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Space Exploration is Taking Off

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Space Exploration is Taking Off

Space Exploration is Taking Off

Up until recent years, the momentum associated with space exploration had more or less fizzled. While it would seem that rapid innovation is occurring in every other technology field worldwide, the hardware and business models used in space exploration have remained static aside from small, incremental improvements.

It is mind boggling that the last time humans walked on the moon was over 40 years ago.

However, since the 2010 there have been signs of great ambition in space exploration. We catalogued many of these interesting developments from the private sector just months ago, covering the endeavours of future asteroid miners, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and many other big names.

This year is set to be one of the more exciting years on record for those interested in the last human frontier. Between SpaceX resupply missions to the ISS and Virgin Galactic test launches, there are also many other interesting events to stay tuned to in 2015.

The first high-res pictures of Pluto will be beamed back to us on July 14th and sometime later this year, NASA plans to finalize its mission to capture an asteroid. XCOR’s Mark I prototype for its commercial, sub-orbital Lynx plane will also be tested.

If all of those happenings are not exciting enough, don’t forget to check out whatever the latest controversy is with Mars One. There may be more to come.

Regardless, it is an exciting time for investors and enthusiasts to think about space exploration. Mankind is aiming to land on asteroids by 2025, visit Mars by 2030, and even fund deep space exploration in the near future.

In the coming decades, asteroids will be harvested for minerals and tourists will fly in space on regularly scheduled spaceflights. That said, finding ways for investors to profit off this last frontier will be the real undertaking.

Original graphic from: Kapitall

Space Wars: The Private Sector Strikes Back
Space Wars: The Private Sector Strikes Back
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Misc

The Topography of Mars: Visualizing an Alien Landscape

What is the surface of the Red Planet like? This beautiful map helps to break down the topography of Mars in awesome detail.

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The Topography of Mars: Visualizing an Alien Landscape

The surface of the Red Planet is full of surprises.

While the Grand Canyon and Mount Everest are both impressive features on Earth, they are nothing next to Valles Marineris and Olympus Mons, their epic Martian counterparts.

Even more extraordinary, the overall difference between the highest and lowest point on Mars is 19 miles (31 km), whereas just 12 miles (20 km) separates the summit of Mount Everest from the bottom of the Mariana Trench on Earth.

This week’s map comes to us from Reddit user /hellofromthemoon, who carefully laid out the terrain of Mars in awesome detail.

Take a look…

Lay of the Land

Mars can be divided into two major regions, separated by a ridge of mountains roughly around the planet’s middle.

On the north side are lowlands that have been shaped by lava flows, creating a surface dominated by large plains. Meanwhile, the southern hemisphere is mountainous, with many meteorite impact craters, some of which stretch for hundreds of kilometers.

The Plains Game

The plains of Mars fall into two categories: the planitia (Latin for “plains”) and the maria (Latin for “seas”). The latter type is named after the sea because these regions appeared to be under water in the eyes of early astronomers. But actually, the surfaces of these regions are covered with many rocks, making them look darker to the eye.

The second type of plains are the planitia, and they account for vast areas covered by sand rich in iron oxide. The strong winds that blow the sand and dust around can change the configuration of the plains, forming new patterns on the surface of Mars. However, the planet’s features remain relatively unchanged over time.

One of the largest plains is the Utopia Planitia (Latin for “Nowhere Land Plain”) impact basin. This giant impact crater lies within a larger lava plain. With an estimated diameter of 3,300 km, Utopia Planitia is the largest recognized impact basin in the solar system.

As Above, so Below

The northern and southern hemispheres are vastly different from one another on Mars, and such a stark difference is unlike any other planet in the solar system. Patterns of internal magma flow could have caused the variation, but some scientists think it is the result of Mars taking one or several major impacts.

About 4.5 billion years ago, Mars formed from the collection of rocks that circle the sun before they formed the planets. Over time, the red planet’s molten masses differentiated into a core, a mantle, and an outer crust.

Understanding how the red planet’s topography changes over time is a crucial step in grasping how the planet formed. That is why NASA launched the InSight Mars lander on May 5, 2019. This probe will listen for vibrations deep within the Martian crust to further understand the composition of the planet.

Site Selection

Understanding the topography of Mars is critical for any mission to the planet, including the selection of a site for a potential colony. There are three basic criteria for picking a manned mission landing site:

  1. A spot that is sustainable in terms of water, energy generation, and building materials.
  2. A spot that is scientifically interesting for a long mission.
  3. A spot that is safe to land.

