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Westlake Legal Group > fox-news/science/air-and-space/planets

Venus was made of lava and was not ‘Earth-like’ after all, stunning study says

Last month, new hope arrived in the form of a study that Venus may have been habitable and was home to “liquid water” for 2 to 3 billion years.

Now, that hope has seemingly been dashed, with the water replaced by lava, according to a new study.

The new research, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, suggests that the second planet in the solar system was filled with lava. This comes after they re-examined Venus’ Ovda Regio highlands plateau, which they believe was made up of basaltic lava.

“We know so little about Venus’ surface,” said the study’s co-author, Allan Treiman, in a statement. “If the Ovda Regio highlands are made of basaltic rock as is most of Venus, they were likely squeezed up to their current heights by internal forces, possibly like mountains which result from plate tectonics on Earth.”

Westlake Legal Group venus Venus was made of lava and was not 'Earth-like' after all, stunning study says fox-news/science/air-and-space/planets fox news fnc/science fnc Chris Ciaccia article 4d79f116-9344-5439-bec9-244af47c191e

Venus has been called Earth’s “evil twin.” (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

VENUS WAS LIKELY HABITABLE FOR 3B YEARS. THEN SOMETHING MYSTERIOUS HAPPENED.

The team found that the flow seen in the Ovda Regio highlands plateau was “not granitic as was expected from its location,” heightening the chances it was made up of basalt rock.

“The high‐altitude region of Ovda Fluctus is continuous with the lower‐elevation portions: the change in radar properties does not represent different flows,” the study’s abstract states. “Outlines of Ovda Fluctus flow lobes have fractal dimensions consistent with basaltic pahoehoe lavas. The margin of Ovda Fluctus is at significantly higher elevation than its center, a characteristic seen in basalt flows on Earth, but not on more silica‐rich flows.”

Skipping to the present day, Venus, which has been called “Earth’s evil twin,” has an extremely harsh climate, with a  surface temperature of 864 degrees Fahrenheit.

The new study from Treiman and the other researchers follows one that was presented at the European Planetary Science Congress last month. This study indicated Venus may have had “liquid water” for 2 to 3 billion years until a “dramatic transformation” started happening more than 700 million years ago that completely reshaped the planet and resurfaced approximately 80 percent of it.

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Artist’s representation of Venus with water. Credit: NASA

The dramatic transformation led to a mass explosion of carbon dioxide on the planet between 700 million and 750 million years ago, an event researchers say may be linked to the volcanic activity on the planet.

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Westlake Legal Group venus Venus was made of lava and was not 'Earth-like' after all, stunning study says fox-news/science/air-and-space/planets fox news fnc/science fnc Chris Ciaccia article 4d79f116-9344-5439-bec9-244af47c191e   Westlake Legal Group venus Venus was made of lava and was not 'Earth-like' after all, stunning study says fox-news/science/air-and-space/planets fox news fnc/science fnc Chris Ciaccia article 4d79f116-9344-5439-bec9-244af47c191e

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Humans will never live on another planet, Nobel Laureate says. Here’s why.

Here’s the reality: We’re messing up the Earth and any far-out ideas of colonizing another orb when we’re done with our own are wishful thinking. That’s according to Michel Mayor, an astrophysicist who was a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in physics this year for discovering the first planet orbiting a sun-like star outside of our solar system.

“If we are talking about exoplanets, things should be clear: We will not migrate there,” he told Agence France-Presse (AFP). He said he felt the need to “kill all the statements that say, ‘OK, we will go to a livable planet if one day life is not possible on Earth.'”

All of the known exoplanets, or planets outside of our solar system, are too far away to feasibly travel to, he said. “Even in the very optimistic case of a livable planet that is not too far, say a few dozen light years, which is not a lot, it’s in the neighbourhood, the time to go there is considerable,” he added.

Related: 8 Ways Global Warming Is Already Changing the World

Mayor shared half of the Nobel Prize this year along with Didier Queloz for discovering the first exoplanet in October 1995. Using novel instruments at the Haute-Provence Observatory in southern France, they detected a gas giant similar to Jupiter, which they named 51 Pegasi b. (The other half of the prize was awarded to James Peebles of Princeton University for his work in dark matter and dark energy).

Since then, over 4,000 other exoplanets have been found in the Milky Way, but apparently, none of them can be feasibly reached.

