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Earth Smelling Like Rotten Eggs Is A Step Towards Smelling Cleaner Air

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Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) has been found in the atmosphere of HD 189733b, a nearby “hot Jupiter,” by the JWST. HD 189733b is already not a good place to live because it is twice as hot as Venus and probably doesn’t have a solid surface to land on. Now the smell of rotten eggs is another reason why it shouldn’t be lived on. Still, the result shows that our models of how planets form are getting better, which means we can now make accurate predictions.

The easiest planets to find are the ones that are big and orbit close to their stars. Astronomers thought the galaxy was full of “hot Jupiters” when they first started finding planets outside the Solar System. These were gas giants with masses as great as Jupiter’s or greater that were orbiting close enough to their star to be burned.

At 65 light-years away, HD 189733b is the nearest of these to transit in front of its star from our point of view. Therefore, it is the most important one to study further. It’s a really harsh world, with temperatures reaching about 920°C (1,700°F) and some of the fastest winds we know of. The JWST is interested in it because of the things that make it so inhospitable and how close it is. This makes it one of the easiest planets outside our own system to study.

In a study of its spectrum, Dr. Guangwei Fu of Johns Hopkins University referred to HD 189733b as “the benchmark planet for atmospheric characterization.”

The study collected light that had been filtered through HD 189733b’s atmosphere during transits. It shows that the JWST can find molecules that are present in relatively small amounts and supports astronomers’ models.

“A big molecule we didn’t know was hydrogen sulfide.” Fu said in a statement, “We thought it would be, and we know it’s on Jupiter, but we hadn’t really found it outside the Solar System.” “We’re not looking for life on this planet because it’s too hot, but finding hydrogen sulfide will help us find this molecule on other planets and learn more about how different kinds of planets form.”

Water, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide were also found in HD 189733b’s atmosphere, but these are likely to be much more common, and two of them had already been found with less powerful tools. On the other hand, methane levels as low as one part in 10 million were not found, which is different from what some reports said before. This also backs up models that say methane couldn’t live on a planet that hot.

The results not only show that hydrogen sulfide can be found, but they also make it more likely that sulfur is a common element on extrasolar planets. Fu said, “Sulfur is a vital element for building more complex molecules, and scientists need to study it more to fully understand how planets are made and what they’re made of, just like they need to study carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and phosphate.” We may not like this particular sulfur compound, but Fu was right.

“Let’s say we look at 100 more hot Jupiters and find that they are all sulfur-rich.” That makes me wonder how they were born and how their shapes are different from Jupiter’s. Fu added. One hundred might be too much for the JWST to handle, but Fu is working on studying a few of them.

Along with being linked to rotten eggs, hydrogen sulfide is often found near volcanic vents, which is why brimstone, an old word for sulfur, is often thought of as hell.

The temperature of HD 189733b has been called 3,000°C (5,432°F) at times, but it’s really only 920°C (1,700°F), which is still pretty hot. Models also say that there will be winds of 8,700 km/h (5,400 mph) and rain made of glass.

The study was written up in Nature.

As Editor here at GeekReply, I'm a big fan of all things Geeky. Most of my contributions to the site are technology related, but I'm also a big fan of video games. My genres of choice include RPGs, MMOs, Grand Strategy, and Simulation. If I'm not chasing after the latest gear on my MMO of choice, I'm here at GeekReply reporting on the latest in Geek culture.

Space Exploration

Uranus’s radiation belt isn’t weak; it’s just crooked

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Voyager 2 visited Uranus almost forty years ago, leaving behind some very interesting mysteries. Three planetary scientists believe they have shown that two of these problems—why its proton radiation belts are so weak and why its magnetic field isn’t centered—are linked, which could help solve one.

Magnetic fields have an impact on charged particles. For example, high-energy particles from space circle the Earth when the field is strong. The Van Allen Belts are made when particles from the solar wind interact with Earth’s magnetic field. People who don’t believe in the moon landing say that living things can’t cross these belts, which protect the atmosphere.

The belts around other planets with magnetic fields look like Uranus and Neptune’s, but their magnetic fields are different. It is tilted almost 60 degrees away from Uranus’s axis of rotation. The ones on Earth, Jupiter, and Saturn, on the other hand, are much more aligned. Also, its center is not in the middle of the Earth; it’s about a third of the way to the south pole. Voyager 2 said that the radiation belt is not very strong, but the magnetic field is. Matthew Acevski, a PhD student at Imperial College London, and his coworkers say that’s partly because the field isn’t focused.

Acevski and his co-authors used the Boris algorithm, a way to figure out how charged particles move, to test how the asymmetrical magnetic field should change the behavior of protons that get caught in it. They learned that the uneven field makes the particles move at various speeds while they circle. Where protons move slowly, they gather together, and where they move quickly, they spread out.

“This is like how traffic jams happen on a ring road.” “When cars go slower, there is more traffic, and when they go faster, there is less traffic,” Acevski told Space.com.

Because Voyager 2 didn’t go around Uranus but just looked at it as it went by, the authors thought that it might not be that the radiation belt is weak, but that our only visitor just happened to measure an area that wasn’t full.

The team did math to figure out where the protons would move faster and slower and came to the conclusion that Voyager 2 went through an area of depletion.

It’s important to note that the effect only works on protons. The asymmetry doesn’t change the paths of electrons very much because their masses are so much lower, which fits with Voyager 2’s report of a strong electron radiation belt.

The authors concur that their work does not adequately explain measurements as low as those from Voyager 2. They write, “It’s possible that this effect will become a bigger part of this deficiency if more complex system dynamics are added.”

If the planned Uranus orbiter is built, the part of the weakness that can’t be explained might be one of the easier mysteries to solve. But it’s not clear if this will happen while the Mars Sample Return takes up most of NASA’s exploration budget.

Neptune’s magnetic field is almost as crooked as Uranus’s, but Voyager found that its proton radiation belt was strong. It’s still not clear if this difference is real or just a result of the places Voyager 2 went.

The study is in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, which is open access.

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Space Exploration

We now know how much faster time moves on the moon

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A new study has precisely figured out how fast time moves on the Moon compared to Earth and found the center of the solar system.

Different observers see time pass at different rates, depending on how fast they are moving compared to each other and how strong the gravitational fields are nearby. Most of the time, this doesn’t come up in your calculations. If you want to meet up with someone next Tuesday, it doesn’t matter if your clocks are a little off. That is, unless one of you spends the days in between flying around at relativistic speeds or on a planet or moon with very different gravity.

But this is a problem for NASA and other space agencies because people want to build bases on the Moon and Mars. At the moment, there is no agreed-upon time zone on the moon. For unmanned missions, the time is based on the country where the craft came from. For crewed Apollo missions, however, Ground Elapsed Time (GET) was used, starting from the moment of launch. As the moon fills up with more robots and then, fingers crossed, people, it could cause problems. The US hopes to solve these issues by setting up a coordinated lunar time.

As explained in the new paper posted to the pre-print server arXiv, “the establishment of a standardized lunar time is essential for synchronizing activities and operations on the Moon.” Other scientists have not yet reviewed the paper.

“When missions involve many landers, rovers, and orbiters, having a common time reference makes sure that all units can work together well, preventing problems and making it easier for people to work together.” Timing is very important for communication between missions on Earth and the moon because it allows for reliable data transmission and reception and makes sure that autonomous systems can work without any problems.

In the new paper, the team figured out how fast time moves on Earth, the Moon, and at the solar system’s barycenter, which is the center of mass for the whole system.

“Although relativistic time transformations between the Solar System Barycentric (SSB) coordinate reference frame and the surface of the Earth are familiar, an analogous transformation for the surface of the Moon has not been established,” the team says. “In particular, the constants that describe the behavior of the two time scales as time progresses are needed.”

According to what the team found, time moves 0.0000575 seconds faster on the moon’s surface than on Earth’s surface each day. For ease of math, it would take about 274 years, or 100,000 days, for someone on the Moon to age 5.75 seconds faster than someone on Earth.

That might not seem like a big deal, but if the difference isn’t taken into account, it could make it hard to do things on the moon.

Arati Prabhakar, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy, told NASA and other agencies to work together to make the new Moon time system. “Failing to account for the discrepancy between a transmitter clock on Earth and how it is perceived by a receiver on the Moon will result in a ranging error,” he wrote. “Precision applications such as spacecraft docking or landing will require greater accuracy than current methods allow.”

Before coordinated lunar time is set up, there will be more talk and math, and we will have to wait to see what system NASA and the other space agencies come up with. NASA is already sure of one thing, though: the Moon will not have to deal with daylight savings time because its days are 29.5 Earth days long.

The paper has been put on the arXiv pre-print server.

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The world’s most accurate clock has set a new record

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Precision timekeeping has moved on from atomic clocks to optical atomic clocks, which are a big step forward. What these instruments can do to keep accurate time has been getting better and better over the last few years. They are now at an amazing level that is far above what regular atomic clocks can do.

Atomic clocks use cesium atoms that have been cooled almost to absolute zero. Being able to measure the resonant frequency of these atoms lets it keep time. Most atomic clocks don’t go off by more than one second every 300 million years. Scientists realized they could do better, though. They found that a “web of light,” or optical lattice, could be used to trap and measure tens of thousands of atoms.

There are 40,000 strontium atoms in this lattice, which is only a tiny bit above absolute zero. The ticking of this clock is the electrons in this atom moving from one level of energy to another. With an error of only 8.1 parts per tenth of a billionth of a billionth, researchers were able to measure time.

You might be wondering why being so precise is helpful. Aren’t atomic clocks accurate enough for people? Yes and no are the answers. Atomic clocks are very accurate, which has made many parts of our lives easier. One that is used a lot is GPS. If optical clocks were used instead, they would make accuracy at least 1,000 times better. But it will also give us new ways to test basic physics.

“There will be very interesting discoveries waiting for us if we get to the times that are sensitive to the very small space-time curvature,” Professor Jun Ye told IFLScience when he won the 2022 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. He is a senior author on the paper.

One thing that could be done is to study general relativity with these clocks. Some atomic clocks, like those on GPS satellites, already experience this, but the extra accuracy lets us check our assumptions more thoroughly and maybe see things we haven’t seen before.

Ye said in a statement, “We’re exploring the edges of measurement science.” “When you can measure things with this much accuracy, you start to see things that we could only guess about before.”

This clock is so accurate that it can detect effects that are so minute that theories like general relativity can explain them, even at the microscopic level. It’s testing the limits of what’s possible with keeping track of time.

In the map app on your phone, accuracy might not seem very important, but it will make a big difference as people continue to explore the solar system. It could be the start of big steps forward in quantum computing.

Ye, from the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the University of Colorado Boulder, said, “If we want to land a spacecraft on Mars with pinpoint accuracy, we’ll need clocks that are orders of magnitude more accurate than what we have now in GPS.” “This new clock is a big step in the right direction.”

The results will be written up in a paper that will come out next week in Physical Review Letters.

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