The Ultimate Master of the Tote

jurassiraptor:

Alternate Dilophosaurus Colorizations

Concept art from Stan Winston School shows some alternate designs for Jurassic Park's dilophosaurus. The yellow spotted concept is similar to the animal's description in Crichton's novel.

spaceplasma:

Solar Slinky

A major solar flare produced an arcade resembling a slinky. That flare has been featured here before, but this time we are showing a set of composite images that shows the thermal evolution of the material. The X5.7 flare occurred at 10:03UT on 14 July 2000, in Active Region 9077, and was observed by TRACE in three colors: the red image shows the ultraviolet continuum, generally characteristic of cool, dense gas; the blue image shows the 171Å pass band, characteristic of material around 1 million degrees; the green channel shows material hotter than about 1.5 million degrees up to approximately 10 million degrees.

The top image is a collage of six images. Frame 1, right after the onset of the flare, shows very bright, rapidly evolving flare kernels and the beginning formation of ridges, or ribbons, that give this “two-ribbon flare” its name. Frame 2 shows an image around 10:25UT, 22 minutes later, when the ribbons have developed along much of their length, and loops connecting them are showing up on the right-hand side of the arcade. Frame 3 shows a bright ridge between the ribbons; this is presumably very hot material, but it remains unclear whether that lies below or above the now cooling loops connecting the ribbons. Frame 4 shows green loops forming on the left-hand side, that cool to blue in frame 5. In Frame 6 most of the arcade loops have cooled to around 1 million degrees.

Because TRACE observes gas of very different pass bands, it allows us in principle to perform a very detailed study of the thermal evolution of this flare, which was very large, and caused the largest particle storm of the cycle thus far.

Credit: TRACE, Stanford-Lockheed ISR, NASA

prehistoric-birds:



Sylviornis skeleton (credit below). Sylviornis’ powerful beak has been compared at times with that of dromornithids, yet nobody has unironically argued for carnivory.



Traditionally, gastornithids and dromornithids have been argued as carnivores due to their massive, deep bills. Modern examples of large flightless birds, the ratites, have rather shallow bills, and indeed their herbivorous and/or omnivorous diets do fine with such simple jaws. Thus, it’s been traditionally argued that the crushing maws of the giant Anseriformes were ridiculously overbuilt for a herbivorous diet, that carnivory, be it in the form of scavenging or active predation, was the only way such a beak would evolve and be selectively pressured to be retained.
Alas, things are not as simple as they seem. Besides actual isotope studies directly indicating that Gastornis and Genyornis were herbivores, and the utter lack of predatory features dooming any sincere assertions of carnivory for other members of either clade, the fact is that a number of other flightless herbivorous birds also developed such “overbuilt” bills. The most obvious case is Sylviornis, the mysterious New Caledonian fowl, which developed equally as deep and powerful a beak as it’s distant giant waterfowl cousins, in fact being directly compared in terms of morphology to those of dromornithids. Yet it has always been clear that this bird followed the same trends as the rest of Galliformes, being primarily a herbivorous bird, with a penchant for granivory. Hitting even closer to home are the Hawaiian Moa-Nalos, which also developed proportionally massive and usually deep bills, yet clearly as means to forage on the various types of ferns and other vegetation in the older islands of the archipelago. Among living birds, the Takahe of New Zealand made the already fairly deep rail jaws into a hatchet like instrument, all just to cut through thick grasses. Even the famous Dodo seemingly went down this path: from the rather unassuming, thin pigeon jaws came a seriously impressive pair of pincers that quickly became infamous for their nasty bite, all to aid in foraging in Mauritian forest undergrounds.
Even ratites seemingly went down this path: Pachyornis possess a powerful, deep beak that is thought to have aided the animal to feed on harsh scrub vegetation, while Aepyornis developed one of the largest skulls known in all fossil birds; it is very unlikely it was anything other than a browser with frugivorous tendencies, though it would have surely resorted to animalivory occasionally. Outside of Aves, one could argue that oviraptors represent yet another case where a powerful beak has evolved in correlation to specialised herbivory.
So, as it seems, several large, flightless birds with primarily herbivorous diets developed “overbuilt” jaws. While the exact mechanics and reasons for this specialisation aren’t entirely well understood, it seems that there do seem to be several reasons as to why “overbuilt” jaws are pressured to evolve. In Pachyornis and Moa-Nalos, correlation between diet and the development of their beaks has been somewhat established: the former fed primarily on hard scrub vegetation, twigs and bark forming a component, while the latter seemingly had a preference for foraging on ferns. The former would naturally favour more powerful bites, while the latter seemingly proved a challenge in terms of wearing down the jaws, which is presumably while Moa-Nalos also developed unique serrations in their bills. Granivory has been suggested as the reason as to why Sylviornis‘ jaws developed, at at times also implicated for Gastornis and the dromornithids, though evidence of granivory has only been acquired for Gastornis – and even then, in the form of rather generic seeds, not the expected coconut like seeds suggested. The Takahe’s jaws clearly evolved for breaking down large grasses and reeds, while the Dodo’s beak is thought to have evolved in response to a pig-like foraging lifestyle in Mauritius’ forest undergrowth. With the exception of the Takahe and the Dodo, most of these powerful beaks seem to correlate with browsing.
Thus, “overbuilt” beaks seem encouraged in many contexts within the herbivorous flightless bird biological archetype. The fact that modern ratites lack such jaws is therefore not indicative of a correlation between avian herbivory at large sizes and small heads, especially when even a few extinct ratites produced powerful jaws. One may indeed wonder if many extinct birds without well preserved skulls, like Eremopezus or eogruiids, also had powerful beaks.


