Center for Planetary Science
Center for Planetary Science
News Article | April 17, 2017
One way to understand how ocean acidity can change, for example, in response to rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, is to look to the history of seawater acidity. Dr. Itay Halevy of the Weizmann Institute of Science has looked to the distant past - all the way back to Earth's earliest oceans. The model he developed, together with Dr. Aviv Bachan of Stanford University, suggests that the early oceans, right around the time that life originated, were somewhat acidic, and that they gradually became alkaline. The study, published in Science, sheds light on how past ocean acid levels were controlled by CO2 in the atmosphere, an important process for understanding the effects of climate change. Acidity and alkalinity are measured on the pH scale of 0-14. On this scale, 7 is neutral, higher is alkaline, lower is acidic. At around 8.2, today's oceans are mildly alkaline, and we know that rising CO2 levels are currently increasing the oceans' acidity (decreasing pH). Halevy, of the Weizmann Institute's Earth and Planetary Sciences Department, explains that billions of years ago "the early Sun was dimmer, even though we don't have evidence for a much colder climate. We think that this is because the early atmosphere had more of the greenhouse gas CO2 than at present, and that as the Sun got brighter, CO2 levels decreased," says Halevy. CO2, and water produce carbonic acid, so it stands to reason that the early oceans would have been more acidic. But higher early CO2 levels would also have resulted in acidic rainwater and this, in turn, could have led to higher rates of chemical weathering of Earth's rocky crust, washing down ions that would partly neutralize the acidity of CO2. Which effect is the stronger? This has been unclear; thus previous models of the history of seawater pH have come up with everything from high values to low. The model that Halevy and Bachan developed accounts for these processes and the way in which they influence the fluxes of ions into and out of ocean water. According to their model, the acidifying effect of higher CO2 levels dominated, and the early oceans had a lower-than-present pH. "On a very fundamental level," says Bachan, "we show that the pH of the ocean has been controlled by a few simple processes for all of geologic time." Putting numbers to the proposed pH, Halevy says that three to four billion years ago, the pH of ocean water was somewhere between 6.0 and 7.5 - between that of milk and human blood. Halevy: "This gives us some clues as to the conditions under which life emerged in the early oceans." "We had an early ocean more acidic than today in which primitive life thrived and chemical cycles were balanced; but if we want to apply this insight to today, we have to remember that this balance of acids and bases was maintained over geological timescales - millions of years," he adds. "Today's acidification from CO2 is much more rapid, so this model does not apply to the short-term problem. Hundreds of thousands of years from now, the oceans will have found a new balance, but between now and then, marine organisms and environments may suffer." Dr. Itay Halevy's reseach is supported by the Helen Kimmel Center for Planetary Science; the Deloro Institute for Advanced Research in Space and Optics; and the Wolfson Family Charitable Trust. Dr. Halevy is the incumbent of the Anna and Maurice Boukstein Career Development Chair in Perpetuity. The Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, is one of the world's top-ranking multidisciplinary research institutions. Noted for its wide-ranging exploration of the natural and exact sciences, the Institute is home to scientists, students, technicians and supporting staff. Institute research efforts include the search for new ways of fighting disease and hunger, examining leading questions in mathematics and computer science, probing the physics of matter and the universe, creating novel materials and developing new strategies for protecting the environment.
