Welcome to The Deep science and technology column where we cover topics from the deep sea to deep space and beyond.
Greetings everyone! Last week I wrote about predicting the future and I’d like to continue that theme this week, but instead of telling you about predictions made by scientists, I’d like to tell you about some predictions I made.
Several years ago, I wrote two Planetarium shows that I featured in the public shows we had last weekend. I called them “Back to the Future”. The first show was produced with the help of a group of kids from George Washington High School and it’s called “Saturday Night in Armstrong City”. In it, we join a group of high school seniors from Edwin Aldrin High School on their senior class trip. The year is 2040 and Edwin Aldrin High is located on the Moon.
In the second show, some people try to sell you a tour that you’ll take next year, but next year isn’t 2013, it’s 2080 and they’re trying to sell you a tour of the solar system. The name of that show is “Your Grandchildren’s Vacation” and now you know why I called the two of them “Back to the Future”.
In “Saturday Night in Armstrong City”, the kids tell us that their colony is possible because they melt ice that’s found at the Moon’s north pole and pipe the steam to the colony. Now obviously that’s science fiction because there is no colony on the Moon and no water, right?
Well according to a recent study by researchers from Brown University, there is water inside the Moon, so much, in fact, that in some places it rivals the amount of water found within Earth. The scientists studied the Moon rocks brought back by the Apollo astronauts and discovered that the amount of water in volcanic rocks on the Moon is 100 times higher than previous studies suggested.
This puts a new twist on the origin of the water ice detected in craters at the lunar poles by several recent NASA missions. That ice has been attributed to comet and meteor impacts, but this study suggests that it’s also possible that some of the ice could have come from water released by volcanic eruptions. So, it looks like I was right when I predicted there’s water on the Moon.
In “Your Grandchildren’s Vacation”, one of the tours is a two-week trip to Mercury and a flyby of Venus. In the narration I say “Night on Venus is blacker than anywhere in the solar system, but the lightning can be quite intense”.
Now, the “night on Venus” part is certainly true because Venus is always covered with dense clouds and you could never see the stars at night, but when I wrote that show, there was absolutely no evidence for lightning on Venus.
UCLA researchers have recently discovered that even though the atmospheres of Venus and Earth are astoundingly different, very similar mechanisms produce lightning on both planets. Early missions, like the Russian Venera probes, and the US Galileo spacecraft, all recorded optical and electromagnetic waves on Venus that could be produced by lightning. Yet the differences in the two atmospheres implied that lightning on Venus would be unlikely.
The Venus Express spacecraft built by the European Space Agency has a magnetometer and this instrument has been able to unambiguously confirm the occurrence of lightning on Venus. The scientists used 3.5 years of Venus Express data to discover that the number of lightning bolts and their strength is very similar for Earth and Venus. They also discovered that lightning on Venus happens more frequently during the day than it does at night and it occurs more frequently close to the equator when the solar input is the strongest.
You know, it’s really nice when your predictions come true!