All Posts By Arline J. Mercier

Discover exciting shows in October at the Novins planetarium

TOMS RIVER – Explore the universe like never before with laser shows, celestial shows and Full Dome movies at the Robert J. Novins Planetarium at Ocean County College.

With the building now open for in-person performances, the OCC has released the presentation schedule for October. The Dome Theater has 103 seats and allows visitors to learn about the earth, the solar system and beyond.

Not only do they offer public performances, but the planetarium also offers programs for school and camp groups, birthday parties and special themed events.

During the month of October, discover the feature film “Beyond The Sun” which is scheduled for October 9, 23 and 30 at 11:15 am

“As Celeste struggles with sleeping in her bedroom while reading a book on astronomy, she receives an unexpected visit from Moon. Together, they take advantage of a journey through the Universe to find out what exoplanets are and how to detect them. The duo observe rogue planets, ocean worlds and super-Earths. Moon tells Celeste about exoplanet hunters, who observe the sky for planets like Earth. Many adventures are yet to come. But first, Celeste needs a rest, and she falls asleep while waiting for Moon’s next visit.

The planetarium will also feature spooky shows such as “Not-So-Scary Halloween Laser Show” and “Laser Fright Light”.

The complete program of shows is as follows:

October 1st:

October 2:

  • 10 a.m., One World, One Sky: The Big Bird Adventure
  • 11:15 am, The secret of the cardboard rocket
  • 12:30 p.m., The stars of my heart
  • 2 p.m., extraterrestrials: in search of life in the universe
  • 7 p.m., Wonders of the autumn sky
  • 8:30 p.m., Continuum with laser sampler

October 8:

October 9:

  • 10 a.m., One World, One Sky: The Big Bird Adventure
  • 11:15 am, Beyond the Sun
  • 12:30 p.m., The stars of my heart
  • 2 p.m., Great Astronomy
  • 7 p.m., Wonders of the autumn sky
  • 8:30 p.m., Laser Rocket Man

October 15:

  • 7 p.m., Laser Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon
  • 8:30 p.m., Laser Pink Floyd: The Wall

October 16:

  • 10 a.m., One World, One Sky: The Big Bird Adventure
  • 11:15 am, did an asteroid really kill the dinosaurs?
  • 12:30 p.m., The stars of my heart
  • 2 p.m., One day on Mars
  • 7 p.m., Wonders of the autumn sky
  • 8:30 p.m., Laser Tribute

October 22:

  • 7 p.m., Laser Fright Light
  • 8:30 p.m., Laser Metallica

October 23:

  • 10 a.m., One World, One Sky: The Big Bird Adventure
  • 11:15 am, Beyond the Sun
  • 12:30 p.m., The stars of my heart
  • 2 p.m., Not-so-scary Halloween laser show
  • 7 p.m., Wonders of the autumn sky
  • 8:30 p.m., Laser Fright Light

October 29:

  • 7 p.m., not-so-scary Halloween laser show
  • 8:30 p.m., Laser Fright Light

October 30:

  • 10 a.m., One World, One Sky: The Big Bird Adventure
  • 11:15 am, Beyond the Sun
  • 12:30 p.m., The stars of my heart + Special laser show
  • 2 p.m., Not-so-scary Halloween laser show

Visit for more information or to purchase tickets. Questions can be addressed to Planetarium Manager Cara Muscio at 732-255-0400 x2388 or at [email protected]

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How many planets are there in the solar system?

Whether or not you believe in life beyond Earth, there are actually a minimum of 100 billion planets in our universe, according to a NASA study.

But how many planets make up our solar system?


There are eight planets in our solar systemCredit: Getty – Contributor

How many planets are there in our solar system?

There are eight planets in our solar system, which is part of the Milky Way.

Pluto was once called the ninth planet in our solar system, but the International Astronomical Union made some category changes in 2006 and Pluto became a minor or dwarf planet.

The main reason for this decision is that the generic orbit of Pluto intersects the orbit of Neptune.

The idea of ​​a ninth planet has persisted, and astronomers are now looking for Planet X, or Planet Nine, after mathematical evidence from 2016.

