Researching the UFO Phenomena
Jerry Sievers Interview with Steven Hile
The Universe: A Revolution in Knowledge
Part 2 The Inner Solar System
Steven Hile: In Part 1 of this Segment we had a graphic showing the famed American astronomer and astrochemist Carl Sagan next to a model of the Viking Mars Lander. One of the popular sayings contributed to Carl Sagan is:
The universe is........ This reflects the contention of the naturalistic scientific community that for the most part there is nothing unique about the universe, our solar system or the Earth. This view point is generally referred to as the Principle of Mediocrity and is an extension of the Copernican Principle. It is the idea that the Earth is not special like was once thought. In Sagan's words from his PBS Cosmos series, "For most of human history we have searched for our place in the cosmos. Who are we? What are we? We find that we inhabit an insignificant planet of a hum-drum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people."
In the naturalistic scientific community this is the prevalent view. However and more so now then ever before, there are more and more scientists arguing for the need of new approaches to this quantum. Sagan argued we would eventually find other solar systems out there and they would be identical to ours. However the growing body of evidence for exoplanets (planets orbiting stars other than our Sun) is strong and getting stronger in support for the uniqueness of our Solar System.
In recent supercomputer research the birth of planetary systems was examined using more than 250 known (at the time) planetary systems (including our own). They developed a sophisticated model for the formation of planetary systems from beginning to end, numerically simulating a variety of boundary conditions that reproduce results that are in agreement with some of the key trends observed in the properties of exoplanets. These same simulations further demonstrate that our own Solar System represents the rare case where gas giant planets form in the outer regions but do not migrate in toward the system core star and becoming one of the commonly found hot Jupiter's. Further they showed that all the planets in the system achieve stable circular orbits. In a statement one of the authors said,
"We now better understand the process of planet formation and can explain the properties of the strange exoplanets we've observed. We also know that the Solar System is special and understand at some level what makes it special."
To be sure this new research will see skepticism which always has and always will be present (to borrow from Dr. Sagan). In retrospect if Dr. Sagan were alive today he would certainly need to admit that many of his projections have now proved to be incorrect.
The above noted model will see future development and improvement as more data and techniques become available. But the research represented by the above is on track now and is only one of a number of research groups working in this field and in associated fields. It is these associated fields we will now turn to next for more surprising data.
The inner Solar System
It is most intriguing to have a very clear late evening and to then have the Moon, Mars and Jupiter scattered along the ecliptic and Venus above the western horizon. Such is rare but can give one a chilling sense of serenity to realize that you are looking at the true reality of our Solar System from one spot on the surface of the third planet. This has occurred for me a couple of times including once in the early morning hours. It is made even more chilling when one realizes this may well be uncommon for the now some 340 other solar systems which have been found. Our following review looks at several inner Solar System findings regarding gravitational balances and the distribution of essential elements. The point here is to show the critical nature of our solar system and the way it must exist to have an actual life giving and supporting planet. Delicate Gravitational Balances: One of the "early on" discoveries about Exoplanets research showed that planetary orbital resonances could pull planets out of its orbits and send they either into their star or winging out of the system. A rather frightening event to think about. To this point three astronomers have found a very delicate balance operating in our solar system. They showed that the intensification of gravitational effects resulting from orbital patterns and regular planetary alignments indicate that without an Earth-Moon system, the solar system's inner planets (including a moonless Earth) would be destabilized by the huge intensifying push-pull effects of Jupiter and Saturn. Findings show our Moon, locked in orbit with our more massive Earth "interferes" with the "whip effect" caused by Jupiter and Saturn; which may be likened to heavy stones in a whirling slingshot.
Although analyzing is not complete yet they have learned that such a destabilization would send Venus and Mercury either into the sun or whizzing, perhaps close to Earth, clear out of the system altogether. Mars would be impacted too but more research is needed to tell how much. Even if the disruptions to the planetary orbits were less profound, they would result in a destabilization of the entire system including Earth and the effects on advanced life would be profound. The complexity needed for advanced life on Earth cannot withstand even a 1% variation in Earth's orbital pattern. In the words of the researchers themselves,
"Our basic finding is nevertheless an indication of the need for some sort of rudimentary design in the solar to ensure long-term stability. One possible aspect of such design is that long-term stability may require a degree of irregularity to stir certain resonances enough so that such resonances cannot persist."
This work shows that the eccentricities of Mercury and Venus would vary much greater without the Moon in orbit around the Earth than with it.
