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Date: Friday, 10 Oct 2014 04:45
A close-up of Boulder Cheops on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by Rosetta.  Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

A close-up of Boulder Cheops on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by Rosetta. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Wow another amazing image from ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft. Rosetta will be getting images from only 10 km very shortly even maybe by the end of day! Lowering the orbit is key in a very important phase of this amazing mission: in just over a month the Philae lander will be landing on comet 67P/G-C.

From ESA’s Space in Images:

This image of the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on 19 September 2014, from a distance of 28.5 km.

The image features a large boulder casting a long shadow on the surface of the comet. The boulder has a maximum dimension of about 45 metres and is the largest structure within a group of boulders located on the lower side of the comet’s larger lobe. This cluster of boulders reminded scientists of the famous pyramids at Giza near Cairo in Egypt, and thus it has been named Cheops for the largest of those pyramids, the Great Pyramid, which was built as a tomb for the pharaoh Cheops (also known as Kheops or Khufu) around 2550 BC.

Rosetta blog

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Rosetta"
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Date: Thursday, 09 Oct 2014 04:54
NuSTAR finds a pulsar in M82. Credit NASA/JPL-Caltech/SAO/NOAO

NuSTAR finds a pulsar in M82. Credit NASA/JPL-Caltech/SAO/NOAO

First a brief reminder of the NuSTAR mission:

NuSTAR was launched on June 13, 2012 from above the Kwajalein Atoll region. The launch vehicle was built by Orbital Sciences Corporation, a Pegasus XL rocket. The platform was the “Stargazer” L-1011 aircraft, the rocket was released and dropped for five seconds before the three-stage rocket motor ignited and put the spacecraft into a 650 km by 610 km orbit and deploying the first orbiting telescopes to focus light in the high energy X-ray (3 – 79 keV) region of the electromagnetic spectrum.

It has been two years and now We are getting some nice data including finding a pulsar in the galaxy M82.

From NuSTAR:

High-energy X-rays streaming from a rare and mighty pulsar (magenta), the brightest found to date, can be seen in this new image combining multi-wavelength data from three telescopes. The bulk of a galaxy called Messier 82 (M82), or the “Cigar galaxy,” is seen in visible-light data captured by the National Optical Astronomy Observatory’s 2.1-meter telescope at Kitt Peak in Arizona. Starlight is white, and lanes of dust appear brown. Low-energy X-ray data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory are colored blue, and higher-energy X-ray data from NuSTAR are pink.

The magenta object is what’s known as an ultraluminous X-ray source, or ULX — a source of blazing X-rays. Previously, all ULXs were suspected to be massive black holes up to a few hundred times the mass of the sun. But NuSTAR spotted a pulsing of X-rays from this ULX (called M82 X-2) – a telltale sign of a pulsar, not a black hole. A pulsar is a type a neutron star — a stellar core left over from a supernova explosion — that sends out rotating beams of high-energy radiation. Scientists were surprised to find the pulsar at the root of the ULX because it shines with a luminosity that is more typical of heftier black holes.

NuSTAR data covers the X-ray energy range of 10 to 40 kiloelectron volts (keV), and Chandra covers the range .1 to 10 keV.

More about the very cool NuSTAR launch.

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Space Telescope"
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Date: Wednesday, 08 Oct 2014 04:56
Gravity Gradients Frame Oceanus Procellarum.   Image Credit:  NASA/Colorado School of Mines/MIT/GSFC/Scientific Visualization Studio

Gravity Gradients Frame Oceanus Procellarum. Image Credit: NASA/Colorado School of Mines/MIT/GSFC/Scientific Visualization Studio

Another bit of information from the flight of Ebb and Flow the twin spacecraft of the GRAIL mission. Essentially a topographical map blended with a gravity map to show gravitational anomalies thanks to the combined input from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Grail.

Best to let NASA explain:

Topography of Earth’s moon generated from data collected by the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, aboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, with the gravity anomalies bordering the Procellarum region superimposed in blue. The border structures are shown using gravity gradients calculated with data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission. These gravity anomalies are interpreted as ancient lava-flooded rift zones buried beneath the volcanic plains (or maria) on the nearside of the Moon.

