Posts Tagged ‘Exogeology’

Why is Olympus Mons so big?

Posted by admin on 19th October 2015 in Exogeology, Main Page

Here is a quick 2:30 video of me explaining the difference between Earth volcanoes and Mars volcanoes.

More like Earth than Ever: Kepler-452b

Posted by Zoe on 2nd August 2015 in Exogeology, Main Page

Are there any other Earths out there? Is there another planet like ours, maybe one where we could live? One goal in the search for exoplanets, planets orbiting stars other than our own sun, is to find Earth-like planets. NASA’s Kepler mission just found the closest match yet!

This planet is called Kepler-452b. It’s not exactly a catchy name, but it’s informative: the name tells us the planet was found by the Kepler mission, and gives a number to the star system and a letter to each object. This planet got the letter “b” because it’s the second object found in the system, after the star.

What does it mean to say Kepler-452b is the closest match found to Earth? It’s fairly close in size to Earth, its sun is a similar star to ours, and it’s in what we call the habitable zone.

Artist's concept of newly-discovered exoplanet Kepler-452b. Image Credits: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle

Artist’s concept of newly-discovered exoplanet Kepler-452b. Image Credits: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle

A planet in its star’s habitable zone? We’ve found a few, but that’s still pretty cool—or rather, just the right amount cool for liquid water to potentially exist on the planet. This is the definition of the habitable zone. Without liquid water, we wouldn’t find a planet habitable, and in order to have liquid water, a planet would need to be warm enough for water not to freeze and cold enough for water not to boil. The temperature on the surface of a planet depends largely on its distance from its sun. The closer they are, the warmer the planet is. However, being not too close to and not too far from its star doesn’t tell you everything about a planet. It could be large or small, and made of all sorts of different materials. It could be dense and rocky like Earth or Mercury, or it could be fluffy and gaseous like Jupiter or Neptune.

So, being in the habitable zone isn’t enough to make a planet habitable. It would be hard to live on a planet without a surface you could stand on, so if you’re looking for a new planet to inhabit, pick out a rockier one. The size of the planet would also make a difference. The smaller a planet is, or even a moon for that matter, the harder it is to hold on to an atmosphere. Less mass means less gravity, which means less pull on the gases which make up an atmosphere. Gas particles can fly away over time until there are hardly any left. More mass means more pull, so it’s harder for particles to escape. So, more massive planets are more likely to have a thick atmosphere.

What about Kepler-452b? Where does this recent discovery fit in? It’s 60% larger than Earth in diameter, which is actually pretty close in size. For comparison, Kepler-452b is about 1.6 times the diameter of Earth, and Earth is about 1.9 times the diameter of Mars. Kepler-452b is considered a super-Earth in size. That’s what we call planets near in size to Earth, but on the large side.

While we know all this about Kepler-452b, there is also a lot we don’t know. We don’t know exactly what it looks like. We don’t know how close it is to actually being habitable. We certainly don’t know its whole story—yet. As technology improves, telescopes get better, and we think up cleverer ways to learn more about far-off places, we keep finding out more and more about distant worlds like this one.

Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 12

Posted by Zoe on 29th November 2014 in Main Page

In this episode, we meet Dr. Dante Lauretta, Professor of Planetary Science at the University of Arizona and Principal Investigator for the OSIRIS-REx mission.

I’ve talked about the OSIRIS-REx mission before, and it’s one of the coolest things going on in exogeology: they’re going to send a spacecraft to an asteroid and bring back a piece. Wonder what it’s like to be in charge of all of that? Watch the video below to find out!

For more information, check out the OSIRIS-REx website, Xtronaut’s website, and the 321Science! videos.

Hang On, Philae!

Posted by Zoe on 12th November 2014 in Exogeology, Main Page

Could you land on a comet? Normally, the force of gravity holds a lander to the surface of a larger body, like a planet or a moon. The less mass an object has, the less gravity pulls you toward it. Comets are small. Gravity won’t do you a lot of good, so you would need to hang on tight.