refs:

Sorenson et al. (1999): Relationships of the extinct moa-nalos, flightless Hawaiian waterfowl, based on ancient DNA. Proceedings of the Royal Society.

Williams, D. L. G. (1981) Genyornis eggshell (Dromornithidae; Aves) from the Late Pleistocene of South Australia

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130829214559.htm

Burrows, C. J. 1980. Some empirical information concerning the diet of moas. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 3, 125-130.

(Submitted by ask-tovolar)

prehistoric-birds:

Sylviornis skeleton (credit below). Sylviornis’ powerful beak has been compared at times with that of dromornithids, yet nobody has unironically argued for carnivory.

Traditionally, gastornithids and dromornithids have been argued as carnivores due to their massive, deep bills. Modern examples of large flightless birds, the ratites, have rather shallow bills, and indeed their herbivorous and/or omnivorous diets do fine with such simple jaws. Thus, it’s been traditionally argued that the crushing maws of the giant Anseriformes were ridiculously overbuilt for a herbivorous diet, that carnivory, be it in the form of scavenging or active predation, was the only way such a beak would evolve and be selectively pressured to be retained.

Alas, things are not as simple as they seem. Besides actual isotope studies directly indicating that Gastornis and Genyornis were herbivores, and the utter lack of predatory features dooming any sincere assertions of carnivory for other members of either clade, the fact is that a number of other flightless herbivorous birds also developed such “overbuilt” bills. The most obvious case is Sylviornis, the mysterious New Caledonian fowl, which developed equally as deep and powerful a beak as it’s distant giant waterfowl cousins, in fact being directly compared in terms of morphology to those of dromornithids. Yet it has always been clear that this bird followed the same trends as the rest of Galliformes, being primarily a herbivorous bird, with a penchant for granivory. Hitting even closer to home are the Hawaiian Moa-Nalos, which also developed proportionally massive and usually deep bills, yet clearly as means to forage on the various types of ferns and other vegetation in the older islands of the archipelago. Among living birds, the Takahe of New Zealand made the already fairly deep rail jaws into a hatchet like instrument, all just to cut through thick grasses. Even the famous Dodo seemingly went down this path: from the rather unassuming, thin pigeon jaws came a seriously impressive pair of pincers that quickly became infamous for their nasty bite, all to aid in foraging in Mauritian forest undergrounds.

Even ratites seemingly went down this path: Pachyornis possess a powerful, deep beak that is thought to have aided the animal to feed on harsh scrub vegetation, while Aepyornis developed one of the largest skulls known in all fossil birds; it is very unlikely it was anything other than a browser with frugivorous tendencies, though it would have surely resorted to animalivory occasionally. Outside of Aves, one could argue that oviraptors represent yet another case where a powerful beak has evolved in correlation to specialised herbivory.

