The Lunar Surface Has Plenty of Caverns which Can Work as Shelters for Future Colonists

Cavern on the surface of the Moon

The caverns beneath the Moon’s surface can shelter future colonists

Researchers have hoped for quite a long time that the surface of the Moon is hiding caverns which can shelter possible colonists. Now, a team of researchers from the United States and Japan managed to find evidence that lava actually carved such formations, highlighting a great future for the next exploration missions.

Lava formed caverns beneath the Moon’s surface

While studying the surface of the Moon, scientists uncovered some elaborate caverns close to Marius Hill. It turns out these formations used to be lava tubes and, besides offering great resources of study and the perfect place to study the composition of the surface, they can be perfect for sheltering future colonists.

The Moon is surrounded by no atmosphere. This means that its surface and everything standing on it remains exposed to the harsh rays of the Sun, as well as other extreme conditions. However, the elaborate caverns provide instant protection against all these factors.

For quite a long time, researchers have been studying these formations. They have always assumed they were created by lava, but had no solid proof in favor of the hypothesis. The Moon used to have an intense volcanic activity and, when the lava dried, it left these formations under its surface. Now, the new research reveals that the caverns not only exist, but they can also provide stable shelter.

The caverns can offer shelter to future colonists

With the help of radar observation, researchers detected the hollow tubes under the lunar surface. The radar rays were launched by SELENE, a lunar observation spacecraft launched by JAXA, and, after bouncing on the surface, they returned with information on the composition and geological history of the Moon.

As soon as the radar bursts met the entrance to the caverns, they issued an echo. Then, judging from the pitch and the tone of the echo, they could tell the formations had a volcanic origin. All these caverns are located in areas where NASA had previously identified missing masses of land. Therefore, they are real, and might offer a much more welcoming shelter than we would have thought.

The study has been published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Image Source: NASA Scientific Visualization Studio

Seven of Saturn’s Moons Keep Its A Ring in Place

Upward view of Saturn

Saturn’s A ring is kept from shattering by seven moons

NASA has recently released another set of data coming from Cassini’s observations. The information is more than interesting, as it reveals a new purpose of the moons which surround Saturn. It seems that these natural satellites don’t just orbit around the planet, but also work together to hold the outermost visible ring, called the A ring.

Saturn’s A ring is kept in place by an unusual cooperation

The A ring is the largest of the visible rings, and stands the furthest from Saturn. However, it accumulates to much material that, without an external support to keep it in place, the ring would start shattering and, gradually, disappear.

Researchers were aware the A ring needed a support. However, for about thirty years, they thought this role only belonged to Janus. However, Cassini kept a close observation on the other moons, and revealed new information about them.

Researchers were impressed by the beauty of this discovery

Apart from studying each moon’s surface and physical properties, researchers analyzed their collective action, and their interaction with Saturn’s rings. After some mathematical approximations, the final result was that Janus couldn’t have enough force to hold the entire A ring. Therefore, several other moons joined it in this attempt, namely Pandora, Pan, Prometheus, Epimetheus, Atlas, and Mimas.

The gravitational force of the moon is the one which keeps the A ring in place. They act on its rotation speed and slow it down, and also pull down momentum from it. This way, it cannot ‘split’ all over the solar system.

Researchers are extremely happy they have found out such valuable information, and said this was exactly what they were hoping to get from the Cassini mission. They still cannot tell what process formed the rings, but at least they know what keeps them into place. This process is still new and unique, but also beautiful, as all moons work together to maintain the well-functioning of the Saturn rings.
Image Source: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Researchers Spot Giant Hole as Big as Maine in the Middle of Antarctica

Huge polynya in Antarctica

Researchers don’t know where the gaping Antarctic hole comes from

Scientists have recently made a spine-chilling discovery about Antarctica, and they don’t even know what to do about it. They have spotted a gaping hole in the Antarctic ice, which is about the size of the state of Maine. However, the breach is placed quite randomly, making it extremely difficult for the researchers to find out where it comes from.

The hole is unusually placed

The huge hole amazed everybody with its size and aspect. It is about as big as Maine, or the size of the biggest of all Great Lakes. However, the formation is not mysterious because of its size as it is because of its location. Big holes in the icecap are not unusual in the warmer regions of Antarctica, closer to the coast. However, this one is placed right in the middle of the continent, deep within the ice, making it hard to explain how it came into being.

