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The Rings of Uranus and Neptune Could Help map Their Interiors – Universe Today

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Mapping the interior of the ice giants is difficult, to say the least. Not only are they far away and therefore harder to observe, but their constant ice cover makes it extremely hard to detect what lies underneath. So scientists must devise more ingenious ways to see what’s inside them. A team from the University of Idaho, Cal Tech, Reed College, and the University of Arizona think they might have come up with a way – to look at the structure of Neptunes’ and Uranus’ rings.

This isn’t the first technique scientists have used, though. Previous efforts have attempted to use the common technique of photometry to detect oscillations on the planet’s surface. Those oscillations can then be correlated to the density of particular parts of the planet’s interior. While the technique worked well for Jupiter, the photometry data we have of the ice giants so far have proved insufficient to determine the same density profiles. 

An alternative is using gravitational oscillations within the planet’s surface. In particular, there is a type of oscillation pattern known as a “normal mode.” This oscillation pattern happens when all parts of a system begin oscillating with the same sinusoidal frequency. And the gravitational effects of normal mode oscillations in the planet’s interior can be felt outside and reflected in the rings themselves.

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UT video discussing planetary rings in the solar system

It also isn’t the first time patterns in a planet’s rings have been used to calculate its internal density. Saturn has a better-understood ring system than Uranus or Neptune, the two ice giants with known ring systems. Scientists have been performing seismological analyses on the Saturnian ring system for years using data from Voyager and Cassini. The result is a better understanding of some of the normal modes of the planet’s interior and, therefore, an estimate of the makeup of the planet’s core and the rotation rate of the bulk of its material.

Neptune and Uranus each have a series of different rings, though they are not as well studied as Saturn’s. Some of those rings of which are corralled by shepherd moons. But according to the new paper, the same density reflections of resonance waves evident in Saturn’s rings are likely present in the ice giant’s ring systems as well.

What’s more, the inner shepherd moons themselves might be affected by the same resonances. Some of the moons can even create their own resonances, such as one known as a Lindblad resonance. More typically seen on the scale of galaxies, Lindblad resonances are known for driving spiral density waves, which cause the “arms” that can be seen in many spiral galaxies. But at a much smaller scale, the same effect happens on planetary ring systems, including Saturn’s, and most likely, Neptune’s and Uranus’.  

[embedded content]
UT video describing the Trident mission, which would return to Neptune.

The problem with using these resonances reflected in the rings is one that often faces science – there’s not enough data. So far, no probe has stayed long enough to map out the details needed to see the full scope of the ring system. The paper’s authors and plenty of other researchers suggest that it’s time to send a probe to the ice giants to effectively map the ring systems, moons, and myriad other recently discovered objects that are so hard to observe from the Earth. But for now, that mission is still on the drawing board, so we’ll have to wait to fully understand the interiors and ring system of these cold, barren worlds. At least when we finally do send a probe out that way, we’ll have the mathematical framework to help shed light on these dark places.

Learn More:
A’Hearn et al – Ring Seismology of the Ice Giants Uranus and Neptune
UT – The Rings of Neptune
UT – Which Planets Have Rings?
UT – How Many Rings Does Uranus Have?

Lead Image:
Artist impression of Uranus and its rings.
Credit – NRAO / AUI / NSF / S. Dagnello

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Red Deer-area boy discovers ancient shark's tooth in his yard – Red Deer Advocate

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A dinosaur-loving Red Deer-area boy found a 60 million-year-old fossilized shark tooth — right in his own front yard.

Max Maurizio, 7, was exploring gravel near his house on an acreage southeast of Red Deer on Monday, when he spotted something that didn’t look like other rocks. It was sharp at one end and about an inch and a half long.

“He came running into the house saying, ‘I found a tooth! I found a tooth!” recalled his mom, Carly Maurizio.

At first, Max’s parents assumed it came from one of their cats. But Carly carefully examined it and decided, “‘it looks pretty old…”

Intrigued by Max’s discovery, his dad, Claudio Maurizio, emailed a photo of the tooth to the world-renowned Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller.

On Tuesday, an emailed response arrived from the museum. The photo had been passed on to Dr. Don Brinkman, an expert on fossil fish and turtles.

