Jupiter’s Opposition

Space & astronomy wiki – the planets in the solar system –

Jupiter's opposition
Jupiter’s opposition

Is when Earth passes more or less between the Sun and Jupiter, placing mighty Jupiter opposite the Sun in our sky

The opposition of Jupiter occurred on February 6 in 2015. On this date, Jupiter came to within 404 million miles of Earth (650 million km), the closest opposition until 2019.

The opposition of Jupiter occurs on March 8 in 2016. Jupiter comes into opposition every 13 months, which is the amount of time it takes Earth to travel once around the Sun relative to Earth.

Read about ancient dust falling onto Mars from Oort Cloud containing metal ions.

Learn how to calculate the orbit of asteroids within the Main Asteroid Belt.

Read about the Rosetta spacecraft preparing to make history by landing on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

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Did Life Evolve in the Early Universe?

Were there even suitable planets upon which life could survive? 

Space news (February 03, 2015) 117 light-years away in the constellation Lyra –

Astronomers have often wondered if life could have evolved in the early universe? Space scientists using data provided by NASA’s Kepler mission recently discovered a planetary system containing as many as five earth-sized planetthat formed when the universe was two billion years old.

The tightly packed system, named Kepler-444, is home to five small planets in very compact orbits. The planets were detected from the dimming that occurs when they transit the disc of their parent star, as shown in this artist's conception. Image Credit: Tiago Campante/Peter Devine
The tightly packed system, named Kepler-444, is home to five small planets in very compact orbits. The planets were detected from the dimming that occurs when they transit the disc of their parent star, as shown in this artist’s conception.
Image Credit: Tiago Campante/Peter Devine

  

The five earth-sized planets discovered orbit close to their home star in the star system called Kepler-444, range in size between Mercury and Venus. They also take less than ten days to complete each orbit, which means the weather on these planets is hotter and more extreme than any planet in our solar system.

Earth-based life would never survive on these planets unless of course, these planets were once further from their home star. If these planets were once located within the habitable zone of their home planet? It’s possible life once evolved and flourished on one or more of these early planets.

“While this star formed a long time ago, in fact before most of the stars in the Milky Way, we have no indication that any of these planets have now or ever had life on them,” said Steve Howell, Kepler/K2 project scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. “At their current orbital distances, life as we know it could not exist on these ancient worlds.”

Space scientists studying the age of planets within a star system measure small changes in the brightness of the parent sun produced by pressure waves within the star. These pressure waves result in small variations in star temperature and luminosity leading to very small changes in brightness. Asteroseismologists – asteroseismology is the study of the interior of suns – use these measurements to determine the diameter, mass, and age of the parent sun. The age of the planets within a star system is the same as the parent sun since they formed at about the same time. 

The existence of earth-sized planets in the early universe indicates life could have evolved and survived. This news doesn’t tell us how common solar systems with planets of this size were, but it does mean the possibility existed. 

What’s next?

Space scientists will now begin looking further back in time and at more early star systems to see if they can find more earth-sized planets life could have evolved on. Any intelligent life evolving in these planets would have long ago moved to another planet. Is it possible we could be descendants of life that evolved in the early universe? If any civilization had the time to develop the technology required to travel the universe and seed planets it would be one that developed on one of these early earth-sized planets.

For more information on NASA’s Kepler space mission go here.

Read about methane clouds moving over the northern seas of Saturn’s moon Titan

Read about the first earth-sized planet discovered orbiting within its home star’s habitable zone

Read about the search for extraterrestrial life taking a turn at Jupiter

Cassini Spacecraft Shows Us Views of the Solar System in Natural Color

Cassini Spacecraft blasts off on its mission to Saturn
Cassini Orbiter blasts off on its mission to Saturn

NASA spacecraft shows us the solar system as it would be seen by human eyes

A breakdown of the onboard instrumentation of the Cassini Orbiter
A breakdown of the onboard instrumentation of the Cassini Orbiter

Astronomy news (2013/12/19) – NASA revealed to the world an image of stunning Saturn taken by the Cassini spacecraft at the Newseum in Washington on Tuesday showing the giant planet as our eyes would view it.

