Astronomical Neighbours: Mercury


Image by NASA.

Mercury is named for the Roman deity who was the speedy messenger for the Roman gods. The name was inspired by the fact that planet Mercury changes its position in the sky faster than any planet in the Solar System. Mercury is difficult to observe from Earth because it orbits the Sun at just 0.39 AU and usually lies in the Sun’s glare. It is considered to be the smallest of the eight planets, with a radius about 1/3 of Earth and a mass of 18 times smaller –not pretty much bigger than the Moon. It has been visited by two space probes, Mariner 10 in 1974-75 and Messenger, which began a long term rendezvous in 2008. Before Messenger arrived, less than half of Mercury’s surface had been seen. Images seen by the former spacecraft show that although Mercury’s surface resembles the Moon in many ways, there are hints of unique geological processes on this airless planet.

At first glance, Mercury’s landscape is difficult to distinguish from the Moon’s; but careful examinations reveal differences. First, Mercury’s impact craters generally overlap less than the Moon’s do in lunar highlands. In addition, the crater walls tend to be less steep, most likely because its surface gravity is more than twice as strong as the Moon’s, making steep hills less stable on Mercury. Congealed lava flows flood not only many of its old craters but much of its surface. Finally, the lava flows do not appear as dark as the lunar maria, and probably have a different composition from the Moon’s basalt. Also, Mercury’s surface contains some features quite different from the Moon’s. Enormous “Scarps” –cliffs formed where the crust has shifted –covers its surface. Some run for hundreds of kilometers and range up to 3 kilometers high. In addition to the large lava flows, there are also indications of volcanic activity dating after most of the craters formed. Several locations features have been found that appear to be volcanic vents that have expelled material that coats the surrounding area.

By far, the largest of the impact features on the planet is the vast “Caloris Basin” (a mountain-ringed depression), only the edge of which was seen by Mariner 10. Astronomers have waited more than three decades to see the rest of this Basin, which has now been detailed by Messenger. Also, the latter’s imaging system detected subtle color differences between different portions of Mercury’s surface. Lava flows in Caloris Basin appear orange, old impact craters dark blue, and young ones white. Near the center of Caloris Basin is an unusual an poorly understood feature, a spider-shaped of troughs radiating away from a small crater. The Caloris impact had global effects on Mercury. On the side of the planet opposite the Caloris Basin, the terrain has a hilly, jumbled appearance.

Mercury’s surface is one of the hottest places in the Solar System, and it undergoes some of the most extreme changes of temperature. At its equator, noon temperatures can reach about 710 K (about 820 F). Nighttime temperatures are among the coldest, dropping about 80 K (about -320 F). This is due to its closeness to the Sun, and its lack of atmosphere. It gets colder because its orbit takes it away about 50% from the Sun (43 million miles). However, based on affected radar waves, an existence of ice on the planet have been reflected (in perpetual shadows within craters near the planet’s poles). A discovery that is surely surprising.



  • Works were heavily cited from: “Pathways of Astronomy”, 4th By, Stephen E. Schneider & Thomas T. Arny.

Astronomical Neighbours: Uranus & Neptune


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Uranus and Neptune are almost twins. Both are significantly smaller than Jupiter and Saturn, but they are still giant planets with masses of 15 and 17 Earth masses, respectively, and radii about four times the Earth’s. Despite their similarities, the two planets exhibit some differences, many of which are not fully understood. Both also have complex systems of rings and moons like Jupiter and Saturn.

To be distinguished for gas giants, astronomers call Uranus and Neptune “ice giants”. Ice does not describe their composition since their cores are probably as hot as Earth’s, but it may describe a difference on how they formed. The two planets contain high percentages of water and other molecules that suggest they were built primarily by accumulating icy planetesimals. Uranus is sometimes just barely visible to naked eye.

