Google maps the solar system for armchair space travelers

October 17, 2017 by  
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Google has recently added 12 celestial bodies to its Google Maps application. Although armchair space travelers have been able to virtually cruise around the Moon and Mars for years, the list of planets and moons to discover now includes Mercury, Venus, the dwarf planets of Ceres and Pluto, six of Saturn’s moons, and three moons of Jupiter, including Io and Europa. The additional content would not have been possible without Cassini, the recently deceased spacecraft that captured hundreds of thousands of images as it traveled the galaxy over the past two decades. To compile these digital versions of objects in our solar system, the team at Google Maps used images captured by NASA, ESA, and other space agencies and combined them to create a seamless scrollable map, if enough high quality images were available, or a general overview of the planet or moon. Through these maps, earthbound space travelers can explore the mountains , valleys, and wide open plains of planets like Mars or moons like Titan. To reach the outer space section of Google Maps, all you have to do is zoom out far enough from Earth. Related: Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is almost ready to launch into outer space Many of the images used to create the Google Maps of our solar system were gathered through the Cassini-Huygens mission, commonly referred to as Cassini for the Cassini orbiter probe which traveled from Earth to Saturn. Huygens refers to the Huygens lander, which achieved the first landing ever in the outer solar system when it arrived on Saturn’s moon of Titan in 2005. In its 20-year flight,  Cassini  captured countless, invaluable photographs of the solar system and was widely recognized as a “mission of firsts” for the way in which its discoveries revolutionized the way we understand our solar system. Thanks for  Cassini, Google’s Maps are filled with breathtaking images for people to explore from wherever there is Internet access. Via New Atlas and Google Images via Google Maps

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Google maps the solar system for armchair space travelers

Astronomers observe an object in space unlike anything they’ve seen before

September 22, 2017 by  
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Astronomers recently observed a type of object in space unlike anything we’ve come across before. 288P is a binary asteroid – or two asteroids orbiting one other – that has features similar to a comet , like a long tail and bright coma, or cloud of dust and gas surrounding a comet’s nucleus. It is the first binary asteroid we’ve ever found that can also be classified as a comet. Scientists learned of 288P’s existence in 2011, but they weren’t able to really scrutinize the binary asteroid – it was too far away – until recently when it came a little closer to Earth. Using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope , a group of scientists led by Jessica Agarwal at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany were able to get a better look at the strange system. Related: Astronomers discover that exoplanet WASP-12b is “darker than asphalt” 288P is a main-belt comet as it’s located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter . Each of the two pieces that make up 288P are about 0.6 miles in diameter, and the research institute said they are unusually far apart: they’re orbiting one another at a distance of around 62 miles. The astronomers also observed ongoing activity in 288P. Agarwal said, “We detected strong indications of the sublimation of water ice due to the increased solar heating – similar to how the tail of a comet is created.” 288P has probably been a binary system for just around 5,000 years. And according to Hubble’s website, we’re not likely to find any more objects like 288P for a long time, since finding the binary main-belt comet “included a lot of luck.” The journal Nature published the research online earlier this week. Agarwal was joined by four other researchers from institutions in the United States. Via Hubble Space Telescope and the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research Images via ESA/Hubble, L. Calçada and ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser

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Astronomers observe an object in space unlike anything they’ve seen before

Nicaragua joins Paris Accord, leaving the US and Syria as lone dissenters

September 22, 2017 by  
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Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega has announced plans to sign the Paris Accord, leaving President Trump alone with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad as the two remaining national heads refusing to support the international agreement. In December of 2015, the leaders of nearly 200 countries signed the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce global greenhouse emissions and prevent climate change from worsening – including former president Barack Obama. But Trump refused has reneged on that commitment, formerly claiming climate change is a “hoax” invented by the Chinese. According to a report by Managua-based television station 100% Noticias, Ortega said on September 18, “We will soon adhere, we will sign the Paris Agreement. We have already had meetings addressing the issue and we have already programmed the accession.” The Central American nation originally opposed signing the Paris Accord because the goals in the text “did not go far enough.” To elaborate, it had been confirmed by scientists that emissions levels from some of the top polluters — including the US, EU, China, and India — were not low enough to prevent sea levels from rising or to keep global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. As a result, Nicaragua abstained. President Trump has said he will withdraw the US from the historic accord. Despite receiving an environmental encyclical from the Pope himself and being informed by a variety of scientists about the dangers of climate change , he said the action for the US by an executive order which Obama signed while in office puts American workers in the steel, coal and other manufacturing industries at an “economic disadvantage.” Related: Hundreds of Dead Sea Turtles Wash Up on Nicaragua’s West Coast Nicaragua has been a haven for renewable energy . More than half of the country’s energy is sourced from geothermic, wind, solar and wave energy. Nicaragua plans to increase that to 90 percent by 2020. The World Bank referred to the country as “a renewable energy paradise” four years ago. Because the agreement will not go into effect until 2020, Nicaragua has until then to draft a required national action plan and to formalize it into law. No date has yet been set for the signing. Via The Independent Images via Pixabay

