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Home | Tag Archives: Amy’s Everyday Astronomy

Tag Archives: Amy’s Everyday Astronomy

Amy’s Everyday Astronomy: Organic Compounds found in Saturn’s moon Enceladus

Although the Cassini mission ended in September 2017, the data collected is still being examined by scientists. So much had been transmitted by the probe that it will take decades to sift through it all.

Recently, a science team led by Nozair Khawaja of the Free University of Berlin, were studying some of this data collected by the spacecraft’s Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA), which detected ice grains emitted from Enceladus into Saturn’s E Ring.

The scientists used the CDA’s mass spectrometer measurements to determine the composition of the material in the grains.

Powerful hydrothermal vents regularly eject material from the core of Enceladus. This material mixes with water from the moon’s massive subsurface ocean and then is released into space as water vapor and ice grains.

The team discovered new molecules condensed into the ice grains that turned out to be nitrogen and oxygen bearing compounds. These compounds were determined to be organic, the ingredients of amino acids.

Here on Earth, similar compounds are part of a chemical reactions that also produce these building blocks of life. Hydrothermal vents on our ocean floor provide the heat and energy that fuels these reactions. This lends to the belief that the hydrothermal vents on Enceladus might operate in the same way, by supplying the energy needed to produce amino acids.

And now, these organic compounds have been verified in the plumes of Enceladus.

“If the conditions are right, these molecules coming from the deep ocean of Enceladus could be on the same reaction pathway as we see here on Earth. We don’t yet know if amino acids are needed for life beyond Earth but finding the molecules that form amino acids is an important piece of the puzzle,” said Khawaja, whose findings were published October 2nd in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

These new findings work to complement the discovery made by the team last year of large, insoluble complex organic molecules that are believed to float on the surface of Enceladus’ ocean. These finding are what prompted the team to dive deeper with this recent work. Their goal was to hopefully find the ingredients, dissolved in the ocean, that would be needed to form amino acid formation.

“Here we are finding smaller and soluble organic building blocks – potential precursors for amino acids and other ingredients required for life on Earth,” said co-author Jon Hillier.

“This work shows that Enceladus’ ocean has reactive building blocks in abundance, and it’s another green light in the investigation of the habitability of Enceladus,” added co-author Frank Postberg.

Cassini-Huygens is a mission cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Italian Space Agency. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. To learn more about the mission and the science learned from its data, visit the official website.

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For a daily dose of Amy’s Everyday Astronomy:, like and follow her Facebook Pagecheck out her webpage; to read previous articles, click here.

Podcast – Amy’s Everyday Astronomy: Journey through the Solar System – Earth

Our home planet. An ecological wonder full of a variety of different types of animal and plant life, vast mountains and plains, and sunsets that awe and inspire. A place we know intimately. But how much do we really know about our own little corner of the universe?

There is so much to learn about our planet that it cannot all be covered in one podcast. Perhaps in the future we can more in-depth into what makes our planet unique. For today, though, we’ll just do a quick flyby. And who knows, you might just learn something you didn’t know before.

So hit play and I’ll tell you a little more about this place we call home: Earth.

Amy’s Everyday Astronomy: Calling All Kids! NASA/JPL needs your help to Name the Rover

Do you dream of traveling to space and visiting other worlds?

With NASA working hard to get humans to the Moon to stay, one of the goals of this new initiative is to go beyond the moon to the planet Mars. Before the first humans arrive on the Red Planet, though, there is still so much we don’t know about it. That’s why NASA/JPL is working tirelessly on the next phase in Mars exploration, the Mars 2020 Rover.

Now that they’ve finished putting all major instruments onboard, and have finished the initial function checks, the team is preparing the rover and its sky crane descent stage for the next big test: simulating the vibration dynamics of launch, as well as the thermal environment the rover will experience on the Martian surface.

But they still need your help.

This week, NASA/JPL has opened up the Mars 2020 Name the Rover Essay Contest and invited all students in the United States to enter. This contest is open to all public, private, and home schools.

The grand prize winner will not only get to name to new rover, but they will get to travel to watch this new Martian explorer launch in July 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

“This naming contest is a wonderful opportunity for our nation’s youth to get involved with NASA’s Moon to Mars missions,” says Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator. “It is an exciting ay to engage with a rover that will likely serve as the first leg of a Mars Sample return campaign, collecting and caching core samples from the Martian surface for scientists here on Earth to study for the first time.”

