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Outer Space

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To Scale: The Solar System


On a dry lakebed in Nevada, a group of friends build the first scale model of the solar system with complete planetary orbits: a true illustration of our place in the universe.

When most of us think about the solar system, we think of this:




Can you guess what's wrong with it? That's right: everything. First: Earth is actually really tiny. Really, unbelievably, curl-into-a-ball-and-pee-a-lot tiny. Here's a sense of our mighty, life-carrying planet's place in our solar system's pecking order:




Can you see Earth? Of course you can't. It's the pixel below the ever-so-slightly larger blue-green dot that is Neptune, which is below the slightly bigger dot that is Jupiter. To put that in numbers: There are approximately 11.21 Earths across the diameter of Jupiter. The sun is about 109.7 Earths across.


Source: Cracked

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This Is the Sound of NASA's Probe Entering Jupiter's Magnetosphere


There's a good chance that you know a few things about Jupiter, the biggest planet in the Solar System by far. But Jupiter is still pretty mysterious even to astronomers, which is why NASA has sent the Juno probe out to gather more data about the massive gas giant. The probe is expected to swing into orbit around Jupiter on July 4.

Recently, it just entered into the planet's gigantic magnetosphere, the area where Jupiter's magnetic field becomes dominant over the Sun's. NASA has translated the moment it crossed the threshold into sound and color, and the noise it produced is extremely eerie and representative of the monumental force produced by the field.

According to NASA, the moment of the "boom" in the audio, corresponding to a significant drop in wave frequency, is called the "bow shock." This occurs when the solar wind--the continuous stream of charged particles sent out from the Sun--encounters Jupiter's magnetosphere. One of the leads of the Juno Mission's Wave investigation, William Kurth, explained that it's similar to a sonic boom. "The solar wind blows past all the planets at a speed of about a million miles per hour, and where it hits an obstacle, there's all this turbulence," he explained...




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There is so much to discover within our universe. Yet an article from Scientific American dated May 2003 posits that beyond the particle horizon (boundary of the observable universe), multiverses exist. Accordingly, a universe identical to our own is just 10,000,000,000115 meters away from us.


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Juno reached Jupiter's orbit last 04-July.  Excited what this mission will found out about the giant planet. 

live link at Nasa's you tube channel (note - link will expire obviously)




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Could icy moons like Saturn’s Enceladus in the outer solar system be home to microbes or other forms of alien life?

Intriguing new findings from data collected by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft suggest the possibility.

Plumes of gas erupting out of Enceladus — a small moon with an ocean of liquid water beneath its icy crust — contain hydrogen. Scientists infer a lot from that: that there are hydrothermal chemical reactions similar to those that occur at hot fissures at the ocean bottoms on Earth.

On Earth at least, hydrothermal vents thrive with microbial life, offering up the potential that icy moons far from Earth — called “ocean worlds” by NASA — could be habitable.

“That’s just going to be a tremendous opportunity to test our theories and see if there’s life there,” said James L. Green, director of planetary science at NASA.

This is the latest discovery by Cassini, which is heading into its final months after 13 years of exploring Saturn, its moons and rings. On April 22, Cassini begins a journey that will take it between the planet and its rings for 22 orbits before its mission finally ends with a crash into Saturn’s atmosphere in September.
Cassini’s findings also show that levels of carbon dioxide, hydrogen and methane measured in the Enceladus plume were out of equilibrium, an imbalance that could provide an energy source that organisms could tap into for food, according to a paper published Thursday in the journal Science.

“It indicates there is chemical potential to support microbial systems,” said J. Hunter Waite Jr., program director for the space science and engineering division at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio and lead author of the Science paper.

In a separate paper published Thursday in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, another team of researchers, using the Hubble Space Telescope, once again spotted what appears to be a similar plume rising from Europa, one of Jupiter’s big moons that also possesses an ocean beneath an icy exterior.

Cassini had earlier found that there are seas of methane on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, a discovery that has inspired some scientists to suggest sending a boat there.

At a mere 310 miles wide, Enceladus was considered too small to be geologically interesting; scientists suspected that its interior had frozen solid long ago. But 11 years ago, Cassini spotted plumes rising from the south pole region, one of the biggest, most surprising discoveries of the mission.

The tidal forces of Saturn pulling and squeezing Enceladus appear to generate enough heat to melt the ice. From additional Cassini observations, scientists concluded that not only is there a pool of water near the south pole of Enceladus to generate the plumes, but a global ocean that lies beneath the moon’s ice.

In October 2015, Cassini swooped to within 30 miles of the surface of Enceladus, and one of its instruments collected and identified particles in the plume spray. It was mostly water molecules, but Dr. Waite and his colleagues also found hydrogen molecules, up to 1.4 percent by volume.