That’s what Philae is doing. The European Space Agency (ESA) sent a spacecraft named Rosetta to Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, and Rosetta carried a dishwasher-sized probe called Philae, which was to land on the comet. The comet is about the size of a mountain, which may seem big, but think how small a mountain is in comparison to a planet! The Philae lander had to come equipped with screws in its feet and harpoons to grasp the surface.

Philae detached from Rosetta early this morning (09:03 GMT, 02:03 Arizona time) and began its descent. Curiosity had seven minutes of terror landing on Mars, but Philae took seven hours from separation to landing. At 16:03 GMT, ESA heard from the little lander. Philae had successfully touched down! But remember those harpoons? They didn’t work. Philae is clinging on by the screws in its feet, but it’s there.

Philae's view of the comet. Courtesy ESA.

Philae’s view of the comet. Courtesy ESA.

Philae will photograph and analyze the comet for the next two and a half days. If it gets enough sunlight for power, it can keep going for an “extended phase” lasting until March 2015—four whole months of comet science! After that, the comet will be closer to the sun and Philae will probably be too hot to work. Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko will also heat up as it gets closer to the sun, so we might be able to see it active, with ices sublimating (turning from solid to gas) and creating the tails of gas and dust comets are famous for. Maybe the most exciting reasons to study a comet up close are that we get to see way, way back in history, and we get to learn about the far, far off outer solar system. Here’s wishing Philae just the right amount of sun.

Is landing on a comet even possible? Yes, but it’s tricky. Hang on tight, Philae!

More information:

Rosetta main website

Rosetta blog

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Timeline, instruments, and and landing details from Emily Lakdawalla

Bad Astronomy’s coverage, part one and part two

NPR story

ESA’s photographs


Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 11

Posted by Zoe on 2nd July 2014 in Exogeology, Main Page

In this episode of Exogeology ROCKS! I get to answer a few viewer questions:
How are planets made?
Are there gemstones on other planets?
Where is the closest black hole?

Good questions! Here are my best answers.

Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 10

Posted by Zoe on 19th June 2013 in Exogeology, Main Page

In Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 10, we talk with Dr. Rosaly Lopes, a planetary scientist at JPL. She tells us all about volcanoes on Io, cryovolcanism on icy moons like Enceladus, and her travels to Earth volcanoes. I liked hearing about how you should do what you love, and how as a scientist, you always have to keep learning. Her story about catching a gigantic volcanic eruption on Io during the Galileo mission is really interesting. Watch it all here:

Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 7

Posted by Zoe on 22nd May 2013 in Exogeology, Main Page

In Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 7, host Zoe Bentley meets astrobiologist Dr. Britney Schmidt, who talks to us about her travels in Antarctica, why ice is fascinating, and how all of that relates to Europa. Can life survive under an ice sheet? What funny things happened in Antarctica? Find out all of this in the latest episode of Exogeology ROCKS!

Speech on Why Exogeology ROCKS!

Posted by Zoe on 28th July 2012 in Main Page

You’ve heard that exogeology rocks, but just what is exogeology? Why does it rock?

I recently gave a speech on just that: Why Exogeology ROCKS!

Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 5

Posted by Zoe on 15th April 2012 in Main Page

I’m pleased to announce the fifth episode of Exogeology ROCKS! In this episode, we hear from Professor Geoff Marcy, Professor of Astrophysics at University of California, Berkeley. Professor Marcy tells us about the search for exoplanets—planets which orbit around other stars.

How are exoplanets found? Are there other Earth-like planets? Could there be aliens on them? Find out the answers to these questions and more in Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 5.

You can watch the previous four episodes here.

Meeting Michio Kaku

Posted by Zoe on 29th February 2012 in Main Page

During one of my television interviews last year, I was asked who some famous people I would like to meet are. I listed off several scientists and novelists I admire including J. K. Rowling, Brian Greene, Michio Kaku, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Diane Duane. If I ever got the chance to see any of these people in person, I would be thrilled.

When I heard that Michio Kaku was going to give a talk in Berkeley, which is relatively near where I am currently, I knew I had to go. Last Thursday, February 23rd, I drove to Berkeley with my dad to hear about the Physics of the Future.

