Scientists Discover Life Evidence on a Saturn Moon

Large-sized, carbon-rich organic molecules appear to be coming out from the cracks present on the surface of the icy moon of Saturn –Enceladus. This has been observed after the latest findings of the data collected by the Cassini spacecraft of NASA. This discovery establishes the fact that Enceladus is the only place after Earth that has been known to satisfy all the possible conditions that are able to support life as the human beings know it.

The question arises “Do aliens live there?” There could be a possibility. However, it might not be the same scenario as what you might be imagining. A leading planetary scientist confirmed that it cannot be decided whether the origin of the given complex material tends to be biotic. However, there exists strong potential in the given theory. What the scientists mean is that they are still unsure of the origin or source of the heavy, carbon-rich molecules. Yet, it is deduced that it could be from some living organism.

Beneath the icy crust of the Saturn’s moon Enceladus, the surface hosts a warm, mysterious ocean that resides above a rocky core. Several plumes of icy-cold vapor that are hundreds of miles high keep escaping from the ocean’s subsurface into the outer space through the cracks that have been formed in the moon’s crust. The Cassini –NASA’s aboard spacecraft has collected samples from the plumes of icy vapors during the closer flyby of the spacecraft to Enceladus on 28th October, 2015. The spacecraft Cassini had analyzed the collected samples with the help of the Cosmic Dust Analyzer along with a mass spectrometer. The researchers had then reviewed the collected data and came up with the result that depicted the signs of largely-sized, complex carbon-rich molecules.

Cassini, until now, has detected only a much smaller portion of the organic molecules having molecular masses less than 50 atomic mass units. The newly-discovered carbon-rich molecules tend to have molecular masses that go above the range of 200 atomic mass units and are thus, classified as “macro-molecules”. To top it all, these molecules are complex as well. These are made up of elongated chains & rings of carbon. A scientist claimed that this is the first-ever evidence of the presence of largely-sized organic molecules from some extraterrestrial aquatic environment. These could be formed only through the help of equally complex & organic chemical processes.

These types of complex molecules do not dissolve in water. This implies that gas bubbles are responsible for transporting such molecules to the surface of the water bodies where they create an organic film. From the surface of the water, the molecules get transferred into the outer space through the crack on the crust of the moon. Cassini spacecraft has also detected the presence of molecular hydrogen from the rising plumes that emanated from the surface of Enceladus. This again proves to be a vital consideration for the existence of life on Saturn’s moon.

Do Big Black Holes Explore the Galaxy?

In the astronomical science, black holes have always been the topic of interesting discussion. Many are enticed by it, while some dread the theories that highlight the dangers of the massive black hole in our galaxy. A massive black hole resides at the dead core of the Milky Way. This is the same theory for most of the other galaxies out there. When these black holes might not be munching on stars & gas or flashing out intense, plasma jets, these mysterious formations tend to stay quiet relatively.

However, these black holes, as believed by the scientists do not always tend to stay at the core of the galaxy. When galaxies tend to merge, the stars and gas re-distribute amongst themselves. Moreover, the supermassive black holes of the respective galaxies are able to come across an eviction notice and are usually caught by the gravity of the other galaxies. Over the passage of time, several gravitational encounters are able to send the given black hole towards the center of the particular galaxy.

However, in the recent times, astronomers have increasingly come across the fact that when galaxies tend to merge, the black holes do not always necessarily migrate towards the center of the resulting galaxy. In fact, only a smaller fraction of the merging activities will be ultimately creating closer pairs of centralized black holes. This problem serves to be acutely serious when one of the merging galaxies is considerable smaller (at least less than the 10th in mass) than the other merging partner. The components of the smaller galaxy might take longer than the given age of the universe to make the black hole sink towards the galaxy’s center.

As a result, through implications, the massive, big galaxies could be playing host to several stripped-down galactic cores along with the respective black homes. On the basis of how small the particular black hole is being considered, the astronomers have predicted that there are dozens of them that could lurk at the fringes of the galaxies.

