Smeared Sky Photos by Matt Molloy
Black Marble: Amazing Earth at Night Photos from Space
Earth from Space
Above the Earth
A time lapse taken from the front of the International Space Station as it orbits our planet at night. Beginning over the Pacific Ocean and continuing over North and South America before entering daylight near Antarctica.
Visible cities, countries and landmarks include (in order) Vancouver Island, Victoria, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles. Phoenix. Multiple cities in Texas, New Mexico and Mexico. Mexico City, the Gulf of Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula, El Salvador, Lightning in the Pacific Ocean, Guatemala, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Lake Titicaca, and the Amazon. Also visible is the Earth’s ionosphere (thin yellow line), a satellite and the stars of our galaxy.
Did Slow Space Rocks Seed Life on Earth?
In the illustration: Planets coalesce and rocky bodies collide in an artist’s conception of a young planetary system.
If microorganisms could survive a journey through space inside meteoroids, could life from Earth be transferred to planets in other solar systems—or even vice versa? A new study suggests the possibility is much higher than scientists once thought.
Minimal Posters - Six Women Who Changed Science. And The World.
New Planet Found: Molten “Mars” Is “Right Around the Corner”
Magma may cover UCF-1.01, which orbits scorchingly close to its star, as shown in an artist’s concept.
In a surprise find, astronomers have discovered a planet possibly covered with oceans of magma “right around the corner.”
Using the Roche Limit to Make Earth a Ringed Planet
Are you sick of Saturn lording over the planets with its fancy rings and its Cassini Division? Do you want to give Earth a little style and pizzazz? Let’s take a look at how, if we like it, we might be able to (and I apologize for this) put a ring on it.
No, this isn’t the twin of our solar system — but it’s proof that our planetary orbits aren’t a “fluke”
Yet another piece of evidence that our world is not as unique as we feared: There’s a solar system out there that’s like ours in one extremely vital respect, according to a group of scientists from MIT and the University of California at Santa Cruz.
The solar system, Kepler-30, has planets that travel along regularly aligned orbits. At the center of this solar system is the star Kepler-30a, with three planets traveling around it. The planets, dubbed Kepler-30b, 30c, and 30d, each follow orbiting paths similar to the ones Earth, Mars, or Jupiter travel as they dance around Sun.
Stable planetary orbits are exciting, as astronomers think stability of orbit is key for the existence of life. These planets are located within the Lyra constellation, the same constellation that holds the fictional planet K-PAX from the Kevin Spacey movie of the same name.
Researchers made the discovery while sifting through data obtained by the Kepler Space Telescope. The Kepler Space Telescope currently takes data on over 150,000 stars, with most astronomers gleaning the data in hopes of discovery exoplanets.
While analyzing the data from Kepler, the researchers honed in on a Sun-like star, Kepler-30a. By observing the location of several sunspots on Kepler, the scientists determined the alignment of the planets orbiting the solar system Kepler-30.
Co-author Joshua Winn spoke conservatively on linking the discover to our solar system:
We’ve been hungry for one like this, where it’s not exactly like the solar system, but at least it’s more normal, where the planets and the star are aligned with each other. […] It’s the first case where we can say that, besides the solar system.
In an official press release from NASA, Winn added:
It’s telling me that the solar system isn’t some fluke. […] The fact that the sun’s rotation is lined up with the planets’ orbits, that’s probably not some freak coincidence.
The newly discovered exoplanetary solar system Kepler-30 is not a carbon copy of ours, however. There are only three planets circling Kepler-30a versus the eight (or nine if you are a Pluto stalwart) circling our Sun.
The size of the planets orbiting Kepler-30a is under debate, with their complete orbital period needing additional study. Regardless, the discovery of the Kepler-30 system is exciting, possibly putting us one step closer to determining the conditions necessary for life or maybe — just maybe locating some distant friends in the universe.
Check out the full article, Alignment of the stellar spin with the orbits of a three-planet system, published this week in Nature. Image of the Kepler Space Telescope are from the NASA Ames Research Center. Images by Cristina Sanchis Ojeda/Ames Research Center.
Refractions of Earth by Maianer
Earth’s magnetic field just might be gearing up for a reversal
Our planet’s magnetic field periodically flips its direction, with the magnetic North and South Poles switching places. Such a reversal could wreak havoc on human society — and there’s now reason to think one could happen soon… in geological terms, at least.
Hot enough to boil oceans and vaporize rock. The highest terrestrial temperatures occurred more than four billion years ago, when a Mars-size proto-planet smashed into the Earth. (The debris from this collision formed our moon.) Within a millennium, the surface air temperature had dropped from a high of about 3,700°F down to 3,000°. Then the planet went into a period of slower cooling that lasted a few tens of millions of years. As the atmosphere thickened with heat-trapping water clouds and carbon dioxide and a shell of solid rock formed around the Earth’s core, conditions stabilized at 440°.
The warmest weather we’ve had in recent times—since mammals diverged from the tree of life—came about 55 million years ago, during a period known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. In just a few thousand years, global surface temperatures increased by 5° to 10°, with parts of North America experiencing a tropical climate and spring-like average temperatures in the Arctic.