Zodiacal light: Eerie glow at dusk and dawn traced back to Mars
(Planet-Today) A study led by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) suggests that Mars may be responsible for the zodiacal light, a faint cone of light commonly seen extending from the horizon before dawn and at dusk.
(Article by Virgilio Marin republished from NaturalNews.com)
The zodiacal light is the sunlight reflected toward Earth by a cloud of dust particles orbiting the sun. Scientists previously thought that the dust came from asteroids and comets, but data from NASA’s Jupiter-bound probe Juno shows that Mars may be the source of the dust all along.
The findings of the study were published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.
What Juno’s voyage reveals about the interplanetary dust cloud
Juno entered Jupiter’s orbit in 2016 after five years of traveling across space. During its voyage, four cameras aboard it snapped photos of the sky every quarter of a second to determine its orientation. One camera was further programmed to report things that appear in images but are not listed in the catalog of known celestial objects.
For a time, the camera sent back images of thousands of unidentifiable objects, which seemingly appeared and then disappeared from one image to the next.
“We thought, ‘Something is really wrong.’ The images looked like someone was shaking a dusty tablecloth out their window,” said John Leif Jorgensen, a researcher from the National Space Institute at the Technical University of Denmark and the lead author of the study who designed the four Juno cameras.
After calculating the size and velocity of the objects, Jorgensen and his team concluded that the objects were tiny grains of dust smashing into the spacecraft at around 10,000 miles per hour. The grains chipped tiny pieces off the probe due to the sheer velocity of their impacts.
“Even though we’re talking about objects with only a tiny bit of mass, they pack a mean punch,” said Jack Connerney, the principal investigator for Juno and one of the study researchers.
The researchers analyzed the impacts sustained by Juno to plot the size and distribution of the interplanetary dust cloud. Their analysis showed that the cloud’s inner edge starts at Earth’s orbit, or at one astronomical unit (AU) from the sun. Meanwhile, its outer edge is around two AU from the sun.
“That’s the dust we see as a zodiacal light,” Jorgensen noted.
Also known as false dawn or dusk, the zodiacal light looks like a hazy pyramid that juts out from the horizon. It is caused by sunlight reflecting off grains of dust in the inner solar system.
The grains are spread out in the same flat plane of space that Earth and other planets in the solar system occupy. This flat plane translates on Earth’s sky to a narrow pathway called the “ecliptic,” which is the same pathway that the sun and moon travel as they journey across the sky.
Mars the source of the dust
The dust cloud ends somewhere beyond Mars, at which point Jupiter’s gravity prevents dust from crossing into the outer solar system. This phenomenon, known as orbital resonance, also prevents dust in deep space from crossing into the inner solar system.
The profound influence of Jupiter’s gravity indicated that the dust cloud is in a nearly circular orbit around the sun. This led the researchers to hypothesize that the dust grains originated from Mars, the dustiest planet in the solar system. As to how the team arrived at this hypothesis, Jorgensen explained that Mars, which orbits the sun at around 1.5 AU, is the only known object in a circular orbit around two AU from the sun.
To test their hypothesis, the researchers developed a computer model that predicts how sunlight would reflect off the dust cloud. The model takes everything into account, including the effects of Jupiter’s gravity. When the researchers plugged in the orbital elements of Mars, the model matched the signature variations of the zodiacal light.
“That is, in my view, a confirmation that we know exactly how these particles are orbiting in our solar system and where they originate,” said Connerney.
The researchers cannot yet explain how Martian dust escapes the planet. In all, the findings of the study can be used to design spacecraft that can better withstand dust impacts.
Read more fascinating finds in space at Discoveries.news.
Alien space debris stuck in Earth’s orbit, researchers say
Recently, a group of experts from Harvard University, led by physics
professor Avi Loeb, announced the possible presence of alien space
debris in Earth’s orbit, reports the Daily Star.
space research expert Professor Loeb is confident that the discovery of
such “interstellar objects could help expand our knowledge of possible
alien civilizations and technologies. A team of scientists is conducting
research to confirm that some of the objects in our orbit may be
connected to other star systems.
During an interview with Live
Science, Professor Loeb explained that these objects could enter the
solar system from interstellar space, defying Jupiter’s gravitational
pull and occupying limited orbits around the sun.
Some of them may
have technological origins similar to the probes sent by mankind into
interstellar space, such as Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, Pioneer 10 and 11
and New Horizons.
despite these interesting assumptions, Professor Loeb did not specify
what specific objects he was talking about. In his research report, he
notes that there could be “a significant number” of potentially
detectable objects in Earth’s orbit.
To confirm their assumptions,
the team of scientists uses computer simulations and the Vera Rubin
Observatory (Chile) with a high-resolution camera of 3.2 billion pixels.
This will allow for regular observations of the Southern sky and the
possibility of detecting several captured objects about the size of a
It is assumed that these interstellar objects passed through the
boundaries of the solar system and may carry unique information about
other civilizations and their technologies. If we could confirm the
origin of these objects, the mysteries that open before us, this would
be a real breakthrough in space exploration.
expresses hope that the new research will not only help expand our
knowledge of extraterrestrial technologies, but may also lead to the
discovery of new alien civilizations . Answers to such questions can be
of global significance and influence our understanding of the place of
mankind in the Universe.
while there are still many questions and assumptions, the study by
Professor Loeb and his team opens a new chapter in space exploration.
Each new discovery can be the key to deciphering the mysteries of the
cosmos and the possibility of encountering alien life forms.
Betelgeuse is acting strange again
Betelgeuse, a red giant on the brink of death, continues to show
unusual behavior. After the Great Blackout, which occurred in late 2019
and early 2020, the star became unusually bright. It is now the seventh
brightest star in the sky, while it normally ranks tenth. This has led
to speculation that Betelgeuse is preparing to explode in a
spectacularly large supernova.
However, scientists believe it’s too early to tell, and it’s likely
that this behavior is due to ongoing fluctuations after the Great
Blackout of 2019, and the star will return to normal within a decade.
Betelgeuse is one of the most interesting stars in the sky. It is
about 700 light-years from Earth and is a red giant in the last stage of
its life. It is also an unusual star for a red giant because it was
previously a monster blue-white O-type star, the most massive class of
Betelgeuse has changed its spectral type because it has almost
exhausted its hydrogen reserves. It now burns helium into carbon and
oxygen and has expanded to a gigantic size: about 764 times the size of
the Sun and about 16.5 to 19 times its mass.
Eventually it will run out of fuel to burn, become a supernova, eject
its outer material, and its core will collapse into a neutron star.
Before the Great Blackout, Betelgeuse also had periodic fluctuations
in brightness. The longest of these cycles is about 5.9 years and the
other is 400 days. But it seems that the Great Blackout caused changes
in these oscillations.
A new paper by astrophysicist Morgan McLeod of the
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has shown that the 400-day
cycle appears to have been halved. This pulsational cycle is probably
caused by expansion and contraction within the star. According to
simulations carried out by MacLeod and his colleagues, the convective
flow inside Betelgeuse may have risen and become material that separates
from the star.
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