A Complete Lot of Black Holes

Towards better understanding what is exactly going on in the given process, an astronomer named Michael Tremmel along with his colleagues conducted an in-depth observation at how the wandering black holes would be moving across the period of a billion years. The respective team made use of high-powdered Romulus simulation set which was aimed at following the growth & expansion of the cosmic structures in a single cube of some computerized space of around 80 million light-years on the side.

The result of the observation revealed that when two galaxies approached each other in the given simulations, the black hole of the smaller galaxy got caught in the outer reaches of the larger galaxy. However, when it comes to Milky Way, there is nothing to worry. Recent studies have revealed that a middle-sized black hole which is smaller than the ones that have explored here, might be able to keep the central black hole of our galaxy in its place.

Our galactic neighbor: Andromeda

The Andromeda Galaxy (M31) taken with a 71/347mm telescope.

Also known as M31, Andromeda galaxy is the nearest congregation to the earth with 2.5 million light years of distance. Like the Milky Way (the galaxy of which the solar system and sun are part), Andromeda has the same shape of a spiral and was discovered in the 20’ for the astronomer Edwin Hubble. He confirmed that Andromeda was a galaxy and not a cloud as many believe.

Andromeda galaxy is stunning with more stars than the Milky Way. You can see it easily with the naked eye from the earth and its name is was given thanks to its position in the constellation of Andromeda. Far from being a spectacular sight of the sky, this galaxy is a massive, turbulent spot on the cosmos. In fact, is expected that Andromeda collides with the Milky Way in 4 billion years. The Andromeda galaxy is coming to us at 400000 kilometers per hour which is fast enough to start planning any scape, right?

Despite the future war between our planet and Andromeda, experts believe that our planet will survive the collision. Why? Because galaxies are made of empty space which is mostly harmless to us. Our universe is infinite and our beautiful earth is hanging there between numberless of things we ignore about.

When is the best time to look for the Andromeda galaxy? You can see at least a small part of the galaxy every night, all year long. But the M31 shines beautifully between September and October in the eastern sky. Winter evenings are also a great opportunity to appreciate our neighbor.

  • Here you have some beautiful quotes about the universe you should read if you’re a fanatic of our world as we do:
  • “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.” Albert Einstein.
  • “I’m sure the universe is full of intelligent life. It’s just been too intelligent to come here.” Arthur C. Clarke.
  • “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” Rachel Carson.
  • “Believe something and the Universe is on its way to being changed. Because you’ve changed, by believing. Once you’ve changed, other things start to follow. Isn’t that the way it works?” Diane Duane.
  • “The universe is big, its vast and complicated, and ridiculous. And sometimes, very rarely, impossible things just happen and we call them miracles. And that’s the theory. Nine hundred years, never seen one yet, but this would do me.” Steven Moffat.
  • “All you really need to know for the moment is that the universe is a lot more complicated than you might think, even if you start from a position of thinking it’s pretty damn complicated in the first place.” Douglas Adams.

Did you know all this about our neighbor galaxy?

 

2018 top astronomy events you must see

For the ones that are waiting for any celestial wonder, here you have the sky events you can’t miss this 2018.

Planets line – March 7 and 8. Three planets will form a cosmic line that we’ll have the honor to witness. By this date, the planets Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter will align in the sky.

Blue Moon – March 31. Besides of appreciating the majesty of a full moon, by the 31st you can see it blue. Residents of Eastern and Central Asia will have the privilege of witnessing this incredible phenomenon. Of course, you may know the moon itself can’t be blue. A blue hue is possible due to volcanic activity or wildfires as dust particles.

A meteor shower – April 16th. A falling star will be seen over Myanmar as part of the Lyrid meteor shower. This event occurs thanks to the Earth that will pass into dust shed. This astronomical event is one of the oldest known, and it was referenced by Zuo Zhuan. It is named for the Lyra constellation, and the meteors will be seen as a part of the sky. The meteor shower will be visible in the Northern hemisphere and the North of the Southern hemisphere.

Eta Aquariids meteor – may 7th. Although the real Halley’s comet will be back by 2061, the eta acuariids meteor shower will be comprised of dust particles that will show the path of the famed comet. Is not a spectacular event but for all the astronomy fanatics in the Southern hemisphere will be visible.

Moon and Venus – July 15th. The crescent moon and Venus will create a stunning pair. North American habitats will be the best positioned to appreciate the two planets at their closest.

