A Cool Drink In A Hot Place Is Now A Reality.

The second hottest planet in the Solar system, Mercury, actually does have water.

With surface temperatures of 800 degrees Fahrenheit (430 degrees Celsius) on the sunny side, and -280 °F (−173 °C) in the shade, you might think that water wouldn’t survive.

Ice in Mercury crater

This is why NASA’s confirmation of water on Mercury is so intriguing.  This may help scientists figure out how water is deposited on planets.  The fact that the water was found in Prokofiev’s crater gives support to the theory that comet/asteroid impacts are responsible for water on the planets.

Although water was theorized to be on Mercury, it wasn’t until the Messenger probe started searching in 2011 to show that there are probably several billion metric tons of water ice near Mercury’s north pole.

So now the question is: How old is the water?  The images indicate that Mercury’s polar ice deposits were either delivered to the planet recently or are regularly restored at the surface through an ongoing process.  That will tell scientist a lot about planet formation and the capability of supporting life (as we know it).

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

You Found What, Where?

Nothing is quite as refreshing during the long hot days like a glass of cool water…especially on Mercury.

Mercury

What you say?  Mercury has water?  That dried up, Sun baked little planet that orbits the Sun in 88 days Mercury?  Yes, that planet.

Image by B.B. Pelleiter

Surface temperatures on Mercury can reach 800 degrees Fahrenheit (427 degrees Celsius), which is hot enough to melt lead.  But it turns out that there may be ice on the Planet as well.

Researchers from NASA, MIT, UCLA among others, have discovered evidence that Mercury may have pockets of water ice, along with organic material, in several permanently shadowed craters near Mercury’s north pole.

Analyzing data of Mercury’s polar regions taken by NASA’s MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging) mission, scientists found that there are craters that are permanently in shadow and the temperature in the shadows is quite cold.

I’m not sure how the ice survives because Mercury isn’t tidally locked to the Sun (unlike our Moon which is tidally locked and always keeping the same face directed towards the Earth).  These craters have to be configured just right so that the 3:2 spin–orbit resonance of Mercury (the planet rotates three times for every two revolutions around the Sun) would keep the ice in the shadows.

However it is happening, it would still be a relief to be able to have an ice cold drink to get out of the 800 degree sun.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Honey, I Shrunk the Planet.

Mercury, the smallest planet in the inner Solar System (yes, damn it, Pluto is still a planet!) and is getting smaller.

Despite being so close to the Sun at 35,980,000 miles (57,910,000 km), the planet has cooled.  Today it is about 3 miles (7 km) smaller than when it  first formed about  four billion years ago.

Scientists first spotted cracking and wrinkling indicating the shrinkage from Mariner 10 probe images in the mid-1970s.

New images from the Messenger spacecraft have provided new data that helped scientist more accurately determine the amount of shrinkage.

Long scars, called lobate scarps,  on the planet’s surface show where rock had been thrust up as the planet shrunk. The lobate scarps can be  hundreds of miles long and thousands of feet high.

This new estimate of Mercury’s shrinkage was made possible by Messanger imaging the entire planet.  Previously Mariner 10 only manage about 45% of the planet’s surface.  The addition of better cameras and sensors also helped.

So the obvious question would be: Is the Earth shrinking?  Not so much compared to Mercury.  The Earth has a bunch of tectonic plates, where Mercury only has one.  The mountains on Earth are caused by plate interaction, whereas the mountains on Mercury are caused by shrinkage.  So no worries that you planet will not fit in the morning after dining on comets and other space dust.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

The Man In The Moon Has Nothing On Mercury.

It seems that people see images in more than just clouds.

People have imagined a man in the moon (although in Asian cultures, it is a rabbit in the Moon).  An of course the famous face on Mars which was really just a mesa in the Cydonia plains of Mars.

But Mercury seems to have the Moon and Mars beat…by a long way.

Mickey On Mercury

First, it seems that a famous mouse has taken up residence on the inner most planet.

This elevated rise on Mercury resembles a vaguely humanoid shape

And perhaps this is a paparazzi waiting for a shot of the famous mouse!  That’s right, two familiar objects on Mercury.

The act of organizing shapes into familiar objects is called Pareidolia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have one located to near where I live in the city of Eagle Rock, CA.  I drive by it quite often.  But unfortunately, pollution is taking the flight out of the eagle shaped shadows formed by the rock and it doesn’t look the same anymore.

So besides asterisms (used to identify star formations), what pareidolia images have you seen lately?

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Good photo op in tonight’s sky.

If you missed the last conjunction between Jupiter, Mercury and Venus this past month, you’ll get another chance at a good photo tonight.

This time it is the Moon, Venus and Mercury.  If you look to the west-northwest horizon tonight you will see all three.

The show will last for about 45 minutes after sunset (Venus sets right after that).

You should be able to see all three with the naked eye and you might even want to try and take a photograph.  You shouldn’t need anything fancier than your cell phone and a steady hand.  Orion even makes devices for holding your cellphone in place for you.

I am going to try my hand at getting a few images and I will post the results (provided the weather cooperates).  Let me know if you take any images, I would love to see your shots!

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Images of our closest planet.

Earth of course.  We couldn’t be much closer if we tried.  And you thought it was going to be Venus, Mars or Mercury.

What's that dark spot on planet Earth? It's the shadow of the moon

A lovely view of Earth, with a Moon shadow in the north.  (Not to be confused with Moon Shadow by Cat Stevens).

Our planet is very interesting to say the least.  Luckily for us, we know almost as much about our planet as we do about the other planets in the Solar system.  In fact, in some respects we don’t know as much about our planet as we do others.

Why is that you ask?

Most of the planet is covered in water.  It really seems like a lot of water until you put it into perspective.

(1) All water (sphere over western U.S., 860 miles in diameter)
(2) Fresh liquid water in the ground, lakes, swamps, and rivers (sphere over Kentucky, 169.5 miles in diameter), and
(3) Fresh-water lakes and rivers (sphere over Georgia, 34.9 miles in diameter).
Credit: Howard Perlman, USGS; globe illustration by Jack Cook, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (©); Adam Nieman.

The picture above from the USGS shows how much water of various kinds are one our planet. It doesn’t look like much now, does it?  But, it does make the planet very nice to live on.

Lake Erie. Though Lake Erie looks beautiful in this image, the green swirls in the water are evidence of the worst toxic algae bloom the lake has suffered in decades. Image taken by Landsat 5 on October 5, 2011. (Photo by USGS/NASA)

An image of Lake Eerie in North America.

Mergui Archipelago, Myanmar. The Mergui Archipelago in the Andaman Sea consists of more than 800 islands. This natural-color image of the center portion of the archipelago was captured by Landsat 5 on December 14, 2004. (Photo by USGS/NASA)

The beautifully blue and green Mergui Archipelago, Myanmar.

Erg Iguidi, Algeria. What look like pale yellow paint streaks slashing through a mosaic of mottled colors are ridges of wind-blown sand that make up Erg Iguidi, an area of ever-shifting sand dunes extending from Algeria into Mauritania in northwestern Africa. Erg Iguidi is one of several Saharan ergs, or sand seas, where individual dunes often surpass 500 meters – nearly one-third of a mile – in both width and height. Image taken by Landsat 5 on April 8, 1985. (Photo by USGS/NASA)

The pale yellow streaks are ridges of sand that make up Erg Iguidi in Algeria. Some of the dunes surpass 500 meters, nearly 1/3 of a mile, in both width and height.

Typhoon Bopha moves toward the Philippines, observed from the ISS, on December 2, 2012. (Photo by AP Photo/NASA/The Atlantic)

An angry planet sometimes, this is an image of Typhoon Bopha covering a lot of the earth as it heads toward landfall in the Philippines in 2012.

Dasht-e Kavir, Iran. The Dasht-e Kavir, or Great Salt Desert, is the larger of Iran's two major deserts, which occupy most of the country's central plateau. Located in north-central Iran, the mostly uninhabited desert is about 800km long and 320km wide. Once situated beneath an ancient inland sea, the arid region is now covered with salt deposits and is known for its salt marshes (kavirs), which can act like quicksand. From wild sheep and leopards to gazelles and lizards, there is a range of wildlife in the mountainous areas and parts of the steppe and desert areas of the central plateau. This 2000 Landsat 7 image shows the intricately folded sediments and colourful formations that now blanket the surface of this barren landscape. (Photo by NASA/GSFC/USGS EROS Data Center)

The Dasht-e Kavir, or Great Salt Desert, in Iran.  The most uninhabited area of the planet (that we know of).

Natural selection at its best.  Please review the Darwin Awards for a complete list.

The Milky Way above the telescopes

Today, we took a look down on our planet, but take the opportunity every once and a while to look up into the night sky.  There are some pretty amazing things up there as well.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities.  Connect with me on Google +

Norman