Water may be far more abundant on the lunar surface than previously thought.
- Scientists have long thought that water exists on the lunar surface, but it wasn't until 2018 that ice was first discovered on the moon.
- A study published Monday used NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy to confirm the presence of molecular water..
- A second study suggests that shadowy regions on the lunar surface may also contain more ice than previously thought.
Credits: NASA/Daniel Rutter<p>Still, it's not as if the moon is dripping wet. The observations suggest that a cubic meter of the lunar surface (in the Clavius crater site, at least) contains water in concentrations of 100 to 412 parts per million. That's roughly equivalent to a 12-ounce bottle of water. In comparison, the same plot of land in the Sahara desert contains about 100 times more water.</p><p>But a second study suggests other parts of the lunar surface also contain water — and potentially lots of it. Also publishing their findings in <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41550-020-1198-9#_blank" target="_blank">Nature Astronomy</a> on Monday, the researchers used the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to study "cold traps" near the moon's polar regions. These areas of the lunar surface are permanently covered in shadows. In fact, about 0.15 percent of the lunar surface is permanently shadowed, and it's here that water could remain frozen for millions of years.</p><p>Some of these permanently shadowed regions are huge, extending more than a kilometer wide. But others span just 1 cm. These smaller "micro cold traps" are much more abundant than previously thought, and they're spread out across more regions of the lunar surface, according to the new research.</p>
Credit: dottedyeti via AdobeStock<p>Still, the second study didn't confirm that ice is embedded in micro cold traps. But if there is, it would mean that water would be much more accessible to astronauts, considering they wouldn't have to travel into deep, shadowy craters to extract water.</p><p>Greater accessibility to water would not only make it easier for astronauts to get drinking water, but could also enable them to generate rocket fuel and power.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Water is a valuable resource, for both scientific purposes and for use by our explorers," said Jacob Bleacher, chief exploration scientist in the advanced exploration systems division for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, in a statement. "If we can use the resources at the Moon, then we can carry less water and more equipment to help enable new scientific discoveries."</p>
Want some crazy space phenomena? You don't have to leave the neighborhood for it.
- The universe has a lot of weird stuff in it.
- You don't have to travel far to find it. Our solar system is filled with oddities and strangeness. Some that we can't figure out.
- Learning about these things isn't just fun, it can be applied to our lives and can alter our perspectives.
Mercury ain't what it used to be<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDUxMjg1NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1OTMwMTQwMH0.BQTUzYP44Yp6mAWhh3iLfXBny2OU53oaZMeWghFPld0/img.jpg?width=980" id="a9983" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5d4f2fcffc24bd62fc10a89379cb1c17" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Mercury" />
False color image of Mercury (the yellow is water ice).
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington<p> The smallest planet in the solar system constantly outdoes itself. Mercury is <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/feature/the-incredible-shrinking-mercury-is-active-after-all" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">shrinking</a>. <strong></strong><br> </p><p> Unlike many other items on this list, this strange occurrence is likely caused by a fairly mundane mechanism. As the planet, which is made primarily of metal, has a high iron content, scientists speculate that the planet is shrinking as it continues to cool down from the high internal temperatures it had when it formed. <br> <br> However, this isn't the end of things. Why Mercury has such a higher iron content remains a mystery. A leading hypothesis is that the planet used to be much larger, but that many of its non-metallic components were knocked away by an impact with a <a href="https://zenodo.org/record/1253898#.X4W9A5pOlH4" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">planetoid</a> or that spikes in the sun's temperature caused much of the rocky crust of Mercury to vaporize and blow away, leaving an iron core. </p>
You can spin faster than Venus, if you try.<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/dXOLJOnLKDg" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> As seen from Earth, the sun comes up in the east and sets in the west. On Venus, the opposite is <a href="https://coolcosmos.ipac.caltech.edu/ask/50-Does-Venus-really-spin-backwards-" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">true</a>. This is unique among the planets of the Solar System. Even stranger, it would take 243 Earth days to be able to enjoy another sunrise if you could see it from Venus' surface. The planet only rotates at a leisurely 6.52 km/h (4.05 mph), compare that to Earth's 674.4 km/h (1,040.4 mph). For comparison, a Venusian year is only 225 Earth days, meaning a year there is shorter than a day!