According to his website, “Dr. Michio Kaku is a theoretical physicist, best-selling author, and popularizer of science. He’s the co-founder of string field theory (a branch of string theory), and continues Einstein’s search to unite the four fundamental forces of nature into one unified theory.”

After a somewhat lengthy introduction along those lines, Michio Kaku took the stage with a joke. “That was a great introduction. I’d love to hear the speaker!” He kept up the humor for the entire talk, which I found very entertaining and impressive.

I’ve been learning a lot about what makes a good speaker lately as I improve my own speaking skills. Repeating important points, using humor, customizing for your audience, using visual aids and avoiding filler words are all important for a speaker. Michio Kaku demonstrated all of this and more.

Following the theme of his latest book, Physics of the Future, he discussed technology which may become commonplace in the near future. What will the world be like in the year 2100? A few of the many subjects discussed include: nuclear power, computers in contact lenses, biotechnology, and Moore’s Law.

In the near future, we could have computers as thin and as cheap as paper. We could talk to our wallpaper computers and access the Internet at literally the blink of an eye.

While answering questions from the audience, he mentioned types of civilizations—planet-hopping Type I civilizations, Type II civilizations capable of building Dyson spheres, and the galactic scale Type III civilizations—and how a kid had once told him he was wrong. “No, mister,” the kid had said, “there are four types! What about the power of the continuum?”

He asked the audience, “If there are any Star Trek fans out there, can you think of a Type IV civilization who uses the power of the continuum?”

There were a few mutters and some laughter, and being a Trekkie, I knew the answer. I shouted, “Q!”

A few audience members looked back to see who had shouted, but I wasn’t paying much attention. I was giddy from having correctly answered a question asked by a brilliant scientist I happen to be a huge fan of.

I stayed afterwards for the book signing. I had brought Hyperspace with me to be signed, plus a camera and my business cards. I was both excited and nervous as I waited in line.

Finally, it was my turn. I handed over my book to be signed and luckily remembered everything I wanted to say. I asked for a picture, explained that I have a website about science and wrote a book, and gave business cards for both of those. It’s not often that you give your business card to one of your heroes!

Physics of the Future was for sale nearby, so I bought it and got right back in line to have it signed. My dad and I were two of the very last people to stick around and we had time to ask a couple questions. I asked about how much say he had in the material on his television show, Sci Fi Science. The answer was that the first twelve episodes basically followed the table of contents of Physics of the Impossible, while the second dozen episodes were about the science behind various science fiction movies.

Overall, this was a great experience for me. I learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed the presentation, I came home with two signed books, and I interacted with one of the top people I’ve wanted to meet.

Who would you most like to meet, and what would you ask them?

Curiosity Launches Today

Posted by Petra on 26th November 2011 in Main Page, Petra's Blog

Hello, Petra Stone here with news about the Mars Science Laboratory, better known as Curiosity or the MSL. Today, this new rover finally launches on its journey to Mars.

Image from NASA

It’s been over eight years now since the last Mars rover launch, Opportunity’s in 2003. Now, Curiosity will set off on a mission to determine if life could have ever arisen on Mars, characterize the climate of Mars, characterize the geology of Mars, and prepare for human exploration. Those are the four main goals, but this newest and largest rover has eight more specific scientific objectives. There’s a lot in store for the MSL!

JPL cleanroom where Curiosity was built. Image credit Zoe Bentley.

Curiosity’s equipment ROCKS! It’s taking a drill, several cameras for steering and gathering data, a robotic arm, and even a tool called SAM with a laser in it which vaporizes rocks. No, I’m not kidding. The MSL is also powered by plutonium. This means dust buildups won’t keep Curiosity from getting the energy to explore. Even the way it lands is pretty cool. I can’t wait until Curiosity reaches Gale Crater in August next year.

Curiosity is scheduled to launch today at 10:02 EST from Cape Canaveral on board an Atlas V rocket. I can’t wait for this ROCKIN’ rover to get on its way!