News Article | April 17, 2017
In the most common type of supernova, the iron core of a massive star suddenly collapses in on itself and the outer layers are thrown out into space in a spectacular explosion. New research led by Weizmann Institute of Science researchers shows that the stars that become so-called core-collapse supernovae might already exhibit instability for several months before the big event, spewing material into space and creating a dense gas shell around themselves. They think that many massive stars, including the red super-giants that are the most common progenitors of these supernovae, may begin the process this way. This insight into the conditions leading up to core collapse arose from a unique collaboration called the Palomar Transient Factory, a fully automated sky survey using the telescopes of the Palomar observatory in southern California. Astrophysicists halfway around the globe, in Israel, are on call for the telescope, which scans the California night sky for the sudden appearance of new astronomical "transients" that were not visible before - which can indicate new supernovae. In October, 2013, Dr. Ofer Yaron, in the Weizmann Institute's Particle Physics and Astrophysics Department, got the message that a potential supernova had been sighted, and he immediately alerted Dr. Dan Perley who was observing that night with the Keck telescope in Hawaii, and NASA's Swift Satellite. At Keck, the researchers soon began to record the spectra of the event. Because they had started observing only three hours into the blast, the picture the team managed to assemble was the most detailed ever of the core collapse process. "We had x-rays, ultraviolet, four spectroscopic measurements from between six and ten hours post-explosion to work with," says Yaron. In a study recently published in Nature Physics, Yaron, Weizmann Institute researchers Profs. Avishay Gal-Yam and Eran Ofek, and their teams, together with researchers from the California Institute of Technology and other institutes in the United States, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, Israel and the UK, analyzed the unique dataset they had collected from the very first days of the supernova. The time window was crucial: It enabled the team to detect material that had surrounded the star pre- explosion, as it heated up and became ionized and was eventually overtaken by the expanding cloud of stellar matter. Comparing the observed early spectra and light-curve data with existing models, accompanied by later radio observations, led the researchers to conclude that the explosion was preceded by a period of instability lasting for around a year. This instability caused material to be expelled from the surface layers of the star, forming the circumstellar shell of gas that was observed in the data. Because this was found to be a relatively standard type II supernova, the researchers believe that the instability they revealed may be a regular warm up act to the immanent explosion. "We still don't really understand the process by which a star explodes as a supernova," says Yaron, "These findings are raising new questions, for example, about the final trigger that tips the star from merely unstable to explosive. With our globe-spanning collaboration that enables us to alert various telescopes to train their sights on the event, we are getting closer and closer to understanding what happens in that instant, how massive stars end their life and what leads up to the final explosion." Prof. Avishay Gal-Yam's research is supported by the Benoziyo Endowment Fund for the Advancement of Science; the Yeda-Sela Center for Basic Research; the Deloro Institute for Advanced Research in Space and Optics; and Paul and Tina Gardner. Prof. Gal-Yam is the recipient of the Helen and Martin Kimmel Award for Innovative Investigation. Dr. Eran Ofek's research is supported by the Helen Kimmel Center for Planetary Science; Paul and Tina Gardner, Austin, TX; Ilan Gluzman, Secaucus, NJ; and the estate of Raymond Lapon. The Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, is one of the world's top-ranking multidisciplinary research institutions. Noted for its wide-ranging exploration of the natural and exact sciences, the Institute is home to scientists, students, technicians and supporting staff. Institute research efforts include the search for new ways of fighting disease and hunger, examining leading questions in mathematics and computer science, probing the physics of matter and the universe, creating novel materials and developing new strategies for protecting the environment.
Wada K.,Chiba Institute of Technology |
Tanaka H.,Hokkaido University |
Suyama T.,Nagano City Museum |
Kimura H.,Center for Planetary Science |
And 2 more authors.
Astrophysical Journal | Year: 2011
Collisional growth of dust aggregates is a plausible root of planetesimals forming in protoplanetary disks. However, a rebound of colliding dust aggregates prevents dust from growing into planetesimals. In fact, rebounding aggregates are observed in laboratory experiments but not in previous numerical simulations. Therefore, the condition of rebound between dust aggregates should be clarified to better understand the processes of dust growth and planetesimal formation. We have carried out numerical simulations of aggregate collisions for various types of aggregates and succeeded in reproducing a rebound of colliding aggregates under specific conditions. Our finding is that in the rebound process, the key factor of the aggregate structure is the coordination number, namely, the number of particles in contact with a particle. A rebound is governed by the energy dissipation along with restructuring of the aggregates and a large coordination number inhibits the restructuring at collisions. Results of our numerical simulation for various aggregates indicate that they stick to each other when the mean coordination number is less than 6, regardless of their materials and structures, as long as their collision velocity is less than the critical velocity for fragmentation. This criterion of the coordination number would correspond to a filling factor of 0.3, which is somewhat larger than that reported in laboratory experiments. In protoplanetary disks, dust aggregates are expected to have low bulk densities (<0.1gcm-3) during their growth, which would prevent dust aggregates from rebounding. This result supports the formation of planetesimals with direct dust growth in protoplanetary disks. © 2011. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved..
Crawford I.A.,Birkbeck College |
Crawford I.A.,Center for Planetary science |
Anand M.,Open University Milton Keynes |
Anand M.,Natural History Museum in London |
And 7 more authors.
