The inexhaustible mysteries of the Solar system

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1. The hexagonal vortex, Saturn

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Cosmic storm – recognizable and understandable phenomenon. Storms on Neptune and Jupiter is similar to Earth’s hurricanes its circular path. For example, «bad weather» On Jupiter lasts about 3-4 days and is always accompanied by lightning. But what sometimes is happening on Saturn, forcing astronomers and scientists to hold their breath, admiring the disasters of cosmic proportions.

A couple of years ago, the space probe «Cassini» over 10 hours taking photos of the storm and then transmitted to Earth images in high resolution. Scientists saw that big ball of gas around the North pole of Saturn has the shape of a regular hexagon, and inside it a funnel and small vortices rotating in the opposite direction. They concluded that this phenomenon was first observed in the Solar system.

According to the head of group of image processing of Cassini, Carolyn Porco, both on Saturn and on Earth lightning is formed in the water clouds, where falling rain and hail create electricity. The mystery is, why Saturn keeps energy for decades and releases it all at once? This phenomenon is not similar to what happens on Jupiter and Earth, where there are numerous storms occurring at any time.

The hexagon around Saturn, astronomers saw the shots of Voyager in 1980. But carefully examine the amazing vortex scientists were able only when the probe «Cassini» has reached the planet and began its artificial satellite. In 2010, Saturn began the next giant storm. It lasted 200 days. A storm of this magnitude could absorb cosmic body the size of the Earth. In addition, the researchers were able to hear kind of the sound of the storm. Cassini recorded radio noise from lightning, glittering deep in the planet’s atmosphere.

«This new storm is of totally unknown nature compared to anything we saw on Saturn by Cassini earlier. The fact that such a storm outbreaks are episodic and keep happening on Saturn every 20 to 30 years, tells us about the processes occurring under the surface of the planet. And we need to figure out what kind of process,» explains astrophysicist, University of California, Los Angeles, Kunio of Sayanagi.

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Scientists believe the hexagon storm is more similar to the activity of the volcano. For decades, the pressure inside of Saturn increases, and then the storm breaks out. While astrophysicists suggest that rocks or other obstacles to eruption that the planet is not. This contradiction is one of the mysteries of Saturn.

2. «Walnut» moon of Saturn

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Saturn actually was lucky enough for him to be the Lord of the rings and Lord of the storms, so he also assumed the satellite, which has attracted considerable interest from contemporary scholars.

Yapet, the Saturn VIII is the third largest moon of Saturn and the twenty-fourth the distance of 62 known to his companions. Yapet similar to walnut, as enclosed by the mountains, completely envelopes it at the equator. Large areas of this wonderful world black as coal, and the other part as white as ice. Careful studies show that the dark cover is concentrated to the equator of the moon and has a layer thickness of not more than a meter. The main hypothesis suggests that dark matter is the remains of the sublimation process-contaminated dust ice.

Researchers at NASA have developed a computer model that seems to explain this fact and describes a series of events with Yapet before it took its final form. Billions of years ago, shortly after its formation, yapet very quickly rotated (only 5 hours). This rotation and gave it the shape of a walnut that we see today.

Over time, the rotation slowed to one rotation for 16 hours, and the moon’s surface cooled and hardened. Weak gravity has not been able to align solid ground surface, and along the equator remained «ruins of the past» in the form of a chain of mountains. Until that time, the surface formation is complete. Now yapet rotates very slowly, making one turn in 80 days.

3. The many mysteries of Jupiter

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«What is allowed to Jupiter is not allowed a bull.» Roman proverb.

Isaac Asimov once said: «the Solar system consists of Jupiter plus some debris». A very succinct description of a giant planet. It is the largest planet in the Solar system, where there is a continuous age-related hurricanes. It has «tiger» multicolor stripes and famous red spot the size of three Earth’s, which in fact is also a giant hurricane, and the wind speed inside the spot exceeds 500 km/h.