<strong></strong></p><p><strong> </strong>The slow rotation speed causes side effects you might not have suspected. While the Earth's rotation causes the center to bulge out somewhat, Venus lacks this and is much closer to being spherical.</p><p>A variety of theories attempting to explain all this have been advanced. One argues that this results from the sun's tidal forces in battle with those created by the thick Venusian atmosphere, with the former slowing rotation and the later speeding it up. An amusing hypothesis argues that the whole planet was somehow flipped upside down, and it continues to spin in the same direction as <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-venus-spins-the-wrong/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">it always has</a>. Another suggests that a massive impact, early in the Solar System's history, knocked Venus so hard it started spinning <a href="https://amazingsciencefacts.com/why-does-venus-spin-backwards/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">backward</a>. </p><p> This last theory has the bonus of explaining why Venus has no moons, as the resulting powerful tidal forces would have caused any moon there to fall into the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tidal_acceleration#Tidal_deceleration" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">planet</a>. </p>
Everything about Saturn’s moon Iapetus is odd<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDUxMjg1Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMTc5NDI4MH0.FqgD7t6r6Oeq1GgnEmJwDhWCYoxQ7MQ_o9vipHfIUCY/img.jpg?width=980" id="5c830" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a1c8712b303d4e24243ba9bfdb4cfdcd" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="lapetus" />
Images of Iapetus' mysterious ridge taken by Cassini.
Uranus is a bit crooked<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/8GqnzBJkWcw" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> If you remember anything from grade school astronomy about <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uranus" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Uranus</a>, it's probably that it rolls along its side like a ball while the other planets spin like tops. Its poles each spend the solstice either in full sunlight or total darkness. It is only during the equinox, when the poles are oriented perpendicular to the sun, that the entire planet has a day and night cycle similar to the other planets.</p><p>Why it rolls like this is unknown. The current leading theory involves what seems to be the favorite explanation of astronomers, a large object knocking into the planet in the early days of the solar system. As you might expect, this orientation means that Uranus's poles get more sunlight and heat than the equator does. Despite this, the equator is still warmer than the poles are. The cause of this is currently also unknown. </p>
Neptune radiates heat. Like, a lot of heat.<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDUxMjkxMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNDI0NDU4NH0.cbSmAN0vbiKgxamZPbwsUq7RgCzy24WkwgVxq-iERgQ/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C59%2C0%2C66&height=700" id="e98ec" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="939ae4cf6968960db278461e81435b7e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Neptune" />
A slightly retouched image of Neptune's south pole as seen by Voyager 2.
By Kevin Gill from Los Angeles, CA, United States - Neptune - August 25 1989, CC BY-SA 2.0,<p> The most distant known planet from the sun (sorry Pluto), Neptune gets a tiny fraction of the heat and light that other planets enjoy. It gets less than half as much sunlight as its neighbor, Uranus. As they say, though, it's what's on the inside that counts. Neptune radiates a substantial amount of heat, 2.6 times as much as it gets from the Sun, compared to Uranus' 1.1 times as much. <br> <br> This internal heating provides the energy needed for Neptune to have the fastest winds in the solar system, with gusts of up to 2,100 km/h (1,300 mph) observed. <br> <br> Some scientists propose the heat is just leftover from the planet's <a href="https://www.space.com/something-strange-inside-neptune.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">formation</a>. Others suggest that the ice giants' internal heating might be cyclical, with Neptune and Uranus being out of sync with each other. It is also possible to view Uranus as the strange one, arguing that its internal heating is much lower than it should be. Theories that go this way often suggest that whatever knocked Uranus over took a fair amount of heat with it. The trouble with any hypothesis advanced is that it has to deal with Neptune and Uranus' apparent similarities while also allowing for this single, tremendous difference. </p>
