For millennia it didn’t matter. Now it plays a key role in your life. Lithium in the element in almost all disposable and rechargeable batteries, including the lithium-ion battery and the lithium iron phosphate battery. No lithium – no smart phone, no ipad, no laptop.
Lithium always mattered to astronomy however.
Even though the Big Bang was 13.8 billion years ago, scientists have a good understanding of the nuclear reactions that produced the first elements. We can calculate exactly how much of each element and isotope should have been made. When we then compare these predictions with observations, almost everything matches. “The deuterium is bang-on, The helium is looking good. ” says Brian Fields, an astrophysicist at the University of Illinois in the US. “Lithium is the one that’s off. And it is off by a lot. There is three times less lithium than there should be, a discrepancy that has been dubbed “the primordial lithium problem”.
“But while early universe seems to lack lithium, the current cosmos has a surplus. Astronomers have found too much lithium on the surfaces of young stars, which formed relatively recently, as well as in meteors in the Solar System. There is about four times more lithium than what was supposedly made in the Big Bang, enough in the galaxy to weigh as much as 150 suns.
So, something has created excess lithium and then scattered it across the cosmos, where it eventually became incorporated into the our Solar System and, billions of years later, into the batteries of your mobile phone. The question is what?”
Now new research shows solves both problems. And novae, the less famous cousins of supernovae take the credit for letting you read these words.
A few weeks after NASA’s big announcement that we have discovered seven Earth-mass planets. As these are only 40 light years away from us, we could conceivably communicate (albeit with a 40-year delivery service). While we’re waiting, lets name them.
“People are so excited, in fact, that they’re not satisfied with sticking to their scientific names, which run the standard TRAPPIST-1b to TRAPPIST-1h. Naturally, that won’t cut it for the creative types of Twitter—or for NASA, which tweeted out the naming challenge on Friday. The hashtag #7namesfor7newplanets is quickly accumulating quite a collection of suggestions for these alternate homelands, from the Greek versions of our own solar system’s Roman planetary nomenclature to referencing Star Wars, Snow White’s dwarves, popular characters in TV and literature, and more.“
You can tweet your names to NASA using the hashtag #7namesfor7newplanets
Comment on this story by leaving your 7namesfor7newplanets below.
Venus our close sister. Almost the same size as Earth, almost the same distance from the Sun. Once a planet just like us, probably with water and a nice habitable temperature. It may even have supported some primitive life before Earth did. Then it all went wrong and now Venus is hellish. Super hot temperatures, massive thick atmosphere, covered in volcanoes, snowing metals and raining sulfuric acid.
New research from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York shows how beautiful it once was. This modelling was carried out by adapting Earth climate models and shows what happens in runaway climate change. “Many of the same tools we use to model climate change on Earth can be adapted to study climates on other planets, both past and present,” said Michael Way, a researcher at GISS. We, on Earth, got lucky. We spin faster and had less dry land, and, being further away, received less sunlight.
Now, with sudden climate change caused by human’s burning fossil fuels, our own atmosphere is following exactly what these same models predict. This study of Venus shows that it time to start looking after ourselves. When it comes to humanity, there is no plan-et B.
“An unusual meteorite found in Algeria in 2012 has given scientists information about volcanic activity on Mars, and it’s not like anything we’ve ever seen on Earth. Analysis of the 6.9-ounce meteorite by an international team of scientists, has helped determine that sometime in its 4.5 billion-year history, Mars had a single volcano that erupted continuously for more than 2 billion years.”
Earth has plate tectonics, which constantly shuffle the Earths surface, like pieces of jigsaw being moved around a table. This regenerates the surface of the Earth every few thousand years of so, and so Earth volcanoes can’t get much older than that. But on Mars there is very little tectonics, and probably none at all. So a volcano can just keep going and going. The mystery of the Mars rock, solved by old volcanism
The search for life around other stars is essentially a search for a habitable zone – the area around a star where the distance is warm enough to sustain liquid water on the surface, but cold enough such that the water does not boil away or escape.
This definition of habitable zone now has to change to take into account the star itself. New research shows that winds coming off Red Giant stars can strip the planet of Oxygen. No Oxygen, no life. This means that our nearest confirmed Earth-sized exoplanet, around Proxima Centauri and only 4 light-years away, is not a good spot to go look for neighbors.
“If we want to find an exoplanet that can develop and sustain life, we must figure out which stars make the best parents,” said Vladimir Airapetian, lead author of the paper and a solar scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “We’re coming closer to understanding what kind of parent stars we need.”
Asteroids are the left overs, the non-planets, the bits that never quite formed that missing planet between Mars and Jupiter. Because of this, they are small, cold, dead. Except when they is an exception to the rule. And Ceres is that exception
On the same day Pluto was demoted to Dwarf Planets, Ceres got promoted *to* Dwarf Planet. It is clearly and asteroid belt object, but it is much bigger than the other asteroids. So big that it was once alive and (barely) active. In 2015 the NASA Dawn spacecraft imaged a volcano on Ceres. The mystery was that it was the only one on the whole body. As Michael Sori of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona, lead author of a new paper accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters states,“Imagine if there was just one volcano on all of Earth. That would be puzzling.”
In this new research Dr Sori posits Viscous relaxation as the solution to this conumdrum. More mysteries, more answers, more knowledge gained about our solar system.
The probability of intelligent life beyond Earth is very high. Its almost certain. But as space is big, the probability of any two intelligent sets of life on different planets communicating is pretty low.
However, simple life forms may be everywhere. Provide 3 things – water, heat and some nutrition – and life seems to get going pretty quick. One of the best spots for these three things may be Enceladus. This moon of Saturn was long considered a dead world. But new data is showing just how alive it might actually be.
“Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes”. That way you get to see things from their perspective. Well, so much more so then when you travel over 100 million miles. Here is us, taken from Mars. Reminds us what we look like, and how fragile we are.
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was 127 million miles away from Earth when the picture was taken on November 20 using the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE). Alfred McEwen, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona and principal investigator for the HiRISE camera, said “The Moon is much darker than Earth and would barely be visible at the same brightness scale as Earth,” McEwen said. “The combined view retains the correct sizes and positions of the two bodies relative to each other.”
Pluto is now King of the distant dwarf planets, but are there other larger planets out there?
The six most distant known objects in the solar system with orbits exclusively beyond Neptune (magenta) all mysteriously line up in a single direction. Moreover, when viewed in three-dimensions, they are all tilted nearly identically away from the plane of the solar system. Such an orbital alignment can only be maintained by some outside force. In a new paper, Batygin and Brown show that a planet with 10 times the mass of the earth in a distant eccentric orbit anti-aligned with the other six objects (orange) is required to maintain this configuration.