Check out these webpages to learn more about Curiosity:
The Mars Science Laboratory’s website
NASA’s MSL Mission Page
Watch Curiosity Launch Live!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by Zoe on 24th November 2011 in Main Page

Happy Thanksgiving from Exogeology ROCKS!

What am I thankful for?

I’m thankful for my family and friends of course. My family has always helped me reach my goals and been there for me, and so much more. I’m thankful for my friends, too, all for different reasons.

I’m also thankful for the people who discover more and more about the world, the solar system, and the universe. There’s so much to see and learn about everything, everywhere, and I’m thankful that I can keep learning about everything possible all the time.

That’s one reason why I started Exogeology ROCKS! and Zoe’s Geo Party!—so I can tell other people about things I learn about exogeology and everything else.

I’m also thankful for good food, well written fiction, and amazing places.

What are you thankful for?

-Zoë Bentley

Mars Rover Landing Site

Posted by Petra on 29th July 2011 in Exogeology, Petra's Blog

The newest Mars rover, Curiosity (also known as the Mars Science Laboratory) has a landing site picked out: Gale crater, measuring about 150 kilometers across (93 miles) and at least 3.5 billion years old. The crater was chosen out of a hundred locations on Mars, which were gradually narrowed down, and the final choice was announced on July 22. Imagine how hard it would be to choose just one place out of one hundred to explore!

So, what is Gale crater like? There is a mountain made of layers of debris in the middle of the crater, probably made of sediment from the bottom of a lakebed or dust and volcanic ash blown by the wind. Erosion in the crater gives the rover access to the different layers. When Curiosity gets there, we’ll find out a whole lot more.

Are you curious to know when Curiosity will get to Mars? It’s currently scheduled to launch this November or December and land on the red planet in August of next year.

I can’t wait to see what Curiosity finds. You know how excited I get about exploring Mars. The Mars Science Laboratory ROCKS!

Here’s more information on Gale and Curiosity.

-Petra Stone

MESSENGER Orbits Mercury

Posted by Petra on 18th March 2011 in Exogeology, Petra's Blog

MESSENGER was inserted into orbit around Mercury yesterday, March 17th. Launched on August 13th, 2004, MESSENGER has been in interplanetary flight for over six and a half years! I bet that after this long waiting, the MESSENGER team is thrilled to finally be in orbit. As for me, I think visiting Mercury ROCKS!

MESSENGER is a NASA Mercury orbiter. It’s name is an acronym for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging. One of its goals is to learn about the topography of Mercury’s surface, and another is to find out the composition of its atmosphere.

On its way to Mercury, MESSENGER has had one Earth flyby, two Venus flybys, and three Mercury flybys. In one of these Mercury flybys, volcanism on the surface and water in the exosphere were discovered. Also on the way to Mercury, MESSENGER took this ROCKIN’ “family portrait” of our Solar System:

There’s a lot about Mercury we’ve found because of MESSENGER. For example, could you imagine seeing a whole side of a planet which you’ve never seen before? MESSENGER gave us just that in this picture:

The instruments on board will be turned on and checked on the 23rd of March, and on the 4th of April the mission’s primary science phase begins. I look forward to seeing what new discoveries are made about our amazing innermost planet!

Exogeology ROCKS!

-Petra Stone

Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 3

Posted by Zoe on 20th September 2010 in Main Page

Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 3 is now complete. Woo hoo! That’s three episodes of my Exogeology ROCKS! series done. Episode 3 features an interview with Pan Conrad, a NASA astrobiologist at JPL.

You can watch Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 3 on YouTube. It’s in two parts, so make sure to watch both part one and part two. Episode 3 will soon be up on Exogeology ROCKS! in the Meet Real Exogeologists section.

If you haven’t seen the first two yet, you can watch them here on my website, as well as a bonus track for Episode 1.

Blogging for NASA!

Posted by Zoe on 22nd August 2010 in Main Page

During my visit to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in June, I was asked to write two articles to put on the JPL website: one about how I got interested in exogeology, another about my visit to JPL. This article was also posted on the main NASA website in the “For Students” section. It ROCKED to see something I wrote on the NASA website!

