The Solar Dynamics Observatory zoomed in on an active region on 18-19 November and the coils around it. The coils are charged particles running along the magnetic field lines as seen in extreme ultraviolet light.
We are getting along in the solar cycle and activity should be evident in an increase of the number of solar storms. After the last solar minimum cycle, I would hate to make any predictions. It’s a little early yet and time will tell.
An update to yesterday’s post when I was unsure of whether ISON actually did survive and apparently it did although it could be in pieces. Glad I didn’t jump on the ISON is dead bandwagon the one newscast had running around — no wonder I don’t listen to that one network.
Hope to have a look at it soon, naturally there is a hill in the way though so it might be a few days from here. Time for a short road trip to get around the hill in question.
Thank goodness for my little Meade ETX scope, I can toss it in the car an go. Looking for a Christmas gift? The smaller Meade’s (and probably Celestron) are priced reasonably. A pair of image stabilizing binoculars would be a great gift too, best thing about them is the fact you can use them anytime. I heard once the best scope is the one you use the most and there is much truth in that. I would stay away from the department store “telescopes” though, and notice I’m not going to admonish you to NOT buy one, just if possible get something from a company that knows something about quality optics. If a sales pitch involves telling you how powerful the product is, consider that a red-flag. Concern yourself with optical quality first.
There, before I really get going, back to the original point of the post. Here’s a press release from the Max Planck Institute:
The unusual shape of the comet’s tail permits conclusions about yesterday’s encounter with the sun November 29, 2013
At the time of its closest approach to the sun, comet ISON still had an active nucleus which was spewing gas and dust. This is the assessment made by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Katlenburg- Lindau. They are currently analyzing actual pictures of the instrument LASCO which enjoys a unique view of the comet from its vantage point on board of the Solar Observatory SOHO. From the assessments, it is not clear whether the nucleus still exists or whether it partially fragmented on its fiery swing around the sun.
Against 8:30 p.m. yesterday evening, the tail of ISON emerged from behind sun in the field of view of the LASCO instrument. At this point in time, however, it was unclear whether the tip of the tail concealed a nucleus or not. New images from this morning now allow further conclusions.
“The dust tail of the comet is now divided into two parts,” explains Hermann Boehnhardt from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research. According to Boehnhardt, the part of the tail that is pointing towards the sun consists of dust particles, which were released significantly before the comet’s Perihelion passage – i.e. prior to reaching the closest point to the sun.
The other part, however, appears to contain more recent material: It was released when ISON passed the sun and suggests that at least part of the nucleus still existed and was active at that time.
The Max Planck researchers base their assessment on computer simulations in which they model the shape of the dust tail. “If we assume in our calculations that the comet has emitted dust at Perihelion, we can reproduce the current images quite well,” says Boehnhardt.
Only the LASCO images from tomorrow, Saturday, will allow an analysis of whether a nucleus exists. The dust that ISON may release today needs a few hours to make its way into the visible tail region, where it can be detected. Whether the comet nucleus was still intact at Perihelion or continued its flight as a small fragment or as collection of chunks is not yet clear.
The instrument Sumer on board of the satellite SOHO, which was developed and built under the auspices of the Max Planck Institute in Lindau observed ISON last night in the hour when it directly approached the sun. The instrument divides the light that is sent into space by the celestial body into its individual components. From this, researchers can draw conclusions about the elements and molecules in the comet’s dust cloud.
“Our measurements show a clear signal of the comet during its flight past the sun,” says Max Planck scientist Werner Curdt. Exact results of the measurement, however, are not yet available.
First the sizzle:
ISON appears to have lost a lot of it’s “comet goodness” during its sizzling close-encounter with the Sun. There does seem to be a little bit of it left and a tail seems to be growing as you can see at the very end of this (SOHO) video at the ESA channel. How long will it last and is there really anything left that the solar wind won’t strip away? Too soon to tell.
I was watching television this morning and the program did one of those “cut-ins” with a “news” network, one that I never watch on its own, and they were declaring ISON dead. This is the same “news” network ridiculing SpaceX for aborting last afternoon’s launch attempt, the attempt being the second this week and how inept they were yada-yada.
I did see the launch attempt and no the launch didn’t happen, still, it was quite exciting. The abort came at the moment after the main engines lit off, then poof it was over. No word on the reason for this abort yet. You must know the coverage by Space X was excellent, the two hosts and non-PR Space X employees, Molly and John were awesome in their explanations of the events of the countdown and mission. They made the time spent watching worth it. Really a very-very good job.
