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Scientists to hunt for alien life on Jupiter moons

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European Space Agency

 

London: After a successful mission to Pluto last week, scientists are preparing to launch a probe to search for life on the icy moons of Saturn and Jupiter, media reports said.

Earlier this week, the European Space Agency announced that it would collaborate with aircraft manufacturing giant Airbus to launch a space probe in 2022 to look for extra-terrestrial existence on the four icy moons — Titan, Saturn’s largest moon and the ocean-bearing worlds of Europa, Ganymede and Callisto of Jupiter, the Telegraph newspaper reported on Saturday.

Dubbed as the “Juice” (Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer) spacecraft, the mission will look whether the frozen worlds that surround the two giant gaseous planets could support extra-terrestrial life.

“All our current exciting and fascinating space missions have been dealing with either understanding the origins of life and our Solar System or finding exoplanets (planets that revolve around a star other than the Sun) that might host Earth-like planets,” Daniel Brown, an astronomy expert from Nottingham Trent University, was quoted as saying.

“But, life doesn’t have to exist on planets like Earth, it could also have developed in oceans within icy moons around Jupiter like gas giants,” he added.

It is hoped that micro-organisms or even fish-like creatures may be present in deep-water hydrothermal vents, known as ‘black smokers’, which are known to harbour life on Earth.

“Juice will be exploring the Titan and three Galilean moons of Jupiter thought to harbour oceans under their surface. It will give us a much better understanding what lies beneath the icy crust and how it could offer an environment for life to develop.”

The probe will be launched on an Ariane 5 rocket which would spend seven and a half years slingshotting around Earth, Mars and Venus to pick up enough speed to get to the Jupiter system with as little fuel as possible.

For three and a half years, the spacecraft will sweep around the giant planet, exploring its turbulent atmosphere, enormous magnetosphere, and tenuous set of dark rings, as well as studying the icy moons — Ganymede, Europa, and Callisto.

The probe will start with Callisto before making two fly-bys of Europa, where it will study the icy surface.

 

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Surface of Pluto Has Sharp Blades of Ice as Tall as the Skyscrapers of New York! Read What The Scientists Have to Explain

The discovery of penitents on Pluto highlights its complex surface and air temperature changes.

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Colored image of Pluto clicked by New Horizons mission on July 13, 2015. Wikimedia

California, October 1, 2017 : Pluto’s surface consists of sharp blades of ice that shoot to the height of skyscrapers in Dubai. And scientists now might just be able to tell precisely how these dramatic structures arose.

The revelations of ice on Pluto first altered our understandings in July 2015 when NASA’s New Horizons mission flew past the dwarf planet and sent images of astounding terrains back to earth. Among its numerous discoveries were pictures of strange formations, resembling giant blades of ice, whose origin could not be traced.

Now scientists have come up with a scientific explanation for this ‘knife-like landscape’.

According to data obtained by New Horizons, these structures are made almost entirely of methane ice. While the cause of these peaks is still a mystery, scientists contend that they are likely to arise following a specific kind of disintegration that wore away their surfaces, leaving dramatic peaks and sharp partitions on the planet.

These land edges can be found at the extreme heights on Pluto’s surface, close to its equator and soar as high as the New York skyscrapers. Scientists identify these high cutting blades as a complex feature of the planet’s atmosphere and topographical history.

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According to Jeffrey Moore, a research scientist associated with the New Horizons’ mission, presently at NASA’S Ames Research Center in California, the knife-like terrain began with methane solidifying out of the climate at extreme elevations on Pluto. This can be understood to happen in the same manner as frost freezing on Earth, the only difference being in the scale of the two.

These structures can also be found on Earth and are called penitentes. However, here they extend only up to a couple of meters in height in the high-altitude snowfields along the planet’s equator. Researchers believe slight inconsistencies can transform them into dramatic spikes of snow as sunlight sublimates a few sections faster than others and prompting longer and spikier structures.

The discovery of penitentes on Pluto highlights its complex surface and air temperature changes.

The new finding is set to appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Icarus.

