Fantasist & Futurist
- Nov 23, 2002
1. Jupiter's giant waves
Do you see those ripples above? Those are gigantic waves roaring across Jupiter's outer atmosphere, detected by NASA's Juno mission: NASA's Juno mission detects Jupiter wave trains
"JunoCam has counted more distinct wave trains than any other spacecraft mission since Voyager," said Glenn Orton, a Juno scientist from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "The trains, which consist of as few as two waves and as many as several dozen, can have a distance between crests as small as about 40 miles (65 kilometers) and as large as about 760 miles (1,200 kilometers). The shadow of the wave structure in one image allowed us to estimate the height of one wave to be about 6 miles (10 kilometers) high."
2. Martian electric dust
The reason for high concentrations of perchlorates all across the Martian atmosphere is a puzzle - not least how and why they developed there. A new study suggests that frequent Martian dust-devils create strong enough electrostatic forces to drive the chemical reaction that forms them: Electricity in Martian dust storms helps to form perchlorates
And here's a picture of one at work:
3. Exoplanetary systems reveal new mysteries
Now that the search for exoplanets has developed into the observation of exoplanetary systems, new questions arise about how they might have formed - and how that applies to our own solar system.
Observations suggest CI Tau - a very young star - appears to have already formed at least four gas giants, even though it still has an extant protoplanetary disk of dust and gas: Giant planets around young star raise questions about how planets form
Also keeping with planetary formations, it has been presumed that we should search for them among metal-heavy stars like our own Sun. And yet research suggests even the most basic - and common, stars also appear to have extensive arrangements of planets: Some planetary systems just aren't into heavy metalThe star, CI Tau, is located about 500 light years away in a highly-productive stellar 'nursery' region of the galaxy. Its four planets differ greatly in their orbits: the closest (the hot Jupiter) is within the equivalent of the orbit of Mercury, while the farthest orbits at a distance more than three times greater than that of Neptune. The two outer planets are about the mass of Saturn, while the two inner planets are respectively around one and 10 times the mass of Jupiter.
4. The lord of the ring planets
J1407b may be a planet with a huge ring system 600 times bigger than Saturn - if earlier observations hold up. Now the search is on to prove that - but we may have to wait until 2024 for the next opportunity to see them eclipse the local star: Ring around the exoplanet?
5. Europa remains cold to life
Moving onto moons, and Europa has undergone heat-mapping by ALMA, to look for evidence of heat plumes: ALMA maps Europa's temperature
However, while they've been detected on Enceladus, no such plumes have yet been detected on Europa: Europa plume sites lack expected heat signatures
Even still, it might simply be that any volcanic vents remain very deep within Europa, and the thicker crust may make it difficult for plumes to form and escape.
6. Slow pulsar day
Pulsars are commonly known for being the crushed remnants of stars - and for spinning at insane rates. The fastest one records takes just 0.001 seconds to spin on its axis. However, one has just been recorded with a spin of 23.5 seconds - still ridiculously fast, but now the slowest known pulsar: Student discovers slowest ever pulsar star
7. Early titan of the universe
One of the biggest mysteries of cosmology is why matter in space is unevenly distributed. In theory, there should be the same amount in any direction - but in reality there are massive structures of connected galaxies, with massive empty spaces.
And new observations have found a giant proto-supercluster that appears to date at just over 2 billion years after the formation of the universe - which makes it a youngster in the making: Astronomers find a cosmic Titan in the early universe
For reference, if you want to see our local supercluster - Laniakea - the video below provides some great detail about it:
BONUS! There are various images and videos about how the size of different objects in the universe compare - here's the latest, beginning with if Earth were the size of a tennis ball...