saturnian moons

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Cassini gets up close & personal with icy Mimas

The first two images show off the giant Herschel crater, a distinguishing feature of this moon. The second gives a better view of the mountain peak within the crater. The shadows cast by the crater and mountain peak give a glimpse into just how massive this crater truly is. The last image is one of the clearest images of Mimas to date.

cosmic witchcraft 101: saturnian magick ♄

Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun. Like the other gas giants, scientists can’t be exactly sure how Saturn formed, but many believe its breathtaking rings have been there since the very beginning. One theory posits that the rings were once an early moon of Saturn whose orbit brought it closer and closer to Saturn where eventually it was ripped apart by tidal forces; a large collision may also have destroyed it. Another theory suggests that the rings are leftover material from the area of the solar system’s primordial nebula where Saturn formed. The Grand Tack Hypothesis, which explains our solar system’s formation through a theoretical Jovian migration to as far inward as Mars, suggests that Saturn getting locked in orbital resonance with Jupiter during its migration forward prevented Jupiter from going all the way through the inner solar system.

Facts:

  • Saturn is the second largest planet, but the least dense one. Saturn is less dense than water.
  • It takes Saturn 29.7 years to travel around the Sun and about 10.5 hours for a complete Saturnian day.
  • Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, is larger than the planet Mercury. It’s not that much smaller than Mars, and is second in moon size only to Jupiter’s Ganymede.
  • Just about every 30 years, a Great White Spot appears as a storm on Saturn’s atmosphere. The next appearance will be near the year 2020.
  • Saturn has more than 60 moons.
  • When Galileo originally discovered Saturn’s rings, he thought they were two moons on either side of the planet.
  • In 2010, a huge storm appeared on the surface of Saturn - it was so big it wrapped around the entire planet.
  • Saturn is the furthest planet from Earth that can be seen without the aid of a telescope or binoculars.
  • Magnification of about 30x is needed to see Saturn’s rings, which can be achieved with a large pair of binoculars or a small telescope. 

Magickal Correspondences*

Colors: yellow, black, purple

Intents: discipline, overcoming fears, breaking boundaries, limitations, uncovering reality, structure, responsibility, endurance, long-term plans, order, growth, manifestation

Herbs: dills seed, daffodil, hemlock, holly, witch hazel, nightshade, bluebell, indigo, mandrake, yew, myrrh, garlic, patchouli, cypress

Crystals: lapis lazuli, onyx, hematite, blue sapphire, amethyst, obsidian, smoky quartz, black tourmaline, yellow jade, yellow calcite

*some of these correspondences are based on traditional associations and some are based on my personal associations

Travel Posters of Fantastic Excursions

What would the future look like if people were regularly visiting to other planets and moons? These travel posters give a glimpse into that imaginative future. Take a look and choose your destination:

The Grand Tour

Our Voyager mission took advantage of a once-every-175-year alignment of the outer planets for a grand tour of the solar system. The twin spacecraft revealed details about Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune – using each planet’s gravity to send them on to the next destination.

Mars

Our Mars Exploration Program seeks to understand whether Mars was, is, or can be a habitable world. This poster imagines a future day when we have achieved our vision of human exploration of the Red Planet and takes a nostalgic look back at the great imagined milestones of Mars exploration that will someday be celebrated as “historic sites.”

Earth

There’s no place like home. Warm, wet and with an atmosphere that’s just right, Earth is the only place we know of with life – and lots of it. Our Earth science missions monitor our home planet and how it’s changing so it can continue to provide a safe haven as we reach deeper into the cosmos.

Venus

The rare science opportunity of planetary transits has long inspired bold voyages to exotic vantage points – journeys such as James Cook’s trek to the South Pacific to watch Venus and Mercury cross the face of the sun in 1769. Spacecraft now allow us the luxury to study these cosmic crossings at times of our choosing from unique locales across our solar system.

Ceres

Ceres is the closest dwarf planet to the sun. It is the largest object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, with an equatorial diameter of about 965 kilometers. After being studied with telescopes for more than two centuries, Ceres became the first dwarf planet to be explored by a spacecraft, when our Dawn probe arrived in orbit in March 2015. Dawn’s ongoing detailed observations are revealing intriguing insights into the nature of this mysterious world of ice and rock.

Jupiter

The Jovian cloudscape boasts the most spectacular light show in the solar system, with northern and southern lights to dazzle even the most jaded space traveler. Jupiter’s auroras are hundreds of times more powerful than Earth’s, and they form a glowing ring around each pole that’s bigger than our home planet. 

Enceladus

The discovery of Enceladus’ icy jets and their role in creating Saturn’s E-ring is one of the top findings of the Cassini mission to Saturn. Further Cassini discoveries revealed strong evidence of a global ocean and the first signs of potential hydrothermal activity beyond Earth – making this tiny Saturnian moon one of the leading locations in the search for possible life beyond Earth.

