Tag: Planetary science

Science SunMonday: Volcanic Venus

The more we learn about our solar system, the more interesting it gets:

Could there be volcanoes erupting on Venus?

Scientists think the answer is yes based on the latest data from European Space Agency’s Venus Express, which completed an eight-year mission of Earth’s neighboring planet last year.

Using a near-infrared channel of the spacecraft’s Venus Monitoring Camera (VMC) to map thermal emission from the surface, an international team spotted localized changes in surface brightness between images taken only a few days apart.

“We have now seen several events where a spot on the surface suddenly gets much hotter, and then cools down again,” said Eugene Shalygin from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany, lead author of the paper reporting the results in Geophysical Research Letters.

“These four hotspots are located in what are known from radar imagery to be tectonic rift zones, but this is the first time we have detected that they are hot and changing in temperature from day to day. It is the most tantalizing evidence yet for active volcanism.”

We’ve had hints of this for a long time now: changes in the sulphur content of Venus’ atmosphere, heat signatures of potential volcanos, what appear to be warm lava flows. But this is the clearest evidence yet. This follows on recent evidence of a cryovolcano on Enceladus. We are also seeing some interesting features as probes close in on Ceres and Pluto.

From 9 to 8 to… 10?

WTF? After they demoted Pluto to a planetoid, are they about to tell us that there are two other planets in our solar system? Remember when they told us we had 9 planets in our solar system and that was settled? Let me tell you something: science is never settled. What will they call these 2 big planets out so far from the sun that they probably make Pluto look like the tropics? Maybe they can use the name of one of these cold ass crazy bitches I have been dating lately….

Hal, you know anything about these Spaniards and their research? Inquiring minds want to know.

A Whole New World

Our universe just got a little more interesting:

NASA’s Kepler mission has confirmed its first planet in the “habitable zone,” the region where liquid water could exist on a planet’s surface. Kepler also has discovered more than 1,000 new planet candidates, nearly doubling its previously known count. Ten of these candidates are near-Earth-size and orbit in the habitable zone of their host star. Candidates require follow-up observations to verify they are actual planets.

The newly confirmed planet, Kepler-22b, is the smallest yet found to orbit in the middle of the habitable zone of a star similar to our sun. The planet is about 2.4 times the radius of Earth. Scientists don’t yet know if Kepler-22b has a predominantly rocky, gaseous or liquid composition, but its discovery is a step closer to finding Earth-like planets.

The rumors that Dennis Kucinich has already been “called home” to Kepler-22b are completely unfounded.

Here’s NASA’s cool rendering of the system.

There’s no way, right now, of knowing what this planet is like. It could be like Venus or Mars, incapable of supporting our kind of life. But give how (comparatively) easily Kepler is finding these things, they must be very common.

The day is coming when we will know just how common life is in our universe.