The Solar System.
6 views | +0 today
Follow
Your new post is loading...
Your new post is loading...
Rescooped by Apex Evolution from Amazing Science
Scoop.it!

Blue Light Observations Indicate Water-Rich Atmosphere of a Super-Earth Exoplanet

Blue Light Observations Indicate Water-Rich Atmosphere of a Super-Earth Exoplanet | The Solar System. | Scoop.it

A Japanese research team of astronomers and planetary scientists has used Subaru Telescope's two optical cameras, Suprime-Cam and the Faint Object Camera and Spectrograph (FOCAS), with a blue transmission filter to observe planetary transits of super-Earth GJ 1214 b. The team investigated whether this planet has an atmosphere rich in water or hydrogen. The Subaru observations show that the sky of this planet does not show a strong Rayleigh scattering feature, which a cloudless hydrogen-dominated atmosphere would predict. When combined with the findings of previous observations in other colors, this new observational result implies that GJ 1214 b is likely to have a water-rich atmosphere.

 

Super-Earths are emerging as a new type of exoplanet (i.e., a planet orbiting a star outside of our Solar System) with a mass and radius larger than the Earth's but less than those of ice giants in our Solar System, such as Uranus or Neptune. Whether super-Earths are more like a "large Earth" or a "small Uranus" is unknown, since scientists have yet to determine their detailed properties. The current Japanese research team of astronomers and planetary scientists focused their efforts on investigating the atmospheric features of one super-Earth, GJ 1214 b, which is located 40 light years from Earth in the constellation Ophiuchus, northwest of the center of our Milky Way galaxy. This planet is one of the well-known super-Earths discovered by Charbonneau et. al. (2009) in the MEarth Project, which focuses on finding habitable planets around nearby small stars. The current team's research examined features of light scattering of GJ 1214 b's transit around its star.

 

Current theory posits that a planet develops in a disk of dense gas surrounding a newly formed star (i.e., a protoplanetary disk). The element hydrogen is a major component of a protoplanetary disk, and water ice is abundant in an outer region beyond a so-called "snow line." Findings about where super-Earths have formed and how they have migrated to their current orbits point to the prediction that hydrogen or water vapor is a major atmospheric component of a super-Earth. If scientists can determine the major atmospheric component of a super-Earth, they can then infer the planet's birthplace and formation history.

 

Planetary transits enable scientists to investigate changes in the wavelength in the brightness of the star (i.e., transit depth), which indicate the planet's atmospheric composition. Strong Rayleigh scattering in the optical wavelength is powerful evidence for a hydrogen-dominated atmosphere. Rayleigh scattering occurs when light particles scatter in a medium without a change in wavelength. Such scattering strongly depends on wavelength and enhances short wavelengths; it causes greater transit depth in the blue rather than in the red wavelength.

 

The current team used the two optical cameras Suprime-Cam and FOCAS on the Subaru Telescope fitted with a blue transmission filter to search for the Rayleigh scattering feature of GJ 1214 b's atmosphere. This planetary system's very faint host star in blue light poses a challenge for researchers seeking to determine whether or not the planet's atmosphere has strong Rayleigh scattering. The large, powerful light-collecting 8.2 m mirror of the Subaru Telescope allowed the team to achieve the highest-ever sensitivity in the bluest region.

 

Although the team did not completely discount the possibility of a hydrogen-dominated atmosphere, the new observational result combined with findings from previous research in other colors suggests that GJ 1214 b is likely to have a water-rich atmosphere. The team plans to conduct follow-up observations in the near future to reinforce their conclusion.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
more...
No comment yet.
Rescooped by Apex Evolution from Amazing Science
Scoop.it!

Major volcanic eruption seen on Jupiter's moon Io

Major volcanic eruption seen on Jupiter's moon Io | The Solar System. | Scoop.it

One of the most massive volcanic eruptions in the solar system has been spotted on Jupiter's moon Io – by a telescope perched on a volcano on Earth.

 

On 15 August the Keck II telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii recorded fountains of lava gushing from fissures in the Rarog Patera region of Io. Heated by gravitational squeezing from Jupiter and its other moons, Io is covered in volcanoes that erupt almost continuously. This event is easily in the top 10 yet seen on Io by humans, says Ashley Davies of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

 

"We try to look at Io at every opportunity, in the hope of seeing something like this," says Davies. "This time we got lucky." The lava fountains spouted molten rock hundreds of metres above Io's surface, erupting over an area totalling 31 square kilometers.