Titan

Frigid and alien, yet similar to our own planet billions of years ago, Saturn’s largest moon, Titan has a thick atmosphere, organic-rich chemistry and surface shaped by rivers and lakes of liquid ethane and methane. Our Cassini orbiter was designed to peer through Titan’s perpetual haze and unravel the mysteries of this planet-like moon.

Europa

Astonishing geology and the potential to host the conditions for simple life making Jupiter’s moon Europa a fascinating destination for future exploration. Beneath its icy surface, Europa is believed to conceal a global ocean of salty liquid water twice the volume of Earth’s oceans. Tugging and flexing from Jupiter’s gravity generates enough heat to keep the ocean from freezing.

You can download free poster size images of these thumbnails here: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/visions-of-the-future/

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Thinking Outside the Carbon-Based Box for Alien Lifeforms

by Michael Keller

Earlier this month, Cornell University said they had gone searching among the interactions of chemical compounds to see whether a central component of life could exist on alien worlds very different from our own. 

They focused their exploration on a key component of life as we know it–the cellular membrane. The structure, which separates the internal environment of the living cell from the outside world, is made of a phospholipid bilayer on Earth. The team wanted to see if there was a different recipe that would work. Using advanced molecular dynamics models, they came back with a definite answer: Yes, in theory, one of the fundamental structures of life could develop based on totally different chemistries.

In fact, they said, one wouldn’t even need to travel light years to find it. Nitrogen, carbon and hydrogen molecules could form a viable cellular membrane submerged in the -290-degree-Fahrenheit methane seas of Saturnian moon Titan. The compound they eventually focused on, called acrylonitrile azotosome, is stable, creates a barrier to decomposition and is flexible like Earth’s phospholipid membranes. It’s also present in Titan’s atmosphere.

Keep reading

anonymous asked:

What Moon sign could understand Capricorn Moon the most?

I’m a big, big, big fan of opposition moon signs so I’m gonna talk about that one - but any Earth or water moon, or Saturnian moon, or Cardinal moon could benefit Capricorn Moon! (In that order tbh lmao)

Capricorn’s sister is Cancer, and I think sister moons is so beneficial because sister signs are one in the same! I have a post entitled here about that: astrolofae.tumblr.com/tagged/links

I find they often have common goals or desires, but go about getting them different ways, which sister signs actually admire in their sister! They also come together to fuse something that they didn’t know they wanted or needed, but ultimately did - they are opposites because they create a whole, bigger picture together!xx

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Cassini Looks on as Solstice Arrives at Saturn

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft still has a few months to go before it completes its mission in September, but the veteran Saturn explorer reaches a new milestone today. Saturn’s solstice – that is, the longest day of summer in the northern hemisphere and the shortest day of winter in the southern hemisphere – arrives today for the planet and its moons. The Saturnian solstice occurs about every 15 Earth years as the planet and its entourage slowly orbit the sun, with the north and south hemispheres alternating their roles as the summer and winter poles.

Reaching the solstice, and observing seasonal changes in the Saturn system along the way, was a primary goal of Cassini’s Solstice Mission – the name of Cassini’s second extended mission.

Cassini arrived at Saturn in 2004 for its four-year primary mission to study Saturn and its rings and moons. Cassini’s first extended mission, from 2008 to 2010, was known as the Equinox Mission. During that phase of the mission, Cassini watched as sunlight struck Saturn’s rings edge-on, casting shadows that revealed dramatic new ring structures. NASA chose to grant the spacecraft an additional seven-year tour, the Solstice Mission, which began in 2010.

“During Cassini’s Solstice Mission, we have witnessed – up close for the first time – an entire season at Saturn,” said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. “The Saturn system undergoes dramatic transitions from winter to summer, and thanks to Cassini, we had a ringside seat.”

Saturn

During its Solstice Mission, Cassini watched a giant storm erupt and encircle the planet. The spacecraft also saw the disappearance of bluer hues that had lingered in the far north as springtime hazes began to form there. The hazes are part of the reason why features in Saturn’s atmosphere are more muted in their appearance than those on Jupiter.

Data from the mission showed how the formation of Saturn’s hazes is related to the seasonally changing temperatures and chemical composition of Saturn’s upper atmosphere. Cassini researchers have found that some of the trace hydrocarbon compounds there – gases like ethane, propane and acetylene – react more quickly than others to the changing amount of sunlight over the course of Saturn’s year.

Researchers were also surprised that the changes Cassini observed on Saturn didn’t occur gradually. They saw changes occur suddenly, at specific latitudes in Saturn’s banded atmosphere. “Eventually a whole hemisphere undergoes change, but it gets there by these jumps at specific latitude bands at different times in the season,” said Robert West, a Cassini imaging team member at JPL.