There is a Planet Nine, probably, maybe.<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/7rjURtq1pNI" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> Neptune was discovered after Uranus' orbit was observed to differ from predictions in a way that suggested a large object was influencing it. Neptune was discovered orbiting almost exactly where such a large object was expected to be. Today, a similar problem exists with some objects in the Kuiper belt, leading some scientists to argue for the existence of a "<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planet_Nine" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Planet Nine</a>," exerting an influence on their orbits.</p><p>Some Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs) have clustered orbits. Seen from above, the long ellipses that track their orbits tend to nest inside one another, with their vertexes all pointing in the same direction. Typically, we would expect these orbits to be distributed more <a href="https://www.space.com/does-planet-nine-exist.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">randomly</a>. The odds that they would be in the configuration we see them in due to chance are extremely low. </p><p> However, a planet around ten times the Earth's size in an extremely eccentric, far-flung orbit would exert a gravitational pull just strong enough to cause this and other strange phenomena observed in the Kuiper Belt. </p><p> Alternative explanations for the observed data exist. They range from the mundane proposal that what we see is coincidentally similar to what a planet would cause, to the exotic notion that we should be looking for <a href="https://arxiv.org/abs/1909.11090" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">small black holes </a>rather than a planet. No Planet Nine has been spotted, but various studies have not yet ruled out the possibility of its existence. </p>
Why is any of this important?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/qPvSRPsWhOQ" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> Understanding how these odd phenomena came into existence can give us a better understanding of the formation of the solar system in general and the planets in particular. Having a good idea of where something is coming from is very helpful in science, as it can make it easier to estimate where it is going. </p><p>That can be very nice to have when you're talking about the rock with odd fitting continents, exploding mountains, and an ever-evolving atmosphere floating in space you're sitting on. Beyond that, many people hope that humans will travel to other bodies in the solar system someday. It might be nice to know a bit about the strange places we might end up traveling to or some of the things we might encounter before heading out. <br> <br> Even if we don't ever get to Neptune or Planet Nine, studying the odd parts of the solar system can serve as a reminder of how big and how strange the universe we live in really is. Our changing understanding of the universe has impacted how we live our lives before, and more than a few great thinkers pointed to changes in our understanding of <a href="http://www.themcclungs.net/astronomy/people/aristotle.html" target="_blank">astronomy</a> to justify and explain their thinking in other <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copernican_Revolution#Immanuel_Kant" target="_blank">fields</a>. <br> <br> Plus, given how many of these oddities seem related to things getting hit with giant rocks, these discoveries might help us finally get around to deciding what to do if an asteroid comes our way. </p>
New research explains why the Moon's crust is magnetized by debunking one long-standing theory.
Moon mission 2.0: What humanity will learn by going back to the Moon | Michelle Thaller | Big Think<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c97eca7a853afe3bcf42f075bd85b43c"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/4vAiCSTV9lQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The solar system has some strange stuff in it. Learning how it ended up that way can tell us where we're going.
- A new model of Saturn's atmosphere might finally explain how a bizarrely shaped storm developed there.
- The model produced a polygonal storm system similar, but not identical to, that observed on Saturn.
- The findings may shed light on the formation of the solar system.
Why this matters on Earth<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7e7df6b85fb3b8a7883f31d905d6c2fa"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/DB08Hhldg5s?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p> Figuring this out can also help shed light on Saturn's formation as, by extension, the formation of the solar system. As Yadav <a href="https://phys.org/news/2020-10-d-formation-hexagon-storm-saturn.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">explains</a>:</p><p>"From a scientific point of view, the atmosphere is really important in determining how quickly a planet cools. All these things you see on the surface, they're basically manifestations of the planet cooling down and the planet cooling down tells us a lot about what's happening inside of the planet. The scientific motivation is basically understanding how Saturn came to be and how it evolves over time."<br> </p><p>Understanding how the solar system came into being can help us not only understand how other star systems might work but also help us determine how our solar system, including Earth, will change in the future. So even if you don't have to worry about a hexagonal storm anytime soon, you may someday benefit from the attempt to understand how such a thing could ever exist. </p>
A supernova exploded near Earth about 2.5 million years ago, possibly causing an extinction event.
- Researchers from the University of Munich find evidence of a supernova near Earth.
- A star exploded close to our planet about 2.5 million years ago.
- The scientists deduced this by finding unusual concentrations of isotopes, created by a supernova.
This Manganese crust started to form about 20 million years ago. Growing layer by layer, it resulted in minerals precipitated out of seawater. The presence of elevated concentrations of 60 Fe and 56 Mn in layers from 2.5 million years ago hints at a nearby supernova explosion around that time.
Credit: Dominik Koll/ TUM