Uranus and Neptune have atmospheres rich in hydrogen and helium. Their atmospheres contain large amount of methane about 2% by volume. It is methane that gives these planets their blue color. When sunlight enters the atmosphere, methane absorbs the incoming red and orange light. The remaining light, now mostly blue and green, reflects off clouds deeper down and is scattered by a haze of frozen methane particles in the upper atmosphere as travels back into space. A haze of crystals of frozen methane is present in Uranus’ and Neptune’s atmospheres because their outer atmospheres are substantially cooler than Saturn’s or Jupiter’s. Uranus and Neptune are about 19 and 30 AU from the Sun, respectively. The temperature of Uranus is about 80 K (about -320 F), and about 75 K (about -330 F) for Neptune. Uranus has about an average density of 1.3 kilograms per liter. However, Neptune’s density is even greater, at about 1.6 kilograms per liter. Given their smaller masses, the two planets compress the matter in their interiors to a lesser degree, and astronomers therefore deduce that both must contain proportionally fewer light elements, such as hydrogen, than Jupiter and Saturn.

The masses of both planets do not produce the extremely large pressures needed to liquefy hydrogen like the gas giants. The best model for their density and atmospheric composition is that they contain a relatively high amount of ordinary water mixed with methane and ammonia surrounding a core of rock and iron-rich material. Even though this water is very hot, it is not gaseous because of the large pressure exerted by the atmosphere.

Like the two gas giants, Uranus and Neptune radiate more energy than they receive from the Sun, but unlike the other three, Uranus emits only a few percent more. The limited information about Uranus’ gravitational field suggests that its material may not be as differentiated as that of the other gas giants, and may contain relatively less rock and iron.


  • Works were heavily cited from: “Pathways of Astronomy”, 4th By, Stephen E. Schneider & Thomas T. Arny.

Astronomical Neighbours: Jupiter & Saturn


Image by NASA.

Jupiter is more as twice as massive as all the smaller bodies in the Solar System combined (including Saturn). And Saturn is likewise more than twice as massive as everything smaller. Astronomers have developed models of both planets that indicate these two giants have similar internal structures, and share many other characteristics even though Saturn is less than 1/3 as massive. Neither the two planets have a solid surface, but their massive atmospheres dwarf the Earth. They also become progressively hotter and denser deep in their interiors, with cores of molten rock and iron. They both have formed extensive satellite systems with remarkable moons.

Jupiter is at a distance of about 5 AU from the Sun. it has a diameter about 11 times the Earth’s and a mass more than 300 times the Earth’s. Saturn is almost twice as far from the Sun (9.5 AU) and just slightly smaller than Jupiter, with 9.5 times Earth’s diameter and about 100 times its mass.

Jupiter is named after the Roman’s king of the gods. From Earth’s perspective, Venus gets brighter than Jupiter at its brightest; but Venus sometimes becomes dimmer than Jupiter’s dimmest appearance. While Saturn, bears the name of the Roman god of agriculture.

Through a small telescope, Jupiter displays parallel bands of clouds ringing it. Dark belts alternate with light-colored zones. Spectra reflected back through Jupiter’s atmosphere show that almost 90% of the molecules are hydrogen, and 10% are helium, and there are only traces of other hydrogen-rich gases such as methane, ammonia, and water. The solid particles and droplets that make up the clouds themselves are harder to analyze, but computer calculations of the chemistry of Jupiter’s atmosphere suggest that they are made of water, ice, and ammonia compounds. The bright colors in Jupiter’s belts are probably produced by complex organic molecules. Saturn also shows bands of color, but the variations are much more subtle. Spectral analysis of Saturn’s atmosphere shows that it is more dominated by hydrogen, which makes up about 96% of the molecules of its atmosphere. Helium again makes up most of the remainder, with small traces hydrogen-rich compounds.

Part of the differences in appearance between the two planets may be caused by their different temperatures. At its distance from the Sun, Jupiter’s outer atmosphere is warmed to about 160 K (about -170 F). While Saturn’s greater distance results in a lower temperature of about 130 K (about -230 F). Saturn is cold enough for ammonia gas to condense into cloud particles that veil its atmosphere’s deeper layers. This makes markings in lower layers indistinct.


  • Works were heavily cited from: “Pathways of Astronomy”, 4th By, Stephen E. Schneider & Thomas T. Arny.

Astronomical Neighbours: Mars


Image by NASA.