The spectacular image, seen below, is a panoramic composed of 141 wide-angle images, showing us a view 404,880 miles (651,591 kilometers) across of Earth, Venus, Mars, and Saturn and its moons and inner ring system. The image includes all of Saturn’s rings, including the E ring, which is the second ring from the outer edge of the planet’s rings (the distance between the Earth and the Moon would easily fit within the width of the E ring). “In this one magnificent view, Cassini has delivered to us a universe of marvels,” said Carolyn Porco, Cassini’s imaging team lead at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo. “And it did so on a day people all over the world, in unison, smiled in celebration at the sheer joy of being alive on a pale blue dot.”

A real color image taken of Saturn, with Earth, Mars, Venus and a few moons visible
A real color image of Saturn, with Earth, Mars, Venus and a few moons visible

Join the Wave at Saturn Campaign

This spectacular image of Saturn and its moons and rings is part of NASA’s “Wave at Saturn” campaign, which invited people around the United States and the world to take part in a celebration and party on July 19. NASA asked people to take the time to find Saturn in the sky in their part of the world. To say hello to Cassini and the ringed planet by waving across the solar system and loading any pictures they take onto the Internet to be shared with the world. A fun and social way to join the human journey to the beginning of space and time.

The image above shows Earth as the bright blue dot located to the lower right of Saturn. Venus isn’t easily seen in this image and is the bright dot located to the upper left of the giant planet, while Mars is the faint red dot to the left and above Venus. Viewers with good eyes should be able to view seven of Saturn’s moons in the image, including amazing Enceladus just to the left. Take a closer look and you should see icy plumes flying out from Enceladus’s south pole region, which provides the fine, grain-sized icy dust that makes up the E ring.

Saturn’s E-Ring is Visible

Saturn’s E ring appears like a halo surrounding the planet and its inner rings, and the best view of this area is provided by light shining from behind the planet. Astronomers studying Saturn and its rings used enhanced computer programs to improve the contrast and color balance of the pictures. This allowed them to pick out detailed data and evidence which made it possible to trace out the full orbits of smaller moons like Anthe and Methone, for the first time in the history of the human journey to the beginning of space and time. “This mosaic provides a remarkable amount of high-quality data on Saturn’s diffuse rings, revealing all sorts of intriguing structures we are currently trying to understand,” said Matt Hedman, a Cassini participating scientist at the University of Idaho in Moscow. “The E ring shows patterns that likely reflect disturbances from such diverse sources as sunlight and Enceladus’ gravity.”

The astronomers in charge of Cassini usually don’t try to use the instrument to image Earth very often because an unobstructed view of the sun will damage sensitive equipment on the spacecraft. Astronomers had to wait until the sun was hidden behind Saturn, in relation to Cassini, which occurred on July 19, before taking images of Earth and its moon, and the backlit panoramic picture above. “With a long, intricate dance around the Saturn system, Cassini aims to study the Saturn system from as many angles as possible,” said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “Beyond showing us the beauty of the Ringed Planet, data like these also improve our understanding of the history of the faint rings around Saturn and the way disks around planets form — clues to how our own solar system formed around the sun.”

Cassini has been exploring Saturn and its local region for nine years to date, and NASA has indicated the spacecraft will continue its mission until at least 2017. We will bring you more images of Saturn and data concerning the planet as long as the human journey to Saturn continues.

To view the image, visit: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA17172.

A new version of the collage of photos shared by the public, with the Saturn system as the backdrop, is available at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA17679.

More information about Cassini is available at http://www.nasa.gov/cassini and http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov.

Watch this YouTube video on Cassini and mission results here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5zcrEze8L4.

Watch this YouTube video on the picture Cassini took of the Earth and Moon https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-PlmiKs6Mk.

Read about NASA’s Messenger spacecraft and its mission to Mercury

Have you heard about the recent meteorite that exploded near the Ural Mountains

Read about the supernova astronomers are studying looking for a black hole they think was created during the explosion

Planets! Planets! It’s Full of Planets!