Planet Nine is thought to be five thousand times the mass of Pluto and 10 times the mass of Earth, and orbiting beyond Neptune.

Planets are generally classified according to their distance from the Sun


Planets are generally classified according to their distance from the SunCredit: Getty – Contributor

What is the order of the planets in our solar system?

The planets in our solar system are generally classified according to their distance from the Sun, Mercury being the closest.

Half of the eight planets are known as terrestrial or interior planets – Mercury being closest to the Sun, followed by Venus, Earth, then Mars.

The other half is made up of Jovian or Jupiter-type planets. In order of distance from the Sun, these are Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

These last four are massive compared to the four inner planets and are made up of gases like hydrogen, helium and nitrogen.

Jupiter and Saturn are often called the gas giants, while Uranus and Neptune are called the ice giants.

It is believed that they probably all have solid cores.

There are many mnemonics for learning the order of the planets, one of the most popular of which is: My highly educated mother just served us noodles.

Our solar system is only one of the 500 planets in the universe, which means there are thousands of other planets.


Our solar system is only one of the 500 planets in the universe, which means there are thousands of other planets.

How many planets have been discovered?

It is believed that there are 4,108 identified exoplanets in and beyond our solar system.

NASA tweeted in January 2021: “So far we have discovered 4,108 exoplanets – planets beyond our solar system.

“Most of these worlds orbit other stars, but not all of them. ‘Rogue planets’ are not linked to any star as they move through space in darkness.”

Very few of these planets have been considered as potentials to support life forms.

There are at least 400 billion stars in our galaxy - and billions in the universe


There are at least 400 billion stars in our galaxy – and billions in the universeCredit: Getty – Contributor

For a variety of reasons, astronomers assume that there is one planet for every star, although in reality some stars do not have planets orbiting and others have several.

There are at least 400 billion stars in our own galaxy, so billions in the entire universe.

Stars are all different from each other, as are galaxies, and even planets, so we can’t just multiply information about our own galaxy or solar system.

Planets can be gaseous or rocky, hot or frozen, and can orbit near their star or billions of miles away.

There are two main methods used to try to identify planets orbiting other stars.

The first is the Stella-wobble method, which uses gravity studies over long periods of time to try to establish the mass and radius of potential planets.

The second is the Transit method, which examines how planets can partially block light from their star.

Stunning NASA video reveals what sunsets would look like on other planets and moons

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“Countless” interstellar objects found at the edge of the solar system and how bacteria generate electricity

A representative image of the distance of the planets in the solar system to the Oort cloud | Communal room

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New Delhi: Scientists have discovered that the Oort Cloud, a spherical layer of icy objects on the edge of the solar system, could harbor countless interstellar objects belonging to our solar system.

In 2019, astronomers spotted a rebellious comet from another star system in our solar system. Named Borisov, the frozen snowball was the first and only interstellar comet ever detected by man.

But the new study suggests these interstellar visitors are more common in the solar system than you might think. In fact, they may outnumber objects in the solar system.

Prior to the detection of the first interstellar comet, theory about the formation of planetary systems suggested that there should be fewer visitors than permanent residents.

The latest study, which makes calculations based on the conclusions drawn from Borisov, suggests that interstellar visitors outweigh objects originating in the solar system.

The Oort Cloud spans an area between 200 and 10,000 billion kilometers from the Sun, and unlike stars, Oort Cloud objects do not produce their own light. These two factors make the debris in the outer solar system difficult to see.

Observations with next-generation technology can help confirm the team’s results. The launch of the Vera C. Rubin observatory in Chile, scheduled for 2022 for example, will perhaps detect many more visitors like Borisov. Read more.

Read also : Asteroid with the solar system’s shortest orbital period spotted and human DNA from 7,200 years ago

A treasure trove of ancient elephant bone tools found in Italy

Scientists have discovered a mine of tools made from elephant bones in Italy, dating back around 400,000 years, some of which would only become objects of common use 100,000 years ago.

Although the use of bone tools was common at the time, it was the way they were made that impressed scientists.

