SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Jupiter

242

Determining whether Earth-like planets are common or rare looms as a touchstone in the question of life in the universe. We searched for Earth-size planets that cross in front of their host stars by examining the brightness measurements of 42,000 stars from National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Kepler mission. We found 603 planets, including 10 that are Earth size ($$1-2\hbox{ \hspace{0.5em} }{R}_{\oplus }$$) and receive comparable levels of stellar energy to that of Earth ($$0.25-4\hbox{ \hspace{0.5em} }{F}_{\oplus }$$). We account for Kepler’s imperfect detectability of such planets by injecting synthetic planet-caused dimmings into the Kepler brightness measurements and recording the fraction detected. We find that 11 ± 4% of Sun-like stars harbor an Earth-size planet receiving between one and four times the stellar intensity as Earth. We also find that the occurrence of Earth-size planets is constant with increasing orbital period (P), within equal intervals of logP up to ∼200 d. Extrapolating, one finds $${5.7}_{-2.2}^{+1.7}$$% of Sun-like stars harbor an Earth-size planet with orbital periods of 200-400 d.

Concepts: Earth, Solar System, Planet, Jupiter, Universe, Terrestrial planet, Extrasolar planet, Orbital period

189

Sixty-six million years ago, an asteroid approximately 9 km in diameter hit the hydrocarbon- and sulfur-rich sedimentary rocks in what is now Mexico. Recent studies have shown that this impact at the Yucatan Peninsula heated the hydrocarbon and sulfur in these rocks, forming stratospheric soot and sulfate aerosols and causing extreme global cooling and drought. These events triggered a mass extinction, including dinosaurs, and led to the subsequent macroevolution of mammals. The amount of hydrocarbon and sulfur in rocks varies widely, depending on location, which suggests that cooling and extinction levels were dependent on impact site. Here we show that the probability of significant global cooling, mass extinction, and the subsequent appearance of mammals was quite low after an asteroid impact on the Earth’s surface. This significant event could have occurred if the asteroid hit the hydrocarbon-rich areas occupying approximately 13% of the Earth’s surface. The site of asteroid impact, therefore, changed the history of life on Earth.

Concepts: Evolution, Earth, Impact event, Jupiter, Metamorphic rock, Dinosaur, Extinction event, Asteroid

103

Saturn’s moon Enceladus has an ice-covered ocean; a plume of material erupts from cracks in the ice. The plume contains chemical signatures of water-rock interaction between the ocean and a rocky core. We used the Ion Neutral Mass Spectrometer onboard the Cassini spacecraft to detect molecular hydrogen in the plume. By using the instrument’s open-source mode, background processes of hydrogen production in the instrument were minimized and quantified, enabling the identification of a statistically significant signal of hydrogen native to Enceladus. We find that the most plausible source of this hydrogen is ongoing hydrothermal reactions of rock containing reduced minerals and organic materials. The relatively high hydrogen abundance in the plume signals thermodynamic disequilibrium that favors the formation of methane from CO2 in Enceladus' ocean.

Concepts: Oxygen, Hydrogen, Carbon, Methane, Jupiter, Saturn, Titan, Iapetus

84

As lower-mass stars often host multiple rocky planets, gravitational interactions among planets can have significant effects on climate and habitability over long timescales. Here we explore a specific case, Kepler-62f (Borucki et al., 2013 ), a potentially habitable planet in a five-planet system with a K2V host star. N-body integrations reveal the stable range of initial eccentricities for Kepler-62f is 0.00 ≤ e ≤ 0.32, absent the effect of additional, undetected planets. We simulate the tidal evolution of Kepler-62f in this range and find that, for certain assumptions, the planet can be locked in a synchronous rotation state. Simulations using the 3-D Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique (LMD) Generic global climate model (GCM) indicate that the surface habitability of this planet is sensitive to orbital configuration. With 3 bar of CO2 in its atmosphere, we find that Kepler-62f would only be warm enough for surface liquid water at the upper limit of this eccentricity range, providing it has a high planetary obliquity (between 60° and 90°). A climate similar to that of modern-day Earth is possible for the entire range of stable eccentricities if atmospheric CO2 is increased to 5 bar levels. In a low-CO2 case (Earth-like levels), simulations with version 4 of the Community Climate System Model (CCSM4) GCM and LMD Generic GCM indicate that increases in planetary obliquity and orbital eccentricity coupled with an orbital configuration that places the summer solstice at or near pericenter permit regions of the planet with above-freezing surface temperatures. This may melt ice sheets formed during colder seasons. If Kepler-62f is synchronously rotating and has an ocean, CO2 levels above 3 bar would be required to distribute enough heat to the nightside of the planet to avoid atmospheric freeze-out and permit a large enough region of open water at the planet’s substellar point to remain stable. Overall, we find multiple plausible combinations of orbital and atmospheric properties that permit surface liquid water on Kepler-62f. Key Words: Extrasolar planets-Habitability-Planetary environments. Astrobiology 16, xxx-xxx.

Concepts: Earth, Climate, Planet, Mars, Mercury, Atmosphere, Jupiter, Global climate model

84

The provenance of water and organic compounds on the Earth and other terrestrial planets has been discussed for a long time without reaching a consensus. One of the best means to distinguish between different scenarios is by determining the D/H ratios in the reservoirs for comets and the Earth’s oceans. Here we report the direct in situ measurement of the D/H ratio in the Jupiter family comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by the ROSINA mass spectrometer aboard ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft, which is found to be (5.3 ± 0.7) × 10(-4), that is, ~3 times the terrestrial value. Previous cometary measurements and our new finding suggest a wide range of D/H ratios in the water within Jupiter family objects and preclude the idea that this reservoir is solely composed of Earth ocean-like water.