So, as it seems, several large, flightless birds with primarily herbivorous diets developed “overbuilt” jaws. While the exact mechanics and reasons for this specialisation aren’t entirely well understood, it seems that there do seem to be several reasons as to why “overbuilt” jaws are pressured to evolve. In Pachyornis and Moa-Nalos, correlation between diet and the development of their beaks has been somewhat established: the former fed primarily on hard scrub vegetation, twigs and bark forming a component, while the latter seemingly had a preference for foraging on ferns. The former would naturally favour more powerful bites, while the latter seemingly proved a challenge in terms of wearing down the jaws, which is presumably while Moa-Nalos also developed unique serrations in their bills. Granivory has been suggested as the reason as to why Sylviornis‘ jaws developed, at at times also implicated for Gastornis and the dromornithids, though evidence of granivory has only been acquired for Gastornis – and even then, in the form of rather generic seeds, not the expected coconut like seeds suggested. The Takahe’s jaws clearly evolved for breaking down large grasses and reeds, while the Dodo’s beak is thought to have evolved in response to a pig-like foraging lifestyle in Mauritius’ forest undergrowth. With the exception of the Takahe and the Dodo, most of these powerful beaks seem to correlate with browsing.

Thus, “overbuilt” beaks seem encouraged in many contexts within the herbivorous flightless bird biological archetype. The fact that modern ratites lack such jaws is therefore not indicative of a correlation between avian herbivory at large sizes and small heads, especially when even a few extinct ratites produced powerful jaws. One may indeed wonder if many extinct birds without well preserved skulls, like Eremopezus or eogruiids, also had powerful beaks.

refs:

Sorenson et al. (1999): Relationships of the extinct moa-nalos, flightless Hawaiian waterfowl, based on ancient DNA. Proceedings of the Royal Society.

Williams, D. L. G. (1981) Genyornis eggshell (Dromornithidae; Aves) from the Late Pleistocene of South Australia

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130829214559.htm

Burrows, C. J. 1980. Some empirical information concerning the diet of moas. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 3, 125-130.

(Submitted by ask-tovolar)

astronomy-to-zoology:

Bearded Helmetcrest (Oxypogon guerinii)

…a species of hummingbird that is native to Colombia and Venezuela. Bearded helmetcrests typically inhabit subtropical/tropical high-altitude grasslands. O. guerinii feeds mainly on the nectar of flowers and is often seen on members of the genera Espeletia, Echeveria, Siphocampylus, Castilleja and Draba. They are also known to take insects as well. Like other hummingbirds O. guerinii is sexually dimorphic with females lacking the beard and crest. Bearded Helmetcrests breed during the rainy season and will build nests out of Espeletia.

Classification

Animalia-Chordata-Aves-Apodiformes-Trochilidae-Oxypogon-O. guerinii

Images: Julian Zuleta and Nigel Voaden

sagansense:

Europa Beckons…

Slightly smaller than Earth’s moon, Jupiter’s moon ‘Europa' is the sixth closest to the gas giant and the smallest of the 67 Galilean satellites. 

Europa has been an other-worldly wonder for planetary scientists, but more so for astrobiologists due to the intriguing cracks and fissures among the icy crust. These cracks or ‘lineae’, are indicative of geologic activity similar to plate tectonics, which we experience and study on Earth as the crust of our planet moves and slides beneath our feet via the lithosphere, driving what is known as ‘continental drift' amongst geoscientists. 

Crack/rift in the Antarctic ice shelf of the Pine Island glacier photographed by NASA/GSFC

This image, taken by the Galileo space probe, reveal rust-colored fissures or ‘lineae’, similar to Earth’s oceanic ridges, which force fresh material upward from below the subsurface, effectively replacing/repairing these surface blemishes.

Continental drift results in subduction (see subduction zones) involving the movement of tectonic plates; in Earth’s case, these are the oceanic and continental crusts. The catalysts for this geologic activity are our distance from the sun and (Earth’s) moon. A similar relationship exists between Jupiter and Europa.

Why is this important? 



