If Life is Like Water, Then it is Abundant in The Universe

 

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Image Courtesy of Nasa at https://www.nasa.gov

The only truth of which we can be certain with regard to life in the universe is that Earth is surely abundant with it. Life can adapt and thrive in many harsh environments from hot geysers to the sun deprived locations deep within our oceans. Common to the existence of life at least as we know it, is a requirement which is that of water…the life-blood of the universe…the vehicle by which organic molecules combine, through which life forms move and nutrients are absorbed.

Beyond Earth, the closest world to us, The Moon, has water and it is thought, a lot of it. The water on the surface is enclosed in volcanic glass beads formed billions of years ago when magma erupted from the Moon’s interior.  Was some of it brought by comets or asteroid bombardment …possibly but this is only one source. The water in this encapsulated form can be found throughout the lunar surface. The quantity of water on the lunar surface in this captured volcanic form is estimated to be about 1 quart per cubic meter. The water bearing volcanic beads imply that this water originated from deep within the the interior of the Moon. Water in the form of ice has been found by Nasa radar by an Indian Moon probe. It found evidence of 600 million metric tons of actual water ice spread out on the bottom of the craters at the north lunar pole. Trace amounts of water molecules have also been found above the moon’s surface as well. Nasa found using Nasa Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter data that the coldest places near the moon’s south pole are the brightest places which might indicate surface frost. All of this data goes a long way in implying that the moon may have had an atmosphere of its own at one time.

In our solar system there are several worlds that are thought to contain water as ice or water vapour such as Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Mercury shows signs of iced over craters and as discovered by Nasa’s Curiosity Mars Rover, an ancient martian riverbed indicates that once water flowed on it surface.

Europa, Calisto and Ganymede, Jupiter’s moons, show strong evidence of liquid water below their surface as well as essential chemicals to sustain life. In fact Ganymede is thought to have a salt water ocean. Saturn’s moon Europa and Enceladus have not only liquid water but the other factors thought essential for life to exist…essential chemical elements and energy sources.

With the study of exoplanets, the Kepler data confirm the planets about the size of our earth could be entirely covered in water. The Tess mission upcoming will search such exoplanets and the James Webb Space telescope will examine their atmospheres.

Regarding our Moon the question arises…what amount of water could be lurking below its surface and in what form…the answer is a lot and in the form of liquid water quite possibly as in the case of Enceladus for instance, where active geysers spraying water ice particles and water vapor from below its surface give testament to water a plentiful beyond our Earth.

No wonder why Nasa has planned sometime in 2020 to revisit our nearest neighbour. The lunar south pole will be of special interest because the south pole is unique in that sunlight does not reach the botton of the craters which act as permanent cold traps that could reveal a fossil record of the early solar system. Nasa’s Lunar Ice Drill will bore the south pole for analysis during this lunar revisit.

Acquiring the technology to harvest water on the moon and elsewhere will be a crucial step to accomplishing the future goals of Nasa. Its task will be to lay the framework of a moon orbiting space station that will later be serviceable in future interplanetary exploration. As Early as 2033 scientists invision a manned space flight to Mars as a direct result of Nasa’s Orion Program to come.

 
Further Reading: Brown University
Researchers create first global map of water in Moon’s soil
Sept 13,2017 

 

 

 

 

How To Do Astrophotography | An Overview Of The Methods In Astrophotography

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Essentially imaging can be divided into two broad categories called short and long exposure astrophotography. Short exposure astrophotography does not require tracking of the object and can be done with a camera on a tripod or with a camera and telescope. In its simplest form a smartphone can be held up to the eyepiece on a telescope and an image instantly obtained. TShort exposure astrophotography is limited to about 30 to 60 seconds before star trails occur in the image.
Short exposure astrophotography is limited by the focal length of the imaging system used. The higher the magnification and focal length the less exposure time is available before star trails occur. In contrast, long exposure astrophotography requires more involved methods. A stable tracking mount is required to follow the object and to keep the system from experiencing unrelated movement during imaging. Some kind of guiding method is also required, either manual or auto-guiding to reposition the object in the field of view. These requirements become more stringent when the imaging is done at increasingly higher magnifications and longer exposure times.
The  imaging system, method and post imaging processing software chosen is dependent on both the object to be imaged as well as the degree of image detail required. The bright planets such as Jupiter and Saturn are generally imaged with “lucky imaging” using a video method. Magnification to increase the size of the object in the field of view can be achieved by the attachment of extenders or barlows to the imaging system. Further the imaging exposure time would be dependent on whether the system was setup for short or long exposure as previously described. Generally, the resultant video file ( avi, ser ) would then be run through image processing software which would choose the best still images and then stack them creating one significantly more detailed image in the file formats of jpeg, tiff or fit.
The Moon lends itself to the above imaging method described for Jupiter, Saturn. In this case because the moon is so much closer, the video produces satisfying detail without the need of further processing. However, stacking of the resultant video would offer comparatively still more detail. Because the moon is a very bright object, second only to the Sun, single shot imaging is also possible. Also a series of single shot images can be stacked to achieve the same results.
Deep Sky Objects (DSO) such a nebulas, galaxies and star clusters are better imaged in most cases using long exposure astrophotography. These objects are relatively faint compared to the planets and require a longer overall exposure time. Imaging of DSO can be done using the short exposure method even with a camera and tripod on some of the more brighter objects such as the Andromeda Galaxy or The Orion Nebula and star clusters. This method may involve creating a series of images which are stacked for greater detail however the detail obtained cannot be compared in most instances with that of the long exposure method.
In recent years, Video Astronomy or EAA has emerged and may be considered a blessing for the “impatient” amateur astronomy who would rather do away with all the hours of post processing. Essentially within a matter of a few minutes beautiful images of the night sky appear on your computer screen, as if by magic. The principal is based on real or near real-time stacking. The series of images taken continuously can be adjusted “on the fly” for such characteristics as exposure, gain, sharpness, contrast, white balance and color. A snapshot can be taken of the resultant image or the series of images can be saved to be  processed and stacked later by another program. EAA lends itself to DSO imaging and achieves that which is similar to what ‘lucky imaging” does for the planets. EAA rapidly acquires detailed images due to cameras with extremely high light sensitivity but increased noise reduction. Further the cameras and the supplied software have auto-guiding capabilities to send tracking messages to the mount… a separate auto-guider is not required! Essentially, EAA has provided the ability to achieve highly detailed images using short exposure time astrophotography, eliminating the stringent requirements imposed by the long exposure method.
Although EAA has ease of use, the method has not yet achieved the same quality of imaging as yet derived from the traditional method of long exposure astrophotography. This would entail future improvements such as increased camera pixelage, framerate, sensitivity, noise reduction, cooling systems. EAA has the ability at present to render detailed images the equivalent to that detail which can be observed through a telescope of 3 times the aperture.