Usually, ice holes filled by water are called polynyas, and can be the result of two processes. One of them requires heat, and consists of water warmer than usual, which prevents ice from further developing, and leads to the formation of the gaping void. The second possibility involves a type of wind which cuts into ice. This wind is called katabatic, blows hard over the coastline ice, gradually thin it out, and lead to the occurrence of a hole.

Researchers aren’t able to tell where the huge hole comes from

However, this time, researchers cannot tell which of the two phenomena created the gaping hole. All they can tell is the fact that it is located quite far away from the coast and, if it weren’t for satellites, they wouldn’t even have known the polynya was there.

There’s no need to worry, though. Polynyas often form in Antarctica, and one such hole has been recurrently appearing and disappearing on the middle ice layer of the continent. Fortunately, the technology is advanced enough to study the Maine polynya and find out its secret.
Image Source: Flickr

Researchers Spot Fourth Gravitational Wave with an Italian Detector

The formation of a gravitational wave after two black holes collide

The Virgo detector spotted the fourth gravitational wave in space

With the help of the Italian Virgo detector, researchers managed to spot the presence of a fourth gravitational wave present in space. They found out the phenomenon resulted after the collision of two black holes. When such events take place, the clash issues some ripples which disturb space and time, and these ripples are known as gravitational waves.

What are gravitational waves?

The most recent ripples were issued on August 14th, around the hour 10:30 GMT. Then, researchers discovered they were produced by the collision of two black holes situated 1.8 billion light-years away. The holes were massive, as they both were between 25 and 31 times bigger than the Sun. Apart from producing the gravitational waves, the two black holes merged into an even bigger hole, being 53 times bigger than the Sun.

Such an event occurs extremely rarely, but it comes with one more unique thing to it. This was the first phenomenon of the type which was captured with the help of the Virgo detector. It is kept underground and, using laser light, can detect gravitational waves and track their trajectory. The Virgo detector is an Italian instrument and, although it doesn’t have the same precision as the American instruments, it works just fine.

European and US researchers collaborated for the Virgo project

Two weeks after the detector became functional, it managed to spot the gravitational wave. The other waves detected so far have been found by only two instruments coming from the US. This equipment was present in two LIGO unites (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatories). These two units were located in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana.

For the Virgo project, hundreds of researchers, coming from both Europe and the US, worked together. They also started a collaboration with LIGO, and hope to continue this project and spot more unique space phenomena.
Image Source: NASA

Researchers Manage to Decode Some of the Secrets of Cosmic Rays

Three cosmic rays hitting Earth

Cosmic rays do not originate in the Milky Way

A team of researchers at the Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina managed to trace back thousands of cosmic rays containing high energy particles, and shed some light on their mysterious origin. It seems these peculiar rays have not been produced within our own Milky Way, and they seem to have traveled far, from other galaxies.

Cosmic rays don’t come from inside the Milky Way

There are plenty of particles traveling through space and around all the cosmic objects, and these particles have different electric charges. Those with lower energy are known to come from the sun, and to be part of solar winds. However, these particles have some high energy siblings, called cosmic rays, whose origin has remained unknown so far.

Researchers analyzed the trajectory these cosmic rays had as they approached Earth, and concluded they are originating in Milky Way. Their direction shows they have traveled quite a lot, as they’ve been produced somewhere outside our galaxy. After twelve years of intense study, the 1,600 particle detectors at Pierre Auger Observatory managed to determine the origin of the high energy particles.

Finding the origin of high energy particles can tell a lot about the origin of the universe

Finding out the secrets of cosmic rays is of crucial importance for revealing how galaxy formation works. Also, it might shed light on a new perspective on the Big Bang. However, telling which is their exact origin remains a difficult task. As they are charged with high levels of energy, the magnetic fields they met on their way could have deviated their trajectory.

The study on the cosmic rays has been published in the journal Science. It reveals how most of the high energy particles which reach Earth are coming from regions opposed to the center of Milky Way. These might be galaxies with black holes in their center, which could have generated the cosmic rays.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Fossilized Fecal Matter Shows How Herbivorous Dinosaurs Sometimes Cheated and Ate Crustaceans

Hadrosaur skeleton in a museum

Hadrosaurs ate crustaceans to get extra proteins

A recent study on fossilized dinosaur fecal matter revealed an interesting truth about them, which contradicts the previous theory on the diet of herbivorous specimens. As their name says, scientists thought they fed exclusively on plants. However, the traces found in these fossils revealed they sometimes ate some meat.