Planets! Planets! It's full of planets!
Planets! Planets! It’s full of planets!

The portion of the sky the Hubble Space Telescope is currently looking at is full of planets both big and small

Astronomy News – One of the greatest things about being an astronomer is the excitement of mystery and wonder you feel every time you discover something you never even suspected. This must have been the feeling running through the minds of astronomers looking at the data provided by the Hubble Space Telescope indicating the presence of planets around distant stars. The rush of adrenalin as they went over the data they had worked and waited for must have been truly euphoric.

The Hubble Space Telescope helped us discover the cosmos is full of planets
The Hubble Space Telescope helped us discover the cosmos is full of planets

What kind of planets would they find? Smaller rocky worlds like Earth, larger gas planets like Jupiter, or some unusual planet never before dreamed of. All of their hard work and dedication to the task-at-hand is about to open a door of discovery to worlds of wonder. Worlds with environments unlike anything we have experienced on Earth, where life we could never envision might have evolved. This is why astronomers spend countless days, weeks, months and ultimately lives studying the sky above our heads.

Rocky planets like Earth are starting to be found also
Rocky planets like Earth are starting to be found also

Astronomers see a sky full of planets

The small portion of the sky being studied by astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope is full of planets. Some appear to be of a similar rocky composition to our home planet while others appear to be totally inhospitable to Earth-type life. Planets like Earth are thought to be mainly composed of rocky material, which is denser and thus heavier than the materials making up gas planets. The planets being found orbiting stars in the portion of the sky being surveyed by Hubble are helping to rewrite planet formation theory and other areas of astronomical study. Astronomers are finding planets of types they were expecting to find, and a few they weren’t expecting to see.

Gas planets composed mainly of carbon dioxide!
Gas planets composed mainly of carbon dioxide!

The first planets found by the Hubble Space Telescope were large gas giants, like Jupiter and Saturn, but more recent finds have included planets similar in size and possible composition to Earth. Astronomers want to study Earth-like planets in an effort to uncover more secrets concerning the birth of our own solar system and the planet, which could give us clues to the development and evolution of Earth-like life in our universe. More recent developments even include the first direct imaging of a planet orbiting a distant star.

A planet has now been seen orbiting a distant star
A planet has now been seen orbiting a distant star

The truly amazing part is Hubble is only surveying a portion of the sky with around 100,000 suns and we’re finding more and more planets as astronomers continue to refine their planet finding techniques and instruments. Once we extrapolate and calculate the number of possible planets, using the available data so far gathered, we find the number of possible planets to be beyond count.

Most of the planets found have been within 300 light years of Sol
Most of the planets found have been within 300 light years of Sol

Astronomers will use the James Webb Space Telescope to journey to the beginning of space and time

During the 2013 human space odyssey, astronomers explored a portion of the night sky with the Hubble Space Telescope and exclaimed. It’s full of planets! In the years ahead during the human journey to the beginning of space and time, we expect astronomers to discover undreamed-of worlds, revolving around suns we humans can’t even conceive of. Especially once the James Webb Space Telescope comes online we should expect to visit undreamed of planets.

This is the Near Infrared Spectrograph for the James Webb Space Telescope, which will be used to try to find more planets
This is the Near Infrared Spectrograph for the James Webb Space Telescope, which will be used to try to find more planets

Best to buckle your seatbelt and prepare for the ride of your life! The human journey to the beginning of space and time is about to take off to planets beyond imagination. In the months and years ahead we expect to visit worlds with environments we would find inhospitable at best. Worlds where human survival would be doubtful and any life we found would be unusual beyond imagination.

Click this link to watch a YouTube video on weird planets in the universe.