Want to enter for your chance to name the next Mars Rover? Students in grades K-12 must submit their proposed rover name, along with a short essay of 150 words or less, explaining why their name should be chosen.

Entries must be received by November 1, 2019. These essays will be divided into three groups, by grade level and then judged on the appropriateness, significance, and originality of both the name and the essay.

Fifty-two semifinalists will be chosen from each group. These semifinalists will represent their respective state or U.S. territory. From there, three finalists will be chosen to advance to the final round.

The final selection process will involve the public having an opportunity to vote online in January 2020 on the nine finalists that are chosen.

NASA will announce the winning name on February 18, 2020—exactly one year before the rover is due to land on the surface of Mars.

“Our Mars 2020 rover has fully taken shape over the past several months, as the project team installed various components onto the chassis: the computer brain and electronics; wheels and mobility system; robotic arm; remote sensing mast; the seven science instruments; and finally, the sample caching system,” says George Tahu, Mars 2020 program executive. “All that’s missing is a great name!”

Send your entries here and YOU could be the one to name the next Mars Rover.

Are you over the age of 18 and wish you could participate? You can! NASA/JPL still needs help judging all the entries they receive. If you’re willing to donate 5 hours of your time to read some great essays, apply to be a judge here.

Stay tuned, we’ll tell you all about the winner and new rover name once they have been chosen!

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For a daily dose of Amy’s Everyday Astronomy:, like and follow her Facebook Pagecheck out her webpage; to read previous articles, click here.

Podcast – Amy’s Everyday Astronomy: Journey through the Solar System – The Sun

Do you ever wonder how the planets formed and why are they all so different?

Perhaps you want to know where comets and asteroids come from?

I hope you’ll join me for this special series, where I will be answering those very questions, and more.

There are many wonders out in the vast universe. So many, in fact, that I’ve been studying the cosmos for many years, and still learn something new every day. It is my hope that I can help you understand it better, too.

With that in mind, in the next several episodes, I will take you on a journey through our solar system, starting at the center.

Hit play and listen in as I teach you more about our very own star: the Sun.

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For a daily dose of Amy’s Everyday Astronomy:, like and follow her Facebook Pagecheck out her webpage; to read previous articles, click here.

Podcast – Amy’s Everyday Astronomy: Talking History Channel’s ‘Unidentified’

In this episode I talk about the Season 1 finale of Unidentified, a show that is available on the History Channel.

It’s a subject I’m following closely given all the new evidence that’s come to light in the public view recently. Plus, let’s face it, the idea of aliens is just so fascinating.

If you’ve seen anything interesting in the skies, feel free to let me know! You can send me an email to acooley@epheraldpost.com, or drop a message to my Facebook page.

And if you’d like to learn more about what I talk about, check out the links below:

To read my article about this here in the El Paso Herald-Post
For full episodes of Unidentified, click here.
For full episode of Ancient Aliens click here.
To learn more about MUFON, click here.

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For a daily dose of Amy’s Everyday Astronomy:, like and follow her Facebook Pagecheck out her webpage; to read previous articles, click here.

Amy’s Everyday Astronomy: Area 51 Will Be Expecting You

I know you’ve all seen it. An event created on Facebook where 539,000 people have showed their intent to storm the “secret” government facility known as Area 51 on September 20th of this year.

The hosts of this large scale infiltration claim “They can’t stop us all,” stating, “We will all meet up at the Area 51 Alien Center tourist attraction and coordinate our entry. If we Naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets. Let’s see them aliens.”

If you’ve ever seen the movie Independence Day, you know that one of the most popular conspiracy theories about this place is that it is a research center where alien technology is reverse engineered since perhaps as early as the supposed Roswell crash in 1947.

Many movies, television shows, and articles have been made about this mysterious place.

Over the years, many have attempted to venture out there to find the truth. But none have been successful. Multiple signs with warnings for trespassers can be found in the seeming middle of nowhere. SUVs are always spotted watching those that dare venture too close.

In fact, with an easy Google search, there can be found accounts of confrontations with these supposed security guards that some have dubbed “camo dudes.”

Wild theories aside, the government spent years denying the existence of Area 51. That is, until 2013. That was the year that the National Security Archive was able to obtain a classified CIA document that chronicled the history of the U-2 spy plane. In 1998, a heavily redacted version of this same document had been released, but not much could be gained from reading it.

Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, this newly released document told of an airfield, not used by the military since WWII, that was selected in 1955 in order to test the U-2. Undoubtedly, these test flights accounted for many of the UFO sightings reported in the area.

