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Surprise! There's more water on Jupiter than anyone thought – Space.com

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Jupiter appears to have more water than anyone expected.

Newly released data from NASA’s Juno probe shows that water may make up about 0.25% of the molecules in the atmosphere over Jupiter’s equator. While that doesn’t sound like much, the calculation is based on a prevalence of water’s components, hydrogen and oxygen, three times more than at the sun. The new measurements Juno obtained are much higher than a previous mission suggested.

The surprise result has scientists delving deep again into results from NASA’s Galileo mission to Jupiter, which obtained drier results in 1995 when engineers deliberately threw the spacecraft into Jupiter’s atmosphere. (Galileo was low on fuel and NASA didn’t want to take the chance, even if it was a slight one, of the spacecraft accidentally crashing on a potentially habitable icy moon.)

Related: NASA’s Juno mission checks out epic Io eclipse on Jupiter

Reconciling the results from Galileo and Juno is key for scientists to better understand how our solar system came together, NASA said in a statement. Since Jupiter was probably the first planet to form, it could have sucked up most of the gas and dust that the sun’s formation left behind. How much water Jupiter soaked up, then, should help scientists identify the most plausible theories to explain its formation.

And understanding Jupiter’s birth would in turn help scientists understand how the planet’s wind currents move and what its insides are made of. Scientists should be able to generalize findings at Jupiter to certain kinds of large exoplanets to learn how other solar systems formed.

Galileo’s results were a puzzle even back in the 1990s. The spacecraft sent back data showing 10 times less water than scientists predicted, and more weirdly, the amount of water appeared to increase the deeper Galileo went into Jupiter’s atmosphere, according to the NASA statement. Scientists had expected that by the time it stopped transmitting data, at a depth of about 75 miles (120 kilometers), the atmosphere around it should have been well-mixed with an unchanging composition. 

A ground-based infrared telescope was able to measure water concentrations at Jupiter at the same time as Galileo’s plunge and showed that Galileo may have accidentally hit a dry spot, meaning water is not well-mixed deep in Jupiter’s atmosphere. 

Juno’s first eight flybys also showed a lack of atmospheric mixing. The spacecraft’s radiometer obtained data even deeper than Galileo’s measurements, at 93 miles (150 km) down, and found more water at the equator than Galileo did. 

Scientists are now waiting to compare Juno’s equatorial measurements with observations at the north of the planet; Juno’s 53-day orbit is gradually moving northward to examine more of that hemisphere with each flyby. The spacecraft’s next science flyby will be on April 10.

“Just when we think we have things figured out, Jupiter reminds us how much we still have to learn,” Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute, said in the NASA statement. “Juno’s surprise discovery that the atmosphere was not well mixed even well below the cloud tops is a puzzle that we are still trying to figure out. No one would have guessed that water might be so variable across the planet.”

The new research is described in a paper published Feb. 10 in the journal Nature Astronomy.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Scientists observe total solar eclipse in Antarctica – Global Times

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Scientists from the Chilean Union Glacier Station observe a total solar eclipse in Antarctica, Dec. 4, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

 
Scientists from the Chilean Union Glacier Station observe a total solar eclipse in Antarctica, Dec. 4, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

Scientists from the Chilean Union Glacier Station observe a total solar eclipse in Antarctica, Dec. 4, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

 

Scientists from the Chilean Union Glacier Station observe a total solar eclipse in Antarctica, Dec. 4, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

Scientists from the Chilean Union Glacier Station observe a total solar eclipse in Antarctica, Dec. 4, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

 

Photo taken from Chilean Union Glacier Station in Antarctica on Dec. 4, 2021 shows a total solar eclipse.Photo:Xinhua

Photo taken from Chilean Union Glacier Station in Antarctica on Dec. 4, 2021 shows a total solar eclipse.Photo:Xinhua

 

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Dinosaur Tail Found In Chile Could Point To Discovery Of New Species – NDTV

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Paleontologists have discovered 80 percent of the dinosaur’s skeleton.

Santiago:

Chilean paleontologists on Wednesday presented their findings on a dinosaur discovered three years ago in Patagonia which they said had a highly unusual tail that has stumped researchers.

