Jovian Close Encounter


October 29, 2018  7,000 kilometers above the cloud tops of Jupiter, NASA orbiter Juno captured this image –

Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran

https://earthsky.org/space/juno-spacecraft-image-nov-2018-eichstadt-doran?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=31140f2af9-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_02_02_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-31140f2af9-393970565

Citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran created this color-enhanced image using data from the spacecraft’s JunoCam imager. JunoCam’s raw images are available for the public to peruse and to process into image products here.

Diamond Rain, Bergs and Liquid Floaters


Earthly diamonds begin as carbon deposits 100 miles or more below the surface. Location is everything – carbon heated to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, squeezed under pressure of 725,000 pounds per square inch, lucky enough to cool quickly by hitching a ride on upward flowing magma, become diamonds.

Science knows there’s more than one way to make a diamond. Just as bakers adjust recipes for high altitude cooking, the cosmos creatively adapts to unique circumstance. Earthly optimists turn lemons into lemonade, cosmic forces create diamonds from carbon in the unlikeliest  of places.

Science has speculated for some time that chilly cores of Neptune and Uranus glisten with diamonds. A few years ago science singled out 55 Cancri e, an exo-planet 40 light years from our solar system as a planetary body comprised almost entirely of diamonds. Recently, science said – “new data available has confirmed that at depth, diamonds may be floating around inside of Saturn, some growing so large that they could perhaps be called ‘diamondbergs,'”. Diomand-bergs, good grief! What does that even mean?

Apparently behemoth lightening storms on Saturn and Jupiter create elemental carbon in the form of soot and graphite. Falling deep into the atmosphere, heat and pressure produce diamonds of unfathomable girth. Deeper still, extreme heat and pressures melt solid gems into diamond rain. From diamond-bergs floating in a hidden sea of fluid hydrogen and helium, to other worldly ghost clouds of diamond rain a simple truth emerges – the universe sparkles, even in the shadows it knows how to bake a diamond.

https://www.space.com/23135-diamond-rain-jupiter-saturn.html

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Space Gallery Of The Week


Each week https://www.space.com/32252-amazing-images.html?utm_source=sp-newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=icymi posts “The Most Amazing Space Photos This Week”. Below, a gallery of personal favorites from this week  –

Brilliant Southern Lights and Milky Way Shine at South Pole

“Astrophotographer Hunter Davis captured two images of our galaxy’s band of neighboring stars sharing the sky with the southern lights. They were taken in Antarctica, just over a relay station at the South Pole before the winter solstice, Davis said. The snow that blankets the base of the photos accentuates the brightness of the lights in the sky.”

Friday, June 30, 2017: In this view from the night side of Saturn, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft captured a sliver of sunlight peering over the horizon. Cassini arrived at the ringed planet 13 years ago today. — Hanneke Weitering

“The red giant star Betelgeuse is younger than the sun, but it’s living fast: The star has reached a life stage that the sun won’t hit for billions of years. New photos of the young star may help reveal the upheaval behind its mature appearance.

Stretched along the Chajnantor plateau in the Chilean Andes, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array Telescope, known as ALMA, captured its first image of the surface of this star. In doing so, it has provided astronomers and enthusiasts alike with the highest-resolution image ever captured of the red supergiant, European Southern Observatory (ESO) officials said in a statement.”

Jupiter’s Swirling Cloud Bands, NASA’s Juno spacecraft

Thursday, June 29, 2017: Jupiter’s intricate light and dark bands of cloud formations mesmerize in this enhanced image from NASA’s Juno spacecraft. Citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran created the image using data Juno collected on May 19, when it was about 20,800 miles (33,400 kilometers) above Jupiter’s cloud tops. — Hanneke Weitering
The California Nebula
Tuesday, June 27, 2017: This long, faint cloud of interstellar gas and dust is the emission nebula NGC 1499. Because of its shape, astronomers nicknamed it the California Nebula. It lies about 1,000 light-years away in the constellation Perseus. — Hanneke Weitering

 

Washed In Jupiter


Yesterday each and every one of us was washed by radio beams from Jupiter. Amateur radio telescope operator Thomas Ashcroft of New Mexico recorded  sounds of shortwave energy from Jupiter’s magnetosphere as they swept past Earth.

Each pop and click is the sound of a single beam washing over our planet. “The interesting thing to me,” says Ashcraft, “is that unbeknownst to us Jupiter radio beams are often sweeping over us, actually washing over our bodies if we are outside at the time.”

http://spaceweather.com/

 

Oh JUNO


Pondering the enormity of JUNO’s successful decent into orbit around Jupiter, my friend said it best –

“I’m spellbound!    A man made machine is in orbit around Jupiter.  Galileo is watching.  No religion, no politics, no hatred on Jupiter. How strange and how vast is the range of human endeavor.   A group of people are making history and are about to add volumes to the sum of our knowledge   – and another human is anxiously awaiting  …. and almost begging a cat to go and have a shit!”

