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NASA Pluto Probe May Carry Crowdsourced Message to Aliens

A NASA Pluto probe may end up with one final mission after its work exploring the outer solar system is done — carrying a message to advanced alien civilizations.

NASA is considering allowing a team of researchers, teachers, artists and engineers to upload an interstellar message to the agency’s New Horizons spacecraft, which will perform the first-ever flyby of Pluto on July 14.

This project, known as the One Earth Message, is being led by Jon Lomberg, who was design director for the “golden records” that were placed aboard NASA’s twin Voyager spacecraft before their 1977 launch to teach any aliens that might encounter the probes about humanity and its home planet. 

The goals of the One Earth Message are similar, but the new project would be a more global and collaborative effort, asking people around the world to contribute images, sounds and ideas for this farflung “message in a bottle.”

“This is really a chance to try to think about ourselves from the long perspective,” Lomberg told Space.com. “We’ll never know if this extraterrestrial audience that we’re designing it for will receive it. But we do know that the people of Earth who participate, who play a role in it — it can literally change their lives.”

Voyager 1 entered interstellar space in 2012, and Voyager 2 will join its twin in this rarefied realm soon. The two probes’ golden records are actual records — 12-inch-wide (30 centimeters) gold-plated copper disks that come with cartridges, needles and instructions about how to play them. The identical records contain 115 analog-encoded images, as well as audio of thunder and other natural sounds, music and spoken greetings in 55 different languages.

The One Earth Message, by contrast, would be digital. If NASA greenlights the project — the space agency has expressed enthusiasm but has yet to approve it officially, Lomberg said — the team will be allowed to beam 150 megabytes of data to New Horizons.

The One Earth Message would therefore hold about the same amount of information as Voyager’s golden records — perhaps 100 images and about an hour of audio, Lomberg said. (Videos would take up too much memory.)

“We’re writing a haiku, not a novel,” he said.

The digital format would allow the One Earth Message to be more flexible, layered and integrated than was possible with the golden records, Lomberg added. For example, the message could be changed over time by beaming more files to New Horizons. It could also include a map of the world, and every picture and every sound could be tagged to the spot from which it came. 

There’s another key difference between the Voyager and New Horizons efforts: While the golden records carry information chosen by a small committee (which was chaired by famed astronomer and science communicator Carl Sagan), the One Earth Message would be a crowdsourced affair, with contributions from people around the globe.

“It’s not simply a photo contest,” Lomberg said. “It’s a process that’s going to find out what people want to send.”

Just as the One Earth Message’s content would be crowdsourced, a chunk of its funding would be too. (The team is not asking NASA to pay for the project.) Lomberg and his colleagues hope to raise at least $500,000 from people around the world via a Fiat Physica campaign, to build and maintain a Web presence and to figure out the best way to program the message.

Additional money raised would be used for education and outreach, among other things.

“The total budget is a couple of million [dollars], to do everything we’d like to do,” Lomberg said.

People would be able to contribute a certain number of photos for possible inclusion in the One Earth Message for free, he added. Anyone who wants to submit additional pictures would be able to do so, for a fee that would help cover the costs of the project’s website.

The One Earth Message Fiat Physica campaign runs through July 15. As of yesterday evening (May 17), the crowdfunding effort had raised about $12,000 of its $500,000 target. You can learn more about the campaign here: http://www.fiatphysica.com/campaigns/oem/

The group is also looking for private support, Lomberg said. 

Drawing up a message designed to be understood by alien civilizationsis not a simple or straightforward task. For example, how would any hypothetical extraterrestrials that chance upon New Horizons even know that humanity is trying to say something to them?

“How can you send files so that aliens can figure them out? They’re not going to know what a jpeg is,” Lomberg said. “Our challenge is to find ways of coding the message so that it calls attention to itself as a message.”

But there’s plenty of time to work on such issues. The transmission to New Horizons would occur in July 2016 at the earliest, Lomberg said, and it could even be postponed until after the probe flies by a second faraway object in 2019 during a potential extended mission that NASA is mulling.