Brian Hynek, a planetary scientist and Director of the Center for Astrobiology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, offers five potential landing sites:

  1. Outer edge of Mars’ North polar ice cap
  2. Deep canyon of Valles Marineris
  3. Martian “glaciers” in the Hellas Basin near Mars’ mid-latitudes
  4. Arabia Terra
  5. Martian lava tubes and caves

With growing information from every new mission to Mars, a greater picture will help guide future human activity and ambitions on the planet.

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Maps

Every Visible Star in the Night Sky, in One Map

This striking map depicts all the stars and celestial bodies that are visible in the night sky, all on one giant backdrop.

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Every Visible Star in the Night Sky, in One Map

View the high resolution version of this incredible map by clicking here.

The stars have fascinated humanity since the beginning of civilization, from using them to track the different seasons, to relying on them to navigate thousands of miles on the open ocean.

Today, travelers trek to the ends of the Earth to catch a glimpse of the Milky Way, untouched by light pollution. However, if you’re in the city and the heavens align on a clear night, you might still be able to spot somewhere between 2,500 to 5,000 stars scattered across your field of vision.

This stunning star map was created by Eleanor Lutz, under the Reddit pseudonym /hellofromthemoon, and is a throwback to all the stars and celestial bodies that could be seen by the naked eye on Near Year’s Day in 2000.

Star Light, Star Bright

Stars have served as a basis for navigation for thousands of years. Polaris, also dubbed the North Star in the Ursa Minor constellation, is arguably one of the most influential, even though it sits 434 light years away.

Because of its relative location to the Earth’s axis, Polaris is reliably found in the same spot throughout the year—on this star map, it can be spotted in the top right corner. The Polynesian people famously followed the path of the North Star, along with wave currents, in all their way-finding journeys.

Interestingly, Polaris’ dependability is why it is commonly mistaken as the brightest star, but Sirius actually takes that crown—find it below the Gemini constellation, at the 7HR latitude and -20° longitude coordinates on the visualization. Located in the Canis Majoris constellation, Sirius burns bluish-white, and is one of the hottest objects in the universe with a surface temperature of 17,400°F (9,667°C). Sirius is nearly 40 times brighter than our Sun.

The Egyptians associated Sirius with the goddess Isis, and used its location to predict the annual flooding of the Nile. This also isn’t the only way humans have used visible stars to “predict” the future, as evidenced by the ancient practice of astrology.

Seeking Answers in the Stars

In the star map above, the orange lines denote the twelve signs of the Zodiac, each found roughly along the same band from 10° to -30° longitude. These Zodiac alignments, along with planetary movements, form the basis of astrology, which has been practiced across cultures to predict significant events. While the scientific method has widely demonstrated that astrology doesn’t hold much validity, many people still believe in it today.

The red lines on the visualization signify the constellations officially recognized by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 1922. Its ancient Greek origins are recorded on the same map as the blue lines, from which the modern constellation boundaries are based. Here’s a deeper dive into all 88 IAU constellations:

ConstellationEnglish NameCategoryBrightest star
AndromedaChained Maiden/ PrincessCreature/ CharacterAlpheratz
AntliaAir PumpObjectα Antliae
Apus Bird of ParadiseAnimalα Apodis
♒ AquariusWater BearerCreature/ CharacterSadalsuud
AquilaEagleAnimalAltair
AraAltarObjectβ Arae
♈ AriesRamAnimalHamal
AurigaCharioteerCreature/ CharacterCapella
BoötesHerdsmanCreature/ CharacterArcturus
CaelumEngraving ToolObjectα Caeli
CamelopardalisGiraffeAnimalβ Camelopardalis
♋ CancerCrabAnimalTarf
Canes VenaticiHunting DogsAnimalCor Caroli
Canis MajorGreat DogAnimalSirius
Canis MinorLesser DogAnimalProcyon
♑ CapricornusSea GoatCreature/ CharacterDeneb Algedi
CarinaKeelObjectCanopus
CassiopeiaSeated QueenCreature/ CharacterSchedar
CentaurusCentaurCreature/ CharacterRigil Kentaurus
CepheusKingCreature/ CharacterAlderamin
CetusSea MonsterCreature/ CharacterDiphda
ChamaeleonChameleonAnimalα Chamaeleontis
CircinusCompassObjectα Circini
ColumbaDoveAnimalPhact
Coma BerenicesBernice's HairCreature/ Characterβ Comae Berenices
Corona AustralisSouthern CrownObjectMeridiana
Corona BorealisNorthern CrownObjectAlphecca
CorvusCrowAnimalGienah
CraterCupObjectδ Crateris
CruxSouthern CrossObjectAcrux
CygnusSwanAnimalDeneb
DelphinusDolphinAnimalRotanev
DoradoSwordfishAnimalα Doradus
DracoDragonCreature/ CharacterEltanin
EquuleusLittle HorseAnimalKitalpha
EridanusRiverObjectAchernar
FornaxFurnaceObjectDalim
♊ GeminiTwinsCreature/ CharacterPollux
GrusCraneAnimalAlnair
HerculesHerculesCreature/ CharacterKornephoros
HorologiumPendulum ClockObjectα Horologii
HydraFemale Water SnakeCreature/ CharacterAlphard
HydrusMale Water SnakeCreature/ Characterβ Hydri
IndusIndianCreature/ Characterα Indi
LacertaLizardAnimalα Lacertae
♌ LeoLionAnimalPraecipua
Leo MinorLesser LionAnimalRegulus
LepusHareAnimalArneb
LibraScalesObjectZubeneschamali
LupusWolfAnimalα Lupi
LynxLynxAnimalα Lyncis
LyraLyreObjectVega
MensaTable MountainObjectα Mensae
MicroscopiumMicroscopeObjectγ Microscopii
MonocerosUnicornCreature/ Characterβ Monocerotis
MuscaFlyAnimalα Muscae
NormaCarpenter's SquareObjectγ2 Normae
OctansOctantObjectν Octantis
OphiuchusSerpent BearerCreature/ CharacterRasalhague
OrionHunterCreature/ CharacterRigel
PavoPeacockAnimalPeacock
PegasusWinged HorseCreature/ CharacterEnif
PerseusHeroCreature/ CharacterMirfak
PhoenixPhoenixCreature/ CharacterAnkaa
PictorPainter's EaselObjectα Pictoris
♓ PiscesFishesAnimalAlpherg
Piscis AustrinusSouthern FishCreature/ CharacterFomalhaut
PuppisSternObjectNaos
PyxisMariner's CompassObjectα Pyxidis
ReticulumReticle (Eyepiece)Objectα Reticuli
SagittaArrowObjectγ Sagittae
♐ SagittariusArcherCreature/ CharacterKaus Australis
♏ ScorpiusScorpionAnimalAntares
SculptorSculptorCreature/ Characterα Sculptoris
ScutumShieldObjectα Scuti
SerpensSerpentAnimalUnukalhai
SextansSextantObjectα Sextantis
♉ TaurusBullAnimalAldebaran
TelescopiumTelescopeObjectα Telescopii
TriangulumTriangleObjectAtria
Triangulum AustraleSouthern TriangleObjectβ Trianguli
TucanaToucanAnimalα Tucanae
Ursa MajorGreat BearAnimalAlioth
Ursa MinorLittle BearAnimalPolaris
VelaSailsObjectγ2 Velorum
♍ VirgoMaidenCreature/ CharacterSpica
VolansFlying FishAnimalβ Volantis
VulpeculaFoxAnimalAnser

(Source: International Astronomical Union)

Into the Depths of Deep Space

The quirk of naming stars after flora and fauna doesn’t end there. Our night sky also reveals visible galaxies, nebulae, and clusters far, far away—but they’re named after familiar birds, natural objects, and mythical creatures. See if you can find some of these interesting names:

  • Open Cluster: Wild Duck Cluster
  • Open Cluster: Eagle Nebula
  • Open Cluster: Beehive Cluster
  • Open Cluster: Butterfly Cluster
  • Emission Nebula: North American
  • Emission Nebula: Trifid Nebula
  • Emission Nebula: Lagoon Nebula
  • Emission Nebula: Orion Nebula
  • Open Cluster with Emission Nebula: Swan Nebula
  • Open Cluster with Emission Nebula: Christmas Tree Cluster
  • Open Cluster with Emission Nebula: Rosette Nebula
  • Globular Cluster: Hercules Cluster

There’s an interesting concentration of unnamed open and globular clusters just above the Sagittarius constellation, between 18-20HR latitude and -20° to -30° longitude. Another one can be seen next to Cassiopeia, just below Polaris between 1HR-3HR latitude, at 60° longitude. The only two visible spiral galaxies, Andromeda and Pinwheel, are located close between 0-2HR latitude and 30°-40° longitude.

The Relentless Passage of Time

We now know that the night sky isn’t as static as people used to believe. Although it’s Earth’s major pole star today, Polaris was in fact off-kilter by roughly 8° a few thousand years ago. Our ancestors saw the twin northern pole stars, Kochab and Pherkad, where Polaris is now.

This difference is due to the Earth’s natural axial tilt. Eight degrees may not seem like much, but because of this angle, the constellations we gaze at today are the same, yet completely different from the ones our ancestors looked up at.

If you liked exploring this star map, be sure to check out the geology of Mars from the same designer.

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