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Moon

The only natural satellite of the Earth

 

The moon is considered to be the only type of satellite which is natural and of the Earth also. The Earth does not have any other natural satellites or moons as they are more commonly known as. The Moon is the Solar System’s fifth biggest satellite. After Lo, a satellite of the planet Jupiter, the Moon is the densest in the Solar System.

The Moon does have huge volcanic features across the surface, along with other impact craters. These are some distinguishing features of the Moon and why many people recognize the Moon. However, there has been many debates over how the Moon has gained it volcanic shaping and what might be actually hidden beneath the surface also.

The surface of the Moon is also going to be rather dark even though it is the second brightest object in space; the Sun is the brightest in the Solar System. The gravitational system on the Moon can produce ocean tides and can also produce solar eclipses.

Many believe that the Moon was formed due to a part of Earth colliding with a large object in space which could have been the size of Mars; and that is said to have helped create the Moon. However, many dispute this theory. Remember, the Moon is a natural satellite but this is something that many don’t think about when studying the Moon.

Presence of water on The Moon

There cannot actually be any liquid water found on the lunar surface; this is because when the water is exposed to solar radiation, the water will decompose and won’t survive on the Moon, it will disappear into Space. Though, many still believe there are ice water deposits on and underneath the surface.

Though, in many years, there have been signs of water to be able to exist on the lunar surface. In fact in 2008, there was water ice found on the surface on the Moon. This was extraordinary news however because no one believed this to be possible.

Moon facts and information
Full Moon

Orbit of the Earth and the Seasons of the Moon

The Moon will orbit the Earth every 27 or so days. The Moon does have an axis tilt which is around 5.14 degrees. The Moon’s solar illumination can vary during the different seasons of the year.

The Moon does use a synchronous rotation system which means that it will rotate on its axis and take as long as it takes to orbit the Earth. This will ensure the Moon will continue to mostly have the same face or side of the Moon facing the Earth.

The Near Side of the Moon continues to face the Earth while the Far Side rarely faces the Earth.

Eclipses

An Eclipse can be tricky at times to occur because it can only happen when the Moon, Sun and Earth are in a certain position. They have to be in a straight line so that the eclipse can occur. Though, when it comes to a solar eclipse, this will only happen when there is a new moon – this means the Moon is directly in between the Earth and the Sun.

When it comes to a lunar eclipse, this will happen when the Earth is between the Moon and the Sun. Of course, the Sun is going to be much larger than the Moon or indeed any planet but the Moon does have a strong size and mass. Though, when these two are lined up together they can resemble the same size, this is why an eclipse is possible.

During the solar eclipse, the Moon will completely cover the disc outline of the Sun and it will be possible to view with the naked eye. Though for anyone looking at an solar eclipse, they should wear some protective eyewear so that the solar remnants of the eclipse don’t hurt their eyes. It was thought that many years ago, the Moon always covered the Sun but since the changes to the position of the Moon, it now rarely covers it. This doesn’t happen often and as a result, there are very few total eclipses.

One of the best known solar eclipses was that of the 1999. This was when the Moon covered the Sun and as a result caused a small blackout across many parts of the world when it was in fact light. This happened for minutes, but the effect was amazed and adorned by many people across the world.

Exploration and the Study of the Moon

For many years, no one knew too much about the Moon and throughout the years, many people didn’t understand that it was a natural satellite.

During the 60’s-90’s, there was a huge race for space and getting into space first. Though, it was the Soviet Union who first sent out unmanned probes to flyby the Moon; one of the many missions in 1966 was able to bring back soil and rock samples which helped to tell many about the Moon.

Moon information
The moon seen on the day

 

America also launched some missions and was able to send the first person to set foot on the Moon. This was in 1969 and the four man crew went into space and stepped foot on the Moon also. This happen on the 21st July 1969; and the mission were able to bring back a lot of different soil samples and rock samples also. The Moon landings were some of the biggest parts in history and are known all over the globe.

Though, since the Moon landings, there have been other explorations to the Moon. In 1990, Japan sent a spacecraft to the Moon, well it sent a probe to the Moon but the transmission failed and was unable to land on the Moon.