Following the U-2’s entry into service, Area 51 was used to develop and test many other aircraft including the A-12 (OXCART) reconnaissance plane, and the Nighthawk F-117 Stealth fighter.

This not-so-secret Air Force military installation is located at Groom Lake in southern Nevada and is likely still under heavy security. But since the creation of the Facebook event, many have shown their true humor at this crazy idea. The memes are everywhere.

Whether you believe that aliens have been housed there, or that flying saucers or other alien craft are being studied in dimly lit hangars, it’s probably not the safest bet to join the masses.

Given the publicity this stunt has garnered, several things can be deduced: either the government will move all interesting craft (and extraterrestrial bodies) out of the facility, or many arrests will occur due to trespassing on government property, or worse. Because, let’s face it, they know you’re coming.

And you can bet they’ll be waiting…

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For a daily dose of Amy’s Everyday Astronomy:, like and follow her Facebook Pagecheck out her webpage; to read previous articles, click here.

Amy’s Everyday Astronomy: Video+Story – Titan’s Dragonfly

So much buzz on the cosmic scene has been about methane on Mars. Earlier this week, I told you all about a larger than usual methane deposit being sniffed out by the Curiosity Rover.

Unfortunately, the methane detected has since wafted away.

But one place that not many people talk about contains methane in such abundance that it rains liquid methane. Lakes, rivers, and seas of methane flow on its surface. And the atmosphere is largely made up of…you guessed it: methane.

This place is Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.

“Titan is unlike any other place in the solar system, and Dragonfly is like no other mission,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for Science. “It’s remarkable to think of this rotorcraft flying miles and miles across the organic sand dunes of Saturn’s largest moon, exploring the processes that shape this extraordinary environment. Dragonfly will visit a world filled with a wide variety of organic compounds, which are the building blocks of life and could teach us about the origin of life itself.”

Dragonfly is part of NASA’s New Frontiers program, which includes New Horizons, Juno, and OSIRIS-Rex. This program supports missions that have been identified as top solar system exploration priorities by the planetary community.

“The New Frontiers program has transformed our understanding of the solar system, uncovering the inner structure and composition of Jupiter’s turbulent atmosphere, discovering the icy secrets of Pluto’s landscape, revealing mysterious objects in the Kuiper belt, and exploring a near-Earth asteroid for the building blocks of life,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division. “Now we can add Titan to the list of enigmatic worlds NASA will explore.”

Dragonfly Courtesy of NASA

Set to launch in 2026, the Dragonfly mission will arrive at Titan in 2034 where it will explore a multitude of diverse locations looking for prebiotic chemical processes that are common to both Titan and Earth.

Some of these locales include organic dunes to the floor of an impact crater where liquid water and complex organic materials may once have existed.

Its first stop is the equatorial “Shangri-La” dune fields. This area is terrestrially similar to the dunes in Namibia in southern Africa.

Dragonfly will explore this area in short flights of up to 5 miles (8 kilometers), taking samples from compelling areas along the way. It will continue to “leapfrog” along until it reaches the Selk impact crater. All these sites were chosen using data collected from the Cassini spacecraft.

During its 2.7-year mission, Dragonfly will also investigate the moon’s atmospheric and surface properties, as well as its subsurface ocean. Like Earth, Titan has a nitrogen-based atmosphere. Because it rains methane, other organics are formed in the atmosphere and fall like light snow.

This means that the moon’s weather and surface processes are similar to those that may have given rise to life our planet.

This will be the first time NASA will fly a multi-rotor vehicle on another world. Dragonfly will employ eight rotors and fly much like a large drone. Because Titan has such a dense atmosphere—four times denser than Earth’s—this will make it possible for Dragonfly to be the first vehicle able transport its entire science payload to new locations via flight.

In the end, the lander will have flown more than 108 miles (175 kilometers), doubling the distance traveled by all the Mars rovers combined.

“With the Dragonfly mission, NASA will once again do what no one else can do,” said NASA Administrator, Jim Bridenstine. “Visiting this mysterious ocean world could revolutionize what we know about life in the universe. This cutting-edge mission would have been unthinkable even just a few years ago, but we’re now ready for Dragonfly’s amazing flight.”

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For a daily dose of Amy’s Everyday Astronomy:, like and follow her Facebook Pagecheck out her webpage; to read previous articles, click here.

Podcast – Amy’s Everyday Astronomy: Strange sounds from Space

In space, no one can hear you scream.

While this is true, it doesn’t mean space is completely devoid of sound. Audio waves require a medium such as air in order to be heard.

