ESA’s Rosetta is now taking images from just 61 km from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. That is close enough so Rosetta is imaging the comet in about quarters.
The above four-image mosaic is featured at the Rosetta blog was taken on 31 August 2014. It’s really not quite a mosaic yet If you look at the four-panels you will see some overlap. The images were made from 20 minute exposures and there is also some rotation from the mutual movement of Rosetta and comet.
We, the public are invited to create a mosaic from them. Rosetta Blog has the four individual frames on the page for downloading which I have done. Just scroll down the page linked above to get the individual shots.
I have everything loaded into a imaging program and working on my mosiac. The rotation is creating quite a challange!
Give it a try. I’ll post my effort if I can get anywhere with it.
A picture of the Martian landscape but not from Curiosity. This is the the Navcam view from Opportunity.
Yes, Opportunity is still doing science on Mars after 3,749 Martian days when this image was taken (10 August 2014).
There has been an increasing number of computer resets on Opportunity and the rover team is making plans to reformat the flash memory. The reformat will clear the memory and identify bad cells and with any luck will remedy the computer-reset issue. The reformat is described as a “low-risk” since critical sequences and flight software is stored on other memory.
NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity captured this scene looking farther southward just after completing a southward drive, in reverse, during the 3,749th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars (Aug. 10, 2014).
The foreground of this view from the rover’s mast-mounted navigation camera (Navcam) includes the top of the rover’s low-gain antenna, at lower right, and the rear portion of the rover’s deck, with the sundial of a camera calibration target. For scale, the largest of the sundial’s concentric rings has an outer diameter of 3.15 inches (8 centimeters).
The ground beyond the rover includes some windblown lines of sand. At the horizon is part of the crest line of the west ridge of Endeavour Crater. The Sol 3749 drive covered 338 feet (103 meters) along the outer slope of the crater rim. A map of the area with the Sol 3749 endpoint marked is available online at http://mars.nasa.gov/mer/mission/tm-opportunity/opportunity-sol3751.html.
JPL manages the Mars Exploration Rover Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. For more information about Spirit and Opportunity, visit http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov.
NASA’s JPL gives us “What’s Up for September 2014″
One of the nice things about this time of year is the clearing skies. I mean really clear skies, cooler temperatures and stable “seeing” kind of clear. If you have a telescope you probably know exactly what I mean.
We have a few nice pairings of stars / planets / moon. These pairings are especially nice for casual viewing and interesting conversation with those friends who might not otherwise notice and I find they almost always will look.
I don’t always get the best view of the zodiacal light right here because of the hills to my east but I can see it. If I’m on the road at the right time I can drive to a good location and stop long enough to let my eyes acclimate some and sip my coffee or tea for a short time and appreciate the view. Yes, I know coffee / tea doesn’t help the process, but it does make it more enjoyable.
The bit of an interlude in the ESA’s Comet watch blog is a good time to look at some of Voyager 2′s images of Neptune. This is one of my favorites. I don’t really know if there is more than coincidence that the New Horizon’s spacecraft crossed the Neptune orbit 29 years almost to the day after Voyager started its Neptune encounter.
There is a lot of comparisons being drawn between the New Horizon’s and Voyager missions. Hey I’m on board with it. If I had my way there would be a “Le Verrier” or “Galle” spacecraft, a Neptune analog of the Cassini spacecraft in orbit right now.
In case you were wondering what was going on with Rosetta, everything is fine. Mission managers are looking at images from as close as 50 km trying to select the best landing spot. New images will be posted shortly.
This image comes from NASA’s Solar System Exploration (and Planetary Photojournal) site:
This Voyager 2 high resolution color image, taken 2 hours before closest approach, provides obvious evidence of vertical relief in Neptune’s bright cloud streaks.
