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
A Map of Every Object in Our Solar System
Our solar system is a surprisingly crowded place. This incredible map shows the 18,000 asteroids, comets, planets and moons orbiting the Sun.
A Map of Every Object in Our Solar System
View the high resolution version of this incredible map by clicking here
The path through the solar system is a rocky road.
Asteroids, comets, planets and moons and all kinds of small bodies of rock, metals, minerals and ice are continually moving as they orbit the sun. In contrast to the simple diagrams we’re used to seeing, our solar system is a surprisingly crowded place.
In this stunning visualization, biologist Eleanor Lutz painstakingly mapped out every known object in Earth’s solar system (>10km in diameter), hopefully helping you on your next journey through space.
Data-Driven Solar System
This particular visualization combines five different data sets from NASA:
Source: Tabletop Whale
From this data, Lutz mapped all the orbits of over 18,000 asteroids in the solar system, including 10,000 that were at least 10km in diameter, and about 8,000 objects of unknown size.
This map shows each asteroid’s position on New Year’s Eve 1999.
The Pull of Gravity
When plotting the objects, Lutz observed that the solar system is not arranged in linear distances. Rather, it is logarithmic, with exponentially more objects situated close to the sun. Lutz made use of this observation to space out their various orbits of the 18,000 objects in her map.
What she is visualizing is the pull of the sun, as the majority of objects tend to gravitate towards the inner part of the solar system. This is the same observation Sir Isaac Newton used to develop the concept of gravity, positing that heavier objects produce a bigger gravitational pull than lighter ones. Since the sun is the largest object in our solar system, it has the strongest gravitational pull.
If the sun is continually pulling at the planets, why don’t they all fall into the sun? It’s because the planets are moving sideways at the same time.
Without that sideways motion, the objects would fall to the center – and without the pull toward the center, it would go flying off in a straight line.
This explains the clustering of patterns in solar systems, and why the farther you travel through the solar system, the bigger the distance and the fewer the objects.
The Top Ten Non-Planets in the Solar System
We all know that the sun and the planets are the largest objects in our corner of the universe, but there are many noteworthy objects as well.
|1||Ganymede||3,273 mi (5,268 km)||Jupiter's largest moon|
|2||Titan||3,200 mi (5,151 km)||Saturn's largest moon|
|3||Callisto||2,996 mi (4,821 km)||Jupiter's second largest moon|
|4||Io||2,264 mi (3,643 km)||Moon orbiting Jupiter|
|5||Moon||2,159 mi (3,474 km)||Earth's only moon|
|6||Europa||1,940 mi (3,122 km)||Moon orbiting Jupiter|
|7||Triton||1,680 mi (2,710 km)||Neptune's largest moon|
|8||Pluto||1,476 mi (2,376 km)||Dwarf planet|
|9||Eris||1,473 mi (2,372 km)||Dwarf planet|
|10||Titania||981 mi (1,578 km)||Uranus' largest moon|
While the map only shows objects greater than 10 kilometers in diameter, there are plenty of smaller objects to watch out for as well.
An Atlas of Space
This map is one among many of Lutz’s space related visualizations. She is also in the process of creating an Atlas of Space to showcase her work.
As we reach further and further beyond the boundaries of earth, her work may come in handy the next time you make a wrong turn at Mars and find yourself lost in an asteroid belt.
“I knew I shoulda taken that left turn at Albuquerque!”
As the Worlds Turn: Visualizing the Rotation of Planets
Rotation can have a big influence on a planet’s habitability. These animations show how each planet in the solar system moves to its own distinct rhythm.
As the Worlds Turn: Visualizing the Rotations of Planets
The rotation of planets have a dramatic effect on their potential habitability.
Dr. James O’Donoghue, a planetary scientist at the Japanese space agency who has the creative ability to visually communicate space concepts like the speed of light and the vastness of the solar system, recently animated a video showing cross sections of different planets spinning at their own pace on one giant globe.
Cosmic Moves: The Rotation of the Planets
Each planet in the solar system moves to its own rhythm. The giant gas planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) spin more rapidly on their axes than the inner planets. The sun itself rotates slowly, only once a month.
|Planet||Rotation Periods (relative to stars)|
The planets all revolve around the sun in the same direction and in virtually the same plane. In addition, they all rotate in the same general direction, with the exceptions of Venus and Uranus.
In the following animation, their respective rotation speeds are compared directly:
The most visually striking result of planetary spin is on Jupiter, which has the fastest rotation in the solar system. Massive storms of frozen ammonia grains whip across the surface of the gas giant at speeds of 340 miles (550 km) per hour.
Interestingly, the patterns of each planet’s rotation can help in revealing whether they can support life or not.
Rotation and Habitability
As a fish in water is not aware it is wet, so it goes for humans and the atmosphere around us.
New research reveals that the rate at which a planet spins is an essential component for supporting life. Not only does rotation control the length of day and night, bit it influences atmospheric wind patterns and the formation of clouds.
The radiation the Earth receives from the Sun concentrates at the equator. The Sun heats the air in this region until it rises up through the atmosphere and moves towards the poles of the planet where it cools. This cool air falls through the atmosphere and flows back towards the equator.
This process is known as a Hadley cell, and atmospheres can have multiple cells:
A planet with a quick rotation forms Hadley cells at low latitudes into different bands that encircle the planet. Clouds become prominent at tropical regions, which reflect a proportion of the light back into space.
For a planet in a tighter orbit around its star, the radiation received from the star is much more extreme. This decreases the temperature difference between the equator and the poles, ultimately weakening Hadley cells. The result is fewer clouds in tropical regions available to protect the planet from intense heat, making the planet uninhabitable.
Slow Rotators: More Habitable
If a planet rotates slower, then the Hadley cells can expand to encircle the entire world. This is because the difference in temperature between the day and night side of the planet creates larger atmospheric circulation.
Slow rotation makes days and nights longer, such that half of the planet bathes in light from the sun for an extended period of time. Simultaneously, the night side of the planet is able to cool down.
This difference in temperature is large enough to cause the warm air from the day side to flow to the night side. This movement of air allows more clouds to form around a planet’s equator, protecting the surface from harmful space radiation, encouraging the possibility for the right conditions for life to form.
The Hunt for Habitable Planets
Measuring the rotation of planets is difficult with a telescope, so another good proxy would be to measure the level of heat emitted from a planet.
An infrared telescope can measure the heat emitted from a planet’s clouds that formed over its equator. An unusually low temperature at the hottest location on the planet could indicate that the planet is potentially a habitable slow rotator.
Of course, even if a planet’s rotation speed is just right, many other conditions come into play. The rotation of planets is just another piece in the puzzle in identifying the next Earth.
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