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Barberton Mts satellite NASA landsat 7

Researchers obtain trace of extraterrestrial matter in Makhonjwa Mountains

The Makhonjwa Mountains situated in South Africa have few of the oldest rocks on Earth. However, all the rock constituents do not have Earth as their place of origin. Researchers have informed that they have detected traces of some extraterrestrial material which has been buried deep in the volcanic remains dating back to some 3.3 billion years ago. The old age of the mountain range provides useful information about Precambrian environment in which the evolution of life took place. The study has been reported in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta.

Frances Westall, an astrobiologist from CNRS Centre for Molecular Biophysics commented that this has been the first instance in which they have found actual tangible proof for extraterrestrial carbon present in the rocks. Earth has been impacted by violent meteorites from billions of years before which have led to major changes in the surface of the planet.

Several scientists hypothesize this far that the building blocks of life on Earth could be extraterrestrial molecules and the discovery in the Makhonjwa Mountains provides more support to this claim.

The volcanic deposit, Josefsdal Chert which lies within the Makhonjwa Mountains has a rock layer present in it bearing thickness of 2mm which has two “anomalous” signs in it. Taking the help of electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy, scientists have concluded that rock aging 3.3 billion years has two kinds of insoluble organic components, and both lead to extraterrestrial origins.

An EPR signal was similar to something scientists have seen before in carbonaceous chondrites: ancient meteorite samples which had organic compounds. This is the first instance where researchers have detected this. Several nano-materials of nickel, iron and chromium have also been identified in the rock samples, which are not usually detected in the rock formations of Earth. This suggests that they might have originated from some farther location in the universe.

Didier Gourier, a chemical engineer from PSL Research University explained that the formation of nickel-rich chrome spinels which are also termed as cosmic spinels takes place when extraterrestrial objects enter the atmosphere of the Earth.

The organic and spinel materials are supposedly contradictory in nature to exist at the same place in Josefsdal Chert. Scientists are not particularly sure regarding this explanation. The hydrogenated organic matter can only exist when the falling material’s temperature does not exceed that of a few hundred degrees. But, the cosmic spinels are formed only by the melting of an object when it enters Earth’s atmosphere.

Researchers have put forward a theory that micrometeorites might have mixed with the ash clouds and in the process of settling down on Earth, extraterrestrial carbon may have been preserved alongside cosmic spinels. Scientists are still exploring other possible causes of this phenomenon.

nasa kepler planetary system

18 Earth Sized Exoplanets detected by astronomers

Humans are always looking for traces of life beyond the Earth. They look for Earth-sized planets which may have an Earth-like atmosphere to search for traces of life. A group of researchers from Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS), the Georg August University of Göttingen, and Sonneberg Observatory have recently observed around 18 Earth-sized planets beyond the solar system. The research was published in Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Some of them are believed to have conditions suitable for life and were previously overlooked. This came to light after analyzing the data from NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope. They are expecting close to 100 more exoplanets after analyzing the data even more. There are close to 4000 planets outside our solar system and 96% are said to be bigger than our Earth. It is not accurate as smaller planets are harder to track down than bigger planets. Small world planets can be potentially habitable planets and 18 newly discovered planets are Earth-sized.

Scientists look for a transit method to look out for stars with periodically recurring faint dips in star’s light and we can observe this if a star happens to have a planet whose orbital plane is aligned with line of sight of Earth and only then the planet blocks a small fraction of light as it passes in front of the star, once per orbit.

Standard algorithms search for sudden drops in brightness but in reality, when a planet moves in front of a star it blocks less starlight than at mid-way of the transit. Maximum dimming occurs at the center of the transit. For larger planets, the dip it produces is pretty obvious, even if the algorithm is searching for a sudden dip. Thus smaller planets are difficult to differentiate from normal fluctuations of stars.

The research team has decided to test as to what may be the result if they use a more gradual light curve in detecting planets than a sudden dip in brightness. They applied the algorithm to K2 Kepler Mission which resulted in the finding of 18 new planets, however, they are found to be non-habitable as they are orbiting very close to their stars and temperatures are expected to be as high as 100-1000 degrees Celsius.

The lone exception was EPIC 201238110.02, orbiting a red dwarf, which is placed in a habitable zone which is not too hot or not too cold. Planets like these have been found before but they have their own set of problems, when orbiting a red dwarf star, they usually spew out a lot of flares and radiation which could be deadly for nearby planets. However, this is a usual observation and not always true in reality. The Kepler archive has data set for thousands of stars and the newly implemented algorithm will keep looking for new Earth-like planets.

