Tag Archives: planet

Proxima Centauri b – Our Newest Neighbour

This is the biggest exoplanet news ever. 4.25 light years away, a tiny red dwarf star has revealed something extremely important: a potentially Earth-like planet. The ESO announced today that they have discovered a planet orbiting the nearest star to our solar system, Proxima Centauri.

Artist's impression of Proxima Centauri b. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser. Source.
Artist’s impression of Proxima Centauri b. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser. Source.

So, how big is this planet? At least 1.3 times the size of Earth, or possibly up to 3 Earths. This would mean it’s either an Earth-like planet or a Super Earth. It is most likely to be terrestrial and due to its proximity to its star, it’s tidally locked. One side always faces its star. However, it’s in that very special place in a star’s orbit where liquid water can exist. That’s the good thing. The bad thing is that ultraviolet and X-rays from Proxima Centauri could make the surface of the planet potentially uninhabitable. With that being said, life could thrive below the surface.

What would it be like on the planet, though? The side facing the star would be hot and blasted by radiation. The side facing away from the star would probably be extremely cold, possibly covered in ice. The area that’s perpetually at sunset would be the most habitable and comfortable. If there’s a significant atmosphere, then temperatures could be stabilised all around the planet, and likely to be a constant wind flowing from the day side to the night side.

Breakthrough Starshot, a project started by billionaire Yuri Milner, physicist Stephen Hawking, and others, now has a destination. This project, designed to send tiny probes at 20% the speed of light into interstellar space, could reach Proxima Centauri b in only 20 years, then another 4.25 years to transmit data back to the Earth. The probes would take pictures and send them back. However, the estimated launch date is 2060, so many of us today would unlikely get to see this. Well, I plan to be around in 2084. I’ll only be 107 years old. I want to see this planet!

This has a lot of people excited, including me. I really want to know more about this planet. I wish we could go now. To see the surface of a world orbiting another star would be the dream of any astronomer or astronomy enthusiast. This is big!

Evidence Grows for a New Ninth Planet

Astronomers at Caltech have announced that evidence for an undiscovered ninth planet in the Solar System is mounting. It would be larger than the Earth, but smaller than Neptune. It could be a Super-Earth or a Mini-Neptune. But it’s orbiting so far away, it would take 20,000 years for it to orbit the Sun. It’s ten times the distance from the Sun as Neptune.

So, why do they think there’s another planet out there? All of the larger bodies, such as Sedna, that are orbiting beyond Pluto seem to all stay together on one side of the Solar System. This is strange, because it is far more likely that they’d be more evenly spread around the Solar System. The most likely explanation is a large planet orbiting at an even larger distance with its aphelion at the opposite side of the Solar System as these other large objects. Watch this video for an explanation by the two astronomers who have been studying this.

This is actually a very serious study going on, and it’s being reported by many reputable science and news agencies. If this planet is real, they have a rough estimate of its location, so they can search for it. But with its great distance, it’s not quite like searching for a needle in a haystack, it’s more like searching for a grain of sand in a farmer’s field.

Personally, I’m hoping something is found. This would be a very exciting discovery. What do you think? Are they on to something? Let me know in the comments below.

Highest Resolution Ever Images From Pluto

We have some amazing images coming in from New Horizons, and they are the highest resolution images we will see. But this is just the first! There will be a lot more coming. It would be great to post an image, but I won’t do that. Instead, watch this video. And I recommend watching it in full screen at full resolution.

We start off with a terrain that is very light and icy with some craters. But it appears that there’s a dark material in the craters. It appears it’s layered. Probably various ices. It then moves down into a badlands region, which wouldn’t look too out of place on Earth. Then it abruptly moves into a water ice region with polygonal shapes and what looks like a rippled terrain.

The surface of Pluto is absolutely fascinating. You can read the article here on New Horizons’ official page at NASA.

What do you think of this recent image?

2015’s Biggest Science Story

What do you think is the biggest science story of the year? 2015 isn’t over yet, but I think it’s safe to say that we have a very good candidate already.

My choice is New Horizons at the Pluto system. Pluto was expected to be a certain way, somewhat like Triton, but it turned out to be completely unique. It was unexpected. It’s likely to still be active, since there’s a huge area covered by ices, there are tall mountains, and the colouration is providing a lot of questions. One of the more recent pictures showed the atmosphere over a horizon that was lit by the sun, and the surface shows mountains. This is that image:

nh-apluto-wide-9-17-15-final_0Click the image to see a larger version. Or go here to see the full sized image.

There are still many months of images to download from New Horizons, so we’ll get to see many more surprises over the next year or so.

So, what’s your choice for biggest science news of 2015?

NASA’s Big Mars Announcement

Mars_23_aug_2003_hubbleSo, NASA has a big announcement coming about Mars tomorrow. There’s a lot of speculation about what it’s going to be. Water, ice, salt water, conditions for life, glaciers, flowing water, etc. Well, we already know about ice and glaciers. Can’t be that, can it?

They said it’s going to solve a mystery. Maybe it’s about flowing water? There have been many outflows seen, which could either be caused by landslides or flowing water. Maybe they’ve solved that mystery.

There’s a lot of hype leading up to this announcement, so it must be big. What do you think it is?

Axial Tilt, Latitude and Other Planet Details

I’ve already done posts about this before, but it’s nice to see another point of view. And this one has some really nice maps!

The War of Memory Project

It’s been a while since I did a worldbuilding post.  This one will be thin, because I just have a few points of data rather than anything particularly visual or interesting, but my friend Chris and I spent most of today batting planetary details back and forth, trying to figure out some of the specs of my world.

View original post 603 more words

A Few Hours From Pluto

New Horizons is flying past Pluto in only a few hours. We’ve been receiving more images, though they will continue to be scant over the coming days. You see, as it’s passing Pluto, the camera will be focused on it and Charon, which means that the high gain antenna will not be pointed toward Earth. We have to wait for the good pictures.

However, we do have some new images. Here is the latest for Pluto.

Pluto on July 12, 2015.
Pluto on July 12, 2015.

As you can see, there are craters, the dark regions around the equator, and guess what? An ice cap! That’s right, Pluto has an ice cap of nitrogen and methane. That was predicted, and it seems it was correct. Also, the diameter has been discovered to be 2,370 km, which is larger than thought. In fact, it turns it out it’s larger than Eris. Pluto is the largest Kuiper belt object that we know of. One thing that’s remarkable to me, though, is the mottled surface. It looks a lot like Triton in that respect. You can also see the bright area on the left side is rotating into view. It’s going to be the focus of the high resolution images.

On to Charon, which I have neglected to talk about.  Here’s the latest from Pluto’s largest moon.

Charon on July 12, 2015.
Charon on July 12, 2015.

There’s an obvious crater in this image, and the pole is dark. I wonder why. But to the right of the bright crater is what looks like a chasm. This chasm is larger than the Grand Canyon.

So far, Charon looks like it could be found around a planet like Saturn with its chasm and grey appearance. We’ll see how it looks with higher resolution images in the coming days and weeks. Pluto, on the other hand, looks like it could be a cousin of Triton’s. Very interesting.

What’s surprised you so far about Pluto and Charon?