China’s 1st Moon Rover Begins Its Exploration –Will It Find Helium-3?

See on Scoop.itUniverse.

China’s first robotic moon rover 140-kilogram (300-pound) “Jade Rabbit” rover separated from the much larger landing vehicle early Sunday, around seven hours after the unmanned Chang’e 3 space probe touched down on a flat, Earth-facing part of the moon leaving deep tracks on its loose soil, state media reported Sunday, several hours after the country successfully carried out the world’s first soft landing of a space probe on the moon in nearly four decades.

The State-run China Central Television showed images taken from the lander’s camera of the rover and its shadow moving down a sloping ladder and touching the surface, setting off applause in the Beijing control center. It said the lander and rover, both bearing Chinese flags, would take photos of each other Sunday evening.

Later, the six-wheeled rover will survey the moon’s geological structure and surface and look for natural resources for three months, while the lander will carry out scientific explorations at the landing site for one year. Jade Rabbit, or Yutu, will start sending back data and pictures from Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows, a basaltic plain formed from lava that filled a crater.

See on www.dailygalaxy.com

3 Years of Hunting Planets | Planet Hunters.

See on Scoop.itPlanet’s

Congratulations everyone! Today is our third birthday. Three years ago we weren’t sure if would even find Planets, today we have lots of candidates and even some confirmed Planets of our very own. Here’s a poster to celebrate: the Planet Hunters avatar made up of the almost-200,000 names of our registered users. Happy Birthday everyone!

See on blog.planethunters.org

Trojan asteroid in Uranus’ orbit: Planets are ‘playing ball’ with it.

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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.

See on www.latimes.com

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

See on Scoop.itThe Solar System.

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.

See on www.naoj.org

Asteroids should be colonized or used as transport to Planets.

See on Scoop.itUniverse.

The potential colonization of asteroids is one of the most promising areas of space exploration – even more so than mining them for resources, Russian scientists say. The creation of closed-cycle ecosystems could possibly turn asteroids into space bases.

Asteroids are often easier to access because they sometimes pass very close to Earth. In fact, they are typically easier to reach than the moon, said Sergey Antonenko, head of the Khrunichev State Space Research and Production Center.

“About 10,000 asteroids are circling around the earth and the asteroid belt consists of approximately 2 million bodies. Their total size is three times larger than that of the earth,” Antonenko said at a space technology forum on Thursday, adding that it would be much better to develop the asteroids’ interiors rather than mine them for mineral resources.

His view is shared by Andrey Degermendzhi, director of the Biophysics Institute of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who believes that an asteroid’s rotation could generate gravity and that closed-cycle ecosystems may be created inside the small celestial bodies.

He says such closed system technologies could be tested on Earth first. Degermendzhi also believes that asteroids could be used as a method of transport.

“Asteroids that have elliptical orbits fly to Jupiter and Mars and may be used as a new means of transportation or base,” he added.

NASA has plans to put humans on an asteroid as early as 2021. This goal is expected to be achieved with the help of a new heavy lift rocket, which is currently being developed. The blue print is called the Space Launch System and it is hoped to be operational after a special robotic spacecraft captures a suitable asteroid with a space lasso and puts it in a stable orbit around the moon.

NASA has acknowledged that any mission to put astronauts on an asteroid will be fraught with challenges and risks.

Asteroid mining is also an attractive idea for some private enterprises. Planetary Resources, a US based company, announced last year that it aims to develop a robotic asteroid mining industry. Another US-based firm, Deep Space Industries, said in January this year that they also hope to start a private development of asteroid mineral riches and manufacture products in space.

Source: Voice of Russia

See on www.spacedaily.com