Weirdest Planets

Read about NASA’s Messenger spacecraft and its mission to Mercury

Have you heard about the recent meteorite that exploded near the Ural Mountains

Read about the supernova astronomers are studying looking for a black hole they think was created during the explosion

Space Exploration: To Boldly Go Where We Have Never Gone Before

The human journey to the beginning of space and time begins

A comparison of the sizes of the stars in the Alpha Centauri system and our own Sun
A comparison of the sizes of the stars in the Alpha Centauri system and our own Sun

Astronomers watch the greatest show on Earth every night

Astronomy News ( 2013-10-15) – Walk out to the darkest star viewing spot you can find at dusk and take a seat, “The greatest show on Earth is about to begin!” Lay back on your cold seat and you become lost-in-space as you stare upwards at one of the first sights to greet human consciousness onto the stage upon awakening during the distant past. Close your eyes and let your mind boldly fly off into the night sky in search of new lands of promise warmed by alien suns. Stand upon undreamed landscapes straight out of the Twilight Zone and record ideas and thoughts that could alter the course of human history and open up avenues to undreamed of events. Human beings have looked skyward in wonder and awe for thousands of years and dreamed of voyaging to the lights in the night sky. Today humans dream of traveling to the nearest star in our sky and standing on alien landscapes which will alter human beings as a race and create history unlike anything dreamed of by science fiction writers.

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For thousands of years, mankind has stood on the tip of the cosmic iceberg and dreamed of reaching for the stars. During the next century, mankind will venture out into the solar system and the unknown. The exoplanet in this Hubble image is Epsilon Eridani (HD 22049 one of the closest to Earth at 10.5 light-years. A voyage to this Jupiter-size planet’s going to take considerably longer than traveling to the Alpha Centauri system. Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble

 

Will human adventures travel across outer space to distant suns in search of answers to questions pondered throughout human history? Will human beings one day journey through the universe seeking the origins of human life or a suitable planet to call home? As Mr. Roddenberry points out, space will be one of the last frontiers of humankind. At the current rate of technological growth, it could be only a matter of time before human beings have the ability to travel across interstellar space looking for non-terrestrial life and the resources humans need to survive and prosper.

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A true visionary, Star Trek’s one of the most popular television shows in history. His dream for the future of mankind is truly inspiring. Credit: StarTreak.com

 

Space Exploration will be far more challenging than life on earth

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Frosty white water ice clouds and swirling orange dust clouds above a rusty landscape show Mars has a dynamic, often chaotic environment in this Hubble image. Even a 43 million miles, it can see details as small as ten miles across. A large amount of seasonal dust storm activity can be seen above the northern polar region (top), with smaller storms nearby, and a large one spilling out of the giant Hellas impact crater in the Southern Hemisphere (bottom right). Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble

 

Traveling across the vast stretches of outer space between Earth and a nearby star system will be far more challenging and dangerous to undertake then climbing the tallest mountain or sailing an unexplored ocean. The distances in both space and time involved in such voyages will require human beings to surmount technological and social obstacles unlike any experienced during life on planet Earth. During the past century, humans have designed and engineered mechanized devices capable of launching into outer space and crossed the short stellar distance between Earth and its moon. We have started to become acquainted with life-in-space and the challenges involved in space travel. During the next fifty years, mankind will travel into the solar system and start to develop the technology required to successfully travel to nearby star systems to begin life again under an alien sun.

 

A Global Mars Map
The image seen here was made by combining four hemisphere views of the Hubble Space Telescope during the Red Planet’s closest approach to Earth into a full-color global map – called a Mollweide projection -. The resolution of Hubble is 12 miles per pixel near the equator. Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble

 

Does mankind presently have the technology, will power, and resources to journey to a nearby star system? The answer at this point in human history is a realistic and resounding, “No!” Using a reaction engine similar to the liquid oxygen/hydrogen main engine of the space shuttle to travel to the nearest star system, Alpha Centauri, would require over 100 years and fuel tanks too big to carry. Nuclear powered propulsion using fusion or fission requires technology and radiation shielding presently unavailable in order for human beings to survive the journey. Doctors also have questions concerning the possible medical problems associated with long-term exposure to acceleration and deep space radiation, and the drag forces involved using this form of propulsion still have to be addressed. The often dreamed of, but at this point unrealized, warp drive will probably never make it off the pages of science fiction books and into the cold of deep space. Instead, it will be replaced by an undreamed of propulsion system allowing us to travel closer to the speed of light, or circumvent the universe’s speed limit using a new idea, yet to be conceived.

