Philae's descent to 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko : The director's cut ( ESA )

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The Top 5 Potentially Habitable Alien Planets

We haven't seen them, but we know they exist out there. Ever since the discovery of the first exoplanet in 1992, nearly 2000 exoplanets have been discovered to date. Among these 2000 planets, below are the top five strong contenders that might sustain an Alien biological life. They are neither too hot nor too cold. They might have right conditions for  liquid surface water and therefore for life to emerge and evolve.

All the above exoplanets images are only an artist's imagination CREDIT: NASA

MAVEN Completes One year At Red Planet

artist's impression of MAVEN ( credit: NASA )

MAVEN spacecraft is celebrating its first birthday at Mars. The main goal of this 671 million $ mission is to explore the upper atmosphere of Mars and to solve the mystery of how once a watery world with a thick atmosphere got changed into a dry desert planet with a thin atmosphere. This important data will also help NASA build a roadmap for the future manned mission to the Red Planet. 

MAVEN stands for "Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN Mission". Launched back in 2013, MAVEN completed 400 million miles long journey in 10 months and entered in orbit of Mars on September 22, 2014. From the orbit, MAVEN is studying the Martian upper atmosphere, ionosphere and interaction with the sun and solar wind.  

" The goal of the mission is to determine the role that loss of atmospheric gas to space played in changing the Martian climate through time. MAVEN is studying the entire region from the top of the upper atmosphere all the way down to the lower atmosphere so that the connections between these regions can be understood."  : NASA

Through the sensors of MAVEN, scientist can peep into the history of Martian climate & presence of liquid water and most of all, can assess the potential habitability of this red planet.
"Three views of an escaping atmosphere, obtained by MAVEN's Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph, are shown here. By observing all of the products of water and carbon dioxide breakdown, MAVEN's remote sensing team can characterize the processes that drive atmospheric loss on Mars. These processes may have transformed the planet from an early Earthlike climate to the cold and dry climate of today CREDIT: NASA"
Interestingly, official mission duration of MAVEN is only 1 year, but it is expected that MAVEN will remain operational by at least 2024 working as a backup relay for upcoming Mars rovers and landers.

Have a look at some interesting instruments MAVEN carrying in its kitty to explore the Red Planet.

  1. Martian atmosphere Magnetometer
  2. Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer
  3. Langmuir Probe and Waves
  4. Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrometer
  5. Solar Wind Electron Analyzer
  6. Solar Wind Ion Analyzer
  7. Solar Energetic Particles
  8. SupraThermal And Thermal Ion Composition
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Milky Way Galaxy In One Glance

An artist's impression Credit: NASA

Humanity was born here but how much do we really know about our galaxy " Milky way". I'm giving below some concise facts about our galaxy. First of all, there are no pictures available of our galaxy. Every picture depicting milky way we see on internet, TV or in the newspaper. Either of another galaxy or an artist's impression. It's impossible to take a snap of Milky way until inter-galactically travel becomes a reality which is so far a distant dream. 

However, we have a good amount of radio astronomy and mathematical data which tell us that Milky way is a spiral galaxy. For example; there is a bulge on the Center of Milky way that we see only in spiral galaxies in our Universe. The gas fraction, color, and dust content of our Galaxy are like other spiral galaxies and another concrete proof is the  velocities of stars and gas in our galaxy. When you measure them.  You see an overall rotational motion that differs from random motions.  That's a characteristic of a spiral galaxy.

Milky way takes 200 million years to roate and it is 100,000 light years vast which means the light takes 100,000 years to cross from one side of the Milky Way to the other.

It is estimated there 100-400 billion stars in milky way and with more than enough interstellar dust, 100 billion more stars are waiting in line to take birth. It is said Milky Way gives birth to 7 stars each year, that means Milky way is not gonna run of stars anytime soon. The oldest star in our galaxy is almost 14 billion years old. 

Now come to the issue of planets. Despite all the deaths and births of stars in the Milky Way, there’s a pretty constant total—about 100 billion. And based on a new study, it’s believed that there’s at least one planet for every star, and probably more. In other words, there are always present minimum 100 billion alien planets in our galaxy.

Out of 100 billion planets, it is estimated that near 40 billion are Earth-like planets. 

On the center of Milky way is hidden behind the curtain of clouds and dust a supermassive black hole called Sagittarius A, 26,000 light years away from Earth and the source of intense radio waves.

Milky way is a cannibal galaxy, it is formed eating on other smaller galaxies. It has consumed other galaxies in the past and it is still doing, and will probably continue to do so, at least until a larger galaxy comes along and pulls it into it. Just like it to others. 

