Tag Archive: Earth


A NASA-sponsored researcher at the University of Iowa has developed a way for spacecraft to hunt down hidden magnetic portals in the vicinity of Earth. These portals link the magnetic field of our planet to that of the sun.

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Icebergs in a blizzard near Graham Land, Antarctica.

Did it feel like time flew in November 2009? It turns out the days were actually going a wee bit faster for part of that month, according to a team of NASA and European scientists.

Earth spun about 0.1 millisecond faster for a two-week stretch, said study co-author Steven Marcus, a researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The planet’s speedier spin appears to have been due to a slowdown in an ocean current that whips around Antarctica.

“The Earth speeding up is just like a [twirling ice] skater pulling in her arms,” he explained. When the skater does this, she spins faster, because the laws of physics dictate that her body must conserve what’s called angular momentum.

“When [the skater] sticks out her arms, they move pretty fast, because there’s a big circle. When she pulls in her arms, the circle is smaller, so in order to have the same angular momentum, she has to speed up,” Marcus said.

“It is the same with the Earth,” in the sense that if an ocean current slows down, the planet’s spin must speed up to conserve angular momentum.

Scientists have long known that changes in the speed of ocean and atmospheric currents can—and do—slightly affect the rate of Earth’s rotation and, hence, the length of a day.

“The thing is, with the ocean the effect is a lot weaker, since the ocean flows a lot slower than the atmosphere,” Marcus said.

But in November 2009, he said, a slowdown in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current “seemed to be a lot stronger than usual, and that’s probably what made it large enough to be detected in the Earth’s spin data.”

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Earth’s clouds got a little lower — about one percent on average — during the first decade of this century, finds a new NASA-funded university study based on NASA satellite data. The results have potential implications for future global climate.

Scientists at the University of Auckland in New Zealand analyzed the first 10 years of global cloud-top height measurements (from March 2000 to February 2010) from the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) instrument on NASA’s Terra spacecraft. The study, published recently in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, revealed an overall trend of decreasing cloud height. Global average cloud height declined by around one percent over the decade, or by around 100 to 130 feet (30 to 40 meters). Most of the reduction was due to fewer clouds occurring at very high altitudes.

Lead researcher Roger Davies said that while the record is too short to be definitive, it provides a hint that something quite important might be going on. Longer-term monitoring will be required to determine the significance of the observation for global temperatures.

Source: Science Daily

OK, so it’s not real spaghetti — it’s a computer visualization of the complex magnetic field that creates Earth’s magnetosphere — but it sure looks tangled.

Using the awesome power of a Cray XT5 Jaguar supercomputer, a team of space physicists are unlocking some of the biggest mysteries surrounding how the sun’s magnetic field interacts with our planet’s magnetosphere. They basically want to understand what happens when global magnetic fields become tangled to the extreme.

Space physicists categorize these interactions under “space weather,” and they are responsible for some of the Earth’s most powerful (and beautiful) atmospheric events.

“When a storm goes off on the sun, we can’t really predict the extent of damage that it will cause here on Earth. It is critical that we develop this predictive capability,” said Homa Karimabadi, a space physicist at the University of California-San Diego (UCSD).

An view with the earth in the center, this video shows the orbit of Venus around the earth over the course of about 8 years, which is how long it takes to complete an entire pentagram.

It appears another pentagram will be completing in 2012.

The significance of the pentagram reaches as far back as Mesopotamia, with writings surfacing from as early as 3000 BC. Known as ὑγιεία “health” for the Greek goddess Hygieia, the Pythagoreans believed the pentagram represented mathematical perfection.

  • Two Moons
    Maybe Frank should have sang “Fly Me to the Moons.”

    Scientists studying satellites orbiting the planet have come to an astounding conclusion: Earth has multiple moons at any given time, the MIT Technology Review reported.

    Mikael Granvik, along with colleagues at the University of Hawaii, first discovered a mysterious body orbiting the Earth in 2006. The object — or RH120 as it was known — turned out to be a tiny asteroid just a few meters across. Moreover, it was a natural satellite just like our moon.

    The week’s best images of our solar system, the galaxy and everything out there, putting you in touch with the most distant parts of the heavens.

     Since then, the researchers have been studying how this “Earth-Moon” gravitational system captures bodies into its orbit while also modelling their frequency and duration. The asteroid RH120 for instance was captured in September 2006 and orbited the planet until June 2007.

    But how often do these “temporary moons” actually occur? Quite often, the astronomers found.

    “At any given time, there should be at least one natural Earth satellite of one-meter diameter orbiting the Earth,” Granvik, Jeremie Vaubaillon and Robert Jedicke wrote in “The Population of Natural Earth Satellites,” a paper published in online physics journal ArXiv.org. In other words, at this very moment, our planet likely has a secret moon orbiting us (no word as to whether it’s a blue moon). Such objects typically stay for about 10 months, making three revolutions around the planet.

