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July 19, 2018

US astronomers announce discovering ten tiny Jovian satellites

US astronomers announce discovering ten tiny Jovian satellites

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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Space
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  • 31 July 2018: Total lunar eclipse occurs in July 2018
  • 19 July 2018: US astronomers announce discovering ten tiny Jovian satellites
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  • 21 April 2018: NASA launches exoplanet-hunting satellite TESS
  • 3 April 2018: China’s Tiangong-1 space station crashes into Pacific

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On Tuesday, astronomers of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, DC, United States, announced the discovery of ten small satellites orbiting Jupiter. With this discovery, Jupiter now has 79 known satellites.

The team led by Scott Sheppard had discovered twelve of the 79 Jovian satellites, including Tuesday’s ten, mostly using a Blanco 4-meter telescope of Chile’s Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. The observatory is operated by the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in the US. The tiny satellites, none more than five kilometres in diameter, were first observed in 2017. Orbits of these new Jovian satellites were calculated by International Astronomical Union‘s Minor Planet Center‘s Gareth Williams. Williams explained, “It takes several observations to confirm an object actually orbits around Jupiter […] So, the whole process took a year.”

The astronomers were looking for planets much farther out than Pluto. Sheppard said, “Jupiter just happened to be in the sky near the search fields where we were looking for extremely distant Solar System objects, so we were serendipitously able to look for new moons around Jupiter while at the same time looking for planets at the fringes of our Solar System”.

Of the twelve satellites discovered by the team, nine were found to be retrograde, revolving around the gas giant in the direction opposite to the planet’s spin. These nine new retrograde satellites take about two years to complete one revolution around Jupiter.

The remaining three satellites were prograde, spinning in the same direction as Jupiter’s rotation. One of the prograde satellites, newly announced on Tuesday, took about one-and-half years to complete one revolution around Jupiter, and its orbit intersected with the outer retrograde satellites. Sheppard said, “Our other discovery is a real oddball and has an orbit like no other known Jovian moon […] It’s also likely Jupiter’s smallest known moon, being less than one kilometre in diameter”. The astronomer also said, “This is an unstable situation […] Head-on collisions would quickly break apart and grind the objects down to dust.”

Sheppard said of the composition of those satellites, they “started orbiting Jupiter, instead of falling into it. So we think they are intermediate between rocky asteroids and icy comets. So they are probably half ice and half rock.”

Valetudo” is the name suggested for the “oddball” satellite. Valetudo was the Roman god Jupiter‘s great-granddaughter, regarded as the goddess of health and hygiene.

Sheppard said, “Jupiter is like a big vacuum cleaner because it is so massive”. Jupiter is the largest planet in the Solar System, with a diameter about 142,984 kilometres. The largest known satellite in the Solar System is Jupiter’s Ganymede, whose diameter is approximately 5268 kilometres. Saturn has the second-most known satellites: 62, while Uranus has 27.



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July 6, 2016

NASA\’s Juno spacecraft enters Jupiter Orbit

NASA’s Juno spacecraft enters Jupiter orbit

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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

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Yesterday, NASA announced their spacecraft Juno has reached Jupiter orbit. It was launched almost five years ago to investigate the largest planet of the Solar System, especially its past.

Juno approaching Jupiter; simulation.
Image: NASA.

Charles Bolden, NASA administrator, said, “Independence Day always is something to celebrate, but today we can add to America’s birthday another reason to cheer — Juno is at Jupiter”. He also added the spacecraft would help study the evolution of the Solar System and explore Jupiter’s radiation belts.

NASA spent US$1.1 billion for Juno. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) reported Juno was confirmed in Jupiter’s orbit at 0353 UTC. Including the camera, the probe has nine scientific instruments. Juno has covered 2.7 billion kilometres (1.7 billion miles) to reach Jupiter.

NASA said non-essential equipment was turned off for the approach. They expect photos in some days. The first orbital revolution period is 53 days. Juno is expected to orbit the planet 37 times keeping an altitude of 5000 kilometres (3100 miles) above the Jovian clouds and then fall into the planet in 2018.

NASA’s Galileo, launched in 1989, found evidence of saline water on Jovian satellites Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.

The electronics have been encased in titanium to protect them from high-energy radiation.