Brinkman believes the fossilized tooth very likely belonged to the genus Scapanorhynchus — a type of extinct ancient shark with an elongated snout, whose closest living relative is the goblin shark.

“That is an interesting find,” stated Brinkman in the email.

Scapanorhynchus reached a length of about three metres and was a fully marine animal, “so it is a little unusual getting it in the Red Deer area. However, I have seen a tooth of this genus from exposures of the Horseshoe Canyon Formation in the Tolman Bridge area,” east of Trochu, wrote Brinkman.

He noted rocks around Red Deer are from the Paskapoo Formation and are about 60 million years old.

From 100 million to 66 million years ago, the Prairies were covered by a warm inland sea. Scientists believe this Western Interior Seaway extended 3,000 km, from the Arctic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, was 1,000 km wide and 700 metres deep.

The ancient water body contained a wide array of life, including sharks, bony fish, marine reptiles, birds, snails, ammonites and other mollusks.

The Maurizio family appreciates the information the museum provided on the tooth.

Max is particularly thrilled by his find and wants to become a paleontologist someday, said Carly.

Claudio noted his son is always noticing things that other people don’t. Once, before heading on a nature walk with his grandfather in Ontario, Max predicted he would find a bone — and sure enough, he did discover a small piece of wild animal bone, recalled his father.

Since Max has always been fascinated by dinosaurs, the whole family, including younger brother Meyer, regularly camp at Drumheller and visit the museum at least once a year, said Carly.

“Even when we go on little hikes or regular walks, Max is always looking down at the ground, looking for fossils… It’s quite remarkable that they can be found literally anywhere, even in your own yard,” she added.



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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Here’s a close up of the ancient shark’s tooth Max Maurizio, age seven, found in his Red Deer County yard. (Contributed photo).

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This solar storm strike on Earth triggered a Mysterious phenomenon called ‘STEVE’ – HT Tech

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On August 7 and 8, an unexpected solar storm event on Earth displayed a mysterious and rare sky phenomenon called STEVE or Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement. What is it and how can it affect us? Find out.

We have always associated solar storms with aurora displays, damage to man-made satellites, radio blackouts and GPS disruptions, but it turns out that solar storms can trigger more mysterious phenomenons than that. The August 7 and 8 solar storm, which came as a surprise, caused a strange space phenomenon that left even the scientists puzzled. Many reported seeing a bright stream of light across the sky which was not like any aurora even seen. The question that arises now is what was that stunning light and can it affect us somehow?

The event was first reported by SpaceWeather.com which noted on its website, “During yesterday’s surprise geomagnetic storm, hot ribbons of plasma flowed through Earth’s magnetosphere. The name of this phenomenon is ‘STEVE’ — short for Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement. It was also sighted in Montana and Pennsylvania”.

The mysterious phenomenon to be born out of a solar storm is called STEVE

STEVE was seen in many locations in the higher latitudes of the northern hemisphere and reportedly lasted about 40 minutes to an hour. While not much is known about these purple streams of light, we do know some facts about it.

STEVE is a very recent discovery. It was first observed in 2017 by citizen scientists and aurora hunters in northern Canada, according to Live Science. The purple glow is formed due to excessively hot (more than 3000 degrees Celsius) gas ribbons that move through the magnetosphere of the Earth. These gas ribbons typically move much faster than the air surrounding it and when it comes in contact with the radiation of solar storms, it gives out a band of glowing color. These are different from auroras because they are not caused by solar radiations colliding with atoms of oxygen and nitrogen through a process called refraction.

While this is still a superficial understanding of the chemical and physical activities that are taking place to cause this strange phenomenon, it does make for a stunning view across the sky. As for whether it can affect us, so far no evidence shows that these light displays are in any way harmful for us or the planet.

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Meteor Showers Taking Place Thursday and Friday Night – NorfolkToday.ca

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A meteor shower you won’t want to miss.

Gary Boyle, The Backyard Astronomer, tells us we are currently passing through the dusty debris of Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle.


It last appeared in 1992, and will return again in 2125.

He said the shower is lasting all night long, but 2 a.m. would be the time to see the most meteor.

The Backyard Astronomer suggested keeping an eye out for other things in the sky, as well.

Boyle added the next large shower will be in mid-December, but this one might be a little warmer to sit outside and watch.

Written by Ashley Taylor

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