Though, there were other missions able to capture images from the Moon and send them back to Earth. It was said water ice was found on the Moon which is a huge discovery. This was followed by a 2006 exploration of the Moon which discovered the different chemical elements on the surface – which is considered to be a lunar surface. Many people still do not realize that the Moon has a lunar surface or even how important the Moon is for the world.

There have been many countries who say they wish to send up man-missions to the moon such as India and China. It’s thought that there will be more explorations to the Moon and many want to find out about the possibilities of water on the moon. There might have been ice water available but many astronomers want to know whether or not there can be more water found.

 

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Dwarf Planets

The Smallest bodies

 

Dwarf planets or a dwarf planet is a planetary mass object. This means that the object do not know if it is a planet or a satellite. This is something which is in between both; and this is a celestial body object which will be in the direct orbit path of the Sun. The dwarf planet is going to be big enough to have control from gravity.

The dwarf planet hasn’t cleared in fact, their orbit path from other objects which are out in space. To be honest, dwarf planets can be small, very small; the overall size can vary from one planet to another but there is still so much debate over dwarf planets and how, if at all, they should be categorized or who should determine how an object is named a dwarf planet.

It is thought that there are only a handful of dwarf planets that are actually discovered and named. Many astronomers believe that there have to be dozens, if not hundreds of other objects out there in space which are dwarf planets but haven’t been discovered yet.  However, there is still so much of the Solar System that hasn’t been explored yet, such as the Kuiper belt, which is very much unknown.

There is a huge estimate of maybe 200 different dwarf planets out there in the Solar System that hasn’t been discovered yet. It is thought when the entire region has been explored fully, that these planets will be found. Though, it can vary and there are thousands of objects which are scattered around the Solar System; and some of these are going to be dwarf planets and some will just be space junk orbiting the planets and Sun.

It is thought that most of the objects are going to be found outside the Kuiper belt.  In 2011, there were almost 390 objects that were discovered in space and most of them were candidate objects. Some were possible dwarf planets and some were certain dwarf planets; it can be very difficult with the classification of most dwarf planets. A lot of characteristics haven’t actually been explored when it comes to discovering or even naming dwarf planets.

Dwarf planets information
Ceres, a Dwarf Planet / Photo courtesy of NASA

History of the Dwarf Planets

It was back in 1801 when Ceres was first discovered; it was the first dwarf planet to be found in space. This was found somewhere between Jupiter and Mars; and for many years, these were actually considered to be planets. However, for around 50 years, there were dozens of planets out there and that was when there was a new word formed to name some of these – asteroids. These were considered to be the smaller objects out there.

It was 1930 when Pluto was discovered and for most, they believed it was the 9th planet in the Solar System but it was quite small. For almost 50 years, the planet was apparently bigger than Mercury but it turned out that the planet of Pluto was actually smaller than what Mercury and most other planets were. Pluto had the smallest diameter size but things changed and Pluto was no longer thought to be a planet.

Though, many people do not like the name, Dwarf Planet; many people think this isn’t the right term for some of the smaller planets out there. Some don’t like the name because it sort of means that they are planets; some don’t like to refer to the dwarf planets as such name and think planetoid would suit the name best. However, it does all vary because some are very comfortable in calling the objects dwarf planets.

Five Dwarf Planets

  1. Eris; this was discovered in 2005. On the 5th of January, the dwarf planet was found and it was originally called the 10th planet of the Solar System. However, it was in 2006 when it was officially known as a dwarf planet. Is a dwarf planet with its own moon of Dysnomia. This has been seen via the Hubble space telescope.
  2. Ceres was discovered first in 1801. This was almost 45 years before even Neptune was found and on January 1st, many believed this to be a planet.  However, it was only in 2006 when the planet was officially called a dwarf planet.
  3. Pluto was originally thought to be a planet and in 1930, on the 18th of February, Pluto was discovered.  It was a planet for 76 years but was recently put into the category as a dwarf planet which is still difficult for many to think of Pluto as a dwarf planet.
  4. Makemake was found on the 31st of March 2005 and was later categorized as a dwarf planet in 2008. Is a very small dwarf planet.
  5. Haumea was found in 2004, on the 28th of December; and it took 4 years in 2008 to be named as a dwarf planet. This has its own moons which are Namaka and Hi’aka.
Pluto Facts and information
Pluto, a Dwarf Planet / Photo courtesy of NASA

Pluto

For many years, Pluto was considered to be the ninth planet in the Solar System. Now, astronomers claimed that the planet wasn’t in fact a planet. Pluto was the smallest of all 9 planets and as a result, scientists said it couldn’t be considered a planet. This meant the planet was removed from the list of planets in the Solar System but it is a Dwarf Planet instead.