Crustacean traces were hidden in fecal fossils

Researchers discovered some 75 million years old fecal fossils belonging to hadrosaurs, a species of dinosaurs well-known for being herbivorous. However, the analysis of these fossils revealed this species didn’t always choose plants for dinner. They found traces of crustaceans in the fecal matter, together with particles of wood coming from coniferous trees.

However, these were not the only fossil samples containing traces of crustacean shells. Some other coprolites, which are actually remains of dinosaur droppings, contained the same traces, and these remains were present in the Kaiparowits Plateau, Utah. This area was a favorite for hadrosaurs, so they might have occasionally cheated on their plant-only diet.

The bone and teeth structure of these hadrosaurs was typical of animals living closer to fresh water. There, their preferred meal included conifers and fern. The Kaiparowits Plateau was rich in sources of fresh water, as well as conifers and other similar plants, so it quickly became the ideal area where hadrosaurs could live.

Crustaceans were a sure source of proteins for the reproductive periods

Researchers revealed these dinosaurs chose to eat wood and crustaceans during the periods of reproduction. Such food was a good source of calcium, and improved their protein levels when they most needed them. The decaying wood contained plenty of small insects and creatures, which are a valuable source of protein, while crustaceans provide many other nutrients.

In fact, more herbivorous dinosaurs fed on unusual food for them, such as crustaceans, during reproductive periods. These creatures are a sure source of proteins for tough times, and easy to catch for dinosaurs which weren’t used to hunting. The study on hadrosaurs was published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Antarctica Cave System Might Be Holding Unidentified Life Forms

antarctica cave system seen from inside

Scientists discovered a subglacial Antarctica cave system which might be holding still unknown life forms.

A recent study points to the fact that Antarctica might be inhabited by even more life forms than initially believed. The research team behind it discovered an ‘extensive’ cave system on the cold continent, one located in the vicinity of its volcanoes.

A closer look revealed that these are seemingly warmer than might be believed. In turns, this also allows the possible existence of both plant and animal life forms, some of them possibly being entirely new ones.

Antarctica Cave System Revealed to be a Treasure Trove of Data

According to the research paper, the network of active subsurface volcanoes which have been venting steam seems to have carved out an “extensive and interconnected” network of subglacial caves. After analyzing this system, the scientists determined that this can actually be considered hospitable to both macroscopic and microscopic creatures.

Warmed by the internal heat of the planet, this Antarctica cave system is considered a “geothermal area”.

“If geothermal environments in Antarctica, including subglacial geothermal caves, could indeed have housed invertebrates and plants during past glacial periods, we hypothesize that diverse species should also live in these environments today,” state the researchers.

They also point out that such regions could often be “tens of degrees warmer” than the temperatures of the outside air. This network of caves might also foster liquid water as well as light in areas with thinner overlying ice.

The study team took samples from the subglacial caves and volcanoes that created them. This revealed the presence of DNA traces from algae, moss, arthropods, and roundworms. These were detected both in the subsurface and exposed areas.

However, some of the collected samples did not resemble any known creatures. So the scientists suspect the possible existence of still unidentified creatures, macro, and microscopic ones. These might have lived there in the past or might still be alive now, as well.

Presently, the research team has yet to discover any live organisms in this Antarctica cave system. However, they plan on conducting more extensive research.

Current study findings were released in a paper in the journal Polar Biology.

Iamge Source: FreeGreatPicture

Two New Studies Discuss the Advantages of the Ketogenic Diet

A ketogenic diet containing more fat, low proteins, and fewer carbohydrates prolongs life, improves health, provides physical strength and enhances mental coordination, show the reports on two new studies published in the September 2017 Cell Metabolism issue.

Researchers Studies the Effects of the Ketogenic Diet on Old Mice

Drs. John Newman and Eric Verdin led one study in Novato, California at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. The California-based researchers looked into the effects of keto diets on aging mice. Their experiments concluded that Ketogenic Diet Reduces Midlife Mortality and Improves Memory in Aging Mice.

Dr. John Ramsey led another study at the Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, the University of California, to establish the impact keto diet creates in aging mice. The Dr. Ramsey-led research discovered two new benefits of the ketogenic diet-improvement of physical strength and high level of mental alertness. A Ketogenic Diet Extends Longevity and Healthspan in Adult Mice showed similar results as the other study.

What is a Ketogenic Diet?

Keto diets have low-carbs, low proteins, and high-fat ingredients. In the two studies, researchers had ketogenic, high-fat, carbohydrate, and control diets. The researchers noted that when the body lives on low-carb intake, there is a shift to the use of ketones, instead of glucose, as the energy source.