Stephen Kane, a professor of planetary astrophysics at the University of California in Riverside, agrees with Mayor. “The sad reality is that, at this point in human history, all stars are effectively at a distance of infinity,” Kane told Live Science. “We struggle very hard as a species to reach the Earth’s moon.”

We might be able to send people to Mars in the next 50 years, but “I would be very surprised if humanity made it to the orbit of Jupiter within the next few centuries,” he said. Since the distance to the nearest star outside of our solar system is about 70,000 times greater than the distance to Jupiter, “all stars are effectively out of reach.”

Well, you might say, plenty of things seemed out of reach until we reached them, such as sending aircraft on intercontinental flights. But “in this case, the required physics to reach the stars, if it exists, is not known to us and it would require a fundamental change in our understanding of the relationship between mass, acceleration and energy.”

“So that’s where we stand, firmly on the Earth, and unlikely to change for a very, very long time,” he said.

Mayor told the AFP: “We must take care of our planet, it is very beautiful and still absolutely livable.”

Andrew Fraknoi, emeritus chair of the astronomy department at Foothill College in California agreed that we won’t be able to travel to these stars in the near future. But “I would never say we can never reach the stars and possible habitable planets,” he said. “Who knows how our technology will evolve after another million years of evolution.”

Originally published on Live Science.

Westlake Legal Group humans-never-on-another-planet Humans will never live on another planet, Nobel Laureate says. Here's why. Yasemin Saplakoglu LiveScience fox-news/science/air-and-space/spaceflight fox-news/science/air-and-space/planets fnc/science fnc article 3c85de80-82e4-5812-9ca5-61e4c97d6940   Westlake Legal Group humans-never-on-another-planet Humans will never live on another planet, Nobel Laureate says. Here's why. Yasemin Saplakoglu LiveScience fox-news/science/air-and-space/spaceflight fox-news/science/air-and-space/planets fnc/science fnc article 3c85de80-82e4-5812-9ca5-61e4c97d6940

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Humans will never live on another planet, Nobel Laureate says. Here’s why.

Here’s the reality: We’re messing up the Earth and any far-out ideas of colonizing another orb when we’re done with our own are wishful thinking. That’s according to Michel Mayor, an astrophysicist who was a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in physics this year for discovering the first planet orbiting a sun-like star outside of our solar system.

“If we are talking about exoplanets, things should be clear: We will not migrate there,” he told Agence France-Presse (AFP). He said he felt the need to “kill all the statements that say, ‘OK, we will go to a livable planet if one day life is not possible on Earth.'”

All of the known exoplanets, or planets outside of our solar system, are too far away to feasibly travel to, he said. “Even in the very optimistic case of a livable planet that is not too far, say a few dozen light years, which is not a lot, it’s in the neighbourhood, the time to go there is considerable,” he added.

Related: 8 Ways Global Warming Is Already Changing the World

Mayor shared half of the Nobel Prize this year along with Didier Queloz for discovering the first exoplanet in October 1995. Using novel instruments at the Haute-Provence Observatory in southern France, they detected a gas giant similar to Jupiter, which they named 51 Pegasi b. (The other half of the prize was awarded to James Peebles of Princeton University for his work in dark matter and dark energy).

Since then, over 4,000 other exoplanets have been found in the Milky Way, but apparently, none of them can be feasibly reached.

Stephen Kane, a professor of planetary astrophysics at the University of California in Riverside, agrees with Mayor. “The sad reality is that, at this point in human history, all stars are effectively at a distance of infinity,” Kane told Live Science. “We struggle very hard as a species to reach the Earth’s moon.”

We might be able to send people to Mars in the next 50 years, but “I would be very surprised if humanity made it to the orbit of Jupiter within the next few centuries,” he said. Since the distance to the nearest star outside of our solar system is about 70,000 times greater than the distance to Jupiter, “all stars are effectively out of reach.”

Well, you might say, plenty of things seemed out of reach until we reached them, such as sending aircraft on intercontinental flights. But “in this case, the required physics to reach the stars, if it exists, is not known to us and it would require a fundamental change in our understanding of the relationship between mass, acceleration and energy.”

“So that’s where we stand, firmly on the Earth, and unlikely to change for a very, very long time,” he said.