These clouds were observed at a latitude of 29 degrees north near Neptune’s east terminator. The linear cloud forms are stretched approximately along lines of constant latitude and the Sun is toward the lower left. The bright sides of the clouds which face the Sun are brighter than the surrounding cloud deck because they are more directly exposed to the sun. Shadows can be seen on the side opposite the sun. These shadows are less distinct at short wavelengths (violet filter) and more distinct at long wavelengths (orange filter). This can be understood if the underlying cloud deck on which the shadow is cast is at a relatively great depth, in which case scattering by molecules in the overlying atmosphere will diffuse light into the shadow.
Because molecules scatter blue light much more efficiently than red light, the shadows will be darkest at the longest (reddest) wavelengths, and will appear blue under white light illumination.
The resolution of this image is 11 kilometers (6.8 miles per pixel) and the range is only 157,000 kilometers (98,000 miles). The width of the cloud streaks range from 50 to 200 kilometers (31 to 124 miles), and their shadow widths range from 30 to 50 kilometers (18 to 31 miles). Cloud heights appear to be of the order of 50 kilometers (31 miles).
A look at the Space X Falcon 9 rocket’s first descending through the atmosphere and soft landing in the Atlantic Ocean.
A little trivia: The Falcon 9 first stage is powered by Merlin Engines supplying thrust greater than FIVE 747′s at full power at launch.
Last week I mentioned the Mars Science Laboratory – Curiosity was at an interesting rock and mission managers were evaluating it to see if it would be a good choice for a sample collection (see the post).
Before there is a sample collection Curiosity uses the mini-drill procedure to aide in evaluating the location. Part of using the percussive drill for making a starter hole, probably akin to a hammer drill many of us use now and then. During the starter hole step Bonanza King moved a little bit and the protective software on Curiosity sensed it and stopped the procedure.
Mission managers decided to move on towards the long term goal of reaching Mount Sharp. Maybe they will find something interesting along the way.
ESA’s Landing Site Selection Group met over the past weekend and identified five possible landing sites for Rosetta’s Philae lander on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Three of the sites are on the smaller lobe and two on the larger one.
The original ten candidate sites were all marked with a letter designation, A to J and the group was narrowed to five at the meeting (A, B, C, J, I). The letters are only for identification and do not denote any preference.
After a detailed review for physical hazards and even long term illumination are complete, a primary landing site will be selected on 14 September. A secondary site will also be selected at that time.
Personally (today and very subject to change) I like:
Here is an image from Rosetta of comet 67P/G-C on 22 August. Rosetta has been in “pyramid” shaped orbits to observe and approach the comet to get the date needed to get even closer in time. Check out the Rosetta blog for a nice description.
The close points of the trianglular or pyramid orbit has gone from 79 km to orbits in the 50 km range. the image above from 54 km. In just a couple of weeks the orbits will be close the 30 km.
I particularly like this image. Aside from the already good and improving detail, it is a nice look down into the central area below the cliffs. What is that material at the base of the cliff? Why is it there? Did it come from the “cliffs” like a landslide?
Get a full-res version at ESA’s Comet Watch.
Below is the caption released with the image, you can get a full-res version here:
The destructive results of a mighty supernova explosion reveal themselves in a delicate blend of infrared and X-ray light, as seen in this image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and Chandra X-Ray Observatory, and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton.
The bubbly cloud is an irregular shock wave, generated by a supernova that would have been witnessed on Earth 3,700 years ago. The remnant itself, called Puppis A, is around 7,000 light-years away, and the shock wave is about 10 light-years across.
The pastel hues in this image reveal that the infrared and X-ray structures trace each other closely. Warm dust particles are responsible for most of the infrared light wavelengths, assigned red and green colors in this view. Material heated by the supernova’s shock wave emits X-rays, which are colored blue. Regions where the infrared and X-ray emissions blend together take on brighter, more pastel tones.
The shock wave appears to light up as it slams into surrounding clouds of dust and gas that fill the interstellar space in this region.