Being as far (or close) to Jupiter as it is along with an accompanying eccentric (oval) orbit, vulnerable Europa is thought to experience “tidal flexing" whereby the ocean beneath its surface is pulled and pushed by the tremendous gravitational force exerted by Jupiter. This process indeed flexes the icy crust of Europa to hyperextension of its subsurface, which is composed of a 62 mile-deep outer layer of water above a silicate mantle bolstered by an assumed iron/metallic core.



Subduction, subsurface tidal flexing, shifting of organic material…just think "lava lamp"…What does this mean?

It means further exploration for closer examination is needed to determine anything. However, at this point, here’s what we’ve come to understand: 

These artist’s drawings depict two proposed models of the subsurface structure of the Jovian moon, Europa. Geologic features on the surface, imaged by the Solid State Imaging (SSI) system on NASA’s Galileo spacecraft might be explained either by the existence of a warm, convecting ice layer, located several kilometers below a cold, brittle surface ice crust (top model), or by a layer of liquid water with a possible depth of more than 100 kilometers(bottom model).

Random Sagan Fact: Carl Sagan was the first to propose the possibility of a subsurface ocean underneath Europa’s icy crust.If a 100 kilometer (60 mile) deep ocean existed below a 15 kilometer (10 mile) thick Europan ice crust, it would be 10 times deeper than any ocean on Earth and would contain twice as much water as Earth’s oceans and rivers combined. Unlike the Earth, magnesium sulfate might be a major salt component of Europa’s water or ice, while the Earth’s oceans are salty due to sodium chloride (common salt). While data from various instruments on the Galileo spacecraft indicate that an Europan ocean might exist, no conclusive proof has yet been found. To date Earth is the only known place in the solar system where large masses of liquid water are located close to a solid surface. Other sources are especially interesting since water is a key ingredient for the development of life as we know it. [source]

But wait! There’s more…

As we continue to scrupulously pore over the data via the Galileo spacecraft’s 7.75 year mission in the Jovian neighborhood, we are discovering more about this planetary body than we (especially Galileo himself) could’ve ever predicted.

Recently observed (in images the spacecraft took in 1998) are “clay-like” minerals called phyllosilicates. The origin of these minerals are being best explained by a collision with an asteroid (likely 3,600ft in diameter) or comet (5,600ft. in diameter). Results of this study can be found here.

If this explanation sounds a bit far-fetched, think again. Asteroid/comet impacts are frequent among the solar system, as the July 1994 event of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 reminded us. Astronomers witnessed the comet breaking apart, colliding with Jupiter and producing a 24,000 K (as in Kelvin) fireworks display rivaling 6,000,000 megatons of TNT or 600x the world’s nuclear arsenal. Shoemaker-Levy 9 alerted us to the cosmic shooting gallery we find ourselves in, along with our under preparedness for sporadic rendezvous with these double-edged, life-dispersing/revoking crumbs from our solar system’s early formation. 

Orbits of 1,000 categorized potentially hazardous asteroids (PHA’s) [source]

Thus, the importance of space exploration and specifically, the recent measure introduced by the UN to formulate an asteroid defense plan. 

Recommended: BBC Animated Guide To Shoemaker-Levy 9’s Impact With Jupiter; Impact Jupiter: The Crash of Shoemaker-Levy 9 by David H. Levy, co-discoverer of the comet

Although Shoemaker-Levy 9 may seem at first glance to be an isolated incident (broken up into its 21 constituent icy chunks, mind you…) it’s far from the first or last time Jupiter has been blindsided by a collision of such magnitude. 

In 2009, a comet/asteroid/meteor the size of the Pacific Ocean struck Jupiter. Dubbed the ‘Wesley impact’ (due to the amateur astronomer who discovered it), the object was estimated to be about 200-500 meters in diameter. To put this in perspective: if this object would have collided with Earth, the devastation would be cataclysmic and crippling human civilization. [source]

If the allure of organic material-providing collisions isn’t enough of a driver toward an imperative mission to Europa, the most recent discovery of water vapor being ejected 200 kilometers (125 miles) above the surface via potential plumes should be a call to (scientific) arms.