Mayor told the AFP: “We must take care of our planet, it is very beautiful and still absolutely livable.”

Andrew Fraknoi, emeritus chair of the astronomy department at Foothill College in California agreed that we won’t be able to travel to these stars in the near future. But “I would never say we can never reach the stars and possible habitable planets,” he said. “Who knows how our technology will evolve after another million years of evolution.”

Originally published on Live Science.

Westlake Legal Group humans-never-on-another-planet Humans will never live on another planet, Nobel Laureate says. Here's why. Yasemin Saplakoglu LiveScience fox-news/science/air-and-space/spaceflight fox-news/science/air-and-space/planets fnc/science fnc article 3c85de80-82e4-5812-9ca5-61e4c97d6940   Westlake Legal Group humans-never-on-another-planet Humans will never live on another planet, Nobel Laureate says. Here's why. Yasemin Saplakoglu LiveScience fox-news/science/air-and-space/spaceflight fox-news/science/air-and-space/planets fnc/science fnc article 3c85de80-82e4-5812-9ca5-61e4c97d6940

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Life on Mars? Researcher wants microbes in space to help humans survive ‘barren sterile planets’

A controversial new paper suggests that in order for humanity to survive “barren sterile planets” such as Mars, researchers have to send other forms of life there first — in the form of microbes.

Humanity needs to find out whether terrestrial microorganisms can survive in an extraterrestrial environment so that mankind can colonize planets like Mars, the study suggests.

“Life as we know it cannot exist without beneficial microorganisms,” Jose Lopez, a professor at Nova Southeastern University, said in a statement. “They are here on our planet and help define symbiotic associations — the living together of multiple organisms to create a greater whole. To survive on a barren (and as far as all voyages to date tell us) sterile planets, we will have to take beneficial microbes with us.”

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Dr. Jose Lopez from Nova Southeastern University. (Credit: Nova Southeastern University)

UFO VIDEOS ARE FOOTAGE OF REAL ‘UNIDENTIFIED’ OBJECTS, US NAVY ACKNOWLEDGES

“This will take time to prepare, discern and we are not advocating a rush to inoculate, but only after rigorous, systematic research on Earth,” Lopez added.

The study is at odds with regulations from across the globe that prohibit introducing microbes from Earth on other planets.

“The United States is a signatory to an international treaty that stipulates that exploration must be conducted in a manner that avoids harmful contamination of celestial bodies,” NASA wrote on its website concerning planetary protection protocols.

Fox News has reached out to NASA with a request for comment for this story.

Despite that seemingly major obstacle, Lopez and the other researchers believe it is “inevitable” that microbes will be introduced into outer space.

“Mainly, microbial introduction should not be considered accidental but inevitable,” the study’s abstract reads.

The abstract adds that although it is imperative to control and track these microbes, “we also believe that we must discuss the role of microbes as primary colonists and assets, rather than serendipitous accidents, for future plans of extraterrestrial colonization.”

Lopez and the other researchers argue that microbes will be necessary to terraform the planet, just as they have done on Earth. Not only will this save money and time, but it can also help researchers further understand microorganisms and the roles they play on Earth.

“Life on Earth started with relatively simple microorganisms which have the capacity to adapt and evolve to extreme conditions, which defined earth’s habitats in the ancient past,” Lopez added. “Cyanobacteria, for example, provided most of the oxygen we now breath more than two billion years ago. To find the best microbial candidates, we will have to confer with many microbiologists and carry out research here on our home planet to find the optimal microbial species.”

The research has been published in the journal FEMS Microbiology Ecology.

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Brad Pitt’s space epic ‘Ad Astra’ sets ‘new standard’ for science fiction films, ex-NASA engineer says

The Brad Pitt-helmed space epic “Ad Astra” sets a new standard for science fiction films, a former NASA engineer who served as a technical consultant for the movie told Fox News.

“In my view, it sets a new standard for science fiction films, updating for all to see on the big screen some of the most fantastic imagery we have obtained of our solar system since films like ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ were released over 50 years ago,” said Robert Yowell, who served as an engineer at NASA for 11 years and as a senior mission manager for SpaceX.

