An absolutely marvous short movie of a number of galaxies and nebulas, with an appropriate musical score. Definitely recommended whilst high.
I wonder if it is based on real star maps – as science has only recently discovered what the large scale structure of the universe (in terms of solar systems, galaxies, clusters, superclusters and filaments) looks like.
Of all the objects in the Solar system, the dozens of moons of Saturn and Jupiter are probably the most interesting. Here you have ice moons with crazy red spores on them, like Europa; moons littered with volcanoes and a magma ocean, like Io; moons with an underground salt-water sea, like Ganymede; moons that emit giant plumes, like Enceladus; and possibly the most fascinating and promising of all, the Earth-like moon Titan, orbiting Saturn.
Titan is Earth-like because it is bigger than the planet Mercury, has a stable atmosphere, and has the only large, stable bodies of surface liquid in the Solar system outside of the Earth. There are hydrocarbon, methane and ethane seas, rivers and lakes, as well as methane clouds, creating a fully-fledged weather system. This makes Titan the primary candidate in the Solar system to harbor extraterrestrial microbial life.
So, scientists of the Open University are planning to build a robot boat to surf the methane seas of Titan, taking measurements of waves and chemicals! And that is pretty cool.
Space engineers are planning to build the first extraterrestrial boat. They want to launch the craft towards Titan – Saturn‘s largest moon – and parachute it on to the Ligeia Mare, a sea of methane and ethane on its surface.
The robot ship would sail around this extraterrestrial sea for several months, exploring its coastline and measuring the winds and waves that sweep its surface. “Waves on Titan’s seas will be far larger, but much slower, than on earthly oceans, according to our calculations,” said Professor John Zarnecki, of the Open University. “That suggests Titan is the best spot in the solar system for surfing. The only trouble is that the temperature there is -180C (-290F). Either way you look at it, it is clear the place is pretty cool.”
The mission to Titan – the only moon in the solar system with a thick atmosphere, of nitrogen and methane – would be the first exploration of a sea beyond Earth and could provide evidence about the possible existence of complex organic chemicals, the precursors of life.
According to her plans, the TiME probe would be fired at Titan on a billion-mile journey across the solar system. Once it enters the moon’s thick atmosphere the craft would parachute down towards the surface and then drop into the 300-mile-wide Ligeia Mare. It would then spend several months afloat on an oily sea taking measurements of waves, chemicals and other variables.
Titan is also thought to have an ocean of water deep underground. Complex organic chemicals, created on its surface, could be seeping down through fissures so that primitive lifeforms could have evolved in relatively warm waters beneath the moon’s surface. Hence scientists’ interest in studying Titan.
A new ninth planet in the solar system may be found, however! Complete with moons and everything. And not just any old planet. Tyche is the name of a gas giant that may be four times the size of Jupiter, and is hiding in the Oort cloud (the ring of asteroids that is at the edges of the solar system). Astrophysicists John Matese and Daniel Whitmire from the University of Louisiana claim that data gathered from a NASA space telescope already proves its existence, but that data needs to be further analyzed. The first analyzed data would be released in April.
Whether Tyche is gonna be designated part of the solar system is up to the International Astronomical Union (IAU), however. It’s 375 times farther than Pluto, and may be from a another system but captured by ours.
The hunt is on for a gas giant up to four times the mass of Jupiter thought to be lurking in the outer Oort Cloud, the most remote region of the solar system. The orbit of Tyche (pronounced ty-kee), would be 15,000 times farther from the Sun than the Earth’s, and 375 times farther than Pluto’s, which is why it hasn’t been seen so far. But scientists now believe the proof of its existence has already been gathered by a Nasa space telescope, Wise, and is just waiting to be analysed.
The first tranche of data is to be released in April, and astrophysicists John Matese and Daniel Whitmire from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette think it will reveal Tyche within two years. “If it does, John and I will be doing cartwheels,” Professor Whitmire said. “And that’s not easy at our age.”
Once Tyche has been located, other telescopes could be pointed at it to confirm the discovery.
Whether it would become the new ninth planet would be decided by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). The main argument against is that Tyche probably formed around another star and was later captured by the Sun’s gravitational field. The IAU may choose to create a whole new category for Tyche, Professor Matese said.
Tyche will almost certainly be made up mostly of hydrogen and helium and will probably have an atmosphere much like Jupiter’s, with colourful spots and bands and clouds, Professor Whitmire said. “You’d also expect it to have moons. All the outer planets have them,” he added.
More astronomy: a beautiful video that zooms out of Earth to show the solar system, the Milky Way, billions of galaxies, quasars, the cosmic horizon, and ultimately the entire universe – and then it zooms back in again, thus showing the absolute enormity of the universe, and the extreme smallness of our planet. In between it shows you satellites, stars, the extent of humanity’s radio signals, and so on. Really well done.