In roughly 4 billion years, the Milky Way galaxy will collide with neighboring Andromeda galaxy.

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New Horizons : Stunning Aerial Tour Over Plutonian Icy Terrain

Hats off to the hard work of Stuart Robbins, a research scientist at the Southwest research institute, Colorado & team. This 30 seconds long animation gives you feel as if you're really flying over the icy terrain of mysterious Pluto. Wonderful just wonderful, this animation flyover was made possible by stitching together the latest high-resolution pictures of Pluto beamed back home by " New Horizons" spacecraft and later rendering on a sphere. 

"The concept of this animation arose from a desire to showcase the most recent imagery received from the spacecraft and the huge variety of terrain types that we see on Pluto. I can hardly wait until we get even better imagery – up to seven times better pixel scale – that’s still to come of select areas of the surface and to see what new surprises Pluto has in store." : Stuart Robbins

The images in the animation are detailed enough that we can see many of the surface features of the Pluto for the first time.   Enjoy the video and keep following me on Facebook and Twitter

Martian Dust Storm : Fact & Fiction

credit : NASA
NASA clears dust from infamous Martian dust storms. Before the much awaited movie "The Martian" movie hits the cinema halls next month on 2nd October in India. It's good to read about what actually happens during the giant dust storms on Mars. They some times get as gigantic that they can be seen from Earth telescopes.

According to a report in ABC, unlikely the scene in "The Martian" where dust storms tear apart the stranded astronaut's camp, the real martian dust storm can not inflict any heavy damage upon a human visitor or the robots operating there. Yes, they will feel the high wind but it won't be damaging. The reason the atmosphere on Mars is only about 1 percent as dense as Earth’s atmosphere.

"It is unlikely that even these dust storms could strand an astronaut on Mars, however. Even the wind in the largest dust storms likely could not tip or rip apart major mechanical equipment. The winds in the strongest Martian storms top out at about 60 miles per hour, less than half the speed of some hurricane-force winds on Earth." : NASA

Mars before (right) and after the dust storm in the year 2001 . image :Hubble Space Telescope/NASA
They only thing which can cause some harm is the dust which comes with the storm. This dust can cover the solar panels and make them useless, moreover if get into mechanical equipment like gears or wheels. They could get jammed. However these are not life threatening conditions with adequate precautions they can be avoided. 

Any way the last dust storm was recorded in 2007, now scientists are assured it can stir up any moment and this time its gonna really a big one. For more details, follow me on Twitter and Facebook

Massive Global Ocean Found On Enceladus

What if I told you a massive worldwide ocean lurks beneath the icy crusts of Saturn Moon " Enceladus". The ocean which is even bigger than the Antarctic Ocean on Earth and that icy crust which covers the Enceladus, in fact, floats upon the liquid ocean. You would probably be surprised because it is against the everything we know about the nature of "Enceladus". Looks like we have to change our thoughts of this small Saturn moon.

Geysers on Enceladus is not a news anymore. Cassini spacecraft spotted them almost a decade ago. These geysers are a water-rich plume venting from the south polar region. So far it was believed that these Geysers are the result of a regional ocean lying under the south poles. 

But after a thorough scientific research of the gravitational data and images sent by Cassini over the period of 7 years, researchers have concluded that there exists an ocean beneath the icy surface of Enceladus. As it orbits Saturn, Enceladus' very slight wobble indicates that it's outer ice shell is not connected to the rocky core which means that there must be a global ocean between the icy shell and the core of the moon.

"Cassini scientists analyzed more than seven years’ worth of images of Enceladus taken by the spacecraft, which has been orbiting Saturn since mid-2004. They carefully mapped the positions of features on Enceladus — mostly craters — across hundreds of images, in order to measure changes in the moon’s rotation with extreme precision.

As a result, they found Enceladus has a tiny, but measurable wobble as it orbits Saturn. Because the icy moon is not perfectly spherical — and because it goes slightly faster and slower during different portions of its orbit around Saturn — the giant planet subtly rocks Enceladus back and forth as it rotates." : Cassini mission team

We are already smart enough to understand that " where there is waterthere could be life." If there exists such a great global liquid ocean beneath the icy shell. There is a pretty could chance that Enceladus could contain environments suitable for living organisms. However, there is no way to confirm this until we drop a lander on Enceladus. Unfortunately, there is no such mission in NASA's to-do list at least before 2022. Join me on Facebook and Twitter.
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