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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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Date: Sunday, 21 Sep 2014 14:37

The SpaceX CRS-4 mission was launched earlier today bound for the International Space Station with supplies.

Arrival is scheduled for 23 Sept 2014 at 11:04 UT / 07:04 EDT when ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst will capture the Dragon cargo ship with the station’s robotic arm.

So far, nobody does launch videos like SpaceX – great in full screen.

Back to painting for me.

Video source

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Private Space"
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Date: Saturday, 20 Sep 2014 13:20

The MAVEN spacecraft will enter a Martian orbit on 21 September. After a six-week period of fine tuning the orbit and scientific instruments the spacecraft will begin to take measurements of the composition, structure and escape of gases in Mars’ upper atmosphere and its interaction with the sun and solar wind.

NOTE: The SpaceX launch has changed the launch date and time – see the previous post.

MAVEN website

Video

Author: "Tom" Tags: "NASA"
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Date: Friday, 19 Sep 2014 05:13

Mission:  SpaceX Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-4)

Rocket: SpaceX Falcon 9

Cargo ship: Dragon

Current Status: Postponed

Launch Date: Sunday, 21 Sept 2014 05:52 UTC / 01:52 EDT

Odds of Launch: Unknown numerics but the forecast looks great.

Video streaming by Ustream

NOAA’s Forecast:

Friday Night Scattered showers and thunderstorms, mainly before midnight. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 72. North northeast wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%.

Saturday Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 83. North northeast wind 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.

Mission snippets:

CRS-4 is the fourth of 12 or more missions to the International Space Station.

More than 5,000 pounds of station supplies and materials to support 255 science and research studies to be conducted by the crews of Expeditions 41 and 42.

Dragon will also have as part of the cargo 20 rodents to ride in NASA’s Rodent Research Facility.

A very cool Rapid Scattermmeter to monitor ocean surface wind speed and direction.

Cabbage – well not cabbage but a relative of cabbage for investigating plant growth in space.

Delivery of a new 3-D printer – this is a great addition, I can see them doing some fabrication for different things – very good.

Special Purpose Inexpensive Satellite, or SpinSat,to test how a small satellite moves and positions itself in space using new thruster technology.

Also SpaceX has been working on landing the Falcon for reuse on “landing legs”, this time around SpaceX will try to guide the first stage to a controlled soft-splashdown in the Atlantic. The effort sounds like it is a “let’s try this and see what happens” kind of thing. It is not given too much of a chance of success but I bet the knowledge gained will be more than worth the effort.

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Private Space"
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Date: Thursday, 18 Sep 2014 04:48
The crescent of the battered Mimas. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The crescent of the battered Mimas. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The Saturn moon Mimas was the target of Cassini’s cameras. One of the striking features of the moon is a crater known as Herschel. Herschel can be seen in the shadows at about the five o’clock position.

More about Mimas and a great look at the crater Herschel can be found here.

About the image from the Cassini site:

A thin sliver of Mimas is illuminated, the long shadows showing off its many craters, indicators of the moon’s violent history.
The most famous evidence of a collision on Mimas (246 miles, or 396 kilometers across) is the crater Herschel that gives Mimas its Death Star-like appearance. See Examining Herschel Crater for more on Herschel.

This view looks toward the anti-Saturn hemisphere of Mimas. North on Mimas is up and rotated 40 degrees to the right. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on May 20, 2013.

The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 100,000 miles (200,000 kilometers) from Mimas and at a Sun-Mimas-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 130 degrees. Image scale is 4,000 feet (1 kilometer) 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.

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Cassini"
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Date: Wednesday, 17 Sep 2014 05:13
An artist concept of Dawn. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

An artist concept of Dawn. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

On 11 September, the Dawn spacecraft en route to the dwarf planet Ceres after visiting Vesta went into safe-mode when apparently an electrical component was disabled by a high-energy particle of radiation. A similar situation occurred three years ago and this time they followed the same strategy: swap of the other ion engines and a different controller so they could continue thrusting. A plan is in place to revive the disabled component.

This time around there as a second anomaly that impaired the ability to point the communications antenna toward Earth. Mission control was able to communicate using different antennas, actually pretty lucky because these antennas are much lower gain resulting in a weaker signal. It is thought a high energy particle could have corrupted the software in the main computer. A computer reset solved the problem.

So all is good right? Yes, however Dawn’s new arrival date has been pushed to April 2015 because of the thrust loss.

NASA’s Dawn site

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Dawn"
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Date: Tuesday, 16 Sep 2014 04:52
siteJ

The landing site for Rosetta’s Philae lander. Click for a close-up. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

siteJclose

If you live in the US, you may not have heard the news: Rosetta’s Philae lander is going to be landing at Site J, shown in the above ESA image. Click the image for a close-up view of the landing site.

