Archive for Europa

Space Update

Posted in Space with tags , , , , , , , on March 17, 2012 by innothingwetrust

I freakin’ love space. I will never understand the mindset of anyone who does not hold it to be the single most gobsmackingly fascinating thing imaginable. The possibilities are (perhaps even literally) endless and the stupendous range of celestial phenomena from star-birthing Nebulae to light-swallowing black holes are both terrifyingly majestic and majestically terrifying. And all that is looking way beyond the things which lie on our very own cosmic doorstep. The planets within our own solar system alone are wondrous enough to captivate global imagination for a lifetime (if only people would look up more!). And, of course, there is the continuous quest for the Universal Holy Grail: finding life elsewhere. A quest which, if concluded with such a find, would radically alter the collective human psyche (at least of those individuals who haven’t yet conceded its almost certain existence) and forever change the entire world and its future, as well as the future of our species. In short, it’s awesome. And I mean dictionary definition ‘awesome’.

So from time to time, I will be sharing with you some of the latest interesting space stuff and probably gushing some more about how blown my mind is.

Close Encounters of the burnt kind
This pretty awesome video has emerged of what hopeful UFO enthusiasts have claimed is footage of an alien space craft ‘summoning energy’ or ‘refuelling’ from our very own Sun. However, NASA have debunked such claims as predictably wishful thinking. The black stream seemingly being sucked from the sun’s surface is a ‘prominence’ (a massive eruption of gas streaming off the surface of the sun), and what looks like the Death Star is in fact a ‘filament’ (a long structure of relatively cool material in the solar corona). Not quite the Independence Day scenario some were hoping for, but it still looks pretty cool (plus this video is accompanied by hilariously dramatic music):

 

Musical stardom
Astronaut Chris Hadfield’s singing career is set to sky-rocket when he becomes the first person to record an original song in space. Hadfield has had two purpose-built cosmic guitars made for the trip in which he will take control of the International Space Station’s ‘Expedition 35’ mission. He will be the first Canadian to captain the ISS – let’s hope the top of his head doesn’t float away:

http://www.space.com/14938-space-guitar-astronaut-music-album.html

 

20,000 Europa leagues under the sea
Jupiter’s moon Europa has long been the source of much excitement for scientists searching for extra-terrestrial life. This is because it is believed to contain some of the key ingredients for life, including liquid water and oxygen. Although Europa is covered in a thick outer crust of ice, it is thought that between this layer and the moon’s warm iron core lies a vast planetary ocean. It had previously been thought that no life could exist in such cold conditions and with no sunlight. However, the discovery here on Earth of ‘extremophiles’ – organisms which live and thrive in extreme circumstances historically dismissed as unlivable – has given rise to the theory that bacterial micro-organisms could also live in the similar environments of Europa. The Jovian satellite’s scarred surface is created by the enormous gravitational forces acting upon Eurpoa by its parent, Jupiter. These forces constantly crack the icy surface and create fissures through which the liquid water beneath rises to the surface and freezes, creating ‘scar’ ridges.

No one is expecting to find the oceans full of whales, sharks, fish, octopuses or squid (although, if there is anything we know of that is close to alien life, it is the squid). At best, we can hope to find single-celled organisms and bacteria. However, even this seemingly meagre discovery would cause a monumental shift in our understanding of life in the Universe. If we need look no further than our own solar system – which, if the Earth was the Universe, is about the equivalent of a centimetre in front of our eyes – for extra-terrestrial bacteria, then we can assume that it is very, very common throughout the Universe. And if bacteria is so common then wherever the right set of conditions for complex life occur, it is likely that many of them will be populated with the right ingredients. Basically, if any form of life exists on Europa, it is extremely likely that complex life exists elsewhere in the Universe, which is why this is such an incredible mission. The following video details an experiment which Russian scientists have carried out to test methods and theories about a possible mission to Europa:

 

Moonwalking through history
NASA have recently released the below animation detailing the history of our moon. It is pretty fascinating and takes into consideration evidence and incredibly detailed pictures collected by the LRO (the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter). Launched in 2009, the LRO has many tasks to undertake, including a detailed mapping of the ‘dark side of the moon’ and a search for lunar water and ice. Full details of the LRO’s mission can be found here: http://lro.gsfc.nasa.gov/mission.html. Anyway, the video is pretty cool:

 

And finally…
How do you arrange a party in space? You planet.

This hilarious joke-ending will also be a regular feature.

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