Launched as GRAIL A and GRAIL B in September 2011, the probes, renamed Ebb and Flow, operated in a nearly circular orbit near the poles of the moon at an altitude of about 34 miles (55 kilometers) until their mission ended in December 2012. The distance between the twin probes changed slightly as they flew over areas of greater and lesser gravity caused by visible features, such as mountains and craters, and by masses hidden beneath the lunar surface.

The twin spacecraft flew in a nearly circular orbit until the end of the mission on Dec. 17, 2012, when the probes intentionally were sent into the moon’s surface. NASA later named the impact site in honor of late astronaut Sally K. Ride, who was America’s first woman in space and a member of the GRAIL mission team.

GRAIL’s prime and extended science missions generated the highest-resolution gravity field map of any celestial body. The map will provide a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed and evolved.

The GRAIL mission was managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The mission was part of the Discovery Program managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. GRAIL was built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver.

More about GRAIL

Author: "Tom" Tags: "NASA"
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Date: Tuesday, 07 Oct 2014 04:11
A close look at Saturn's north polar vortex. Click for larger. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

A close look at Saturn’s north polar vortex. Click for larger. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Another very nice look at the north polar hexagon of Saturn from the Cassini spacecraft. This view is from 973,000 km/605,000 miles from about 33 degrees above the ring plane on 24 July 2013.

What causes the hexagon is not fully understood, the thinking is a “meandering” polar jet stream. Apparently wind speed is less important than the gradient of the winds flowing around the area in the formation of the hexagon which seem a little counter intuitive.

Another nice part of the photo is the detail in the atmosphere. Storms on Saturn are thought to occur when relatively warm atmospheric gas in the depths of the planet rise and cool, causing gaseous ammonia to form crystals and white clouds. This is analogous to thunderstorms here on Earth.

For more on the hexagon from NASA click here.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE TONIGHT – CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS!!

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Cassini"
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Date: Monday, 06 Oct 2014 04:25
issgerst

ESA’s Alexander Gerst in the Quest airlock of the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA

The first spacewalk of Expedition 41 is scheduled for tomorrow at 12:10 UT / 08:10 ET.

Flight Engineer Alexander (ESA) and Reid Wiseman (NASA) will exit the International Space Station via the Quest airlock for a marathon 6.5 hour session outside the station for a couple of jobs.

The first job is to move a degraded pump module to the External Stowage Platform 2 something of a warm up for the second task the installation of the Mobile Transporter Relay Assembly.

The Mobile Transporter Relay Assembly provides backup power options to the Mobile Transporter railcar system. That’s the system than moves the Mobile Servicing System’s Canadarm2 and Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator to work sites along the station’s truss.

Robotic support for the spacewalk will be handled by Flight Engineer Barry Wilmore (NASA) in the cupola.

Wilmore too will get to have some extravehicular time too. On 15 October there will be another spacewalk with Wilmore and Wiseman going to the starboard truss to replace a voltage regulator (called a sequential shunt unit) that failed back in May.

Coverage should be available at the NASA TV link at the bottom of the banner above.

Author: "Tom" Tags: "ISS"
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Date: Sunday, 05 Oct 2014 13:45

October is going to be a busy and fun month for sky watchers.

  • A lunar eclipse – JUST DAYS AWAY!
  • A partial solar eclipse
  • and a comet visits Mars!

I am in the partial lunar eclipse zone, clouds and rain are in forecast.

Video Source

Author: "Tom" Tags: "NASA, Observing"
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Date: Saturday, 04 Oct 2014 16:25

Here’s another “flame” video from NASA, I always like these, moslty because flames are very different in space and there’s plenty to be learned.

Video Source

Author: "Tom" Tags: "ISS"
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Date: Friday, 03 Oct 2014 04:57
Artist concept (see text). Image Credit: NASA/Colorado School of Mines/MIT/JPL/GSFC

Artist concept (see text). Image Credit: NASA/Colorado School of Mines/MIT/JPL/GSFC

The twin GRAIL (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory) spacecraft, Ebb and Flow, gathered data during their mission while orbiting the moon and they give us a little bit of an explanation of what the results show.