The Curiosity rover has resumed operations on the Martian surface. The the voltage drop of 17 Nov. that halted Curiosity’s operations was diagnosed (see Curious Troubles).
The “likely” cause of the voltage drop was determined to be an internal short in Curiosity’s Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator. The design is robust and the short apparently does not affect operation of the power source or the rover. These systems are on other spacecraft, Cassini for example and the shorts don’t seem to result in a loss of capability. Putting those two things together mission managers decided to resume operations.
Interestingly after the decision to resume science activities was made engineers learned the voltage level drop had reversed and is back at the pre-drop level of 17 Nov.
The image is from the left Navcam on Curiosity of Sol 465 (26 November 2013). Makes me wonder about how much mileage they are going to get out of the wheels, that one looks more beat up than I would have thought. Perhaps the wear could simply be from the way Curiosity landed, I’m not sure.
Here’s a short video made from images taken by the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO – A). The video was made over a five day period from 20 to 25 November 2013 (Image Credit: NASA/STEREO).
ISON is heading towards perihelion, the point in the orbit where it is closest to the sun as it passes around. That distance is going to be about 0.013 AU on 28 November.
ISON is also in the region where, if it is going to break up the next few days is when it is going to happen. I read somewhere ISON needs to be around 200 meters in diameter to survive and current estimates has it between 500 meters and 1.2 km so my fingers are crossed it will make it around and give us a nice show on the way out.
You will notice another object crossing ISON’s path about the time ISON is in line with Mercury. That is another comet, Comet Enke.
See this and other versions leading up to this video here.
Mach 1000 shock wave but in reverse?
Cambridge, MA -
When a star explodes as a supernova, it shines brightly for a few weeks or months before fading away. Yet the material blasted outward from the explosion still glows hundreds or thousands of years later, forming a picturesque supernova remnant. What powers such long-lived brilliance?
In the case of Tycho’s supernova remnant, astronomers have discovered that a reverse shock wave racing inward at Mach 1000 (1000 times the speed of sound) is heating the remnant and causing it to emit X-ray light.
“We wouldn’t be able to study ancient supernova remnants without a reverse shock to light them up,” says Hiroya Yamaguchi, who conducted this research at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).
Tycho’s supernova was witnessed by astronomer Tycho Brahe in 1572. The appearance of this “new star” stunned those who thought the heavens were constant and unchanging. At its brightest, the supernova rivaled Venus before fading from sight a year later.
Modern astronomers know that the event Tycho and others observed was a Type Ia supernova, caused by the explosion of a white dwarf star. The explosion spewed elements like silicon and iron into space at speeds of more than 11 million miles per hour (5,000 km/s).
When that ejecta rammed into surrounding interstellar gas, it created a shock wave – the equivalent of a cosmic “sonic boom.” That shock wave continues to move outward today at about Mach 300. The interaction also created a violent “backwash” – a reverse shock wave that speeds inward at Mach 1000.
“It’s like the wave of brake lights that marches up a line of traffic after a fender-bender on a busy highway,” explains CfA co-author Randall Smith.
The reverse shock wave heats gases inside the supernova remnant and causes them to fluoresce. The process is similar to what lights household fluorescent bulbs, except that the supernova remnant glows in X-rays rather than visible light. The reverse shock wave is what allows us to see supernova remnants and study them, hundreds of years after the supernova occurred.
“Thanks to the reverse shock, Tycho’s supernova keeps on giving,” says Smith.
The team studied the X-ray spectrum of Tycho’s supernova remnant with the Suzaku spacecraft. They found that electrons crossing the reverse shock wave are rapidly heated by a still-uncertain process. Their observations represent the first clear evidence for such efficient, “collisionless” electron heating at the reverse shock of Tycho’s supernova remnant.
The team plans to look for evidence of similar reverse shock waves in other young supernova remnants.
These results have been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.
Headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) is a joint collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. CfA scientists, organized into six research divisions, study the origin, evolution and ultimate fate of the universe.
A stunning image of Saturn’s rings. There are two moons in this image too, the larger of the two is obvious and is Epimetheus and the other is Daphnis.
Daphnis is a wee moon being only 8 km / 5 mi. and is very difficult to see unless you click the image to get the larger view. Look just to the right of center and in the rings just to the inside of the (Keeler) gap.