"If those plumes are connected with the subsurface water ocean we are confident exists under Europa’s crust, then this means that future investigations can directly investigate the chemical makeup of Europa’s potentially habitable environment without drilling through layers of ice. And that is tremendously exciting," 
- Lorenz Roth of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio and lead author of the Hubble Space Telescope discovery said in a NASA press release

The plumes were detected via “old faithful” herself, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. While viewing a “hot spot” in ultraviolet light on Europa’s south pole, the colors (wavelengths) of light revealed copious amounts of hydrogen and oxygen. 

"The idea is that water erupting from Europa is exposed to space (Europa has no atmosphere). Jupiter has a ridiculously intense magnetic field, and electrons caught in that field are accelerated to high speed. These electrons slam into the water molecules from Europa, breaking them up into individual atoms of hydrogen and oxygen, which then reveal their presence by glowing in the ultraviolet.

Interestingly, earlier observations showed no trace of this light, and that actually supports the idea that this light is from a geyser. Why? Those older observations were taken when Europa was close to Jupiter, but the new observations were taken when Europa was farther away. This is critical: When the moon is close to Jupiter, the squeezing from the planet’s gravity is maximized, and when it’s farther away the squeezing is lowered. This means that any deep cracks in the surface are squeezed closed when Europa is near Jupiter and relaxed, opened up, when it’s farther away. If water from the subsurface ocean were to escape through cracks, it would be when they’re open. So these observations precisely fit the idea that this is what we’re seeing.”
- Phil Plait, Slate magazine


This artist concept illustrates two possible cut-away views through Europa’s ice shell. In both, heat escapes, possibly volcanically, from Europa’s rocky mantle and is carried upward by buoyant oceanic currents. [source] 

How much water are we talking?

It’s being estimated that 7 tons of water are erupting every second at over 1,500 miles per hour. "Three times faster than a passenger jet," exclaims astronomer/science blogger Phil Plait. He continues in his recent article 'Europa Erupts! Possible Geyser of Water Seen on Jupiter’s Moon'…

"As it happens, we know of another moon with geysers: Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Europa is much larger than Enceladus (3,100 km versus 500 km) and so has much stronger gravity. That means that for a given speed for the water, the plume won’t stretch as high on Europa as it would on Enceladus.

Still, it’s worth comparing. On Enceladus, the plumes are higher, reaching 500 km (about 310 miles) off the surface, move more slowly at 300–500 meters per second (700–1,100 mph), and only out pump about 200 kilograms (about 450 pounds) of water per second. Because of Enceladus’ lower gravity, some of that material escapes from the moon into space. For Europa, with its stronger gravity, the material falls back to the surface where it freezes.

Dramatic plumes, both large and small, spray water ice out from many locations along the famed “tiger stripes” near the south pole of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. [source]

The geysers on Enceladus are also at the moon’s south pole—stress from Saturn’s gravity is strongest there, just as stress from Jupiter is strongest at Europa’s poles—and dozens have been found along long cracks colloquially called tiger stripes. The Cassini spacecraft has been orbiting Saturn for nearly a decade, and we have fantastic high-resolution images of Enceladus, allowing us to identify the regions in the cracks where the geysers originate.”

Do underground oceans vent through the tiger stripes on Saturn’s moon Enceladus? Long features dubbed tiger stripes are known to be spewing ice from the moon’s icy interior into space, creating a cloud of fine ice particles over the moon’s South Pole and creating Saturn’s mysterious E-ring. Evidence for this has come from the robot Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn. Pictured above, a high resolution image of Enceladus is shown from a close flyby. [source]

To further demonstrate the importance of these plumes and what this means for planetary science/astrobiology, I invite you on a trip to Saturn, courtesy of Cassini Imaging Team lead and planetary scientist Carolyn Porco, as she delivers a Carl Sagan-esque TED talk on the visual wonders recovered by the Cassini spacecraft, along with one of the most intriguing moons in the solar system, Enceladus.

There will be so much more to come as this develops. For now, keep looking up and stay curious! The moons of Jupiter are a beautiful sight to view through a telescope; even more so now, as we continue to learn more about our neighboring planets and their accompanying satellites…

sagansense:

Europa Beckons…

Slightly smaller than Earth’s moon, Jupiter’s moon ‘Europa' is the sixth closest to the gas giant and the smallest of the 67 Galilean satellites.