The new film, set in a future in which humanity has colonized a few far-flung parts of the galaxy but still hasn’t reckoned with its own existential torments, is three films rolled cohesively into one: a visually stunning movie about astronauts exploring places like Mars and Jupiter; a poignant father-son tale about coming to grips with abandonment and growing up with a certain kind of dad; and a social commentary on 21st-century concerns over environmental degradation, capitalism and our place in the world.

Pitt, 55, plays Maj. Roy McBride, a man on a mission to the edge of our galaxy that he can’t really refuse.

ASTEROID DUST MAY HAVE TRIGGERED MASSIVE EXPLOSION OF LIFE ON EARTH 466 MILLION YEARS AGO

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Brad Pitt plays an astronaut grappling with a range of conflicting emotions in “Ad Astra.” (FRANCOIS DUHAMEL/TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX)

As he journeys in search of his father, Pitt’s character battles space pirates and rabid baboons, and regularly checks in to record his vital signs and state of mind — spending a good chunk of the film zooming out in the deepest and darkest parts of the Milky Way. The longtime actor spoke about parental relationships in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

“My individual experience is somewhat universal, in the fact that you know our parents, our universe, our gods, our first imprint on on how to behave, react, feel in the world. And with that, to different degrees, some of us more than others, carry pain and confusion from that. I think it almost takes a lifetime to understand what was yours, and what was theirs,” he told Amanpour.

Yowell explained what it was like to be a consultant on the film.

“I was overwhelmed by the sheer atmosphere of teamwork, dedication and pride of the hundreds of people it took to make this magnificent film.  From the carpenters who assembled the sets, to the artists, prop masters, costume designers, cinematographers, lighting specialists, and of course the actors and director, this team reminded me greatly of the period in my career when I  was part of the team to prepare and then operate an actual space shuttle mission,” Yowell told Fox News.

TAMPA BAY CONTAINS 4 BILLION BITS OF MICROPLASTIC, SHOCKING STUDY REVEALS

Westlake Legal Group ad-astra-CMJ_SPACE-PIC Brad Pitt's space epic 'Ad Astra' sets 'new standard' for science fiction films, ex-NASA engineer says fox-news/science/planet-earth fox-news/science/air-and-space/spaceflight fox-news/science/air-and-space/planets fox-news/science/air-and-space fox news fnc/science fnc e77035dc-c71b-5731-82ed-cb27c1986e13 Christopher Carbone article

“Ad Astra” opens at theaters nationwide on September 20. (FRANCOIS DUHAMEL/TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX)

The movie also stars Tommy Lee Jones as Roy’s father, H. Clifford McBride, Donald Sutherland as Colonel Pruitt, an old associate of his father’s, and Liv Tyler as Roy’s wife, Eve.

“I was very fortunate to have gained the trust and confidence of the wonderful director James Gray and his co-writer Ethan Gross, who graciously requested my inputs on a regular basis both in pre-production and on the set during filming,” Yowell said.

“I also hope it will inspire a new generation to become more active in science and engineering, just as films like “2001” did for me,” he added.

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Brad Pitt stars in the new space epic “Ad Astra.” (FRANCOIS DUHAMEL/TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX)

The film opens nationwide on Friday.

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Darth Vader’s birthplace found? Evidence of dangerous volcano, lava world spotted in deep space

Researchers believe they have discovered what they describe as “the first volcanically active exomoon,” a celestial body eerily reminiscent of the tiny, fiery “Star Wars” planet, Mustafar, where Anakin Skywalker turned into Darth Vader.

Potentially located in the WASP-49b exoplanet system, approximately 550 light-years away from Earth, the hypothetical exomoon has been compared to 55 Cancri-e, a Super-Earth that has a surface temperature greater than 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. It has also been compared to Jupiter’s moon, Io, the most volcanically active celestial body in the solar system.

“It would be a dangerous volcanic world with a molten surface of lava, a lunar version of close-in Super Earths like 55 Cancri-e” said University of Bern researcher and the study’s lead author, Apurva Oza, in a statement.

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Artist’s composition of a volcanic exo-Io undergoing extreme mass loss. The hidden exomoon is enshrouded in an irradiated gas cloud shining in bright orange-yellow, as would be seen with a sodium filter. Patches of sodium clouds are seen to trail the lunar orbit, possibly driven by the gas giant’s magnetosphere. (Credit: University of Bern, Roger Thibaut)

EXOMOONS COULD BE HOME TO EXTRATERRESTRIAL LIFE, RESEARCHER SAYS

The study, which will be published in The Astrophysical Journal and is available online here, notes that “extrasolar satellites are generally too small to be detected by nominal searches.”