What all this means, is that Pluto isn’t in fact large enough to be considered a stable on its own planet of the Solar System such as Jupiter, Venus, Earth, Mars or any of the other planets out there. It might seem strange because for a long time, Pluto was considered to be a full planet but it’s all changed. It can be difficult to understand this but Pluto is very small, too small.

To be honest, there are many people who say that Pluto is still the ninth planet in the Solar System and that it has been a planet for so long that to them, it will remain a planet.  There are many fights and arguments started over how a dwarf planet is put into that certain type of category. Many top astronomers claim some of the best known dwarf planets are nothing more than large moons and others say that some deserve to be named as a full planet in some words.

Many believe that the size of the dwarf planet shouldn’t mean they aren’t put considered to be a planet of the Solar System and well established such as Mars and Earth. There will be more dwarf planets found in the future.

 

Earth

The wonders of our planet

 

Earth is a fantastic and most loved planet in the Solar System. It is where we all live and it is the third planet from the Sun. Earth is the fifth largest planet in the Solar System and is the densest of planets also. Earth is of course a terrestrial planet but it is also the biggest of the four terrestrial planets. Most believe this planet to be the World or as many call it, the Blue Planet. It is the place where we all live and it is the World for everyone to live in also.

The planet Earth was apparently formed billions of years ago, almost 4 billion years ago. Earth first showed signs of life within a billion years and the biosphere of the planet changed. This helped to alter the atmosphere of the planet at changed the physical conditions on the planet also; this helped to create organisms and it created the Ozone layer also. The Ozone layer and the magnetic field of the Earth stopped any potential harmful solar radiation from hitting the surface of the Earth.

This helped to allow ocean life, to move on to land without harm. Life has been able to continue to live constantly due to the fact that the orbital system and the geological history.  No one is quite sure how long the Earth will continue to orbit, it could be more than 500 million years or even billions of years; though some say it is the Lord God who will determine how life goes forward.

Understanding The Earth’s Workings

The Earth is divided into tectonic plates which from across the Earth’s surface and have been around and constantly changing for many years, possibly even millions of years.  The Earth is made up of a good portion of salt water oceans – almost 71 percent is made up of water, while the rest of the land, 29 percent is made up from islands and continents.  Though, these continents and islands are going to have different lakes and streams and a lot of different water sources that create a stable feature of the Earth.

The Earth has 2 poles, the North Pole and South Pole but these both are covered mostly with ice; these help to form the Antarctic Ice Sheet as well as the Sea Ice of the Polar Ice packs which are strong and very, very cold.  Though, the Earth does have a strong solid iron inner core with an outer liquid core which helps to create a magnetic field; and the Earth has also a good solid mantle.

Earth facts
The “Blue Marble”

Gravitational Fields and Orbit Rotation

The Earth has of course a gravitational field and these interactions not only occur with humans and terrestrial objects but also objects outside of Earth. It can interact with things from space and when it is orbiting, it can interact with objects such as the Moon and even the Sun. The gravitational pull can be very strong indeed and can at times allow things to be brought towards the Earth’s center.

The Earth orbits the Sun and it creates a 365 solar days as it spins around on its axis 366 times – this creates 1 year.  However, the Earth does only have one natural satellite and that is of course the Moon. The Moon in fact helps to ensure the tides of the oceans continuously move as well as stabilize the axis of the Earth and helps to stop the rotation of the planet from going too fast.

What Can Live On Earth

Earth is home to million of different species. It is not just human beings that are able to live on Earth because there are animals and many more different species, some of which, many do not even know they exist. The human population survives because of the amazing mineral resources that the planet has as well as products from the biosphere but the human population works together to help survive also.

Many of the human population will trade, travel, and use military action to help ensure the world runs smoothly and helps to get food to most humans also. Remember the World is separated into many different states; and there are many different views on Earth and how it works. Many people used to believe that the Earth was flat until one explorer proved it wasn’t. There are just so some people out there who have their own views about how the world or the Earth works.