A NASA illustration shows how scientists studying the plumes at the south pole of Enceladus think water may be interacting with minerals in the moon’s rock. Such hydrothermal chemical reactions are similar to those that occur at hot fissures at the ocean bottoms on Earth. On Earth, hydrothermal vents thrive with microbial life. Credit NASA

While hydrogen is the most common element in the universe, it was not expected to be found in any quantity on a moon as small as Enceladus, where the gravity is too slight to hold on to the gas for long.

“Just finding hydrogen was a surprise,” said Christopher R. Glein, a geochemist at the Southwest Research Institute and another author of the Science paper.

After considering a variety of ways that could continually generate hydrogen, the scientists concluded that hydrothermal reactions offered the most likely explanation for producing that much of the gas. Each water molecule consists of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. Geophysical models indicated that as hot water flows past the rocks, minerals in the rocks were grabbing the oxygen atoms and releasing hydrogen, the scientists reported.

There appeared to be enough energy to support microbes. “This is the first time we’ve been able to make a calorie count of an alien ocean,” Dr. Glein said. Asked what that calorie count was, Dr. Glein said the energy available was the caloric equivalent of 300 pizzas per hour.

“This is a great result for the habitability of Enceladus,” said Christopher P. McKay, a planetary scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., who was not involved with the research.

Dr. McKay said the hydrogen levels are far above what microbes need.

Still, the presence of hydrogen does not prove that life exists on Enceladus. It might suggest the opposite.

At hydrothermal vents on Earth, the hydrogen is quickly gobbled up by microbes. That so much hydrogen is rising through Enceladus’s ocean and reaching space could mean there is no life on the little moon to take advantage of it. At a department meeting, say, “if you have those stacks of pizzas, they disappear,” said Mary A. Voytek, head of NASA’s astrobiology program.

Or life could exist, but is limited by other factors. “If there is biology there, it isn’t very active,” Dr. Voytek said.

Scientists will not get any more data for a long time.

Cassini will make no more close flybys of Enceladus. The spacecraft is low on fuel, and the mission will come to a close in September. For the last few months, Cassini has shifted to a different orbit that will allow it to probe the interior properties of Saturn and take a close look at the inner part of its rings.

NASA has at present no plans to return to Saturn or Enceladus. But it is currently soliciting proposals for a mission with a price tag of up to $850 million, and one of the areas in which NASA specified an interest is a mission to explore Enceladus and Titan.

The Enceladus findings also aid the design of Europa Clipper, NASA’s next big planetary mission, which is to launch in the 2020s to study Europa.

In the new Astrophysical Journal Letters paper, researchers led by William B. Sparks of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore report on a Hubble Space Telescope observation in 2016 that revealed a likely plume of water vapor rising from the same spot on Europa where the researchers saw a similar plume two years earlier.

In addition, NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in the 1990s found that this location on Europa was unusually warm, and scientists would not be surprised to find hydrothermal vents there, too. “The geophysics is similar everywhere,” Dr. Voytek said.




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Our local gas giant has two more natural satellites added to its roster

The planet Jupiter is a beast: Three-hundred-and-seventeen times the mass of the Earth, mostly made of metallic hydrogen, and at the center of an astonishing collective of orbiting natural bodies.

In fact, Jupiter's satellites form a shrunken version of a full planetary system: from the tightly bound larger Galilean moons (orbiting in their Laplacian mean-motion resonances, akin to places like TRAPPIST-1) to the remarkable array of smaller moonlets that encircle this world out to more than 30 million kilometers.

These bodies circle Jupiter in anywhere from about 7 hours to an astonishing 1,000 days.

NASA's Juno spacecraft captured this set of time lapse images of the large Galilean moons during the spacecraft's approach in early 2016:


Until recently the cataloged satellites totaled 67 in number. But only the innermost 15 of these orbit Jupiter in a prograde sense (in the direction of the planet's spin). The rest are retrograde, and are likely captured objects - other pieces of the solar system's solid inventory that strayed into Jupiter's gravitational grasp.

That population of outer moons is mostly small stuff, only a few are 20-60 kilometers in diameter, most are barely 1-2 kilometers in size, and increasingly difficult to spot.

Now astronomers Scott Sheppard, David Tholen, and Chadwick Trujillo have added two more; bringing Jupiter's moon count to 69.

These additions are also about 1-2 km in size, and were spotted in images that were part of a survey for much more distant objects out in the Kuiper Belt. Jupiter just happened to be conveniently close in the sky at the time. The moons are S/2016 J1 and S/2017 J1, and are about 21 million km and 24 million km from Jupiter.

By themselves these small satellites don't amount to much. But they are a vivid reminder of the sheer abundance of material out there in our solar system, and of Jupiter's royal gravitational status.

Source: Scientific American




An exquisite time-lapse of our local, surprisingly complex gas giant

What follows needs very little description. For several months NASA's Juno mission has been swooping across Jupiter's polar regions during great elliptical orbits around this massive world. It recently completed pass number 6 (or Perijove number 6, for closest passage).

