geologic features

Largest Batch of Earth-size, Habitable Zone Planets

Our Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star. Three of these planets are firmly located in an area called the habitable zone, where liquid water is most likely to exist on a rocky planet.

This exoplanet system is called TRAPPIST-1, named for The Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile. In May 2016, researchers using TRAPPIST announced they had discovered three planets in the system.

Assisted by several ground-based telescopes, Spitzer confirmed the existence of two of these planets and discovered five additional ones, increasing the number of known planets in the system to seven.

This is the FIRST time three terrestrial planets have been found in the habitable zone of a star, and this is the FIRST time we have been able to measure both the masses and the radius for habitable zone Earth-sized planets.

All of these seven planets could have liquid water, key to life as we know it, under the right atmospheric conditions, but the chances are highest with the three in the habitable zone.

At about 40 light-years (235 trillion miles) from Earth, the system of planets is relatively close to us, in the constellation Aquarius. Because they are located outside of our solar system, these planets are scientifically known as exoplanets. To clarify, exoplanets are planets outside our solar system that orbit a sun-like star.

In this animation, you can see the planets orbiting the star, with the green area representing the famous habitable zone, defined as the range of distance to the star for which an Earth-like planet is the most likely to harbor abundant liquid water on its surface. Planets e, f and g fall in the habitable zone of the star.

Using Spitzer data, the team precisely measured the sizes of the seven planets and developed first estimates of the masses of six of them. The mass of the seventh and farthest exoplanet has not yet been estimated.

For comparison…if our sun was the size of a basketball, the TRAPPIST-1 star would be the size of a golf ball.

Based on their densities, all of the TRAPPIST-1 planets are likely to be rocky. Further observations will not only help determine whether they are rich in water, but also possibly reveal whether any could have liquid water on their surfaces.

The sun at the center of this system is classified as an ultra-cool dwarf and is so cool that liquid water could survive on planets orbiting very close to it, closer than is possible on planets in our solar system. All seven of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary orbits are closer to their host star than Mercury is to our sun.

 The planets also are very close to each other. How close? Well, if a person was standing on one of the planet’s surface, they could gaze up and potentially see geological features or clouds of neighboring worlds, which would sometimes appear larger than the moon in Earth’s sky.

The planets may also be tidally-locked to their star, which means the same side of the planet is always facing the star, therefore each side is either perpetual day or night. This could mean they have weather patterns totally unlike those on Earth, such as strong wind blowing from the day side to the night side, and extreme temperature changes.

Because most TRAPPIST-1 planets are likely to be rocky, and they are very close to one another, scientists view the Galilean moons of Jupiter – lo, Europa, Callisto, Ganymede – as good comparisons in our solar system. All of these moons are also tidally locked to Jupiter. The TRAPPIST-1 star is only slightly wider than Jupiter, yet much warmer. 

How Did the Spitzer Space Telescope Detect this System?

Spitzer, an infrared telescope that trails Earth as it orbits the sun, was well-suited for studying TRAPPIST-1 because the star glows brightest in infrared light, whose wavelengths are longer than the eye can see. Spitzer is uniquely positioned in its orbit to observe enough crossing (aka transits) of the planets in front of the host star to reveal the complex architecture of the system. 

Every time a planet passes by, or transits, a star, it blocks out some light. Spitzer measured the dips in light and based on how big the dip, you can determine the size of the planet. The timing of the transits tells you how long it takes for the planet to orbit the star.

The TRAPPIST-1 system provides one of the best opportunities in the next decade to study the atmospheres around Earth-size planets. Spitzer, Hubble and Kepler will help astronomers plan for follow-up studies using our upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, launching in 2018. With much greater sensitivity, Webb will be able to detect the chemical fingerprints of water, methane, oxygen, ozone and other components of a planet’s atmosphere.

At 40 light-years away, humans won’t be visiting this system in person anytime soon…that said…this poster can help us imagine what it would be like: 

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Staffa and Fingal’s cave, Inner Hebrides, Scotland. Photos taken last week, when we had the chance to spend a few hours on the island.

Staffa is an entirely volcanic island, probably best known for its unique geological features such as the many caves and the unique shape of the basalt columns which are also found in the Giant’s Causeway and Rathlin island in Northern Ireland and, closer by, on the island of Ulva. It consists of a basement of tuff, underneath colonnades of a black fine-grained Tertiary basalt, overlying which is a third layer of basaltic lava lacking a crystalline structure. By contrast, slow cooling of the second layer of basalt resulted in an extraordinary pattern of predominantly hexagonal columns which form the faces and walls of the principal caves.

With massive granite towers stretching skyward and building-sized boulders scattered in valleys, there’s no need to ask how City of Rocks National Reserve in Idaho got its name. Dramatic geological features make for excellent nature study and even better climbing. You can also learn about unique plants, wildlife, and the history of Native Americans and early settlers at this fascinating park. Photo by National Park Service.

The beautiful Aldeyjarfoss waterfall. A little bit out of the beaten track at the beginning of the north-east highlands but very much worth the visit. It has symmetrical features and geologically interesting surrounds. 

