titanium white paint used on Saturn V rocket stages and, indeed, a number of rocket stages are known to orbit the Sun close to Earth.

But this was not an object of ours. Instead, 2006 RH120, as it became known, turned out to be a tiny asteroid just a few metres across–a natural satellite like the Moon. It was captured by Earth’s gravity in September 2006 and orbited us until June 2007 when it wandered off into the Solar System in search of a more interesting neighbour.

2006 RH120 was the first reliably documented example of a temporary moon …

Continue Reading

Presenting Earth 2.0

kepler22b-0Is this where humankind will be living in a couple millenia? In a solar system 600 light years away spins the newly-spotted Kebler 22-b, a rocky planet with oceans covering two-thirds of its surface, and balmy temperatures approximating 70 degrees. The Herald Sun reports on the greatest hope for a replacement Earth:

A newly discovered planet about 600 light years from our little rock has scientists around the world in a spin, with many heralding it as the best chance yet of containing alien life.

The find, announced early last week by NASA, was uncovered by the US space agency’s Kepler spacecraft, launched on a planet-hunting mission in 2009.

The planet, Kepler-22b, is 2.4 times bigger than Earth, orbits a star slightly smaller than our sun and has an average temperature of 22C. It is also closer to its sun-like star, giving it a “year” of 290 days.

What makes this discovery so exciting is that it is the smallest planet right in the middle of what has been dubbed the Goldilocks zone, where it’s not too hot and not too cold to either boil or freeze water, vital for life as we know it.

Read the rest

Continue Reading

After Earth: Where Will Humanity Go?

5efc3c27f081463e8c9e31fd93d45164If and when Earth is no longer able to sustain human life, where should we go? NASA says that a colony could be dug several feet below the surface of our moon (with a cover to protect residents from high-energy cosmic radiation, which can damage our DNA and lead to cancer).

Or we could head for the resource-rich moons of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Mars is very Earth-like, with enough carbon in its soil to grow plants, and daytime temperatures that reach 70°F. And that’s only the start of our options. Popular Science explores:

Earth won’t always be fit for occupation. We know that in two billion years or so, an expanding sun will boil away our oceans, leaving our home in the universe uninhabitable—unless, that is, we haven’t already been wiped out by the Andromeda galaxy, which is on a multibillion-year collision course with our Milky Way. Moreover, at least a third of the thousand mile-wide asteroids that hurtle across our orbital path will eventually crash into us, at a rate of about one every 300,000 years.

Read the rest

Continue Reading

Planet Earth Has A Stalker

Earth StalkerMichael Reilly reports in the New Scientist:

An asteroid 300 metres in diameter is stalking the Earth. Hiding in the pre-dawn twilight, it has marched in lockstep with our planet for years, all but invisible to our telescopes.

The rock is Earth’s first confirmed Trojan, which can orbit the sun in either of two gravitational wells along the same orbital path as our planet. From the sun’s point of view, these wells lie 60 degrees ahead of and behind the Earth, at Lagrange points where gravitational forces between the sun and the Earth balance out.

Trojans are common — Jupiter alone boasts about 5000, and Neptune and Mars each have their own smaller collections. But finding Earth’s has proven difficult, because the Lagrange points lie towards the sun in the sky. Astronomers must look for the objects just before the sun rises or after it sets, and until now the glare of this sunlight has obscured the feeble light reflected from any rocks that might be hiding there.

Read the rest

Continue Reading

‘Magnetic Bubbles’ Found Around Solar System Edge

Photo: NASA

A digital image of the newly theorized 'foam zone'.

Is our solar system a ‘cosmic jacuzzi filled with magnetic bubbles’? The outer shield of our solar system was thought to be smooth, like soda gone flat, but new theory believes it may foam-like filled with “bubbles.” From National Geographic:

The edge of the solar system may be a frothy sea of giant magnetic “bubbles,” a new NASA study says.

The new findings may mean that our system’s magnetic barrier—once thought to be a smooth shield—may be letting in more harmful cosmic rays and energetic particles than previously thought.

The new “foam zone” theory is based on a computer model created using data from NASA’s twin Voyager spacecraft, both launched in 1977 and currently about 10 billion miles (16 billion kilometers) from Earth.

In 2007 Voyager 1 recorded dramatic dips and rises in the amount of electrons it encountered as the craft traveled through the heliosphere—the “force field” that surrounds the entire solar system and is created by the sun’s magnetic field.

Read the rest

Continue Reading

Woman Selling Million-Dollar ‘Moon Rock’ Arrested

moon_rocksThe wackiest part of this chain of events? That NASA has undercover agents who orchestrate stings to crack down on space crimes. Via the Guardian:

A woman who tried to sell what she said was a rare piece of moon rock for $1.7 million was detained when her would-be buyer turned out to be an undercover NASA agent, officials said Friday.

The gray rocks, which are considered national treasures and are illegal to sell, were given to each U.S. state and 136 countries by then-President Richard Nixon after U.S. moon missions and can sell for millions of dollars on the black market.

NASA investigators and Riverside County sheriff’s deputies detained the woman after she met Thursday with an undercover NASA investigator at a restaurant in Lake Elsinore, about 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles, the sheriff’s office said. The investigation was conducted over several months.

NASA planned to conduct tests to determine whether the rock came from the moon as the woman claimed.

Read the rest

Continue Reading

Silicon Valley Start-Up To Mine The Moon

Moon BaseA new lunar gold rush? Via Phenomenonica:

A Silicon Valley start-up, founded by an Indian-American entrepreneur, plans to mine the moon and is in the process of building robotic rovers that will search the lunar surface for precious metals and rare metallic elements.

Moon Express Inc or MoonEx, co-founded by Naveen Jain, is building the robotic rovers alongside scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Centre near San Jose, a report in the Los Angeles Times said. “MoonEx should be ready to land on the lunar surface by 2013,” Jain said.

While there is no guarantee that the moon is “flush” with these materials, MoonEx thinks it “may be a gold mine of so-called rare earth elements.”

“From an entrepreneur’s perspective, the moon has never truly been explored,” the report quoted Jain, chairman and company co-founder, as saying. “We think it could hold resources that benefit Earth and all humanity.”

MoonEx’s machines are designed to look for materials that are scarce on Earth but found in everything from a Toyota Prius car battery to guidance systems on cruise missiles, the report added.

Read the rest

Continue Reading

Is There A Giant Planet Hidden in the Outer Region of the Solar System?

TycheJupiterSeems like even the Solar System has been an unstable place lately: we had Pluto losing its planet status in 2006 and now this. This is really cool even though, some believe the chance for another planet is not very likely. But this will surely give those 2012-crackpots more fuel for their crazy “Nemesis” idea. Paul Rodgers writes in the Independent:

If you grew up thinking there were nine planets and were shocked when Pluto was demoted five years ago, get ready for another surprise. There may be nine after all, and Jupiter may not be the largest.

The hunt is on for a gas giant up to four times the mass of Jupiter thought to be lurking in the outer Oort Cloud, the most remote region of the solar system. The orbit of Tyche (pronounced ty-kee), would be 15,000 times farther from the Sun than the Earth’s, and 375 times farther than Pluto’s, which is why it hasn’t been seen so far.

Read the rest

Continue Reading

Astronomers Discover 6 Planets Orbiting The Same Star

eScience News reports:

A NASA team including three University of Florida astronomers has found six new planets in a distant solar system that in some ways resembles our own. The NASA team, including UF associate professor Eric Ford, postdoctoral associate Althea Moorhead and graduate student Robert Morehead, will announce its findings in Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature.

“This is the new prototype for a system of rocky planets beyond our own,” Ford said. “It changes our understanding of the frequency of solar systems like our own in deep space.”

The planets orbit Kepler-11, a sun-like star about 2,000 light years away. With temperatures hotter than Venus – likely more than 400 to 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit – the planets range in size from twice to 4½ times Earth’s diameter. The five confirmed planets are larger in mass but less dense than Earth, and closely packed, taking from 10 to 47 days to orbit the star.

Read the rest

Continue Reading