The Structure of Earth

Since Earth is a terrestrial planet, it means that the surface is a very rocky one.  This means that the surface will be a rocky body form and isn’t a gas form planet like that of Jupiter. Its mass and size is quite large and its density is going to be at its highest also; its surface gravity is going to be at its highest also with the strongest magnetic field of four planets in the Solar System (Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars). This is also going to have the fastest rotational system and Earth is the only planet which is going to have tectonic plates which is active.

The interior of the Earth is going to be divided into layers because of their physical properties.  However, the other terrestrial planets are not very distinctive unlike Earth which has a very unique inner and outer core.  The outer layer of the Earth is going to be made up of a distinct silicate and solid crust with a solid mantle.  Though, the crust thickness can vary.

The Earth’s Heat

The Earth can be heated internally from a combination of things including radioactive decay and residual heat from planetary accretion. Though many believe that through Global warming is certainly going to have an impact over how the Earth is heated. The weather will change and it does have a massive effect on Earth.

The blue planet
Artificial satellite over the Earth / Photo Courtesy of NASA

The Tectonic Plates

There are several different tectonic plates in which the Earth sits on including;

  • The Pacific Plate
  • The African Plate
  • North American Plate
  • Eurasian Plate
  • The Antarctic Plate
  • The Indo Australian Plate
  • The South American Plate

These tectonic plates can cause a lot of earthquakes and volcanic activity when moved.  How they sit, the tectonic plates can be moved easily and the slightest of movement can create natural disasters such as earthquakes and volcanoes. However, if the tectonic plates are underneath the oceans, it can eventually cause tsunamis and tidal waves.

The tectonic plates move but they can move slowly and the slowest is the Eurasian Plate. Though, not all movements of the tectonic plates will cause any natural disasters such as earthquakes and tidal waves.  Though, with powerful movements in the tectonic plates, they can create massive and new volcanic forms which can eventually erupt but this might take years and sometimes, they will be dormant and won’t erupt.  Most of the times, these slight changes with the tectonic plates aren’t going to be minor impacting and there will be continuous changes in the Earth’s atmosphere and the surface including with tectonic plates.

The Planet Earth Video

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Photo Courtesy of NASA

Neptune

The Blue-Green Planet

 

Neptune is the fourth largest planet in the Solar System today. However, Neptune is the eighth planet and this planet is going to be the further planet away from the Sun; but the planet is considered to be the third largest mass planet. Neptune is going to be the densest of all planets in the Solar System and is a gas giant planet.

Neptune has almost 17 times more mass than that found on Earth and will be smaller than Uranus which is very close to it. Neptune is named after the Roman god and it was discovered many, many years ago. Neptune it was first discovered in 1846 by Johann Galle.

There are so many things which haven’t yet been discovered about this planet; though it is said that Neptune does resemble Uranus in some ways. The two planets will have the same compositions; these different from the gas giants such as Saturn and Jupiter however. The atmosphere is going to be completely made from helium and hydrogen just like some of the gas giant planets out there. However, there are some traces of nitrogen in the surface of the planet which means that it will have ice – the planet may have water, methane and ammonia found on its surface or underneath it.

Neptune is really thought to be an ice giant instead of a gas giant even though it is made up of hydrogen and helium. However, the interior of the planet is going to be made up of rock and different ices. It could be possible for the core to be a solid creation but it will more than likely have temperatures which are thousands of degrees. The methane in the planet could help to contribute to the blue appearance the planet can give when observing it.

The Climate of Neptune

It might not seem as though the planet Neptune has any sort of weather conditions, however the climate is very unique. It does have a spate of different weather changes and this was first seen during the 80’s. This is certainly unique because for many years, most people thought the planet had to be very bland but actually it wasn’t and the fly by in 1989 showed the planet was far from bland.

The planet does have dynamic storms – very dynamic systems when it comes to its weather. Sometimes, the winds on the planet can reach anywhere up to 600m/s which is unbelievable because it’s almost supersonic flow! The wind speeds can vary from being small in the east to supersonic wind speeds in the west; it can all vary but they can be very dangerous at times.

farthest planet
Neptune Planet / Photo Courtesy of NASA

It was discovered only in 2007 that the south pole of the planet was warmer than the rest of the planet. This might seem strange but its true and it can vary throughout the planet; there are temperature changes due to gas leaking and escaping out of the surface and out to space.