Would you like to go to these planets in other solar system and live there? Tell us with a short and quick comment.

Read more news about exoplanets:

  1. Rare-Earth elements detected in the atmosphere of an exoplanet for the first time
  2. NASA’s TESS detects Earth-sized planet for the first time
Magnificent CME Solar eruption of plasma

Researchers discover mystery of exotic material in Sun’s atmosphere

A group of researchers from Ireland and France have declared an important finding on the behaviour of matter in the highly extreme conditions of the atmosphere of Sun. They used radio telescopes and UV cameras on a spacecraft of NASA for knowing about the exotic “fourth state of matter” about which very less is known. This state of matter called plasma may be significant in the development of safe, green and environment-friendly nuclear generator. The results of the study have been published in the Nature Communications journal.

Although the matter we encounter in our daily lives can be differentiated to either solid, liquid or gas, the Universe is majorly made of plasma. It is an extremely unstable fluid which is also highly electrical in nature. Even the Sun is composed of plasma. However, the irony lies in the fact that although the plasma is the most common state of matter in the Universe, human beings have a vague idea of it. Reason being its scarcity on Earth, which makes it difficult to understand.

Laboratories on Earth try to simulate the conditions of space however the Sun is the natural laboratory in which the behaviour of plasma can be understood, which is not possible for the ones attempted on Earth.

Dr Eoin Carley, a Postdoc researcher at the Trinity College Dublin who led the joint collaboration said that the sun’s atmosphere has very extreme conditions with the temperatures of plasma soaring to excess of one million degrees Celsius and particles travelling very close to the speed of light. These particles shine very brightly at the radio wavelengths, hence the behaviour of the plasma can be monitored with the aid of large radio telescopes.

Scientists worked with the researchers at the Paris Observatory and the observations of the Sun were performed by a radio telescope situated in Nançay, central France. These observations were combined with the UV cameras mounted on the Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft. It was then seen that plasma on the Sun can eject pulses resembling those from the light house. Scientists were aware of this for many years but could observe it directly for the first time with the help of these highly advanced equipments.

The problem with nuclear fusion plasmas is that they are highly unstable. When the plasma starts producing energy, the reaction is switched off by natural processes. This indicates that it is difficult to produce energy while keeping the plasma stable. By learning about the instability of plasma on the Sun, scientists can learn how to control plasma.

Konstantinos Giapis Oxygen

Comet Inspires Chemistry for Making Breathable Oxygen on Mars

Science fiction stories are chock full of terraforming schemes and oxygen generators for a very good reason—we humans need molecular oxygen (O2) to breathe, and space is essentially devoid of it. Even on other planets with thick atmospheres, O2 is hard to come by.

So, when we explore space, we need to bring our own oxygen supply. That is not ideal because a lot of energy is needed to hoist things into space atop a rocket, and once the supply runs out, it is gone.

One place molecular oxygen does appear outside of Earth is in the wisps of gas streaming off comets. The source of that oxygen remained a mystery until two years ago when Konstantinos P. Giapis, a professor of chemical engineering at Caltech, and his postdoctoral fellow Yunxi Yao, proposed the existence of a new chemical process that could account for its production. Giapis, along with Tom Miller, professor of chemistry, have now demonstrated a new reaction for generating the oxygen that Giapis says could help humans explore the universe and perhaps even fight climate change at home. More fundamentally though, he says the reaction represents a new kind of chemistry discovered by studying comets.

Most chemical reactions require energy, which is typically provided as heat. Giapis’s research shows that some unusual reactions can occur by providing kinetic energy. When water molecules are shot like extremely tiny bullets onto surfaces containing oxygen, such as sand or rust, the water molecule can rip off that oxygen to produce molecular oxygen. This reaction occurs on comets when water molecules vaporize from the surface and are then accelerated by the solar wind until they crash back into the comet at high speed.

Comets, however, also emit carbon dioxide (CO2). Giapis and Yao wanted to test if CO2 could also produce molecular oxygen in collisions with the comet surface. When they found O2 in the stream of gases coming off the comet, they wanted to confirm that the reaction was similar to water’s reaction. They designed an experiment to crash CO2 onto the inert surface of gold foil, which cannot be oxidized and should not produce molecular oxygen. Nonetheless, O2 continued to be emitted from the gold surface. This meant that both atoms of oxygen come from the same CO2 molecule, effectively splitting it in an extraordinary manner.