Rings

Following equinox and continuing toward northern summer solstice, the sun rose ever higher above the rings’ northern face. And as the sun rises higher, its light penetrates deeper into the rings, heating them to the warmest temperatures seen there during the mission. The solstice sunlight helps reveal to Cassini’s instruments how particles clump together and whether the particles buried in the middle of the ring plane have a different composition or structure than the ones in the rings’ outer layers.

Saturn’s changing angle with respect to the sun also means the rings are tipped toward Earth by their maximum amount at solstice. In this geometry, Cassini’s radio signal passes more easily and cleanly through the densest rings, providing even higher-quality data about the ring particles there.

Titan

Cassini has watched Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, change with the seasons, with occasional dramatic outbursts of cloud activity. After observing methane storm clouds around Titan’s south pole in 2004, Cassini watched giant storms transition to Titan’s equator in 2010.

Although a few northern clouds have begun to appear, scientists have since been surprised at how long it has taken for cloud activity to shift to the northern hemisphere, defying climate models that had predicted such activity should have started several years earlier.

“Observations of how the locations of cloud activity change and how long such changes take give us important information about the workings of Titan’s atmosphere and also its surface, as rainfall and wind patterns change with the seasons too,” said Elizabeth Turtle, a Cassini imaging team associate at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

In 2013, Cassini observed a sudden and rapid buildup of haze and trace hydrocarbons in the south that were previously observed only in Titan’s high north. This indicated to scientists that a seasonal reversal was underway, in which Titan’s main atmospheric circulation changes direction. This circulation was apparently channeling fresh hydrocarbon chemicals from closer to the equator toward the south pole, where they were safe from destruction by sunlight as that pole moved deeper into winter shadow.

Enceladus

For Enceladus, the most important seasonal change was the onset of winter darkness in the south. Although it meant Cassini could no longer take sunlit images of the geologically active surface, the spacecraft could more clearly observe the heat coming from within Enceladus itself. With the icy moon’s south pole in shadow, Cassini scientists have been able to monitor the temperature of the terrain there without concern for the sun’s influence.

These observations are helping researchers to better understand the global ocean that lies beneath the surface. From the moon’s south polar region, that hidden ocean sprays a towering plume of ice and vapor into space that Cassini has directly sampled.

Toward the Final Milestone

As Saturn’s solstice arrives, Cassini is currently in the final phase of its long mission, called its Grand Finale. Over the course of 22 weeks from April 26 to Sept. 15, the spacecraft is making a series of dramatic dives between the planet and its icy rings. The mission is returning new insights about the interior of the planet and the origins of the rings, along with images from closer to Saturn than ever before. The mission will end with a final plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere on Sept. 15.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter.

TOP IMAGE….These natural color views from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft compare the appearance of Saturn’s north-polar region in June 2013 and April 2017. In both views, Saturn’s polar hexagon dominates the scene. The comparison shows how clearly the color of the region changed in the interval between the two views, which represents the latter half of Saturn’s northern hemisphere spring. In 2013, the entire interior of the hexagon appeared blue. By 2017, most of the hexagon’s interior was covered in yellowish haze, and only the center of the polar vortex retained the blue color. The seasonal arrival of the sun’s ultraviolet light triggers the formation of photochemical aerosols, leading to haze formation. The general yellowing of the polar region is believed to be caused by smog particles produced by increasing solar radiation shining on the polar region as Saturn approached the northern summer solstice on May 24, 2017. Scientists are considering several ideas to explain why the center of the polar vortex remains blue while the rest of the polar region has turned yellow. One idea is that, because the atmosphere in the vortex’s interior is the last place in the northern hemisphere to be exposed to spring and summer sunlight, smog particles have not yet changed the color of the region. A second explanation hypothesizes that the polar vortex may have an internal circulation similar to hurricanes on Earth. If the Saturnian polar vortex indeed has an analogous structure to terrestrial hurricanes, the circulation should be downward in the eye of the vortex. The downward circulation should keep the atmosphere clear of the photochemical smog particles, and may explain the blue color. Images captured with Cassini’s wide-angle camera using red, green and blue spectral filters were combined to create these natural-color views. The 2013 view (left in the combined view), was captured on June 25, 2013, when the spacecraft was about 430,000 miles (700,000 kilometers) away from Saturn. The original versions of these images, as sent by the spacecraft, have a size of 512 by 512 pixels and an image scale of about 52 miles (80 kilometers) per pixel; the images have been mapped in polar stereographic projection to the resolution of approximately 16 miles (25 kilometers) per pixel. The second and third frames in the animation were taken approximately 130 and 260 minutes after the first image. The 2017 sequence (right in the combined view) was captured on April 25, 2017, just before Cassini made its first dive between Saturn and its rings. During the imaging sequence, the spacecraft’s distance from the center of the planet changed from 450,000 miles (725,000 kilometers) to 143,000 miles (230,000 kilometers). The original versions of these images, as sent by the spacecraft, have a size of 512 by 512 pixels. The resolution of the original images changed from about 52 miles (80 kilometers) per pixel at the beginning to about 9 miles (14 kilometers) per pixel at the end. The images have been mapped in polar stereographic projection to the resolution of approximately 16 miles (25 kilometers) per pixel. The average interval between the frames in the movie sequence is 230 minutes.