From the infrared glow, astronomers have found a total quantity of dust in the region equal to about a quarter of the mass of our sun. Data collected from Spitzer’s infrared spectrograph reveal how the shock wave is breaking apart the fragile dust grains that fill the surrounding space.
Supernova explosions forge the heavy elements that can provide the raw material from which future generations of stars and planets will form. Studying how supernova remnants expand into the galaxy and interact with other material provides critical clues into our own origins.
Infrared data from Spitzer’s multiband imaging photometer (MIPS) at wavelengths of 24 and 70 microns are rendered in green and red. X-ray data from XMM-Newton spanning an energy range of 0.3 to 8 kiloelectron volts are shown in blue.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Spacecraft operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.
A great image of Saturn from the Cassini spacecraft. Click the image above to see some of the detail in the atmosphere. Saturn’s atmospheric zones resemble the ones on Jupiter but thanks to lower surface gravity the clouds are more spread out, so are less defined. Saturn’s atmosphere is also colder than Jupiter as you might expect.
Like Jupiter, Saturn radiates more energy into space than it receives from the sun. What you might not expect is when size is taken into account, Saturn radiates more energy into space from its interior than Jupiter – by about 25 percent.
NASA calls this release The Ring King and for good reason:
Saturn reigns supreme, encircled by its retinue of rings. Although all four giant planets have ring systems, Saturn’s is by far the most massive and impressive. Scientists are trying to understand why by studying how the rings have formed and how they have evolved over time. Also seen in this image is Saturn’s famous north polar vortex and hexagon. This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 37 degrees above the ringplane. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on May 4, 2014 using a spectral filter which preferentially admits wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 752 nanometers. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 2 million miles (3 million kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is 110 miles (180 kilometers) per pixel. The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. 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.
The view of 67P/G-C or “the duck” as some are calling it. Rosetta was just 84 km away from the comet when this was taken. Lobes, so much for comets to be nice round dirty snowballs. Rosetta is redefining how a lot of us think about comets.
I just marvel at how good this really is. Rosetta is orbiting comet 67/G-c about 412,000,000 km (~256 million miles) away from Earth and 527,000,000 km (~327 million miles) from the Sun and the comet is moving 15.7 km/s (35,120 mph). The numbers I show here are rounded and if you would like to see the actual numbers from ESA go the the very cool Where is Rosetta site and click on the Where is Rosetta today link at the bottom of the page. If you have not been at that site before you can watch the whole journey depicted in an animation – it’s really quite good.
There are a number of instruments on Rosetta and one of them, COSIMA is trying to capture dust particles coming from 67P. At the moment very little dust is coming from the comet so the plates used to catch the dust is being checked weekly during an initial exposure of a month. As the pair near the Sun more and more particles will be emitted.
One of the big questions is: what is this thing made of? We will find out if things go as planned. Yes, this IS going to be fun!
The Mars Science Laboratory – Curiosity, recently passed its second anniversary (in Earth years) on Mars. The rover is making its way to Mount Sharp. The base of Mount Sharp is about 3 km from Curiosity’s current location. The mission managers are using “softer” valleys to get there, the idea being to save on the wheel tread of the rover which readers here will know show a bit of wear.
There is an update on the journey in the form of a video from JPL / NASA. In the video they mention interesting sites would be examined on the way. One of those interesting sites is called Bonanza King and thanks to it looking different from the sandstone they have been seeing for a few months. If chosen Bonanza King would be the fourth drilling site. See the video.
For those into weather, we do get some data on Martian weather: on 14 August 2014 the:
Air temp was
Soil temp was
Mean Pressure 758 Pa
The Max temperatures are actually not too bad. The lows though are downright cold. Interesting the minimum soil temperature is colder than the minimum air temperature.
If I did the conversion correctly for comparison, 1-Earth atmosphere is about 101,325 Pa, little wonder there is no water on Mars.
About the image above of Bonanza King from NASA:
In this image from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover looking up the ramp at the northeastern end of “Hidden Valley,” a pale outcrop including drilling target “Bonanza King” is at the center of the scene.
