(ORDO NEWS) — The next time you see a full moon, think about this: no one knows exactly where the moon came from in the first place.
“We have no idea where the Moon came from,” admitted science author and popularizer Rebecca Boyle on the Vox Unexplained podcast about big mysteries and unanswered questions. banal. After all, galaxies, nebulae, stars and distant planets are truly intriguing.
It’s true that the answers to the biggest scientific questions lie in the furthest corners of space – how and when the first galaxies formed, what happens inside a black hole, and so on – but no less important questions lurk nearby, in our own solar system.
To explore the solar system with its planets and satellites means to better understand what is possible in principle in the far reaches of space. Everything we learn about our own backyards will help us better understand the universe.
If evidence of ancient life is found, even on a world as hostile as Martian, then we will better understand whether this is possible on other planets. And if we figure out how life died on Venus, then we will figure out how often planets around other stars die.
Answers to the most intricate mysteries of the solar system will help us better understand where we came from, how much we still have to do and what will remain after us. Here are just a few of them.
1- What killed Venus?
“Hellscape” is the best description of Venus, the second planet from the Sun. Its surface temperature is almost 500 degrees – it is the hottest in the solar system. Its atmosphere is almost entirely composed of carbon dioxide, which creates a powerful greenhouse effect.
Clouds of corrosive sulfuric acid hang over a landscape of razor-sharp volcanic rock. The pressure on the surface of Venus is about 92 times greater than on Earth at sea level.
Yet some scientists suspect that Venus was once very similar to Earth, with an ocean of liquid water on its surface much like the one that sustains life on our planet. This raises the question of life on Earth.
“Venus and Earth are sister planets,” says Robin George Andrews, volcanologist and author of Supervolcanoes: What They Tell Us About Earth and Other Worlds.
Of one material, only Venus is horror and a complete apocalypse, and the Earth is, on the contrary, paradise. How did it happen that the existing paradise is adjacent to the lost one?
There are two hypotheses. According to the first, Venus was burned to the ground by the Sun. The second is volcanoes.
2- Where did the moon come from anyway?
Before the moon landing, scientists were sure they knew the answer to this question. According to the theory generally accepted at that time, it was formed in much the same way as the planets: pieces of material left from the Sun merged together.
But then the Apollo astronauts brought samples of lunar soil back to Earth, and those rocks told us a completely different story.
“Geologists have discovered that the moon is covered in a special rock called anorthosite,” says Unexplained senior producer Meradith Hoddinott.
“It’s shiny, bright and reflective, and it’s because of it that the moon sparkles in the night sky. And then it was believed that this breed is formed only in a unique way. from the magma.”
But in that case, the Moon must have formed as a result of a great cataclysm. “Something gave the Moon so much energy that it literally melted,” says Hoddinott. “Scientists don’t know exactly how it all happened. But any of the scenarios is a fiery spectacle of apocalyptic proportions.”
3- Is there any life left in human excrement on the moon?
To save weight before returning from the Moon to Earth, the astronauts of the Apollo mission left their waste there. In total, astronauts left 96 bags of human waste on the moon, and this raises a fascinating astrobiological question.
Human waste – the same feces – are teeming with microbial life. With the moon landing, we have brought terrestrial microbial life to the most extreme conditions. Thus, an unexpected experiment turned out.
Here’s a question he can answer: How sustainable is life in the brutal lunar environment? And, for that matter, if microbes survive on the Moon, will they survive interplanetary or even interstellar travel? If so, then it turns out that life can move from planet to planet on the surface of asteroids or other space debris.
4- Was there an advanced civilization on Earth before the advent of man?
Many scientists have long been asking: is there intelligent life in the bowels of space? But climatologist Gavin Schmidt and astrophysicist Adam Frank have a different question: Did intelligent life exist on Earth? Can we find evidence of an advanced civilization that lived, say, hundreds of millions of years ago and is now buried in the earth’s crust?
This is not a riddle of the solar system in the strict sense of the word, but on a clearly cosmic scale. Essentially, Schmidt and Frank are asking: how likely is it that an intelligent life form on any planet, ours, or in the far reaches of space will leave traces?
And vice versa: if, hundreds of millions of years later, alien explorers land on Earth, will they find traces of people who by that time will no longer exist?
5- Can we prevent an asteroid from colliding with Earth?
Many natural disasters – volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes – are inevitable. Scientists argue only about when exactly this will happen.
While some events are being exacerbated by humanity, others happened long before we even existed. This is a given. But some catastrophes can be completely avoided – for example, the collision of an asteroid or a comet with the Earth.
The catch is, we’ve never tried to knock an asteroid off course before, and we don’t know if that plan will work or not.
To answer this question, NASA launched the Double Asteroid Redirection Program (DART) last year. A solar-powered vehicle the size of a car is moving towards a 160-meter asteroid called Dimorphos.
In the fall, DART will crash into Dimorphos at a speed of 24 thousand kilometers per hour and answer the burning question: will the collision change the asteroid’s orbit?
6- Has there ever been life on Mars?
Today Mars is a desert with no signs of life. But over the years, scientists have found evidence that, in the distant past, Mars may have looked a little more like Earth.
“Mars today is not the same as it was four billion years ago, but there is evidence of a distant past,” says NASA astrobiologist Lindsay Hayes. “We see traces of a huge river delta, and this is a sign not only of flowing water, but of that it flowed for a long time, since deposits appeared.
And where there was water, there could be life. Last year, a new rover landed on Mars, and this is our best chance to answer the question of whether there was ever life on the Red Planet. If the answer is “yes”, it will change our understanding of life in the universe.
7- Is the real ninth planet hiding in the darkness?
In 2006, the International Astronomical Union changed the definition of the planet, and Pluto dropped out of this list. Officially, there are now eight planets in the solar system, not nine.
“But there are indications that there really is something else out there, that a real giant planet lurks far beyond Neptune and is waiting to be finally discovered,” says astronomer Mike Brown.
Astronomers have yet to detect it, but they suspect that it really is there: other objects in the depths of the solar system seem to be affected by its gravity.
Could these clues lead us to the real ninth planet? Not excluded. But it won’t be easy to find it.
“It’s like looking for a tiny black grain of sand on the beach,” says Brown. “It gets lost in a sea of sand. And that’s the problem with Planet Nine.”
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