Researchers recovered the tools from a site called Castel di Guido not far from modern Rome. Hundreds of thousands of years ago there was a stream that attracted thirsty 13-foot-tall creatures called straight-tusked elephants.

Scientists believe elephants would sometimes die of natural causes near the stream, and ancient humans put the remains to good use.

These Stone Age dwellers produced tools using a systematic and standardized approach, much like a single individual working on a primitive assembly line.

The team believe humans back then were breaking elephant long bones in a standardized way and producing standardized parts to make bone tools. This kind of skill did not become mainstream until much later.

About 400,000 years ago, Neanderthals were just beginning to emerge in Europe. Researchers suspect that these ancient humans (whose tools have now been found) were in fact Neanderthals.

Some of the tools were sharp and could have been used to cut meat. Others were wedges that might have been useful for splitting elephant’s heavy thighbones and other long bones.

The team also discovered a single artifact carved from a bone of wild cattle that looks like what archaeologists call a “smoother,” or straightener, a type of tool that ancient humans used to process leather. But such tools did not become mainstream until about 300,000 years ago. Read more.

Read also : Rare fossil turtle egg discovered belongs to species that died when asteroid wiped out dinosaurs

Scientists decode how certain bacteria generate electricity

Scientists have identified a hair-like protein hidden inside bacteria that serves as a sort of on-off switch for nature’s ‘power grid’, which is a global network of nanowires generated by bacteria that permeates all oxygen-free soils and deep ocean floors.

Scientists hope to use this natural power grid to generate electricity, new biofuels, and even self-healing electronic components.

Almost all living things breathe oxygen to get rid of excess electrons when converting nutrients into energy. Without access to oxygen, however, soil bacteria living deep under the oceans or buried underground for billions of years use tiny protein filaments called nanowires to get rid of excess electrons. Electrons in motion are what create electricity

However, how these soil bacteria exhale electricity has remained a mystery. Since 2005, scientists thought that nanowires were made of a protein called “pili” that many bacteria present on their surface.

However, scientists have found that these nanowires are made up of totally different proteins.

For the new study, the researchers used electron cryomicroscopy to reveal that this pili structure is made up of two proteins and that instead of serving as nanowires themselves, the pili remain hidden inside bacteria and act as pistons, pushing the nanowires into the environment. Read more.

Read also : 1,000-year-old grave of non-binary person identified in Finland and monkey farewell gestures

Continents could merge into a supercontinent in 250 million years

Using computer models to travel in time, the researchers predicted two possible scenarios for the evolution of the Earth, 250 million years later. Both involve all the continents moving together to form the next supercontinent.

The first scenario predicts the formation of the Aurica supercontinent, a low latitude supercontinent. Aurica will have very little snow or ice and an average temperature of around 20 degrees Celsius.

The second possibility is that a super continent called Amasia forms at a high latitude, with a smaller Antarctic subcontinent in about 200 million years. Amasia will be a continent dominated by snowfall and ice caps.

This bright, white supercontinent will reflect more solar heat and have a climate similar to that of Earth’s last ice age.

The researchers said these predictions of how Earth might evolve could help find exoplanets (planets outside the solar system) that may once have hosted life. Read more.

Read also : Reason for Jupiter’s high temperature and how Stonehenge survived the test of time

Russian part of ISS threatened with irreparable failures

A Russian space official this week voiced concerns over the deterioration of the Russian segment of the International Space Station, warning that obsolete hardware could lead to “irreparable failures.”

According to Vladimir Soloviev, chief engineer of the rocket and the space company Energia, 80% of the flight systems in the Russian segment have reached the end of their service life.

Energia, a maker of spacecraft and space station components, is the primary developer of the Russian section of the ISS, a joint venture with the United States, Canada, Japan and the European Space Agency.

Russia had previously indicated that it plans to leave the ISS after 2025 and launch its own orbital station. The official also said that small cracks were found on the Russian Zarya cargo module. Launched in 1998, it is one of the oldest modules of the ISS.

In addition, in July, the entire ISS had briefly tilted out of orbit after the thrusters of a new Russian module re-ignited several hours after docking. Read more.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

Read also : Water vapor found in Ganymede’s atmosphere and origin of the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs

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Why the news media is in crisis and how to fix it

India is all the more in need of free, fair, uninhibited and questioning journalism as it is facing multiple crises.