Lunar eclipse and Mars at its best – July 27th. The second eclipse of the year will be the longest of the 21 century. The moon will be situated at apogee, the furthest the moon gets from our planet in its orbit, and it will pass right through the center of the Earth’s shadow. This is called “Central Lunar Eclipse,” and it’s the most uncommon. The best view will be for those located from Australia to Brazil and all the ones that are in Eastern Africa and Central Asia.
The same day, you´ll see Mars close to the moon. The red planet will be a bright start in the southern sky. This year Mars will be nearer and at the same time father form our planet over time. Mars will be at its biggest and brightest since the year 2003, and it won’t come close until 2035.

Partial Solar Eclipse – August 11th. A partial solar eclipse will be seen across the Northern regions of North America and Europe. At the same time, for those who are in Greenland, Asia, and Iceland. Depending on your location you’ll see a significant event or not. The most fantastic view will be for the people located in remote sites in Russia and Northeastern China.

Perseids Shower – August 12th. A brilliant meteor will race across the sky considered one of the most intense annual meteor shower. The crescent moon of that day will permit a unique view condition for all the people in the Northern Hemisphere.

TRAPPIST-1 System Discovery

One of the more enduring qualities of mankind is the never ending thirst for discovery. It started with mapping out the land in which we lived and then shifted to the interest of conquering the seas. Once that was achieved, it was only natural that our gaze turned inward and of course, upward.

We often wondered if there was another planet like ours in the vastness of space. As of February of 2017, we got not one–not two—but SEVEN answers to this long standing question.

NASA had announced that they found seven potentially Earth-like planets orbiting a star 40 light-years away. This is certainly the first time such a discovery has been made and it has raised hopes that we’ll eventually find alien life.

The seven planets seem to be closely orbiting a dwarf star named Trappist-1. The dim star is slightly larger than Jupiter and shines with a feeble light that’s 2000 times fainter than our own Sun. The distance in which the seven planets orbit the star is comparable to Jupiter’s moons. They are measured to be near the size of our planet–some varying at around 10% or 20% smaller or larger.

Three of the new planets all live within the habitable zone near their source of heat and light. The conditions on planets so close to dwarf stars, which are known to release fierce bursts of x-rays and ultraviolet light, might not be the most conducive for life. But when the sun goes out in a few billion years, Trappist-1 will still be an infant star. It burns hydrogen so slowly that it will last another 10 trillion years, Snellen writes in an accompanying Nature article. That is more than 700 times longer than the universe has existed, so there is plenty of time yet for life to evolve.

The fact that Trappist-1 wasn’t as bright as our own Sun led to the discovery of the seven new planets. Since their discovery, our scientists have been busy trying to get more substantial data regarding the various atmospheres of the different planets. While initial hypothesis alleged that three of the planets may have water exist on their surface. There is also a possibility that the other four planets may also hold water. This will depend largely upon their atmosphere. So it’s a pretty good opportunity to conduct atmospheric studies.

It presents a good chance to do comparative studies between our own atmosphere and the chemical composition of exoplanet atmospheres. If any of the seven planets contain gases like ozone, oxygen, or methane–there’s a good chance of it holding or even hosting life.

Another pretty exciting thing about this discovery is that dwarf stars like Trappist-1 are pretty common in the galaxy. So, scientifically speaking, there’s a huge leap in the probability of finding other exoplanet discoveries and maybe we’ll be able to find another planet much like our own.

With the new discovery of these seven planets, the chances of finding another Earth-like planet is no longer a matter of if but of when.

Sun Q and A

Today, we discuss the one ball of gas that’s pretty near and dear to our hearts: The Sun. Any astronomy nut will be able to tell you that The Sun is the star at the very center of our solar system and is primarily responsible for our planet’s climate and weather. What we’ll be discussing today are some questions about our Sun.

Q: What is the shape of the Sun?
A: The Sun is an almost perfect sphere. It is estimated that only around a 10 km difference is in its polar diameter compared to its equatorial diameter.

Q: How old is our Sun?
A: From the more recent calculations, our Sun is around 4.6 billion years old.

