Even More Evidence Points to the Ninth Planet

Space is a very humbling thing, just once we think we’ve figured something out we realise there is something else we need to learn. Our very Solar System is an example of that with scientists now claiming that there’s even more proof to back up the evidence of a ninth planet in the solar system.

The ninth planet was first speculated in January by a few scientists, but now it would seem that Mike Brown, a planetary astronomer at Caltech University, believes he’s found even more evidence that our solar system may, in fact, have this mysterious ninth planet. The speculation about a ninth planet has only been helped by the research conducted by Brown and a colleague who originally claimed that the behaviour of six objects in the Kuiper Belt supports the existence of another large and distant object.

The Kuiper Belt is a large cloud of icy objects that orbit the sun, just beyond the reach of Neptune and now it would seem that another object in the belt shares the same behaviour as the six bodies that were previously measured.

There is a lot of room in this theory with the bodies suggesting that their movement has been affected by a large planet somewhere between 200 and 1,200 times the distance between the Sun and the Earth. Mike Brown tweeted saying that the new objects location, matching up with the theory of Planet Nine, does nothing but support the idea of another planet in our system.

With no peer-reviewed journal yet to back the claims for a ninth planet, it’s still up for discussion as we wait and see if our solar system may just gain a ninth planet (I’m sorry Pluto, we don’t mean to replace you).

New Horizons Spacecraft Paints a New Picture of Pluto

The dwarf planet on the edge of our Solar System, Pluto, is one of the most enigmatic and unknown to us. Now, a newly published report based on data taken by the New Horizons spacecraft has allowed researchers to get a far clearer picture of the true nature of Pluto.

Pluto’s geology is one of great variety and beauty, including vast crevices, craters and large valleys that stretch across much of its surface. As a contrast to this, there is a 1,000 kilometer long flat plain in the northern hemisphere named the Sputnik Planum. This area is surrounded by enormous icy mountains and large glaciers that flow into the plain. Those studying the plain believe that Pluto’s surface must be constantly reshaping as it is completely unblemished by craters or other features, with Jeffery Moore, a New Horizons co-investigator at NASA Ames Research Center stating that “it can’t possibly be more than 10 million years old; it could also be a day old.” This is before even considering the unusual mountainous protrusions that are believed to be cryo-volcanoes.

Pluto’s atmosphere is also very cold, even colder than researchers believed it would, despite its distance from the sun. Near the surface, the atmosphere is a chilly -233 degrees Celcius, warming to -163 at higher altitudes. The temperature drops off drastically in the upper atmosphere however, with gasses cooling to -202 Celcius. These cold temperatures mean that few gasses escape Pluto’s atmosphere, despite its low gravity, as they are unable to gain the energy to move and end up trapped close to the planet.

This new analysis of the flyby of Pluto that took place in July last year has been published by the journal Science and despite all this new knowledge, there is still so much more to discover. These amazing landscapes also make you wonder just what other unearthly beautiful landscapes exist out there on other bodies in the Solar System. Who knows what else could still be out there?

Icebergs on Pluto Discovered by NASA

There are some truly amazing things that we’ve found in space. Last month, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft sent back images that revealed that Pluto was home to the Wright Mons cryovolcano. Now, scientists have determined from images taken by the very same craft that Pluto’s surface also contains enormous icebergs, spanning several miles of a region of the planet now known as Sputnik Planium.

The large floating ice hills discovered by NASA scientists are believed to be smaller parts of Pluto’s rugged icy uplands that have broken away. After breaking free, the water ice hills are carried into the nitrogen glaciers of Sputnik Planium on flowing seas of liquid nitrogen due to the water icebergs being less dense than the nitrogen-based ice. The floating hills follow the flow paths of the glaciers into the center of Sputnik Planium where they become subject to the convection forces of the nitrogen ice and pushed towards the shores of the nitrogen cells where they cluster together. These clusters of floating hills can reach up to 12 miles across with a feature named Challenger Colles seeming to be an extremely large collection of the hills, measuring 37 by 22 miles. Located away from the cellular terrain, the hills appear to have beached on the shallow shores of the nitrogen ice.

It is discoveries like this that show the true worth of space exploration, as we seek to understand more of the universe we live in. We may never get to see these amazing environmental features up close and in person during our lifetimes, but it is amazing to think of what else could be out there just waiting for us to discover.

New Horizons Sends Images of Pluto’s Possible Ice Volcano

We live in extraordinary times, wouldn’t you agree? We might not be able to set foot on planets such as Mars or Pluto just yet, but we are able to admire them closely thanks to engineering marvels such as the Curiosity rover and the New Horizons spacecraft. Speaking of New Horizons, even though it’s already on its way to the Kuiper Belt, the data that it sent back to Earth when it passed by Pluto is still being analyzed by NASA’s experts in order to understand the dwarf planet better. Apparently, one particular image managed to stand out as it highlighted one of the planet’s icy volcanoes. NASA went ahead and named the formation “Wright Mons” in honor of the Wright brothers, and just in case you’re curious about its precise location, we can tell you that it was spotted at the bottom of the planet’s “heart-shaped” region.

