Powder? On Mars?

Study suggests orographic precipitation patterns on the Red Planet

 Mars from the Odyssey spacecraftWater-carved valleys on Mars appear to have been caused by runoff from precipitation, likely meltwater from snow. Early Martian precipitation would have fallen on mountainsides and crater rims.Credit: Images from NASA

An image of Mars from the Odyssey spacecraft shows water-carved valleys that appear to have been caused by runoff from precipitation, likely meltwater from snow. Early Martian precipitation would have fallen on mountainsides and crater rims. Photo courtesy NASA.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A close look at erosional scars and other landforms on Mars provides more evidence that water once flowed across the planet — and some of it may have come from melting snow that accumulated during orographic precipitation events, the same dynamic that often drives snowfall in the Colorado high country.

Orographic snowfall occurs when moist air is lifted up the side of a mountain by winds, cooling until it condenses into precipitation. The new study published in Geophysical Research Letters suggests that four different water-carved valleys on Mars appear to have been caused by just such a pattern.

The research project was led by Kat Scanlon, a geological sciences graduate student at Brown University. Scanlon studied orographic precipitation effects on Hawaii. When she looked at the structure of some of the valley networks on Mars, she suspected that similar forces may have been at work. Continue reading

When worlds collide: Conjunction of moon and Jupiter

Colorado photographer captures closest alignment until 2026

rt

A 2 a.m. wide-angle view encompasses parts of Silverthorne, the Lower Blue Valley and the Gore Range, with Jupiter showing up as a bright point to the right of the moon, and the red giant star Aldebaran to the left. Aldebaran is one of the brightest stars in the night sky.

Photography by Daniel McVey

SUMMIT COUNTY — The interwebs have been abuzz the last few days about one of the closest conjunctions of the moon and Jupiter in recent years, and last night (Jan. 21) our closest celestial neighbor and the biggest planet in the solar system passed within 1 degree of each other. We’re fortunate to have one of the best young astrophotographers right here in Summit County to capture scenes like this. I’m always psyched when I get an early morning e-mail from Daniel McVey, knowing that I’m about to be treated to a heavenly starlit view. Check out more of McVey’s photography at www.danielmcvey.com and keep up with his work on Facebook. The moon and Jupiter will be close together in the night sky again tonight, so be sure head outside for a quick peek. Continue reading

Colorado: ‘Supermoon’ to light up the sky this weekend

Moon reaches closest point to Earth in its elliptical orbit

December, 2011 full moon rising over Dillon Reservoir. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — About once a year, the moon, in its elliptical orbit, reaches its closest point to the Earth the same time as the full moon. This year’s so-called supermoon is this weekend, and skywatchers will be treated to a moon that appears 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than the average full moon.

At its perigee, the moon is about 30,000 miles closer to Earth then when it’s at its apogee, which explains why the so-called supermoon looks especially bright and large, especially at moonrise, when viewed against a foreground. Continue reading

New surveys find plenty of planets in Milky Way

Every starry night 100 million stars are observed using telescopes in Chile and New Zealand. If the search identifies a stellar location with a possible microlensing effect, it is automatically registered. Then the best "lenses" are observed more closely at high resolution and their light curves are analyzed. One of the places this is done is at the Danish 1.5 meter telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile. Credit: ESO/Z. Bardon

Earth-like planets may be common through the galaxy

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The Milky Way likely has a huge number of planets that may be similar to Earth in some ways, according to one of the latest surveys of the galaxy.

“We used to think that the Earth might be unique in our galaxy. But now it seems that there are literally billions of planets with masses similar to Earth orbiting stars in the Milky Way,” said Daniel Kubas, one of the author of  the research paper published last week in Nature. Continue reading

Sky Watching: Happy Perihelion!

This National Weather Service graphic nicely illustrates Earth's egg-shaped path around the sun.

Earth closest to the sun today

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — It may not be quite as sexy as the recent lunar eclipse, or as spectacular as the this morning’s meteor shower, but Earth nonetheless experiences another celestial milestone today when it reaches it’s closest point to the sun during its 365-day orbit.

To be precise, at perihelion, our planet will close in to within about 91 million miles of the sun, more than 3 million miles closer than at the early July aphelion, when the the Earth and sun are more than 94 million miles apart. All this because, of course, the Earth’s orbit is elliptical and not circular. Continue reading

Happy (belated) perihelion!

Earth and sun closest together in early January

Do you know why it's cold in January when earth is 3 million miles closer to the sun than in July? Read below to learn the answer.

This National Weather Service graphic nicely illustrates Earth's egg-shaped path around the sun.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — It wasn’t quite as sexy as the lunar eclipse, or as spectacular as the recent meteor shower, but Earth nonetheless experienced a milestone of sorts with the Jan. 3 perihelion.

To be precise, our planet closed in to within 91.4 million miles of the sun at 11 a.m. Mountain Time, more than 3 million miles closer than at the early July aphelion, when the the Earth and sun are more than 94 million miles distant.

This year, aphelion will coincide with our Independence Day celebrations on July 4, when the Earth will be 94.5 million miles away from the sun. All this because the Earth’s orbit is not circular — it’s elliptical.

It may seem counter-intuitive that the Earth is closer to the sun during the coldest time of the year, but the temperatures at the surface of the planet are influenced by the 23.5 degree tilt of the Earth’s axis and the angle of the sun’s rays. Because of that tilt, the northern hemisphere days are much shorter in our winter, leading to the colder temperatures. Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,965 other followers