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Dwarf Planet Ceres is Home to Mud Spewing Volcanoes

Dwarf Planet Ceres is Home to Mud Spewing Volcanoes 86

The unusual, and in my opinion unique planet Ceres hasn’t been in the news too often since the great bright spot mystery, but is back with news of having volcanoes that spew mud.

via astronomy.com:

The largest object in the asteroid belt is an active world unlike any other in the solar system.

Nothing is normal on Ceres — least of all its mud volcanoes.

In new research published in Nature Astronomy, a large team of astronomers has laid out a new view of the weirdest world in our solar system. It seems that Ceres has had a busy last few billion years — including random smatterings of volcanism, but of a type seen nowhere else in the solar system.

Ceres is the largest world in the asteroid belt, and is believed to be a remnant proto-planet, or the kind of small worlds that served as the building blocks of the planets we see today. There’s abundant evidence that Ceres may have once had an ocean that’s since frozen over, and the tantalizing clues to a geologically active history.

Ceres even appears to have a form of volcanism. There are two types of volcanism in the solar system, typically: the kinds of magma eruptions seen on Earth and Jupiter’s moon Io, where heated rock wells up from the core to the surface. And then there’s the kind of volcanism seen on Europa and Enceladus, where large plumes of frozen water erupt. Scientists call this cryovolcanism.

Ceres’ Mud Volcanoes

Hanna Sizemore, a Planetary Science Institute research scientist and author on the paper, says Ceres’ volcanoes are a weird mix of the two. “The big difference on Ceres is that you’re in this hybrid between the inner rocky solar system and the icy outer solar system,” she says. That means that while water may be a driving mechanism for the volcanoes, the actual material could include rock, salt, and heated material from the interior of Ceres, which is both a rocky and an icy world at once. When those volcanoes explode, “It would probably look superficially like lava extrusion on the earth, but it would be mud oozing out of cracks or fissures on the surface,” Sizemore says.

Sizemore says a new cryovolcano appears on Ceres roughly once every 50 million years, as indicated by data from the Dawn spacecraft, which has orbited Ceres for around three years. The craft has seen a series of “domes” dotting the world that have similar proportions to mountains, but are made of ices that have since settled after their volcanically active period ended, leveling them out a little.

These high-resolution images show Ceres’ mysterious bright spots. NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

These high-resolution images show Ceres’ mysterious bright spots.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Bright Spots’ Origin

And those famous bright spots on Ceres could also be some of the more recent areas of cryovolcanism. The brightness is caused by large deposits of salts, which would be expected to come up from down below. We may have also “narrowly” (geologically wise) missed seeing an eruption, by anywhere from “hundreds to millions” of years, according to Sizemore.

So what’s causing it? Sizemore says one of the team’s suspicions is that an impact long ago drove deep into the mantle of Ceres. This could be a contact point between the surface and warmer materials near the core, which could still be geologically active today. “To some extent, we don’t fully understand the mechanisms to maintain heat in these icy bodies,” she says, pointing out other icy worlds that should be dead but which instead seem quite active, like Pluto.

In fact, there are a lot of unknowns about the whole thing—but this new study at least gets the conversation started.

“Our main question is where is the heat coming from that can mobilize these materials,” Sizemore says. “Frankly we don’t know the answer to that. It’s a field that’s opening up. This idea of cryovolcanism has been viewed skeptically over time.” But now, it’s a booming field of research. Yet even as we understand cryovolcanism on other worlds, it’s unlikely anything else we find will quite be like Ceres.

This article originally appeared on Discovermagazine.com.

Space

In December, Earth’s inhabitants will be able to see a rare cosmic phenomenon

In December, Earth's inhabitants will be able to see a rare cosmic phenomenon 99

At the end of the year, astronomers expect to see a rare cosmic phenomenon dubbed the “Christmas star” in the sky. It will be caused by the fact that Saturn and Jupiter come close to each other at a minimum distance and almost collide to become one super-bright point of light.

These two planets became one straight line in the solar system a few weeks ago, but at the end of December they will be on it for observers from Earth. This will happen on December 21, 2020, on the day of the winter solstice, when the daylight hours are the shortest and the night is the longest. Jupiter and Saturn will look like a “double planet” for the first time since the Middle Ages, Forbes writes.