Mars is named for the Roman god of war, presumably for its “blood red” color. Mars seems positively Earth-like. Although its diameter is about half of Earth’s, and its mass is about 1/10 Earth’s, its surface and atmosphere are less alien. Mars is colder than Earth because it orbits 1.52 AU from the Sun; but on a warm day, the temperature at its equator may rise to about 283 K (about 10 C or 50 F). It also rotates with a period similar to Earth’s, with day just 40 mins longer. In addition, it experiences seasonal changes like Earth’s during its own year of 1.88 Earth years.

Mars possess some major features. Thanks to spacecraft and landers, there is a variety of indirect evidence that Mars’ interior is differentiated, like Earth’s, into a crust, mantle, and iron core. After measurements to its magnetic field and internal structure of its gravitational field, it is implied that Mars has a metallic core with about half the overall radius of the planet. However, its iron core appears to have a significant fracture of sulfur –which helps explain why its overall density is lower. Spacecraft have also detected the magnetization of ancient volcanic flows, indicating that Mars’ core generated a much stronger magnetic field it was young.

Other distinctive features, most remarkable ones, are concentrated on the highest regions of the planet. One called the “Tharsis Bulge”. It spans the equator and is about the size of North America. The second feature is a huge chasm called “Valles Marineris”, whose western end lies near the center of the Tharsis Bulge. The third feature is a huge volcano called “Olympus Mons”, which is at the edge of the bulge. It rises to nearly three times the Earth’s highest peaks (some 15 miles), making it the biggest volcano in the Solar System.

Mars retains an atmosphere, and winds sweep its surface. This produces immense deserts, at midlatitudes, with dunes blown into parallel ridges. The dust has been blown into a thin layer all over the planet, and its iron oxide content gives Mars it distinctive rusty red color. Also, in its poles, Mars has frozen polar caps. They change in size during the cycle of the Martian seasons. Although the tilt of the planet’s rotation axis is similar to Earth’s, the Martian seasons are more extreme due to its atmosphere is much less dense. However, its northern hemisphere seasons are less extreme because the planet is farther from the Sun in summer and closer in winter.



  • Works were heavily cited from: “Pathways of Astronomy”, 4th By, Stephen E. Schneider & Thomas T. Arny.

Astronomical Neighbours: Venus


Image from Wikipedia.

It is named for the Roman goddess of beauty and love. Perhaps it was named that way due to Venus’ beautiful appearance. We can only see from Earth close to sunrise or sunset it has a smaller orbit (at about 0.72 AU). It is most like Earth diameter, mass, and density. This implies that its interior is similar to Earth’s as well –an iron core and a rocky mantle.

The atmosphere of Venus is about 100 times more massive than Earth’s. it also differs greatly in composition, consisting mostly of 96.5% of carbon dioxide, whereas Earth’s atmosphere consists primarily of nitrogen. Gases in Venus’ atmosphere absorb some of the sunlight falling on the planet and create absorption lines that reveal the composition and density of the gas. Also, Venus contains about 3.5% of nitrogen in its atmosphere, and trace amounts of water vapor and other gasses. Instruments aboard the Venus Express satellite reveal that planet has lightning storms but no rain. Spectra reveal that Venusian clouds are composed of sulfuric acid droplets that form when sulfur compounds –perhaps ejected from volcanos –combine with the traces of water in the atmosphere. These clouds cover the planet and are very high and thick. However, beneath them, the atmosphere is relatively clear, and some sunlight penetrates the surface. The light is tinged orange because the blue wavelengths are absorbed in the thick cloud layer.

In Venus’ upper atmosphere, wind speeds can exceed 210 mph, but near the surface, winds move much more slowly, just a few miles per hour. The motion of the atmosphere is driven by the Sun’s heating the near the equator, which causes the gas to expand most there. Its upper layers then flow toward the cooler polar regions, where they sink and flow back toward the equatorial regions. This produces a huge vortex near each pole. On Venus’ surface, the atmosphere exerts a pressure roughly 90 times that of Earth’s. Its atmosphere is also extremely hot (more than 750 K [about 900 F]). However, the dense atmosphere allows the surface temperature to cool by only a few degrees at night.



  • Works were heavily cited from: “Pathways of Astronomy”, 4th By, Stephen E. Schneider & Thomas T. Arny.

Astronomical Neighbours: Moon


Image by NASA.

Our Moon is a barren ball of rock, possessing no air, water, or life. It is our nearest neighbor in space, a natural satellite orbiting the Earth. Also, it is the frontier for human exploration, an outpost which was reached in 1969 but from which we have since been drawn back. The Moon is so large that it would be regarded as a planet if it orbits the Sun separately from Earth. So it is considered to be the smallest of the terrestrial planets, making it interesting to compare with the largest of the terrestrial planets, Earth.

In regards to Moon’s origins, perhaps sample brought back by astronauts would help to explain on how it was formed. When the Apollo mission retrieved the rocks, they were analyzed. Astronomers were surprised that some elements of the rocks’ composition were same as Earth’s, but for others they were different. For example, Moon rocks have an abundance of high-melting-point materials such as uranium and a deficit of low-melting-point materials such as lead. Also, the Moon has much less iron than Earth, which is evident from its low density of 3.3 kilometers per liter. Thus the Moon’s composition is quite puzzling. It is rich of high-melting-point materials as if it is formed at a higher temperature than Earth. However, since it has deficits of iron, this hints that it has formed in much cooler region than Earth’s. A new hypothesis emerged, explaining that the Moon formed from debris blasted out of Earth by an impact of an object similar to Mars in size. This event would had have to occur to the Earth’s own formation (about 4.5 billion years ago) in order to explain the great age of some Moon rocks.

The Moon’s surface reveals a remarkable history. Devoured of wind or water, we can see features that date back to when its crust first cooled. Although its surface is grey and not colored like Earth, the Moon preserves a record of spectacular events, some dating back shortly after the Solar System formed. With just our eyes, we could see the Moon’s dark and light areas of it surface. It is revealed that the dark areas (the Maria) are smooth, while light ones (the Highlands) are rough. Both areas differ in brightness because they are composed of different rock types. The maria are basalt, a dark, congealed lava rich in iron, magnesium, and titanium silicates. While the highlands are rich in calcium and aluminum based on rock sample collected previously. The highlands are also more rugged being pitted with large numbers of circular features called “Craters”. They are so abundant that they often overlap. The maria also has craters, but there are well separated. These craters are made by impacts of solid bodies striking the Moon’s surface.


    • Works were heavily cited from: “Pathways of Astronomy”, 4th By, Stephen E. Schneider & Thomas T. Arny.

“The Force has Awoken”, to a New Era

Star_Wars_Episode_VII_The_Force_Awakens– Photo provided by (

I have finally watched the latest entry of this major franchise. The film was a box office success (earning over $2 billion). Surely, Star Wars fans were happy about the latest entry and gave them a “cliff hanger” to look forward to for possibly upcoming episodes.

What I personally liked about the film was how diverse it was. The film featured actors from different ethnic backgrounds, which is a topic of controversy in today’s news. Diversity makes sense in the movie because it tells a story about people and creatures who live in different parts of a galaxy. Also, the film is modern with recent CGI effects which helped it to achieve high quality imaginative immersion (unlike past limitations when ridden animals used to set stationary for example).

However, I felt the plot was not that great. For example, the episode’s villain “Kylo Ren”, looked promising from the start, but he revealed himself far too early. The filmmakers should have kept that information for later iterations of the film. Also, the film missed that classic romantic feel that the first films had (speaking of original episodes 4,5, and 6). Those films contained the beautiful Star Wars atmosphere that is unique to its story, characters, and setting (you will know what I mean if you watch them).

But, that was my opinion. What do you guys think? please share your kind comments below.

The Martian is good, But…


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The Martian (2015) is a great film for those space enthusiasts out there. it is pretty scientific and at times, terrifying. It is about an astronaut who got stuck on planet Mars after his NASA mission team went there to collect samples and had to bail due to a martian storm. Something happened, and astronaut Watney (Matt Damon) was thought to be dead. So the team had to leave the planet despite their commander’s desperate search for their missing man.