Fly over the craters and canyons of Mars watching this Hubble video.

The distances between the stars in the Centauri system are extreme, but it's possible for planets to exist
The distances between the stars in the Centauri system are extreme, but it’s possible for planets to exist

Proxima Centauri or bust

If mankind made traveling to the nearest star system the top priority during the years ahead what would be needed to make the journey a success? The answer to this question continues to change as scientists and engineers study the goal more. The closest alien sun to Earth is the Red Dwarf Proxima Centauri, which on average is the short stellar distance of just 4.22 light-years (24.7 trillion miles or 29.9 km) away. Traveling at the estimated speed of Voyager 1, around 37,000 mph, it would take a spaceship over 76,000 years to complete the journey. During this length of time, human beings would have long enough to evolve significantly in the new and alien environment of deep space. Would we recognize our human ancestors after 76,000 years evolving during a trip through outer space?

The red dwarf sun Proxima Centauri could have planets which could serve as a new cradle for human life to begin anew
The red dwarf sun Proxima Centauri could have planets which could serve as a new cradle for human life to begin anew

Proxima Centauri also has no known planets upon which humans could begin life again under an alien sun. This Red Dwarf star is also significantly cooler than our own sun, so the habitability of any existing alien worlds would be questionable at best. Optimistic humans point out that Proxima Centauri is part of a bigger star system, containing other possible candidates which could have habitable planets. This dim star is considered by many to be part of the bigger Alpha Centauri system, which includes the binary stars Alpha Centauri A and B, just 4.4 light-years from Earth. Astronomers and scientists have their doubts about the possibility of other habitable planets in this star system at this point. Instead, they point to star systems further out in deep space, which seem to offer a better possibility of habitable planets.

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At 4 light-years, Proxima Centauri isn’t visible in the night sky because of its low luminosity and small size at 1/8th the size of Sol. Even though it’s considered a close neighbor this sun is only a pin-like source even with the eagle eye of the Hubble Space Telescope. Considered a flare star, Proxima Centauri occasionally puts on a show. This stellar production of the Milky Way’s expected to have periodic shows throughout the life of the star, an estimated 4 trillion years or over 300 times the age estimate of the cosmos. Better get comfortable. The next show could be awhile! Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble

 

The stars can’t wait

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The International Space Station will be the first stop for mankind on its way deeper into the solar system. From here we’ll make bigger better stations and travel to the Moon, Mars and beyond. Credit: NASA

If humans move to a new home circling an alien sun, we’ll do it in stages, beginning with the exploration of the solar system. The International Space Station will be the staging point for the next phase of the exploration of the solar system. From here we can reach outward into the solar system to see what mysteries and discoveries await us just beyond the visible horizon. We’ll need time to develop the technology required for interstellar space travel and the terraforming of alien worlds. In the meantime, we’ll continue to send out envoys and ambassadors in the form of unmanned spacecraft to nearby star systems within our reach. The first of these envoys of the human race, Voyager 1, has traveled a distance of around 11 billion miles during 35 years of continuous space travel. This puts Voyager 1 still firmly within the boundaries of the known solar system, which reaches some 4.6 trillion miles into cold space and the Oort Cloud on the fringes of our system of planets. Eventually, Voyager 1 will travel beyond the boundaries of the solar system and into interstellar space, and this is when the real human journey to the beginning of space and time begins.

Click this link to watch a YouTube video on the search for earth-like planets.

The search for earth-like planets

Click this link to watch a YouTube video on finding a new cradle for human civilization.
New Earth: A new cradle for human life

Read about NASA’s Messenger spacecraft and its mission to Mercury

Have you heard about the recent meteorite that exploded near the Ural Mountains

Read about the supernova astronomers are studying looking for a black hole they think was created during the explosion

Cycle me This, Cycle me That

Cycles of Life

Astronomers studying the sun have found some interesting things
Everything cycles until death

Astronomy instruments designed to study the sun are specially designed for the job

Astronomy News – Astrophysicists studying stars use the closest star to Earth as their main test subject, Sol. Astronomers met recently during the American Astronomical Society meeting on May 26 in Miami to discuss the usefulness and reliability of three new techniques being used by current solar scientists to delve into the mysteries of the sun. “Scientists hope these three new techniques will help them predict the future behavior of Sol and jet streams, rhythmic oscillations, and magnetic activity all hold promise for solar scientists peering into the depths of the sun.”