You can read about how I became interested in exogeology here on the JPL website and here on the NASA website.

My second article will be up soon.

Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 2

Posted by Zoe on 5th August 2010 in Main Page

Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 2 is finally finished! This is the second episode of my Exogeology ROCKS! series. In Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 2, I interview Joy Crisp, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It sure ROCKED going to JPL and meeting a real exogeologist!

You can see Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 2 here on my website, in the Exogeology ROCKS! Episodes/ Meet Real Exogeologists section.

Parts one and two also on YouTube. You can see part one here and part two here.

Don’t forget to watch Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 1 and its bonus track!

Keep checking up on Exogeology ROCKS! and be on the lookout for Episode 3. I’m Zoë Bentley and Exogeology ROCKS!

Welcome to the New Exogeology ROCKS! Website

Posted by Zoe on 28th June 2010 in Main Page

Welcome to the new website for Exogeology ROCKS!

Exogeology ROCKS! is all about exogeology, or geology on other planets. You can see the old website here, but this website has all the same information, and more! Exogeology ROCKS! was created for the NASA/USA Today “No Boundaries” contest, and won second place. I decided to continue my Exogeology ROCKS! project since it was so much fun and I plan to become an exogeologist. Since winning entries can’t be changed after the contest ends, I’ve transferred all my information over onto this website.

I’ll be updating the site with new blog posts, videos, games, and more new content. So keep visiting!

You can also become a fan of Exogeology ROCKS! on Facebook and follow Exogeology ROCKS! on Twitter.


Posted by Zoe on 15th April 2010 in Main Page

I finally finished the Exogeology ROCKS! website! Look around! Everything’s up and running. Let’s go over all that I have so you don’t miss a thing:

Good question! This page explains the basic concept of exogeology. Look at it first, so you can better understand the rest of the site.

What is the Exogeology ROCKS! website all about? I’ve explained here why I made the website, what there is to do on it, and a bit about myself.

This is the best part! :) I made a 20 minute episode of Exogeology ROCKS!, and a 3 minute bonus track on Pluto. Don’t miss either one! Episode One of Exogeology ROCKS! features an interview with a planetary astronomer, Dr. Larry Lebofsky from Tucson, Arizona, and was made to show that exogeology really does ROCK!

After watching Exogeology ROCKS!, I bet you’ll want to know how to become an exogeologist yourself. I’ve created this page to show you how to do just that.

Want to know more about what life is like for a real exogeologist? Read Petra’s Blog, a blog written by me as the fictional exogeologist Petra Stone. Petra writes about her favorite experiences in exogeology, and exogeology in general. There are tons of posts with lots of information, so go to Petra’s Blog and start reading!

Play a crossword puzzle, search in a crossword puzzle, and solve online jigsaw puzzles in this fun category.

There are a wide variety of things you’ll see on the job as an exogeologist. Each set of photographs in the gallery shows you some of those, along with a short description about what you see. Have fun looking around, because these photos ROCK!

Have you read everything on Exogeology ROCKS! and you want to find out more? Here are some great links to get you started.

If you have any suggestions about how to improve my site, add more info, or make it more fun, use the “Contact Me” form to send me your reviews.

You can get to any of these pages from the sidebar on the right hand side of the page. I’ve put a lot of effort into this, so don’t miss out! There are lots of rockin’ things to do!

Until next time, I’m Zoë Bentley, and Exogeology ROCKS!

Exogeology ROCKS! Movie

Posted by Zoe on 14th April 2010 in Main Page

My movie, Exogeology ROCKS!, is here!

Click on Exogeology ROCKS! Episodes/ Meet Real Exogeologists on the sidebar. Exogeology ROCKS! is a video I made about what exogeology is, and an interview with a real exogeologist. I hope it helps you see that exogeology really does ROCK! I filmed, hosted, interviewed, and edited the whole 20 minute movie. It was hard, but really fun. See what you think of it!

Don’t forget the bonus track on Pluto!

Until next time, I’m Zoë Bentley, and Exogeology ROCKS!