The Rapid Changes We’re Seeing With the Earth’s Magnetic Field Don’t Mean the Poles are About to Flip. This is Normal

An illustration of Earth's magnetic field. Image Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

One of the most interesting discoveries about Earth in the past few decades concerns the Earth’s magnetic poles. Paleomagnetic records show that the poles have flipped places 183 times in the last 83 million years. That’s about every 450,000 years on average, though there were ten million years between flips in at least two cases.

The Earth’s magnetic field is experiencing some rapid changes right now, but scientists say that has no relation to pole flipping.

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A Rogue Earth-Mass Planet Has Been Discovered Freely Floating in the Milky Way Without a Star

An artist's impression of a rogue planet. Image Credit: By Interpott.nrw - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=83123717

If a solar system is a family, then some planets leave home early. Whether they want to or not. Once they’ve left the gravitational embrace of their family, they’re pretty much destined to drift through interstellar space forever, unbound to any star.

Astronomers like to call these drifters “rogue planets,” and they’re getting better at finding them. A team of astronomers have found one of these drifting rogues that’s about the same mass as Mars or Earth.

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Did Scientists Just Find Signs of Life on Venus?

This artistic impression depicts Venus. Astronomers at MIT, Cardiff University, and elsewhere may have observed signs of life in the atmosphere of Venus. Credits:Image: ESO (European Space Organization)/M. Kornmesser & NASA/JPL/Caltech

A team of scientists has just published a paper announcing their discovery of a peculiar chemical in the cloudtops of Venus. As far as scientists can tell, this chemical, called phosphine, could only be produced by living processes on a planet like Venus. So the whole internet is jumping on this story.

But did they find signs of life? Or is there another explanation?

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There’s One Cloud on Mars That’s Over 1800 km Long

A mysteriously long, thin cloud has again appeared over the 20-km high Arsia Mons volcano on Mars. Image Credit: ESA/GCP/UPV/EHU Bilbao

Mars’ massive cloud is back.

Every year during Mars’ summer solstice, a cloud of water ice forms on the leeward side of Arsia Mons, one of Mars’ largest extinct volcanoes. The cloud can grow to be up to 1800 km (1120 miles) long. It forms each morning, then disappears the same day, only to reappear the next morning. Researchers have named it the Arsia Mons Elongated Cloud (AMEC).

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Amazing View of How Dust Storms Grow on Mars

Two snapshots, about two weeks apart, of a 3D simulation of the 2018 Global Dust Storm performed with the NASA Ames Mars Global Climate Model. The storm began as a regional storm in Acidalia then moved eastward, triggering more dust lifting along the way (in Arabia, Sabaea, Hellas etc.). As the storm grew larger and became global, intense dust lifting events occurred in the Tharsis region, injecting dust at high altitudes. Credit: Tanguy Bertrand / Alex Kling / NASA Ames Research Center

In 2018, Mars experienced one of its global dust storms, a phenomenon seen nowhere else. As science would have it, there were no fewer than six spacecraft in orbit around Mars at the time, and two surface rovers. This was an unprecedented opportunity to watch and study the storm.

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A 2nd Planet has been Confirmed for Proxima Centauri

An artist's illustration of the Proxima Centauri system. Proxima b in on the left, while Proxima C is on the right. Image Credit: Lorenzo Santinelli

Our closest stellar neighbour is Proxima Centauri, a small red dwarf star about 4.2 light years away from us. It’s the third member of the Alpha Centauri group, and even though it’s so close, it can’t be seen with the naked eye. In 2016 astronomers discovered a planet orbiting Proxima Centuari, named Proxima Centauri b. That planet was confirmed only a few days ago.

Now, astronomers have confirmed the existence of a second planet, Proxima Centauri c.

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InSight has been Sensing Dust Devils Sweep Past its Landing Site

The InSight lander has been on the surface of Mars for about a year, and a half dozen papers were just published outlining some results from the mission. Though InSight’s primary mission is to gather evidence on the interior of Mars—InSight stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport—the lander also keeps track of Martian Meteorology. A new paper reports that InSight has found gravity waves, swirling dust devils, and a steady background rumble of infrasound.

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After a Challenging First Year on Mars, InSight Shows Us that Mars is Seismically Active

In this artist's concept of NASA's InSight lander on Mars, layers of the planet's subsurface can be seen below and dust devils can be seen in the background. Image Credit: IPGP/Nicolas Sarter

The NASA and DLR InSight lander has been on Mars for over a year now. The mission has faced significant challenges getting its HP3 (Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package) into the subsurface, but the spacecraft’s other instruments are working as intended. Now, researchers have published six papers outlining some of the mission’s scientific results.

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There Are Winds Blowing On Pluto, Driven by Frozen Nitrogen

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft captured this image of Sputnik Planitia — a glacial expanse rich in nitrogen, carbon monoxide and methane ices — that forms the left lobe of a heart-shaped feature on Pluto’s surface. SwRI scientists studied the dwarf planet’s nitrogen and carbon monoxide composition to develop a new theory for its formation. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Earth and Pluto don’t have much in common. Earth is a vibrant, living world, whereas Pluto is cold, distant and lifeless. But one thing they do have in common is nitrogen. Earth’s atmosphere is about 78% nitrogen, and Pluto’s primary atmospheric constituent is also nitrogen, although the exact percentage is unclear.

On Pluto, where the surface temperature is about 42 Kelvin (-231 Celsius) most of that nitrogen is frozen. A new study says that Pluto’s frozen nitrogen drives the planet’s winds, and shapes its feature surfaces.

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A Second Planet May Have been Found Orbiting Proxima Centauri! And it’s a Super Earth.

An artist's illustration of the Proxima Centauri system. Proxima b in on the left, while Proxima C is on the right. Image Credit: Lorenzo Santinelli

Astronomers have discovered another candidate exoplanet orbiting our neighbor, Proxima Centauri. A paper announcing these results was just published in the journal Science Advances. If confirmed, it will be the second exoplanet orbiting the star.

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