Curiosity used its Navigation Camera (Navcam) to capture this northward view during the 709th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars (Aug. 4, 2014). At that time, Curiosity was on the sand-covered floor of Hidden Valley. Due to unexpectedly high wheel slippage in the sand, the rover team subsequently decided to drive Curiosity out of the valley, up this ramp, to a higher location for examining a possible alternative route.
The ramp area holds several clusters of pale rocks resembling paving stones up to about the size of dinner plates. The team chose one, dubbed Bonanza King, as a candidate for the mission’s fourth drilling into a rock to collect a rock-powder sample for onboard analysis. The candidate target is in the patch of bright rocks between parallel wheel tracks in this image. For scale, the distance between the two tracks is about 9 feet (2.7 meters).
A map showing Hidden Valley is at http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA18408
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed and built the project’s Curiosity rover and the rover’s Navcam.
The New Horizons spacecraft captured this “movie” consisting of 12 images showing Pluto and the moon Charon. Those 12 images, taken between 19 and 24 July so almost one full orbit of Pluto and Charon, from 429 million to 422 million km / 267 million to 262 million miles using the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI). This set of images was taken with the New Horizons spacecraft 10 times closer to Pluto than we are here on Earth.
Notice the wobble? Pluto and Charon are binary, really a binary planet system and they orbit each other around the center of mass (called the barycenter) which is between the two. The LORRI is set to the barycenter.
Charon is orbiting about 18,000 km / 11,200 miles from Pluto.
New Horizons will cross the Neptune orbit in just over a week and will fly by the Pluto system in less than a year with approach operations to begin in just a few months.
Visit the New Horizons site for the original images.
Rosetta has been eclipsing most of the news lately, as it should. NASA is also staying busy as always and the first data is coming in from the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2.
Part of the update is about the Cygnus spacecraft leaving the ISS laden with trash. The Cygnus is about to re-enter the atmosphere and will burn up. This should occur at 13:11 UTC / 0911 EDT, today (Sunday). The atmospheric interface will occur between New Zealand and South America and is timed so the ISS crew can observe the fiery demise of the spacecraft.
Where the Philae lander this coming November is a very important decision. ESA naturally wants to land in the spot where they are going to get to learn the most possible.
This is a great video for getting a feel for the mission and what it means:
For additional languages and video source – click here
And then some. Wow what a shot! The Rosetta spacecraft used the orange filter on the narrow-angle OSIRIS camera from 103 km / 64 miles away.
This particular image is part of an anaglyph and that is just stunning. This non-3D version is pretty good for those without the 3D glasses. If you do have a pair of glasses or can do what I did and use blue and red plastic wrap (blue on the right eye and red on the left), just WOW! I kept moving the screen to try and get a look over the edge.
You know, there’s a dozen good looking spots to put a lander. No pressure ESA
Check it out — a boulder track on Mars. No speculation on what dislodged the boulder. Perhaps a close meteor strike making one of the larger craters shook it loose or it could even be ejecta from an impact like some of the ones we see on our moon. If you follow the track to the origin there almost looks like a small pit at the beginning.
We are seeing this track thanks to the HiRISE image on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
A path resembling a dotted line from the upper left to middle right of this image is the track left by an irregularly shaped, oblong boulder as it tumbled down a slope on Mars before coming to rest in an upright attitude at the downhill end of the track. The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter recorded this view on July 14, 2014.
The boulder’s trail down the slope is about one-third of a mile (about 500 meters) long. The trail has an odd repeating pattern, suggesting the boulder could not roll straight due to its shape.
Calculated from the length of the shadow cast by the rock and the known angle of sunlight during this afternoon exposure, the height of the boulder is about 20 feet (6 meters). Its width as seen from overhead is only about 11.5 feet (3.5 meters), so it indeed has an irregular shape. It came to rest with its long axis pointed up.