However, it adds that WASP-49b’s atmosphere contains the presence of sodium at an exceptionally high altitude, leading Oza to believe it’s emanating from somewhere other than the exoplanet.

“The neutral sodium gas is so far away from the planet that it is unlikely to be emitted solely by a planetary wind,” the researcher said.

He added the conditions could be “a place where Jedis go to die, perilously familiar to Anakin Skywalker.”

In “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith,” Skywalker fights his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi, in a gruesome battle. The fight leaves him horribly disfigured and near death, but Skywalker is rescued and ultimately becomes the iconic Darth Vader.

Although the researchers have not confirmed the presence of the exomoon and concede the sodium gas could be caused by a ring of ionized gas surrounding the exoplanet, they’re still hopeful.

STRANGE GIANT PLANET ‘UNLIKE ANY OTHER’ DISCOVERED

“While the current wave of research is going towards habitability and biosignatures, our signature is a signature of destruction“, Oza said. “A few of these worlds could be destroyed in a few billion years due to the extreme mass loss. The exciting part is that we can monitor these destructive processes in real time, like fireworks.”

Scientists have yet to concretely say that exomoons exist, but in October 2018, NASA’s Kepler and Hubble space telescopes spotted evidence of a Neptune-size satellite orbiting exoplanet Kepler-1625b.

In June, an astrophysicist at the U.K.’s University of Lincoln posited that exomoons could contain liquid water and, therefore, support life.

So far, more than 4,000 exoplanets have been discovered, but the potential list of exomoons is far smaller. According to Space.com, there could be as many as 100 exoplanets that have exomoons. By comparison, there are more than 150 moons for just the eight planets in the solar system, according to data compiled by NASA.

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Strange giant planet ‘unlike any other’ discovered

Astronomers have spotted a giant exoplanet that they say is unlike any other.

Planet HR 5183 b has three times the mass of Jupiter and travels on an incredibly long, egg-shaped path around its star, according to Caltech, which led the research. The planet takes 45 to 100 years to complete its orbit, Caltech noted in a statement.

“If this planet were somehow placed into our own solar system, it would swing from within our asteroid belt to out beyond Neptune,” it added.

Scientists’ study of the newly discovered planet will be published in The Astronomical Journal.

ROCKY ‘STAR WARS’ EXOPLANET WITH THREE SUNS DISCOVERED

“This planet is unlike the planets in our solar system, but more than that, it is unlike any other exoplanets we have discovered so far,” said Sarah Blunt, a Caltech graduate student and first author on the study, in the statement. “Other planets detected far away from their stars tend to have very low eccentricities, meaning that their orbits are more circular. The fact that this planet has such a high eccentricity speaks to some difference in the way that it either formed or evolved relative to the other planets.”

Westlake Legal Group HR1583b Strange giant planet 'unlike any other' discovered James Rogers fox-news/science/air-and-space/planets fox-news/science/air-and-space/astronomy fox news fnc/science fnc article 244db611-1eec-50a0-b882-8a7d586ed6f3

An illustration comparing the “eccentric” orbit of HR 5183 b to the more circular orbits of the planets in our own solar system. (Credit: W. M. Keck Observatory/Adam Makarenko)

The Lick Observatory in Northern California, the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii and the McDonald Observatory in Texas all provided data for the study.

While the planet’s star, HR 5183, had been studied since the ’90s, HR 5183 b’s epic journey meant that experts lacked full orbit information.

NASA GLIMPSES SURFACE OF DISTANT ROCKY EXOPLANET

“This planet spends most of its time loitering in the outer part of its star’s planetary system in this highly eccentric orbit, then it starts to accelerate in and does a slingshot around its star,”  said Caltech Professor of Astronomy Andrew Howard, who leads the California Planet Search, in the statement. “We detected this slingshot motion. We saw the planet come in and now it’s on its way out. That creates such a distinctive signature that we can be sure that this is a real planet, even though we haven’t seen a complete orbit.”

Experts believe that the planet’s strange orbit is likely because it nudged another similar-size planet out of the solar system.