While the One Earth Message is designed to be interpreted by aliens, it’s a worthwhile exercise even if New Horizons zooms through space alone for all of its days, Lomberg said. The project, he stressed, has the potential to get people more excited about the New Horizons mission and space exploration in general — and possibly to bring people around the world together in a perspective-altering experience.

“For almost 40 years, I’ve seen how the Voyager record has inspired people,” Lomberg said. “It seems like it’s time for another generation to have that same type of inspiration.”

Source www.space.com

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Space

Voyager 2 has discovered something amazing: Denser space outside the solar system

In November 2018, after a 41-year voyage, Voyager 2 crossed the boundary beyond which the Sun’s influence ends, and entered interstellar space. But the mission of the little probe is not yet complete – it continues to make amazing discoveries

Perhaps the probes have found some kind of traffic jam at the edge of the solar system. The Voyager flight continues and we will soon find out what it was.

Voyager 2 discovered something amazing: as the distance from the Sun increases, the density of space increases.

Voyager 1, which entered interstellar space in 2012, transmitted similar indicators to Earth. New data have shown that the increase in density may be a feature of the interstellar medium.

The solar system has several boundaries, one of which, called the heliopause, is determined by the solar wind, or rather by its significant weakening. The space inside the heliopause is the heliosphere, and the space outside is the interstellar medium. But the heliosphere is not round. It looks more like an oval, in which the solar system is at the leading edge, and a kind of tail stretches behind it.

Both Voyagers crossed the heliopause at the leading edge, but within 67 degrees heliographic latitude and 43 degrees longitude apart.

Interstellar space is usually considered a vacuum, but this is not entirely true. The density of matter is extremely small, but it still exists. In the solar system, the solar wind has an average density of protons and electrons from 3 to 10 particles per cubic centimeter, but it is lower the further from the Sun.

The average concentration of electrons in the interstellar space of the Milky Way is estimated to be about 0.037 particles per cubic centimeter. And the plasma density in the outer heliosphere reaches approximately 0.002 electrons per cubic centimeter. When the Voyager probes crossed the heliopause, their instruments recorded the electron density of the plasma through plasma oscillations.

Voyager 1 crossed the heliopause on August 25, 2012 at a distance of 121.6 astronomical units from the Earth (121.6 times the distance from Earth to the Sun – about 18.1 billion km). When he first measured plasma oscillations after crossing the heliopause on October 23, 2013 at a distance of 122.6 astronomical units (18.3 billion km), he found a plasma density of 0.055 electrons per cubic centimeter.

After flying another 20 astronomical units (2.9 billion kilometers), Voyager 1 reported an increase in the density of interstellar space to 0.13 electrons per cubic centimeter.

Voyager 2 crossed the heliopause on November 5, 2018 at a distance of 119 astronomical units (17.8 billion kilometers. On January 30, 2019, it measured plasma oscillations at a distance of 119.7 astronomical units (17.9 billion kilometers), finding that the density plasma is 0.039 electrons per cubic centimeter.

In June 2019, Voyager 2’s Instruments showed a sharp increase in density to about 0.12 electrons per cubic centimeter at a distance of 124.2 astronomical units (18.5 billion kilometers).

What caused the increase in the density of space? One theory is that the lines of force of the interstellar magnetic field become stronger with distance from the heliopause. This can cause electromagnetic ion cyclotron instability. Voyager 2 did detect an increase in the magnetic field after crossing the heliopause.

Another theory is that the material carried away by the interstellar wind should slow down in the heliopause, forming a kind of plug, as evidenced by the weak ultraviolet glow detected by the New Horizons probe in 2018, caused by the accumulation of neutral hydrogen in the heliopause.

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NASA has banned fighting and littering on the moon

New details of the agreement signed by representatives of a number of countries on the development of the moon and the extraction of minerals within the framework of the Artemis program have appeared. Reported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

So, astronauts involved in the mission are prohibited from littering and fighting on the territory of a natural satellite of the Earth.

So, we present to you the new rules for being on the Moon:

Everyone comes in peace;

Confidentiality is prohibited, all launched objects must be identified and registered;

All travel participants agree to help each other in case of emergencies;

All received data is transferred to the rest of the participants, and space systems must be universal;

Historic sites must be preserved and all rubbish must be disposed of;

Rovers and spacecraft should not interfere with other participants.