Europa has been an other-worldly wonder for planetary scientists, but more so for astrobiologists due to the intriguing cracks and fissures among the icy crust. These cracks or ‘lineae’, are indicative of geologic activity similar to plate tectonics, which we experience and study on Earth as the crust of our planet moves and slides beneath our feet via the lithosphere, driving what is known as ‘continental drift' amongst geoscientists.

Crack/rift in the Antarctic ice shelf of the Pine Island glacier photographed by NASA/GSFC

This image, taken by the Galileo space probe, reveal rust-colored fissures or ‘lineae’, similar to Earth’s oceanic ridges, which force fresh material upward from below the subsurface, effectively replacing/repairing these surface blemishes.

Continental drift results in subduction (see subduction zones) involving the movement of tectonic plates; in Earth’s case, these are the oceanic and continental crusts. The catalysts for this geologic activity are our distance from the sun and (Earth’s) moon. A similar relationship exists between Jupiter and Europa.

Why is this important?

Being as far (or close) to Jupiter as it is along with an accompanying eccentric (oval) orbit, vulnerable Europa is thought to experience “tidal flexing" whereby the ocean beneath its surface is pulled and pushed by the tremendous gravitational force exerted by Jupiter. This process indeed flexes the icy crust of Europa to hyperextension of its subsurface, which is composed of a 62 mile-deep outer layer of water above a silicate mantle bolstered by an assumed iron/metallic core.

Subduction, subsurface tidal flexing, shifting of organic material…just think "lava lamp"
What does this mean?

It means further exploration for closer examination is needed to determine anything. However, at this point, here’s what we’ve come to understand:

These artist’s drawings depict two proposed models of the subsurface structure of the Jovian moon, Europa. Geologic features on the surface, imaged by the Solid State Imaging (SSI) system on NASA’s Galileo spacecraft might be explained either by the existence of a warm, convecting ice layer, located several kilometers below a cold, brittle surface ice crust (top model), or by a layer of liquid water with a possible depth of more than 100 kilometers(bottom model).

Random Sagan Fact: Carl Sagan was the first to propose the possibility of a subsurface ocean underneath Europa’s icy crust.
If a 100 kilometer (60 mile) deep ocean existed below a 15 kilometer (10 mile) thick Europan ice crust, it would be 10 times deeper than any ocean on Earth and would contain twice as much water as Earth’s oceans and rivers combined. Unlike the Earth, magnesium sulfate might be a major salt component of Europa’s water or ice, while the Earth’s oceans are salty due to sodium chloride (common salt). While data from various instruments on the Galileo spacecraft indicate that an Europan ocean might exist, no conclusive proof has yet been found. To date Earth is the only known place in the solar system where large masses of liquid water are located close to a solid surface. Other sources are especially interesting since water is a key ingredient for the development of life as we know it. [source]

But wait! There’s more…

As we continue to scrupulously pore over the data via the Galileo spacecraft’s 7.75 year mission in the Jovian neighborhood, we are discovering more about this planetary body than we (especially Galileo himself) could’ve ever predicted.

Recently observed (in images the spacecraft took in 1998) are “clay-like” minerals called phyllosilicates. The origin of these minerals are being best explained by a collision with an asteroid (likely 3,600ft in diameter) or comet (5,600ft. in diameter). Results of this study can be found here.

If this explanation sounds a bit far-fetched, think again. Asteroid/comet impacts are frequent among the solar system, as the July 1994 event of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 reminded us. Astronomers witnessed the comet breaking apart, colliding with Jupiter and producing a 24,000 K (as in Kelvin) fireworks display rivaling 6,000,000 megatons of TNT or 600x the world’s nuclear arsenal. Shoemaker-Levy 9 alerted us to the cosmic shooting gallery we find ourselves in, along with our under preparedness for sporadic rendezvous with these double-edged, life-dispersing/revoking crumbs from our solar system’s early formation.

Orbits of 1,000 categorized potentially hazardous asteroids (PHA’s) [source]

Thus, the importance of space exploration and specifically, the recent measure introduced by the UN to formulate an asteroid defense plan.