“This newfound planet basically would have come in like a wrecking ball,” said Howard, in the statement. “Knocking anything in its way out of the system.”
ALIEN LIFE LOOMS? NEWLY DISCOVERED EXOPLANET MAY BE BEST CANDIDATE, EXPERTS SAY

In a separate project, astronomers recently spotted a rocky “Star Wars” exoplanet with three suns.

Experts from the Harvard Center for Astrophysics used NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Satellite Survey (TESS) telescope to spot planet LTT 1445 A b and its three stars.

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In another project, data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has given scientists a first glimpse into conditions on the surface of a rocky exoplanet beyond the solar system.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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NASA to explore Jupiter’s moon Europa, which may hold life

NASA has officially confirmed a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, a trek that could answer whether the icy celestial body could be habitable for humans and support life.

Known as the Europa Clipper mission, which was originally explored in 2017, the government space agency is now in the phase of completing the final design of the spacecraft that will visit the moon. From there, it will move on to construction and, ultimately, test the spacecraft and science payload.

“We are all excited about the decision that moves the Europa Clipper mission one key step closer to unlocking the mysteries of this ocean world,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, in a statement. “We are building upon the scientific insights received from the flagship Galileo and Cassini spacecraft and working to advance our understanding of our cosmic origin, and even life elsewhere.”

Westlake Legal Group europa_full-nasa NASA to explore Jupiter’s moon Europa, which may hold life fox-news/science/jupiter fox-news/science/air-and-space/spaceflight fox-news/science/air-and-space/planets fox-news/science/air-and-space/nasa fox news fnc/science fnc Chris Ciaccia b34ac606-f10c-5a65-981f-5add0b4f01e0 article

(Credit: NASA)

MYSTERIOUS ALTERNATING CURRENTS FOUND ON JUPITER

A 2018 study expressed concerns that Europa’s surface may be extremely porous, which could harm any probe that touches down on its surface.

The space agency said the purpose of the mission will be to investigate whether Europa, the sixth-largest of Jupiter’s 79 known moons, “could harbor conditions suitable for life, honing our insights into astrobiology.”

The conditions on Europa have been previously likened to exoplanet Barnard B, a “super-Earth” 30 trillion miles from Earth. It likely has a surface temperature of roughly 238 degrees below zero and may have oceans underneath its icy surface, according to a July 2018 statement from NASA.

It’s unclear what the oceans on Europa are made up of, but the Hubble Space Telescope detected the presence of sodium chloride (NaCl) on its surface, according to a study published in June.

“If this sodium chloride is really reflective of the internal composition, then [Europa’s ocean] might be more Earth-like than we used to think,” the study’s lead author, Samantha Trumbo, told Space.com.

NASA said its goal for the Europa Clipper mission is to launch as soon as 2023, but it added that its baseline commitment “supports a launch readiness date by 2025.”

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Westlake Legal Group europa_full-nasa NASA to explore Jupiter’s moon Europa, which may hold life fox-news/science/jupiter fox-news/science/air-and-space/spaceflight fox-news/science/air-and-space/planets fox-news/science/air-and-space/nasa fox news fnc/science fnc Chris Ciaccia b34ac606-f10c-5a65-981f-5add0b4f01e0 article   Westlake Legal Group europa_full-nasa NASA to explore Jupiter’s moon Europa, which may hold life fox-news/science/jupiter fox-news/science/air-and-space/spaceflight fox-news/science/air-and-space/planets fox-news/science/air-and-space/nasa fox news fnc/science fnc Chris Ciaccia b34ac606-f10c-5a65-981f-5add0b4f01e0 article

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Michael Guillen: Hello, Planet 9 – There’s a cosmic-sized chance we’ve got a big, new planet in our future

There’s not a more thrilling roller coaster ride than the study of our solar system. We once thought there were 11 planets, then it plummeted to nine, then further dropped to eight. But strap yourselves in because it now appears we’re heading back up again, as astronomers excitedly race to discover what they believe is a stealthy, bona fide ninth planet way bigger and way further than Pluto.

It’s enough to make your head spin.

When I was in grade school I was told there were nine planets in our solar system and that was that, no question about it. To cement the sacred fact, my teacher taught us a catchy mnemonic to help remember the planets’ proper order: Many Very Eager Monkeys Jumped Safely Under New Palms (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto).