The remains of the Stegouros elengassen were discovered during excavations in 2018 at Cerro Guido, a site known to harbor numerous fossils, by a team who believed they were dealing with an already known species of dinosaur until they examined its tail.

“That was the main surprise,” said Alexander Vargas, one of the paleontologists. “This structure is absolutely amazing.”

“The tail was covered with seven pairs of osteoderms … producing a weapon absolutely different from anything we know in any dinosaur,” added the researcher during a presentation of the discovery at the University of Chile.

The osteoderms — structures of bony plaques located in the dermal layers of the skin – were aligned on either side of the tail, making it resemble a large fern.

Paleontologists have discovered 80 percent of the dinosaur’s skeleton and estimate that the animal lived in the area 71 to 74.9 million years ago. It was about two meters (almost seven feet) long, weighed 150 kilograms (330 pounds) and was a herbivore.

According to the scientists, who published their research in the journal Nature, the animal could represent a hitherto unknown lineage of armored dinosaur never seen in the southern hemisphere but already identified in the northern part of the continent.

“We don’t know why (the tail) evolved. We do know that within armored dinosaur groups there seems to be a tendency to independently develop different osteoderm-based defense mechanisms,” said Sergio Soto, another member of the team.

The Cerro Guido area, in the Las Chinas valley 3,000 km (1,800 miles) south of Santiago, stretches for 15 kilometers. Various rock outcrops contain numerous fossils.

The finds there allowed the scientists to surmise that present-day America and Antarctica were close to each other millions of years ago.

“There is strong evidence that there is a biogeographic link with other parts of the planet, in this case Antarctica and Australia, because we have two armored dinosaurs there closely related” to the Stegouros, said Soto.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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Chinese Rover Exploring What Appears to Be Cube-Shaped Object on Moon – Futurism

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There’s a Moon cube now! At least, it looks that way based on some intriguing photos from the Chinese lunar rover Yutu-2, released by the country’s space agency this week.

The photos show a distant object that looks like a perfect cube, and China say the rover is headed to check it out.

It’s worth worth noting a few caveats about the photo, spotted yesterday by space journalist Andrew Jones, who described the formation as a “cubic shape.” For one thing, the object is just a few pixels in the photo, meaning it could easily be some sort of optical illusion that’ll be a disappointment up close.

And China has struggled with lunar science communication in the past. In 2019, Yutu-2 “discovered” a “gel-like substance” on the lunar surface, but upon closer inspection it turned out to be, well, rocks. It also trumpeted the discover of a “shard” on the Moon earlier this year, but that turned out to just be another interesting rock. Did we mention that there’s not a lot other than rocks on the Moon?

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Jones, for his part, is managing expectations.

“So yeah, it’s not an obelisk or aliens, but certainly something to check out,” Jones tweeted in followup.

The idea of alien artifacts on the Moon runs deep in popular culture — remember that one scene in “2001: A Space Odyssey”? — but, needless to say, none have been found in reality.

The apparent cube sits in the Von Kármán crater, and China’s space program has been dubbed it, evocatively, the “mystery house.”

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Yutu-2 will spend two or three lunar days traveling to investigate the cube; lunar days are about 50 minutes longer than solar days on Earth.

Jones speculated that the object could be a boulder carved out by an asteroid impact, and posted a photo of a similarly sharply defined boulder found previously on the Moon’s surface.

CNET’s coverage of the most recent discovery agrees with Jones’ analysis, saying the most likely explanation is that the Moon cube is a boulder.

That’s not to say Yutu-2 hasn’t ever found anything cool. In 2019, CNET reported the rover discovered that the Moon’s surface was made of different materials than we previously thought, a discovery that could better predict how Earth’s internal layers might change over time.

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We’re not saying there isn’t weird stuff on the Moon. After all, we just recently found enough buried oxygen under its surface to sustain billions of people. But suffice it to say we aren’t holding our breath over Moon cube, and if it turns out to be anything other than a rock we’ll be really impressed.

More on space: Scientists Discover Enormous Black Hole Right Near Our Galaxy

Care about supporting clean energy adoption? Find out how much money (and planet!) you could save by switching to solar power at UnderstandSolar.com. By signing up through this link, Futurism.com may receive a small commission.

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