However radio, and other, transmissions are still traveling the reaches of space, waiting to be recorded and played for whomever may be listening.

What I have for you today are some of the most notorious, and perhaps even unique recordings of sounds from space. I recommend listening with earbuds or a headset of some type for best quality.

However, if you choose to listen on the speakers of your laptop or other device, and you have animals around (like cats or dogs), some of the sounds can cause strange reactions in them.

If you’re interested in hearing the audio from the original source from which I got them, the links are provided below:

WOW Signal
Comet 67P
FRBs
Earthly Chorus
Female Cosmonaut

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For a daily dose of Amy’s Everyday Astronomy:, like and follow her Facebook Pagecheck out her webpage; to read previous articles, click here.

Amy’s Everyday Astronomy: The Salty Seas of Europa

“All these worlds are yours, except Europa. Attempt no landing there.”

Most of us are familiar with this famous final message sent from Hal-9000 to all humanity. The movie 2010, based on the writings of Arthur C. Clarke, tantalized us with the possibility of what could be hiding under the icy crust of Europa. But our curiosity didn’t stop with mere images on a screen.

Last September, I told you all about a new mission in the works at NASA/JPL, called the Europa Clipper. Though the mission isn’t set to launch until sometime around 2022-2025, this hasn’t slowed the science being conducted in order to learn more about the frozen Jovian satellite.

The fourth largest moon of Jupiter was found to have liquid water under its icy surface back in the 1990s by the Galileo probe. These findings were confirmed when the Hubble Space Telescope spotted plumes of water shooting out into space in 2014.

On June 12th of this year, however, findings of something even more interesting were published in Science Advances.

If you’ve ever looked at pictures of Europa, you’ll have noticed that the surface is marked by deep lines and dark yellow (almost rust colored) features. And indeed, using visible-light spectral analysis, planetary scientists at Caltech and NASA’s JPL have discovered that the yellow color that is visible on the surface is composed of sodium chloride. This is the compound known on Earth as table salt and is the principal component of sea salt.

This is exciting because it suggests that the salty subsurface of the Europa ocean may be more like those of oceans here on Earth than scientists previously thought.

Back when the Galileo probe was in the area, it carried an infrared spectrometer to examine the composition of the moon’s surface. This spectrometer found water ice and a substance that appeared to be magnesium sulfate salts (like Epsom salts). But no one thought to look at the visible light spectrum for analysis.

“People have traditionally assumed that all of the interesting spectroscopy is in the infrared on the planetary surfaces, because that’s where most of the molecules that scientists are looking for have their fundamental features,” said Mike Brown, Professor of Planetary Astronomy at Caltech and co-author of the Science Advances paper.

“No one has taken visible-wavelength spectra of Europa before that had this sort of spatial and spectral resolution. The Galileo spacecraft didn’t have a visible spectrometer. It just had a near-infrared spectrometer, and in the near-infrared, chlorides are featureless,” said Caltech graduate student, Samantha Trumbo, lead author of the paper.

So how did scientists go from magnesium sulfate to sodium chloride?

Higher spectral resolution data from the Keck Observatory on Maunakea suggested that scientists weren’t actually seeing magnesium sulfates on Europa because the spectra of regions expected to reflect the internal composition lacked any of the characteristic sulfate absorptions. Most sulfate salts possess distinct absorptions, and these serve as fingerprints for compounds that should have been visible in the higher-quality Keck data.

“We thought that we might be seeing sodium chlorides, but they are essentially featureless in an infrared spectrum,” Brown said.

To test this idea, JPL scientist Kevin Hand used sample ocean salts, bombarded by radiation to simulate Europa-like conditions. What he found was that several new and distinct features arose in the sodium chloride after the irradiation.

In fact, they changed colors to the point that they could be identified with an analysis of the visible spectrum, and sodium chloride turned a shade of yellow similar to what is visible in the geologically young area of Europa known as Tara Regio.

“Sodium chloride is a bit like invisible ink on Europa’s surface. Before irradiation you can’t tell it’s there, but after irradiation the color jumps right out at you,” said Hand.

Taking a closer look with the Hubble Telescope, the team was able to identify distinct absorption in the visible spectrum that matched the irradiated salt precisely. This confirmed that the yellow color of Tara Regio reflected the presence of irradiated sodium chloride on the surface.

This finding doesn’t guarantee that sodium chloride is derived from the subsurface ocean, but the study’s authors propose that it does warrant a reevaluation of the geochemistry of Europa.