“At the time we thought it would be impossible to combine the two oxygen atoms of a CO2molecule together because CO2 is a linear molecule, and you would have to bend the molecule severely for it to work,” Giapis says. “You’re doing something really drastic to the molecule.”

A stop-motion animation of carbon dioxide being converted to molecular oxygen.

In Giapis’s reactor, carbon dioxide is converted into molecular oxygen. Credit: Caltech

To understand the mechanism of how CO2 breaks down to molecular oxygen, Giapis approached Miller and his postdoctoral fellow Philip Shushkov, who designed computer simulations of the entire process. Understanding the reaction posed a significant challenge because of the possible formation of excited molecules. These molecules have so much energy that their constituent atoms vibrate and rotate around to an enormous degree. All that motion makes simulating the reaction in a computer more difficult because the atoms within the molecules move in complex ways.

“In general, excited molecules can lead to unusual chemistry, so we started with that,” Miller says. “But, to our surprise, the excited state did not create molecular oxygen. Instead, the molecule decomposed into other products. Ultimately, we found that a severely bent CO2 can also form without exciting the molecule, and that could produce O2.”

Tom Miller, professor of chemistry, stands in front of a rack of computers.

Tom Miller, professor of chemistry(Credit: Caltech)

The apparatus Giapis designed to perform the reaction works like a particle accelerator, turning the CO2 molecules into ions by giving them a charge and then accelerating them using an electric field, albeit at much lower energies than are found in a particle accelerator. However, he adds that such a device is not necessary for the reaction to occur.

“You could throw a stone with enough velocity at some CO2 and achieve the same thing,” he says. “It would need to be travelling about as fast as a comet or asteroid travels through space.”

That could explain the presence of small amounts of oxygen that have been observed high in the Martian atmosphere. There has been speculation that the oxygen is being generated by ultraviolet light from the sun striking CO2, but Giapis believes the oxygen is also generated by high-speed dust particles colliding with CO2 molecules.

He hopes that a variation of his reactor could be used to do the same thing at more useful scales—perhaps one day serving as a source of breathable air for astronauts on Mars or being used to combat climate change by pulling CO2, a greenhouse gas, out of Earth’s atmosphere and turning it into oxygen. He acknowledges, however, that both of those applications are a long way off because the current version of the reactor has a low yield, creating only one to two oxygen molecules for every 100 CO2 molecules shot through the accelerator.

“Is it a final device? No. Is it a device that can solve the problem with Mars? No. But it is a device that can do something that is very hard,” he says. “We are doing some crazy things with this reactor.”

The paper describing the team’s findings, titled “Direct dioxygen evolution in collisions of carbon dioxide with surfaces,” appears in the May 24 issue of Nature Communications. Caltech co-authors include Tom Miller, professor of chemistry; Philip Shushkov, a postdoctoral scholar in chemistry; and Yunxi Yao, postdoctoral researcher, formerly of Caltech. Funding for the research was provided by the National Science Foundation, the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, and the U. S. Department of Energy.

Materials provided by the California Institute of Technology

Starlink Mission

SpaceX launched the first batch of 60 satellites in Starlink satellites project

SpaceX, the space transportation company founded by Elon Musk successfully launched 60 of its Starlink satellites. If everything goes properly, then the Starlink network of satellites can provide superfast internet connectivity across the globe.

Before the launch of the satellites from Cape Canaveral, Florida, SpaceX announced that Starlink will make the entire earth connected through reliable and cheap broadband connectivity.

The first Starlink mission was broadcast by SpaceX which was launched by a Falcon 9 rocket at 10:30 pm ET on 24th May. Just over an hour of the liftoff, all the 30000 pounds of satellites were deployed by the rockets’ upper stage. This is the heaviest payload which the SpaceX has launched till date.

The release of spacecrafts took place 440 kilometres above the Earth’s surface over the Indian Ocean. The method of deployment was described as odd yet efficient by Elon Musk, as it managed to launch 60 satellites at once. Usually, during a multi-satellite deployment process, a device present at the uppermost stage of the rocket deploys them one after the another with the help of complex spring mechanisms. In December, SpaceX successfully deployed 64 satellites in this way with the help of one rocket.

