Space News: Black Holes, Sun's Twin, ISS 20!

Brian G Turner

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black-hole.jpg


A few small pieces of science news this week that may be of particular interest to our science fiction writers - and anyone else with an interest in space. :)

1. Visualizing a Black Hole

What might a Black Hole look like? A recent computer model provides a suggestion - see above for the image.

More on that here: Researchers have created a virtual reality simulation of a supermassive black hole

And you can see a short video of the simulation here:



2. Sun's twin found

Analysis of hundreds of thousands of stars have found one with the same chemical composition as the Earth - a G3 star named HD186302 - suggesting that it may have formed in the same star cluster as our sun: A solar sibling identical to the sun

Phil Plait provides more information on this: The Sun's long-lost sibling found in our own backyard


3. Groovy Phobos

One of the two small moons around Mars has strange grooves across it which have puzzled scientists - but recent computer modelling suggests that they may be caused by boulders on its surface rolling around: Mars moon got its grooves from rolling stones, study suggests


4. Dry Mars

I've long railed that the prospect of finding water on Mars have been over-hyped - evidence of fluid mechanics does not mean proof of water, especially when it's long been known that carbon dioxide from the poles of Mars is known to flow out across the surface.

That rant aside, evidence of percolates on the Martian surface - which could reduce the freezing point of water enough to make it liquid - might actually be due to an error. Specifically, that boundaries between light and shadowed regions might have confused optical analysis: An orbiter glitch may mean some signs of liquid water on Mars aren’t real

on closer inspection, Leask and her colleagues noticed that perchlorates seemed to be showing up in places where it made no geologic sense for the salts to form — and especially along the boundaries between light and dark surfaces. That made the team suspect that the spike-smoothing strategy might be introducing an error.


5. Wandering core

Movement of magma - viscous molten rock beneath the Earth's surface - may have destabilized Earth's orbit enough to cause the last ice age: 'True polar wander' may have caused ice age


6. Icy moons common?

Recent simulations of the moons around Neptune and Uranus suggest that icy moons may form around similar planets: Encouraging prospects for moon hunters

This is interesting stuff, because one of the most common planet-types found around other stars are thought to be similar to Neptune.

Even more interesting is the statement that Titan is probably a captured moon - something I've argued for before. :)


7. ISS reaches 20

The International Space Station is 20 years old this week! Which leads to a couple of interesting features:

- NASA is adding a new module for testing long-range space refueling: NASA to launch new refueling mission, helping spacecraft live longer and journey farther
- Watch a time-lapse of the Earth as seen from the ISS over 24 hours!


And Phil Plait discusses another video - this one showing a rocket launch - as seen from space! Amazing time-lapse video of a rocket launch… seen from space!

Here's the vid:
 
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TheEndIsNigh

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RJM Corbet

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View attachment 48362

A few small pieces of science news this week that may be of particular interest to our science fiction writers - and anyone else with an interest in space. :)

1. Visualizing a Black Hole

What might a Black Hole look like? A recent computer model provides a suggestion - see above for the image.

More on that here: Researchers have created a virtual reality simulation of a supermassive black hole

And you can see a short video of the simulation here:



2. Sun's twin found

Analysis of hundreds of thousands of stars have found one with the same chemical composition as the Earth - a G3 star named HD186302 - suggesting that it may have formed in the same star cluster as our sun: A solar sibling identical to the sun

Phil Plait provides more information on this: The Sun's long-lost sibling found in our own backyard


3. Groovy Phobos

One of the two small moons around Mars has strange grooves across it which have puzzled scientists - but recent computer modelling suggests that they may be caused by boulders on its surface rolling around: Mars moon got its grooves from rolling stones, study suggests


4. Dry Mars

I've long railed that the prospect of finding water on Mars have been over-hyped - evidence of fluid mechanics does not mean proof of water, especially when it's long been known that carbon dioxide from the poles of Mars is known to flow out across the surface.

That rant aside, evidence of percolates on the Martian surface - which could reduce the freezing point of water enough to make it liquid - might actually be due to an error. Specifically, that boundaries between light and shadowed regions might have confused optical analysis: An orbiter glitch may mean some signs of liquid water on Mars aren’t real





5. Wandering core

Movement of magma - viscous molten rock beneath the Earth's surface - may have destabilized Earth's orbit enough to cause the last ice age: 'True polar wander' may have caused ice age


6. Icy moons common?

Recent simulations of the moons around Neptune and Uranus suggest that icy moons may form around similar planets: Encouraging prospects for moon hunters

This is interesting stuff, because one of the most common planet-types found around other stars are thought to be similar to Neptune.