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October 31, 2015

NASA releases complete image of Pluto\’s crescent

NASA releases complete image of Pluto’s crescent

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Saturday, October 31, 2015

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On Thursday, NASA released the first complete picture of Pluto’s crescent from the New Horizons probe. The probe captured the image with its Multi-spectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) on July 14, fifteen minutes after closest approach to the planet.

After nine years’ journey, New Horizons made closest approach to Pluto on July 14 and released the first coloured photo of the dwarf planet‘s atmospheric haze on October 8. An incomplete crescent photo of Pluto was released in September.

The photo shows different layers of the haze of Pluto’s faint atmosphere with Sputnik Planum, an icy plain, visible on the right side and uneven plateaus on the dark left side.

Charon’s Craters[]

Scientists also announced their discovery that 5km wide Organa crater on Charon, the largest satellite of Pluto, absorbed large amount of radiation of wavelength 2.2µm in an infrared scan, evidence of frozen ammonia. A nearby crater, named Skywalker, of comparable size showed the presence of water ice.

Will Grundy from the New Horizons composition team said “Why are these two similar-looking and similar-sized craters, so near to each other, so compositionally distinct?” He also proposed various ideas about the abundance of ammonia. The impact creating the crater could be more recent, or may have hit a subsurface ammonia pocket, or brought ammonia with it.

Studies in 2000 revealed that Charon has ammonia, but its concentration in the Organa crater was extraordinarily high.

Bill McKinnon, New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging deputy lead, called it “a fantastic discovery”. He further said “Concentrated ammonia is a powerful antifreeze on icy worlds, and if the ammonia really is from Charon’s interior, it could help explain the formation of Charon’s surface by cryovolcanism, via the eruption of cold, ammonia-water magmas.”


Crescent Pluto.
Image: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI.

Organa crater.
Image: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI.




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October 9, 2015

After Mars, NASA announces water ice on Pluto

After Mars, NASA announces water ice on Pluto

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Friday, October 9, 2015

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The blue haze of Pluto.
Image: NASA.

NASA released yesterday the first coloured pictures of Pluto‘s blue atmosphere and water ice on the surface taken by the space probe New Horizons.

NASA said the haze particles may be grey or red in colour, but the scattering of light producing blue colour indicates the size of the particles. Smaller particles results in the scattering of the blue light. Scientists calls those soot like grey-red particles tholins.

The scientists suggest nitrogen and methane in the upper atmosphere, exposed to the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation, break and combine to form more complex macromolecules similar to a process first observed on Titan, Saturn‘s satellite. Some of them grow to tholins. Eventually they are coated with volatile gas frost and fall to the surface, contributing to its red color.

Water ice on Pluto.
Image: NASA.

The data collected from the probe’s Ralph spectral composition mapper shows several small zones of water ice on Pluto. Alex Parker from Southwest Research institute (SwRI) tweeted, “We expected water-ice to be there, but we’ve searched for water-ice in Pluto’s spectrum for decades and not seen it before now”.

“Who would have expected a blue sky in the Kuiper Belt?”, New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern of SwRI remarked; “It’s gorgeous.” “This world is alive […] It has weather, it has hazes in the atmosphere, active geology.”

The space probe has traveled over 100 million km (over 60 million miles) further since gathering the data on its Pluto flyby of July 14.


Related news[]

  • NASA announces water on Mars” — Wikinews, October 1, 2015
  • “NASA’s New Horizons space probe performs first close planetary flyby of Pluto” — Wikinews, July 17, 2015

Sister links[]

  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg Atmosphere of Pluto

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October 8, 2015

After Mars, NASA announces water on Pluto

After Mars, NASA announces water on Pluto

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

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The blue haze of Pluto.
Image: NASA.

NASA released yesterday the first coloured pictures of Pluto‘s blue atmosphere and water ice on the surface taken by the space probe New Horizons.

NASA said the haze particles may be grey or red in colour, but the scattering of light producing blue colour indicates the size of the particles. Smaller particles results in the scattering of the blue light. Scientists calls those soot like grey-red particles tholins.

The scientists suggest nitrogen and methane in the upper atmosphere, exposed to the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation, break and combine to form more complex macromolecules similar to a process first observed on Titan, Saturn‘s satellite. Some of them grow to tholins. Eventually they are coated with volatile gas frost and fall to the surface, contributing to its red color.

Water ice on Pluto.
Image: NASA.