Before you read the NASA supplied caption below, I wanted to let you know there are TWO different launches today and they are only a short time apart from each other:
1. The Progress 53 cargo ship is scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 20:53 UTC (15:53 EST) The coverage should be here: http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/ustream/ Update: Launched,
2. A SpaceX launch is scheduled for 22:45 UTC (17:45 EST). The flight will put the SES-8 communications into a geostationary orbit from Cape Canaveral Florida USA. Coverage: http://www.spacex.com/webcast/ Update: A delay due to an issue, next attempt not before Thursday. The delay came around T minus 3 minutes 40 seconds. I could not get back to the time and a news release with more info is still in the works.
Here’s the caption from NASA (link goes to much larger versions of the image):
Amidst and Beyond the Rings
While the moon Epimetheus passes by, beyond the edge of Saturn’s main rings, the tiny moon Daphnis carries on its orbit within the Keeler gap of the A ring. Although quite different in size, both moons create waves in the rings thanks to their gravitational influences.
Epimetheus (70 miles, or 113 kilometers across) is visible at the lower-right of the image, and Daphnis (5 miles, or 8 kilometers across) is barely visible at one pixel wide just below-right of the image center. A close inspection of the image also reveals the waves Daphnis creates on the edges of the Keeler gap.
This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from about 2.6 degrees below the ringplane. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on June 28, 2013.
The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 808,000 miles (1.3 million kilometers) from Daphnis and at a Sun-Daphnis-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 28 degrees. Image scale is 5 miles (8 kilometers) per pixel.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.
15 years of building the ISS in two and a half minutes.
With the launch of Zarya module on 20 November 1998, the International Space Station was born. The ISS has been with us for 15-years this week thanks to the dedication and corporation of different space agencies from around the world.
The video above was put together by the Canadian Space Agency. One of the Canadian contributions is the robotic arm called Canadarm 2 featured in the video. The Canadarm continues to be instrumental in the success of the station and something Canadians everywhere are rightfully proud of – yeah, you go Canada!
Here’s a ground based image of comet ISON taken on 19 November by the Marshall Space Flight Center’s 20-inch (508 mm) in New Mexico.
My own efforts have been thwarted by cloudy skies thanks mostly to the mountain range to the east, plus they block a good bit of the lower angle look to the horizon. Once the comet goes around the sun, another mountain range will come into play (the Adirondacks of New York) but they are further away and are not as much of an issue. The snow and bad weather promised this week will pass and the first week of December hopefully will be a good one.
Larger versions available here.
ESA’s SWARM satellites are successfully launched from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in northern Russia this morning in what has to be one of the prettiest launches I’ve seen in a long while. The launch went off perfectly at 12:03 UTC. ESA has since acquired signals from all three satellites so it would sound as if things are going smoothly.
The mission is going to be a very interesting one: study the magnetic field. Sounds simple, but it’s not so much. For example we know the magnetic field is basically set up by the molten core of iron at the Earth’s center.
The MSL rover Curiosity has suspended scientific operations for a few days to take a look at an electrical issue detected on 17 Nov.
A voltage drop of about 7 volts (~ 11 to ~ 4 volts) was detected on Curiosity’s 450th Martian day. The The possibility of a “soft short” is being investigated. A “soft short” partially conducts electricity differing from a “hard” short that occurs when two wires touch that shouldn’t.
Jim Erickison of JPL says: The vehicle is safe and stable, fully capable of operating in its present condition, but we are taking the precaution of investigating what may be a soft short.” so far, analysis has shown a voltage change had occurred intermittently three times prior to the current event.
The press release reminded me about the “soft short” on landing day involving the explosive-release deployment devices. That reduced the bus voltage to the 11 volts mentioned here from an original 16 volts.
It sounds like in total, the voltage has dropped from 16 volts to 4 volts. While Curiosity can operate, hopefully the mission managers can get this sorted out before another 50 to 75 percent voltage drop happens. I have to think the mission team will get to the bottom of things if at all possible, even from around 261,518,000 km / 162500000 miles.
Getting to the bottom of the problem is one thing, mitigating it is quite another — good luck!
ISON has showing signs of activity lately, not that I would know thanks to poor skies, but in this excellent image from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research seems to confirm what I’ve been reading.
Now the question becomes: will ISON survive the trip around the sun which will be happening next week? I know I took issue with everyone that was predicting ISON’s demise months ago and I still do. The fact is simply even the experts do not know what is going to happen.
ISON if you didn’t know is considered a sungrazing comet. Here’s a video explaining sungrazers.
I of course want the comet to survive, if it does it should be fairly easy to see. Imagine this too, should it survive ISON will most likely be flung out of the solar system never to return.
Here’s the press release from MPS:
One or more fragments may have detached from comet ISON in the past days, as two wing-shaped features in the comet’s atmosphere suggest.
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany and the Wendelstein Observatory of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich (Germany) discovered these features in images taken at the end of last week. The fragmentation may offer an explanation for the comet’s recent outburst of activity.
On its journey towards the Sun, comet ISON has disappointed many hobby astronomers in the past weeks: its brightness did not increase as strongly as previously assumed. On November 28, 2013, the comet will fly by the Sun in a distance of only 1.8 million kilometers. However, on November 7th, ISON’s light intensity increased abruptly; several observers announced a sudden rise in the comet’s activity.
Images of ISON taken by scientists from the MPS and the Wendelstein Observatory now offer possible evidence for the cause of this outburst. On November 14th and 16th, the researchers aimed their telescope towards the approaching visitor.
The researchers’ analyzes show two striking features within the comet’s atmosphere that protrude from the nucleus in a wing-like fashion. While these so-called coma wings were still rather faint on November 14th, they dominate the images taken two days later. “Features like these typically occur after individual fragments break off the nucleus,” Dr. Hermann Boehnhardt from the MPS explains.
As does the nucleus, these fragments emit gas and dust. Where the emissions from the comet and its fragments meet, a kind of boundary layer is formed that often takes a wing-like form as seen from Earth. Whether or not this fragmentation process led to the recent outburst cannot be determined with certainty, says Boehnhardt. However, in the cases of other comets, a connection between both phenomena has been well established.
In the images taken of comet ISON, the coma wings cannot be seen with the naked eye. Instead, numerical methods were necessary to make them visible. To this end the researchers comb through the comet’s coma looking for spatial changes in the light intensity. The uniformly bright background of the comet’s atmosphere is numerically eliminated so as not to outshine the fainter structures hidden beneath. “Our calculations imply that ISON lost only one fragment or very few at the most,” says Boehnhardt.
How the comet will develop in the next weeks is still unclear. “However, according to past experience, comets that have once lost a fragment tend to do this again,” says Boehnhardt.
Now that MAVEN has launched, it might be a good time to sort of catch up a little on the newer unmanned missions.
The image above shows the GOCE spacecraft re-entering the atmosphere. It was taken by Bill Chater in the Falklands at 21:20 local time on 11 November. Nice image, made the page this week too.
NASA’s LADEE mission is around halfway though the lunar commissioning phase, the orbit is about 250 km (155 mi) above the lunar surface. Instrument testing and calibration is continuing. Contact passes via a European ground station in Tenerife Spain have begun. NASA’s Update
The Indian Space Research Organisation’s Mars Orbiter Mission continues to go well. On an earlier update (11 Nov) the spacecraft’s apogee was increased to 78276 km (48,638 miles), apogee being the part of the orbit where it is farthest from Earth. Another maneuver to increase Apogee has been completed and the current distance has increased to 118,642 km (73,720 miles). ISRO Mars Mission Page.
Plenty of activity to come too. Something like 60 (?) small cubesats are to be sent up in two separate launches on the 20 and 21 November and the SWARM launch on 22 November.
I am hoping the Gaia launch comes off in December too – that’s going to be a fantastic mission.
In case you didn’t get to see it “live”. I did BTW, sadly I was not where I could get on the site.
I was also asked about the name and what does the “N” at the end of MAVEN stand for, thinking I forgot to include part of the name: Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution. It does seem to be missing something and I AM quite capable of missing/omitting/mis-spelling (etc) something. Just not in this case:
MAVEN: Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN
Mission: Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN)
Rocket: Atlas V
Launch Facility: Cape Canaveral Florida / Complex 41
Current Status: Go –
Launch Date: Monday, 18 November. 2013 18:28 UTC / 13:28 EDT
Odds of Launch: 60 percent (as of the morning of 17 Nov )
Monday: A 50 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 81. Southwest wind around 5 mph becoming calm in the afternoon.
MAVEN will collect data to determine the role that loss of volatile from the Mars atmosphere to space has played through time, giving insight into the history of Mars’ atmosphere and climate, liquid water, and planetary habitability.
To collect that data MAVEN will use a suite of eight sensors:
Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer
Langmuir Probe and Waves
Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrometer
Solar Wind Electron Analyzer
Solar Wind Ion Analyzer
Solar Energetic Particles
SupraThermal And Thermal Ion Composition
The principle investigator is Dr. Bruce Jakosky of the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (CU/LASP) and this will be the first Mars mission managed by the Goddard Space Flight Center.