However this time, a different process was followed by SpaceX. The rocket’s upper stage was spun resembling that of a baseball pitch and slowly the whole stack of Starlink satellites were launched. A SpaceX engineer, Tom Praderio commented that since they are no deployment mechanisms present, the satellites are actually launched like a deck of cards.

The size of an individual satellite is almost that of an office desk and its weight is closely 500 pounds. It is equipped with solar panels and has antennas present for transmission of data. Besides that, the spacecraft has an ion engine which releases krypton gas. It would prevent the Starlink satellite colliding with other satellites and avoid space junk. Once it nears its useful life, it would self-destruct. The engine will also power the satellite to an orbit of 550 kilometres above Earth.

However, the present batch of satellites lack a major component, laser beam interlinks. The future satellites will have these lasers for connecting with other four satellites. In this way, it will form a strong mesh network over Earth facilitating the internet speed almost to that of light’s speed in a vacuum. It is almost 50% greater than fibre-optic cables giving the Starlink satellites a great advantage over the current status.

SpaceX aims to deploy 12000 similar satellites before the deadline of 2027 set by the Federal Communications Commission. For reaching this goal, SpaceX needs to launch more than a mission per month through the next eight years. However, for making the concept work and generate revenue, it needs to launch only 1000 satellites which is way less than 12000.


CERN particle accelarator

Particle accelerators as black hole factories?

One peculiar feature of string theory, one of the candidates for a theory of quantum gravity, is the presence of extra dimensions of space. Typically, string theory models, or models inspired by the theory, include some way of explaining why we do not notice those extra dimensions in everyday life – they are either “rolled up” (see the spotlight text Extra dimensions – and how to hide them), or our world occupies only a small part of the higher-dimensional universe.

Can the presence of such extra dimensions be detected? Depending on how well they have hidden away, the answer might be yes. Typically, the presence of extra dimensions influences the way how strength of gravity increases as you get closer to a given mass. Ordinarily, strength increases (or decreases) with the square of the distance. If you halve your distance to a massive body, the gravitational pull you feel will be four times as strong as at your original location. With extra dimensions in the game, gravity will typically grow stronger much faster – at least at very small distances!

However, for most realistic models with extra dimensions, the length scales at which this stronger-than-usual gravity becomes important are very small – far smaller than the size of an atom, or even an atomic nucleus! The tools to probe such small distance scales are the most powerful “microscopes” that experimental physics has to offer: particle accelerators!

Particle accelerators, length scales, and gravity

In particle accelerators, physicists routinely accelerate elementary particles and bring them to a collision. The particle energy is a measure of the length scales being probed – roughly, the higher the energy, the closer the colliding particles approach each other. If the length scales reached are those where gravity becomes significantly stronger through the presence of extra dimensions, then the result of such particle collisions, which are monitored using sophisticated detectors, should be influenced by gravitational effects.

For some of the models with extra dimensions, this critical threshold would be reached by particle accelerators of the next generation, namely with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European particle physics laboratory CERN near Geneva. This illustration shows a view of the tunnel in which the LHC have. The blue tubes are the covers of the magnets which keep the particles on track:

View of the LHC tunnel

[Image: CERN]

The most striking gravitational events that could be observed in particle colliders would be the formation of minuscule black holes.

Black holes in particle accelerators?

According to general relativity, a black hole should form whenever any mass is squeezed into a very small region of space. The meaning of “very small” is defined by a length scale called the Schwarzschild radius. This radius depends on the mass, but also on the properties of whatever hidden extra dimensions, there can be. For certain kinds of extra dimensions, the Schwarzschild radius of a given mass will be significantly larger than otherwise. Consequently, in order to form a black hole, you wouldn’t need to compress matter nearly as much as in a space without extra dimensions. Under those favourable conditions, collisions of protons with other protons at the LHC should result in the formation of miniature black holes.