“Magnesium sulfate would simply have leached into the ocean from rocks on the ocean floor, but sodium chloride may indicate the ocean floor is hydrothermally active,” Trumbo said. “That would mean Europa is a more geologically interesting planetary body than previously believed.”

In the end, a familiar ingredient seems to have been hiding in plain sight on the surface of Europa for a long while now. Knowing about its existence makes studying this fascinating natural satellite of Jupiter even more compelling than it was already.

“We’ve had the capacity to do this analysis with the Hubble Space Telescope for the past 20 years,” Brown said. “It’s just that nobody thought to look.”

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For a daily dose of Amy’s Everyday Astronomy:, like and follow her Facebook Pagecheck out her webpage; to read previous articles, click here.

Podcast – Amy’s Everyday Astronomy: The UFO Phenomenon

UFO sightings have been a topic of debate for decades. And it’s no secret that attempts to report such sightings to official channels have often been met with ridicule.

However, that seems about to change, as I detailed in an article back in April called: UFOs and Project New Book. 

Since then, other media outlets around the country have exploded with news of recently released Navy pilot videos and theories about what the footage truly shows.

The real question, I think, is WHY is this so prevalent? Why is everyone, including government and military officials, having such an open discussion about a topic that was once so taboo that official investigations took place behind the closed doors of secret government agencies that were the subject of rumor and conspiracy theories?

Listen to my new show above as I share my own theories about this.

If have theories of your own, or a strange experience you want to share, I’d love to hear it. Feel free to comment below or send me an email: acooley@epheraldpost.com

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For a daily dose of Amy’s Everyday Astronomy:, like and follow her Facebook Pagecheck out her webpage; to read previous articles, click here.

Amy’s Everyday Astronomy: Quantum Physics and Time Travel

If you’ve ever seen a Back to the Future movie, you’ve probably been tantalized by the idea of going back in time to change things for the better. And if you’re an avid Star Trek fan, you probably understand a great deal about the fundamentals of temporal mechanics. Yet, here in the real world, time travel is all but impossible, depending on who you ask.

A recent article in the New York Times talks about how quantum physicists are trying to tackle the possibility of time travel, at least on a quantum level.

Quantum physics can be a real head-spinner for most people. After all, dealing with the subatomic world can be difficult to comprehend when you’re talking about things that are so small, they cannot be seen and only barely measured. Especially when you must consider Einstein’s “spooky action at a distance” and the Schrödinger equation.

Here’s how these work:

Einstein supposed that two particles could become linked by the strange quantum property of entanglement. These two particles become entangled when they are created at the same place and time in space.

Over time, these particles are separated. However far apart they get from one another makes no difference. According to mathematics, whatever happens to one of the particles affects the other despite the distance between the two. And that is known as spooky action at a distance.

The Schrödinger equation is a differential math equation that is used to describe quantum mechanical behavior. Sometimes referred to as the Schrödinger wave equation, it is used to measure how the wavefunction of a physical system evolves over time.

Basically, this will tell you the probability of finding a particle at a given point (position). Keep in mind that Schrödinger also postulated that if you put a cat in a box with something that could kill it (a radioactive element, for example) and sealed the box, you would not know the true fate of the cat until you opened the box and observed it.

So, until you did that, the cat would exist as simultaneously both alive and dead.
So, how does this tie into the work done by the quantum physicists? Using computers, of course.

A regular computer, much like one you are likely using to read this, processes a series of ones and zeros (bits), known as binary code. As it does this, each bit can only be a one or a zero at a given time. But in a quantum computer, these bits become qubits. This means that the processing code can be a one AND a zero at the same time.

This allows it to perform thousands of calculations simultaneously, as long as no one tries to look at the answer until the end (like Schrödinger’s cat). Using a quantum computer, the quantum physicists attempted to make a wavefunction go backward.

Google’s top of the line quantum computer has 72 qubits. For the experiment, the physicists used an IBM that only had 5, utilizing only 2-3 of these at a time. They put the qubits into an entangled state while mimicking a virtual (artificial) atom.

In this way, using the spooky action at a distance ideal, they were able to tap one of the qubits with a series of microwave pulses, which directly affected its counterpart. After a millionth of a second, they applied another microwave pulse to put a halt on the “evolution” program in hopes of reversing their phase so the qubits could devolve to their more youthful states.

In layman’s terms, they tapped a qubit, causing it and its spooky counterpart to vibrate. Then they tapped them again to stop the vibration and hoped that the qubits would show no signs of ever having been tapped in the first place.