Tumbling through a narrow passage into a wide basin, the concertinaed black basalt columns provide a stark contrast against the thrashing white foam, making it oft considered one of Iceland’s photographic gems

Bioregional Animism Questions

Years ago, came across a post on a website which had questions related to how knowledgeable one was to their local region. (The list was called “Bioregional Quiz: Re-Indigenize Yourself Project“ for anyone interested.) The website is long gone now, but I kept the questions to help remind me of things I wanted to learn more and more about over time.

Decided to share them as they might be of interest to or useful to some folks.

(Note: some questions I’ve added to the list over the years and the questions are not in the original order they were found in.)

  1. What primary geological events and processes influenced the landforms of your bioregion?
  2. What biotic and/or geological features define your bioregion?
  3. Where does your drinking water come from?
  4. What is the dimension of your watershed? 
  5. What creek or river defines your watershed?
  6. What and where is the largest wilderness area(s) in your bioregion?
  7.  Have there been any successful land or water restoration projects where you live?
  8. What are your soil conditions?
  9. What kind of rocks and minerals are in the land below you?
  10. What are the greatest threats to your bioregion’s ecosystem?
  11. Where does your trash end up?
  12. Where does your sewage end up?
  13. What is the power source for your electricity?
  14. What animal and/or plant species have become extinct in the area?
  15. What animal and/or plant species have become endangered in the area?
  16. Name a local environmentalist group.
  17. Name some local invasive species (plant and/or animal . (Humans do not count!)
  18. Name some plants and animals that live in and near your home? (Example: Insects, birds small mammals, etc.)
  19. Name some local  plants and animals that live just outside urban centers?
  20. Name five species of trees in your area that you can identify.
  21. Name five migratory birds that pass your area and when they arrive and leave.
  22. Name five local edible plants and when to forage them.
  23. Is your area home to any native herbs?
  24. Name of the first wildflowers that blooms in spring where you live.
  25. How well can you predict the weather based on cloud formation and pressure? 
  26. What direction do storms generally come in?
  27. At the peak of summer and height of winter, when and where does the sun set?
  28. Can you roughly keep track of the Moon’s phase without having to look it up?
  29. What places in your area are the best for stargazing?
  30. Over time, what groups of people have lived the area?
  31. What were/are the subsistence practices for the area’s indigenous persons?
  32. In the past century, what was the primary land use in your bioregion?
  33. When and where is your closest farmer’s market?
  34. How many human people live next door to you?
  35. What are their names?
  36. What places are special personally to you in your area?

Snow clings to the jagged sides of Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. This astounding geologic feature is considered sacred to the Northern Plains Indians and other tribes, who called it “Bear’s Tipi” or “Bear’s Lodge.” Hundreds of parallel cracks make it one of the finest crack climbing areas in North America. Devils Tower entices us to explore and define our place in the natural and cultural world. Photo by National Park Service.

New day, new series of photos. I’m going to try to blog about the planets of the Solar System; First up is Mercury, which is the smallest and innermost planet. With a diameter ~4878km, it is smaller than some of the moons in the Solar System. The small planet in a 3:2 resonance with the sun, giving it a unique position where a single day takes 2 Mercurian years. It has the smallest tilt of any planet in the Solar System at just 1/30 of a degree.

Mercury | Venus | Earth | Mars

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Pluto features given first official names

The IAU has assigned names to fourteen geological features on the surface of Pluto. The names pay homage to the underworld mythology, pioneering space missions, historic pioneers who crossed new horizons in exploration, and scientists and engineers associated with Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. This is the first set of official names of surface features on Pluto to be approved by the IAU, the internationally recognised authority for naming celestial bodies and their surface features.

NASA’s New Horizons team proposed the names to the IAU following the first reconnaissance of Pluto and its moons by the New Horizons spacecraft. Some of the names were suggested by members of the public during the Our Pluto campaign, which was launched as a partnership between the IAU, the New Horizons project and the SETI Institute. Other names had been used informally by the New Horizons science team to describe the many regions, mountain ranges, plains, valleys and craters discovered during the first close-up look at the surfaces of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon.

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Journal Ideas!

I’ve been the type of person who carries a notebook everywhere since I was 12, so I’ve experimented with a whole range of journal variations. Here are some thing that I like to do with some of the pretty notebooks/journals in my (shamefully substantial) collection:

1) Scientific research/field notes: I’ve found this extremely useful on field trips. I try to be interdisciplinary so when I did an Environmental Science field trips for one of my courses it was a good place to write quick notes, draw sketches of geological features and stick interesting leaves into. I’ve used it on trips to national parks to record which animals I saw, and recently I’ve added a Southern Sky star map where I mark off constellations and stars that I’ve identified. I prefer to use this journal for science that I’m doing *outside* of my university studies and NOT as a notebook for class.

2) Faith journal: This type is pretty great if you’re religious and want to write down meaningful verses, prayers, how you feel about your faith, e.t.c. I kept one of these during Ramadan last year and found it beneficial

3) Commonplace notebook: This is the kind of notebook where you copy interesting information, quotes, pieces of writing, e.t.c. I started doing this after reading A Series of Unfortunate Events and wanting my own commonplace notebook so I could feel as intelligent as the Baudelaire orphans and the Quagmire triplets . It’s also great if you find that you have interesting thoughts and observations that you want to write down and remember, but you don’t necessarily want to ~journal~ about them.