Even more interesting is the statement that Titan is probably a captured moon - something I've argued for before. :)


7. ISS reaches 20

The International Space Station is 20 years old this week! Which leads to a couple of interesting features:

- NASA is adding a new module for testing long-range space refueling: NASA to launch new refueling mission, helping spacecraft live longer and journey farther
- Watch a time-lapse of the Earth as seen from the ISS over 24 hours!


And Phil Plait discusses another video - this one showing a rocket launch - as seen from space! Amazing time-lapse video of a rocket launch… seen from space!

Here's the vid:
"... I've long railed that the prospect of finding water on Mars have been over-hyped - evidence of fluid mechanics does not mean proof of water, especially when it's long been known that carbon dioxide from the poles of Mars is known to flow out across the surface ..."

As far as I know, CO2 does not exist in liquid form? It solidifies directly from gas and sublimates directly from solid (CO2 'dry ice')?

I like electrical solutions for some of Mars' 'water features'. I'll try and find some of the stuff, from years ago, and post it here ...
 

RJM Corbet

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Please ignore the 'alien' headline reference: it refers to Mars as an 'alien' world -- as becomes clear. Also try not to get fixed on the 'how'. These are interesting videos, at least inviting questions, imo ...


 
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Brian G Turner

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As far as I know, CO2 does not exist in liquid form? It solidifies directly from gas and sublimates directly from solid (CO2 'dry ice')?
Quite true - but as you've noticed with dry ice on Earth, it's a dense gas that moves at ground level. Additionally, the Martian poles are neither pure CO2 or pure water, but a mix of different chemicals. After a few million years of dense gas moving along the Martian surface in low-pressure and low-gravity, I would expect that alone to create clear fluid patterns.

From my own reading, the suggestion of Mars being rich in water seemed to arise since the 1990's. Co-incidentally, this was also the time when more serious talk began about eventually sending manned missions to Mars. It's difficult not to cynically perceive a propaganda campaign at play - especially when NASA once announced that you could simply drink the water straight from the Martian ice-caps!

EDIT: Found one of my early posts about this - and interesting to note that I haven't seen the claim talked about in recent years: Water on Mars?
 

RJM Corbet

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Quite true - but as you've noticed with dry ice on Earth, it's a dense gas that moves at ground level. Additionally, the Martian poles are neither pure CO2 or pure water, but a mix of different chemicals. After a few million years of dense gas moving along the Martian surface in low-pressure and low-gravity, I would expect that alone to create clear fluid patterns.

From my own reading, the suggestion of Mars being rich in water seemed to arise since the 1990's. Co-incidentally, this was also the time when more serious talk began about eventually sending manned missions to Mars. It's difficult not to cynically perceive a propaganda campaign at play - especially when NASA once announced that you could simply drink the water straight from the Martian ice-caps!

EDIT: Found one of my early posts about this - and interesting to note that I haven't seen the claim talked about in recent years: Water on Mars?
I'll check it out, Brian(y)
 

RJM Corbet

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Ok. A problem I have with water -- with comets having had to deliver it (around the solar system) etc -- is that hydrogen and oxygen combine enthusiastically and explosively to make water. Try and stop them. All you have to do is put them in the same room. It's difficult to prevent hydrogen and oxygen combining to make water? The slightest spark. So why should water be such a spectacular molecular event?

EDIT: I quite understand that liquid water is required for carbon based life.
 
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TheEndIsNigh

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Ok. A problem I have with water -- with comets having had to deliver it (around the solar system) etc -- is that hydrogen and oxygen combine enthusiastically and explosively to make water. Try and stop them. All you have to do is put them in the same room. It's difficult to prevent hydrogen and oxygen combining to make water? The slightest spark. So why should water be such a spectacular molecular event?

EDIT: I quite understand that liquid water is required for carbon based life.

I could be wrong here (old age and memory death etc.) but thought H2 and O2 were quite stable molecules and without that spark you mention nothing happens.

I seem to recall that when we did the old electrolyses split water into H2 and O2 experiment at school you had to put a flame near the H2 to get it to go bang. Out in the depths of space, temperatures are near absolute zero and there is little chance of a flame to encourage ignition.

My theory for the apparent water marks on Mars is that, as the planet has no hot core, the water has simply drained into the gaps in the crust and inner layers left when the core shrank. In other words the water is internal to the planet.

On Earth the water is constantly cycling round the mantle layers because it can't settle in the xtreme temperatures. If the Earths core was solid and cold then there would be nothing heat the water to generate the super heated steam which forces the water away from the core.

It's a theory.
 
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RJM Corbet

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As a layman I do find the electric arc theory a very convincing explanation for the scarring on Mars, and also things like the 'blueberrues' and the unusual craters with a dome at the bottom. Of course then it's: 'But what could cause such a huge electric arc?"