Measuring in at 2.5 miles in height and 90 miles across, Wright Mons could very well be the largest volcano ever sighted on another planet. However, just to put things in perspective, Earth’s own Mauna Loa is quite a bit larger, as it measures 5.7 miles in height. What makes cryovolcanoes special when compared to regular ones is the fact that they actually eject a combination of ice and gasses instead of lava. It would definitely be nice to see Wright Mons in action, but that’s just wishful thinking at this point.

A Look At Time Magazines Selected Space Images Of 2015

Long lasting American magazine “Time” has recently announced a selected list of 55 space images that have captured the imagination of readers and experts alike, below is a look at just a few of these amazing and awe-inspiring pics.

Below is a fantastic image that was captured by The Hubble Space Telescope of the Eagle Nebula “Pillars of Creation”, this was published in January 2015 and it is an incredible image, the detail certainly captures the imagination of space for both budding and also veteran astronomers.   

The image below was captured by the New Horizons spacecraft of Pluto in July 2015, “The New Horizons mission is helping NASA understand worlds at the edge of the solar system by making the first reconnaissance of the dwarf planet Pluto and by venturing deeper into the distant, mysterious Kuiper Belt – a relic of solar system formation”.   The image is fantastic and conveys a world that has previously been out of reach for explorers.  

Below is an image that was captured of an Orbital ATK Antares rocket which exploded just after launching from Pad-0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia, on Oct. 28, 2014. The rocket was carrying an unmanned Cygnus spacecraft filled with NASA cargo, this image was finally released in 2015.  The image feels as if it has just been lifted from a blockbuster movie set or a newly released video game, certainly a spectacular image.

This image below is of Astronaut Scott Kelly who re-entered the International Space Station (ISS) after a space walk, as you do, the image is again spectacular and was released in October 2015. 

The final image was released in December 2015 and is of the Vega rocket that was launched with the aim of testing a variety of methods to detect gravitational waves, the image was released in December 2015. The image certainly conveys the power needed to propel a rocket into space.

Pluto Probe Powered By The Same CPU As The Playstation

Popular topic this week has been the highly detailed photos of Pluto sent by the New Horizons probe, however, these images were not taken using the latest technology available, the device was launched in January 2006 and was clearly constructed even earlier.

The specs inside this probe is a little more primitive than what you would expect to see in a probe today, the CPU powering this mission is a 32-bit MIPS R3000 processor, the exact one used in the Sony Playstation. And no, not the PS2, but the very original PlayStation even basic and low-end even by 2005 standards, but however it worked and is even still working now a decade later, even with the best efforts of being in space.

Quite amazing that the hardware has lasted this long and quite fortunate that it would last long enough to make it to Pluto and still be in perfect functioning order, the choice of hardware may have had something to do with it. It’s possible that specific chip was built to last. where is this probes next mission? If there is any alien life on Pluto they may get the chance to play some classic Play Station games.

What do you think of the probe using a PlayStation CPU?

Thank you kotaku for providing us with this information

NASA’s New Horizons to Name Pluto Landmarks After Your Sci-Fi Favourites

Mount Spock? Skywalker Valley? Tardis Ridge? These landmarks could be coming to Pluto and its satellites, thanks to NASA’s New Horizons mission. The NASA team has compiled a list of names that range from fictional characters from science fiction and fantasy, to their home planets and vehicles, from which to draw future names to newly discovered regions within the Pluto orbitary system. The list also includes noted authors, river gods, and even famous dogs.

The list, derived from an online survey at “OurPluto”, drew over 60,000 ballots and 15,000 candidates, according to Mark Showalter, planetary scientist at the SETI Institute, the body that organised the campaign. The New Horizons probe will be flying over Pluto this month, and Showalter expects the team to start naming the subsequent geographical discoveries as early as 14th July.

Though names must be approved by the International Astronomical Union, Showalter was keen to involve the public in the process. “It’s up to the IAU, but since the public was so invested in the process, we thought it was appropriate to let the public know what we’re proposing,” Showalter told NBC News.

NBC has compiled the highlights of the “OurPluto” list:

  • Features on Pluto:The themes include space missions and spacecraft (Columbia and Challenger, Sputnik and Soyuz), scientists and engineers (Tombaugh, Lowell and Oort), historic explorers (Norgay, Hillary and Baré), underworld beings and locales (Cthulhu, Balrog and Pandemonium), and travelers to the underworld (Heracles, Virgil and Beatrice).
  • Features on Charon, Pluto’s largest moon:Fictional explorers and travelers (Kirk, Spock, Uhura, Skywalker, Leia, Vader, Alice, Dorothy), fictional origins and destinations (Vulcan, Mordor, Tatooine), fictional vessels (Serenity, Tardis, Nostromo, Galactica), and authors, artists and directors who touched on exploration (Douglas Adams, Arthur C. Clarke, Madeleine L’Engle).
  • Features on the moon Styx: River gods (Ethiopia’s Eqqo, Egypt’s Hapi, Zaire’s Mbongo).
  • Features on the moon Nix:Deities of the night (Chandra, a Hindu moon god; Bodach, a Scottish goblin; Metsaka, a moon goddess of Mexico’s Huichol people).
  • Features on the moon Kerberos:Dogs from literature, history and mythology (Laika and Toto).
  • Features on the moon Hydra:Legendary serpents and dragons (Jabberwock, Smaug and Falkor).

By the end of the month, we could a real-life Serenity Valley. Browncoats beware.

Thank you NBC News for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of International Astronomical Union.