If Earth Had Rings
First off, they would be really pretty to look at. They would also dominate the sky in both night and day at exactly the same place as they would never rise nor set. And at night you would see the Earth’s shadow swing across the rings, like in the 4th photo here.
However, life would be very different on Earth if this were the case. Nocturnal animals would have a hard time being nocturnal, as the light reflecting from the rings would illuminate the night.
Because we are closer to the Sun than Saturn is, the rings would be more rocky than ice, making them less bright but still pretty bright. In fact, you would see far less stars at night (living anywhere other than the equator or the arctic circle) because of the light pollution and not to mention ruin most meteor showers because of that.
During the day the rings would block sunlight in certain regions of the planet creating wild weather cycles and effecting plant life as well. So basically, they would be definitely pretty to look at but they would also make a whole lot of things screwy.
Illustrations by Ron Miller // io9
— Click the photos for captions
Ok so this got featured in #Science so now I’m kind of mad.
The original artist for this is eruptedrainbow, go check out that blog for some more cool space gifs and art.
But this image I guess someone took the original artwork, removed the credit and inverted the colors and now it’s spreading like wildfire.
This already happened once before :/
>:( CREDIT ARTISTS YOU CHODES
Science is about adding onto a foundation, standing on the shoulders of those before you. But you know, and you credit those giants. They are your foundation.
Science is not about individual accomplishments. It is about furthering the knowledge of humanity as a whole. It is about acknowledging those before you, and moving forward.
Art, especially science art, should be no different. Take from those before you. But never forget them.
I have long been fascinated by gamma-ray bursts (or GRBs). These are incredibly violent events: It’s like taking the Sun’s entire lifetime energy output and cramming into a single event that lasts for mere seconds! The energy emitted is so intense, so bright, we can see GRBs from a distance of billions of light years.
Gamma rays themselves are just a form of light, like the kind we see, but with huge energy; each photon is packed with millions or billions of times the energy in a single photon of visible light. Only the most energetic events in the Universe can make them, so if we detect a burst of them coming from the sky, we know something literally disastrous has happened.
We know GRBs come in many flavors. Some last literally for milliseconds, while others stretch on for minutes. We also know different events can cause them, too. Short ones seem to come from merging neutron stars, ultra dense compact objects left over after stars explode. The longer ones occur when massive stars explode, leaving their cores to collapse. In both cases, the huge blast of high-energy gamma rays signals the birth of a black hole.
But astronomers were recently surprised to find a third type of GRB, one that lasts not for minutes, but for hours. Whatever these objects are, they don’t just flash with light, they linger, blasting out far, far more gamma rays for far, far longer than was previously thought. What could do such a thing?
Several ideas were put forth, but new observations provided the linchpin: an ultra-long-duration GRB occurred on Christmas Day in 2010, and its distance was found to be a soul-crushing 7 billion light years away, about halfway across the visible Universe! This left only one possible candidate for the progenitor: a hugely massive star, one so big it dwarfs the Sun into insignificance.
Cassini Instrument Learns New Tricks
by Jai Rui-Cook, JPL
For seven years, a mini-fridge-sized instrument aboard NASA’s Cassini spacecraft reliably investigated weather patterns swirling around Saturn; the hydrocarbon composition of the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan; the aerosol layers of Titan’s haze; and dirt mixing with ice in Saturn’s rings. But this year the instrument — the visual and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIMS) - has been testing out some new telescopic muscles.
This Friday, Dec. 21, the spectrometer will be tracking the path of Venus across the face of the sun from its perch in the Saturn system. Earthlings saw such a transit earlier this year, from June 5 to 6. But the observation in December will be the first time a spacecraft has tracked a transit of a planet in our solar system from beyond Earth orbit.
Cassini will collect data on the molecules in Venus’s atmosphere as sunlight shines through it. But learning about Venus actually isn’t the point of the observation. Scientists actually want to use the occasion to test the VIMS instrument’s capacity for observing planets outside our solar system…
(read more: Jet Propulsion Lab) (image: )
Scientists trying to unravel the mystery of life’s origins have been looking at it the wrong way, a new study argues.
Instead of trying to recreate the chemical building blocks that gave rise to life 3.7 billion years ago, scientists should use key differences in the way that living creatures store and process information, suggests new research detailed today (Dec. 11) in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.
“In trying to explain how life came to exist, people have been fixated on a problem of chemistry, that bringing life into being is like baking a cake, that we have a set of ingredients and instructions to follow,” said study co-author Paul Davies, a theoretical physicist and astrobiologist at Arizona State University. “That approach is failing to capture the essence of what life is about.”
Living systems are uniquely characterized by two-way flows of information, both from the bottom up and the top down in terms of complexity, the scientists write in the article. For instance, bottom up would move from molecules to cells to whole creatures, while top down would flow the opposite way. The new perspective on life may reframe the way that scientists try to uncover the origin of life and hunt for strange new life forms on other planets.
“Right now, we’re focusing on searching for life that’s identical to us, with the same molecules,” said Chris McKay, an astrobiologist at the NASA Ames Research Center who was not involved in the study. “Their approach potentially lays down a framework that allows us to consider other classes of organic molecules that could be the basis of life.”
For decades, scientists have tried to recreate the primordial events that gave rise to life on the planet. In the famous Miller-Urey experiments reported in 1953, scientists electrically charged a primordial soup of chemicals that mimicked the chemical makeup of the planet’s early oceans and found that several simple amino acids, the most primitive building blocks of life, formed as a result.
But since then, scientists aren’t much further along in understanding how simple amino acids could have eventually morphed into simple, and then complex, living beings.
Part of the problem is that there isn’t really a good definition of what life is, said Sara Walker, study co-author and an astrobiologist at Arizona State University.
“Usually the way we identify life on Earth is always by having DNA present in the organism,” Walker told LiveScience. “We don’t have a rigorous mathematical way of identifying it.”
Using a chemical definition of life — for instance, requiring DNA — may limit the hunt for extraterrestrial life, and it also may wrongly include nonliving systems, for instance, a petri dish full of self-replicating DNA, she said.
Walker’s team created a simple mathematical model to capture the transition from a nonliving to a living-breathing being. According to the researchers, all living things have one property that inanimate objects don’t: Information flows in two directions.
For instance, when a person touches a hot stove, the molecules in his hand sense heat, transmit that information to the brain, and the brain then tells the molecules of the hand to move. Such two-way information flow governs the behavior of simple and complex life forms alike, from the tiniest bacteria to the giant humpback whale. By contrast, if you put a cookie on the stove, the heat may burn the cookie, but the treat won’t do anything to respond.
Another hallmark of living beings is that they have different physical locations for storing and reading information. For instance, the alphabet of letters in DNA carries the instructions for life, but another part of the cell, called the ribosome, must translate those instructions into actions inside the cell, Davies told LiveScience.
(By this definition, computers, which store data on a hard drive and read it off using a central processing unit, would have the hallmarks of life, although that doesn’t mean they are alive per se, Walker said.)
The new model is still in its infancy and doesn’t yet point to new molecules that could have spawned life on other planets. But it lays out the behavior needed for a system needs to be considered living, Walker said.
“This is a manifesto,” said Davies. “It’s a call to arms and a way to say we’ve got to reorient and redefine the subject and look at it in a different way.”