 

Europa Or Bust


On February 2, 2015 NASA administrator Charles Bolden spoke of a selection process for projects accompanying a mission to Europa. The same day, a White House announcement revealed an additional half billion in direct funding for the space agency – with 30 million destined to “formulate” plans for Europa Clipper, a mission to Jupiter’s iconic moon, Europa.

Europa captured scientific imagination in 1979 – images from Voyager raised eyebrows over  liquid water, perhaps even lifeforms,  beneath Europa’s frozen exterior. Science speculates this crust to be 100 kilometers thick – many believe a hidden ocean exists, kept liquid by constant push and pull of Jupiter’s impressive gravity. Similar to extreme forms of life found in the deepest corners of our oceans – lifeforms thriving on energy from hydrothermal vents.

Europa Clipper isn’t expected to land – landing will likely take place once the Clipper mission completes accurate mapping and analysis. If all goes well, translation – Clipper’s ice penetrating radar, infrared imaging, and ion/neutral mass spectrometers bolster suspicions – A Europa landing mission will follow.

All I can say is – about time NASA. Europa or bust.

A composite of Europa made from images from the Galileo spacecraft, which orbited in the jovian system for eight years, beginning in 1995.  Image via NASA/JPL

A composite of Europa made from images from the Galileo spacecraft, which orbited in the Jovian system for eight years, beginning in 1995. Areas that appear blue or white contain relatively pure water ice. Image via NASA/JPL

http://earthsky.org/space/nasa-steps-closer-to-a-europa-mission?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=65cad50010-EarthSky_News&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-65cad50010-393970565

Europa Has Plate Tectonics


“Plate tectonics” – “Plate” a geologic term for large slab of rock, and “Tectonics”, part of the root in Greek for “to move” – put them together – suddenly ocean currents, weather patterns, and an average global temperature of 54 degrees Fahrenheit start to make sense. Science accepts the theory of moving plates of rock – 7 major and over a dozen minor plates, making up the Lithosphere. A 100 Kilometer deep  (give or take, here and there) outer crust  floating about on hot layers of  upper mantle.

Tectonic plates couldn’t exist without water. As our world took shape billions of years ago – water was the single factor capable of setting life in motion – accretion settled down, planet Earth announced she was here to stay – it was water that set our unique set of circumstances in motion. There’s a lot of it beneath the surface – perhaps as much as an entire ocean – pooled, saturating, running and generally messing around with otherwise solid stone. Our planet was precisely the proper size to form and cool – not too fast, not too slow, but just right. Mars tried to develop tectonics, science speculates it had an atmosphere and magnetic shield for a cosmic blink, but ultimately proved too small (hence cooled to fast) to make it in the long run.

Plate tectonics are tricky – on Earth they are credited with formation of mountain ranges (the Andes and Himalayas for instance), geographic barriers responsible for trapping moisture, continental drifts and collisions (Antarctica separating from Australia – hence redirection of ocean currents) or volcanic eruptions which released trapped carbon dioxide gas leading to global warming.

Plate tectonics are the reason we have earthquakes – ever drifting sections of the planet grind against each other, exert unimaginable pressure as one plate attempts to overtake another – inevitably very bad days follow. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, monsoons, hurricanes – all products of our unique tectonic designation. I could write pages about Earthly tectonics, but ask  you trust me when I tell you – they are the reason we exist. At the moment, I have Europa on my mind.

Europa is the 6th closest of Jupiter’s 63 moons. It caught Galileo’s attention in 1610 (a ponder in itself – why this moon Galileo?). Of interest to NASA since the early 70’s, modern science suspects Europa’s smooth icy surface hides a liquid ocean – data from the Hubble telescope indicate “plumes” of water vapor spewing from a suspected underground source. Earlier this week, researchers S.A. Kattenhorn and L. M. Procter published findings culled from Hubble images indicating tectonic movement on Europa. Using images from Hubble, they concluded Europa’s surface appeared to move about, much like our own – a conclusion with only one explanation – plate tectonics.

Plate tectonics rely on water, water is the one and only constant needed to support life. We’ve long believed Earth was unique regarding tectonics and the ramifications of liquid water  in relation to supporting any form of life. Pondering Europa as a planetary body with plate tectonics means it’s possible life exists beneath the surface.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/jupiter-s-moon-europa-has-plate-tectonics-like-earth-s/

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has conceptualized a mission dubbed “Europa Clipper”, with an optimistic launch in the next 10 years. Despite a daunting 2 billion dollar price tag, NASA is asking the scientific community to submit suggestions by October 17, 2014 for instrumentation or investigative approaches to determine once and for all if Europa has what it takes to support life.

“Life” is complicated. Plate tectonics  may be tricky, yet one thing remains unshakeable – life exists on Earth due to tectonics – we owe it to ourselves to investigate that possibility on Europa.