Planetary and Space Science | Year: 2012
The lunar geological record has much to tell us about the earliest history of the Solar System, the origin and evolution of the Earth-Moon system, the geological evolution of rocky planets, and the near-Earth cosmic environment throughout Solar System history. In addition, the lunar surface offers outstanding opportunities for research in astronomy, astrobiology, fundamental physics, life sciences and human physiology and medicine. This paper provides an interdisciplinary review of outstanding lunar science objectives in all of these different areas. It is concluded that addressing them satisfactorily will require an end to the 40-year hiatus of lunar surface exploration, and the placing of new scientific instruments on, and the return of additional samples from, the surface of the Moon. Some of these objectives can be achieved robotically (e.g., through targeted sample return, the deployment of geophysical networks, and the placing of antennas on the lunar surface to form radio telescopes). However, in the longer term, most of these scientific objectives would benefit significantly from renewed human operations on the lunar surface. For these reasons it is highly desirable that current plans for renewed robotic surface exploration of the Moon are developed in the context of a future human lunar exploration programme, such as that proposed by the recently formulated Global Exploration Roadmap. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Kimura H.,Kobe University |
Kimura H.,Center for Planetary Science
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society | Year: 2016
Photoelectron emission is crucial to electric charging of dust particles around main-sequence stars and gas heating in various dusty environments. An estimate of the photoelectric processes contains an ill-defined parameter called the photoelectric quantum yield, which is the total number of electrons ejected from a dust particle per absorbed photon. Here we revisit the so-called small particle effect of photoelectron emission and provide an analytical model to estimate photoelectric quantum yields of small dust particles in sizes down to nanometers. We show that the small particle effect elevates the photoelectric quantum yields of nanoparticles up to by a factor of 103 for carbon, water ice, and organics, and a factor of 102 for silicate, silicon carbide, and iron. We conclude the surface curvature of the particles is a quantity of great importance to the small particle effect, unless the particles are submicrometers in radius or larger. © 2016 The Author Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Kolokolova L.,University of Maryland College Park |
Kimura H.,Center for Planetary Science
Astronomy and Astrophysics | Year: 2010
Context. We study how the electromagnetic interaction between the monomers in aggregates affects the polarization of cosmic dust. Aims. We aim to show that the electromagnetic interaction depends on the porosity and composition of the aggregates and contributes significantly to the spectral gradient of polarization (polarimetric color). The results may explain the observations of some comets that demonstrated atypical negative polarimetric color in the visible and also a reverse of the positive polarimetric color to the negative one in the near-infrared. Methods. We performed computer simulations of the light scattering by aggregates consisting of spheres made of a variety of materials: transparent, absorptive, and the material similar to that of the dust in comet Halley. We studied how the number of monomers covered by the electromagnetic wave at a single period (on the light path equal to one wavelength) affects their interaction by considering linear clusters of 2 and 10 monomers of radius of 0.1 μm. Results. Electromagnetic interaction between the monomers in aggregates depolarizes the light. The interaction becomes stronger if more monomers are covered by the electromagnetic wave at a single period. Thus, the porosity of aggregates influences their polarization. The electromagnetic interaction also depends on composition and is stronger for transparent materials. Conclusions. Electromagnetic interaction between the monomers in aggregates may explain why the polarimetric color of comet dust decreases as observations move from the visible to the near-infrared since a longer wavelength covers more monomers. It may also explain why some comets exhibit negative polarimetric color even in the visible; these comets may have more compact dust. Strong electromagnetic interaction resulted either from compactness or transparency of the material can explain the negative polarimetric color of interplanetary dust and debris disks and contribute to the polarization of asteroids. In general, the spectral dependence of polarization is a promising tool for studying the properties of cosmic dust particles, particularly their porosity. © ESO, 2010.
Rymer A.M.,Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory |
Mitchell D.G.,Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory |
Hill T.W.,Rice University |
Kronberg E.A.,Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research |
And 3 more authors.