And this actually worked 85% of the time when using only two qubits. But when the scientists used three qubits, they only achieved their goal 50% of the time.

“It remains to be seen whether the irreversibility of time is a fundamental law of nature or whether, on the contrary, it might be circumvented,” the team wrote in their February paper posted online.

In the end, it will take computers with hundreds of qubits in order to achieve the lofty ambitions of quantum mathematicians. At which time, the team’s time-reversal algorithm could be used to test them. Until then, reversing the aging process of a single particle will remain too complicated for even nature, herself.

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For a daily dose of Amy’s Everyday Astronomy:, like and follow her Facebook Pagecheck out her webpage; to read previous articles, click here.

Amy’s Everyday Astronomy: Curiosity Rover to continue investigation of Mt. Sharp

The dream of having humans explore the surface of Mars is one on which NASA is hard at work. But until that time comes, we still have some very awesome science being conducted by our rover counterpart, Curiosity.

Since 2014, NASA’s Curiosity Rover has been climbing Mount Sharp. Rising 3 miles (5 kilometers) from the base of Gale Crater, this area has proven to be an excellent place for investigation.

This is largely because there are several regions that are especially intriguing since they each represent a different period in the history of Mount Sharp.

As highlighted in the video, the chief among these interesting areas is a clay-bearing unit where Curiosity just started analyzing rock samples. Clay is especially exciting because it typically only forms where water was once (or is still) present.

Other intriguing targets along the rover’s proposed path include the rocky cliffs of the sulfate-bearing unit, where the sulfate minerals might be an indication of drying in ancient Martian times.

Because sulfates are salts that form when sulfuric acid reacts with another chemical, this could be a good indication that this area was once very wet. In fact, cutting a path through the sulfate unit is an area known as Gediz Vallis.

This area is believed to be a dried riverbed, and Curiosity will be studying this, too, as it continues its ascending journey of Mount Sharp.

Visiting these places is the key for scientists to learn more about the history of water on the mountain which will unlock better understanding as to how climate changes occurred and why water disappeared from Mars billions of years ago.

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For a daily dose of Amy’s Everyday Astronomy:, like and follow her Facebook Pagecheck out her webpage; to read previous articles, click here.

Amy’s Everyday Astronomy: A (Lunar) Raisin in the Sun

Last week, I told you all about InSight detecting its first likely Marsquake. In the article, I mentioned how scientists have been studying quakes on the moon since the Apollo missions.

Recently, Nature Geoscience published a new paper where they took another look at these shallow moonquakes to establish possible connections to some very young surface features, known as lobate thrust fault scarps.

Our moon has these basins called “mare” where it is thought that the last geologic activity occurred long before the dinosaurs roamed Earth. These mare, thought to be tectonically dead, were surveyed using over 12,000 images taken by the Luna Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC).

It was revealed that at least one of the lunar mare has been cracking and shifting as much as other parts of the Moon. In fact, it’s possible that this is still happening.

“Wrinkle ridges” are curved hills and shallow trenches that are thought to be created by a lunar surface that is contracting as the Moon loses heat and shrinks. These features were revealed in the images taken by LROC and the findings were published in Icarus on March 7, 2019.

While previous research had found similar features in the Moon’s highlands, these wrinkle ridges have never been seen in the basins, until now.

Nathan Williams, a post-doctoral researcher at JPL, led the study that was published in Icarus. He and his co-authors focused on a region known as Mare Frigoris (Cold Sea) that is near the Moon’s north pole.

In this study, they estimated that while some of the ridges may have emerged in the last billion years, while others might be no older than 40 million years. In geologic terms, that’s pretty young, especially given that these basins were thought to have been dead for the last 1.2 billion years.

Because there is no liquid core, or molten movement under the surface of the Moon, there are no tectonic plates. Instead, the tectonic activity happens as the Moon slowly loses heat from when it was formed billions of years ago. And this heat loss is causing the interior to shrink, thus crinkling the surface which creates these distinctive features.

“The Moon is still quaking and shaking from its own internal processes,” Williams said. “It’s been losing heat over billions of years, shrinking and becoming denser.”

So how are scientists able to determine how old these wrinkled ridges are?

Easy – by studying impact craters.

As meteor impacts happen, the surface material is flung up, covering nearby terrain. More impacts mean more debris. This process, known as impact gardening, alters the landscape. Because smaller craters (about the size of a football field) can typically fill to the brim with this type of debris in under a billion years, this gives scientists a basis for time measurement.