Why Site J? ESA explains some of the considerations:

Site J offers the minimum risk to the lander in comparison to the other candidate sites, and is also scientifically interesting, with signs of activity nearby. At Site J, the majority of slopes are less than 30º relative to the local vertical, reducing the chances of Philae toppling over during touchdown. Site J also appears to have relatively few boulders and receives sufficient daily illumination to recharge Philae and continue science operations on the surface beyond the initial battery-powered phase.

Check out J marks the spot for Rosetta’s lander

Rosetta blog is home to all the good stuff.

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Rosetta"
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IC559   New window
Date: Monday, 15 Sep 2014 04:51
IC 559 from Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3. Image credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA, D. Calzetti (UMass) and the LEGUS Team

IC 559 from Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3. Image credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA, D. Calzetti (UMass) and the LEGUS Team

While we wait for the Rosetta news of the Philea landing site, let’s have a look at Hubble’s image of IC 559.

IC 559 is observable, barely. It is a small galaxy with a magnitude 14.2; yes you will need a decent telescope and very dark skies. A CCD would help greatly.

Want to try?
Point to: RA: 09h 45m 30s Dec: +09°32’50”. Wait until October when it will rise before daylight.

I have not been able to identify the reddish structure below IC559 also in the image.

From NASA’s Hubble page:

Far beyond the stars in the constellation of Leo (The Lion) is irregular galaxy IC 559.
IC 559 is not your everyday galaxy. With its irregular shape and bright blue spattering of stars, it is a fascinating galactic anomaly. It may look like sparse cloud, but it is in fact full of gas and dust which is spawning new stars.

Discovered in 1893, IC 559 lacks the symmetrical spiral appearance of some of its galactic peers and not does not conform to a regular shape. It is actually classified as a “type Sm” galaxy — an irregular galaxy with some evidence for a spiral structure.
Irregular galaxies make up about a quarter of all known galaxies and do not fall into any of the regular classes of the Hubble sequence. Most of these uniquely shaped galaxies were not always so — IC 559 may have once been a conventional spiral galaxy that was then distorted and twisted by the gravity of a nearby cosmic companion.

This image, captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3, combines a wide range of wavelengths spanning the ultraviolet, optical, and infrared parts of the spectrum.

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Space Telescope"
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Date: Sunday, 14 Sep 2014 10:52

Which of the five locations on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko will ESA choose to put Rosetta’s Philae lander? The video offers some insight into the selection process.

The official announcement is coming tomorrow.

Video

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Rosetta"
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Date: Saturday, 13 Sep 2014 04:40

An update on the activity of the Curiosity Rover hosted by Curiosity Rover Mission Scientist Katie Stack.

Source

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Mars Rovers"
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Date: Friday, 12 Sep 2014 04:38
A NAVCAM mosaic of 67P/G-C  ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

A NAVCAM mosaic of 67P/G-C ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

Rosetta took this image from 27.8 km from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. That’s about half the distance of earlier images as mesured from the center of the comet.

The image scale here is 2.5 meters per pixel. Take a close look at the comet. . . See anything usual?

Check out Comet Watch – September 10. The link also has the four individual frames so you can put together a nice large image. I think I will print each out and see how piecing them together that way works.

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Rosetta"
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Date: Thursday, 11 Sep 2014 04:42
A Rosetta Mission selfie. Copyright ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

A Rosetta Mission selfie. Copyright ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

It’s more than a ‘selfie’  this Rosetta image gives us a wonderful perspective of the Rosetta mission and the comet from 50 km.  Well done!

Enjoy the view because a thruster burn should get Rosetta into a 30 km orbit.

From ESA’s Space In Images:

Using the CIVA camera on Rosetta’s Philae lander, the spacecraft have snapped a ‘selfie’ at comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. The image was taken on 7 September from a distance of about 50 km from the comet, and captures the side of the Rosetta spacecraft and one of Rosetta’s 14 m-long solar wings, with 67P/C-G in the background. Two images with different exposure times were combined to bring out the faint details in this very high contrast situation.

Rosetta Blog

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Rosetta"
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Date: Wednesday, 10 Sep 2014 04:53
The ISS crew in the light blue: Steve Swanson, Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev (front to back) are returning home. Image Credit: NASA TV

The ISS crew in the light blue: Steve Swanson, Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev (front to back) are returning home. Image Credit: NASA TV

Three ISS crew members are getting ready to come home later today. The trio, NASA astronaut Steve Swanson, Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev are part of the Expedition 39/40 crew. Yesterday Steve Swanson turned command of the ISS over to Max Suraev (Dark shirt in front).

They will undock the Soyuz spacecraft they will use for the return trip at 18:01 ET / 22:01 UT and will land 3.5 hours later in Kazakhastan.

You can see landing coverage beginning at 21:15 ET / 01:15 UT about 15 minutes before the deorbit burn occurs for a 22:23 ET / 02:23 UT landing. Hopefully there will be good video of the landing, sometimes there is and other times not so much.

Hopefully I coverted the times correctly.

I also got a few images of the perigee-moon this morning, then the batteries in the camera went dead. I have new ones charging, been charging all day and still not ready. Hopefully I got one worth sharing.

Author: "Tom" Tags: "ISS"
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Date: Tuesday, 09 Sep 2014 04:51
Surface close-up of Comet 67P/G-C.  Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Surface close-up of Comet 67P/G-C. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

WOW! Look at that detail, one pixel equals 1.1 meters. Not exactly a ball of fuzz. This image is from the Rosetta blog’s “A PRELIMINARY MAP OF ROSETTA’S COMET” post. Rosetta Blog is getting busy — be sure to have a look.

The caption included on the Rosetta blog:

Jagged cliffs and prominent boulders are visible in this image taken by OSIRIS, Rosetta’s scientific imaging system, on 5 September 2014 from a distance of 62 kilometres from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The left part of the image shows a side view of the comet’s ‘body’, while the right is the back of its ‘head’. One pixel corresponds to 1.1 metres.

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Rosetta"
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Date: Monday, 08 Sep 2014 04:53
Watching the moon from St Michael’s Tower on Glastonbury Tor.  Click for larger Image Ben Birchall/PA via deskarati.com

Watching the moon from St Michael’s Tower on Glastonbury Tor. Click for larger Image Ben Birchall/PA via deskarati.com

If you have noticed the moon looks a little larger than usual you are not alone. This morning it was looking pretty big here. This is the third perigee-moon or supermoon in a row. The moon will be full on 09 Sept 2014 at 01:38 UT (21:38 ET 08 Sept on the US East Coast).

I think I will have clear skies for a change! Yes, I am pleased.

I am also fairly well positioned for the partial lunar eclipse coming on 23 Oct 2014. Europe will miss out on this one. Here’s a (PDF) map from the US Naval Observatory.

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Observing"
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Date: Sunday, 07 Sep 2014 16:31

A nice video of Mount Tavurvur erupting in Papua New Guinea, I believe this is on the island of New Britain. Don’t be too tempted to close the ad banner that pops up, I missed the very start of the eruption doing that.

Check out the blast wave above the volcano too.

When I was looking at the different versions of this on YouTube there was already the doom predictions, because after all there is this volcano and the one in Iceland at the same time, it just has to mean something bad right?. Just so you know, volcanic eruptions aren’t really that uncommon and I wouldn’t assign any particular global doom to the fact these two just happen to be active at the same time.

Video

Back to trying to get my iPod to see my Wifi.

Author: "Tom" Tags: "General"
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Date: Saturday, 06 Sep 2014 14:10

ESA is raising the bar on autonomous space vehicles. The IXV is being designed as an re-entry vehicle. The IXV will change everything.

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Cool Stuff, ESA"
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Date: Friday, 05 Sep 2014 04:10
A depiction of the flyby of 2014 RC. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A depiction of the flyby of 2014 RC. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

On 07 September 2014, asteroid 2014 RC will flyby by the Earth.  It will be a very close flyby too, only 40,000 km / 25,000 miles from Earth. The orbit will pose no danger to us.  Even so according to NASA (see below), 2014 RC could even be visible as it will be around a magnitude 11 making it visible in small telescopes provided you have dark skies when it passes by at 18:18 UT when it will be over New Zealand when it makes this close approach.

In case you are in a place you might be able to see the fly-by, you can get the ephemeris here from the IAU Minor Planet Center.

From NASA:

A small asteroid, designated 2014 RC, will safely pass very close to Earth on Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014. At the time of closest approach, based on current calculations to be about 2:18 p.m. EDT (11:18 a.m. PDT / 18:18 UTC), the asteroid will be roughly over New Zealand. From its reflected brightness, astronomers estimate that the asteroid is about 60 feet (20 meters) in size.

Asteroid 2014 RC was initially discovered on the night of August 31 by the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Arizona, and independently detected the next night by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope, located on the summit of Haleakalā on Maui, Hawaii. Both reported their observations to the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Additional follow-up observations by the Catalina Sky Survey and the University of Hawaii 88-inch (2.2-meter) telescope on Mauna Kea confirmed the orbit of 2014 RC.

At the time of closest approach, 2014 RC will be approximately one-tenth the distance from the center of Earth to the moon, or about 25,000 miles (40,000 kilometers). The asteroid’s apparent magnitude at that time will be about 11.5, rendering it unobservable to the unaided eye. However, amateur astronomers with small telescopes might glimpse the fast-moving appearance of this near-Earth asteroid.

The asteroid will pass below Earth and the geosynchronous ring of communications and weather satellites orbiting about 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above our planet’s surface. While this celestial object does not appear to pose any threat to Earth or satellites, its close approach creates a unique opportunity for researchers to observe and learn more about asteroids.

While 2014 RC will not impact Earth, its orbit will bring it back to our planet’s neighborhood in the future. The asteroid’s future motion will be closely monitored, but no future threatening Earth encounters have been identified.

For a heliocentric view of the orbit of asteroid 2014 RC with respect to Earth and other planets, visit:
http://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/sbdb.cgi?sstr=2014+RC&orb=1

Author: "Tom" Tags: "Asteroids"
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