The data collected from the probe’s Ralph spectral composition mapper shows several small zones of water ice on Pluto. Alex Parker from Southwest Research institute (SwRI) tweeted, “We expected water-ice to be there, but we’ve searched for water-ice in Pluto’s spectrum for decades and not seen it before now”.

“Who would have expected a blue sky in the Kuiper Belt?”, New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern of SwRI remarked; “It’s gorgeous.” “This world is alive […] It has weather, it has hazes in the atmosphere, active geology.”

The space probe has traveled 100 million km further since July 14.


Related news[]

  • NASA announces water on Mars” — Wikinews, October 1, 2015
  • “NASA’s New Horizons space probe performs first close planetary flyby of Pluto” — Wikinews, July 17, 2015

Sister links[]

  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg Atmosphere of Pluto

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October 1, 2015

NASA announces water on Mars

NASA announces water on Mars – Wikinews, the free news source

NASA announces water on Mars

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

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Mars from the Viking Orbiter, 1980.
Image: NASA/USGS.

Warm season flows on slope in Newton Crater
Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona.

On Monday, NASA announced that signs of liquid water have been found on Mars. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft found evidence of the liquid on the Martian surface, in long dark spots on the Red Planet thought to be formed because of water flow.

In a news conference, NASA’s planetary science director, Jim Green said, “We now know Mars was once a planet very much like Earth with warm salty seas and fresh water lakes […] but something has happened to Mars, it lost its water.”

Water is thought to flow down slopes in the warm summer months and dry up as the temperature drops seasonally. Scientists have different theories about the water’s origin, as perhaps from the Martian atmosphere or from ice below the surface.

In 2011, Lujendra Ojha proposed the theory of water on the Martian surface, after studying salt samples from Martian soil. The temperature of Mars is close to the freezing point of water, but the presence of salt lowers the freezing point. Alfred McEwen, professor of planetary geology at the University of Arizona, described the water as “briny”. Moreover, the recurring slope lineae (RSL) on the surface of Mars are found to slide down the slope in the hotter season indicating the presence of water.

NASA’s associate administrator John Grunsfeld said those observations gave a better picture about the planet’s resources that could be helpful in the future. Grunsfeld tweeted Water on Mars, not just frozen. Is anything drinking it? Someday we wil find out on our #JourneyToMars.

To mark this discovery, Google created a doodle in which Mars is sipping water.



Sister links[]

  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg Water on Mars
  • Commons-logo.svg Water on Mars

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July 17, 2015

NASA\’s New Horizons space probe performs first close planetary flyby of Pluto

NASA’s New Horizons space probe performs first close planetary flyby of Pluto

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Friday, July 17, 2015

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On Tuesday, NASA’s space probe New Horizons reached near Pluto. It was launched about nine-and-a-half years ago on January 19, 2006 to collect data about the dwarf planet, amongst other targets. With its flyby on Tuesday it became the first spacecraft to explore Pluto closely.

NASA collected data regarding the geology of the planet. The space probe had seven scientific instruments and massed about 450 kilograms (about 1000 lb). The probe has Pluto and the Kuiper Belt as its highest priorities. Scientists released images from the flyby on Wednesday. Mission scientist John Spencer said, “We have not found a single impact crater on this image. This means it must be a very young surface”. He put the age of the current surface at no more than 100 million years.

The images also did not show craters on its natural satellite, Charon. NASA said mountains on the planet may be made of water-ice.

In February 2007 the space probe flew by Jupiter. The future mission is to explore the Kuiper Belt.

The Atlas V 551 rocket, used to launch New Horizons, being processed a month before launch.
Image: NASA.

View of Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 41, with the Atlas V carrying New Horizons on the pad.
Image: NASA.

NASA TV footage of New Horizons launch from Cape Canaveral. (4:00)
Video: NASA.

A composite image of Jupiter and Io, taken by New Horizons on February 28 and March 1, 2007 respectively. Jupiter is shown in infrared, whereas Io is shown in near true-color.
Image: NASA.

A composite false-color image of Oval BA, otherwise known as the “Little Red Spot”, using New Horizons LORRI and the Hubble Space Telescope‘s WFPC2.
Image: NASA.

2015: Pluto image (color) by New Horizons from 18 million km away, late last month.
Image: NASA.

Pluto as viewed by New Horizons, July 13, 2015.
Image: NASA.