Concepts: Earth, Sun, Solar System, Planet, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Comet

76

The amount of ultraviolet irradiation and ablation experienced by a planet depends strongly on the temperature of its host star. Of the thousands of extrasolar planets now known, only six have been found that transit hot, A-type stars (with temperatures of 7,300-10,000 kelvin), and no planets are known to transit the even hotter B-type stars. For example, WASP-33 is an A-type star with a temperature of about 7,430 kelvin, which hosts the hottest known transiting planet, WASP-33b (ref. 1); the planet is itself as hot as a red dwarf star of type M (ref. 2). WASP-33b displays a large heat differential between its dayside and nightside, and is highly inflated-traits that have been linked to high insolation. However, even at the temperature of its dayside, its atmosphere probably resembles the molecule-dominated atmospheres of other planets and, given the level of ultraviolet irradiation it experiences, its atmosphere is unlikely to be substantially ablated over the lifetime of its star. Here we report observations of the bright star HD 195689 (also known as KELT-9), which reveal a close-in (orbital period of about 1.48 days) transiting giant planet, KELT-9b. At approximately 10,170 kelvin, the host star is at the dividing line between stars of type A and B, and we measure the dayside temperature of KELT-9b to be about 4,600 kelvin. This is as hot as stars of stellar type K4 (ref. 5). The molecules in K stars are entirely dissociated, and so the primary sources of opacity in the dayside atmosphere of KELT-9b are probably atomic metals. Furthermore, KELT-9b receives 700 times more extreme-ultraviolet radiation (that is, with wavelengths shorter than 91.2 nanometres) than WASP-33b, leading to a predicted range of mass-loss rates that could leave the planet largely stripped of its envelope during the main-sequence lifetime of the host star.

Concepts: Sun, Planet, White dwarf, Star, Jupiter, Gas giant, Extrasolar planet, Brown dwarf

71

The planetary boundaries framework defines a safe operating space for humanity based on the intrinsic biophysical processes that regulate the stability of the Earth System. Here, we revise and update the planetary boundaries framework, with a focus on the underpinning biophysical science, based on targeted input from expert research communities and on more general scientific advances over the past 5 years. Several of the boundaries now have a two-tier approach, reflecting the importance of cross-scale interactions and the regional-level heterogeneity of the processes that underpin the boundaries. Two core boundaries-climate change and biosphere integrity-have been identified, each of which has the potential on its own to drive the Earth System into a new state should they be substantially and persistently transgressed.

Concepts: Human, Earth, Sun, Lithosphere, Science, Planet, Jupiter, Terrestrial planet

70

The small and active Saturnian moon Enceladus is one of the primary targets of the Cassini mission. We determined the quadrupole gravity field of Enceladus and its hemispherical asymmetry using Doppler data from three spacecraft flybys. Our results indicate the presence of a negative mass anomaly in the south-polar region, largely compensated by a positive subsurface anomaly compatible with the presence of a regional subsurface sea at depths of 30 to 40 kilometers and extending up to south latitudes of about 50°. The estimated values for the largest quadrupole harmonic coefficients (10(6)J2 = 5435.2 ± 34.9, 10(6)C22 = 1549.8 ± 15.6, 1σ) and their ratio (J2/C22 = 3.51 ± 0.05) indicate that the body deviates mildly from hydrostatic equilibrium. The moment of inertia is around 0.335MR(2), where M is the mass and R is the radius, suggesting a differentiated body with a low-density core.

Concepts: Fundamental physics concepts, Mass, Mars, Gravitation, Jupiter, Inertia, Cassini–Huygens

69

On 27 August 2016, the Juno spacecraft acquired science observations of Jupiter, passing less than 5000 kilometers above the equatorial cloud tops. Images of Jupiter’s poles show a chaotic scene, unlike Saturn’s poles. Microwave sounding reveals weather features at pressures deeper than 100 bars, dominated by an ammonia-rich, narrow low-latitude plume resembling a deeper, wider version of Earth’s Hadley cell. Near-infrared mapping reveals the relative humidity within prominent downwelling regions. Juno’s measured gravity field differs substantially from the last available estimate and is one order of magnitude more precise. This has implications for the distribution of heavy elements in the interior, including the existence and mass of Jupiter’s core. The observed magnetic field exhibits smaller spatial variations than expected, indicative of a rich harmonic content.

Concepts: Mathematics, Fundamental physics concepts, Precipitation, Mass, Solar System, Relative humidity, Jupiter, Juno

63

The observable Solar System can be divided into three distinct regions: the rocky terrestrial planets including the asteroids at 0.39 to 4.2 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun (where 1 AU is the mean distance between Earth and the Sun), the gas giant planets at 5 to 30 AU from the Sun, and the icy Kuiper belt objects at 30 to 50 AU from the Sun. The 1,000-kilometre-diameter dwarf planet Sedna was discovered ten years ago and was unique in that its closest approach to the Sun (perihelion) is 76 AU, far greater than that of any other Solar System body. Formation models indicate that Sedna could be a link between the Kuiper belt objects and the hypothesized outer Oort cloud at around 10,000 AU from the Sun. Here we report the presence of a second Sedna-like object, 2012 VP113, whose perihelion is 80 AU. The detection of 2012 VP113 confirms that Sedna is not an isolated object; instead, both bodies may be members of the inner Oort cloud, whose objects could outnumber all other dynamically stable populations in the Solar System.

Concepts: Earth, Solar System, Planet, Mars, Dwarf planet, Jupiter, Pluto, Oort cloud