High-fat, Low Carbs and a Prolonged Lifespan

The study of the factors that promote longevity started after researchers noted that some people live for more than 80 years and up to over 100 years. Dr. Ramsey, for example, has a 20 year-long particular interest in the mechanics of aging, old age diseases, and the illnesses that affect humans and rodents as age progresses.

Also of interest to Dr. Ramsey is the link between calorie restriction, high-fat diet, and aging. According to Cell Metabolism, the two new studies show that keto diets can help to achieve a 13% median life in humans, which is equivalent to 7-10 years in humans. The research has findings that can help to maintain cognitive ability and long lives.

Could The TRAPPIST-1 System Be The Host Of Gas Giant Planets?

scheme of the gas giant planets of the trappist-1 system

A team of scientists believes that the TRAPPIST-1 system might be hosting gas giant planets.

The discovery of the TRAPPIST-1 system and its seven Earth-like planets raised a lot of interest after being revealed at the start of the year. As scientists are still looking to determine which, if any, of these planets, might be hospitable or present signs of life, a team of researchers is looking at another element.

Carnegie Institution for Science researchers are behind a new study which questions and proposes the existence of gas giant planets somewhere on the outskirts of the TRAPPIST-1 system.

Gas Giant Planets to Reveal New Data About Our Own

Presently, the scientific community is aware of there being only seven planets in the newly discovered TRAPPIST-1 system. The existence of the ultra-cool dwarf star at its center was spotted and revealed by the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope.

Now, this new study proposes the existence of another set of planets besides the seven, Earth-like ones that are already known. The research team suggests that these other planets, gas giant such as Jupiter or Saturn, are situated much further away from their star parent.

“A number of other star systems that include Earth-sized planets and super-Earths are also home to at least one gas giant,” states Alan Boss, the first author of the paper.

Together with his colleagues, Boss used the CAPSCam (the Carnegie Astrometric Planet Search Camera) to determine the upper limits of the mass of any potential gas giant planets in this system.

The research team considers that, by finding gas giants in the TRAPPIST-1 system, scientists could maybe solve one of the mysteries of our own galaxy. Namely, it might help determine how these giant planets came to form.

One theory goes back to the early days of the Sun when this was surrounded by a disk of dust and gas. The Earth and terrestrial-like planets are believed to have been formed by the slow accretion of the disk’s rocky material.

Gas giants might have had a similar start. But they might have also gathered enough materials to gravitationally attract a large mass of the surrounding gas.

Both this theory and the newly advanced idea have some still unexplained elements. The researchers are hoping could be explained by the presence of the vehiculated gas giant planets.

The test results and research findings are presented in a paper released in The Astronomical Journal.

Image Source: JPL/NASA

NASA Reveals Snowy Dunes On The Surface Of Mars

snowy dunes on the surface of mars

NASA revealed some new images showing the snowy dunes of Mars during springtime.

In one of its recent posts, NASA revealed that the Red Planet could to have a wintery feel. Namely, the aerospace agency released images of snowy dunes of Mars, as snow and ice covered its surface formations.

According to the post through which NASA published the pictures, these images were taken on May 21, 2017. At the time, it was spring in the Northern Hemisphere of Mars. NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped the photos with its HiRISE or High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera.

snow dunes on mars

Snowy Dunes on Mars, Also Predicted by an Experiment

In the image description, NASA explains that snow and ice “inexorably” covered the dunes during the winter time. It also points out that the ice and snow on Mars are quite different from those here on Earth.

Instead of being frozen water, these are based on carbon dioxide, or as it is more commonly known, dry ice.

According to the report, the ‘smooth’ surface of the snowy dunes starts cracking as the sun starts shining on them come springtime. As the dunes crack, this also reportedly releases gas which carries dark sand from the dunes down below. This states NASA, “often creates beautiful patterns”.

However, some of the frost remains trapped behind small and sheltered ridges on the rough surface among the dunes.

A team of scientists also released a new study in which it presents the results of its new simulations. These explore the effects of the ‘flip-flopping’ layers in the atmosphere on Mars. According to the simulations, these combine in a more ‘vigorous’ manner than expected, which produces stormy weather.

In turn, this can also lead to a dusting of snow settling on the dunes of Mars. These snowfalls were seemingly quite insubstantial, some of them not even reaching the surface, and can happen in bursts during the summertime.

Details on the study and its results can be accessed in a paper in the journal Nature Geoscience.

 Image Source: JPL/NASA