“”It is important not only to go to the moon with our astronauts, but also that we bring our values ​​with us,” said Mike Gold, acting head of NASA’s international and inter-agency relations.

According to him, violators of the above rules will be asked to “just leave” the territory of the moon.

The effect of these principles so far applies to eight signatory countries of the agreement: the USA, Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom. Countries other than China can join if they wish.

 It should be noted that at the moment NASA is prohibited from signing any bilateral agreements with the PRC leadership.

The first NASA mission to the moon, known as “Artemis 1”, is scheduled for 2021 without astronauts, and “Artemis 2” will fly with a crew in 2023.

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Methane snow found on the tops of Pluto’s equatorial mountains

Scientists believe that it arose as a result of the accumulation of large amounts of methane at an altitude of several kilometers above the surface of the planet.

In the images of the Cthulhu region – a dark region in the equatorial regions of Pluto – planetary scientists have found large reserves of methane snow that covers the peaks of local mountains and hills. It formed quite differently from how snow forms on Earth, astronomers write in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

“The white caps on the tops of Pluto’s mountains did not arise from the cooling of air currents that rise along the slopes into the upper atmosphere, as it happens on Earth, but from the accumulation of large amounts of methane at an altitude of several kilometers above Pluto’s surface. This gas condensed on the mountain tops, “the scientists write.

We owe almost everything we know about Pluto to the New Horizons interplanetary station. It was launched in January 2006, and in mid-July 2015 the station reached the Pluto system. New Horizons flew just 13 thousand km from the dwarf planet, taking many photographs of its surface. 

New Horizons data indicated an interesting feature of Pluto – in its depths, a giant subglacial ocean of liquid water can be hidden. It can be a kind of engine of those geological processes, traces of which can be seen on the surface of a dwarf planet. Because of this discovery of New Horizons, many discussions began among planetary scientists. Scientists are trying to understand how such a structure could have arisen, as well as to find out the appearance of Pluto in the distant past.

Members of the New Horizons science team and their colleagues from France, led by planetary scientist from NASA’s Ames Research Center (USA) Tanguy Bertrand, have discovered another unusual feature of Pluto. They studied the relief of one of the regions of the dwarf planet – the Cthulhu region. This is what astronomers call a large dark region at Pluto’s equator, which is whale-like in shape and is covered in many craters, mountains and hills.

Snow in Pluto’s mountains

By analyzing images of these structures taken by the LORRI camera installed on board New Horizons, astronomers have noticed many blank spots on the slopes of the highest mountain peaks. Having studied their composition, scientists have found that they consist mainly of methane.

Initially, planetary scientists assumed that these are deposits of methane ice. However, Bertrand and his colleagues found that the slopes and even the tops of Pluto’s equatorial mountains are actually covered not only with ice, but also with exotic methane snow that forms right on their surface.

Planetary scientists came to this conclusion by calculating how methane behaves in Pluto’s atmosphere. In doing so, they took into account how the molecules of its gases interact with the sun’s rays and other heat sources. It turned out that at the equator of Pluto, at an altitude of 2-3 km from its surface, due to the special nature of the movement of winds, unique conditions have formed, due to which snow is formed from methane vapor.

Unlike Earth, where such deposits are formed as a result of the rise of warm air into the upper atmosphere, on Pluto this process goes in the opposite direction – as a result of contact of the cold surface of the peaks and slopes of mountains with warm air masses from the relatively high layers of the dwarf planet’s atmosphere.

Previously, as noted by Bertrand and his colleagues, scientists did not suspect that this was possible. The fact is that they did not take into account that due to the deposition of even a small amount of methane snow and ice, the reflectivity of the peaks and slopes of mountains in the Cthulhu region increases. As a result, their surface temperature drops sharply, and snow forms even faster.

Scientists suggest that another mysterious feature of Pluto’s relief could have arisen in a similar way – the so-called Tartarus Ridges, located east of the Sputnik plain. A distinctive feature of this mountainous region is strange peaks that are shaped like skyscrapers or blades. Bertrand and his colleagues suggest that these peaks are also methane ice deposits that grow “from top to bottom.”

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