David H. Hathaway of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center used the meridional flow scientists studying Sol associate with an increase in the intensity of the solar cycle of Sol, to make a prediction that Sol’s current cycle will peak around 2013, although he thinks this peak will be about half the size of the past three solar peaks.

Sol has been keeping astronomers busy lately

Sol has been in a dark mood lately
Sol in a dark mood

Sushanta Tripathy and Frank Hill of the National Solar Observatory have been studying vibrations from Sol’s surface they call rhythmic oscillations. Their studies have found a strong correlation exists between rhythmic oscillations and the activity level of Sol. They used their data to show that during the present minimum activity period of Sol, a double minimum in solar activity occurred, which they think could in some way relate to Sol’s current in activity.

Julia Saba of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has been taking a look at the data collected concerning the activity of Sol’s magnetic field. Her work has helped her predict, up to 18 months ahead of time, when Cycle 24 would start, and to speculate that Cycle 24 will be weaker and longer in length than average.

Sol is expected to increase in activity

Read about NASA’s Messenger spacecraft and its mission to Mercury

Have you heard about the recent meteorite that exploded near the Ural Mountains

Read about the supernova astronomers are studying looking for a black hole they think was created during the explosion

Cradle for a New Human Genesis

    The search for a new home for human life has started

Astronomers are looking for blue planets inside their home stars life zone
Planets with water are the goal of astronomers

Astronomy will be the next great science

Astronomy News – The search for planets capable of acting as a cradle for a new human genesis has begun. Astronomers are searching the night sky above you for planets circling distant stars within what space scientists refer to as a stars life-zone or habitable-zone. This zone is at an orbital distance from a star allowing for the formation of the elements necessary for Earth-based life to exist. In the search for planets capable of supporting Earth-based life, astronomers are mainly looking for water.

Only looking for planets with the elements we know can support Earth-based life could be putting human-made limitations on the search for habitable planets and the creation of life that will prevent us from seeing the whole picture. Life-on-Earth has always shown itself to be adaptable, unpredictable and totally uncontrollable, and the environments life could evolve in are probably beyond current human imagination. Space scientists conducting computer simulations of planetary systems indicate that the variables that determine the life-zone of a star and its suitability for human life are just being studied and discussed. Water could exist in a usable form for the creation of life during specific periods of time on a planet’s surface for Earth-like planets close to a Jupiter-size planet orbiting in a highly elliptical orbit. A description that fits many of the exoplanets discovered, so far, space scientists note.

We could find that human life is more adaptable than we first thought

Planets with the necessary ingredients to support human-based life are hard to find

A highly perturbed orbit could result in an Earth-like planet experiencing long time-periods of freezing and heating temperatures, with a period of ideal weather for the creation of life, squeezed in between. Hardly the ideal situation for human life and this simulation is only one of the possible exotic habitats we could find on our “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time”. Human life could be walking on planets in the centuries ahead where the length of a day varies wildly, the seasons are unrecognizable, and the year just seems to go on forever.

The crazy zoo-of-planets astronomers are discovering in the night sky is threatening to break the human-made shackles we have attempted to put upon them. The environmental conditions on one or some of these planets could one day provide the elements for a new human genesis that could shatter the foundations of belief systems across planet Earth. Environments capable of supporting human evolution and the development of higher life forms? Astronomers and space scientists have taken another step forward to discovering an answer to this question and astrobiologists are currently continuing the search for a second-Earth for humankind.

Astronomy buffs need to check out the Planetary Zoo

Read about NASA’s Messenger spacecraft and its mission to Mercury

Have you heard about the recent meteorite that exploded near the Ural Mountains

Read about the supernova astronomers are studying looking for a black hole they think was created during the explosion