Showing posts from July, 2017

The Eclipse That Revealed the Universe Source:   By Dennis Overbye, The New York Times For Investigation:  4.1, 6.1 Excerpt: In 1919, British astronomers photographed a solar eclipse and proved that light bends around our sun — affirming Einstein’s theory of general relativity. ...Few eclipses have had more impact on modern history than the one that occurred on May 29, 1919, more than six minutes of darkness sweeping across South America and across the Atlantic to Africa. It was during that eclipse that the British astronomer Arthur Eddington ascertained that the light rays from distant stars had been wrenched off their paths by the gravitational field of the sun. That affirmed the prediction of Einstein’s theory of general relativity, ascribing gravity to a warp in the geometry of space-time, that gravity could bend light beams....

Could a Newfound Molecule on Titan Be a Building Block for Life? Source:   By JoAnna Wendel, Earth & Space Science News Eos/AGU For Investigation:  7.3, 8.2 Excerpt: The discovery of vinyl cyanide in the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan has huge implications for life—but not as we know it. In the game of habitability, only a small fraction of celestial bodies in our solar system competes for the title “most compelling.” There’s Saturn’s moon Enceladus with its watery jets and internal ocean, Jupiter’s moon Europa with another internal ocean, and even our rocky neighbor Mars with its icy poles and occasional water flows. But Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, hiding under a haze of smog, just upped the ante. Researchers found a molecule called vinyl cyanide (C2H3CN) in Titan’s atmosphere. A collection of these molecules, should they rain down into Titan’s methane lakes, could link up to form membranous structures like the squishy walls of our cells, they sa

Saturn Unveiled: Ten Notable Findings from Cassini-Huygens

Source:   By JoAnna Wendel, Eos/AGU Excerpt: The Cassini-Huygens mission launched on 15 October 1997, carrying 12 scientific instruments and a 2-meter-wide saucer-shaped probe called Huygens to land on Saturn’s hazy moon Titan. ...Since its arrival at Saturn in 2004, Cassini has traveled more than 3 billion kilometers in more than 200 orbits around Saturn. It has flown by Titan more than 100 times and the icy ocean moon Enceladus 23 times. And on 14 January 2005, when the Huygens probe touched down on Titan, the mission became the first to successfully drop a lander on an outer solar system moon. .... 1. Cassini Revealed Enceladus’s Potentially Habitable Internal Ocean.... 2. Huygens Showed Us Titan, a Possibly Primordial Earthlike World.... 3. Cassini Changed How We Think of “Habitability”.... 4. Cassini Found Enceladus Ocean Material in the E Ring.... 5. Cassini Unlocked Mysteries of Saturn’s Hexagon.... 6. Cassini Showed Us One of Saturn’s Huge, Infrequent Storms.... 7. …And That

Unlocking Mysteries in the Sun’s 11-Year Cycle

Source:   By Nicholas St. Fleur, The New York Times Excerpt: According to a study published Thursday in the journal Science, our beloved star can be classified as an ordinary “solar-type” star, meaning that the internal processes that control its activity are similar to those seen in many other nearby stars. The sun goes through an 11-year cycle where its magnetic poles flip — imagine the north and south poles on Earth changing place — and during this time the sun’s activity changes between subdued and tumultuous. When activity is low, it is known as solar minimum, and when activity is high, it is known as solar maximum. As the sun nears solar maximum and its activity cycle ramps up, its surface gets covered in sunspots, which are ephemeral dark marks created by strong magnetic activity. “Above sunspots you have complex structures that trigger dynamic phenomenons, eruptions that are like volcanoes,” said Antoine Strugarek, a solar physicist at the French Alternative Energies and At

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Gets Its Close-Up

Source:   By Kenneth Chang, The New York Times 2017-07-12. . . For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 7. Excerpt: NASA’s Juno spacecraft has been making repeated swoops just above the cloud tops of Jupiter. During the latest flyby, on Monday, the spacecraft passed about 5,600 miles over the Great Red Spot, a 10,000-mile-wide storm that has swirled for at least 350 years. NASA posted images from the flyby on the web on Wednesday. ...“The more we zoom into the Great Red Spot, the more turbulent it seems to be,” said James O’Donoghue, another scientist at NASA Goddard. “In some of the processed images we can clearly see anticlockwise rotating cells within the giant storm itself — storms within storms.”....