How it Could Be

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez expresses the messages behind an urgent video on climate change released Wednesday by The Intercept.

“Before we can win a Green New Deal, we need to be able to close our eyes and imagine it. We can be whatever we have the courage to see.”

The video, A Message From the Future with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, was produced by The Intercept‘s Naomi Klein. Narrated by AOC, the short film is presented as a look back to the present day from a future in which the Green New Deal passed Congress and reshaped America and the planet for the better.

The video features art from Molly Crabapple and was written by Ocasio-Cortez and Avi Lewis. It was co-directed by Kim Boekbinder and Jim Batt.

Check the video:

It’s Getting Hot on Jupiter

Observations with the Subaru Telescope, a Japanese 8-m telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, show that the aurorae at Jupiter’s poles are heating the atmosphere of the gas giant, and that it is a rapid response to the solar wind.

Image result for jupiter

Aurorae at Earth’s poles occur when the energetic particles blown out from the Sun, the solar wind, interact with and heat up the gases in the upper atmosphere.

The same thing happens at Jupiter, but the new observations show the heating goes 2-3 times deeper down into its atmosphere than on Earth, into the lower level of Jupiter’s stratosphere (upper atmosphere).

Understanding how the Sun’s outpouring of solar wind interacts with planetary environments is key to better understanding the nature of how planets and their atmospheres evolve.

What is startling about the results is that scientists were able to associate the variations in the solar wind and the response in Jupiter’s stratosphere, and that the response to these variations is so quick for such a large area.

Within a day of the solar wind hitting Jupiter, the chemistry in its atmosphere changed and its temperature rose, the astronomers found.

Such heating and chemical reactions may tell us something about other planets with harsh environments, and even early Earth.

The results appear in the journal Nature Astronomy.

The Madness from the Sea

Paleontologists have discovered a real-life version of one of the most feared monsters in fiction… only smaller. And probably not an eldritch horror from beyond the stars.

An international team of researchers unveiled the fossilized remains of an ancient relative of the sea cucumber. It had 45 tentacles and lurked at the bottom of the seas some 430 million years ago.

They have dubbed it Sollasina cthulhu, after the tentacled Great Old One of H.P. Lovecraft’s tales, a study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B said.

Unlike the massive Cthulhu of fiction, the creature unveiled by scientists this week was quite tiny, with the fossil measuring about an inch across. However, the researchers said those 45 “tube feet” extended out in every direction and would make it seem much larger as it sat on the ocean floor, waiting and dreaming…

Sleep well…

Despite its diminutive size, the creature still manages to pack a lot of nightmare fuel. Those 45 tentacles were used to snatch up food, creep along the ocean floor, and scare off predators.

Oh, and those “tubes” also had their own armor.

The tube feet of living echinoderms are naked, but in the ophiocistioids they were plated, strongly suggesting that ophiocistioids diverged from the line leading to modern sea cucumbers.

The First Pic of a Black Hole

Scientists from a global collaboration of telescopes announced Wednesday that they have captured the first-ever photo of a black hole.

The collaboration, called the Event Horizon Telescope, is a global network of eight telescopes that has been working for two years to capture the first image of a black hole, by combining data from the eight telescopes and “creating a virtual Earth-sized telescope.”

“We have seen what we thought was unseeable,” Shep Doeleman, the director of the EHT, said during a news conference Wednesday.

In 2017, the group embarked on a week long observation spanning telescopes in four continents, capturing data from two black holes: one in Sagittarius A*, located at the center of the Milky Way galaxy, and the other in the Messier 87 galaxy, in the constellation Virgo.

MIT’s Katie Bouman with the hard drives used to store the black hole image data. 

The Fate of the Earth

If it weren’t for the sun constantly showering us with energy, there would be no life on Earth. But eventually the sun will run out of fuel, expand into a red giant and finally collapse into faint, white dwarf. What will happen to us and the other planets in the solar system when the sun dies? It’s not entirely clear.

Scientists think that they have spotted the possible core remnant of a planet orbiting the white dwarf SDSSJ122859.93+104032.9, residing some 410 light years away. The results, published in Science, offer important clues about the fate of the planets in our solar system.

The planetary fragment produced a stream of gas that could be detected by spectrometers. Researchers spotted it orbiting the star by looking at how its spectrum shifted in color as the body moved towards and away from Earth. This change in color is called a doppler shift, which is essentially a stretching or squashing of waves because of motion. It is similar to the pitch of the sound of an ambulance being higher when it is heading towards you, and lower when it is moving away.

The object completed one passage around its host star in just over two hours, orbiting at a distance that is smaller than the radius of the sun in a disc of gas and dust.

The discovery is surprising, since scientists didn’t think anything could survive so close to a white dwarf. A white dwarf is only about the size of the Earth but it contains around 60-70% of the sun’s mass, making it extremely dense. If a body orbits too close to a white dwarf, its immense gravity will rip it apart. This was likely the fate of the material that formed the disc around it.

So how did this object survive without getting ripped apart? It would have to either be very dense itself or have some amount of internal strength holding it together. Scientists calculated that it has a maximum diameter of 720km, which is the size of a small minor planet. The dwarf planet Ceres in our solar system has a diameter of 946km by comparison.

The origin of this object remains a mystery. One possibility is that this is the core of a minor planet that was pushed close to the white dwarf by a larger planet further out in the remnant planetary system, like a Jupiter. As the minor planet passed close to the white dwarf, its crust and mantle layers would have been ripped away.

All that would be left of the planet would be its dense, iron-dominated core. This kind of object is quite common, with one famous resident in our own solar system: the asteroid 16-Psyche.

Systems such as the one just discovered can help us understand the future of our own planetary system. In about five billion years, the sun will start to expand into a red giant. At this point, it will engulf Mercury, Venus and most likely Earth, unless we manage to move our planet into a wider orbit, which should be possible in theory. However, Mars, the asteroid belt and the rest of the solar system will survive engulfment and continue orbiting the sun as it then collapses into a white dwarf.

Image result for red giant sun

During this process, planets like Jupiter could also scatter asteroids, comets or even minor planets towards the white dwarf. There they would undergo partial or complete disruption, forming a disc like the one just discovered. It is unlikely that any living organisms on planetary or moon fragments could survive this process. Even if they did, they would struggle to live on in the faint light of a white dwarf.

This is not only the solar system’s fate, but that of practically all known exoplanet systems. In the much much closer future, scientists hope to find more planetary bodies around other white dwarfs. There are six candidate white dwarfs that are orbited by discs made of dust and gas, and researches want to test whether these discs are the “smoking gun” for the presence of minor planets. The more such planets are found, the more that can be learned about what happens to a planetary system as its star dies.