Recommended: BBC Animated Guide To Shoemaker-Levy 9’s Impact With Jupiter; Impact Jupiter: The Crash of Shoemaker-Levy 9 by David H. Levy, co-discoverer of the comet

Although Shoemaker-Levy 9 may seem at first glance to be an isolated incident (broken up into its 21 constituent icy chunks, mind you…) it’s far from the first or last time Jupiter has been blindsided by a collision of such magnitude.

In 2009, a comet/asteroid/meteor the size of the Pacific Ocean struck Jupiter. Dubbed the ‘Wesley impact’ (due to the amateur astronomer who discovered it), the object was estimated to be about 200-500 meters in diameter. To put this in perspective: if this object would have collided with Earth, the devastation would be cataclysmic and crippling human civilization. [source]

If the allure of organic material-providing collisions isn’t enough of a driver toward an imperative mission to Europa, the most recent discovery of water vapor being ejected 200 kilometers (125 miles) above the surface via potential plumes should be a call to (scientific) arms.

"If those plumes are connected with the subsurface water ocean we are confident exists under Europa’s crust, then this means that future investigations can directly investigate the chemical makeup of Europa’s potentially habitable environment without drilling through layers of ice. And that is tremendously exciting,"
- Lorenz Roth of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio and lead author of the Hubble Space Telescope discovery said in a NASA press release

The plumes were detected via “old faithful” herself, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. While viewing a “hot spot” in ultraviolet light on Europa’s south pole, the colors (wavelengths) of light revealed copious amounts of hydrogen and oxygen.

"The idea is that water erupting from Europa is exposed to space (Europa has no atmosphere). Jupiter has a ridiculously intense magnetic field, and electrons caught in that field are accelerated to high speed. These electrons slam into the water molecules from Europa, breaking them up into individual atoms of hydrogen and oxygen, which then reveal their presence by glowing in the ultraviolet.

Interestingly, earlier observations showed no trace of this light, and that actually supports the idea that this light is from a geyser. Why? Those older observations were taken when Europa was close to Jupiter, but the new observations were taken when Europa was farther away. This is critical: When the moon is close to Jupiter, the squeezing from the planet’s gravity is maximized, and when it’s farther away the squeezing is lowered. This means that any deep cracks in the surface are squeezed closed when Europa is near Jupiter and relaxed, opened up, when it’s farther away. If water from the subsurface ocean were to escape through cracks, it would be when they’re open. So these observations precisely fit the idea that this is what we’re seeing.”
- Phil Plait, Slate magazine


This artist concept illustrates two possible cut-away views through Europa’s ice shell. In both, heat escapes, possibly volcanically, from Europa’s rocky mantle and is carried upward by buoyant oceanic currents. [source]

How much water are we talking?

It’s being estimated that 7 tons of water are erupting every second at over 1,500 miles per hour. "Three times faster than a passenger jet," exclaims astronomer/science blogger Phil Plait. He continues in his recent article 'Europa Erupts! Possible Geyser of Water Seen on Jupiter’s Moon'

"As it happens, we know of another moon with geysers: Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Europa is much larger than Enceladus (3,100 km versus 500 km) and so has much stronger gravity. That means that for a given speed for the water, the plume won’t stretch as high on Europa as it would on Enceladus.

Still, it’s worth comparing. On Enceladus, the plumes are higher, reaching 500 km (about 310 miles) off the surface, move more slowly at 300–500 meters per second (700–1,100 mph), and only out pump about 200 kilograms (about 450 pounds) of water per second. Because of Enceladus’ lower gravity, some of that material escapes from the moon into space. For Europa, with its stronger gravity, the material falls back to the surface where it freezes.

Dramatic plumes, both large and small, spray water ice out from many locations along the famed “tiger stripes” near the south pole of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. [source]

The geysers on Enceladus are also at the moon’s south pole—stress from Saturn’s gravity is strongest there, just as stress from Jupiter is strongest at Europa’s poles—and dozens have been found along long cracks colloquially called tiger stripes. The Cassini spacecraft has been orbiting Saturn for nearly a decade, and we have fantastic high-resolution images of Enceladus, allowing us to identify the regions in the cracks where the geysers originate.”