Juno imagery is unusual in that it's been pushed out to the public with a rapid turnaround, and with encouragement to have at it - to play with the data to see what features reveal themselves.

Here, in what may be the best yet, Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran have performed a magnificent piece of image processing from the latest Juno data dump. Images have been tweaked to enhance visible textures, with a little bit of liberty taken with the color table, and then stitched together to make a jaw-dropping, mind-blowing HD movie of Juno's view of Jupiter.

Our Jove, the king planet, is alien, beautiful, imposing, and truly grand.


Source: Scientific American



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Images of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot reveal a tangle of dark, veinous clouds weaving their way through a massive crimson oval. The JunoCam imager aboard NASA's Juno mission snapped pics of the most iconic feature of the solar system’s largest planetary inhabitant during its Monday (July 10) flyby. The images of the Great Red Spot were downlinked from the spacecraft’s memory on Tuesday and placed on the mission’s JunoCam website Wednesday morning.

Source: NASA



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Whoosh! Astronomers discovered a small asteroid – now designated as asteroid 2017 OO1 – on July 23. That was 3 days after it passed 1/3 the moon’s distance from Earth.

A space rock now designated as asteroid 2017 OO1 was detected on July 23, 2017 from the ATLAS-MLO telescope at Mauna Loa, Hawaii. An analysis of its trajectory revealed it had been closest to Earth on July 20 sometime between 10:27 p.m. to 11:32 p.m. EDT (between 02:27 to 03:32 UTC on July 21).

This means the asteroid’s closest approach occurred 2.5 to 3 days before it was seen. Asteroid 2017 OO1 flyby had passed at about one-third the Earth-moon distance, or about 76,448 miles (123,031 km).

Although that’s still a safe distance, a fact that stands out is that asteroid 2017 OO1 is about three times as big as the house-sized asteroid that penetrated the skies over Chelyabinsk, Russia in February, 2013, breaking windows in six Russian cities and causing more that 1,000 people to seek treatment for injuries, mostly from flying glass.

The late discovery of asteroid 2017 OO1 is a reminder that a Chelyabinsk type event can clearly repeat. However, bear in mind that it is still a small asteroid, too small to cause an extinction level event.

Asteroid 2017 OO1 has an estimated size between 82 and 256 feet (between 25 and 78 meters). When the space rock was first seen from Mauna Loa, Hawaii, it was showing a very faint magnitude of 17.9 which suggests it is a very dark or non reflective asteroid, thus making it very difficult to detect.

The space rock is travelling at 11,369 miles per hour (37,300 km/h).

Bottom line: Asteroid 2017 OO1 was detected three days after passing at about one-third the moon’s distance from Earth.

Source: Earth Sky



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To put it into perspective if it did hit Earth according to redditor u/kvothealar


Assuming a Worst Case Scenario:

    Velocity = 11km/s
    Diameter = 80m
    Density = 3000kg/m3
    Angle of Incidence = 90o

The impact will create a crater of radius 650m radius & depth 250m, a 4.9 magnitude earthquake, as well as:


Tsunami: 2m

Shock Wave: 60dB (Background music in a restaurant)

Air Blast: 7km/h

    Glass unlikely to shatter.


Tsunami: 4m

Shock Wave: 65dB (Conversation in a restaurant)

Air Blast: 17km/h

    Glass may shatter.


Tsunami: 8 meters

Shock Wave: 75dB (Loud Vacuum Cleaner)

Air Blast: 36km/h

    Glass likely to shatter.


Tsunami: 19 meters

Shock Wave: 85dB (Freight Train)

Air Blast: 130km/h

    Glass certain to shatter.


Tsunami: 40 meters

Shock Wave: 95dB (Industrial Lawnmower)

Air Blast: 400km/h

    Most buildings collapse.


Tsunami: 80 meters

Shock Wave: 110dB (Threshold of Pain)

Air Blast: 1,000km/h

    All buildings and most bridges collapse.


Tsunami: 150 meters

Shock Wave: 120dB (Chainsaw)

Air Blast: 2,000km/h

    Everything destroyed by air blast.


Tsunami: Immeasurable

Shock Wave: 125dB (Lightning Strikes Your Car)

Air Blast: 4,000km/h

    You escape the air blast by being underground.


Tsunami: Immeasurable

Shock Wave: 145dB (Eardrum Rupture)

Air Blast: 8,000km/h

    You escape the air blast by being shock melted.


1.   Tsunami height is maximum possible.
2.    Tsunami calculated for an impact at a depth of 3000m.
3.    Sound comparisons are within 5dB for sake of clarity.
4.    Damage effects moderately interpreted for sake of clarity.
5.    Damage effects do not consider effects from the earthquake or tsunami.

Source: r/space



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Amazing photo of totality over Oregon




Here's a video of the eclipse:



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