NASA REVEALS NEW IMAGE OF DWARF PLANET ‘LIKE NOTHING THAT HUMANITY HAS EVER SEEN BEFORE’

Westlake Legal Group eiVggFQvKvAW7VZV33JJ56 Michael Guillen: Hello, Planet 9 – There’s a cosmic-sized chance we’ve got a big, new planet in our future Michael Guillen fox-news/science/air-and-space/planets fox-news/science/air-and-space fox-news/science fox-news/opinion fox news fnc/opinion fnc article 35b6f3eb-9ad7-5116-821b-5970bc2ece3d

Artist’s illustration of Planet Nine, a hypothetical world that some scientists think lurks undiscovered in the far outer solar system. (R. Hurt (IPAC)/Caltech)

The teacher never told us that early 19th century kids were taught a very different sacred fact about the planets. In 1816 “An Introduction to Astronomy,” by John Bonnycastle, avowed “the sun is now well known … to have eleven primary planets moving round him, each in its own path or orbit … Mercury, Venus, the Earth, Mars, Vesta, Juno, Pallas, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus.”

Schoolkids nowadays are taught yet a different sacred fact – that there are only eight primary planets in our solar system, Pluto having been downgraded in 2006 to the vague status of a dwarf. As one science writer put it, the mnemonic du jour is now: My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Noodles.

And don’t think for a minute it stops there.

For decades the public has been treated to speculation about the possible existence of a Planet X orbiting beyond our sight, in the dark frontiers of the solar system. In 1976 a book called “The 12th Planet” caused a sensation by alleging evidence for Nibiru, a doomsday planet beyond Pluto that swoops in every 3,600 years and wreaks havoc on Earth. Its author is dead, but the claim and its zealous adherents are very very much alive.

Earlier this century the idea of a Planet X gained respectability when astronomers spotted irregularities in the orbits of asteroids in the Kuiper Belt, the solar system’s boondocks. It suggested the idea that the gravitational field of a massive, invisible planet was herding the orbits in an unlikely way.

In 2015 the idea’s stock soared when a pair of Cal Tech astronomers – Konstantin Batygin and Michael Brown – ran a computer simulation that predicted where and how big the surreptitious provocateur must be in order to do such a thing. They called it Planet Nine, triggering an intensifying, worldwide race to find it.

According to the latest Cal Tech calculations, published just months ago, the hypothetical planet most likely is five times Earth’s mass and four-hundred times Earth’s distance from the sun – about 40,000,000,000 miles away. That means it would take the planet about 10,000 Earth years to complete an orbit.

If these numbers are reliable, many existing optical telescopes are certainly powerful enough to spot the phantom planet – though not easily. Despite its supposedly large size, Planet  Nine’s alleged remoteness would make it extremely faint. “You can hide a very big thing in the outer solar system very easily,” quips astronomer Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science.

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Despite the challenge, Cal Tech’s Batygin thinks it is “over 90 percent” likely that Planet Nine exists. “History shows us that it’s a bad idea to consistently say we have now reached the end of the solar system, and there’s nothing beyond what we already know.”

As for Cal Tech’s Brown, it’s fun to note he is no stranger to causing a stir. Earlier this century he advocated quite vocally for Pluto’s demotion, thereby earning himself the title of the man who killed Pluto. “All those people who are mad that Pluto is no longer a planet,” he now says, “can be thrilled to know that there’s a real planet out there still to be found.”

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Westlake Legal Group eiVggFQvKvAW7VZV33JJ56 Michael Guillen: Hello, Planet 9 – There’s a cosmic-sized chance we’ve got a big, new planet in our future Michael Guillen fox-news/science/air-and-space/planets fox-news/science/air-and-space fox-news/science fox-news/opinion fox news fnc/opinion fnc article 35b6f3eb-9ad7-5116-821b-5970bc2ece3d   Westlake Legal Group eiVggFQvKvAW7VZV33JJ56 Michael Guillen: Hello, Planet 9 – There’s a cosmic-sized chance we’ve got a big, new planet in our future Michael Guillen fox-news/science/air-and-space/planets fox-news/science/air-and-space fox-news/science fox-news/opinion fox news fnc/opinion fnc article 35b6f3eb-9ad7-5116-821b-5970bc2ece3d

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The hunt for mysterious Planet 9

Astronomers across the globe are searching for an enormous undiscovered world dubbed Planet Nine, which could change everything we think we know about the solar system.