CENTRE IMAGE….Of the countless equinoxes Saturn has seen since the birth of the solar system, this one, captured here in a mosaic of light and dark, is the first witnessed up close by an emissary from Earth … none other than our faithful robotic explorer, Cassini. Seen from our planet, the view of Saturn’s rings during equinox is extremely foreshortened and limited. But in orbit around Saturn, Cassini had no such problems. From 20 degrees above the ring plane, Cassini’s wide angle camera shot 75 exposures in succession for this mosaic showing Saturn, its rings, and a few of its moons a day and a half after exact Saturn equinox, when the sun’s disk was exactly overhead at the planet’s equator. The novel illumination geometry that accompanies equinox lowers the sun’s angle to the ring plane, significantly darkens the rings, and causes out-of-plane structures to look anomalously bright and to cast shadows across the rings. These scenes are possible only during the few months before and after Saturn’s equinox which occurs only once in about 15 Earth years. Before and after equinox, Cassini’s cameras have spotted not only the predictable shadows of some of Saturn’s moons , but also the shadows of newly revealed vertical structures in the rings themselves. Also at equinox, the shadows of the planet’s expansive rings are compressed into a single, narrow band cast onto the planet as seen in this mosaic. The images comprising the mosaic, taken over about eight hours, were extensively processed before being joined together. First, each was re-projected into the same viewing geometry and then digitally processed to make the image “joints” seamless and to remove lens flares, radially extended bright artifacts resulting from light being scattered within the camera optics. At this time so close to equinox, illumination of the rings by sunlight reflected off the planet vastly dominates any meager sunlight falling on the rings. Hence, the half of the rings on the left illuminated by planetshine is, before processing, much brighter than the half of the rings on the right. On the right, it is only the vertically extended parts of the rings that catch any substantial sunlight. With no enhancement, the rings would be essentially invisible in this mosaic. To improve their visibility, the dark (right) half of the rings has been brightened relative to the brighter (left) half by a factor of three, and then the whole ring system has been brightened by a factor of 20 relative to the planet. So the dark half of the rings is 60 times brighter, and the bright half 20 times brighter, than they would have appeared if the entire system, planet included, could have been captured in a single image. The moon Janus (179 kilometers, 111 miles across) is on the lower left of this image. Epimetheus (113 kilometers, 70 miles across) appears near the middle bottom. Pandora (81 kilometers, 50 miles across) orbits outside the rings on the right of the image. The small moon Atlas (30 kilometers, 19 miles across) orbits inside the thin F ring on the right of the image. The brightnesses of all the moons, relative to the planet, have been enhanced between 30 and 60 times to make them more easily visible. Other bright specks are background stars. Spokes – ghostly radial markings on the B ring – are visible on the right of the image.
This view looks toward the northern side of the rings from about 20 degrees above the ring plane. The images were taken on Aug. 12, 2009, beginning about 1.25 days after exact equinox, using the red, green and blue spectral filters of the wide angle camera and were combined to create this natural color view. The images were obtained at a distance of approximately 847,000 kilometers (526,000 miles) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 74 degrees. Image scale is 50 kilometers (31 miles) per pixel.