Icy landscape on Pluto.
Image: NASA.



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July 16, 2015

NASA\’s New Horizons space probe performs the first planetary flyby of Pluto

NASA’s New Horizons space probe performs the first planetary flyby of Pluto

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

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On Tuesday, NASA‘s space probe New Horizons reached near Pluto. It was launched about nine-and-a-half years ago on January 19, 2006 to collect data about the dwarf planet, amongst other targets. With its flyby on Tuesday it became the first spacecraft to explore Pluto closely.

NASA collected data regarding the geology of the planet. The space probe had seven scientific instruments and massed about 450 kilograms (about 1000 lb). The probe has Pluto and the Kuiper Belt as its highest priorities. Scientists released images from the flyby on Wednesday. Mission scientist John Spencer said, “We have not found a single impact crater on this image. This means it must be a very young surface”. He put the age of the current surface at no more than 100 million years.

The images also did not show craters on its natural satellite, Charon. NASA said mountains on the planet may be made of water-ice.

In February 2007 the space probe flew by Jupiter. The future mission is to explore the Kuiper Belt.

The Atlas V 551 rocket, used to launch New Horizons, being processed a month before launch.
Image: NASA.

View of Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 41, with the Atlas V carrying New Horizons on the pad.
Image: NASA.

NASA TV footage of New Horizons launch from Cape Canaveral. (4:00)
Video: NASA.

A composite image of Jupiter and Io, taken by New Horizons on February 28 and March 1, 2007 respectively. Jupiter is shown in infrared, whereas Io is shown in near true-color.
Image: NASA.

A composite false-color image of Oval BA, otherwise known as the “Little Red Spot”, using New Horizons LORRI and the Hubble Space Telescope‘s WFPC2.
Image: NASA.

2015: Pluto image (color) by New Horizons from 18 million km away, late last month.
Image: NASA.

Pluto as viewed by New Horizons, July 13, 2015.
Image: NASA.

Icy landscape on Pluto.
Image: NASA.



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January 30, 2015

Scientists find ancient solar system in Milky Way galaxy

Scientists find ancient solar system in Milky Way galaxy

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Friday, January 30, 2015

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Astronomers reported on Tuesday in The Astrophysical Journal they have found an ancient solar system with several Earth-like planets.

Artist’s concept of a rocky exoplanet (Kepler-37b). From file.

Image: NASA

They said the system dates roughly to the formation of the Milky Way galaxy. They found the planets orbiting around Kepler-444, about 117 light years from Earth. Researchers investigated Kepler-444 with NASA’s Kepler telescope using a method called astroseismology.

Scientists explain they studied the star and noticed planets passing in front of it because it created a dimming effect in which the star seems less bright for a short period of time, when there are actually planets passing between the observer and the star.

Because these planets are older than Earth, this suggests life might have existed in the early universe, the researchers say.

According to Daniel Huber, part of the research team at the University of Sydney, it takes under ten days for these five planets to orbit the star and all of them are too close to it to sustain life. These planets are smaller than Earth, with the largest compared to Venus.

This month, the number of exoplanets found using the Kepler telescope passed 1,000.


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January 10, 2015

Researchers say light signal from space suggests merging black holes

Researchers say light signal from space suggests merging black holes

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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Space
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  • 10 January 2015: Researchers say light signal from space suggests merging black holes
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  • 13 November 2014: Philae space probe lands on comet

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Artist’s depiction of two supermassive black holes merging.
Image: NASA.

On Wednesday, George Djorgovski and collaborators reported in the journal Nature on an unusual light signal they say suggests two supermassive black holes are merging, a phenomenon never seen before, though theorized.

The discovery could clarify how black holes merge and galaxies evolve, and could also provide a better understanding of the so-called “final parsec problem” — the inability of theories to predict how, or even how quickly, the final phases of black hole mergers happen.

The team discovered the light coming from quasar PG 1302-102 in data from the Catalina Real-time Transient Survey (CTRS), which is able to study light sources from four fifths of the night sky using three ground-based US and Australian telescopes.

Coauthor and Caltech computational scientist Matthew Graham emphasized the final stages of these black hole mergers are not well understood.

Sine wave

Image: Geek3

CTRS has so far identified 20 quasars with similar signals, but Graham said this one is the best example because it has a clear signal that recurs about every five years, similar to a sine wave (see the 2D graph shown on the left).



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