Jupiter Cloud Detail

The way this image was processed gives a good look at the cloud structure, nice work. You can see the original version of this and other submissions at NASA’s JunoCam site.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft skimmed the upper wisps of Jupiter’s atmosphere when JunoCam snapped this image on Feb. 2 at 5:13 a.m. PT (8:13 a.m. ET), from an altitude of about 9,000 miles (14,500 kilometers) above the giant planet’s swirling cloud tops.

Streams of clouds spin off a rotating oval-shaped cloud system in the Jovian southern hemisphere. Citizen scientist Roman Tkachenko reconstructed the color and cropped the image to draw viewers’ eyes to the storm and the turbulence around it. — NASA

Sentinel-2B Ready to Go

The Sentinel-2B Earth observation satellite will soon be launched and join the Copernicus program, the world’s largest environmental monitoring program which is headed by the European Commission in partnership with ESA.

Sentinel 1 and 2 are already in orbit and providing valuable data for science and safety. Data from the satellites prompted the evacuation of the Halley VI research station in Antarctica. The satellites are monitoring a large crack that formed in the Brunt Ice shelf, a floating ice shelf in the Weddell sea region The crack formed in October and was dubbed the Halloween Crack. The crack grew by as much as 600 meters a day during November and December and the British Antarctic Base (BAS) Halley VI found itself only 17 km away.

Now new cracks have formed and puts the base and the between 20 and 70 people in jeopardy. The base is mobile and has already moved 23 km inland.   BAS used radar images from Sentinel-1 and optical images from Sentinel-2 to monitor the situation and out of an abundance of caution have decided to close the base at least temporarily.

Europa Mission to Phase B

Good news! According to the following press release the Europa mission is moving along, oh it will be a good while before this off the ground, but this is a critical hurdle.

From NASA:

On Feb. 15, NASA’s Europa multiple-flyby mission successfully completed its Key Decision Point-B review. This NASA decision permits the mission to move forward into its preliminary design phase, known as “Phase B,” beginning on Feb. 27.

A highlight of Phase A was the selection and accommodation of 10 instruments being developed to study the scientific mysteries of Europa. The new mission phase is planned to continue through September 2018, and will result in the completion of a preliminary design for the mission’s systems and subsystems. Some testing of spacecraft components, including solar cells and science instrument detectors, has already been underway during Phase A, and this work is planned to continue into Phase B.

In addition, during Phase B subsystem vendors will be selected, as well as prototype hardware elements for the science instruments. Spacecraft subassemblies will be built and tested as well.

The Europa mission spacecraft is being planned for launch in the 2020s, arriving in the Jupiter system after a journey of several years. The spacecraft would orbit Jupiter as frequently as every two weeks, providing many opportunities for close flybys of Europa. The mission plan includes 40 to 45 flybys in the prime mission, during which the spacecraft would image the moon’s icy surface at high resolution and investigate its composition and the structure of its interior and icy shell.

The life cycle of a NASA science mission includes several key phases. At each step, missions must successfully demonstrate that they have met the agency’s requirements in order to indicate readiness to move forward into the next phase. Phase B includes preliminary design work, while phases C and D include final design, spacecraft fabrication, assembly and testing, and launch.

Image: NASA

TRAPPIST-1

Using a collaboration of telescopes including TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope–South,  seven new exo-planets have been found. Yesterday I eluded to all of them in the Goldilocks zone, that is not true but THREE of them are and ALL of the planets are relatively Earth-sized!

The star TRAPPIST-1 is a dwarf star,  TRAPPIST-1 is only estimated to be only eight percent (8%) of our Sun, so it’s really small.

You will notice these planets are collectively very close to their parent star and that means very fast orbital periods, ranging from just a-(Earth)day-and-a-half for the closest planet (b) to only about 20 days for the most distant planet (h).   Since the parent star is smaller and cooler that means the Goldilocks zone is much different than our own is.  Click the graphic above to be able to see the data.

 

Busy Days for the ISS

Above is a NASA TV live feed Here’s the replay of the Progress 66 launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Launch time is 00:58 EST / 05:58 UTC. I do not know if this is actually going to be broadcast or not but the feed will be up just in case. The Progress is a cargo ship loaded with supplies for the ISS and crews.

Yes, the Space X Dragon is also a cargo ship loaded with supplies just launched and will be grappled by astronauts Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) and Shane Kimbrough of NASA using the robotic arm on the ISS. Grapple time is 04:30 EST / 09:30 UTC and IS going to be carried live by NASA so I’ll leave the feed up.

BUT WAIT – what about the Dragon grapple? There was an anomaly, Dragon’s onboard computers triggered the abort after recognizing an incorrect value in navigational data about the location of Dragon relative to the space station. Flight controllers immediately began planning for a second rendezvous attempt on Thursday, Feb. 23. — NASA. All does seem well with the spacecraft and there should be no problems with tomorrow’s grapple. The grapple will occur tomorrow morning at about 11:00 UTC / 6:00 EST..

The Progress will arrive at the ISS on 24 February 2017 at 08:34 UTC / 03:34 EST.

Progress 66 to Launch

There will be a launch early tomorrow morning to the ISS.  The Progress 66 will launch from the  Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 05:58 UTC / 12:58 EST.

I do not know if the launch will be carried live by NASA, I am going to guess it is so there will be a live link up.  I’d put it up anyway for the arrival of the Space X Dragon also tomorrow morning.

BTW:  There will be some news coming out about a star apparently with SEVEN planets in the Goldilocks zone!!!  The details are embargoed until after tomorrow morning.

 

Cresusa

Cassini took this image of the crater Creusa on the Saturn moon Dione on 26 November 2016 with a nice angle to show the crater nicely.

I changed the image a little to bring out some of the details, the original version can be seen here.

NASA’s caption:
When viewed from a distance with the sun directly behind Cassini, the larger, brighter craters really stand out on moons like Dione.

Among these larger craters, some leave bright ray patterns across the moon, calling attention to their existence and to the violence of their creation.

The rayed crater seen here on Dione (698 miles, or 1,123 kilometers across) is named Creusa. The rays are brighter material blasted out by the impact that formed the crater. Scientists can use the patterns of ejecta (like these rays), to help determine the order of geological events on a moon’s surface by examining which features lie on top of other features.

This view looks toward the Saturn-facing side of Dione. North on Dione is up and rotated 31 degrees to the right. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Nov. 26, 2016 using a spectral filter which preferentially admits wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 727 nanometers.

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 350,000 miles (560,000 kilometers) from Dione. Image scale is 1.8 miles (3 kilometers) per pixel.

Images: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute