Video made using images taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory of the June 7 prominence eruption
A little more than a week ago I posted a must see video of a huge prominence eruption on the sun. Now you can watch it again in not one but four different wavelengths of ultraviolet light. The eruption appears to take only seconds, but we see it compressed in time. The event lasted some three hours – what a spectacle!
Still earlier this month on June 1, the European Space Agency’s Mars Express craft, in orbit about the Red Planet since Christmas 2003, sent back a close-up photo of a conjunction of Mars’ moon Phobos with the planet Jupiter. Just released Friday, it’s certainly the first conjunction of its kind seen by earthlings. Diminutive Phobos is only 16 miles across, but at the moment the photo was taken, the craft was just 7,077 miles from the moon and 329 million miles from Jupiter. Being close counts when it comes to apparent size, which is why Phobos appears so much larger than the giant planet. Yet in spite of the millions of miles that separate them, you can still clearly see Jupiter’s equatorial belts of clouds. Amazing!
A movie of Phobos passing under Jupiter compiled from 104 still images.
Of course, the space agency had a more serious purpose that simply watching a conjunction, although we thank them for that. By knowing exactly where the spacecraft and Jupiter were located when Phobos swung by, the moon’s orbit could be further refined.
Phobos is a heavily cratered, porous and very dark moon. Every planet and moon in the solar system absorbs certain colors of sunlight and reflects others. Based on the light Phobos reflects back to us, astronomersÂ have determined its composition is similar to a group of meteorites called the carbonaceous chondrites. As the name suggests, these meteorites are rich in carbon as well as water and clays. Some also contain amino acids, chemical compounds our DNA directs into the fashioning of proteins that build and sustain our bodies.
It’s a mighty leap from raw amino acids in meteorites to proteins, but amino acids brought to Earth by meteorites when our planet formed 4.6 billion years ago may have played a part in the origin of life. Add in comets, which scientists think contributed significant amounts of water to the cooling Earth, and you’ve got at least two key ingredients essential to life. How wonderful to think that these minor solar system bodies crashing onto our planet during its infancy may have been the stimulus for the life that’s unfolded since.