Generally, the film is great, intense, humorous at times. However, it was criticized for some intentional lack of diversity. The film is diverse enough, but there were two characters at least that have been “Racebended” according to some. The characters in question are “Vincent Kapoor” (Chiwetel Ejiofor ) and “Mindy Park” (Mackenzie Davis ).

The Media Action Network For Asian-Americans (MANAA) has criticized director Ridley Scott over the change of races of the former characters. Kapoor implies a person of an Indian descent, while Park is of Korean one.  But the films’ actors were Ejiofor who is of African decent, and Davis who is of Caucasian origin. MANAA did not see it justified to alter the characters’ real ethnicity. Perhaps no one see any reason for this alteration, but maybe the filmmakers saw it fit since the presented actors are great in their performances, I leave it to you to decide.

  • some info were provided by and

Exploring Space! Simwise…


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For those who coven to see or know how it feels like to be in space more realistically, will there’s a solution for ya. If you’re a gamer, this means it is great news for you. A great game called “Elite: Dangerous” gives players a more realistic feel of space when it comes about traveling, bounty-hunting, exploring, and trading, among other stuff.

The game has over 400 billion star systems to explore their planets or space stations. Developer “Frontier” from Britain has worked hard to try mimic the Milky Way as much as possible to help players enjoy the vast world of space more realistically.

The game doesn’t involve landing on planets however, sincs the basic offering in the game revolves around flying in your ship and engage in fighting either other people (players), or NPCs (computer controlled A.I.). Frontier have made it possible to land on some planets, but with a price. The price is still high (~ $30) for such basic seeming ability, but the studio also offers the expansion as a season pass for free future ones. The expansion’s name is “Horizons”.

But the basic game should be enough for new comers in its original state without the expansions, and it has a kinda of a learning curve to learn how to fly, dock in space etc. this game is much recommended. Give it a look in the clip below.

  • Video provided by CTOP from

Multimodal Essay Intro

How Muslims and Arabs are Portrayed or Vilified in the Media


Media can be used as a dangerous instrument in order to deliver messages to a nation, and the world. For example, previous regimes like the Third Reich in Nazi Germany in the past used their media channels to indoctrinate certain types of information, as well as affect the minds of their people.

Unfortunately, this same method has been utilized to affect the American public’s view on many ethnic groups like Native Americans, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Muslims and Arabs throughout the world –this research projects focus. With the use of media channels like movies, television news/shows, radio, and social networks, Muslims and Arabs are being vilified to certain images that either has been taken out of context; related to certain crimes; attached to certain misconceptions, etc. This research proposal is aimed to explore, discuss, and determine the following (Subject to modification):

  • A brief history of Muslims and Arabs along with their achievements.
  • The constant negative vilifications they have been subjected and/or profiled as.
  • A possible solution(s) to eradicate such phenomenon and assist in reducing it from spreading further in both quantity and time.

Many resources have helped in directing the spotlight of this issue. Primarily, a short documentary hosted by a significant witness named Dr. Jack Shaheen, an American internationally acclaimed author, media critic, and former CBS news consultant on Middle East Affairs. The documentary is called “Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People” (2006), which explores the vilification of Muslims and Arabs in a negative way, and associating them to certain profiling patterns in over 80 films made in/by Hollywood, California. Kindly bear in mind that this piece of modest and hopefully beneficial research project is not aiming to defame people and /or attack their characters, but rather, as mentioned previously, to show and explore evidences of how Muslims and Arabs have been unjustly portrayed as terrorists, inhuman, narrow-minded,  single-belief people, among other portrayed feature(s). In addition, there are web articles that should assist to illuminate and elaborate more on our topic. Some may come from university persons, or professional web article writers. Also, the web site, a credible survey website, will be used to demonstrate relevant and significant percentages regarding this topic or its relevants (perhaps one will be used at the least). Some information may include:

  • Qualitative data.
  • Quantitative data.
  • Of both data above, they will be manually analyzed.

To give more insight of my topic, here is a link to a YouTube clip showing the documentary. It is about 50 mins. long, and I suggest you give it a try and share your kind comments on the subject.

YouTube Video:

Work Citations:

  • Dr. Jack Shaheen’s Biography. 2016.
  • Photo provided by
  • YouTube clip courtesy of The Vision Capital.