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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Water water everywhere

My friends over at the Planetary Society sent a fascinating picture my way. Europa is one of Jupiter's moons and scientists thought there was a possibility of water being underneath all that ice. So Hubble took some pictures to see what it could find.
Europa plumes
Not a bowtie

What you're looking at is water vapor. Why is water shooting out of Europa's south pole like cheap beer? Let me put this in layman's terms.
Jupiter has a tremendous amount of gravity. One of the reasons we humans are still around is that Jupiter is acting like this huge space hoover, sucking up a lot of stray asteroids.
The most distinguishing features about Europa is that it has 'tiger claws'. Seriously, this poor moon looks like a mean tom cat went to town on it. At first there is no determinable pattern to these claw marks. They're all over the place. Tiger claws might be a cute name, but I'll tell you what they look like: Stretch marks.
Voyager 2 view of Europa

Jupiter pulls. Europa's ice cracks. Water shoots up, instantly freezes and Hubble detects the spray as it erupts skyward.
We know other moons are volcanic. The most stunning example is another of Jupiter's moons, Io.
Io and Jupiter from Voyager 1
Those pock marks? Sulfuric volcanoes 
 Right now there is a plan to send a robot to Europa, possibly to drill through the ice and peek at what is underneath. What will we find? Tiny Jovian Plankton? A race of alien squid like creatures? Nothing at all? won't know until we get there.

There is a graph on this next link for the proposed NASA budget for fiscal year 2015.  I can't simply slice into this because it's a PDF. It's an all or nothing deal. The sixth page down on this pdf has a bunch of blue stripy lines with a red and black line across the top. Take a look. Got it? The general trend is funding is being cut every year. Missions have already been scuttled. We won't be exploring the outer planets anytime soon. That means forget about anything beyond Mars. This is a shame, because some of these projects are things we can only do once in a lifetime. Orbits have to be just right for spacecraft to visit.
There is one more link I'd like you to click on. This link is to urge your congressman or senator to maintain funding for the space agency. On that page Bill Nye has an open letter to President Obama. Please click on it and urge your representative to support exploring the solar system.
This is the next big step for humans. The nation that steps out and claims the next moon base or Martian outpost will not only command the resources of an entire planet, but will ensure that country plays a pivotal role in not only scientific achievement, but in technology.
Yesterday I posted a picture of the Hubble telescope and how it helped in earlier detection of breast cancer. Go ahead and take a look. Think about that for a moment and decide for yourself if this is all worth it. Many of us know a loved one with breast cancer. Wouldn't it be worth it if we could use the technology and resources out there for the benefit of mankind.
As of this writing the Chinese, Russians, and Indian governments have designs on putting bases on the moon. Now who do you want to ask permission to build a rocket or leave the planet? If history is any teacher of events, the countries that had the colonies/ ports of entries, controlled the commerce to the new world.
Think of it as paying the cost to be the boss.
The next new world isn't over the horizon, it's literally straight up.

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