LOWER IMAGE….NASA’s Cassini spacecraft chronicles the change of seasons as it captures clouds concentrated near the equator of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. Methane clouds in the troposphere, the lowest part of the atmosphere, appear white here and are mostly near Titan’s equator. The darkest areas are surface features that have a low albedo, meaning they do not reflect much light. Cassini observations of clouds like these provide evidence of a seasonal shift of Titan’s weather systems to low latitudes following the August 2009 equinox in the Saturnian system. (During equinox, the sun lies directly over the equator. ) In 2004, during Titan’s late southern summer, extensive cloud systems were common in Titan’s south polar region (see PIA06110, PIA06124 and PIA06241). Since 2005, southern polar systems have been observed infrequently, and one year after the equinox, extensive near-equatorial clouds have been seen. This image was taken on Oct. 18, 2010, a little more than one Earth year after the Saturnian equinox, which happens once in roughly 15 Earth years. The cloud patterns observed from late southern summer to early southern fall on Titan suggest that Titan’s global atmospheric circulation is influenced by both the atmosphere and the surface. The temperature of the surface responds more rapidly to changes in illumination than does the thick atmosphere. Outbreaks such as the clouds seen here may be the Titan equivalent of what creates the Earth’s tropical rainforest climates, even though the delayed reaction to the change of seasons and the apparently sudden shift is more reminiscent of the behavior over Earth’s tropical oceans than over tropical land areas. A few clouds can be seen in Titan’s southern latitudes here. This view looks toward the Saturn-facing side of Titan (5,150 kilometers or 3,200 miles across). North is up. The image appears slightly grainy because it was re-projected to a scale of 6 kilometers (4 miles) per pixel. Scale in the original image was 15 kilometers (9 miles) per pixel. This view consists of an average of three images taken using a filter sensitive to near-infrared light centered at 938 nanometers, which allows for detection of Titan’s surface and lower atmosphere, plus an image taken using a filter sensitive to visible light centered at 619 nanometers.
The images were taken with the Cassini spacecraft’s narrow-angle camera at a distance of approximately 2.5 million kilometers (1.6 million miles) from Titan and at a sun-Titan-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 56 degrees.


BOTTOM IMAGE….The huge storm churning through the atmosphere in Saturn’s northern hemisphere overtakes itself as it encircles the planet in this true-color view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.
This picture, captured on Feb. 25, 2011, was taken about 12 weeks after the storm began, and the clouds by this time had formed a tail that wrapped around the planet. Some of the clouds moved south and got caught up in a current that flows to the east (to the right) relative to the storm head. This tail, which appears as slightly blue clouds south and west (left) of the storm head, can be seen encountering the storm head in this view. This storm is the largest, most intense storm observed on Saturn by NASA’s Voyager or Cassini spacecraft. It is still active today. As scientists have tracked this storm over several months, they have found it covers 500 times the area of the largest of the southern hemisphere storms observed earlier in the Cassini mission. The shadow cast by Saturn’s rings has a strong seasonal effect, and it is possible that the switch to powerful storms now being located in the northern hemisphere is related to the change of seasons after the planet’s August 2009 equinox. Huge storms called Great White Spots have been observed in previous Saturnian years (each of which is about 30 Earth years), usually appearing in late northern summer. Saturn is now experiencing early northern spring, so this storm, if it is a Great White Spot, is happening earlier than usual. This storm is about as large as the largest of the Great White Spots, which also encircled the planet but had latitudinal sizes ranging up to 20,000 kilometers (12,000 miles). The Voyager and Cassini spacecraft were not at Saturn for previous Great White Spot appearances. The storm is a prodigious source of radio noise, which comes from lightning deep in the planet’s atmosphere. The lightning is produced in the water clouds, where falling rain and hail generate electricity. The mystery is why Saturn stores energy for decades and releases it all at once. This behavior is unlike that at Jupiter and Earth, which have numerous storms going on at all times. This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from just above the ring plane. Images taken using red, green and blue spectral filters were combined to create this natural color view. The images were acquired with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera at a distance of approximately 1.4 million miles (2.2 million kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is 80 miles (129 kilometers) per pixel. The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

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Alien Post #4: The Drake Equation

N = R* fp ne fl fi fc L

In 1961 the astronomer Frank Drake created a probability equation in an attempt to quantify the likelihood that there’s intelligent life in the Milky Way (discounting us duh). It’s become a cornerstone in the modern search for extra terrestrial intelligence.

“N” stands for the number of intelligent civilizations there are in the universe with electromagnetic signals we can detect… think of it as civilizations that are capable of radio technology.

“R^*” is basically how many stars there are in the Milky Way. This number we know to be roughly 400,000,000,000.

“F sub p” is how many of those stars have planets. I’m going to be more conservative than is actually likely. We now know that on average every star tends to have some sort of planetary system. For the sake of being safe, I’ll say it’s only one half -> ½ -> .5.

“N sub e” is how many of those planets are suitable for life. This is where we start hitting the limits of our present knowledge. Our only example of a planet with life so far is Earth. However, we SUSPECT life could exist in other places in our solar system: Mars, Titan (Saturnian moon) and Europa (Gallilean moon). To be conservative, lets say 2 bodies per system.

“F sub l” is the number of planets in which life actually forms. On Earth we know that life began relatively quickly after Earth was born. I’m going to say half the time life arises, although I wouldn’t put money on that. So ½ -> .5.

“F sub i” is how many of those life bearing planets actually develop intelligent life. This is now in the realm of unshackled speculation, some people think intelligence would rise every time given enough time for evolution to occur, some think the opposite. A moderate number to use would be 1/10 -> .1.