Here is a landscape of Endeavour Crater as seen by the intrepid rover Opportunity on 03 October 2013. Yes Opportunity is alive and well and the Pancam is working wonderfully! Actually this is a collection of images taken between 03 and 08 October. Those dates correspond to Martian day number 3,446 and 3,451 of Opportunity’s time on Mars!
Murray Ridge is so named by the rover team in memoriam of Bruce Murray (1931-2013). Mr. Murray was a former director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a member of the science teams to the earliest Mars missions.
Read the full description and get larger versions of the image here.
One of the best parts of this image isn’t readily apparent. Examination of the full-sized version shows a distant ridge (probably the other side of Endeavour crater but I don’t know that for sure) with a couple of distinct craters in it. Have a look.
An amazing image, no wonder it is made NASA’s Image of the Day.
NGC 6984 is 65.9 Mpc (180 million light-years) away in the direction of the constellation Indus.
You can get a large version (desktop size) at the link below.
From the NASA Image of the Day:
Supernovae are intensely bright objects. They are formed when a star reaches the end of its life with a dramatic explosion, expelling most of its material out into space. The subject of this new Hubble image, spiral galaxy NGC 6984, played host to one of these explosions back in 2012, known as SN 2012im. Now, another star has exploded, forming supernova SN 2013ek — visible in this image as the prominent, star-like bright object just slightly above and to the right of the galaxy’s center.
SN 2012im is known as a Type Ic supernova, while the more recent SN 2013ek is a Type Ib. Both of these types are caused by the core collapse of massive stars that have shed — or lost — their outer layers of hydrogen. Type Ic supernovae are thought to have lost more of their outer envelope than Type Ib, including a layer of helium.
The observations that make up this new image were taken on August 19, 2013, and aimed to pinpoint the location of this new explosion more precisely. It is so close to where SN 2012im was spotted that the two events are thought to be linked; the chance of two completely independent supernovae so close together and of the same class exploding within one year of one another is a very unlikely event. It was initially suggested that SN 2013ek may in fact be SN 2012im flaring up again, but further observations support the idea that they are separate supernovae — although they may be closely related in some as-yet-unknown way.
I’ve been having a lot of bad luck with ISON observations. It’s been a good while since I’ve seen anything other than clouds in the sky. Oh sure there were two or three mornings with semi-clear sky conditions but even then ISON happened to be covered. Right now it is a magnitude 5.24, probably a decent binocular object.
I will keep watching and you should too because ISON should be starting to brighten quickly and could be a naked eye object in just days to a week. Don’t miss out!
Here is a screenshot from Stellarium for 18 November 2013 at 05:30 and at 45 deg north latitude, you might find it useful for a guide. Note: Higher latitudes will see objects lower in the sky and vice versa.
Here are the specific coordinates: RA/Dec 13h43m19 sec/ 12o53’26″
If you use the screenshot ISON will appear higher in the sky with respect to the stars on days preceding 18 November and lower in the sky and subsequent days.
As a bonus Mercury is approaching its Western Elongation and will reach it on 18 November, so if you have a good look at the eastern horizon you will get a chance to see it. If you can I say: lucky you! I have a mountain range in the way. When was the last time you saw Mercury? Seeing Mercury in the east is worth getting up for all by itself!
Here is the caption released with the ISON image above:
Comet ISON shines in this five-minute exposure taken at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center on Nov. 8 at 5:40 a.m. EST. The image has a field of view of roughly 1.5 degrees by 1 degree and was captured using a color CCD camera attached to a 14″ telescope located at Marshall. At the time of this picture, Comet ISON was 97 million miles from Earth, heading toward a close encounter with the sun on Nov. 28. Located in the constellation of Virgo, it is now visible in a good pair of binoculars.
Three Expedition 37 crew members returned to Earth yesterday aboard the Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft. Soyuz Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg and Luca Parmitano undocked from the Zvezda service module at 6:26 p.m. EST Sunday to begin the journey home.
The trio landed in the steppe of Kazakhstan southeast of Dzhezkazgan at 9:49 p.m. (8:49 a.m. Monday, Kazakh time). Welcome home!
The returning crew brought back a bit of very special cargo: the Olympic torch to be used to light the Olympic flame at the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia (07 Feb 2014).
The undocking marks the end of the Expedition 37 mission and the beginning of Expedition 38 aboard the ISS.