There hasn’t been too much coming out about the mission since this almost a year ago: NASA’s GRAIL Mission Puts a New Face on the Moon

Here’s the press release from the NASA:

A view of Earth’s moon looking south across Oceanus Procellarum, representing how the western border structures may have looked while active. The gravity anomalies along the border structures are interpreted as ancient, solidified, lava-flooded rifts that are now buried beneath the surface of the dark volcanic plains, or maria, on the near side of the moon.

This artist’s concept combines gravity gradients from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, an image mosaic from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s (LRO) Wide Angle Camera, and topography data from LRO’s Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter.

Launched as GRAIL A and GRAIL B in September 2011, the probes, renamed Ebb and Flow, operated in a nearly circular orbit near the poles of the moon at an altitude of about 34 miles (55 kilometers) until their mission ended in December 2012. The distance between the twin probes changed slightly as they flew over areas of greater and lesser gravity caused by visible features, such as mountains and craters, and by masses hidden beneath the lunar surface.

The twin spacecraft flew in a nearly circular orbit until the end of the mission on Dec. 17, 2012, when the probes intentionally were sent into the moon’s surface. NASA later named the impact site in honor of late astronaut Sally K. Ride, who was America’s first woman in space and a member of the GRAIL mission team.

GRAIL’s prime and extended science missions generated the highest-resolution gravity field map of any celestial body. The map will provide a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed and evolved.

The GRAIL mission was managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The mission was part of the Discovery Program managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. GRAIL was built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver.

For more information about GRAIL, please visit http://grail.nasa.gov.

Author: "Tom" Tags: "NASA"
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Date: Thursday, 02 Oct 2014 04:37

When NASA astronauts and any support staff that might have to quickly exit the had to get off the 60 meter/195 foot level of Launch pad 39A and B at Cape Canaveral they would do so by using slide-wire baskets.

The baskets could hold three people could get in the baskets at the Fixed Service Structure and travel 366 meters/1200 foot to safety in just about 30 seconds. The braking system was a drag chain braking system and a catch net.

via Live Leak

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Cool Stuff, History"
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Date: Wednesday, 01 Oct 2014 04:19
siteJSept

The landing site for the Philae lander. Copyright ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

And that date is 12 November 2014.at 08:35 UTC.

A Rosetta NAVCAM image of the landing site for the Philae lander from 27.8 km from the center of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

I made an attempt to mark the general landing spot in the above image, click the image.  Funny how the different perspective between this image and the one from posted here on 16 Sept. made the task a bit more tricky than I first thought.

It’s close anyway.

See this image at ESA’s Space in Images site they have higher resolution versions.  Give finding your way around on this image to the other and see how you do.

See the Rosetta blog for more detail.

 

 

 

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Rosetta"
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Date: Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 04:54
Images showing changes in the Ligeia Mare on Titan. Click for larger. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Cornell

Images showing changes in the Ligeia Mare on Titan. Click for larger. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Cornell

Shifting patterns in the Titan landscape. Cool stuff indeed. This is the only place we’ve seen liquid seas/oceans beyond Earth, volcano’s yes, liquid oceans no. Ok so the seas/oceans on the Saturn moon Titan are mostly ethane and methane, still counts. Now enough history in images has been collected we can see changes in the seas/oceans structure, thanks to this great mission.

The press release offers possible explanations, could be as simple as well, gee I’m not sure, what would an “ice” berg be called if it was a hydrocarbon? A petrolberg or something I would guess.

As an aside, while I was spending my day painting the observatory (and finding a huge problem) I was thinking: what a good value these orbiting wonders are.

From the Cassini site:

These three images, created from Cassini Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data, show the appearance and evolution of a mysterious feature in Ligeia Mare, one of the largest hydrocarbon seas on Saturn’s moon Titan. The views, taken during three different Cassini flybys of Titan, show that this feature was not visible in earlier radar images of the same region and its appearance changed between 2013 and 2014.

In the images, the dark areas represent the sea, which is thought to be composed of mostly methane and ethane. Most of the bright areas represent land surface above or just beneath the water line. The mysterious bright feature appears off the coast below center in the middle and right images.

