Category Archives: Solar System Exploration

Solar System Exploration – Venus

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Moving in the right direction this time, away from the Sun our next major object in the solar system is Venus.

Venus is one of the four rocky planets in the solar system, it is the second planet away from the Sun and is the closest planet in size to the Earth. Venus has orbits the Sun once every 224 days and it rotates on it’s axis one every 243 days. The rotation period is the longest of any planet in the solar system and it rotates in the opposite direction of any other planet. Venus was named after the Roman God of love and beauty, this is perhaps becasue it is the second brightest natural object in the night sky (the brightest being the moon).


Facts about Venus

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Venus, Earth size comparison (Image from Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Venus,_Earth_size_comparison.jpg)

Just like Mercury, Venus orbits the sun within the orbit of the Earth is tis only visible at either dawn or dusk. It’s also possible to see crescent phases on these planets (if viewing it through a powerful telescope) as you might see them on the moon.


Inspiration:

Gustav Holst wrote a suite of classical music pieces on the planets. This was the piece that he wrote for Venus – the bringer of peace. As with all the pieces from Holst the music has a meaning back to the roots of the mythical God they’re named after. In this case as Venus is the God of love, love brings peace.

 


 

Recent Events

There hasn’t been a great deal going on with Venus of late. Various probes have been sent to Venus over the years. The Russians sent the Venera probes between 1964 and 1981 in order to gather data from Venus. Because of the thick atmosphere it had been speculated many years ago that Venus could harbour a rich, warm and paradise like ecosystem. The Venera probes quickly dispelled this, showing Venus to be a rocky world, the probes didn’t last long under the intense atmospheric pressure before being crushed.

More recently ESA had sent the Venus Express probe to find out more about the Planet. During it’s time the probe sent back data telling us that Venus is volcanically active and in it’s final plunge recorded average temperatures at the polles of -157°C, colder than anywhere on Earth!

This goes to show, that distance from the Sun isn’t necessarily a guide to planetary temperatures.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150618122106.htm

http://sci.esa.int/venus-express/57735-venus-express-swansong-experiment-sheds-light-on-venus-polar-atmosphere/

I hope you’re enjoying this series, as always I look forwar to any feedback.

Planet Simon

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Solar System Exploration – Mercury

 

Mercury is the closest planet to the sun, it’s surface is very similar to the moon, rocky and cratered but with the difference that it’s surface temperature ranges from 430°C to – 180°C. Mercury orbits the sun every 88 days and completes two rotations for every three orbits around the sun – making a day on Mercury 176 days long.


 

Facts about Mercury

 

Becasue Mecury (This applies to Venus too) orbits the sun within the orbit of the Earth is tis only visible at either dawn or dusk. It’s also possible to see cresent phases on these planets (if viewing ith through a powerful telescope) as you might see them on the moon. This again is something that is unique to the two innermost planets. The outer most planets may show slight signs or phases at extremes of their orbit in relation to the Earth, but the signs aren’t significant.

 


 

Inspiration

Gustav Holst wrote a suite of classical music pieces on the planets. This was the piece that he wrote for Mercury – the messenger. Probably so called becasue it rounds the sun in it’s swift 88 days.

 


 

Recent Events

The messenger probe that was launched in 2004 carried out extensive study of Mercury and despite it’s searnly hot surface there is evidence of water ice in Mercury’s permanently shadowed craters. This shows that at some point there must have been an atmosphere on Mercury at some point and could prove to be a useful fuel and oxygen resource.

The Messenger probe also managed to map 100% of the surface of Mercury, this completed the 40% / 45% mapping that was carried out by Mariner 10 in 1975.  What does all this mean? It tells us about Mercury’s past where it probably had an atmosphere and it’s future? Who knows? But water is fuel and a valuable resource in space.

The Messenger mission ended on April the 30th 2015 when it deorbited and crashed into the surface of Mercury

Credit for link information and images – NASA

Planet Simon

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Solar System Exploration – The Sun

This is the first of a feature I ran a couple of years back. I’m going to be using the news and pictures I’ve been collecting to create a series of posts exploring the solar system a piece at a time. I’m going to start at the beginning, move out and then go all random after that depending on what I decide to put in.

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Introduction

The sun – our own shining little corner of the galaxy. Our Sun is a star, a small and quite calm, quiet star. It has storms and changes that are significant but tiny compare to other stars in our galaxy. This is good for us on Earth as it makes living with our nearest stellar neighbour tolerable and therefore it’s activity promotes life on Earth.


Facts

  • Diameter: 695,700km (about 109 x Earth’s)
  • Mass: 330,000 x Earth (The sun makes up for 99.86% of the mass of the solar system)
  • The sun is made up of about 75% Hydrogen, the rest is mostly Helium with the rest made up of heavier elements like Oxygen, Carbon and Iron.
  • The Sun orbits the galaxy at a speed of 220km/sec.

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The picture above shows the scale of the sun to the planets, it is phenomenally HUGE! Somewhere between 99.8% and 99.9% of the material in the solar system is the sun, the rest is planets, comets, asteroids etc. To scare you even more, the sun burns 600 million tons of hydrogen PER SECOND. Per second?!!?

The real surprising thing about this fact is that it’s a immense amount of fuel, but it’s very efficient as the Earth (tiny though it is many times greater than this mass) will not run out of fuel for a long, long time. But when it does, it’s predicted to swell and become a red giant. It will grow, probably swallowing the Earth and warming the outer planets, making moons like Europa and Titan possibly suitable for humanoid or advanced lifeforms.

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Despite the size of our local star, it is tiny compare to many other stars in our galaxy. Alpha Centauri is the closest star to us apart from the sun and it is not visible without a telescope, despite being brighter than the sun. So, our sun isn’t a bight and shining beacon in our galaxy. Knowing this makes an oberserver very aware that the stars we see are far bigger and brighter than our sun and also, that there is far more in our galaxy than we can see. Our size and insignificance is mind blowing.

Our sun also has storms, storms that are many time bigger than the Earth that would burn away everything in a second if we were close enough. These storms radiate from the spots which can be spotted on the sun fairly easily, these too are many times the size of the Earth.

The sun is an ever changing ball of self sustaining energy and yet there is so much more to it than being a bright circle in the sky.


Viewing the sun

As the sun is so bright it’s not a good idea to look right at it or though a telescope. This great little one pager shows how it should be done:

There’s a method for everyone to use.

(Credit: space.com)


Inspiration

I’m going to be using Gustav Holst’s the planets as part of the artistic inspiration. Now as the sun isn’t a planet, Holst did not compose a piece on the sun. But in every culture of society we’re inspired by the sun, there are numerous sun gods that have been devised.

Thomas Bergerson (one half of the Two Steps from Hell duo) has composed a piece on the sun though and this heart warming piece can be heard:

Also think about Art, how many pictures and paintings include the sun rising or setting, how many children’s pictures have a bright yellow circle in the top corner and how often do we wish for warm summer sun in the depths of winter.

I hope you my bloggies are enjoying this feature.

Planet Simon

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