4) Gratitude journal: Pretty straightforward - write down a few things you’re grateful for every day. This has - personally - been very therapeutic and often prompted writing longer paragraphs and pages. If you want to get into ~journalling~ but don’t know how or where to start, I really recommend this method.

5) Writing notebook! Any fiction writer knows how useful one of these is. When a story idea strikes, or that perfect scene or character name. Research for stories. This is where they go. 

6) Art journal: I don’t have much experience with these, but you use it to draw, doodle and just be creatively free.

7) Bullet journal: I really don’t have to explain this to the studyblr community. There are thousands of posts about bullet journals out there. They’ve evolved beyond a simple description in a paragraph.  

Overall, I’ve found it’s best to just have fun with a notebook. If you start it off as one type of journal and it ends up being something completely different, just go with it! There are no rules. Write and collect what makes you happy to read through. My journals are rarely neat, but I love them all. You can be as public or private with your journals as you’d like. Try different things in the same notebook if you find that you’re no longer using it for it’s initial purpose. The trick is to carry it around with you so you can use it whenever the need or inspiration strikes, and to not be intimidated by a blank page. 

[This post is inspired by @dis-organiser. 100% recommend following]

I hope this post is useful! Happy journalling!

xx Munira 

As night falls on Devils Tower National Monument, it transforms from a place of darkness into a place of wonder. Thousands of twinkling, glittering stars dot the night sky over an astounding geologic feature that protrudes out of the rolling prairie surrounding the Black Hills. Stay for nature’s night show at Wyoming’s Devils Tower – it’s worth it! Photo courtesy of David Kingham.

Uncharted Territory

Fandom: Star Trek AOS AU
Pairing: Reader/Bones
Prompt: “I awoke to the rush of cave water spilling around my limbs, my face dotted with splashes of it. My skin was sore against the rub of the underground rock beneath me, and there was only darkness surrounding me above.”
Word Count: 3960
Hurt/comfort – reader gets injured, some scary scenes (water, heights, injuries)
Rating: PG-PG13
Tags: @outside-the-government

You are headed out on an away mission. Two engineers, two xenozoologists, three other sciences officers and two medical officers.  It’s only supposed to be a week-long trip, to scope out a planet that has rarely been explored.  You know that the species of highest intelligence on the planet is relatively peaceful and indifferent to Starfleet, and had agreed to let you explore some of the less inhabited areas, looking for living organisms to study and classify, and to map the land for Starfleet’s database.

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Wildflowers are in full bloom at the Pryor Mountain Wilderness Study Area! Located on the border of Wyoming and Montana, this scenic area’s rugged, isolated portions of the Pryor Mountain Range may be tough to get to but the view is worth it. Some areas are only accessible by ATV, horseback or on foot. In less than 13 miles, the landscape transitions through a wide spectrum of geologic and biotic features, ranging from desert environments to those found in sub-alpine mountainous settings. Opportunities for nature photography, rock climbing, hiking, backpacking, nature study, and scenic viewing are outstanding. Pryor Mountain is approximately nine miles north of Lovell, Wyoming. Before venturing into this wilderness study area, make sure to check in with the Bureau of Land Management’s Billings Field Office and grab a map. Photo by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management, @mypubliclands.

Ogopogo (lake demon): A Canadian cryptid residing in British Colombia’s Lake Okanagan. History of this sea serpent-esque cryptid goes all the way back to native legends of a beast that would require a sacrifice in order to grant safe passage to anyone travelling around the lake. This is one of the best documented cryptids, having many videos and eyewitness accounts of being seen. However, most sightings are explained as large aquatic animals seen from a distance, logs, and geological features that effect water movement. 

Daily painting 622

In a cosmic hit-and-run, icy Saturn moon may have flipped

Enceladus – a large icy, oceanic moon of Saturn – may have flipped, the possible victim of an out-of-this-world wallop.

While combing through data collected by NASA’s Cassini mission during flybys of Enceladus, astronomers from Cornell University, the University of Texas and NASA have found the first evidence that the moon’s axis has reoriented, according to new research published in Icarus.

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chaorelance: Hold on, what? Like- something other than summer part 2?

As part of Summer 2.

This is all guessing right now, no one knows for sure, but at the end of Summer 1, two darkened silhouettes have a conversation. One of them is clearly Hessian Lobo, but the other one is not so easy:

Also, the theme naming of the circuits is based geological features of Venus: Control+F Atalanta, Penthesilea, Boudica, and Artemis in here

So who else is there? Brynhildr, another name for Semiramis (apparently; still speculated), and another name for Ishtar (Shimti). People are wondering if this might be Ereshkigal’s release or even Semiramis (I doubt that). 

The silhouette is possibly Medb, given that looks like her whip (notice the ornament attached to its end, it’s like Medb’s).

SO YEAH all theories right now.