The mystery feature had not been seen in preceding SAR observations of the region from 2007 to 2009. After its first appearance in early July 2013, it was not visible in observations by Cassini’s Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer, obtained later in July and in September 2013. Low-resolution SAR images obtained in October 2013 also failed to recover the feature.

The SAR observation from Cassini’s August 21, 2014 Titan flyby shows that the feature was still visible, although its appearance changed during the 11 months since it was last observed. The feature seems to have changed in size between the images from 2013 and 2014 — doubling from about 30 square miles (about 75 square kilometers) to about 60 square miles (about 160 square kilometers). Ongoing analyses of these data may eliminate some of the explanations previously put forward, or reveal new clues as to what is happening in Titan’s seas.

The Cassini radar team is investigating possible origins for the feature, including surface waves, rising bubbles, floating solids, solids that are suspended just below the surface or perhaps something more exotic. Researchers suspect that the appearance of this feature could be related to changing seasons on Titan, as summer draws near in the moon’s northern hemisphere. Monitoring such changes is a major goal for Cassini’s current extended mission.

The upper half of the middle image uses data from the April 26, 2007 Titan flyby. That area did not receive SAR coverage during the July 10, 2013 encounter, so the earlier data was used to fill-in the scene.

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Cassini"
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Date: Monday, 29 Sep 2014 04:32
A dwarf galaxy DDO68 might not be as young as it seems.  Copyright: NASA, ESA. Acknowledgement: A. Aloisi (Space Telescope Science Institute)

A dwarf galaxy DDO68 might not be as young as it seems. Copyright: NASA, ESA. Acknowledgement: A. Aloisi (Space Telescope Science Institute)

From the ESA’s Hubble page:

Astronomers have studied galactic evolution for decades, gradually improving our knowledge of how galaxies have changed over cosmic history. The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has played a big part in this, allowing astronomers to see further into the distance, and hence further back in time, than any telescope before it – capturing light that has taken billions of years to reach us.

Looking further into the very distant past to observe younger and younger galaxies is very valuable, but it is not without its problems for astronomers. All newly-born galaxies lie very far away from us and appear very small and faint in the images. On the contrary, all the galaxies near to us appear to be old ones.

DDO 68, captured here by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, was one of the best candidates so far discovered for a newly-formed galaxy in our cosmic neighbourhood. The galaxy lies around 39 million light-years away from us; although this distance may seem huge, it is in fact roughly 50 times closer than the usual distances to such galaxies, which are on the order of several billions of light years.

Read the rest at ESA’s Hubble page.

A side note: I thought this dwarf galaxy was actually two galaxies in the process of merging, apparently not?

Author: "Tom" Tags: "ESA, Galaxies, Space Telescope"
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Date: Sunday, 28 Sep 2014 13:51

It’s been a while since I posted a Curiosity update. The rover has reached Mt. Sharp and has conducted a drill sample and will be analyzing it very shortly.

Video souce

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Mars Rovers"
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Date: Saturday, 27 Sep 2014 12:41

Here’s a new video of ESA Euronews featuring Venus and the ESA Venus Express spacecraft.

Click here for the Souce Video and links for this video in other languages.

Author: "Tom" Tags: "ESA"
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BOPPS   New window
Date: Friday, 26 Sep 2014 04:56
Taken during night time calibration.  The circle of stars is a result of 100-30 second exposures as they travel around Polaris.  Credit: NASA/JHUAPL

Taken during night time calibration. The circle of stars is a result of 100-30 second exposures as they travel around Polaris. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL

I just love these balloon missions.

The Balloon Observation Platform for Planetary Science (BOPPS) is a high-altitude, stratospheric balloon mission that is planned for launch today to study a number of objects in our solar system, including an Oort cloud comet.

The balloon payload, a gondola measuring 6.7 meters tall (22 feet) tall and 2.4 meters wide (8 feet) wide and weighs in at 5,200 pounds. If all goes as planned the balloon will hoist the gondola to an altitude of about 36.6 to 39.36 km (120,000 to 130,000 feet) and keep it there for 24 hours!