But the news media are in a crisis of their own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, giving in to crass spectacle in prime time.

ThePrint employs the best young reporters, columnists and editors. Supporting journalism of this quality requires smart, thoughtful people like you to pay the price. Whether you live in India or abroad, you can do it here.

Support our journalism

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The solar system may be full of interstellar objects than previously thought

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Interstellar objects don’t often visit the solar system, but there are a few notable ones. The first was Oumuamua, which means scout or messenger in Hawaiian, seen in 2017; while the second was the comet 2I / Borisov, the first rebel comet and the second interstellar object.

However, a recently published study claims that the solar system may be visited by interstellar objects more often than scientists previously thought.

    The solar system may be full of interstellar objects than previously thought

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has given astronomers their best glimpse yet of an interstellar visitor – Comet 2I / Borisov – whose speed and trajectory indicates it has come from beyond our solar system.

Interstellar visitors outnumber solar system objects in the Oort cloud

Amir Siraj, lead author of the study, said that before discovering the first interstellar comet, scientists had no idea how many interstellar objects exist in the solar system. The theory of solar system formation suggests that there are more solar system objects than interstellar visitors.

However, the opposite is true because experts have calculated that interstellar objects outnumber objects in the solar system. According to Forbes, this is only true for those objects in the Oort cloud.

Nasa said the Oort Cloud is the most remote region in the solar system, farther than the Kuiper Belt. The Oort Cloud is thought to be a large spherical shell surrounding the planetary system, like a large-walled bubble made of icy space debris the size of mountains. Also, it is believed to contain billions or maybe billions of objects.

Forbes further reported that the study titled “Interstellar objects outnumber solar system objects in the Oort cloud, published in tMonthly notices from the Royal Astronomical Society, suggests that native comets in the Oort cloud could be 10 times more numerous than interstellar comets.

However, these interstellar comets are not easily visible to humans from Earth. One reason could be that the comets that cannot be seen are those near or in the vicinity of Earth.

Another reason could also be the lack of technology to see the objects in the Oort cloud. However, with future improvements and space programs, scientists hope to see this remote region of the solar system up close.

“These results suggest that the abundances of interstellar objects and Oort clouds are comparable closer to the Sun than to Saturn,” Forbes cited, citing astrophysicist Matthew Holman.

ALSO READ: Fireball Over Brazil Could Have Interstellar Origins, Third To Cross Solar System

The study of interstellar objects could give indications on the formation of the solar system

Now that scientists have found two interstellar objects, their hunch that the solar system could be crawling with interstellar objects is confirmed. However, according to BBC Future, predicting how often they appear visible from Earth is extremely tricky.

Before Oumuamua and Borisov were detected, a first calculation in 2009 estimated the density of stars in the Milky Way. This includes assumptions that the matter ejected by each star is comparable to the sensitivity of available telescopes. This calculation says the scientists shouldn’t have seen the Oumuamua, but they did.

Siraj said the study of interstellar objects could help scientists unlock the secrets of the formation of the solar system. If the Oort Cloud is indeed dominated by interstellar objects, there must be more debris since the formation of the solar system.

RELATED ARTICLE: Hubble Telescope Takes Clearest Image Yet of Very First Confirmed Interstellar Comet

Find out more news and information from Space in Science Times.

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ISU Planetarium presents The Stars Tonight, August 14 – archyworldys

The Illinois State University Planetarium will offer a free presentation of The stars tonight at 3.30 p.m. on Saturday August 14. The stars tonight explores the planets, bright stars and constellations visible in the summer sky of central Illinois.

This live planetarium program complements a free outdoor stargazing session at 8:30 p.m. that evening, hosted by amateur astronomers from Twin City. Stargazing will take place at the Sugar Grove Nature Center in Funks Grove. There is no rain date. For more information on the Outdoor Stargazing Session, please visit the TCAA website at

The ISU Planetarium is located under the white domed roof at the east end of the Felmley Hall of Science annex, at the intersection of College Avenue and School Street, in Normal.

In accordance with the latest CDC guidelines and Illinois State University procedures, face coverings are required in all public indoor spaces at the University. This includes the ISU Planetarium.

For more information, please call the ISU Physics Department at (309) 438-8756 or visit our website through Google Illinois State University Planetarium.

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Planets beyond our solar system

The Spitzer Space Telescope, launched in 2003, is on a mission to become NASA’s first infrared light observatory. It gave astronomers an unprecedented infrared view of the universe, allowing us to peer into regions of space hidden from optical telescopes with unprecedented clarity and sensitivity. One of NASA’s great observatories, Spitzer discovered a ring of Saturn, studied some of the most distant galaxies, and identified two of the most distant supermassive black holes ever discovered, among other accomplishments during its 16 years of operation.

The study of exoplanets – planets outside of our solar system – was not one of Spitzer’s original goals. But innovations during his mission improved Spitzer’s accuracy and allowed him to become an essential tool for work on exoplanets. Spitzer marked a new era in planetary science by being the first telescope to directly detect light from exoplanets. He has played a key scientific role in everything from planets larger than Jupiter to small, rocky worlds that can be Earth-like.

In 2017, Spitzer helped reveal TRAPPIST-1, the first known system of seven Earth-sized planets. The discovery set a new record for the most habitable zone planets found around a single star outside of our solar system. Spitzer’s data also showed that all of these planets are likely rocky. The TRAPPIST-1 study takes scientists one step closer to answering the question “Are we alone?”

This poster depicts the TRAPPIST-1 planets, some of which were discovered by Spitzer. The physical characteristics of the planets are currently not known, beyond their mass and their distance from the star TRAPPIST-1, which is visualized in the background. The James Webb Space Telescope should teach us more about this fascinating system.

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Classic laser rock shows are back at the Saint-Louis planetarium

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – You can travel back in time during the McDonnell Planetarium laser show series. The dome will merge art, light, with a classic art soundtrack with stunning visuals. The St. Louis Science Center claims 3D atmospheric effects are an unforgettable experience.

Laser shows have been an attraction at the planetarium for decades. The new shows are bringing entertainment into the 21st century with new technology that allows laser beams to be seen above the audience in the air.

You will need to purchase tickets in advance. They are $ 10.95 for non-members
and $ 9.95 for members.

Classic Rock Nights feature hits from AC / DC, Aerosmith, Journey, Kiss, Pink Floyd, Van Halen, and more. The ’90s Alternative’ experience includes hits from Smashing Pumpkins, Foo Fighters, Rage Against the Machine and Alice in Chains. Check out each show list for a playlist of songs.

Display the schedule:

Friday, July 2, 2021

6:00 am Laser show: The Beatles
7:30 am Laser show: Led Zeppelin

Saturday July 3, 2021

6:00 Laser show: Reine
7:30 am Laser Show: The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd

Sunday, July 4, 2021

6:00 Laser show: Rush 2112
7:30 am Laser show: classic rock evening

Monday July 5, 2021

6:00 Laser show: Genesis
7:30 am Laser show: Reine

Thursday July 8, 2021

6:00 am Laser Show: The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd
7:30 am Laser show: Rush 2112

Friday, July 9, 2021

6:00 am Laser show: The Beatles
7:30 am Laser show: Alternative of the 90s

Saturday July 10, 2021

6:00 a.m. Laser show: classic rock evening
7:30 am Laser show: The Wall by Pink Floyd
9:00 am Laser Show: The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd

Sunday 11 July 2021

6:00 Laser show: Led Zeppelin
7:30 am Laser show: Reine

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This new 3D planetarium was a German rocket hangar during WWII

Make more illuminating use of a former Nazi rocket bunker in northern France, RSA Cosmos transformed the enormous hanger into a new state-of-the-art 3D planetarium that promises customers “unforgettable journeys through the universe in a state-of-the-art 360-degree environment.”

RSA Cosmos recently outfitted the Cosmic Attraction with a dozen luxury 4K projectors to manifest what is called the world’s first 10K 3D planetarium.

The dome is a giant bunker complex located next to Saint Omer in the Pas-de-Calais that was built by German forces to launch deadly V-2 rockets targeted at London and southern England during the dark days of the Second World War.

The facility was bombed by Allied forces during the war and finally removed and captured in September 1944. Winston Churchill requested that it be half demolished to prevent it from being used again as a military site. This historic complex was then used for the Apollo program before being neglected and abandoned. From the end of the 1990s, La Coupole was redeveloped into a historical war museum open to the public.

With a whole new breath, the the museum’s fantasy planetarium now has a new digital system. RSA Cosmos hoped to improve the quality of the compelling 3D experience, which now touts itself as the very first in the world to feature 10K 3D visuals at the meridian.

These stunning images of the sky are made possible by a combination of the company’s SkyExplorer 2021 software and a dozen Sony VPL-GTZ380 4K projectors installed in a 49-foot digital dome.

The $ 80,000 premium SXRD laser projectors emit 10,000 bright lumens and support 100% of the DCI-P3 color gamut. They are fully capable of adjusting the contrast scene by scene, contain built-in technology to limit motion blur, and are also capable of enhancing the color and contrast of individual objects found in the projected image for enhanced clarity.

“The objective of this modernization project was to achieve an image quality that we no longer had”, declared the person in charge of the planetarium of La Coupole, Nicolas Fiolet, in a official press release. “Thanks to Sony projectors, we get beautiful skies, beautiful colors and great contrasts.”

In addition, this transformation project has allowed RSA Cosmos to improve lighting and install new comfortable seats, each with integrated armrests with a special control panel that allows interaction with the public. This feature even allows stargazing visitors to take control of the camera in projected simulations for a more thrilling heavenly experience.

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Aurora throughout our solar system

The majestic Northern and Southern Lights have mystified humans for millennia. During the long, dark winter nights – when the space weather is good – green and purple clouds can cover the polar sky from horizon to horizon. The glowing lights dance and move in curtains and arcs, forming a crescendo of color before disappearing.

The terrestrial auroras are not alone in our solar system either. Telescope observations and visiting spacecraft have found evidence of auroras on Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus – and even exoplanets. And with a recent discovery on Jupiter’s mysterious “dawn of dawn” published in the journal AGU Advances, astronomers continue to unravel the mysteries of these lights throughout our solar system.

(Credit: Roen Kelly / Discover)

Aurora on Earth

Auroras on Earth are created when our planet is bombarded by particles from the Sun, mainly electrons and protons. These particles travel down Earth’s magnetic field lines, where they collide with nitrogen and oxygen and excite molecules until they glow. The basic mechanics are not too different from a simple neon.

And yet the Northern Lights and the Northern Lights continue to confuse astronomers’ attempts to predict them and explain their many nuances. For example, just recently a group of citizen scientists discovered a whole new type of aurora, which they dubbed “Steve”. And some researchers are now even trying to find out whether auroras can make sounds – an idea that recurs regularly in folklore but has generally been rejected by science.

More and more, astronomers are also discovering that our planet is not the only one with auroras. Yet not all of them function quite the same as the Earth.

Venus does not have a strong magnetic field, but its proximity to the Sun means that the planet is hit by solar storms so strong that they cause a kind of aurora. (Credit: ESA / C. Carreau)

Aurora on Venus

Venus completely lacks a magnetic field. So if Earth’s auroras are caused by interactions with our planet’s magnetic field, then surely Venus shouldn’t have any Northern Lights at all. Right?

And yet, for forty years, astronomers have wondered about the strange green signals observed on images of the planet.

Scientists moved closer to solving the mystery in 2014. A team of researchers using a telescope in New Mexico observed that Venus was repeatedly struck by solar storms. Each time, green excited oxygen signals appeared.

This evidence, combined with observations collected by the European Space Agency’s Venus Express spacecraft, suggests that the Sun’s own magnetic field could be extended to the planet by solar wind. This process is sufficient to create auroras.

A localized aurora dances above Mars in this artists illustration. (Credit: ESA / C. Carreau)

Aurora on Mars

Like Venus, Mars also has auroras despite its extremely weak magnetic field. And the auroras of Mars are made even more incredible because the red planet orbits twice as far from the Sun as Venus.

Nearly two decades ago, ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft caught a startling glow in the planet’s upper atmosphere. It turns out that the aurorae of Mars are unlike anything else in the solar system.

While the Red Planet lost its magnetic field a long time ago, observations from spacecraft show that magnetic anomalies still persist today, scattered across the planet’s crust. And these regions correspond to the areas where the residual magnetic field of Mars is strongest. So when charged solar particles hit the planet, they interact with this patchwork of magnetism and produce faint, scattered auroras.

A new study helps explain the existence of what is called “the dawn of dawn” on Jupiter. (Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / UVS / STScI / MODIS / WIC / IMAGE / ULiège / Bonfond)

Aurora over Jupiter

In the far reaches of our solar system, astronomers have seen auroras on Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Auroras on these gas giant planets likely have similar mechanisms, although Uranus and Neptune have only been visited once by spaceships.

Of all, Jupiter is home to the most spectacular light show in the solar system, as the Hubble Space Telescope has shown us in great detail. Its aurorae are absolutely massive in size thanks to a magnetosphere about 20,000 times more powerful than that of Earth.

They never stop either. While Earth’s auroras fired their spark only from the Sun, Jupiter also receives a constant dose of charged particles from its volcanic moon, Io.

Hubble observed the auroras for an extended and particularly active period in 2016 that coincided with the arrival of orbiter Juno to Jupiter. As Hubble observed the planet, the arriving probe measured the solar wind. Together, the spacecraft has provided new insight into how Jupiter’s auroras react to charged particles from the Sun.

A new study published in March 2021 provided additional information. Before the arrival of the Juno spacecraft, astronomers could not observe the auroras on the day side of Jupiter. And as the spacecraft scanned the night side of Jupiter, it spotted the emergence of extremely bright auroras called “dawn storms.” These storms produce hundreds of times more energy than a nuclear reactor on Earth. And for the first time, this new study has followed storms from their origins on the night side of the planet to their full evolution to the day side.

It turns out that they form much like a kind of aurora on Earth called an auroral sub-storm. Here they are caused by sudden and “explosive” reconfigurations of our planet’s magnetosphere as the solar wind varies. But on Jupiter, the process is probably related to changes in the plasma from Io.

SIMP j01365663 + 0933473, a rogue planet with intense auroras. (Credit: Chuck Carter, Caltech, NRAO / AUI / NSF)

Aurora on a rogue planet

In 2018, astronomers discovered a huge gas giant planet about 20 light years away, dubbed SIMP j01365663 + 0933473. With a mass 13 times that of Jupiter, it traverses our original starless galaxy, making it a so-called “rogue planet”. These worlds formed without stars or were thrown out of their solar systems.

SIMP j01365663 + 0933473 also appears to have a magnetic field millions of times stronger than that of Earth with auroras that can put our northern lights to shame. According to a 2018 study in The Journal of Astrophysics, its auroras occur through a process totally different from anything that happens in our solar system.

Without a star to bombard it with charged particles, SIMP j01365663 + 0933473 must have another source. This could mean that this rogue planet does not wander the galaxy completely on its own. Like Jupiter and Io, it may have a volcanically active moon that feeds it with charged particles. Or, alternatively, like so many different aurora mechanisms that astronomers have discovered over the years, SIMP j01365663 + 0933473 may hold some surprises as well.

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Strange interstellar comet discovery hints at a solar system like ours

the "unexpected discovery" nickel gas around interstellar comet 21 / Borisov aligns with "astonishing" new observations of local comets, say scientists.

Concept art by 21 / Borisov. Image: NRAO / AUI / NSF / S. Dagnello

ABSTRACT breaks down breathtaking scientific research, future technologies, new discoveries and major breakthroughs.

In the summer of 2019, amateur astronomer Gennadiy Borisov spotted a rogue comet that originated in a star system far beyond the Sun. The comet, named 2I / Borisov, was just the second interstellar intruder ever to be identified in our solar system, after sighting the bizarre ‘Oumuamua object in 2017.

While ‘Oumuamua sparked heated controversy over its strange nature and possible origins, 2I / Borisov fascinated scientists for the opposite reason: it looked roughly like local comets orbiting the Sun, suggesting that the visitor may come from a system very similar to our own.

Now, independent findings from two research teams have strengthened this link between our solar system and the mysterious birthplace of 2I / Borisov, while also revealing a surprising new twist on local and interstellar comets.

Piotr Guzi and Michał Drahus, two scientists from Jagiellonian University in Poland, announced the “unexpected discovery” of nickel vapor in the atmosphere of 2I / Borisov, according to a study published Wednesday in Nature. Although it is well known that heavy metals such as iron and nickel exist as solids inside comets, these elements had never been seen except in gaseous form when comets approach stars, causing extreme heating which triggers the sublimation of the metals into vapor.

This is why Guzi and Drahus were caught off guard by clear evidence of gaseous nickel in the coma or the atmosphere of 2I / Borisov, even though the interstellar comet was about twice as far from the Sun as Earth at the time of the team observations in January 2020 At this distance, the comet’s temperature was estimated to be around -93 ° C, well below the conditions of 425 ° C that normally produce gaseous nickel.

Yet the team’s observations, obtained by the sophisticated X-shooter spectrograph at the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, showed evidence of nickel gas over several nights, “effectively removing[ing] the possibility of confusion with a background source or instrumental artefacts, ”according to the study.

“Atomic nickel was a truly unexpected discovery, as observation of the gaseous form of any metal was considered to be limited only to warm environments, such as comets grazing the sun passing a few solar rays from the surface of the Sun. “Guzi said in an email.

“The two brightest nickel lines were clearly visible in our combined spectrum, but since we knew of no typical emissions at these wavelengths, we first made sure that they were present in the spectra taken each night. , and not in the background of the sky. and that they are not artefacts, ”he continued. “Yet it took us a long time to discover their true nature. “

To potentially explain the discovery, Guzi and Drahus propose that heavy metal vapor can be released at cold temperatures through a process known as photodissociation, in which photons (light particles) stimulate a nickel-containing molecule on the surface. to sublimate into gas.

The team’s findings would be quite intriguing in themselves, but they also coincide with the publication of a decades-long compositional study of comets in our solar system, led by University of Liège astronomer Jean Manfroid. . Using observations collected since 2002, the Manfroid team discovered that nickel and iron “are ubiquitous in cometary atmospheres, even far from the Sun”, according to a study also published on Wednesday in Nature.

“We learned of the other document while ours was already under review,” Guzi said. “The fact that the presence of nickel was detected both in the coma of the first known interstellar comet and in a collection of comets originating in our planetary system is simply astonishing.”

“This opens up a new perspective for understanding how the formation of planetary systems takes place in the galaxy since comets are seen as the remnants of this process,” he added.

The new research also strengthens the hypothesis that 2I / Borisov could have originated from a star system very similar to ours, as these studies identify yet another property that the interstellar visitor shares with our own local comets. If scientists find more interstellar comets that look like 2I / Borisov, it could hint at the existence of many solar system analogues across the Milky Way.

“We might expect the conditions at the place of their birth, as well as the chemical makeup of the interstellar cloud from which their original planetary system originated, to be similar to the interstellar cloud from which our solar system was born.” , Guzi said.

“It would be interesting to study the composition of other interstellar comets in the future to compare them with 2I / Borisov,” he continued. “Unfortunately, we don’t know when such an object will appear. The other fascinating question is what is the source of the metallic atoms in the gases surrounding the cometary nucleus.

Fortunately, these tantalizing questions could be answered in the years to come, as next-generation observatories will increase the speed at which interstellar visitors are spotted. In particular, the Vera C. Rubin observatory in Chile, which is due to enter service in the coming years, should speed up the detections of these mysterious intruders.

A larger census of interstellar objects will provide vital information about their distant home systems, highlighting how unique our own cosmic neighborhood is as part of the Milky Way.

“This is an important period in the history of planetary science, because we have the opportunity to study objects born in distant planetary systems and which have been ejected from their homes on their way to our cosmic neighborhood,” Guzi concluded.

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