    Given that these tiny captured orbitals are only a meter or two in diameter, it may seem a stretch to officially call them “moons” — but the scientific implications of the discovery are vast. Outside of assisting private spaceflight and exploring deep space, the other major thing on NASA’s list of things to do is send astronauts to an asteroid.

    “The scientific potential of being able to first remotely characterize a meteoroid and then visit and bring it back to Earth would be unprecedented,” the research team concluded.

Light pollution in our inner solar system, from both the nearby glow of the Sun and the hazy zodiacal glow from dust ground up in the asteroid belt, has long stymied cosmologists looking for a clearer take on the early Universe.

But a team at NASA, JPL and Caltech has been looking into the possibility of hitching an optical telescope to a survey spacecraft on a mission to the outer solar system.

The idea is to use the optical telescope in cruise phase to get a better handle on extragalactic background light; that is, the combined optical background light from all sources in the Universe. They envision the telescope’s usefulness to kick in around 5 Astronomical Units (AU), about the distance of Jupiter’s orbit. The team then wants to correlate their data with ground-based observations.

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LONDON: Scientists claim to have discovered a potentially habitable planet which has an environment much similar to that of Earth and may contain water and even life.

The exoplanet, called Gliese 581g, is located around 123 trillion miles away from Earth and orbits a star at a distance that places it squarely in the habitable or the Goldilocks zone, the scientists said.

The research, published in a paper published in the Astrophysical Journal, suggests that the planet could contain liquid water on its surface, meaning it tops the league of planets and moons rated as being most like Earth, they said.

“Our findings offer a very compelling case for a potentially habitable planet said Vogt,” said lead researcher Steven Vogt, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California.

“The fact that we were able to detect this planet so quickly and so nearby tells us that planets like this must be really common,” Vogt said. The new findings are based on 11 years of observations of the nearby red dwarf star Gliese 581. The team reported the discovery of two new planets around Gliese 581.

This brings the total number of known planets around this star to six, the most yet discovered in a planetary system outside of our own. Like our solar system, the planets around Gliese 581 have nearlycircular orbits, the team said.

It found that Gliese 581g has a mass three to four time the Earth’s and orbits its star in just under 37 days. Its mass indicates that it is probably a rocky planet with a definite surface and enough gravity to hold on to an atmosphere, they said.

Ever since a study conducted back in 1993, it has been proposed that in order for a planet to support more complex life, it would be most advantageous for that planet to have a large moon orbiting it, much like the Earth’s moon. Our moon helps to stabilize the Earth’s rotational axis against perturbations caused by the gravitational influence of Jupiter. Without that stabilizing force, there would be huge climate fluctuations caused by the tilt of Earth’s axis swinging between about 0 and 85 degrees.

But now that belief is being called into question thanks to newer research, which may mean that the number of planets capable of supporting complex life could be even higher than previously thought.

Since planets with relatively large moons are thought to be fairly rare, that would mean most terrestrial-type planets like Earth would have either smaller moons or no moons at all, limiting their potential to support life. But if the new research results are right, the dependence on a large moon might not be as important after all. “There could be a lot more habitable worlds out there,” according to Jack Lissauer of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, who leads the research team.

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The Earth pulses with a special kind of resonant wave. The Schumann Resonance has long been dubbed ‘the Earth’s heartbeat,’ and it has only been spotted from below. Recently, though, satellites have found signs of this electromagnetic heartbeat leaking up into space. The heartbeat of the earth goes at about eight cycles per second. Like many other heartbeats, it’s regulated by electricity. When lightning strikes the earth, it creates electromagnetic waves in the atmosphere. These waves are caught between the ground and the upper atmosphere, sixty miles up. Most of these waves are dampened and shake themselves to nothing. Others, with just the right wavelength and frequency, just keep going. The wavelength is the circumference of the earth (or twice the circumference, or three times, or four, and so on). This means that the troughs of these waves will always line up, as will the crests. When crests combine, they get bigger. And with lightning hitting the earth over four million times a day, these waves keep getting the boosts they need. The waves don’t sweep across the surface of the earth. Instead they’re like standing waves, that just pulse at their troughs and crests – a resonant heartbeat. Scientists call this heartbeat The Schumann Resonance, and always thought it was confined to the earth. It had to be trapped under the blanket of the ionosphere. In a paper in the online journal Geophysical Research Letters, NASA scientists working on the Goddard Space Flight Center have revealed that they have detected these waves five hundred miles up. It seems these waves are skipping, or leaking, through the boundaries of earth and out into space.

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