Do underground oceans vent through the tiger stripes on Saturn’s moon Enceladus? Long features dubbed tiger stripes are known to be spewing ice from the moon’s icy interior into space, creating a cloud of fine ice particles over the moon’s South Pole and creating Saturn’s mysterious E-ring. Evidence for this has come from the robot Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn. Pictured above, a high resolution image of Enceladus is shown from a close flyby. [source]

To further demonstrate the importance of these plumes and what this means for planetary science/astrobiology, I invite you on a trip to Saturn, courtesy of Cassini Imaging Team lead and planetary scientist Carolyn Porco, as she delivers a Carl Sagan-esque TED talk on the visual wonders recovered by the Cassini spacecraft, along with one of the most intriguing moons in the solar system, Enceladus.

There will be so much more to come as this develops. For now, keep looking up and stay curious! The moons of Jupiter are a beautiful sight to view through a telescope; even more so now, as we continue to learn more about our neighboring planets and their accompanying satellites…

romkids:

Acheroraptor temertyorum New Dinosaur Suggests Migration From Asia To North America During The Eve Of The Mesozoic Era

67 million years ago a raptor named Acheroraptor temertyorum roamed Montana’s famed Hell Creek Formation. Prior to the discovery of Acheroraptor there was little evidence that dromaeosaurids (raptors) lived in the area. Known for the longest time only from its teeth, Acheroraptor helps fill out an already rich ecosystem complete with the terrifying Tyrannosaurus, the horned Triceratops and armoured Ankylosaurus. While Acheroraptor sharpens the picture for late Cretaceous biodiversity in the region, it also raises another fascinating question. You seeAcheroraptor is more closely related to a raptor half way around the world than it is to anything in North America!

A Curious Cretaceous Migration

When palaeontologists and co-authors, David Evans, Phil Currie and Derek Larson, studied the snout of Acheroraptor, they discovered that it was seemingly related to one of the world’s most famous raptors, Velociraptor. Interestingly, Velociraptor is found in Asia, in places like China and Mongolia. This development suggests that up until the eve of the Mesozoic Era, dinosaurs were still traversing the globe, joining and altering ecosystems along the way.

A Fitting Namesake

Acheroraptor temertyorum was not only found and co described by two ROM palaeontologists, it also shares its name with two great ROM ambassadors. While “acheoraptor”, meansAcheron Plunderer, “temertyorum” is a nod toJames and Louise Temerty, incredible supporters of palaeontology at the ROM and the museum itself.

Fittingly, the Acheroraptor temertyorum specimen will be on display in the James and Louise Temerty Galleries of the Age of Dinosaurinto the new year.

Palaeo Reactions!

More info

Image sources

  1. Acheroraptor temertyorum feast on a Triceratops carcass while Tyrannosaurus rex waits near by. Julius Cystoni, 2013.
  2. Acheroraptor temertyorum recreation. By Emily Willoughby, (e.deinonychus@gmail.com, emilywilloughby.com) (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
  3. Snout and teeth of Acheroraptor temertyorum. Royal Ontario Museum, 2013.

Written by @kironcmukherjee. Last update: December 16, 2013.

demimyke:

Eccleston Falls No More

spectacularuniverse:

The Long-tailed Sylph (Aglaiocercus king) is found in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. This brilliant little hummingbird was photographed by Glenn Bartley.

spectacularuniverse:

The Long-tailed Sylph (Aglaiocercus king) is found in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. This brilliant little hummingbird was photographed by Glenn Bartley.

dinosaursandotherawesomestuff:

lostbeasts:

(sad music)

So this Christmas I’ll just watch March of the Dinosaurs then.

dinosaursandotherawesomestuff:

lostbeasts:

(sad music)

So this Christmas I’ll just watch March of the Dinosaurs then.

doodleofboredom:


Anonymous asked you:

So they are saying that T-Rex is feathered now. I can accept that, but no one seems to do a decent job drawing him in his new coat. Could you please draw a feathered t-rex?



I’ve seen so many examples, so I’m not sure how my interpretation would stack up in comparison, but here goes…

doodleofboredom:

So they are saying that T-Rex is feathered now. I can accept that, but no one seems to do a decent job drawing him in his new coat. Could you please draw a feathered t-rex?
I’ve seen so many examples, so I’m not sure how my interpretation would stack up in comparison, but here goes…