Since the images captured by LROC revealed crisp tectonic features, like the wrinkle ridges that cut through the debris, this allowed Williams and his team to deduce that the ridges emerged within the past billion years or so. And these wrinkle ridges are slowly giving the Moon a raisin-like appearance.

Not to worry, though. The lunar shrinkage is indictable to the naked eye. It will still be eons before life on our planet notices measurable changes to the Moon when it’s full. Until then, take yourself outside and look up! The Moon still shines in all her lunar glory, and Jupiter has become visible in the night sky, once again. And you never know what else you’ll see, if you just keep your eyes to the skies!

And if you have a question about the universe, send it to acooley@epheraldpost.com and I’ll feature it in an upcoming article!

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For a daily dose of Amy’s Everyday Astronomy:, like and follow her Facebook Page, check out her webpage; to read previous articles, click here.

Amy’s Everyday Astronomy: Your Questions Answered – Radio Waves in Space

“How is it that things like planets, stars, and other things in space give off radio sounds?”

I love this question. It’s interesting to think that something like a planet or star would give off radio signals that can be recorded and heard. In fact, on YouTube there are several videos of the sounds of different planets and stars. They are eerie to listen to and I recommend doing so with headphones or earbuds.

In order to understand why and how this sound happens, one must first understand magnetic fields, which most planets and stars have.

The magnetic field of planets are usually, as far as scientists know, caused by the liquid of or near a planet’s core. So, for Earth, as an example, the core is solid nickel/iron but is surrounded by molten liquid. The churning of this liquid conducts electricity and has an electric charge.

Every planet’s magnetic field can differ depending on the core. So, in the case of Mars, the magnetic field is not contiguous around the planet’s entirety, likely because its core has solidified and there is no liquid surrounding it. This means that the ancient remnants of its magnetic field are only present in some areas of the planet, itself.

The magnetic field allows a given planet to maintain an atmosphere (and remain habitable if it’s in the goldilocks zone of its parent star).

Without such a field, the highly charged particles emanating from the parent star would blow the atmosphere away and cause other damage to the planet, making it completely uninhabitable. A lack of magnetic field will prevent a planet from producing and maintaining an ozone layer such as Earth’s, which keeps out the other harmful rays of the sun.

For stars, magnetic fields are formed differently.

Stellar magnetic fields are caused by the motion of conductive plasma produced inside a star. If you’ve ever seen pictures of the sun, you’d have noticed large loops of plasma that come out from the surface and go back down again. These regions are caused by the convection happening inside the star as the plasma heats and cools in circular patterns, rising and falling again within the star.

These cause localized areas of electromagnetism. Typically, where the magnetic activity is highest is the areas where we see sunspots.

As charged particles, like those emanating from a stellar body, come into contact with a planet or star’s magnetic field, those particles are accelerated. These speedy particles can give off radio emissions that can sound like whizzes, pops, tones, and even regular static.

Now I bet you’re wondering: “What about rogue planets? If they are not a part of a solar system and are just floating freely in space, do they give off radio signals?”

The answer is: Yes, they do.

Charged particles, like those that we talked about above, continue to travel through space. Remember Newton’s first law of physics: an object in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. This law applies to charged particles, as well. So, anything that emanated from a stellar body will continue to travel through space until it encounters something. And that includes rogue planets.

While the radio signals given off by this encounter will differ compared to that of any other body nearer to a star, there will still be something that can be recorded and heard.

In the end, any object in the cosmos that has a fluctuating magnetic field can produce radio waves. This means that anything, even asteroids and comets, can emit radio waves that can be detected.

If you’d like to hear some of the sounds recorded by NASA, you can do so by clicking here.

In the meantime, grab your lawn chairs and head outside on any given evening. While you can’t hear the radio signals with your own ears, you never know what you’ll see if you just keep your eyes to the skies.

Have a question about physics, astronomy, or a specific NASA mission? Email them to acooley@epheraldpost.com and be sure to check out my Facebook page and website for all kinds of interesting information about the universe!

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For a daily dose of Amy’s Everyday Astronomy:, like and follow her Facebook Page; to read previous articles, click here.

Amy’s Everyday Astronomy: Your astronomy questions answered: What if Jupiter became a star?

Arthur C. Clarke, a man who had his finger on the pulse of the sci fi reading world. If you’ve never read any of his stuff, you’re really missing out on some great fiction writing that is rooted in real science.

