OSIRIS-REx, launched in September of 2016, returns this month! On September 24, the spacecraft will drop its payload into Earth orbit and continue on to the asteroid Apophis for more work. The payload capsule, with its 8.8 ounces of the asteroid Bennu, will deorbit and land in the Utah desert later that morning.
The Sun has been busy lately. Recent coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are hitting the Earth’s atmosphere even as I write this. Because of this atmosphere and the Earth’s strong magnetosphere, the results should be limited to spectacular aurora.
Curious about what happens when CMEs hit Mars, a planet with no magnetosphere and a much thinner atmosphere? Find out in the latest Generation Mars book: Shelter.
A wave of magnetized particles from the sun will strike Earth over the next few days and light up the skies.
Sometimes, twisting of magnetic fields within the corona gets so tight that the tension abruptly snaps, sending massive loops of plasma racing away from the Sun in an event called a coronal mass ejection (CME). Most of the time, these clouds of particles dissipate into space without causing any harm.
Sometimes, the cloud of particles is pointed straight at one of the inner planets. When this happens, the high-speed charged particles slam into the planet in what is called a solar particle event (SPE). For planets with thick atmospheres and strong magnetic fields, most of the energy dissipates far above the surface. Mars has neither a thick atmosphere nor a strong magnetic field. When an SPE occurs on Mars, the surface is flooded with high energy particle radiation.
Sometimes, two or more CMEs will happen in the same place on the Sun, one after another. When this happens, the first clears a path for the ones that follow, allowing them to race even faster out into the solar system.
Sometimes, two or more CMEs will happen in the same place on the Sun and point straight at one of the inner planets. When this happens, the SPE on the planet can go on for several days.
One time in particular, when a mother and father and their two children were on their first camping trip, that planet was Mars.
Shelter: Generation Mars, Book Two
Coming March 1st
(available for pre-order now: https://www.amazon.com/Shelter-Generation-Mars-Book-Two/dp/1733731040)
(image: Luis Peres)
The Sun has been on a tear lately: hurling coronal mass ejections, one after another, across the solar system.
Here on Earth, the effects are mostly pretty (aurora) and occasionally annoying (power grid problems, satellite orientation issues).
On the surface of Mars, the effects would be more serious. With no magnetosphere and very little atmosphere to deflect and slow the incoming particle radiation, humans would have to seek shelter during the resulting solar particle event.
This is exactly what happens in my forthcoming book, Shelter: Generation Mars, Book Two. The sisters, Cas and Ori, and their parents are on an away mission when a solar particle event forces them to cut their plans short and find shelter where they can. A series of equipment failures makes their situation increasingly dire. Will the sisters be able to help the family survive? Find out in early 2022.
In the meantime, if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll see the aurora.
Solar storm from ‘cannibal’ sun eruption may impact power grid and bring auroras as far south as Pennsylvania
image: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
#auroraborealis #solarsystem #spaceweather
Here’s an image taken by something we built that is out there right now looking back at us. If that doesn’t make you stop a moment and say “huh”, I don’t know what will.
Opportunities to see Mercury are rare. Right now, it is reaching its greatest elongation and is in an optimal position for viewing shortly after sunset.
Live in the Northern Hemisphere? If you've never seen the planet Mercury - or even if you have - take advantage of your golden opportunity to see Mercury.
Japan’s Hayabusa2 probe is currently in orbit around the asteroid Ryugu. It has successfully deployed two rovers, MINERVA-II1a and MINERVA-II1b, designed to literally hop around on the surface of the asteroid. The pics sent back so far are rather trippy. In particular, check out the video of the sun moving across the asteroid’s sky.
“But why go to all this trouble?”
Didn’t Mallory already answer questions like this back in 1923?
Here’s an article on the formation of the Solar System and why Mars is smaller than expected.
It’s interesting that Mars is small. It’s interesting to think about the formation of the Solar System. But what I find particularly compelling is the description of three distinct hypotheses, each just as likely to be correct as the others.