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Nicaragua joins Paris Accord, leaving the US and Syria as lone dissenters

Soaring timber tower could clean up contaminated water in NYC’s Central Park

September 22, 2017 by  
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New York-based DFA Studio has unveiled plans for a soaring wooden tower in Central Park that could actually purify the heavily contaminated Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. The proposed tower measures 712 feet tall with a 112-foot-tall spire – and if it comes to fruition, it will be the world’s tallest timber tower. The tower’s helix structure is wrapped with a lattice of curved timber beams . The building would be anchored securely to a pre-cast concrete base with tensile steel cables. A transparent material covers the tower’s exterior, providing 360-degree views as visitors climb up to the top. Related: LAVA breaks ground on sustainable energy tower in Heidelberg The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir currently contains an estimated one billion gallons of stagnant, contaminated water . The tower’s filtration system could potentially convert the body of water into a clean pond. “Aside from supplying water to the pool and Harlem Meer, the Reservoir sits stagnant and fenced off due to its current state as a health threat to millions of New Yorkers, tourists and animals,” said DFA studio founder Laith Sayigh. “DFA envisions a temporary landmark that is remarkably of its time to creatively transform the reservoir into one of New York’s boldest urban amenities.” The tower’s integrated filtration system (as well as the elevators) would be powered by a wind turbine installed at the top of the tower. Sayigh believes that the NYC project would serve as an example for urban design around the world, “The Central Park Tower has the potential to be a model project for other cities aiming to fix existing infrastructure, build tall to capture views and elevate the urban public realm.” + DFA Via Dezeen

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Soaring timber tower could clean up contaminated water in NYC’s Central Park

New NASA discovery hints at water elsewhere in the solar system

September 13, 2017 by  
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The presence of water on Earth used to help set our planet apart from others, but not anymore. NASA researchers recently uncovered evidence of water on Vesta, the second biggest body in the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars . Essam Heggy of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory told Inverse, “The more we search, the more we find ice and water in the solar system, and the more we realize water is not unique to our planet.” Recent discoveries – like that of water on Mars or hints of water on TRAPPIST-1 planets – have us questioning what we thought we knew about H2O in the solar system. It’s likely found on the dwarf planet Ceres and the moons Europa and Enceladus, too. Researchers used information from NASA’s Dawn mission , which explored Vesta between 2011 and 2012, to uncover the best evidence for water on the large asteroid we’ve found yet. Related: Scientists just discovered snow on Mars Led by Elizabeth Palmer of Western Michigan University , three researchers scrutinized the Dawn data. The probe discovered regions that were unusually smooth; the researchers think the surface variations weren’t only the result of cratering processes, like on the Moon, connecting them with high hydrogen concentrations, strongly suggesting Vesta is home to ground ice. Heggy, who was part of the research, said Vesta was once thought to be a dry body. These findings suggest we were probably wrong about that. The presence of ice in an asteroid belt opens up intriguing possibilities, since asteroids can easily be knocked out of their orbits to other areas of the solar system. Heggy said comets transport water molecules throughout solar systems. Could asteroids play a role in transporting water too? Even if that’s true, Heggy said it’s too early to guess how they might have impacted Earth’s water supply during its primordial days. The journal Nature Communications published the research online yesterday. Via Inverse Images via NASA/JPL-Caltech ( 1 , 2 )

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New NASA discovery hints at water elsewhere in the solar system

Self-sustaining island eco-lodge in Florida has its own desalination system

February 21, 2017 by  
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For those looking to get away from the chaos of modern life, a stunning luxury eco-lodge is currently on the market. The solar-powered Melody Key Lodge is a timber home located on 5.24 acres of secluded island paradise, just 25 miles from Key West, Florida. But if you’re on a tight budget, you might not want to read on. The breathtaking lodge previously owned by an undisclosed rockstar comprises a three-story timber structure with three bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms. The top open floor, which houses the gourmet kitchen, dining area, living and lounge space, offers beautiful 360-degree views of the ocean. Lucky guests will be able to choose between a dip in the pristine beaches or the adjacent freshwater pool. Related: For $2.3 million, this breathtaking self-sufficient Scottish island could be yours The home, which is listed for $6,900,000, is perfect for wealthy folks looking to go off grid . In addition to its integrated solar system and backup generator, there’s also a desalination water system. Add in all-you-can-eat seafood, and off-grid living has never been so luxurious. + Engel & Völkers Florida Keys Via Uncrate  

