What We Know About Our Planets

Planets seem like a foreign idea to most but there is quite a bit of information and research we have about the planets in our solar system. It has been said that we know more about our neighboring planets than we do our own oceans. With a solar system that has been in place for billions of years, there is so much history so far away that has yet to be discovered.

 

What We Know

The planets closest to the sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars are all terrestrial planets. These planets have solid, rock-like surfaces which are quite different from earth. These planets are also, naturally, uninhabitable for humans. They have varying atmospheric differences that make them impossible for humans to naturally breathe. As well, the two outer planets beyond Mars’ orbit, Jupiter and Saturn, are known as “gas giants” while Uranus and Neptune are dubbed “ice giants”.

 

NASA is at the forefront of obtaining more information about our planets. Voyager 1 and 2, launched by NASA, are the first space crafts to explore the outer reaches of earth’s solar system.

 

Pluto has been downgraded from a planet to now considered a dwarf planet. With the redefinition of a planets and dwarf planets, new dwarf planets have been identified. These dwarf planets reside in the Kuiper Belt, which is past Neptune. This is information that has lead researchers to believe that there is an existence of a ninth planet. The California Institute of Technology believes that Planet Nine does in fact exist but it is also 10 times the size of Earth’s mass. Planet Nine is so far out of the norm circumference of this solar system that takes 20,000 Earth years to completely orbit the sun.

 

The Next Earth

The search for a planet similar to earth has not been that successful in the past few years. It was not until NASA’s Kepler telescope discovered over 3 thousand planets. With researchers making some great strides to an Earth 2.0, many have been a bit unsuccessful. There is a new European observatory that is expected to be completed by 2024 with the goal of finding that Earth 2.0. A planet similar to Earth would give society something to compare our world to. It would also further the discussion of life in space and a place where humans could travel to.

Current NASA News

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has been announcing groundbreaking strides in understanding more of space, other planets, and how the earth functions so efficiently. NASA continues to push the field of science further and further to collect more data of the unexplored. Here are some of NASA’s upcoming plans that have recently been announced.

 

Touch the Sun?

The space agency has announced that it has plans of a mission to create and launch a probe to get closer to the sun than ever before. They anticipate the probe to come within 3.9 million miles of the sun, which has never been done before. The mission is set to depart in the summer of 2018. NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is set to handle environments of over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit paired with extreme solar radiation.

The purpose of this mission is to take away data regarding the trace of energy that sources the corona and solar winds. As well, NASA is looking to find more specific information about the magnetic fields and plasma structures from the solar winds. The goal of the probe’s mission is to circle the sun 24 times between the years of 2018 through 2024.

 

Artificial Clouds

NASA has recently released colored artificial clouds on the East Coast of the United States. They released faux blue, green, and red clouds in June of 2017 to test a new system that will aid scientists with studying the auroras of the ionosphere.

Essentially, NASA launched a small sub-orbital rocket off of the coast of Virginia that released fist-sized canisters filled with vapor tracers into the atmosphere. These canisters may appear as colorful clouds. The canisters, or tracers, are made of vapors of lithium, barium and tri-methyl aluminum that react with other elements in space, which create the glow. This glow is to visually trace the flow of the particles throughout space.

 

A Hole on Mars?

One of earth’s closest neighboring planets, Mars, has shown a new, giant hole on the surface of the planet. This abnormally deep crater is a bit larger than Mars’ normal swiss cheese surface. NASA has yet to find the source of this new pit formed on Mars but there are many reasons for holes to be formed on Mars’ terrain from meteorite impacts to collapsing lava tubes.

Remembering the Space Shuttle Challenger

Today, marks 30 years since the devastating explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger that took off from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The shuttle exploded exactly 73 seconds after takeoff, killing all seven on board. It was one of the most tragic accidents in our nation’s history and it marked the first time that a tragedy like this was broadcasted on live television.  Millions of people all over the world,  tuned in to watch what was supposed to be a remarkable achievement performed by these astronauts turn into horrific nightmare in a matter of seconds. There was also a lot of buzz generated about this launch because of one the crew members on board, Christa McAuliffe. Christa was a teacher and first regular citizen to have the opportunity fly into space. This was a dream of her’s that was cut too short.

Once this accident occurred everyone wondered why and how this  horrific incident occurred. President Ronald Regan wanted to get to the bottom of it and after forming the Rogers Commission and working with physicist Richard Feynman they found out what really happened on that cold January day. According to Feynman the reason was because the  O-ring seal in the right solid rocket booster failed, which let pressurized burning gas escape and breach the external fuel tank, and led to the breakup of the spacecraft.   NASA had no way of finding out that the O-ring wouldn’t survive a launch in frigid temperatures. However, there were two engineers, Roger Boisjoly and Bob Ebeling that tried and failed to get NASA to postpone the launch.  Ten years after the explosion, CBS had an interview with these two men on the 60 minute broadcast. In a interview, Ebeling said that the night before the launch he tried to stop NASA from launching the Challenger. Both Ebeling and Boisjoly believed that the O-rings could be effected in the cold weather and sadly they were right.

After the challenger took off, Bob whispered in Roger’s ear saying  “We dodge a bullet” thinking everything  would be fine but seconds later everything changed. This will always be a day of remembrance for the innocent people who lost their lives on that tragic day.