“The conjunctions of the two planets are extremely rare, but this particular conjunction is especially rare because the planets will be very close to each other,” Patrick Hartigan, astronomer at Rice University, USA said. “In order to observe a closer conjunction of these planets in the night sky, we would have to return on March 4, 1226.”

It is noted that the unusual celestial phenomenon can be observed from anywhere on the planet. The main thing is that the sky is clear. The “Christmas Star” can be seen in the western sky about an hour after sunset when viewed from the northern hemisphere.

“On the evening of their closest approach, December 21, they will appear as a twin planet, separated by less than 1/5 the diameter of the full moon,” Hartigan said. “For most amateur astronomers looking at the night sky through a telescope, both planets and several of their largest satellites will be in the same field of view this evening.”

In December, Earth's inhabitants will be able to see a rare cosmic phenomenon 100

Those who want to see Jupiter and Saturn converge in the sky as close, but will be higher above the horizon, will have to wait until March 15, 2080, Hartigan said. After that, a similar configuration for this planetary pair will not be observed until 2400.

Astronomers are already preparing equipment to analyze in detail the upcoming event. Everything is very serious, because the second such rapprochement between Jupiter and Saturn cannot be expected.

Of course, there will not be a collision of planets. You just get the impression that something terrible is about to happen in the solar system. Astronomers have assured that there is no reason to worry.

Is the “Christmas Star” an omen of things to come? Mark your calendars! 

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Space

A giant asteroid worth $ 17.4 billion is approaching Earth

A giant asteroid worth $ 17.4 billion is approaching Earth 101

NASA announced the imminent flight of a potentially dangerous asteroid will pass the Earth. The website of the Center for the Study of Near-Earth Objects says that a celestial body ranging in size from 370 to 820 meters will approach the planet on November 29.

The asteroid, consisting of nickel, iron and cobalt, is approaching the Earth. The cost of minerals in its composition reaches $ 17.4 billion, with reference to the Asterank database, which contains data on 600 thousand asteroids.

The distance between the asteroid 153201 (2000 WO107) and the Earth will be more than 4 million kilometers, the Space Reference specified with reference to NASA data. It is noted that the distance from the Earth to the Moon is 10 times less, and the asteroid is considered dangerous because it crosses the orbit of our planet.

According to the NASA Center for the Study of Near-Earth Objects, the celestial body will approach the Earth on November 29. 

It is noted that this time the asteroid does not pose a threat to the planet, however, it belongs to the group of potentially dangerous ones, since its trajectory crosses the Earth’s orbit.

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Space

Intrusive buzzing. The Perseverance rover recorded the space sounds of its flight to Mars

Intrusive buzzing. The Perseverance rover recorded the space sounds of its flight to Mars 102

NASA’s new rover is equipped with a microphone to record sounds during landing on the Red Planet.

NASA’s Perseverance rover, which is en route to Mars, has recorded its flight to the planet.

The new rover is equipped with a microphone designed to record sound when entering the atmosphere, descent and landing. The device should arrive on the Red Planet in February 2021.

But before the rover reached its destination, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) released an audio file recording what the rover “hears” during its interplanetary voyage.

The 60-second recording, posted on SoundCloud, was captured on Oct.19 while checking the rover’s EDL and microphone system.

Experts explain that the buzzing sound comes from a pump that pumps fluid to regulate the rover’s temperature.

NASA compares the new hit for your playlist to the noise you hear on wired headphones when the wire rubs against your clothing. It was these mechanical vibrations that the Perseverance microphone picked up.

“Located at the rear of the starboard side of the Perseverance, the pump is part of the unit’s heat system that maintains operating temperatures for the equipment, even in the coldest locations,” JPL said in a statement.

“I apologize to the person who came up with the slogan for the film” Alien “(” No one in space will hear your scream “- ed.), Perhaps no one will hear the scream, but perhaps a pump to remove heat will be heard,” says a leading engineer at JPL Dave Gruel.

He added that the microphone picks up the hum of the pump through mechanical vibration.

The Perseverance rover is supposed to land on Mars on February 18, 2021 in the Jezero crater – it is believed that a riverbed used to pass through this area. This is one of those places where traces of living organisms on the planet could be preserved.

The main mission of the rover is to detect signs of life in order to advance the study of the ancient history of Mars. In addition, the device will become part of a mission to deliver samples from the surface of the red planet: it will dig out rock at certain points, and then another device will pick them up, which will send them to Earth.

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