The balloon itself is another flight of the BRORISON mission, recall this was a mission to observe Comet ISON within a year of its discovery. Let me tell you that is FAST. The logistics of a observing balloon mission are tremendous. Unfortunately there was a flight anomaly and the observations were not able to be made.

A couple of the observing objectives include Comet C/2013 Siding Spring discovered on 3 January 2013. This comet is the one that will make a close approach to Mars on 19 October 2014. The comet is coming into the inner solar system from the Oort Cloud, very possibly for the first time. Do you know what that means? This comet has been around since the formation of the solar system until something perturbed into this epic journey.

The second is another comet. Comet C/2012 K1 PanSTARRS was discovered on 17 May 2012 and like Siding Spring it too is making what it thought to be its first journey into the inner solar system from the Oort Cloud.

The launch will be about a week before the Comet Siding Spring Mars visit. Observations will be made in the near-infrared and near-ultraviolet along with light in the visible spectrum though a 0.8 m (2.6 feet) telescope.

If things go really well there could also be observations of Uranus, Neptune, Vesta and Ceres.

GO BOPPS GO!

The BOPPS website

More about the image:  you can also make such an image.  You just need a stable camera set up and a shutter you can keep open either for multiple long exposures like this one or open most of the night during darkness of course..

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Cool Stuff"
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Date: Thursday, 25 Sep 2014 04:50
A golden arc made by a plasma plume on the Sun. Credit: Solar Dynamics Observatory/NASA.

A golden arc made by a plasma plume on the Sun. Credit: Solar Dynamics Observatory/NASA.

The Solar Dynamics Observatory gives this beautiful look at a plume of plasma. This plume is huge, going presumably to another active region out of view on the horizon. Seeing a plume traveling this distance is something of a rarity.

The observation was made in the ultraviolet- 171 Angstroms – on 17-19 Sept 2014.

The was the Pick of the Week at the SDO site and I can recommend the movies of this plume, really good.

Author: "Tom" Tags: "SDO"
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Date: Wednesday, 24 Sep 2014 04:46

The SpaceX CRS-4 Dragon cargo ship loaded with supplies arrived at the ISS yesterday (23 Sept) at 13:21 UT / 09:21 EDT.

The Dragon was “caught” with the ISS robotic arm and berthed to the station.

Very nice work from all involved and some very nice video too.

Video source

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Private Space"
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Date: Tuesday, 23 Sep 2014 04:00
A trio of Saturn moons from the Cassini spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

A trio of Saturn moons from the Cassini spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

A nice Cassini image of three of Saturn’s moons and the expanse of rings taken at a low angle.

The largest of the three is Tethys, moving to the left we have the weirdest of the three and my personal favorite moon, Hyperion.

The last of the three is the one I call the potato, Prometheus, you will find it in the foreground right into to the edge of the rings. Actually Prometheus is inside the F ring, it has a partner on the outside of the F ring not shown here called Pandora. These two moons are known as shepherd moons and they keep the F ring nice and tidy.

Then there are the rings, the low angle perspective shows exquisite detail.

Be sure to pay a visit to our Saturn page and scroll down to the “Saturn’s Satellite” section and click on the image to the right for a guide.

See the original image at JPL

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Cassini"
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Date: Tuesday, 23 Sep 2014 02:29

Today is the September equinox.  Happy Spring or Autumn depending on where you are.

When does my equinox occur?

 

Author: "Tom" Tags: "General"
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Date: Monday, 22 Sep 2014 04:33
Four image mosaic of comet 67P/C-G, using images taken on 19 September (rotated, cropped and lightly contrast enhanced). Caption and Image: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

Four image mosaic of comet 67P/C-G, using images taken on 19 September (rotated, cropped and lightly contrast enhanced). Caption and Image: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

A nice look at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P/G-C). This was also one of those four-image mosaics from the Rosetta Blog, The particular image here was put together and published on ESA’s Space in Images. It took some work as they explained in the Rosetta Blog link above.

The image was taken on 19 September 2014 by the NavCam on Rosetta from just 28.6 km. I thought I was seeing things, but no, that is material coming off the “neck” of the comet.

I like the boulders, seems like they  would roll off, which of course they won’t, interesting perspective though.

 

 

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Rosetta"
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