Hello Readers! If you thought last week was busy, this week is even busier for the world of planetary science! There’s so many great stories that have come out this week that we’ve actually had to cut a few out (don’t worry- we’ll be writing about them soon enough).
Here in the lab we are pleased to report we now have one working spectrometer and one spectrometer we hope to have fixed by the time you’re reading this new round-up! Here’s to hoping we can get on with science next week (and hopefully end up with a few good articles about what we’re doing in the lab for you to read!). Anyway, what’s been happening this week? Find out below:
It’s Earth, But Not As We Know It!
Now, people that keep up to date with the hunt for exoplanets will know that finding Earth like planets is on the top of the agenda. The most recent findings reported to Science magazine are the best candidates for being ‘Earth-like’ that have been found so far. The planets, named Kepler-62e and Kepler-62f, are found in the constellation Lyra some 1200 light years away from Earth and sit at a sufficient distance from the system’s star to be considered in the ‘Goldilocks Zone’. Read more about the discovery here: Kepler telescope spies ‘most Earth-like’ worlds to date.
Antares’ Flawless Ascent
The lift off from the Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia, was a resounding success- with the 10 minute flight being reported as flawless. If everything goes to plan then the Antares rocket will begin supply deliveries to the ISS later this year. During the test, the rocket flew to an altitude of approximately 255 km before releasing a dummy payload- designed to simulate the Cygnus cargo ship which is due to be carried on the next launch of the rocket. Read more about the test flight as well as footage of the launch here: Orbital’s Antares rocket makes test flight. Or alternatively read the NASA release here: NASA partner Orbital Sciences test launches Antares rocket.
Making A Splash In Jupiter’s Atmosphere
The upper atmosphere of our solar system’s largest planet, Jupiter, has been a long standing mystery to planetary scientists. It is unusually wet. Recently, ESA has been investigating why this is and has found an unexpected link with one of the most well known impact events, the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet impact. This impact, or string of 21 impacts, is said to have imparted the water now observed to Jupiter’s atmosphere. Read more about how they came to this conclusion here: Herschel links Jupiter’s water to comet impact.
Dangers Of Debris Discussed
Space debris is rapidly becoming a problem to the world as well as space flight in general. It has become so much of a concern that space agencies around the world are now looking into assessing and solving the problem. The quoted numbers of objects currently estimated to be in orbit include 170 million objects above 1mm in size and 670,000 objects larger than 1cm, all of which can be fatally damaging to spacecraft. Read more about the most recent conference to tackle this threat here: Focus on growing threat of space debris.
Over Turning Galaxy Evolution Theories With The Past
It was originally just a red smudge in images from the Herschel telescope, but now it is an example of an unbelievably fast rate of star formation. Almost 13 billion light years away, this galaxy appears to be producing stars at an astonishing rate of 2000 per year, whilst our own galaxy manages an average of 1 solar mass per year. Read about the full implications of the findings here: Star factory in the early universe challenges galaxy evolution theory.
Finally, I’d like to leave you with this stunning high definition composite image from Hubble and Herschel. It shows the Horsehead Nebula as a composite of the wavelengths of 70 microns (blue), 160 microns (green) and 250 microns (red).
Also, check out the original full sized image here on the ESA website: