An interstellar meteorite could be hiding in the ocean. Why doesn’t Jupiter have rings like Saturn. The time when Earth’s magnetic field almost collapsed. The shortest day on Earth, and Planet 9 is running out of places to hide. All this and more in this week’s episode of Space Bites.
If you prefer to watch the most exciting space and astronomy news of this week, here’s a video version. They come in a bite-size format, so you can relax and watch them being videoed at you.
Why Jupiter Doesn’t Have Massive Rings
Saturn has vast rings made of water ice, while the rest of the giant planets have faint rings made of dust grains. Jupiter has icy moons and enough gravity to catch comets, so why doesn’t it have even more fabulous rings than Saturn? Jupiter has four large moons with enough gravity to disrupt a sizeable icy ring, while Saturn’s moon Titan accounts for almost all the moon mass in the system. Can you imagine what Jupiter would look like with Saturn-like rings? With more gravity and closer to us in the Solar System, they’d be spectacular.
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Searching for Interstellar Meteor Underwater
In 2014, an object crashed into the ocean off the coast of Papua New Guinea. Newly released data from the US Department of Defense confirmed that the object was following an interstellar trajectory, meaning it could have formed in another star system and traveled to the Solar System. A team of scientists has proposed that fragments of the meteorite could still be sitting on the bottom of the ocean and could be found by a coordinated search.
Chinese Long March 5B Has Fallen
Last week we reported on the launch of a new science module to the Chinese Space Station. We also said that the giant booster rocket that launched the module would return to Earth… somewhere. Well, the rocket did return, and fortunately, it didn’t hurt everyone. U.S. Space Command confirmed that the Long March 5B rocket re-entered over the Indian Ocean on July 30th at 10:45 am MDT. NASA sent an angry response since China didn’t share any trajectory information as the rocket returned to Earth.
Black Hole’s Super Fast Feast
Astronomers have come up with a detailed simulation of what should happen when a black hole meets a neutron star. Using this simulation they will be able to monitor the signals coming in the form of gravitational waves and distinguish between other forms of mergers. The simulation also shows that the entire process happens extremely fast. The whole star gets destroyed in under 2 seconds. Insane!
Planet 9 Is Running Out Of Places to Hide
There’s indirect evidence of a massive planet – dubbed Planet 9 -in the outer Solar System, an object with approximately 5 Earth masses orbiting between 100 and 1000 astronomical units from the Sun. Astronomers used two infrared surveys of the outer Solar System, separated by 20 years, to see if any objects had moved in the right orbit during that time. They found hundreds of candidate objects, but they all turned out to be clouds of gas glowing in infrared. If Planet 9 is out there, it’s running out of places to hide.
How Earth’s Magnetosphere Almost Collapsed
The Earth is surrounded by a powerful magnetic field that redirects solar flares and cosmic radiation to the poles, allowing life to thrive. We know this magnetic field can flip its polarity every few hundred thousand years, but about half a billion years ago, it almost completely disappeared. This happened at about the same time the Earth’s solid inner core of iron was starting to form. As the inner core formed, the magnetic field strengthened, protecting the planet again.
Citizen Astronomers Get Time on JWST
You don’t need to be special to get time on the James Webb Space Telescope; you just need to prove the science case to the judging panel. A team of citizen scientists has been granted access to JWST so they can analyze a group of brown dwarfs that they discovered over the last few years. They’re part of the Zooniverse Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 project, which distinguishes real celestial objects from image artifacts in infrared data from a NASA satellite.
More Images from James Webb
Are you sick of pictures from James Webb yet? Of course not! Here’s a new picture of the Cartwheel Galaxy imaged by Webb. A few hundred million years ago, another smaller galaxy punched right through the center, disrupting its spiral structure and beginning a new era of star formation. In other wavelengths from Webb, you can see the dust and new star formation at the core and outer ring.
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