Geophysical Research Letters | Year: 2013
A 2-3 day periodicity observed in Jupiter's magnetosphere (superposed on the giant planet's 9.5 h rotation rate) has been associated with a characteristic mass-loading/unloading period at Jupiter. We follow a method derived by Kronberg et al. () and find, consistent with their results, that this period is most likely to fall between 1.5 and 3.9 days. Assuming the same process operates at Saturn, we argue, based on equivalent scales at the two planets, that its period should be 4 to 6 times faster at Saturn and therefore display a period of 8 to 18 h. Applying the method of Kronberg et al. for the mass-loading source rates estimated by Smith et al. () based on data from the third and fifth Cassini-Enceladus encounters, we estimate that the expected magnetospheric refresh rate varies from 8 to 31 h, a range that includes Saturn's rotation rate of ∼10.8 h. The magnetospheric period we describe is proportional to the total mass-loading rate in the system. The period is, therefore, faster (1) for increased outgassing from Enceladus, (2) near Saturn solstice (when the highest proportion of the rings is illuminated), and (3) near solar maximum when ionization by solar photons maximizes. We do not claim to explain the few percent jitter in period derived from Saturn Kilometric Radiation with this model, nor do we address the observed difference in period observed in the north and south hemispheres. ©2013. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.
Tanaka K.K.,Hokkaido University |
Yamamoto T.,Hokkaido University |
Kimura H.,Center for Planetary Science
Astrophysical Journal | Year: 2010
We construct a theoretical model for low-temperature crystallization of amorphous silicate grains induced by exothermic chemical reactions. As a first step, the model is applied to the annealing experiments, in which the samples are (1) amorphous silicate grains and (2) amorphous silicate grains covered with an amorphous carbon layer. We derive the activation energies of crystallization for amorphous silicate and amorphous carbon from the analysis of the experiments. Furthermore, we apply the model to the experiment of low-temperature crystallization of an amorphous silicate core covered with an amorphous carbon layer containing reactive molecules. We clarify the conditions of low-temperature crystallization due to exothermic chemical reactions. Next, we formulate the crystallization conditions so as to be applicable to astrophysical environments. We show that the present crystallization mechanism is characterized by two quantities: the stored energy density Q in a grain and the duration of the chemical reactions τ. The crystallization conditions are given by Q>Q min and τ < τcool regardless of details of the reactions and grain structure, where τcool is the cooling timescale of the grains heated by exothermic reactions, and Q min is minimum stored energy density determined by the activation energy of crystallization. Our results suggest that silicate crystallization occurs in wider astrophysical conditions than hitherto considered. © 2010. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved..
Masters A.,University College London |
Masters A.,Center for Planetary science |
Thomsen M.F.,Los Alamos National Laboratory |
Badman S.V.,Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency |
And 6 more authors.
Geophysical Research Letters | Year: 2011
Detecting plasma dynamics in Saturn's magnetosphere is essential for understanding energy flow through the system. It has been proposed that both the Dungey and Vasyliunas cycles operate at Saturn, and the competition between these cycles has been debated. We examine data taken by the Cassini spacecraft in Saturn's post-dawn magnetosphere, ∼17.5 Saturn radii from the planet, and identify an example of return flow from magnetotail reconnection. The flow included water group ions and had elevated ion temperatures (of order 1 keV), consistent with Vasyliunas cycle return flow. The flow was also supercorotating (∼200 km s-1, ∼120% of corotation), which is highly atypical of Saturn's outer magnetosphere. Our results suggest that return flows are time-variable, and our results concerning Dungey cycle return flows are inconclusive. We propose that supercorotating flows in Saturn's dawn magnetosphere strongly influence the current system that is responsible for the planet's main auroral emission. Copyright 2011 by the American Geophysical Union.
Kuramoto K.,Hokkaido University |
Kuramoto K.,Center for Planetary science |
Umemoto T.,Hokkaido University |
Ishiwatari M.,Hokkaido University |
Ishiwatari M.,Center for Planetary science
Earth and Planetary Science Letters | Year: 2013
Hydrodynamic escape of hydrogen driven by solar extreme ultraviolet (EUV) radiation heating is numerically simulated by using the constrained interpolation profile scheme, a high-accuracy scheme for solving the one-dimensional advection equation. For a wide range of hydrogen number densities at the lower boundary and solar EUV fluxes, more than half of EUV heating energy is converted to mechanical energy of the escaping hydrogen. Less energy is lost by downward thermal conduction even giving low temperature for the atmospheric base. This result differs from a previous numerical simulation study that yielded much lower escape rates by employing another scheme in which relatively strong numerical diffusion is implemented. Because the solar EUV heating effectively induces hydrogen escape, the hydrogen mixing ratio was likely to have remained lower than 1. vol% in the anoxic Earth atmosphere during the Archean era. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.