NASA discovered an anti cyclonic storm which was massive which created the Great Dark Spot; and even though it soon disappeared from the planet’s surface, newer storm systems appeared. The planet Neptune is very unique with its weather conditions because they can appear so suddenly and disappear just as quick.

Migration and Formation

It is very difficult to actually model the planets such as Uranus and Neptune exactly because of them being ice giant planets. Most think that the core has to be strong and has a lot of accretion; there has to be a lack of stability but it is not as yet known.

The Moons of Neptune

Neptune has currently 14 moons which have been discovered so far; and the biggest moon which has been found was sphere shaped. This is Triton, and this was first discovered by the astrologist William Lassell – this happened only after a few days of the planet’s discovery. This was only 17 days which is quite amazing and the moon will have a retrograde orbit system unlike most of the other moons in the Solar System.

What this really means, is that the moon was captured rather than being formed where it was. It could have been a dwarf planet located probably in the Kuiper belt and it was moved into the place where it stands now. The moon was close enough to the gravitational field of the planet to be locked into the rotation it faces now; but it is slowly heading towards the planet. The Triton moon is thought to be destroyed by the pull of the planet but this isn’t thought to happen until many millions, if not billions of years. Back in 1989, this moon was actually cold, very cold, which wasn’t as yet measured.

Though, Nereid, which is another moon, is very odd with its eccentric orbital systems. There is not many things known about this moon but it is certainly going to be a very unique moon of Neptune as well as the entire Solar System.

In the 80’s, there were 6 moons discovered such as Naiad, Despina, Galatea, Thalassa and Larissa and all were named after Roman gods of the sea.

Neptune isn’t however visible to see from Earth or by the naked eye. If someone were to use a telescope to view the planet, then they would be able to see the planet but it will only resemble a small blue disk. This might look similar to that of Uranus; and the planet is going to be a very distant planet from Earth.

However, Neptune isn’t going to be the biggest planet in the Solar System and as a result it can be very difficult to actually explore and study the planet more. Before the Hubble telescope first appeared, it was almost impossible to study the planet in depth. However, after the Hubble telescope appeared, it was easier to study the planet but there is still so much unknown about the planet.

Neptune Dark Spot
The Great Dark Spot / Photo Courtesy of NASA

Exploration of Neptune

The planet has been explored many times since 1989. The first was the Voyager 2 which didn’t actually land on the planet; instead it made a very close flyby.  Remember this is the latest planet in the Solar System so it can be tough to reach for many spacecrafts; though, the spacecraft did a flyby of the planet’s moon Triton was an exciting mission.

With the exploration with the Voyager 2, the signals that reached back to Earth took almost 250 minutes to do so. However, the flyby almost collided with the moon Nereid but it was found that the planet did have a strong magnetic field because of this mission. There was a strong field around the planet but it is strangely not found in the centre of the planet the magnetic field. It was said that the planet did have a very strong and active weather system which is very surprising. Also, there were more than 6 moons found surrounding Neptune and it does have more than just one ring surrounding the planet.

 

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Photo Courtesy of NASA

 

Mercury

The smallest planet

 

Mercury, one of the eight planets in the Solar System; and is considered to be the smallest planet in the Solar System. Mercury is also the closest planet to the Sun which makes it uninhabitable and cannot be explored further for many astronauts and scientists alike.  Though, Mercury can be seen from the Earth and can have an orbital period of only eighty eight days; and Mercury is the fastest orbiting planet in the Solar System. Mercury was named after a Roman entity which was the fastest flying messenger.

Strangely though, Mercury doesn’t have any atmosphere in order to retain heat and as a result, the surface on the planet will go through various temperature stages.  It can range from 800 degrees F in the day, and at night, temperatures reach  -280 F.

Mercury may be the smallest planet but it does have the biggest orbital eccentricity in the Solar System.  It is said that the surface of the planet is going to be very similar to the Moon as it has many craters.  What this really means, is that the planet has been inactive for billions of years; this means there has been no signs of life in any form so it is geologically inactive.

