Hey friends, I have a really unique privilege this year to take a space physics class taught by people running the Juno & Cassini missions plus people who've been on NASA science teams, are on NASA science teams and build stuff that goes into space! I figured I'd share some of the cool things I've learned so far.
- Venus' atmosphere is basically what ours will be like if we keep on with this global warming track and deforestation. It's a thick greenhouse gas cloud cycle in which sulfuric acid rains down, etches out the sulfur rich rocks and releases CO2 and SO3 into the air. Since there is a thick cloud of stuff in the atmosphere, it gets photolyzed into the sulfuric acid rain and the cycle continues. Venus also has a ton of active volcanoes that contribute to this.
- Mars has seasonal, polar ice caps that they think is a mixture of water ice and carbon dioxide ice.
- Mercury actually has some remnants of a magnetic field indicative of a once active, molten metal core, but its surface shows global contraction as if it significantly cooled.
- Mars has the biggest mountain "Olympus Mons" that's over 15 miles high.
- Titan, a moon of Saturn, has a nitrogen rich atmosphere similar to ours! The ESA sent a probe there, Huygen's probe, and they are still going through that data. However, RADAR data shows that Titan has lakes! They think the lakes are primarily liquid methane.
- Io, a big moon of Jupiter, has a ton of active volanoes that spit out so much stuff that it was a tail of material that gets ionized by the solar wind and contributes to Jupiter's polar auroras.
- One day on Venus is longer than it's year - it spins backwards! They think this happened because something really big hit it and knocked it off orbit.
- Uranus also has a backwards or "retrograde" orbit!
- Uranus also has a very extreme axial tilt! It's almost completely sideways and because of this, its moons do not rotate in the same plane as the rest of the planets.
- Earth isn't perfectly spherical! It's a little oblique.
- The geological activity of some of the moons in the outer solar system is due to the fact that they are in synchronous, resonance orbit with other moons and the main planet. Take Enceladus for example! It is in synchronous orbit with Saturn and Dione, another moon. The pull from Saturn and Dione cause "tidal" heating similar to how our moon generates our tides. It's thought that Earth may be so biologically active due to our moon for this very reason.
- There are a total of 13 planets if you include dwarf planets - they are in order of distance from the sun: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Makemake, Haumea and Eris
- Pluto is much more interesting than we thought: It has 3 different colored regions with mountains, ice and a thick, nitrogen atmosphere that's constantly being replenished.
- My division where I work runs "Juno Cam", a camera on the JUNO orbiter around Jupiter. Anyone can request pictures of certain regions be taken AND all images are free to process on your own: www.missionjuno.swri.edu/junoc… For example, here is an image: www.missionjuno.swri.edu/Vault… processed by just a regular guy!
- You can "hear" Saturn's rings here: www.nasa.gov/wav/123163main_ca… . Saturn gives off signal in radio waves, so the team pushed down the frequency into an audible range so you can hear what it sounds like.
- We have a rough idea of how the solar system formed from the big bang, but every new mission changes our perceptions! Space is one of the most highly evolving and fluid fields I've ever experienced. It's amazing being around people who are so incredibly willing and happy to be proved wrong and excited to figure out the right answer.
- Currently the "working, unofficial names" for features Charon, the moon of Pluto, is all science fiction related! They have Vader Crater, Tardis Chasma, Serenity Chasma, and other fun names. Here's a map with names: www.spaceflightinsider.com/wp-…
Skin by SimplySilent