Faster and Faster.

We all know about the massive dust and wind storms on Mars (and Earth for that matter), but what about our evil twin Venus?

It turns our that the winds on Venus, at over 180Mph (300Km/h) are getting faster!

Over the past six years wind speeds in Venus' atmosphere have been steadily rising (ESA)

After analyzing more than six years of data collected by the Venus Express has shown that the winds on Venus are getting faster.

Long-term studies based on tracking the motions of several hundred thousand cloud features, indicated here with arrows and ovals, reveal that the average wind speeds on Venus have increased from roughly 300 km/h to 400 km/h over the first six years of the mission. (Khatuntsev et al.)

Two different groups studied the data and came to similar conclusions.  It seems that the winds on Venus have increase 30% to 400km/h.  Although Venus is already one of the most inhospitable places in the solar system, the high winds and sulphuric acid atmosphere aren’t going to make it into a garden spot resort destination any time soon.

Venus is unusual for more than just its wind increase.  A day on Venus is longer than its year.  A Venusian year is about 225 days and it takes 243 days to complete a single rotation on its axis (one day).  So a day on Venus is longer than a year on Venus.  So in this case, watching the clock does make time seem to go slower.  And it runs backwards, Venus rotates in the opposite direction of Earth.

The other unusual fact about Venus is that its atmosphere spins around it much more quickly than its surface rotates (known as super-rotation).  It only takes four days for something in the atmosphere to go all the way around the planet, thanks to those high winds.

Saturn’s moon Titan is the only other place in the solar system that has atmospheric superrotation.

All in all, Venus is a very strange planet.  It would be great to explore it more, but the heat, pressure and caustic atmosphere are bound to keep it a secret for a long time.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

 

 

Happy Anniversary Mars Express

Named because of the rapid and streamlined development time, the Mars Express Orbiter represents ESA’s first visit to another planet in the Solar System.

On June 2, 2003, the Mars Express orbiter was launched toward the red planet, entering into orbit just six months later. Though the accompanying Beagle 2 did not survive entry, the orbiter is still swinging around Mars ten years later.

Mars Express orbits roughly every 8 hours to collect data on Mars, its moons, and the Sun.

Mankind has been going to the red planet since the 1960s.  As noted above, the missions have been met with varying success.  The Mars Express Orbiter is one of the better examples of success.

Still, being in orbit around a planet about 140 million miles (225 million km) is nothing to sneeze at.  Various problems in both the hardware and software have been overcome by mission specialists to keep the data flowing back to Earth.

Overcoming these technical challenges has resulted in fantastic discoveries in the last ten years.Mars Express has monitored all regions of the Martian environment, from the subsurface to the upper atmosphere to its two tiny moons, Phobos and Deimos.

Mars Express has helped find out that water was once present on Mars.  In fact Mars Express helped find out that there is water locked up in the planet’s ice caps by using its ground-penetrating radar system.  It seems that there may be enough water in the form of ice to cover the entire planet with a layer of water some 30 feet deep.

Happy anniversary Mars Express and a job well done to everyone at the ESA that keeps you flying.  May you have many more.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Space Junk Menace

This week scientists, engineers and space-law experts are gathering in Darmstadt, Germany for the The 6th European Conference on Space Debris.  Attendees will discuss the growing problem of space debris.  On the table are proposals to curb the accumulation of new junk in orbit.  And trust me, there is a lot of junk up there.

As I have discussed on this blog earlier, there are more than 170 million pieces of space junk currently orbiting Earth.

According to the conference’s website, since 1957, more than 4,900 space launches have led to an on-orbit population today of more than 22,000 trackable objects, with sizes larger than 10 cm.

Fusée V2.jpg

In fact the very first man-made object to cross the Kármán line and hence first spaceflight, was done by the Wehrmacht in 1944 when a V2 rocket traveled 176 kilometres (109 mi) into low earth orbit (and, as we know, the test was not for scientific purposes).  Since then we have only been putting up more debris.

This is one post where I actually do get to talk about astronomy and law together.  As I have noted, some of the junk floating out there is identifiable, so the question still remains:  If your junk hits my satellite do I get to sue you for the cost of the satellite and the cost of the cleanup?

Intriguing questions.  Space, according to treaty, is supposed to be for international use and a political “free” zone.  However, with the fast approaching advent of commercial space-flight, these questions are going to come to a head when a manned commercial enterprise is damaged by someones space junk.  Ohhhh, the court case that will be.  I am fairly certain that this is a “when it happens” question, not an “if it happens” question.

Hang on, the ride could be bumpy.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities.  Connect with me on Google +

Norman

 

 

Ode to Herschel’s Images

Yesterday, I reported that the Herschel Space Observatory was on its last legs.  Today, I present you some images taken by Herschel during its lifetime.  Enjoy.

Massive star formation in the W3 Giant Molecular Cloud (GMC)

Herschel targets galactic black-hole jet.

Betelgeuse’s enigmatic circumstellar envelope and bow shock.

Almost 800 spectroscopic redshifts obtained for HerMES galaxies.

Herschel displays how massive stars sculpt their surroundings.

The iconic M16 ‘Eagle Nebula’ in new light!

 

Fomalhaut as imaged by Herschel!

Well, if I have done everything right clicking on any of the images above will take you to the page on the European Space Agency’s Hershel web site that has all of the images and more information about each one.  If that doesn’t work click here and it will take you to the page.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities.  Connect with me on Google +.  If you need help with any patent, trademark, or copyright issue, or know someone that can use my help, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation by sending me an email or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

Norman

 

 

 

Herschel is dead, long live Webb.

Shortly, the Herschel Space Observatory run by the European Space Agency will run out of fuel to continue its mission.

Herschel has been the largest infrared space observatory launched to date. The spacecraft has a 3.5 meter (138 inch)(11.5 ft) diameter reflecting telescope and other instruments.

To view the infrared wavelengths the mirror and instruments are cooled to close to absolute zero using liquid helium.

Unfortunately, the liquid helium stores are running out and Herschel will essentially go blind. The helium evaporates over time, gradually emptying the cryostat tank.  When Herschel was  launched, the tank carried  over 2300 liters (608 gallons) of liquid helium, weighing 335 kg (740lbs.).  Enough cooling for 3.5 years of operations in space.

According to the ESA: “When observing comes to an end, we expect to have performed over 22 000 hours of science observations, 10% more than we had originally planned, so the mission has already exceeded expectations.

Like many other missions before it Herschel will leave a mountain of data with its passage.  Scientists will spend years reviewing and analyzing the data which may lead to other missions of science and exploration.

File:James Webb Telescope Design.jpg

The James Webb Space Telescope is the next mission that will also look at the infrared universe along with a variety of other wavelengths.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities.  Connect with me on Google +.  If you need help with any patent, trademark, or copyright issue, or know someone that can use my help, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation by sending me an email or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

Norman