One of his series of stories (The Complete Odyssey) is a set of four books (2001, 2010, 2061, and 3001) that follows the idea of aliens who are so much more advanced than humans that they seem god-like. Two of these books have been made into movies. And, in my humble opinion, 2010 is the best of those.

For those have never seen the movie, nor read the book, but plan to…. beware of spoilers ahead.

The story follows Dr. Heywood Floyd, a scientist that sent a team to investigate a large monolith found in orbit of the planet Jupiter back in 2001. The entire team was lost and now, nine years later, he is approached with a proposal to go and find out what really happened to them.

As the course of the story takes us to those answers, while delving into the politics of the cold war, the part I’m going to focus on is near the end when the monolith begins to multiply and seemingly consume the King of Planets. But rather than being taken out of existence, Jupiter ignites, becoming a star (like our own Sun, but on a much smaller scale).

Recently, on my Facebook page, I was asked “With reported lightning storms in its upper atmosphere, why hasn’t it ignited into a star??”

The truth is, Jupiter is a planet plagued with storms. I mean, everyone is familiar enough with its Great Red Spot. This is a storm (much like a hurricane here on Earth) that has been swirling for hundreds of years. But all the lightning on this giant world could not spontaneously cause the fusion process to begin, though igniting the gas within the atmosphere is possible.

Yet, having a planet that’s on fire is not nearly the same thing as the internal, plasmatic burning associated with fusion.

To put things in a different perspective, imagine having a candle and a lightbulb. You can light the candle, but it will only burn for a very finite time. How long depends greatly on wick construction and how much wax is used. Sure, you have light and some heat, but eventually it will be gone. With a lightbulb, the illumination is internal.

Electricity flows into the bulb where it is conducted into a filament that then glows. That light will shine for as long as there is a power source (given the filament is not burned out in the process). Likewise, for Jupiter to become a star, the power source would be that of fusion.

You can read in more detail about the fusion process in my article about black holes.

So, the easy answer is as I mentioned before: Jupiter simply isn’t big enough (doesn’t have the gravitational force necessary) to start the fusion process. As far as scientists know, nothing can change that fact. Jupiter will simply never ignite.

But what if it did?

The new Jupistar would be a small red dwarf star and would shine in the sky in an orange hue, like Mars but much brighter. And if Jupiter somehow began in the internal fusion process at its current size, the first thing that would happen would be a shock wave. This shock wave, caused by the spontaneous ignition, would spread out in all directions.

This would cause many of the asteroids that lie between Mars and Jupiter to be flung toward the inner part of the solar system. Given the size of some of these asteroids, this would be deadly to life on our planet.

Potentially, the extinction level event would dwarf that which killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
But let’s suppose this didn’t happen. We only get hit by tiny asteroids that cause nothing more than a glorious meteor shower, and life remains as it is now. Okay.

There would be times of the year where we were in perpetual twilight due to Jupistar rising at night. At other times of the year, when Jupistar rises in the day time, we would see our large Sun and a smaller, dimmer Sun gracing our skies.

Would this make for warmer days and nights? Probably not.

Keep in mind that the planet Jupiter is 4.2AU (AU is an Astronomical Unit that measures the distance between the Earth and the Sun) away from the Earth at its closest approach. The temperature changes would be all but undetectable, given this distance and how small Jupistar would be.

In its immediate neighborhood, however, things would change a great deal.

One of the largest moons that orbits Jupiter is Europa. This moon is covered in a thick layer of frozen water ice and it is believed that underneath that icy crust lies a liquid ocean. This moon may find itself within the habitable zone of the new Jupistar where the ice would melt and the water warm enough for detectable life to flourish.

Likewise, for Saturn’s moon, Enceladus. Though it may not be within the habitable (goldilocks) zone, the icy crust of this moon (which is not unlike Europa) could warm enough to melt and oceanic life may begin to flourish there, as well. This is provided they both survived the initial shock wave and maintained their current positions.

Still, the thought is intriguing. If Jupistar were real, and stayed its current size, we would have many other worlds to which we could travel and explore.

In fact, the idea of this has fired the imagination of one writer with Futurism who made a simulation of this very scenario back in 2014. You can see that video here.

And if you’d like to run your own “what if” scenarios on our solar system, you can download the software from universesandbox.com for just about $10.

Have fun and remember that even though Jupiter will never become a star, you should keep looking up. Because you never know what you’ll see if you just keep your eyes to the skies.

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For a daily dose of Amy’s Everyday Astronomy:, like and follow her Facebook Page; to read previous articles, click here.

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