A research team which recorded decay products of certain short-lived radionuclides (SLRs) have shown that ejection of heavy-element material into the primordial solar system's protoplanetary disk came from all but the last source mentioned above. However none of these sources can account for the early solar system's abundances of SLRs with half-lives of less than five million years. The team however calculated that a rare supernova type could explain the abundances of these particular SLRs. A low-luminosity or faint supernova type is known for ejecting these SLRs into the interstellar medium. A supercomputer modeled SLR abundances from such a supernova agreed well with the solar system abundances.The supernova eruption would need to be quite near the forming solar system but not so close to disturb system formation. Indications are the timing and the proximity for the other heavy element sources need to occur in similar manners (See below). SLRs made two important contributions to the solar system. They were a heat source for asteroid forming which were the building blocks for the rocky planets and their exceptional interiors which established in the case of the Earth a strong, long-lasting magnetic field. Second they provide high-resolution chronometers for the early events of solar system formation. Such studies in the future should continue to yield early solar system history with greater timing precision. Another recent study strongly shows that the distribution of certain elements points toward the probability that the Sun has a potential for being very rare among studied solar type stars. This study has five times the accuracy of previous studies on what are known as 'twin suns' or other sun-like stars. Previously it was believed that a twin to our Sun had been found but this study is detailed enough and shows no 'identical twin' to the Sun has been found. The study (The Peculiar Solar Composition and Its Possible Relation to Planet Formation) looked at twenty some 'G' type stars considered to be twins to the Sun and found that in comparison the Sun has 20% less of what are known as the refractory elements. Refractory elements are the lighter elements on the right side of the Periodic Table and the abundant ones which make up the Earth; iron, silicone, magnesium, etc. These formed the dust, the asteroids and rocky planets of the inner solar system. This reflects back to the pre-solar nebula from which the Sun and planets formed described above. The implication here is that this placed limits on the available material in the inner solar system from which the inner planets formed. It also minimized the left over matter particularly in the form of planet threating asteroids. Another horrific consideration is that the inner solar system's lower refractory element mass accounts for Jupiter's failure to migrate inward toward the Sun unlike the vast majority of the known extrasolar gas giant planets have been found to do. The Sun's level of volatile elements is simular to the solar twins. Volatile elements are the heavier elements forming gases and liquids such as hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, etc. When taken collectively the ratio between refractory and volatile elements is known as 'stellar abundance patterns'. The unique solar abundance pattern of the Sun indicates the Sun's solar nebula was capable of forming both a suite of outer giant gas planets as well as a suite of inner rocky planets. Too many refractory's would leave a much higher count of asteroids and dust endangering a life bearing planet. Likewise too little and the rocky inner planets we know would not have formed. The study indicates gas giants that are distant and rocky planets that are close to the star are unique. Interestingly the solar abundance pattern would also account for the solar systems astroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
This was an initial study of the twin solar stars and concluded by saying what they achieved indicates the study needs to be taken to the next level and include hundreds of stars. With super computer modeling and an expanded data base it is well within our capabilities to understand why the some 300 plus star/planet systems we currently know of are as they are. We will look at this again when we look at our Milkyway galaxy and the star forming nebulas including that of the Sun and the spectrum graphs from which the elemental abundance data is obtained.
We look next at the two inner planets of Mercury and Venus. There is a considerable amount of on-line information on Mercury and Venus and we make numerous links to that information. We looked at Mars in Part 1 and will not include it here. As for our home planet the Earth we will save it for a concluding review at the end of this Segment 7.
Extreme in more ways than one Mercury is the second most dense planet in the solar system and similar in size and appearance to the Moon. Its orbit around the Sun is the most elliptical of the eight major planets varying from 29 million miles at the inner point to 43 million at the extreme point. With the planet completing an orbit in approximately 88 days it is virtually an iron ball orbiting the Sun at a very rapid pace. Its orbit has been found to be more erratic than previously believed. The elliptical orbit inner and extreme points slowly rotate around the Sun with the extreme point appearing to be increasing in distance in what is called a spinorbit resonance. The reasoning for this may be the influence of Jupiter's gravitational pull in a form of resonances as addressed above. Axial rotation of Mercury is three times for each two orbits around the Sun making Mercury's day longer than its year. A solar day on Mercury lasts about 176 Earth days, twice as long as it's orbital period.
Mercury surface temperature may reach 800 plus degrees F during a solar day and as low as -275 degrees F in craters at the poles. The sunlight on Mercury's surface is 6.5 times as intense as on Earth. Mercury is too small for its gravity to retain any significant atmosphere over long periods of time. It does have an extremely light atmosphere containing hydrogen, helium, oxygen, sodium, calcium and potassium. Unstable these elements are continuously lost and replenished from a variety of sources as the Sun's energy beats on the surface.
The first spacecraft sent to Mercury was Mariner 10 in 1974/75 which took data and images on several flybys. It thus at the time contributed enormously to our understanding of Mercury whose surface had not been successfully resolved by ground based observations previously. The Messenger spacecraft launched in 2004 recently flow past Mercury and is maneuvering to go into orbit around the planet in 2011. MESSENGER has added greatly to our knowledge of Mercury and can be expected to add more in the near future. A couple of surprises already is the discovery of large amounts of water present in the planets high exosphere. Totally unexpected any primeval or late comet arriving water should been expelled from the system by the early or current Sun. Messenger has also provided visual evidence of volcanic activity on the surface of Mercury as well as for a liquid planetary core (see links).
The most prevalent question yet to be asked about Venus.....
'Is Venus typical of a rocky planet of approximate 8,000 miles diameter and mean density of 5.3 g/cm³?'
This question is one which will draw interest in the future as science searches for potential Earth-like life bearing exoplanets. Venus formed under virtually the same circumstances as the Earth in the proto planetary disk. Earth and Venus could be expected to share an abundance of qualities in common. Venus's mass and radius are only 20% and 5% smaller than Earth. Models show both planets would have formed with nearly the same element rations reviewed above and with much thicker atmospheres. Compared to Earth, Venus presents a completely inhospitable environment to life. What caused this marked difference between these two near sister planets? Both probably started out with large oceans of water. While Earth continues to maintain a global temperature that supports a vital stable water cycle, the surface of Venus is bone dry with temperatures near 800 degrees Fahrenheit. Earth's thin atmosphere consists primarily of nitrogen and oxygen; a dense carbon dioxide atmosphere surrounds Venus. A day on Venus is 243 times longer than an Earth day. The Earth has a large moon and Venus has none. The high temperature on Venus is primarily due to a runaway greenhouse effect caused by the heavy atmosphere. Water evaporated from Venus eons ago. Venus' surface is geologically young and appears to have been completely resurfaced approximately 500 million years ago. The surface consists of vast rocky plains covered by lava flows, mountains and highlands formed by geological activity from that time. Sustained heat keeps the surface crust weakened making continued potential volcanism possible. Only large impact craters exist on the surface since only larger meteorites are able to reach the surface through a thick atmosphere. The atmosphere consists of approximately 97% carbon dioxide, 3% nitrogen and trace amounts of other elements and compounds. Surface pressure is approximately 92 bars (92 times that of Earth). No carbon cycle exists as on Earth thus the carbon has no place to go.
Above the dense carbon dioxide layer are thick clouds of sulfur dioxide and sulfuric acid droplets (we know it as battery acid) which rain down to the surface. These clouds reflect about 60% of the sunlight leaving a dim Venusian surface. Strong 300 km/h winds at the cloud tops circle the planet about every four to five earth days.
Venus has a slow retrograde (east-to-west) spin, opposite in direction to that of every other planet in the Solar System. This may be the result of a massive ancient collision. Venus has a listed Axial tilt 177.3° indicating the planet is tilted upside down since the north pole of a planet is used as the reference in a planets tilt. The retrograde spin seems to be the product of the axis tilt value. Obtaining data to affirm this directly would be impossible due to the resurfing of the planet as described above leaving such research to supercomputer modeling.
Research and models on the origin of our Moon provide one explanation. While a precise massive collision reformed the Earth and lead to the formation of the moon, a head-on mega-impact could form Venus. A published paper on such a head-on collision and reviewed suggests such an explanation. Such a collision of two early forming planets would have totally melted and even vaporized. Water released from such a collision would react with iron in such a merged body. Hydrogen produced from these reactions either escapes to space or is pulled into the core. Either way, no hydrogen remains available to form water as Venus cools. Ultraviolet rays would also break remaining water down allowing hydrogen to escape to space. Such a collision could explain why the interior of Venus is dry, the odd rotation of the planet and the carbon dioxide atmosphere.
The first space craft to Venus was Mariner 2 in 1962. It was subsequently visited by many others (more than 20). Others included the Soviet Venera 7 (1970) was first spacecraft to land on another planet, and Venera 9 (1975) returned the first photographs of the surface and Pioneer Venus (1978). The first orbiter, Magellan (1989) produced detailed maps of Venus' surface using radar. ESA's Venus Express (2004) is now in orbit with a large variety of instruments. Mariner 10 (1974) photograph the planet and used it for a gravity assist on its journey to Mercury.
The Soviet Venera program was a series 16 probes to Venus from 1961 through 1983. Although the first missions failed, Venera 7 to 14 landed safely, analyzing the soil and taking the first pictures of Venus's surface. Due to the harsh hostile environment the probes did not last long.
We will hold this information at this point and return to it later when we review the origins and characteristics of the Earth. Which planet is most representative to form the characteristics we might expect to find in extrasolar planets as addressed in the above question? These studies bring together past information with current information until now unavailable.
The following series of pod cast links provide support for the above data and provides extensive additional information. Loading pod cast may require a few minutes.
NEXT: Segment 7 Part 3: The Outer Solar System, The Asteroid Belt and Jupiter