More concretely: Protons consist of subcomponents called quarks. When two quarks in the collision do not just fly past each other but collide nearly head-on, then, at the energies achievable with the LHC, a sufficiently high concentration of mass would result, and a mini-black hole would form. In the following animation, the relevant portion of our three-dimensional world is represented by a plane, embedded in a higher-dimensional (in the image: three-dimensional) space. Ordinary elementary particles are confined to the world-plane – they cannot ever move out into the extra dimensions. When the two particles moving in that plane have almost reached each other, a black hole forms, its horizon represented by the black sphere:

Particles in the plane in near collision, resulting in the formation of a black hole

[Animation size 222 kB, please allow time for loading](Credit:einstein-online.info)

Black holes with extremely less mass are extremely unstable. The intensity of Hawking radiation, a hypothetical quantum process by which black holes emit elementary particles, depends on the black hole’s mass – the smaller the mass of a black hole, the greater the amount of energy emitted in this way. By this process, the mini-black holes formed in particle accelerators would evaporate nearly as soon as they are created – typically, such black holes would only exist for a few tenth of a trillionth of a trillionth (10-25, in exponential notation) seconds. Their decay would result in a blast of a few energetic particles. Possibly, some exotic remnant object might survive as well (however, what such an object could be, and whether or not there really are exotic remnants, is not at all clear to present physics):

Minuscule black hole decaying into particles and into gravitational energy leaving the brane

[Animation size 194 kB, please allow time for loading](Credit: einstein-online.info)

With respect to the numbers, types and energies of the resulting particles a decaying black hole would look different from other particle collisions. Some of its characteristics are directly related to the existence of the extra dimensions: For instance, in the animation above, you can see that some energy associated with gravity (shown as brown, wiggly arrows) is carried off into the extra dimensions – from the point of view of a physicist in our three-dimensional universe, this energy would simply vanish!

When physicists study collisions in particle accelerators, they use sensitive detectors to keep track of the different types of resulting particles and their energies, which enables painstaking reconstructions of each collision. The following image, based on a simulation, shows what physicists might be seen in their detector when a mini-black hole decays:

Simulated particle traces for black hole decay

(Credit: R. Godang using IguanaCMS)

The image shows a sideways cut-away view of the particle detector CMS currently under construction at the LHC accelerator. The colliding particles move at right angles to the image, either directly towards the observer or directly away. The lines represent traces of particles produced by the black hole decay. The green line is the trace of an electron, while the red lines are traces of particles called muons, which are similar to electrons but more massive. The blue and cyan lines denote particles consisting of quarks and are thus distant kin to protons and neutrons – so-called Kaons in blue, pions in cyan.

The detector contains a powerful magnet which produces a strong magnetic field. This field deflects all moving particles which carry an electric charge – in the illustration, their traces are curved. The degree of curvature, combined with other data, is used to infer each particle’s momentum and mass.

By studying collision products, physicists at LHC will be able to identify and study the decay of mini-black holes. In this way, they might be able to prove the existence of extra dimensions, and even gain some insight into their properties.

How often would black holes be produced? The answer depends on what model of the extra dimensions one uses for the calculation. According to some models, black holes should be produced at the LHC at a rate of one per second!

If particle collisions at high-energy may indeed create black holes, we should also expect the creation of other gravitational objects which are predicted by string theory, such as higher-dimensional spatially extended solutions of the gravitational equations called branes – cousins of the three-dimensional extended subdomain that is our world.

Artificial mini-black holes – should we worry?

Do we need to worry? Can these mini black holes start growing and, eventually, devour the whole earth? We should not worry about this. Even if you do not trust the calculations predicting a quick demise for such minuscule black holes, there is solid data to go by.

If black holes really form in high-energy particle collisions, they are also continuously created in the earth’s atmosphere by the collision of Ultra-High-Energy Cosmic Rays (UHECRs) with nuclei of oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and other elements present in the atmosphere.

UHECRs are particles of unknown origin and identity (protons? light atomic nuclei?) reaching the earth from outer space. In such collisions with atmospheric nuclei, a shower of new particles is produced (consisting mostly of electrons, their slightly more massive cousins called muons, and photons). These particles can be detected by specialized observatories on earth or in space, as sketched in the following illustration:

Incoming cosmic ray colliding with atmospheric nucleus, producing a shower of particles, some of which are detected by a detector array on Earth

[Animation size 194 kB, please allow time for loading](Credit: einstein-online.info)

The collision energies for UHECRs can be enormous – some observations show energies of hundreds of TeV (hundreds of trillions of electron volts), which is much larger than the collision energies in particle collider experiments. And while the events with very high energy are exceedingly rare, this type of collision has been going on for literally billions of years, so an inordinate number of mini black holes would have formed. Since the earth has not (yet!) disappeared into one of these black holes, the much less massive man-made mini black holes should be quite safe.

