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Dwarf Planet Ceres is Home to Mud Spewing Volcanoes

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.

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India Blew up a Satellite. Now A “Space Fence” Is Tracking Its Debris

Explosive Demonstration

Last month, India demonstrated its capabilities as a spacefaring nation and drew international criticism when it used a missile to blew up one of its own satellites.

The launch happened to coincide with Lockheed Martin’s test run of a new space monitoring technology called the Space Fence, which can detect and track any unregistered objects orbiting the Earth. According to Space News, that was a stroke of luck that could mitigate damage to people and equipment in space.

Picket Fence

The satellite explosion essentially turned the satellite into a cloud of space debris, which could in the future collide with other satellites, scientific instruments, or astronauts in orbit around the Earth — remember “Gravity”?

“We happened to be up during an endurance test and we were very excited to see that the system performed nominally,” Matthew Hughes, Lockheed Martin business development manager, told Space News. “Space fence is all about the ability to identify break ups, maneuvers, closely spaced objects, proximity operations, new foreign launches.”

While Space Fence isn’t an actual blockade in space, it can at least help officials prepare for and plan around collisions.

READ MORE: Indian anti-satellite test proves early test for Space Fence [Space News]

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Gateway to HEAVEN? NASA Hubble Telescope finds amazing cross structure at centre of galaxy

AN incredible image of what appears to be a cross at the centre of the galaxy has sparked theories it’s the gateway to heaven.

The image was first released by the space agency in June 1992 – according to hubblesite.org – but has just reemerged on conspiracy website Disclose.tv.

FINDING: This cross structure has sparked theories of a gateway to heaven (Pic: NASA)

According to hubblesite.org, which first published the image, the cross is due to “absorption by dust and marks the exact position of a black hole”.

It is also 1,100 light-years away from Earth, the website reveals.

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It writes: “The darkest bar may be an edge-on dust ring which is 100 light-years in diameter.

“The edge-on torus not only hides the black hole and accretion disk from being viewed directly from Earth, but also determines the axis of a jet of high-speed plasma and confines radiation from the accretion disk to a pair of oppositely directed cones of light, which ionize gas caught in their beam.

DISCOVERY: The cross structure was found by NASA’s Hubble Telescope

“The second bar of the “X” could be a second disk seen edge on, or possibly rotating gas and dust in MS1 intersecting with the jets and ionization cones.”

The incredible find has sparked claims it could prove the existence of heaven.

One commenter wrote on Disclose.tv: “Wow I guess I’ve been wrong all these years!

“This is surely a sign that God exists and he is showing us that heaven resides with the very centre of our galaxy.”

Another wrote: “Interesting. I’d say X marks the spot, but it does look like a crucifix. In fact, it looks like a figure hanging off of a crucifix…”

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Second Interstellar Meteor Discovered and This One Hit the Earth

Move over, ‘Oumuamua … there’s a new interstellar object in town. Well, there was, according to Abraham (Avi) Loeb, the astronomer who will be forever linked to ‘Oumuamua because of his theory that the cigar-shaped, not-of-this-solar-system object might actually be artificially made – in other words, an interstellar spaceship or solar sail. Despite some ridicule, Harvard didn’t fire the chair of its Astronomy Department and Loeb went back to work … and has now discovered his own interstellar object which predates ‘Oumuamua. Avi, can you give this one a name that’s easier to spell and pronounce?

“I was very surprised. I didn’t expect that. I thought we will not see anything. But in retrospect, like any discovery, you say, Oh yeah, of course. How could I be so foolish not to look for that in the first place?”

“That” is — or was – a meteor that was reported over Manus Island in Papua New Guinea on January 8, 2014. In a paper that has been submitted to The Astrophysical Journal Letters, Loeb and Harvard undergraduate student Amir Siraj describe how they found the report while reviewing the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies’ catalog of meteor events for objects that had two key ingredients indicating they might be from another galaxy – speed and trajectory.

“We know the motion of the Earth [and] we correct for it—for the gravity of Earth, gravity of the sun, gravity of all the planets.”

Loeb told National Geographic that he and Siraj searched through 30 years of data and found one meteor that had the right combination of both. The meteor was traveling at almost 37 miles per second (134,200 mph or 216,000 km/h) when it disintegrated over Manus Island. That’s too fast to have been slingshot at Earth by a tight loop around the Sun or Jupiter or another planet in the way NASA gives space probes a boost in velocity, which means it was probably fired at us by another star. While there are no pictures of this meteor, the data in the CNEOS catalog indicated an unusual trajectory that, when coupled with its speed, indicated this was most likely an interstellar object that arrived three years before ‘Oumuamua.

“If we identified such a thing in real time, we could take a spectrum and figure out the composition.”

Unfortunately, this one burned up in the atmosphere due to its size — three feet across and weighing about 1,100 pounds. And no, it wasn’t cigar-shaped, so Loeb doesn’t think it was a spaceship. However, it could still have been carrying life forms.

“You can imagine that if these meteors were ejected from the habitable zone of a star, they could help transfer life from one planetary system to another.”

Panspermia! Loeb thinks most of these interstellar objects are much smaller than ‘Oumuamua (1 km long) and will disintegrate before impacting, but much could be learned by beefing up the NEO detection system to catch more of them as they burn up in the atmosphere so their spectrums can be analyzed for mineral content.

That’s not as exciting as finding an alien spaceship, but Avi Loeb seems well on his way to becoming the go-to astronomer for interstellar objects.

Source: Mysterious Universe

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