In addition to the Great red Spot on Jupiter, there are other «spot-hurricanes», smaller, white, brown and red colors. And the reason for this carnival have not yet found a clear explanation. Scientists do not have time to solve these puzzles like a giant villain threw a new trick, namely, in 2010, Jupiter has changed the face. Giant streak of clouds in its southern hemisphere disappeared. It happened in a short time, less than a month, when the planet is behind the Sun and was unobservable.

Huge bands, stretching along the equator of Jupiter, is known to astronomers for a very long time. However, until now researchers have not had a unified theory explaining their origin. One of the popular versions assumed that the bands are formed due to the phenomenon of convection — hot gases rise more and lowering the cooler. But all this is theory…

4. Triton is an icy moon with an atmosphere

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Triton is one of the largest of the moons of Neptune. He has a very strange trajectory: not only that the rotation of Triton takes place in the opposite direction from the rotation of the planet Neptune, so he has quite an interesting orbit, very much tending to tilt to the equator of Neptune. Against this background, the assumption that the satellite Triton was once one of the independent planets of the Solar system, drawn by the gravity of Neptune, are not devoid of common sense.

The ice on the surface of Triton has several shades, from blue-green – where cold pure nitrogen, to reddish in places where there were traces of iron. At a temperature of minus two hundred thirty-five degrees of the elements lose their usual properties, the ice becomes like a solid rock, forming in the rock and creating fissures and cracks.

The entire surface is covered with cracks and is very similar to the peel from the melon. It is believed that this is all the consequences kriovulkanizma activities, and the fact that Triton seismically active, was a complete surprise to astronomers, because such volcanic activity in the Solar system is observed only on Jupiter’s moon IO and Venus.

His geysers are not just cold, they’re icy. The height of the fountains can reach twenty kilometers, the spray does not fall on the surface and drifted along the surface of the satellite Triton, with covering hundreds or more kilometers. Color emissions black, because of his bowels erupting not only nitrogen but also small particles of the soil together with mineral dust.

5. The case of the missing methane

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For the first time methane (CH4) on Mars was discovered in 1969 on Board the probe «Mariner-7», however, this discovery turned out to be false — the same spectral characteristics could give the frozen carbon dioxide. «Really» the Martian methane was discovered in 2003, using the infrared telescope NASA, established on the Hawaiian Islands. It became a real sensation — the world (where the concentration of methane reaches 1750 ppb) the gas is 90% -95% has a biological origin, and thus, the source of Martian methane could be Martian microbes.

Methane may appear during the eruption of volcanoes or the decomposition of plant residues, but both of these mechanism can’t work on Mars, where there were no signs of modern volcanic activity. There are a number of other possible non-biological sources, such as geothermal reactions (serpentinite), but none of them has not yet been determined as the «main suspect».

However, more recent observations is not recorded that amount of methane. Data from the probe «Mars Express» in 2004 showed a value around 10 ppb, and that summer in the Northern circumpolar region the gas concentration reached 45 ppb. Observations from the Ground in February 2006 recorded in the valley of the Mariner, the increase in the concentration of 10 ppb.

These sharp fluctuations have led some scholars to question the validity of detection of methane. Kevin Knew (Kevin Zahnle) from the center of NASA Ames and his colleagues have stated that all concentration measurements made at the limit of capabilities of devices and the amount of methane on Mars does not exceed 3 ppb. In an article published in 2011 in the journal Icarus, they had high hopes for the Rover Curiosity, which will be able to resolve this dispute.

In November 2012, the Rover made the first «breath», has received the first data on the composition of the Martian atmosphere at Gale crater and found no evidence of methane or during the session of measurements nor in the future. Although atmospheric methane is not a long-term gas, it does not disappear instantly. Ultraviolet radiation can destroy the methane in the atmosphere for several hundred years, so if in the atmosphere there should be the source of his «supplies». But at the moment the scientists have no idea what processes can «eat» methane gas with such fantastic speed, which is observed on Mars.

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