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Archive for the ‘planet’ tag

Our daily universe: Earth at night

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This scaled-down version doesn’t quite do it justice, but here is a shot from NASA of the planet at night (Nov. 27, 2000), showing both densely populated and developed regions versus less urban parts of Africa, South America, Asia and elsewhere:

Credit: C. Mayhew & R. Simmon (NASA/GSFC), NOAA/ NGDC, DMSP Digital Archive

Here are links to the full-sized picture and more information.

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Written by Jeremy

June 11th, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Posted in Science

Tagged with , , , , , ,

Jupiter a great protector? Not in 2036

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Numerous news outlets have now carried the story about the Australian amateur space enthusiast who discovered the “something” that appears to have crashed into Jupiter, leaving a spot on the surface the size of Earth.

Amateur discovers scar on Jupiter

Amateur discovers 'scar' on Jupiter

Here, you will find many facts about Jupiter, the most interesting to me being that the planet has little or no solid surface. The planet is said to be composed mainly of helium and hydrogen. At the top of the clouds, which vary in color from brown, white, yellow and red, the temperature is somewhere around -230 degrees. In one lower layer of the atmosphere, the temperature warms to a temperate 70 degrees — It’s at this layer where life could exist, scientists think, if at all — and down to the core, which burns at a toasty 43,000 degrees, which is hotter than the sun’s surface.

If there is any possibility of life in that 70-degree zone, it had better be a tough species because Jupiter, for all its color, is a fantastically violent place. Storms, the most prominent of which is called the Great Red Spot — there’s a more recently developed one called Red Spot Jr. — resemble, from our vantage point, hurricanes of gas clouds. And like Earth’s storms, lightning is also present.

As you’ll read in the articles, the impact of the “something:”

… comes almost exactly 15 years after a comet named Shoemaker-Levy 9 struck Jupiter, ‘sending up blazing fireballs and churning the Jovian atmosphere into dark storms, one of them as large as Earth.’ — The New York Times, July 21, 2009

as reported in this article by The Times in 1994. Obviously, the planet Jupiter was named after the Roman king of the gods. The vote is out whether Jupiter’s tremendous size actually shielded the projectiles from us, but one could say, or speculate, as this Times reader does, that Jupiter has now taken more than one bullet for us:

‘If anything like that had hit the Earth it would have been curtains for us, so we can feel very happy that Jupiter is doing its vacuum-cleaner job and hoovering up all these large pieces before they come for us.’

Should we go back to worshiping Jupitor (sic)? ‘He’ seems to be very protective of us, almost, uh, Godlike? — Ben Daggett

I would add: If anything the size of Earth actually hits Earth, we wouldn’t just be closing the curtains, we would be vaporized. Heck, it would take only a comet the size of a state like Texas (and probably a much smaller one) to pretty well do us in, the likes of which will come dangerously close to us on Friday the 13th, 2029. Named Apophis, the Egyptian god of darkness and destruction, it will be the first asteroid in human history that will be visible to the naked eye. If, on that day at about 4:30 a.m. GMT, it passes through what scientists call a “key hole,” or a perfect, dead center spot, Apophis will strike Earth, no doubt about it, seven years later. Bring all the biblical symbolicism to the table and chew on that one for awhile!

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Most Earthlike planet found

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Gliese 581d, originally discovered in 2007, has recently been found to, perhaps, have an environment that could support life. It is the most Earthlike planet yet to be discovered and is an exoplanet. National Geographic writes,

First discovered in 2007, Gliese 581d was originally calculated to be too far away from its host star—and therefore too cold—to support an ocean.

But (astronomer Michel Mayor, from Geneva University in Switzerland) … and colleagues now show that the extrasolar planet, or exoplanet, orbits its host in 66.8 days, putting it just inside the cool star’s habitable zone.

Also, according to Nat Geo,

Weighing in at around seven Earth masses, Gliese 581d is unlikely to be made of rocks alone, the team believes.

“We can only speculate at this stage, but it may have a rocky core, encased in an icy layer, with a liquid ocean at the surface and an atmosphere,” Mayor said.

This goes along with water ice discovered in 2008 on Mars. Obviously, water is the key to life. Where water is, life is not far behind. But I have this question. If we verify 100 percent in the next decade or so, as some predict, that, through these discoveries or others, that life does exist on Mars or some exoplanet in the form of a single celled organism or some other simple organism, how will that implicate religion as we know it? True, the big three, Judaism, Christianity and Islam attribute a creator god. But specifically with Christianity, how will such a finding affect things, if at all? Genesis assembles life on Earth (and only Earth) through God in a matter of three chapters with no mention of  the possibility of life anywhere other than Earth, which is convenient, since ancients believed the earth was the center of the solar system, not the sun. In fact, Earth exists on a spiral arm, so we are at the center of nothing, contrary to what the ancients and the biblical writers believed. We just are. And the discovery of life, or past life, on some other planet, would, it seems to me, shoot holes in creationist theories, perhaps beyond repair.

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Written by Jeremy

April 25th, 2009 at 1:49 am

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