 

The Galileo spacecraft, which toured the Jovian system from 1995 to 2003, was the last mission to get a close, near-constant view of the action on Io. But other monitoring efforts like the Keck programme have helped make it clear just how much violence Io is capable of.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
more...
SSMS Science's curator insight, October 29, 2013 11:28 PM

Recent observations on lo, one of Jupiter's moons, has shown a huge volcanic eruption there. It is 390,400,000 miles from Earth. lo is the innermost of the four largest moons around Jupiter, and is the most volcanically active object in the Solar System. Dr. Imke de Pater said that this eruption is one of the top ten most powerful eruptions that have been seen on lo. She said, "It is a very energetic eruption that covers over a thirty square kilometer area." She said that is appears to have a large energy output. lo's eruptions can't be seen from Earth, but infared cameras have been able to show that there are likely fountains of lava flowing from it. There has been no photos or data on the eruption, since scientists are still making observations on it. They think a gravitational pull between Jupiter and lo is one cause of the moon's intense vulcanism. I think it is fascinating to see volcanic eruptions somewhere else than Earth. CB

Scooped by Apex Evolution
Scoop.it!

One Of Solar System's Largest Volcanoes Is Under The Pacific Ocean

One Of Solar System's Largest Volcanoes Is Under The Pacific Ocean | The Solar System. | Scoop.it
The largest volcano on Earth, known as the Tamu Massif, is sitting under the Pacific Ocean about 1,000 miles east of Japan, according to a new study by geoscientists at the University of Houston.
more...
No comment yet.
Rescooped by Apex Evolution from Amazing Science
Scoop.it!

Trojan asteroid in Uranus' orbit: Planets are 'playing ball' with it

Trojan asteroid in Uranus' orbit: Planets are 'playing ball' with it | The Solar System. | Scoop.it
Planetary scientists have detected a Trojan -- an asteroid-like object that shares a planet's orbit -- circling the sun ahead of Uranus.

 

The discovery of 2011 QF99, the first of its kind for the ice giant planet, was reported Thursday in the journal Science. According to first author Mike Alexandersen, a doctoral student in astronomy at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, it happened almost by accident.

 

Alexandersen wasn't looking for a Trojan. Nor was he studying Uranus. He and his colleagues were surveying the transneptunian region of the outer solar system, hoping to see what kinds of orbits the objects there followed. (The transneptunian region is more or less the same thing as the Kuiper Belt. Studying the patterns of the icy orbits in the region helps scientists understand how the solar system formed, 4.5 billion years ago.)

 

Studying images snapped using the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope during 2011 and 2012, Alexandersen and the team noticed one object that was moving across the field of vision more quickly than the others, an indication that it must have been closer to Earth than the rest.

 

That wasn't a surprise, but seeing an object that moved the way 2011 QF99 did was a shocker. The scientists had expected to see objects known as Centaurs, which often move inward into the solar system along quirky paths. But over the course of a year of observations they realized that this space rock was traveling in an orbit very much like that of Uranus, which made it seem more like a Trojan, gravitationally bound to its planet. The mysterious object also oscillated the same way a Trojan would.

 

"It was, in fact, a Trojan," said Alexandersen, who added that the team "were certainly not anticipating finding something as cool as this."

 

UCLA planetary scientist David Jewitt, who is credited withdetecting the first Kuiper Belt object in 1992, said that the transneptunian region is the source of all sorts objects hurtling about the solar system, providing an Armada-like "rain of stuff" cascading inward toward the sun.  As they move through the solar system, these objects get caught up in planets' gravity, either getting hurled away or thrown further inward. 

 

Chunks that float around in the zone of the giant planets are called Centaurs; those that make it into the inner solar system, heating and vaporizing in the sun's heat, are known as comets. Trojans are the bits that get captured in particular locations in a planet's orbit where gravity from the sun and gravity from the planet interact to lock them in place. 

 

Some Trojans, around Mars, Neptune and especially Jupiter, are permanently bound to their planets, and have been for billions of years.  Others, like 2011 QF99 and Earth's Trojan 2010 TK7, are only temporarily trapped in their orbits.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Apex Evolution
Scoop.it!

Happy Birthday, Voyager 1! Far-flung Spacecraft Is 36, But Has It Left the Solar System?

Happy Birthday, Voyager 1! Far-flung Spacecraft Is 36, But Has It Left the Solar System? | The Solar System. | Scoop.it
Scientists debating whether or not NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft has already left the solar system can come together today (Sept. 5) to celebrate an uncontroversial milestone — the 36th anniversary of the venerable probe's launch.
more...
No comment yet.