Sunday, October 11, 2009

And The Hits Just Keep Coming!

Just when you think we got our solar system down pretty well, all heck breaks loose and we end up dumbstruck to the fact that we really do not know diddly do about our little world. Headlines from the last few weeks read Mars may have had a thicker Atmosphere, Saturn has Giant ring Water found on Moon. So let's take a look at these for a moment and see where they fit in the big picture of things.

Ah Mars... This is the planet that launched their armada against us and then succumbed to a bad cold. This and countless other stories have been told about this intriguing red next door neighbor of ours. What do we know about Mars? Until recently, not very much. 50 years ago, it was all about what we could see in a telescope. Then came the probes. We have answered a lot of questions about who our neighbor is. The problem is for every question we answer we ask two more. The latest question asked by the Mars Rover Opportunity is: How could a meteor the size of a large watermelon have survived a fall to Mars without exploding and or leaving a large crater? Opportunity found this Iron Nickel meteorite in 2005 Some scientists have proposed that Mars had a much thicker atmosphere at one time this might have slowed the meteor down of that size and allowed it to land there as few as a thousand years or so ago. the atmosphere is trapped in the CO2 frozen at the poles. On the other hand this could be a meteorite that hit the surface tens of thousand of years ago and has come to the surface through erosion. Both are plausible answers. I tend to believe this meteor might have landed on Mars similar to how the Hoba Meteorite made it's way to Earth. The meteor took a low trajectory and skipped to a stop in front of Opportunities camera.This would answer many of the questions about this meteorite. I am interested to see how this turns out so stay tuned...

Saturn has a super-duper ring. The Spitzer Telescope locked onto it recently. This ring is huge with the bulk of the ring materials artist's rendering released by NASA shows the biggest but
never-before-seen ring around Saturn, spotted by NASA's Spitzer
Space Telescope
Photo: AP
start about 3.7 million miles from the planet and extends outward about another 7.4 million miles. The ring is very thin and loosely filled with ice and dust. The temp goes about 316 below zero F. but still has a thermal signature Spitzer can "see" This ring is also tilted 27 degrees to the ring system. The ring might also answer: Why the heck is Iapetus shiny on one side and dark on the other? The ring circles in the same direction as

Phoebe, while Iapetus, ,the other rings and most of Saturn's other moons go the opposite way. Scientists think material from the outer ring moves inward and slams into Iapetus.

Read more at: It has long been suspected that there is a connection between Saturn's outer moon Phoebe and the dark material on Iapetus This new ring provides real evidence of that relationship."
They have never seen the ring because no one has put a infrared scope on Saturn before. There it was... We are always just that close to another big discovery.

The last but not least headline lately was Water Found on Moon! Not Earth shattering if you will excuse the pun. Water or Hydroxyl has been found on the moon in several experiments performed by NASA Probes including looking at some Apollo 15 rocks again. Water was found locked inside these rocks. Who would have thought? The real question was how much? Finding a substantial amount of water on the Moon would go a long way to establishing a base there. The water can be made into fuel and also provide potable water for crews etc...But Steve how will they extract this water if found? the good folks at Huntsville have been working on this problem and have come up with a very doable solution. They will use microwaves to extract the water from the moon "dirt" They have done experiments and have been able to get 95 % of the water back from the simulated lunar soil and using a cold trap. We will not know for two weeks or so how much water might be up there. On the outside looking in, the LCROSS probe seemed to have drilled a dry hole... The word is all the instruments were working. The pictures were a bit on the anticlimactic side. I am looking forward to finding some answers. but untill then...

Clear skies and Great seeing too!

Steve T

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