“F sub c” represents the number of civilizations that develop technology we can detect, again - radio technology. This can also be put down as 1/10 -> .1.

“L” is the length of time these signals are being released into space. It’s not impossible that Russia nukes us tomorrow or vice versa, which would basically start the beginning of the end of human life. We’ve only had the technology for a few decades capable of wiping ourselves out so a good number to use would be 1/1,000,000 -> .000001 -> 1 * 10^-6.

The process the Drake Equation takes us through is therefore one that narrows down the number to something we can wrap our minds around. It is meant to give us an idea of the chances that we aren’t alone.

I’ll plug the numbers into the equation now and leave you with some sort of an idea for the number of radio bearing intelligent alien civilizations there are out there:

N = (4 * 10^11) * .5 * 2 * .5 * .1 * .1 * (1 * 10^-6) = 2000

N = 2000

Therefore there are…

2000 intelligent, communicable extra terrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way right now.

Now, a caveat: the Drake Equation is meant to give probability, not to be an exact equation we can solve. At this point we don’t know enough to be able to finish the equation to the satisfaction of everyone. Despite the elements of speculation, the Drake Equation is essential in our search for alien civilizations.

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Alien Post #6: Enceladus - Water World of Saturn?

On April 3rd NASA announced something incredible.

They found a body of water on the Saturnian moon Enceladus. Apparently they’ve deduced that it’s roughly the size of Lake Superior (aka Fucking Huge).

How could they have possibly figured this out? One of Saturn’s rings (the E Ring) is made of microscopic particles. The Cassini satellite orbiting Saturn is able to take samples of these particles and determine what they’re made of. What a surprise when they discovered frozen H2O and organic compounds.

Huhwhatthefuckasaurusrex?

Typically organic compounds mean life you know. Like. Always.

When you type “organic” into Google it gives you this dictionary definition: “of, relating to, or derived from living matter.”

When I look it up in my Apple Dictionary app I get: “1 organic matter: living, live, animate, biological, biotic.”

Obviously anything organic can’t originate in the vacuum of space. How did organic matter get into Saturn’s E Ring? The answer was unwittingly gotten years ago when Cassini photographed what many suspected were cryovolcanoes on Enceladus. Basically, massive geysers shooting something out into space. It’s pretty clear now that the geysers were shooting water particles into space that seem to carry some sort of organic compound from under the icy surface of Enceladus. The material carried in the geysers are what get caught in Saturn’s orbit, forming it’s E Ring.

In some of the better images of Enceladus (like the bottom picture I included in this post) you can see a region of the moon called the “Tiger Stripes”. They look like blue rivers running around the South Pole and that’s not far from the truth. They are freshly surfaced water seeping through cracks in the surface ice of Enceladus. It’s from here that the moon shoots it’s geysers into Saturn’s orbit.

Liquid water? Organic compounds? What the hell is under the surface of Enceladus?

This discovery has implications that we’re only beginning to consider, but clearly their potential runs the gamut of astrophysics, biology and science fiction. It’s highly likely that Enceladus is going to become a top priority now for future missions. I’d personally suspect an attempt to devise some sort of subsurface swimmer to explore the ocean inside this moon.

If it were up to me I’d give the robot a fishing rod…

Solar System: 5 Things to Know This Week

The solar system is huge, so let us break it down for you. Here are 5 things you should know this week:

1. Mini-Moons

This week, the robotic spacecraft Cassini will pass a pair of tiny Saturnian moons. Daphnis, only 5.7 miles (9.2 km) across, orbits within the Keeler Gap in Saturn’s outer A ring. Daphnis’ slight gravity maintains that gap. Cassini will then swing by Telesto, a small moon that shares its orbit with Tethys. Cassini’s cameras should get some good pictures of these tiny worlds.

2. Stardust Memories

Jan. 15 is the 10th anniversary of the day the Stardust capsule returned to Earth, carrying pieces of a comet. The Stardust spacecraft passed right through the gas and dust surrounding the icy nucleus of Wild 2 (pronounced “Vilt-2”) in January 2004, then sent the samples it collected home for laboratory analysis.

3. Sun Surfing in the 70s

Jan. 15 is the 40th anniversary of the launch of Helios 2, the second of a pair of spacecraft launched by NASA and built by Germany to investigate the sun. Helios 2 flew to within about 27 million miles (44 million km) of the sun’s surface in 1976. The spacecraft provided important information on solar plasma, the solar wind, cosmic rays, and cosmic dust, and also performed magnetic field and electrical field experiments. A NASA mission set to launch in 2018 will dare an even closer approach.

4. To Space, to Watch the Seas

Jason 3, an international mission to continue U.S.- European satellite measurements of the topography of the ocean surface, is scheduled to launch on Jan. 17. The mission will make highly detailed measurements of sea-level on Earth to gain insight into ocean circulation and climate change.