– prepared by Soha Kala of NewsGram. Twitter @SohaKala

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American Record-Breaking NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson Set to Return Back to Earth After 288-Days Space Mission

At the time of their landing, Whitson will have gathered a total of 665 days in space over the course of her career which is more than any American astronaut.

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Peggy Whitson
American record-holder NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson. Wikimedia
  • Nasa astronaut Peggy Whitson set to return back to Earth from International Space Station
  • The astronauts return after completing 288 days in space in Expedition 52
  • Peggy Whitson holds the record for the maximum time spend in space by an American astronaut

Washington, September 2, 2017 : NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who holds the record for maximum time spent in space by any American astronaut, is set to return to Earth on Saturday, completing a 288-day mission at the International Space Station.

Whitson and her Expedition 52 crewmates Jack Fischer of NASA and Fyodor Yurchikhin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos are scheduled to land in Kazakhstan at 9.22 p.m. EDT on Saturday (6.52 a.m. Sunday, India time).

At the time of their landing, she will have accrued a total of 665 days in space over the course of her career, more than any American astronaut, placing her eighth on the all-time space endurance list, NASA said.

Whitson’s return will mark the end of her third long-duration stay onboard the space station.

She launched on November 17 with 377 days in space already under her belt, and on April 24 broke Jeff Williams’ standing US record of 534 cumulative days in space.

Whitson also holds the record for most spacewalks by a female.

Yurchikhin and Fischer, who launched in April, will complete 136 days in space on their return. Yurchikhin will return to Earth with a total of 673 days in space on his five flights, putting him in seventh place on the all-time endurance list.

At the time of undocking, Expedition 53 will begin aboard the station under the command of Randy Bresnik.

Along with his crewmates Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos and Paolo Nespoli of ESA (European Space Agency), the three-person crew will operate the station until the arrival of three new crew members.

Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba of NASA and Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos, are scheduled to launch on September 12 from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, NASA said. (IANS)

 

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NASA Spacecraft circling Jupiter Reveals Beauty of Solar System’s Biggest Planetary Storm

The images were clicked by NASA's spacecraft Juno, launched in 2011, that flew directly over Jupiter's Great Red Spot on Monday

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The Great Red Spot on Jupiter
The Great Red Spot on Jupiter is shown in this NASA Juno spacecraft photo released on July 12, 2017. VOA
  • The up-close beauty of our solar system’s biggest planetary storm is being revealed by  NASA spacecraft
  • Juno flew directly over Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, passing an amazingly close 5,600 miles (9,000 kilometers) above the monster storm
  • Swirling clouds are clearly visible in the 10,000-mile-wide (16,000-kilometer-wide) storm, which is big enough to swallow Earth and has been around for centuries

Cape Canaveral, California, July 14, 2017: A NASA spacecraft circling Jupiter is revealing the up-close beauty of our solar system’s biggest planetary storm.

Juno flew directly over Jupiter’s Great Red Spot on Monday, passing an amazingly close 5,600 miles (9,000 kilometers) above the monster storm. The images snapped by JunoCam were beamed back Tuesday and posted online Wednesday. Then members of the public — so-called citizen scientists — were encouraged to enhance the raw images.

Swirling clouds are clearly visible in the 10,000-mile-wide (16,000-kilometer-wide) storm, which is big enough to swallow Earth and has been around for centuries.

“For hundreds of years scientists have been observing, wondering and theorizing about Jupiter’s Great Red Spot,” said lead researcher Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “Now we have the best pictures ever of this iconic storm.”

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Information was still arriving Thursday from Juno’s science instruments. Bolton said it will take the time to analyze everything to shed “new light on the past, present, and future of the Great Red Spot.”

Juno’s next close encounter with the giant gas planet will be in September. The Great Red Spot won’t be in Juno’s scopes then, however.

Launched in 2011, Juno arrived at Jupiter last July. It is only the second spacecraft to orbit the solar system’s largest planet, but is passing much closer than NASA’s Galileo did from 1995 through 2003. (VOA)