The rarity of ultra-high energy collisions is also one of the reasons that physicists have not been able to confirm or disprove the formation of mini-black holes in this way. Still, this could change over the next few years, as the Pierre Auger Cosmic Ray Observatory in Argentina, which has just started taking data, becomes fully operational.

So will we actually find these tiny black holes? Hard to tell – at the moment, we have no direct evidence that the models predicting the existence of extra dimensions are on the right track, and if they are, that among all the many possible shapes and sizes for the extra dimensions, those realized in our universe allow the production of miniature black holes at a detectable rate. Our search is akin to playing the lottery – we will need to get very, very lucky to find what we seek, but if we did, the payoff would be enormous: We would have the first direct evidence that space has extra dimensions!

Source: http://www.einstein-online.info

Earth moon

Formation of moon is the source of water on Earth

Our planet Earth has a unique place in the solar system. Besides being the only terrestrial planet having a high quantity of water, it also has a large moon which helps in stabilizing the axis of the Earth. These factors have been very crucial for the development of life on Earth.

A group of scientists from the University of Münster in Germany have been able to show that water on Earth first came due to the formation of the Moon nearly 4.4 billion years ago. The formation of the Moon occurred when the Earth was struck by a body nearly the size of Mars known as Theia.

Scientists assumed till now that the formation of Theia took place in the inner solar system close to the Earth. But the scientists from Münster showed that Theia actually came from the outer solar system and it delivered huge amounts of water to Earth. The results of study has been published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

The formation of the Earth took place in the inner solar system which is dry. Hence it is quite amusing that there are large amounts of water on Earth.

According to earlier studies the ‘wet’ materials or the carbonaceous meteorites have come from the outer solar system and the ‘dry’ materials or non-carbonaceous meteorites have come from the inner solar system. It was previously unknown as to how this ‘wet’ material ever came to Earth and how the Earth contains so much water.

Dr. Gerrit Budde of the Institute of Planetology in Münster who is the lead author of this study had used the molybdenum isotope which allows us to clearly distinguish between carbonaceous and non-carbonaceous material and represent a genetic fingerprint in classifying material from outer or inner solar system. Studies have shown that Earth’s molybdenum isotope lies between carbonaceous and non-carbonaceous zone and is believed to be originated from outer solar system.

Molybdenum is mostly present in the Earth’s core and whatever we can access today from the mantle was from the late stages of the formation of the Earth. This shows that carbonaceous material arriving from outer solar system arrived late on Earth. It is known that molybdenum from Earth’s mantle has originated from the protoplanet Theia around 4.4 billion years ago which leads us to the fact that Theia itself originated from outer solar system.

This collision and the deposition of carbonaceous material from Theia is to account for the water on our planet. We have now been able to associate the origin of water with the formation of moon through a unique approach.


NASA Invites You to Send Your Name to Mars

The race to Mars is heating up as space organizations are constantly seeing and predicting that humans will be able to set foot on Mars in the coming decade. NASA is inviting the common people to submit names to fly to Mars aboard NASA’s Mars Rover in 2020. The names will be stenciled on chips and will be sent on through the rover. It is believed to represent the initial leg of the first round trip of humans to the red planet.

Once your name is submitted you will be able to download your boarding pass along with frequent flyer points on the website of NASA. It is said to be a public engagement campaign to highlight missions of Mars. The spacecraft is expected to touch down on Mars on February 2021 and will be launched on July 2020 as per schedule. The primary aim of the mission is to bring back microbial samples of past life, geographical data including soil samples and climate data. The data collected will return back to Earth for research and pave way for human exploration of the Red Planet.

The rover will weigh more than 1,000 kg as per the design plan. Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate has said that NASA expects everybody’s share in this historic mission to Mars and is thus inviting names which will be stenciled on a chip. It expects to solve many profound and pressing questions of our neighbouring planet and to solve questions of the human’s curious mind. Around two million names flew on NASA’s InSight mission to Mars and which resulted in each flyer around 500 million frequent flyer miles.

