This week in space: 6/22 - 6/29
With everything that happens on earth in a given week, it's easy to forget that things, indeed, are constantly happening outside our own atmosphere.
From liquid oceans on Pluto, to a mysterious whistling sound detected outside our atmosphere, here's everything important that happened in space last week.
5. Researchers captured some hi-res pics of Jupiter looking positively radiant
NASA's Juno spacecraft is expected to reach Jupiter on July 4 -- after nearly 5 whole years in transit.
In anticipation of its arrival, researchers at the University of Leicester in the U.K. have captured some rare, high-resolution infrared images of the planet.
Such photos are typically hard to achieve because both Earth and Jupiter have fluctuating atmospheres, but the team was able to attain them with the ESO's Very Large Telescope through a series of "very short exposures."
And dare we say, the lighting suits her well.
Image: ESO/L. Fletcher
4. The Hubble Telescope spied with its little eye something dazzling in the nighttime sky
A new photo taken by the long-lived telescope shows a brilliant cluster of stars embedded within the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way 135,000 light-years away.
The star cluster, named NGC 1854, is one of hundreds of star clusters of different kinds in the Large Magellanic Cloud.
"The LMC [Large Magellanic Cloud] is a hotbed of vigorous star formation. Rich in interstellar gas and dust, the galaxy is home to approximately 60 globular clusters and 700 open clusters," NASA said in a statement.
"These clusters are frequently the subject of astronomical research, as the Large Magellanic Cloud and its little sister, the Small Magellanic Cloud, are the only systems known to contain clusters at all stages of evolution."
Here are the best pics ever taken by the master photographer that is Hubble Telescope:
3. Our alien neighbors finally figured out what that obnoxious high-pitched noise was
Spoiler alert: It was the Caribbean Sea.
Researchers from the University of Liverpool noticed that their readings from the tropical body of water were not matching up with their ocean activity models, according to Gizmodo.
To get of the bottom of that, they combed data taken from the sea floor between 1958 and 2013 and analyzed it along with other measures, including tide and gravity readings.
What they found was the presence of a "Rossby wave which propagates westward across the basin and is rapidly returned to the east..." And when certain waves crash into the western boundary, a sound similar to the kind that occurs when blowing a whistle is produced.
TL;DR: The sound resonating from the naturally occurring planetary waves emitted by the Caribbean Sea can actually be detected from outer space.
As researcher Chris Hughes explains, "It's very narrow and quite strong. Just like a narrow jet of air..."
A press release notes that the 120-day Rossby whistle produces an A-flat tone "although it is many octaves below the audible range."
2. Pluto, still a planet in our hearts, might actually have liquid oceans
When NASA's New Horizons spacecraft went by Pluto last year, it revealed that the dwarf planet may have once been home to a liquid ocean underneath its ice crust. A new analysis suggests that the ocean still exists today.
The study used a thermal evolution model of Pluto updated with the New Horizons' data. It showed that if the planet's oceans froze millions or billions of years ago, Pluto itself would shrink as a result.
That is not the case, however -- it is actually expanding.
Noah Hammond, a Ph.D candidate in Brown University's Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences, and the study's lead author, credits New Horizons for the findings.
He said, "Thanks to the incredible data returned by New Horizons, we were able to observe tectonic features on Pluto's surface, update our thermal evolution model with new data and infer that Pluto most likely has a subsurface ocean today."
But don't go grabbing your swim trunks just yet -- at its coolest, temperatures on Pluto can fall to -387 degrees F (minus 233 C).
1. Martians: They're just like us.
Well, their planet is, at least.
NASA's Curiosity rover has been exploring the Gale Crater on Mars since 2012, and in that time has come up with some astounding discoveries that suggest the Red Planet was somewhat Earth-like in its earlier times.
Recently, the rover has come through for us again, this time detecting significant amounts of manganese oxides inside of mineral veins.
If you slept through all of chemistry in high school, an oxide is a chemical compound that contains at least one oxygen atom and one other element in its chemical formula -- e.g., manganese oxide couldn't have formed on Mars without (you guessed it,) good ol' oxygen.
"The only ways on Earth that we know how to make these manganese materials involve atmospheric oxygen or microbes," said researcher Nina Lanza of New Mexico's Los Alamos National Laboratory. "Now we're seeing manganese oxides on Mars, and we're wondering how the heck these could have formed?"
At least maybe once we're done destroying this planet, we'll have another one to move on to?
That's all for now, have an out-of-this-world week!