Alien Life on Enceladus

Could there be life in the Solar System other than Earth? According to NASA, there might be life in one of the oceans in the Solar System. I’m pretty sure that this question make you wonder which ocean is that? The answer is ocean in ENCELADUS.
PIA17202 - Approaching Enceladus.jpg
Enceladus from Wikipedia

Before I proceed on why there is potential life on Enceladus, let me introduce what is Enceladus first. Enceladus is the sixth largest moon of Saturn (about a tenth of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon).

In 2008, Cassini has discovered that Enceladus has a global subsurface saltwater ocean and now, molecular hydrogen which is one of the crucial things of life, has been found in the plumes of liquid shooting out from its surface. The presence of hydrogen is essential for microbes because they can use this gas to obtain energy by combining it with dissolved carbon dioxide (this process known as methanogenesis).

Enceladus Layers by WIRED
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Lone Ranger

We usually defined a planet as something that orbits a star but this lone ranger a.k.a. nomad planet, rogue planet, free-floating planet, or  orphan planet is unique since they do not orbit a star. Instead, they orbit the galaxy directly and considered as homeless world where they have neither sunrises nor sunsets (starless planet).

What Are Rogue Planets by YouTube

Migration appears to be quite common for planetary systems like the Jovian-type planets that migrate inward in some planetary systems due to close gravitational encounters in which one object loses energy and moves inward while other object gains energy and flung outward. Hence, it is reasonable to expect many planets have been ejected from their planetary system into interstellar space.

These planets are so difficult to detect directly because they are so dim, but how on Earth could we find them?

HOW by GIPHY

The best method for now is by using technique called gravitational microlensing.  This technique takes advantage of gravity’s ability to bend light. These occur when massive object like a rogue planet passes between a star and Earth, the “lone ranger” acts as a lens which make the star’s light curve as seen from Earth. The lone ranger’s gravity warps the light of the background star causing it to magnify the same way as the lens work. In general, the bigger the planet, the more affected the light causing brightening events that can last for weeks which is way longer than small planets only last for few days or less.

One observational search found that these lone ranger might be twice as numerous as the stars in our galaxy. Therefore, the studies of the “lone ranger” are still going on and perhaps in the future, one of these planets could be Earth 2.0 .

Rogue Planets

Solar Neutrinos

How do we know what is happening inside our beloved Sun?

We can study the Sun’s interior through three different ways and one of them is through observations of solar neutrinos produced by the nuclear fusion that power the Sun.

The nuclear fusion of proton and proton in the Sun produce deuterium, positron, neutrino that is responsible for almost 100% of the energy production by our Sun. Solar neutrinos contributes the largest flux of neutrinos from natural sources observed on Earth when make a comparison with atmospheric neutrinos and etc.

neutrinos are made in the first step of the chain reaction
Nuclear Fusion By Astronomy Notes

In principle, solar neutrinos give us the most direct way to study the nuclear fusion in the Sun’s core. This is because almost all of them pass straight through solar interior into space. However, neutrinos are difficult to detect but still possible since they do occasionally interact with matter and this could be done by using large detector.

Image result for solar neutrino problem
The image of the first solar neutrino detector by Scientific American

The attempts to detect in the 1960s only found 1/3 of the expected number based on the Sun’s energy output. This disagreement is called solar neutrino problem and solved in the early 2000s. Based on the solution, neutrinos come in three different types:

  1. Electron neutrinos
  2. Muon Neutrinos
  3. Tau Neutrinos

The problem that occurred in 1960s were because the early solar neutrino detectors could only detect electron neutrinos. Now, we know that neutrinos can change among the three types while passing through matter. In 1960s , the time solar neutrinos reach the detectors, only 1/3 are still electron neutrinos which resulted in the observation of only 1/3 of the expected number of neutrinos. In this modern era, we can be confident with this solution since the modern detectors can detect these types of neutrinos and confirmed that the number of solar neutrinos matches predictions. To learn more about neutrinos, there is a great link below here.

Neutrinos

Why do comets have tails?

Generally, comets got kicked out from their home which are the Oort Cloud and the Kuiper Belt. This phenomena occur due to the pull of the gravity by planets or stars. Then, their journey of growing tails begin by moving toward the inner solar system.

Far from the Sun, small comets look the same as small asteroids, completely frozen and this dirty snowball is in solid form. As it approaches the Sun, it starts to heat up and ices begin to vaporize into gas that easily escapes the comet’s weak gravity. A combination of solar radiation pressure and the solar wind (stream of charged particles from the Sun)  sweep the vaporize materials and dust back forming two separate tails :

  1. Ion tail 
  2. Dust tail
tails_ion_dust_small
Distinction between ion and dust tail by Comet Tail

An ion tail forms when UV from the Sun rips electrons from gas atoms in the coma (cometary), making them into ions through ionization. Then, the solar wind carries these ions  away from the Sun resulting straighter and narrower tail.

On the other hand, a dust tail contains small particles (size similar with cigarette smoke). The reason this tail forms due to the presence of the solar radiation pressure that pushes on these particles, shoving them away from the nucleus of the comets. Due to the relatively weak pressure from the sunlight , the dust particles end up forming a diffuse and curved tail that typically appears white or pink relative from the Earth

 

 comet GIF
Comet Swan by GIPHY

Apparently, based on recent observations, comets are not the only objects in our solar system that grow tails. These observations stated that asteroids can also sprout dust tails on occasion.

The Big CUP

Want to know the processes that shape the planetary surfaces ?

Say YES!!! (Please :P)

There are four major geological processes that can explain the geological surface features but I will only focus on one of them which is IMPACT CRATERING.

Impact creating is the creation of bowl-shaped impact craters mainly caused by leftover planetesimals from the solar system’s formation (asteroids or comets) striking a planet surface.

 impact GIF
The phenomena of the impact cratering

Comets or asteroids typically hit the surface at a hyper-velocity (speed between 10 70 km/s) which releases enough energy to vaporize solid rock and blast out a crater. Crater comes from the Greek word for cup. Next, debris from the blast shoots high above the surface and then rains down over large area.Generally, craters are circular in shape because an impact blasts out material in all directions regardless of the direction of the impactor except for  very low-angle impacts because it will create a significantly elliptical -shaped craters.

Dc = 1.8 ρa 0.11 ρs -1/3 gp -0.22 (2R) 0.13 KE0.22 (sin θ) 1/3

Based on this equation, craters are typically about 10 times as wide as the objects that create them.Dc in this equation stands for the diameter of crater. Generally, a large crater may have a central peak and this peak forms when the center rebounds after impact in much the same way as the GIF below.

 impact GIF
Impact By GIPHY

On the other hand ,Daniel Barringer  was among the first to identify an impact crater which is the Meteor Crater in Arizona. For the crater specialists, this site is called the Barringer Crater in his honor. Below is the list of amazing craters on Earth.

List of craters on Earth