The planet will not also have seasons as how many of the others, such as the planet Earth have.  Mercury has a locked axis really when it comes to how it moves because it will rotate but in a very special and unique way from all of the other planets found in the Solar System.  The planet will rotate 3 times for every 2 revolutions it makes when orbiting.  It will only rotate once for every 2 years – this is Mercury years and not Earth years.

Mercury can be seen from Earth because it sits on the Earth’s orbit system; and it can be seen from Earth during the evenings and some mornings. However, Mercury will not be seen from Earth at night.  Though, the planet can be seen in different ways as it goes through the orbital stages because it can be very bright when seen from Earth however, it can be difficult at times, to view the planet as it’s so close to the Sun.

The Internal Structure of Mercury

There are 3 parts to the internal structure of Mercury;

  1. The Crust.  This can be anything from 100 kilometres thick to 300 kilometres thick.
  2. The Mantle.  This is 600 kilometres thick.
  3. The Core.  This has a radius of 1800 kilometres.

Mercury is the smallest planet in the Solar System but it does have a surface such as the Earth’s because it’s rocky; though the planet is one of four terrestrial planets.  The planet is around 70 percent metallic and only 30 percent of silicate materials which is very unique in a way; and its density is very high; one of the highest in the Solar System.  The inner core will be rich in iron also.

It is said that the core to Mercury is that of a molten core; with the mantle made from silicates.

Mercury Planet
Photo Courtesy of NASA

The Surface of Mercury and the Crater Effects

The surface of Mercury is similar to the Moon.  It will be plains which are very large and mare like; and there are of course craters that stretch across the vast planet’s surface.   Though, Mercury is not well known in terms of how the other planets are with their geology; but there are many who wish to change this and learn more about the planet.

There are many craters on Mercury of course but these can range from very small and almost bowl shaped holes to impact basins which are multi ringed and can stretch hundreds of kilometres.  Though, the Mercury craters are going to be different from those found on the Moon.

The biggest and best known crater found on Mercury is the Caloris Basin.  This has a huge diameter of 1550 kilometres and this crater’s impact was powerful enough so that it causes lava to erupt.  This helped to leave a concentric ring around the crater.

The Magnetic Field of Mercury

Mercury is of course very small but it does have a good and very strong magnetic field.  It is said that the magnetic field was created from a dynamo effect which would help to circulate iron liquid core of the planet.  Though the planet’s magnetic field deflects the solar wind that surrounds the planet and as a result, it creates a magnetosphere because of the deflected solar winds.

Mercury and its magnitude are going to vary from -2.6 and 5.7.  However, it is very difficult to get to know more about the planet because of how close it is to the Sun.  The planet can in fact be lost within the glare of the Sun and as a result, it can be studied and observed for small periods of time during the morning or the evening.

It is possible to study Mercury with telescopes based on ground, on Earth; but it does only offers limited detail. Though, Mariner 10, the first spacecraft to visit the planet, helped to bring back most data known about Mercury. Though, the world famous Hubble Space Telescope can’t actually observe the planet – at all!  This cannot view any of the planet whatsoever because of how close the planet is to the Sun; this is for safety measures.

Small planet
Mosaic image / Photo courtesy of NASA

Research from Probes

Space probes have been a vital instrument used when it comes to researching the planet.  Of course, getting to the country is not going to be easy from Earth but spacecrafts have been able to reach the planet.  The trouble is that the spacecrafts reaching Mercury is hampered because of the fact that it must travel into the Sun’s gravitational well and is very dangerous which is why no human or living being has been able to step foot on the planet.  Though, that doesn’t mean to say there won’t be more exploration to the planet as more and more want to know more about the smallest planet in the Solar System.

Future Explore Missions

There are many plans for the future for the planet Mercury from the European Space Agency.  The agency is in fact planning a mission with the country of Japan to send probes up to Mercury and explore the planet deeper.  The specific purposes of this mission will be to study the magnetosphere the planet has and the other to map the planet.

This isn’t planned to launch until 2015 but the spacecraft being sent, will not reach the planet until 2019 apparently.  It is hoped this adventure will go ahead but there is still so many things unknown as yet.  If this mission does go ahead, it will be a great experience to learn more about the planet as this mission could take almost a year to complete.  The findings could be extraordinary because scientists want to discover more about the different wavelengths with gamma rays, infrared, ultraviolet and x-ray activity in space and within this planet also.

 

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