Europa is Jupiter’s 4th largest moon and the smallest of the Galilean satellites (discovered by Galileo Galilei in 1610), all of which are visible with the aid of a small telescope or binoculars. One of the smoothest and shiniest objects in the Solar System (it reflects 64% of the light striking it), Europa has a surface that is made up mostly of water ice and is essentially free of craters, indicating that it is continually refreshed. It even has a thin atmosphere of oxygen, formed from sputtering of ice from its surface. But the most intriguing part of Europa may be underground, where a deep ocean is believed to exist, heated internally by gravitational tidal forces from Jupiter (the Moon induces similar forces on Earth that give rise to ocean tides). Water breaking through Europa’s surface may explain its overall smoothness and some low-lying features, including “chaos” regions such as Conamara Chaos. Liquid water may be one of the ingredients necessary for life, mitigating the chemical reactions that spawned life on Earth – the only planet with surface water known. Hence, the presence of water in Europa implies life may exist there, perhaps in the form of extremophiles that don’t need sunlight to derive energy. Hopefully Timmy has found a nice extremophile to play with!
Intergalactic Weather Channel’s Trisha Takanawa and Dwayne Lamark report on the raging thunder storm on Venus. Do you hear club music?
Listen here [2:30m]:
What’s the facts:
Venus is covered with an opaque layer of highly reflective clouds of sulfuric acid, and has the densest atmosphere of all the planets. Because the surface is so hot, none of Venus’ acid rain ever reaches the surface. It evaporates first! It’s very humid and there are no fluctuations in temperature and winds. American, Russian and European probes have all recorded tremendous lightening storms on the planet’s surface. One Russian probe recorded over 25 lightening flashes per second when it descended! Click here to see you weekly Venus weather report.
Intergalactic Weather Channel’s Trisha Takanawa and Ricardo Busamonte report on the continuing heat wave gripping Mercury this summer – and every summer. Don’t forget your water!
Listen here [1:44m]:
What’s the facts?
Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun, orbiting at an average distance of only 58 million kilometers (about 36 million miles). That’s about 1/3 the distance between the Sun and the Earth, so Mercury gets roughly 9 times as much Solar radiation. Mercury also spins exactly 3 times around for every 2 orbits, which means that a Mercury day (noon to noon) takes just as long as a Mercury year (for an explanation why, see this link). So the surface of Mercury can get very hot in the daytime, with temperatures as high as 425 degrees Celsius (800 degrees Fahrenheit). But when it finally does become night – after 88 days! – the temperatures can get as cold as -160 degrees Celsius (-260 degrees Fahrenheit). Don’t worry Ricardo, relief is on the way!
Intergalactic Weather Channel’s Trisha Takanawa and disgruntled reporter Jake Jacobs bring you weather conditions from distant dwarf planet Pluto. Seems like Jake has a chip on his shoulder about this assignment. [1:21m]
What’s the facts?
Tiny Pluto is one of our most far-flung worlds, orbiting at a distance of between 4.4 billion and 7.3 billion kilometers (2.7 billion to 4.5 billion miles) from the Sun. Because it is so far away, Pluto receives a small fraction – only 0.04% – of the Sun’s radiation as compared to what we get here on Earth. As a result, the surface of Pluto gets down to a chilly -240 degrees Celsuis (-400 degrees Farenheit). It is so cold that Pluto’s thin atmosphere, made mostly of the gases nitrogen and methane, almost completely freezes out in the winter. The great distance of Pluto from the Sun also means its pretty dark there, so it’s important to keep track of your flashlight!
Intergalactic Weather Channel’s Trisha Takanawa and spot reporter Shaine Laine give us the latest conditions in the Great Red Spot on Jupiter – be sure to bring your umbrella! [1:20m]
What’s the facts?
The Great Red Spot is a massive hurricane-like storm in the upper atmosphere of Jupiter, currently measuring about 24,000 kilometers (15,000 miles) across and 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles) tall. About two Earths would fit nice and snug inside. The Great Red Spot was first seen by Robert Hooke and Giovanni Cassini back in 1664-1665, and has been slowly shrinking over the past century, now about half the width it was in 1900. The winds in the Great Red Spot are greatest around its edge, about 430 kilometers per hour (260 miles per hour), larger than a Category 5 hurricane on Earth. In 2000-2006, three smaller, white storms just below the Great Red Spot merged and turned into a single red storm called “Red Spot, Jr.” (scientists call it Oval BA), which is now about the size of Earth. Why these storms appear red remains a mystery!