They know it’s out there, such is its size — potentially 10 times bigger than Earth — and its powerful gravitational pull.

But Planet Nine is proving impossible to find, demonstrating how much we still don’t know about what’s in our own world’s backyard.

Astronomer Alan Duffy, a Professor of Astrophysics at Swinburne University, said the theory behind Planet Nine only emerged relatively recently after a Brazilian stargazer noticed odd happenings in the outskirts of the solar system.

“The idea is that the outer orbits of our solar system showed surprising behavior that can be explained by the gravitational pull of a very large, very distant world,” Professor Duffy said.

It was 2012 and Rodney Gomes, an astronomer at the National Observatory in Rio de Janeiro, offered his theory that a giant planet that couldn’t be seen was behind the disturbance.

But how can you declare the existence of a major planet without being able to see it or even vaguely pinpoint where it is?

“There’s historical precedence here because it’s exactly how we found Neptune,” Professor Duffy said.

The planet Uranus was discovered using a telescope in 1781 but it raised more questions than it answers, he explained.

“Put simply, Uranus wasn’t where it was meant to be,” he said. “It wasn’t quite at the position that calculations indicated it should’ve. As the years passed, mathematics determined that there was an even larger or further out planet that was pulling its orbit.”

That planet was Neptune, which was basically predicted to exist before it was discovered using math.

“It’s a similar situation now where these tiny objects at the very outer edges of our solar system in what we call the Kuiper Belt have very strange orbits,” Professor Duffy said.

“They seem to be all on one side, preferentially stacked, and the way to explain that is with the idea that Planet Nine has essentially flung them out there with its gravity.”

He estimates that Planet Nine is about 400 times further away from the sun than we are, so finding it is kind of like shining a torch westward from Sydney and hoping to see Perth with it.

It would be around 100 million times fainter than the faintest star we can see with our eyes, he estimated.

“The issue is that there’s an enormous amount of space to search. Even a very large planet, much larger than the earth, is very tiny at that distance,” Professor Duffy said.

“You’re looking for something very faint. It essentially looks like a very dim star basically and there are many of those out there.”

And it’s so far away that it probably takes about 10,000 years to do a full orbit of the sun, meaning it moves very slowly.

“It’s the slightest of slight movements,” he said. “You’re effectively looking at half of the night sky and looking to see if something faint is moving.”

Professor Duffy equates it to trying to find a needle that looks a lot like hay in a giant haystack.

“The solar system is deceptively large. Most people imagine that the various planets are relatively close together and our telescopes have found everything in between them.

“Nothing could be further from the truth. The actual space in between is enormous. Even close to our earth, the space is littered with enormous pieces of rock that we haven’t been able to catalog yet or even detect.

“The further you get from the sun, the more challenging it becomes.”

To put the size of the solar system in perspective, Professor Duffy uses Australian locations and landmarks to make his point.

“If the Sun was at the Sydney Opera House, then Earth would be orbiting closer than the airport, while this Planet Nine would be circling as far out as Perth,” he said.

“But the outer edges of our solar system, where a graveyard of enormous chunks of ice float that give us long-period comets, would be past the moon on this scale.”

Why does anyone care about finding a big chunk of floating mass that’s really far away and uninhabitable?

Professor Duffy said Planet Nine could test what astronomers know about how planets are formed, particularly in this part of the solar system.

“Something that large so far out will be fascinating. Will it be an icy world? Will it be rocky? Will it potentially be a gas giant? I suspect it’s more likely to be something like a super-sized version of Pluto, but then again, we don’t know. It’s the reason we look, to try to better understand our solar system and how these worlds are formed.”

This story originally appeared in news.com.au.

Westlake Legal Group planet-nine-artist-illustration The hunt for mysterious Planet 9 Shannon Molloy news.com.au fox-news/science/air-and-space/planets fnc/science fnc article 2c5f4446-33b2-5beb-84c5-b5b24a066c35   Westlake Legal Group planet-nine-artist-illustration The hunt for mysterious Planet 9 Shannon Molloy news.com.au fox-news/science/air-and-space/planets fnc/science fnc article 2c5f4446-33b2-5beb-84c5-b5b24a066c35

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