Q: How many Earths can fit inside the Sun?
A: If we were to hollow out our Sun and place spherical Earths within it, an estimated 960,000 Earths would fit inside.

Q: What is the Sun’s circumference?
A: 4,366,813 km

Q: How long does light from the Sun take to reach Earth?
A: Given the average distance of 150 km from Earth and light that travels at 300,000 kilometers per second, it should take around 500 seconds or 8 minutes and 20 seconds for the light from the Sun to reach Earth. It is important to note that although it reaches Earth in a few minutes, according to space-time relativity, it would have already taken millions of years to travel from the Sun’s core to its surface.

Q: How fast does the Sun travel?
A: If you’re referring to the speed in which the Sun completes an orbit of the center of the Milky way, it would be 220 kilometers per second.

Q: Does the distance between the Earth and Sun remain constant?
A: No. The Earth travels on an elliptical orbit around the sun. Therefore, the distance between the two varies from 147 to 152 million kilometers.

Q: Does the Sun have a strong magnetic field?
A: Yes. Solar flares occur when magnetic energy is unleashed by the Sun in the event of magnetic storms. We see them as sunspots. In these sunspots, the magnetic lines are twisted and often spin–much like how you’d expect a tornado to move.

Q: What is the temperature of the center of the Sun?
A: At the very center of the Sun, temperatures can rise as much as 15 million Celsius.

Q: What is the temperature of the Sun’s surface?
A: The Sun’s surface reaches around 5,600 degrees Celsius.

Q: Does the Sun contain the most mass in the Solar System?
A: Yes. Our Sun contains around 99.86% of the mass in the Solar System. This is so because it is almost three quarters Hydrogen–the rest is Helium.

Q: Is the Sun “immortal”?
A: While the Sun has been depicted as a God in many cultures, it is in fact, not “immortal”. One day the sun will die out. Once the hydrogen in the Sun has burned away, it shall continue to burn for about 130 million more years–consuming what remains (Helium). In which event, the Sun shall expand and consume Mercury, Venus, and the Earth.

Astronomical Events this Month

It’s the start of the new year and for astronomy enthusiasts, that means a whole new calendar for astronomical events! Let’s break down the major events to look out for the month of January 2017.

January 3-4: Quadrantids Meteor Shower

Starting off the 2017 astronomical events is an above average meteor shower. The Quadrantids meteor shower has been recorded to show at least 40 meteors per hour at its peak time. Scientists theorize that these meteors are dust grains that was left behind by an extinct comet discovered in 2003. While the shower is an annual event that runs from the first to the fifth of January, this year it will peak on the third and fourth of this month. It will begin short after midnight and can be seen best by those who live in North America.

January 12: Full Moon

Peaking at 11:34 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time), this will be the first full moon of the year. You won’t need your telescope for this one but you may, if you want to have a closer look at what the Native Americans once refer to as the Full Wolf Moon. As known by many, a full moon is the lunar phase that happens when the moon is completely illuminated as perceived on Earth. It occurs when the hemisphere of the moon which is facing Earth is almost completely illuminated by the Sun and appears round.

January 12: Venus at Greatest Eastern Elongation

If you want to take a closer look at the second planet in our solar system, this will be a good day to do it. On this day, Venus will reach its greatest eastern elongation of 47.1 degrees from the Sun. A planet’s elongation is the angle between the Sun and the planet, with the Earth as the reference point. The greatest elongation of any given planet happens when the inner plant’s position is its orbital path to the Sun, is at tangent to the observer on Earth. As this is an eastern elongation, expect it to occur shortly after sunset.

January 19: Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation

While the eastern elongation occurs after sunset, the western elongation occurs before sunrise. Mercury will be at 24.1 degrees from the sun.

January 28: New Moon

Commonly known as the first phase of the Moon. When observed from Earth, the new moon occurs at the moment when the Moon and the Sun have the same ecliptical longtitude. While the moon itself is not particularly visible, it would appear the same as it would during a solar eclipse (as a silhouette). In non-astronomical perspectives, new moon refers to the first visible crescent of the Moon after a conjunction with the Sun. It’s a good chance to observe the different phases of the moon and jot them down in your astronomy journal.

