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Indian-origin Researcher part of Team that Discovered Mars-sized object Lurking at Edge of Solar System

Something unknown is warping the average orbital plane of the outer solar system

Solar System
Mars-sized planetary mass object lurking in the outer reaches of our solar system. Pixabay

New York, June 26, 2017: Researchers, including one of the Indian-origin, have found evidence of an unknown, Mars-sized “planetary mass object” lurking in the outer reaches of our solar system. This object would be different from — and much closer than — the so-called Planet Nine, a planet whose existence yet awaits confirmation, according to the study to be published in a forthcoming issue of the Astronomical Journal.

In the paper, Kat Volk and Renu Malhotra of the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL) present compelling evidence of a yet-to-be-discovered planetary body with a mass somewhere between that of Mars and Earth. The mysterious mass, the authors showed, has given away its presence — for now — only by controlling the orbital planes of a population of space rocks known as Kuiper Belt Objects (KBO), in the icy outskirts of the solar system.

ALSO READ: KELT-9B : Scientists Discover Hottest Giant Planet of the Solar System

While most KBOs — debris left over from the formation of the solar system — orbit the Sun with orbital tilts (inclinations) that average out to what planetary scientists call the invariable plane of the solar system, the most distant of the Kuiper Belt’s objects do not. Their average plane, Volk and Malhotra discovered, is tilted away from the invariable plane by about eight degrees. In other words, something unknown is warping the average orbital plane of the outer solar system. “The most likely explanation for our results is that there is some unseen mass,” says Volk, a postdoctoral fellow at LPL and the lead author of the study.

“According to our calculations, something as massive as Mars would be needed to cause the warp that we measured,” Volk said. For the study, Volk and Malhotra analysed the tilt angles of the orbital planes of more than 600 objects in the Kuiper Belt in order to determine the common direction about which these orbital planes all precess. Precession refers to the slow change or “wobble” in the orientation of a rotating object. (IANS)

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NASA Reveals Plans For Future Missions To Moon

The Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway will serve NASA and its commercial and international partners as a uniquely valuable staging point

NASA to release two missions focused on moon soon in 2022. Pixabay
NASA's reveals the change in size of Jupiter's red spot. Pixabay
  • NASA can release two mid-size missions soon
  • The missions can come as early as 2022
  • The mission is undertaken to research about moon

The first of two mid-size commercial missions to the Moon for NASA could come as early as 2022, said the US space agency which is focused on increasing science activities near and on the Earth’s natural satellite and ultimately returning humans to its surface.

ISS is a permanent base for astronauts stationed in the outer sky. Wikimedia Commons
NASA will release these missions to know more about the moon. Wikimedia Commons

As part of US President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposals, NASA is planning a new Moon-focused exploration campaign that starts with a series of progressive commercial robotic missions.

“The Moon will play an important role in expanding human presence deeper into the solar system,” Bill Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator of the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington said in a statement on Thursday.

Also Read: NASA’s Curiosity Rover Tests New Drill Method On Mars

“Coupled with the capabilities enabled by the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, these missions will usher in a new era of exploration of the Moon and its resources, and provide a training ground for human missions to Mars,” Gerstenmaier added.

NASA said it plans to enlist a series of commercial robotic landers and rockets to meet lunar payload delivery and service needs.

The agency intends to release a draft request for proposals this spring to initiate commercial lunar payload service contracts for surface delivery as early as 2019.

The mission has garnered support from almost everywhere. IANS
The mission has garnered support from almost everywhere. IANS

NASA already has partnerships with three US companies that are advancing technologies to deliver cargo payloads to the lunar surface.

The partners — Astrobotic Technology of Pittsburgh; Masten Space Systems of Mojave, California; and Moon Express of Cape Canaveral, Florida — began work in 2014 under NASA’s Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (Lunar CATALYST) initiative.

The original three-year agreements were amended to extend the work for another two years.

The Lunar CATALYST partnerships have helped advance commercial capabilities to deliver small payloads to the lunar surface.

But the agency is also interested in understanding and developing requirements for future human landers.

By developing landers with mid-size payload capacity (500 to 1,000 kg — roughly the size of a smart car) first, this will allow evolution toward large-scale human-rated lunar landers (5,000 to 6,000 kg).

Additionally, this class of lander can support larger payloads to the Moon addressing science and exploration objectives such as sample return, resource prospecting, demonstrations of in-situ resource utilisation (ISRU), and others.

The agency said it would seek information from industry later this month for larger lander development, and determine how best to proceed with potential partnerships.

This research can be groundbreaking as moon is considered important for growth of humans.

NASA plans to follow that effort with a solicitation to enable the partnerships between NASA and industry. The agency is also planning to build a lunar outpost in the 2020s.

The Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway will serve NASA and its commercial and international partners as a uniquely valuable staging point and communications relay for exploration and science missions in deep space, the agency said. IANS