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Self-sustaining island eco-lodge in Florida has its own desalination system

New research suggests an unseen 9th planet may be tilting the solar system

October 24, 2016 by  
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Astrophysicists have long wondered why our sun is tilted at a different angle than the rest of the known solar system . While all eight known planets rotate on a flat plane within only a few degrees of one another, the sun itself appears to be tilted roughly six degrees off of the planets. Now, new research shows that a massive, undiscovered ninth planet at the edge of the solar system might actually be causing the other planets to “wobble” in their orbit around the sun. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h72tABvkLAo This isn’t the first time scientists have speculated about the existence of “Planet Nine” – earlier this year researchers from Caltech predicted its existence due to the abnormal bunching of several objects orbiting near Neptune, an effect which could only exist if a large, unknown planet were exerting a gravitational influence. Planet Nine has yet to be observed directly, but more and more evidence is beginning to point to its existence as the answer to some of our solar system’s enduring mysteries. Related: Astronomers may have discovered a ninth planet in our solar system If you’ve never heard about the fact that the planets are slightly off-kilter compared to the sun, you’re not alone. Mike Brown, one of the authors behind the Planet Nine theory, explains, “It’s such a deep-rooted mystery and so difficult to explain that people just don’t talk about it.” The as-yet unseen planet is estimated to be about 10 times the size of Earth, with an orbit 20 times farther from the sun than Neptune . It also appears to orbit about 30 degrees off of the orbital plane of the rest of the solar system – an angle that, along with its massive size, could be slowly pulling objects within the solar system off-balance. That’s not too surprising, considering scientists believe Planet Nine might eventually destabilize the solar system once the sun balloons into a red giant. Related: Mysterious ninth planet could one day tear apart the solar system What is still unknown is exactly how Planet Nine came to occupy its unusual orbit in the first place. It’s possible it may have once sat with the gas giants near Jupiter before being ejected. The gravitation pull of other stellar bodies might have also had an influence at some point in the solar system’s distant past. The new study will be published in an upcoming issue of Astrophysical Journal . Via Phys.org Images via Caltech

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New research suggests an unseen 9th planet may be tilting the solar system

Everything we thought we knew about the moon’s origins is probably wrong

September 20, 2016 by  
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Everything we thought we knew about the moon’s origins is probably wrong, according to a new study written by two Harvard scientists. The leading theory since the 1970’s suggests a Mars-sized object scratched Earth in a ” giant impact event ,” leading to the moon . But new analysis of moon rocks reveals the collision that led to the moon was likely far more violent than we thought, which could offer insight into what the solar system was like long ago. Kun Wang and Stein B. Jacobsen, who are both affiliated with the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard , scrutinized ” old Apollo samples from the ’70’s ” with better technology than was available 40 or more years ago. They found elements that couldn’t fully be explained by the old theory, including ” heavy isotopes of potassium .” The process to separate out those potassium isotopes would have needed super hot temperatures. Those temperatures could have resulted after a very violent collision. Related: The Moon was created when young Earth collided with another planet, says new study Wang told Gizmodo, “We need a much, much bigger impact to form a moon according to our study. The giant impact itself should be called extremely giant impact. The amount of energy required isn’t even close.” Instead of the Mars-sized object scraping Earth, the collision would have been more akin to a “sledgehammer hitting a watermelon.” The collision was so hot and forceful that the scientists think some of Earth actually vaporized. When the vapor cooled, it condensed into our moon. Nature published their study online this week. The new information about the moon’s origins led the scientists to think long ago, the solar system could have been a lot more violent and volatile. They think the moon rocks could hold more secrets about the ” early solar system ” and plan to keep probing the samples for more thrilling hints about the past. Via Gizmodo Images via Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

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Everything we thought we knew about the moon’s origins is probably wrong

Mysterious ninth planet could one day tear apart the solar system

August 31, 2016 by  
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When scientists announced earlier this year that they might have discovered a ninth planet in Earth’s solar system, the finding brought comfort to those of us still mourning Pluto’s downgrade to “dwarf planet.” But new research out of the University of Warwick shows that the mysterious “Planet Nine,” which is believed to circle the sun once every 15,000 years , could eventually spell disaster for our solar system.

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Mysterious ninth planet could one day tear apart the solar system

Why Solar Financing Truly Is An Art Form

August 24, 2016 by  
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A decade ago, a residential solar system was a relatively elite product available only to homeowners with the means to finance the installation. Banks were still a little shy about investing in this new technology and solar financing programs were…

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Why Solar Financing Truly Is An Art Form

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