5. Getting Serious About Ceres

This is getting good. Over the past few weeks, the Dawn mission has been tantalizing us with ever-closer images of the dwarf planet Ceres, the largest object in the main asteroid belt and a small world in its own right. Now, the robotic spacecraft has used its ion engines to ease down into its lowest mapping orbit in order to scrutinize Ceres up close, and already the pictures are spectacular. Odd mountains, deep craters and fissures—not to mention those famous bright spots—will all be coming into sharper focus during the coming days.

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I had the urge to do Outer Senshi fanart a few days ago (probably because I was so stressed out :p) so I doodled sketches for the four senshi before I went for my interview earlier this week. Saturn is my favorite amongst the Outer Senshi so I completed her drawing first, but I’m working on Pluto right now and I hope to finish Uranus and Neptune as well.

The spheres surrounding Saturn represents the eight largest moons of the planet Saturn (I can’t fit all 50+ Saturnian moons in there ^^;;). I want to represent not just the planets the senshi represents but also the moons that all of the outer solar system planets have.

Could Charon Have a Subsurface Ocean? 

Pluto, a distant icy dwarf planet, orbits the Sun 29 times farther out than the Earth and has estimated surface temperatures of -380 degrees Fahrenheit (-229 degrees Celsius). These frigid temperatures are far too cold to allow liquid water on Pluto’s surface. Its location and small size make it very difficult to observe; however, with NASA’s New Horizons mission slated to reach the distant world next year, scientists hope to map Pluto and its moons in great detail. 

Current models predict one moon in particular, Charon, is of great interest to study. The models indicate Charon has surface fractures, indicative of a possible subsurface ocean. Further analysis is needed to determine in the moon’s interior is warm enough to support liquid water. 

Alyssa Rhoden of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland is anxious to see what sort of data New Horizons will provide and how that data will measure up against computer generated models. By comparing the actual data to the computer models, scientists will be able to learn a lot about the thickness of the moon’s surface ice, its interior structure, the evolution of its orbit and if there is or ever was a subsurface ocean. 

Scientists have already discovered several moons around the gas giants Saturn and Jupiter, with cracked surfaces and subsurface oceans like Europa and Enceladus. The image we see here illustrates the surface fractures present on the Saturnian moon Enceladus as seen by the Cassini Spacecraft during one of its flybys. 

In the case of Europa and Enceladus, there is a “game” of gravitational tug-of-war between the planets and neighboring moons, causing the moons to stay in a slightly oval-shaped, eccentric orbit. The constant tug on the moons, results in daily tides, which ultimately result in the observed surface fractures. Scientists hypothesize that tidal heating warms the moon’s interior and extends the life of any subsurface oceans. 

So what does this mean for Charon? Well in the case of this icy moon, Rhodan’s study shows that a previous high eccentricity orbit could have caused large tides and massive amounts of friction resulting in surface fractures. Charon is a unique moon because it has approximately one-eighth the mass of Pluto, which is rather large compared to the size of its planet. Consequently, it is thought to have formed as a result of a giant impact, and much closer to its host planet. The material ejected from this collision is thought to have formed several smaller moons as well as Charon. 

After Charon formed, both Pluto and Charon would have had strong tidal forces acting on one another, and increasing interior friction levels and causing a slight tidal lag. The lags act as cosmic braking systems, slowing down a planet (or moon’s) rotation and transferring rotational energy to the bother body, pushing it farther away. This is what researchers predict happened between Charon and Pluto and why Charon isn’t closer to Pluto. 

Due to the theorized tidal interactions and the moon’s formation, there have been enough heat produced to keep Charon’s interior warm enough to support a liquid water ocean. Using computer models, Rhoden determined it would be very easy to generate the eccentricity required to produce surface fractures. So if New Horizons does not find any surface fractures on Charon, that means there is a limit on how eccentric the orbit could have been and a limit on how warm the moon’s interior could have been. 

Based on what we can see via telescope, Charon’s orbit is now a stable, circular orbit. Both Pluto and Charon have slowed and rotate at a rate where they always have the same side facing each other. The current orbit does not generate massive amounts of heat, so if there is a subsurface ocean, it would be frozen by now. 

As we know, liquid water is a must for life as we know it and places like Europa and Enceladus are potential places where we could find life; however, we don’t yet know if they contain a few other key ingredients - like an energy source, carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus. Or the subsurface oceans on these worlds may not have been around long enough for the formation of life. 

With the New Horizons Mission, NASA hopes to gain a better understanding of Pluto and its moons. Who knows, maybe we will find some of the key elements for life on Charon? Pluto is a very interesting world and so is Charon - next year should bring some exciting data. Rhoden’s research will help determine where New Horizons should look first and what it should look for. 