We got a boarding pass for ScienceHook also

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) will be using an electron beam technology to stencil the names submitted through its website onto a silicon chip with lines of text will be smaller than one-thousandth the width of a human hair ( 75 Nanometers ).  A dime-sized chip on the Rover is expected to be filled with close to one million names and the chips will ride under a protective glass cover. NASA also plans to send American astronauts to the moon by 2024 and the ultimate goal of sending humans on the Red Planet in the coming decade. To accelerate the mission of sending astronauts to Mars, NASA is trying to send humans to Moon as soon as possible.  NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida will be responsible for the launch management and will be launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Click here to submit your name: https://mars.nasa.gov/participate/send-your-name/mars2020

The last date to submit your name is Sept. 30, 2019, and fly along!


pluto new horizon

Researchers discover Pluto to have oceans, otherwise considered fully frozen

Pluto, the ninth planet in our solar system has always been a planet of interest to many scholars and scientists. The existence of Pluto as a planet was a topic of debate in the higher circles of the researchers. Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto in 1930 and it was originally considered to be the ninth planet in our solar system. It was declared a heavenly body and not a planet due to its small size compared to others.

It was thought that the temperature required to maintain a liquid temperature on Pluto was too high but the thick ice has not melted. A new breakthrough occurred recently when Japanese astronomers found a new possibility that suggested a layer of gas between the ice and liquid which allowed both to coexist in nature.

Sputnik platina which was under the New Horizons probe detected a gravitational anomaly which suggests that there is a frozen ocean underneath. It could also explain its age, tectonic plates and other geographical features. The report has been published in the journal Nature Geoscience. In the paper, scientists mentioned that to maintain a liquid Ocean Pluto has to retain heat inside it and that it’s ice shell has to be cold.

The team suggested a hypothesis where they mentioned a gas-hydrate layer, an ice-like form of water and gas trapped within its lattice also called clathrate. A clathrate hydrate gas explains the long term survival of the ocean and shell thickness. Researchers have simulated conditions on Pluto with and without hydrate gas and modelled the thermal evaluation of the dwarf planet and how long would it take for the oceans to freeze completely and to form a uniformly thick layer of shell ice.

According to the simulations, without the gas hydrate layer, the oceans would freeze within 800 million years when animals were starting to evolve on earth. But when a gas hydrate layer was present it showed that oceans ceased to freeze. It acts as a thermal insulator while keeping the ice shell cold.

The most suitable gas for gas clathrate would be methane, making it a reserve of what we know on Earth as flammable ice. The methane is derived from precursor bodies and organic material from the core of the planet. The simulations, however, does not support the observations by New Horizons and demonstrates how liquid oceans can even exist on the iciest planets. This is just another example which supports the diversity and vastness of our solar system.

KELT 9B illustration

Rare-Earth elements detected in the atmosphere of an exoplanet for the first time

The hottest exoplanet which is known to scientists till now is the KELT-9b. In 2018, a group of researchers from universities in Bern and Geneva found signs of iron and titanium in gaseous form in its atmosphere. On top of that, scientists recently observed signs of gaseous sodium, magnesium and also rare metals such as scandium, yttrium.

The exoplanets are those planets which lie outside our solar system and revolve around stars other than Sun. There has been a discovery of almost 3000 exoplanets since the ’90s. Several of these planets have quite extreme conditions as compared to the planets in the solar system. Some of these planets orbit around the stars sometimes with the time of revolution being in the order of days. Planets of such kind do not exist in our solar system and they have often confused scientists about their existence. Scientists have been trying hard to understand how they are formed and what are they composed of.

The distance of KELT-9 from the earth is about 650 light years and is located in the constellation Cygnus. The exoplanet KELT-9b orbits at a very close distance around its star which has a very high temperature. Thus the atmosphere almost touches 4000 degrees Celsius and in this ultra-high temperature nearly all the elements are turned to their gaseous state and the molecules break down into atoms. Thus there is absolutely no presence of clouds in the atmosphere. The atoms which are present in the constituents of the atmosphere absorb very specific light rays and each individual atom has a distinct fingerprint of colours which is absorbed. The measurements of these fingerprints are done with the help of a spectrograph mounted on a huge telescope. This allows scientists to find out the composition of the atmospheres which are situated light years away.

This technique was used by the researchers from the Universities of Bern and Geneva and they had some interesting observations. Kevin Heng, who is the Director of the Center for Space and Habitability commented that they found traces of iron and titanium atoms in the atmosphere of KELT-9b with the help of HARPS-North spectrograph mounted on the Italian National Telescope. In total, they found 73 atoms which also included some of the rare Earth elements. Scientists found traces of sodium and magnesium which was never before detected in the atmospheres of an exoplanet before.

Scientists hope to find traces of life on the exoplanet using these techniques, thus finally detecting the creation of the solar system along with the beginning of life.