Strange things happen out there in space. Our own solar system is a 'freak' with the order of planets reversed; the bigger planets should be closer to the sun and the composition of the asteroid belt and kuiper belt should likewise be reversed.

It would be interesting to know what the science guys here have to say about the possible electrical scarring of Mars. 'It couldn't happen,' doesn't fly. It could have happened. But how, imo?

EDIT: The impact craters are there too, of course. The theory isn't trying to make electricity explain all the features on Mars.
 
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RJM Corbet

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Interesting - do you have a link for this?
Please ignore the 'alien' headline reference: it refers to Mars as an 'alien' world -- as becomes clear. Also try not to get fixed on the 'how'. These are interesting videos, at least inviting questions, imo ...


Please ignore the corny titles and check-out the (short) videos. The word 'alien' is used in the sense of Mars as an alien world, not as 'aliens did it'.

I wish they'd chosen a different title. The videos are well researched and convincing, to a layman like myself. I'll look around today for more stuff ...
 

RJM Corbet

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I googled 'Electrical Scarring on Mars' and got a lot of stuff.

This is another short one:

Here's a full-length 90min one. I haven't watched it yet:

Weird terrestrial lightning:



However the apparent electrical effects on Mars do not necessarily have to lead on to the 'Electric Universe' which is projected by the more freakish types. It is often the extreme 'lunatic fringe' followers and conspiracy theorists that turn reasonable people away from stuff like this, imo.
 
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RJM Corbet

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Interesting - do you have a link for this?
Sorry Brian. You may have been asking for a link about the 'freak' formation of our solar system, and inconsistencies around the asteroid belt?

It also helps explain why kuiper belt comets contain materials formed at high temperature in the inner solar system.

Most observed solar systems have large rocky planets close to the sun. The Jupiter grand tack is one hypothesis seeking to explain it, but apparently it relies over heavily on precise timing coincidences:
Grand tack hypothesis - Wikipedia
 
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Bagpuss

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As far as I know, CO2 does not exist in liquid form? It solidifies directly from gas and sublimates directly from solid (CO2 'dry ice')?
Actually you can make CO2 into a liquid. However, to do so it needs to be kept at a pressure above 60psi and at a temperature lower than 87 degrees Fahrenheit. Earth's average air pressure at sea level is about 14psi, so it's nowhere near enough to make CO2 into a liquid. Under normal conditions on Earth, CO2 goes straight from dry-ice to gas as you have noted. However, I think it is possible to buy liquid CO2 in tanks for scientific research.
 

RJM Corbet

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Actually you can make CO2 into a liquid. However, to do so it needs to be kept at a pressure above 60psi and at a temperature lower than 87 degrees Fahrenheit. Earth's average air pressure at sea level is about 14psi, so it's nowhere near enough to make CO2 into a liquid. Under normal conditions on Earth, CO2 goes straight from dry-ice to gas as you have noted. However, I think it is possible to buy liquid CO2 in tanks for scientific research.
Interesting. And its erosion features on an alien landscape might look diffrent from those caused by liquid water.
 

Bagpuss

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And its erosion features on an alien landscape might look diffrent from those caused by liquid water.
Possibly. The density of liquid CO2 would be different from water and so there could be a different erosion pattern. Whether you could get naturally-occurring liquid CO2 on a planetary surface, is another question. The temperature and pressure requirements make it difficult but not impossible. I think the theory on Mars is that there was an escape of liquid CO2 from underground which expanded as it escaped (which would cause the liquid to cool) and then the escaping liquid partially turned into gas and partially froze. The frozen CO2 was then suspended in the gas and the whole thing flows like a liquid.

This article goes into more detail about the possible process if you're interested.
 

RJM Corbet

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Possibly. The density of liquid CO2 would be different from water and so there could be a different erosion pattern. Whether you could get naturally-occurring liquid CO2 on a planetary surface, is another question. The temperature and pressure requirements make it difficult but not impossible. I think the theory on Mars is that there was an escape of liquid CO2 from underground which expanded as it escaped (which would cause the liquid to cool) and then the escaping liquid partially turned into gas and partially froze. The frozen CO2 was then suspended in the gas and the whole thing flows like a liquid.

This article goes into more detail about the possible process if you're interested.
Thank you.

EDIT: Are there images available of the particular gullies referred to in the article? Does the process apply to most or all gullies and erosion features on Mars?
 
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RJM Corbet

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Sorry. I have found images. Just google: gullies on southern Mars images, lol.

Also (2016)

Mars Gullies Likely Not Formed by Liquid Water

EDIT: All good. These gullies are recent and still forming But it's not addressing why the ancient features on Mars look so unlike water erosion features, as discussed in the electrical proposal above?
 
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