With the several events that occur this month, it’s a good practice run for the rest of the year. You can either observe it by yourself or get in touch with the astronomy clubs or organizations in your area and start building your network to always be in the know of the upcoming celestial events worth seeing!

What is Dark Matter?

Dark Matter is a theorized type of matter that astronomers and cosmologists define as something in space that appear to be void of mass. The matter cannot be observed in any other means and is only noticeable because it wields gravitational effects on other matter near it. Unlike other matter in space that detected by their radio emissions, stellar activity, or light scattering or via other means, dark matter is invisible.

While it may not be visible via the use of many of the astronomy instruments, this matter is believed to constitute around 26.8% of the total matter in the Cosmos while ordinary matter constitutes around 5%. That means dark matter is most abundant yet the least observable entity in the Universe. It lacks electromagnetic ration meaning it does not emit any electromagnetic waves. Dark matter can only be studied or observed through is gravitational energy it has towards other matter.  Such is its mysterious nature that much of what is known about this matter is only hypothetical.

The vastness of space is dark; it has dark matter and dark energy.  The dark energy constitutes around 68.3% of the total mass of the universe and will constitute around 95.1% of the total mass-energy in the Universe. Note that while ordinary matter is believe to be around 4.9% majority of these matter is unseen because it is partly made up of observable stars and gas inside galaxies and clusters.

When Was The Matter Discovered?

Astronomers Sinclair Smith and Fritz Zwicky did a study of the velocity of galaxies within the Coma and Virgo galactic clusters. It was an analysis done in the 30’s that showed movement of the galaxies that was between ten and hundred times faster than normal, speeds deduced from estimates done based on the observation of stellar density. The two astronomers concluded that the increased speed was due to an unseen entity that was generating additional gravity.

Their finds were not easily accepted with a majority of cosmologists and astronomers being less convinced more so given the distance between earth and the galactic clusters. The complexities or doing accurate measurements of the independent velocities of the various galaxies also added to the debate.

But, more supportive evidence would coming in the 70s as more astronomer and scientists such as Peebles, Rubin and Freeman studies the rotation curves of each galaxy as well as stars in spiral galaxies, which has a faster movement around the galactic core that most visible masses or matter. More studies on dark matter indicated that all galaxies contained the matter and that it stretches far beyond the bounds of any given galaxy visible using telescopes or astronomy instruments.

What Constitutes Dark Matter?

The matter, often referenced as halos, is said to be made up of Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPS) and Massive Astrophysical Compact Halo Objects (MACHOs).  Further studies on this matter has seen various astronomers, cosmologists and scientists hypothesized that the dark matter may also include atoms and other particles most of which are believed to be in brown dwarfs and black holes in different sectors of the universe.

The Upcoming Total Eclipse of 2017

Every budding and old astronomer worth their salt will have something to look forward to next year! A total solar eclipse will be projected to occur on August 21, 2017. A large astral event isn’t exactly an everyday occurrence! So when one is coming, it’s important to be fully prepared to get the most out of your viewing experience! First things first, though! Let’s get the basics out of the way. Let’s discuss the details that you need to know to answer any questions the uninitiated may ask.

What is a Solar Eclipse?

A solar eclipse happens when our moon traverses between the Earth and the Sun—the moon’s shadow then covers the part of the Earth that’s currently facing the Sun. Most scientists are of the opinion that eclipses should be enjoyed while they still occur as our moon is slowly but consistently moving away from the Earth. This movement has been measured at 4 cm per year.

So it is entirely possible that several hundreds of years from now, our descendants will only enjoy an eclipse from the recordings that we have and currently still make.

The last solar eclipse happened on September 1, 2016 and was an annular one rather than a total eclipse.

What is a Total Solar Eclipse?

A total solar eclipse is one of the four types of eclipses that can occur. A total eclipse is quite the odd event by astral standards. Our sun is measured at around 864,000 miles in diameter which is around 400 times the size of our moon which measures at 2,160 miles. However, our moon just happens to be 400 times closer to Earth than the Sun. As a result, when the orbital planes intersect and the distances align just right, the new moon can appear to completely cover the disk Sun.

