mystery-in-space

Exoplanets: Strange New Worlds

Super Saturn

Around a distant star 420 light years away is a planet with such huge rings that they’re 200 times larger than the rings of Saturn. The rings are about 74,560,000 miles in diameter and contain about as much mass as Earth itself. Gaps in the rings, like we see in Saturn’s rings, are likely created by exomoons orbiting around the planet, clearing out paths between the rings and keeping them distinct.

(Image credit: Ron Miller)

The Planet of Burning Ice

The most remarkable things happen when you push physics to extremes.

Far away in the Gliese star system is a Neptune-sized planet called Gliese 436 b. This world is covered in ice that burns constantly at 822.2˚ Fahrenheit (439˚ C).

The reason why the water doesn’t liquify and then turn into steam is due to the massive gravity of the planet - it exerts so much force on the water that the atoms are bound tightly together as a solid: burning ice.

(Image credit: ABC Science)

The Diamond Planet

At about 7.8 times the mass of Earth, 55 Cancri e is an extremely carbon-rich planet orbiting a carbon-rich star. The intense density of the planet means that about 2/3rds of this planet’s core is made up of diamond. It’s literally a giant diamond (larger than Earth).

(Image credit: CfA)

Tatooine

Hd 188753 Ab is a planet candidate with three suns. That’s more than even Luke Skywalker got! It turns out that binary star systems are actually quite common, however, and there are many worlds out there where the sunsets would happen twice (or more) a day. Maybe one day a lucky couple will sit beneath a pair of setting suns, holding hands as each star dips below the alien horizon.

(Image credit: NASA/Ames Research Center/Kepler Mission)

The Water World (Miller’s Planet?)

GJ 1214b is 42 light years away from Earth. It’s 25% rock surrounded by 75% water. Its surface is an endless ocean not too dissimilar from what you’d see floating on a boat in the middle of the ocean on Earth.

As you go deeper below the surface though, you’d eventually hit ice. The water surrounding the core isn’t ice because of temperature though: the pressure of the water above it is so intense that it crushes the water below from a liquid into a solid form known as “ice VII”.

(Image credit: Found on Kurir)

Earth 2.0

Kepler-438b orbits a star 470 light years away. It receives a similar amount of energy from its sun as does Earth. Its surface temperature is perfect for liquid water. 

On the Earth Similarity Index it’s received a 0.88, the highest score of any world (except of course Earth). Liquid water almost certainly exists there and with it, the best chance for alien life.

This is the sort of planet that makes me wonder when I look up at the stars, if somewhere far away, there isn’t someone looking back.

(Image credit: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech)

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This month in DC History

The first appearance of Red Hood happened in 1951. Although the current Red Hood is Jason Todd, the first Red Hood was actually one of a group of criminals in a gang called the Red Hood gang. The gang would take turns under the hood giving the appearance that there was a singular mastermind behind the crimes. Red Hood was also used as the origin for The Joker but didn’t tell us how he got those scars.

What else happened in 1951?

  • Killer Moth was introduced (also in February). Although he’s now usually seen at the but of a joke. Killer Moth started out to be the “anti-Batman” and got his own “Mothmobile.” He also probably had two living parents who took care of him as he grew up, can’t get more “anti-Batman” than that.
  • Space was all the rage while superheroes were struggling so DC came out with Mystery in Space, it’s second space title. Spoiler alert: The Space Butler did it.
  • All Star Comics, which was a buffet of all the hero comics DC was producing, met it’s end. It ended on issue 57 with the ironically titled story “The Mystery of the Vanishing Detectives.”
Portraits of the Universe

As an astronomy student, I see plenty of images from space. It’s an odd thing when you think about it. Most of the things that exist are out there, in space and yet only a select few humans are privileged enough to see them in their full beautiful context.

Here I’ll show you some of my favorite images from space and I’ll try to explain what makes them uniquely wonderful. I hope you enjoy!


Home

This satellite photograph of crops in Kansas exemplifies to me the symbiotic relationship we need with our mother planet. Earth is home to us and right now we couldn’t look anywhere else in the universe and find a place like this, where food springs forth from the ground.

It’s humbling and beautiful.

(Image credit: NASA)

Into the Great Beyond

This image of a NASA space shuttle transiting across the face of the Sun is cold-hard proof that not only are we insignificantly small in the face of the vastness of space, but that not even that can stop us.

We’re explorers. We’re brave. We’re capable. We rose phoenix-like from the ashes of stars and we won’t tremble at the yawning dark.

(Image credit: NASA)

The South Pole of Mars

The south pole of Mars, also known as Planum Australe, is a giant, frozen, carbon dioxide and water ice-cap. It looks somewhat like stretch marks, somewhat like a bath bomb and somewhat like a giant bunny rabbit. It is gorgeous though, no matter which way you look at it.

Because of the greenhouse gas nature of methane, some think there’s a potential in the ice caps to recreate the Martian atmosphere. Though this idea can be controversial, it’s the possibility of what could be that quickens my heart.

(Image credit: ESA)

A Fresh Martian Crater

Typically craters are used to denote age. Bodies in space collect them over time like an ever increasing number of scars. Seeing a fresh one though is a uniquely personal experience. It reveals a lot about both the impactor and the body it struck. This image is gorgeous with the ejecta spread out like some sort of postmodern art piece.

(Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

Sunset from Afar

Seen by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, this Martian sunset is a stark reminder that the things we find beautiful about Earth, can sometimes be found abroad, injecting our ideas of beauty with new and enlightening perspectives.

On Earth short wavelength light is scattered out the more atmosphere light travels through. This is why as the sun gets lower, it becomes more red. On Earth, our blue skies become a romantic shade of crimson at sunset.

On Mars, the skies, red from dust, become blue at sunset. This is because the atmosphere doesn’t effectively scatter lightwaves until it’s filtered through enough atmosphere (which happens when the sun’s at the horizon). 

(Image credit: NASA, JPL/Caltech/MSSS/Texas A&M Univ)

Forged in Fire

In this picture from the ALMA telescope array, we can see an entire solar system being born. When a nebula collapses into a protoplanetary disk and a star is born in the center, heat and light emerge forth, a primordial solar system.

Gradually, pieces of the disk orbiting around the baby star clump together and, like a snowball rolling down hill, gather more and more material in their orbit.

Paths around the star get cleared as the baby planets grow larger and larger. The black paths you see above are places where planets are being born. An entire solar system is emerging out of the molten storm you see above.

(Image credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO))

The Jewel of the Solar System

There are worlds unlike anything we could have ever imagined out there. There are beautiful giants totally unlike our home and yet they orbit close enough that we can go there and explore it and its moons, orbiting around it like a solar system within the solar system.

(Image credit: NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute)

A Water World

Around Saturn orbits a small moon named Enceladus. It’s currently shooting geysers of liquid water into space. This mysterious world is one of numerous places suspected to be hospitable for life.

It’s easy to forget that Earth may not be the only place where life could form. Enceladus is only the first step towards breaking ourselves from thinking of the search for alien life as being a terra-centric one.

(Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

Cosmic Jellyfish

This image of Comet Holmes, with its tails extended out and atmosphere on full display, show exactly how alive the universe really is without us.

As comets near stars, they heat up and two tails form behind them. In their cosmic dance around the stars, they interact in quite lively ways that proove the universe is far from being a still, empty void.

(Image credit: Ivan Eder)

Stardust & Mysteries

This image, collected by the Hubble Space Telescope, collects all manner of light and depth visible to one with a mind for exploration.

Who knows what mysterious places could be hiding behind that nebula? As Carl Sagan once said, “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”

(Image credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), A. Nota (ESA/STScI), and the Westerlund 2 Science Team)

The Cosmos

No image better represents the grandeur, age and vastness of the universe than the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field image.

Astronomers, curious as to how large the universe really was, pointed the Hubble Space Telescope at a patch of darkness between the stars. They left the telescope to stare into the pitch blackness for 23 days collecting what pitiful amount of light there might be out there.

What they got back was a field littered with character, color and life.

This picture shows the universe (literally) at 3.5% of its current age. This is what it looked like 13.2 billion years ago.

(Image credit: NASA; ESA; G. Illingworth, D. Magee, and P. Oesch, University of California, Santa Cruz; R. Bouwens, Leiden University; and the HUDF09 Team)

Sacred Geometry of the Nautilus Shell.

The Chambered Nautilus is a living fossil that has survived in Earth’s oceans for the last 500 million years. Existing before there were fish, dinosaurs, or mammals, the Nautilus could grow up to six meters long and was a predator in the ancient seas.

The main feature of the Nautilus is the large snail-like shell that is coiled upwards and lined with mother-of-pearl. The shell is subdivided into as many as 30 chambers. As the shell grows, its body moves forward into the new larger chamber and produces a wall to seal off the older chambers. The empty chambers are used to regulate buoyancy. A cross-section of the shell of the Nautilus will show the cycles of its growth as a series of chambers arranged in a precise Golden Mean Spiral.

The Golden Mean is represented by the Greek letter Phi (with the decimal representation of 1.6180…), and is one of those mysterious Natural numbers that seems to arise out of the basic structure of our Cosmos. Phi appears regularly in the Realm of things that grow and unfold in steps just as the Nautilus shell grows larger on each Spiral by Phi.

With each revolution completing a cycle of Evolution, the Golden Mean Spiral is Symbolic of Lifes unfolding Mysteries. The continuous curves of the Spirals, which are Feminine in Nature, and the Ratios between each of the chambers reveal the intimate relationship between the Harmonics of Nature and Sacred Geometry.

Variety, March 9, 1966:

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Krantz Digging in Comics Field

With an eye on the kidvid slots, producers are now combing the newsstand comic books in earnest. One who’s been quick to wrap up TV rights is Steve Krantz, the Manhattan film distrub and video consultant for McCall’s mag.

Exec has the telefilm deed on a quartet of comics put out by National Periodicals (“Superman,” “Batman,” etc.), plus a number of characters purveyed by the Marvel Comics Group. Included in the Krantz portfolio are “Metamorpho” (the element man), the “Atom,” “Sea Devils,” “Mystery in Space,” and “Spider Man” (a regular ceiling walker, this guy). It’s all for the color animation mill.

A pilot on “Spider” has just been completed, and Krantz reports that the next one to come off the drawing boards is to be “Metamorpho.”