Rare alignment of five planets will be visible until end of June

Luke 21:25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves”

Important Takeaways:

  • Five planets align perfectly, visible until end of June
  • Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn have lined up in a rare alignment that won’t occur again until 2040, according to AccuWeather.
  • Last occurred in 1864 and won’t occur again for almost 20 years.
  • The alignment is best viewed in the early morning around an hour before sunrise and will remain as is until the end of June.
  • According to Space.com on the mornings of Thursday to Saturday, June 23-25, the waning crescent moon will be located between Mars and Venus, making identifying the planets easier even for people who are not well-versed in astronomy.

Read the original article by clicking here.

Potential sign of alien life detected on inhospitable Venus

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Scientists said on Monday they have detected in the harshly acidic clouds of Venus a gas called phosphine that indicates microbes may inhabit Earth’s inhospitable neighbor, a tantalizing sign of potential life beyond Earth.

The researchers did not discover actual life forms, but noted that on Earth phosphine is produced by bacteria thriving in oxygen-starved environments. The international scientific team first spotted the phosphine using the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii and confirmed it using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) radio telescope in Chile.

“I was very surprised – stunned, in fact,” said astronomer Jane Greaves of Cardiff University in Wales, lead author of the research published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

The existence of extraterrestrial life long has been one of the paramount questions of science. Scientists have used probes and telescopes to seek “biosignatures” – indirect signs of life – on other planets and moons in our solar system and beyond.

“With what we currently know of Venus, the most plausible explanation for phosphine, as fantastical as it might sound, is life,” said Massachusetts Institute of Technology molecular astrophysicist and study co-author Clara Sousa-Silva.

“I should emphasize that life, as an explanation for our discovery, should be, as always, the last resort,” Sousa-Silva added. “This is important because, if it is phosphine, and if it is life, it means that we are not alone. It also means that life itself must be very common, and there must be many other inhabited planets throughout our galaxy.”

Phosphine – a phosphorus atom with three hydrogen atoms attached – is highly toxic to people.

Earth-based telescopes like those used in this research help scientists study the chemistry and other characteristics of celestial objects.

Phosphine was seen at 20 parts-per-billion in the Venusian atmosphere, a trace concentration. Greaves said the researchers examined potential non-biological sources such as volcanism, meteorites, lightning and various types of chemical reactions, but none appeared viable. The research continues to either confirm the presence of life or find an alternative explanation.

Venus is Earth’s closest planetary neighbor. Similar in structure but slightly smaller than Earth, it is the second planet from the sun. Earth is the third. Venus is wrapped in a thick, toxic atmosphere that traps in heat. Surface temperatures reach a scorching 880 degrees Fahrenheit (471 degrees Celsius), hot enough to melt lead.

“I can only speculate on what life might survive on Venus, if indeed it is there. No life would be able to survive on the surface of Venus, because it is completely inhospitable, even for biochemistries completely different from ours,” Sousa-Silva said. “But a long time ago, Venus could have had life on its surface, before a runaway greenhouse effect left the majority of the planet completely uninhabitable.”

THE ACID TEST

Some scientists have suspected that the Venusian high clouds, with mild temperatures around 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius), could harbor aerial microbes that could endure extreme acidity. These clouds are around 90% sulfuric acid. Earth microbes could not survive that acidity.

“If it’s microorganisms, they would have access to some sunlight and water, and maybe live in liquid droplets to stop themselves dehydrating, but they would need some unknown mechanism to protect against corrosion by acid,” Greaves said.

On Earth, microorganisms in “anaerobic” environments – ecosystems that do not rely on oxygen – produce phosphine. These include sewage plants, swamps, rice fields, marshlands, lake sediments and the excrements and intestinal tracts of many animals. Phosphine also arises non-biologically in certain industrial settings.

To produce phosphine, Earth bacteria take up phosphate from minerals or biological material and add hydrogen.

“We have done our very best to explain this discovery without the need for a biological process. With our current knowledge of phosphine, and Venus, and geochemistry, we cannot explain the presence of phosphine in the clouds of Venus. That doesn’t mean it is life. It just means that some exotic process is producing phosphine, and our understanding of Venus needs work,” Clara Sousa-Silva said.

Venus should be hostile to phosphine. Its surface and atmosphere are rich in oxygen compounds that would rapidly react with and destroy phosphine.

“Something must be creating the phosphine on Venus as fast as it is being destroyed,” said study co-author Anita Richards, an astrophysicist associated with the University of Manchester in England.

While previous robotic spacecraft have visited Venus, a new probe may be needed to confirm life.

“Fortunately, Venus is right next door,” Sousa-Silva said. “So we can literally go and check.”

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

Five planets visible in pre-dawn sky for first time in 11 years

Early-morning stargazers will have the rare opportunity to observe five planets at the same time during the next few weeks, according to a recent post on astronomy website EarthSky.org.

EarthSky says it’s the first time in more than 11 years that the five brightest planets — Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn — will simultaneously appear in the sky above Earth.

People had their first chance to catch the five planets before sunrise this morning, according to EarthSky, and the rare sight can be witnessed just before dawn every day through February 20.

The planets can be seen without a telescope or binoculars from anywhere on Earth, the EarthSky post says. Unclear skies could prevent some people from observing the spectacle on certain days.

Venus, Jupiter To Provide “Best Backyard Sky Show”

Astronomers around the world are preparing for a major galactic event tonight, when Venus and Jupiter will cross paths in the night sky.

“To the eye they’ll look like a double star,” Sky & Telescope editor Kelly Beatty said on the magazine’s website.

Some of the astronomers say that the convergence of the two planets is so bright and noticeable that it could have been the “star of Bethlehem” that is mentioned in the Bible.  The planets will be a “jaw-dropping one-third of a degree apart” according to NASA.

“You’ll be able to hide the pair not just behind the palm of your outstretched hand, but behind your little pinky finger,” NASA says.

NASA says the convergence of the planets takes place about every 13 months.  However, it’s rare that the planets will come so close together in the night sky.  The next time the planets will be this close will be November 2065 when they will appear to cross paths.