It turns out that there are two types of shadows to look out for when a total eclipse happens: umbra and penumbra. Umbra is the shadow where all the sunlight is effectively blotted out. Umbra usually takes the shape of a dark and slender cone. Penumbra, on the other hand, is a lighter and funnel-shaped shadow and the sun is only lightly obscured.

When a total solar eclipse happens, the shadow of the moon where all the sunlight is blocked (otherwise called the Umbra) will be cast upon the Earth’s surface. It may actually sweep a third of the Earth’s surface in a little under three hours.

What most photographers and excited astronomers look out for is that Corona. The corona happens when the moon has completely covered the sun. It offers a glimpse of the outer atmosphere of the sun that’s rife with activity. Total coverage can last as long as 7.5 minutes but can go by in a shorter span of time. It truly depends on certain factors that constantly change so it’s best to be on the lookout for future pertinent news!

Where will the Eclipse Be Best Seen?

Our scientists have determined that on August 2017 will be a total eclipse that will offer all astronomers in the content of North America a great view. The moon’s shadow was projected to cover Oregon to South Carolina—quite a feat! People have started calling this to be the Great American Eclipse.

So with this, it’s time to prep your schedules!

Astronomy: An Amateur’s Exceptional Find

Astronomy: An Amateur’s Exceptional Find

Everyone needs a hobby. It’s a good distraction from the every day grind of things. Trouble is, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of hobbies that a complete novice could get into. Most of the more popular hobbies, like photography, require costly equipment like tripods and an actual good camera. Even seemingly simple hobbies like calligraphy can cost quite a bit just for the brush alone! Fortunately, there is an ever present hobby that anyone can get into and it won’t even cost you a cent! All you need to do is look up at the sky at night. That’s right! It’s Astronomy.

Astronomy is the study of celestial objects, space, and the physical universe in its entirety. Medicine men used to rely upon star sign to foretell upcoming seasonal events. Early civilizations used the cycle of the moon to determine and build the calendar their used which, in turn, helped make our own calendar of today.

So just how friendly is astronomy to a beginner? All you need are your eyes, a pen, paper, and the night sky. Really, it is that easy. Astronomy started that way too, after all. The fishermen of the olden days used the stars to guide them as they went upon their trade routes. The jotted down specific constellations and used the north start to determine which way they were sailing. Now, the newbie astronomy enthusiast doesn’t need to be on a boat to be able to do the same thing. Before going out and seeking those stars, read up on them first. What constellations are you familiar with? Then head out to your own backyard or a nearby park at night. Locate any constellations you see above you. What time where they spotted? Come back the next day and at the same time. Did the constellations move? These are some points to look out for.

There’s so much an amateur to astronomy can do. Give yourself some activities once you’ve read up on certain planets and constellations. Challenge yourself in locating, sketching, and naming the ones you’ve seen up above you. Amateur astronomers can study the cycles of the moon and see if they do help establish dates. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with different planets and how long they take to orbit the sun, then you can do the activity where you can establish your age per planet. It may seem silly but it can be quite challenging!

Now, what kinds of cost would this hobby accrue? The answer: Very little. Unless, that is, you really want to get into it and even then, there are astronomy groups all over the different states that are more than happy to bring new astrology lovers into their fold. There are websites like www.skyandtelescope.com that make it rather easy to reach out to other amateur astronomy hobbyists. Organizations often hold gatherings where the more astronomy-crazed people bring their telescopes to be used by org members. It certainly is helpful to be part of a group. Not only are you getting immersed in a fun hobby, you’re meeting new like-minded people while you’re at it.

Should the amateur astronomy hobbyist have the need to purchase a telescope, innovation has definitely been your friend in a major way. However, it is important that you get some experience out in the field first with some of your astronomy buddies. Start with your eyes, target and locate the easier astral bodies. After all, if you can’t spot the basic ones, there would be no need to bust out a telescope set costing hundreds of dollars. If you want to start small, start with binoculars. Then, eventually get your hands on an actual telescope via your astronomy club buddies or even if you’re a tag-along during an astronomy event. Nothing really replaces actual experience.

At the end of it all is the opportunity to learn more about the cosmos and yourself. Astronomy does make for a good choice for amateur hobbyists.