-ALT

Image & Source Credit: NASA

9

[GIJINKA] The Major Cronian Moons

Saturn I - Mimas

He is the smallest main moon of Cronus, if Phoebe wasn’t shorter by .5 inches. Although petite and adorable, he had actually gone through some tough hardships and perhaps even certain death in his younger years but was strong enough to pull himself together once more, and is now the closest moon to Cronus among the major moons.

Saturn II - Enceladus

Enceladus has the power of ice geysers as he has cryovolcanoes. As the second moon to Cronus, he helps Cronus maintain his lovely rings using his power. He definitely is the brightest of all of Cronus’ moons, and so sometimes the other moons turn to him for advice.

Saturn III - Tethys

One of the three moon sisters, Tethys is one of the brightest moons among the moons of Cronus, as well as the whole of the Solar System. She and Mimas seem to get along quite well for some reason.

Saturn IV - Dione

One of the three moon sisters, Dione is quite a tough moon. She may be part of the closer moons to Cronus, but she seems to be more oriented with how the outer moons behave, rather than the inner moons.

Saturn V - Rhea

One of the three moon sisters, Rhea seems to be the most mature and the calmest of them. She is also the second tallest of all the main moons, right next to Titan.

Saturn VI - Titan (Kyo)

Titan, or as he nicknamed himself “Kyo”, is the tallest of all of Cronus’ moons. He’s quite turbulent himself as a moon, but usually it’s revealed to be all out of inner concern. Terrius remarks that Kyo reminds him of his younger days, although he doesn’t exactly tell the latter why.

Saturn VII - Hyperion

Hyperion is admittedly the moon with the most unpredictable and mysterious behaviour. Cronus seems to be avoidant of him, though he doesn’t actually seem to be doing anything to Cronus. Some say he was actually dead, but others proved it to the contrary. Whatever had happened to him, it looks like he exists to remind Cronus of his past.

Saturn VIII - Iapetus

Iapetus, like any other moon in the Solar System, serves his planet and Helios, the sun, in his own cycle and pace. Although, his cycle of serving his planet and Helios had affected him greatly; which is to say, he’s developed a skin condition where his skin has uneven dark patches. He’s quite distant from all the other moons and has a lifestyle of a loner; and although aloof, he doesn’t actually despise the other moons. He’s just used to being alone.

Saturn IX - Phoebe

Phoebe is much farther from the others and has her own ring of defence. Rogue-like compared to the other moons closer to Cronus, she’s in charge of the security of the planet and the outer moons around her. Where she came from, nobody is certain, although rumours go around saying she was an immigrant from the Kuiper Belt.

10

Cassini Prepares For Its Final, Suicidal Mission

“The Huygens probe released by it descended onto Titan, its largest moon, discovering an incredible landscape, liquid methane lakes and even waterfalls. The mystery of Iapetus, its two-toned moon, was solved as well: dark material from the captured comet, Phoebe, causes the ice on one side to sublimate and settle on the other. Enceladus, an icy, outer moon, was found to contain a subsurface water-ice ocean, which erupts in spectacular geysers.”

Launched in 1997, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has shed unprecedented views on our Solar System’s majestic, ringed world. From the discovery of new, outer rings to infrared hazes beneath its clouds to surprising storms, the nature of its rings and structure atop Saturn’s north pole, Cassini has delivered beyond any reasonable expectations. But even more surprising, perhaps, was the huge amount of information we discovered about the Saturnian moons, including the active liquid methane on Titan’s surface, the origin of Iapetus’ two-toned nature, the capture Kuiper Belt-object status of Phoebe, and the subsurface ocean, erupting in spectacular geysers, on Enceladus.

Due to these worlds’ potential for life, Cassini will de-orbit into Saturn’s atmosphere in 2017, to avoid contamination. Go get the whole story today!

One of the best contenders for alien life in the solar system is the Saturnian moon Titan.

We landed there once with a robot. The bot was called the “Huygens lander”. The Cassini robot dropped it from it’s orbit of Saturn.

As it plummeted it saw this at 68 miles above the surface:

At 56 miles above the surface:

At 44 miles:

At 16 miles:

Now, the above images are artist conceptions. They’re accurate but not actual photographs. When the Huygens lander was finally sitting on the surface however it opened its eyes and took some photographs of this alien world.

Then a tragedy happened:

Due to an error by an engineer here on Earth, the Huygens lander was only able to send half the photographs back and we’d gone so far.

It did however manage to take one, full color high resolution image of the surface of Titan, the prime place to find alien life:

How enticing a place. If we were to return to this moon who knows what we would find?

All the necessary ingredients for life are here and it’s actually similar to what early Earth was like.

One day maybe we’ll return with astronauts…