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Wednesday 4 February 2015

Secrets on the Moon, fluff in space, and ESA's new spaceplane.

The Fates seems to approve of my lunar theme for this week, - a new paper has been released, detailing how there should be clues, to how life on Earth began, preserved beneath lava flows on the Moon.
I was going to put a picture of three classical fates here, but all the pictures I found were terrifying, dull, or... rude. So here're three kittens instead.
We already know of ways the Moon can help uncover the origins of life: There’re organic chemicals which have been frozen at the poles for billions of years (which haven't chemically evolved with time and give us a snapshot of the solar systems starting point for life's chemistry), there are rocks from Earths most ancient times littering every square kilometre of the lunar surface  (they have no counterparts left on Earth).
Above: What lies beneath those rocks? Courtesy of NASA.
But this is new: When the Earth and Moon were young, meteorites carrying organic materials were bombarding both worlds - and that organic chemistry added to the development of life. If we could find them it would be a pointer to how complex that organic chemistry that was, and how many chemical steps life could have gotten from these meteorites. On Earth this is impossible – those original meteorites are long gone, recycled by weather and tectonic processes. But a new paper has shown that lava flows on the Moon might actually have preserved these meteorites, intact, for billions of years. Any time we examine a meteorite we are always a little unsure – did it get contaminated on landing with Earth, did it’s parent body have processes that changed its composition later in time, and where into solar system history does it fit? Rocks found between lava layers on the Moon would be pristine, dated by being preserved between lava flows, and (according to the paper) only slightly singed.

Elsewhere in the universe, comet 67P is developing fractures, through which new geysers are escaping:
Above: The comets breaks open, and a new jet emerges...
6P also has tiny mini moons going around it – over three hundred according to the Rosetta team! Each is only 2 meters across, or less according to the Rosetta team:
Assuming a mean albedo of 5%, we get a diameter range from 0.2 to 2 m for grains at the outermost limit of the grain cloud (at about 600 km from the spacecraft; the size of 2 m is a crude upper limit: it assumes that the brightest grains are also the farthest); and from 4 to 40 cm for grains at 130 km from the spacecraft.

Supplementary materials.

ESA's new spaceplane design gets  set for its first taste of space:
They've made a video to explain why, so I'll hand you over to them.....

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