LADEE Impact Crater


The LADEE Impact crater on the far-side of the moon was found by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the LRO camera called LROC.  Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University.

The LADEE spacecraft was launched from Wallops Island on 6 September 2013.  The spacecraft was sent to the moon to study the “surface bound exosphere and dust environment” or dust particles that might exist high above the surface to contribute to the Apollo-era debate about the existence – or not.

LADEE did not find any dust particles.  Mission completed LADEE fired its engines to enter a controlled descent that would cause it to impact the far-side of the moon even in the event the eclipse of 15 April 2014 caused the spacecraft to be otherwise uncontrollable.  The risk of not doing so would mean there would be no guarantee the impact would miss any Apollo landing sites.  Sure the odds probably would be slim but those sites are so historically significant that ANY chance is too much and a spacecraft with a mass of 248 kg / 547 pounds could cause damage.

The strategy was successful and LADEE  impacted the eastern rim of Sundman V crater (11.85°N, 266.75°E). The impact site (11.8494°N, 266.7507°E) is about 780 m from the crater rim with an altitude of about 2590 m, and was only about 295 meters north of its originally predicted location (based on tracking data).

There is an excellent LROC page devoted to this Impact image including before and after pictures – have a look.


Dark Matter Hairs Around Earth?


Is Earth surrounded by filaments of dark matter?  It just might. I know, sounds hard to believe to me too.  Not doubting it though, need to keep an open mind about such things. I have a  lot of unanswered questions, I need to read that study.

Take a look at the zoomed-out version linked below too.

JPL explains:

This illustration shows Earth surrounded by filaments of dark matter called “hairs,” which are proposed in a study in the Astrophysical Journal by Gary Prézeau of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

A hair is created when a stream of dark matter particles goes through the planet. According to simulations, the hair is densest at a point called the “root.” When particles of a dark matter stream pass through the core of Earth, they form a hair whose root has a particle density about a billion times greater than average.

The hairs in this illustration are not to scale. Simulations show that the roots of such hairs can be 600,000 miles (1 million kilometers) from Earth, while Earth’s radius is only about 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometers).

A zoomed-out version of this concept is at PIA20176.

The California Institute of Technology manages JPL for NASA.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


Neowise and Comet Christensen



This is a great press release, I believe I saw this comet back in 2009 I need to look back and see if I did, I’m pretty sure though.

Christensen has a period of 2,409,303 years!

Other Christensen facts at Heavens Above.

The Newowise caption:

An infrared view from NASA’s NEOWISE mission of the Oort cloud comet C/2006 W3 (Christensen). The spacecraft observed this comet on April 20th, 2010 as it traveled through the constellation Sagittarius. Comet Christensen was nearly 370 million miles (600 million kilometers) from Earth at the time.

The image is half of a degree of the sky on each side. Infrared light with wavelengths of 3.4, 12 and 22 micron channels are mapped to blue, green, and red, respectively. The signal at these wavelengths is dominated primarily by the comet’s dust thermal emission, giving it a golden hue.

The WISE spacecraft was put into hibernation in 2011 upon completing its goal of surveying the entire sky in infrared light. WISE cataloged three quarters of a billion objects, including asteroids, stars and galaxies. In August 2013, NASA decided to reinstate the spacecraft on a mission to find and characterize more asteroids.

JPL manages NEOWISE for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. The Space Dynamics Laboratory in Logan, Utah, built the science instrument. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colorado, built the spacecraft. Science operations and data processing take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

A Day on Charon


The “gouge-like” feature appearing in the 12 to 5 o’clock positions is pretty impressive, I wonder how it was formed.

Charon – like Pluto – rotates once every 6.4 Earth days. The photos were taken by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) and the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera from July 7-13, as New Horizons closed in over a range of 6.4 million miles (10.2 million kilometers). The more distant images contribute to the view at the 9 o’clock position, with few of the signature surface features visible, such as the cratered uplands, canyons, or rolling plains of the informally named Vulcan Planum. The side New Horizons saw in most detail, during closest approach on July 14, 2015, is at the 12 o’clock position.

These images and others like them reveal many details about Charon, including how similar looking the encounter hemisphere is to the so-called “far side” hemisphere seen only at low resolution – which is the opposite of the situation at Pluto. Dimples in the bottom (south) edge of Charon’s disk are artifacts of the way the New Horizons images were combined to create these composites.


A Day on Pluto


From New Horizons:

Pluto’s day is 6.4 Earth days long. The images were taken by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) and the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera as the distance between New Horizons and Pluto decreased from 5 million miles (8 million kilometers) on July 7 to 400,000 miles (about 645,000 kilometers) on July 13. The more distant images contribute to the view at the 3 o’clock position, with the top of the heart-shaped, informally named Tombaugh Regio slipping out of view, giving way to the side of Pluto that was facing away from New Horizons during closest approach on July 14.  The side New Horizons saw in most detail – what the mission team calls the “encounter hemisphere” – is at the 6 o’clock position.

These images and others like them reveal many details about Pluto, including the differences between the encounter hemisphere and the so-called “far side” hemisphere seen only at lower resolution. Dimples in the bottom (south) edge of Pluto’s disk are artifacts of the way the images were combined to create these composites.


ANGEL Balloon Flight

It turns out you can guide a high altitude balloon back to a predetermined location with a controlled descent. At least that’s what NASA Glenn’s Rocket University team did on 04 November when they brought a balloon down from an altitude of 36.5 km / 22.7 miles over the New Mexico desert.

The ANGEL experiment demonstrated how the Airborne Systems, Inc. Guided Precision Aerial Delivery System (GPADS) can benefit planetary science balloon missions through a risk-reduction flight test for high altitude balloon operations allowing for faster and cheaper recovery. Additionally, the impact forces experienced on landing are reduced with GPADS versus conventional parachutes. ANGEL shows a greater range of space science able to be performed with more sensitive equipment, as payload survivability is increased due to the system’s unique ability to perform a flared, into-the-wind landing.

Good job! Hopefully this will lead to more frequent balloon science missions.

Apollo 12


Yesterday NASA featured this image as their Image of the Day.  The lunar module of Apollo 12 on 19 November 1969.


The Apollo 12 Lunar Module (LM), in a lunar landing configuration, is photographed in lunar orbit from the Command and Service Modules (CSM) on Nov. 19, 1969. The coordinates of the center of the lunar surface shown in picture are 4.5 degrees west longitude and 7 degrees south latitude. The largest crater in the foreground is Ptolemaeus; and the second largest is Herschel. Aboard the LM were astronauts Charles Conrad Jr., commander; and Alan L. Bean, lunar module pilot. Astronaut Richard R. Gordon Jr., command module pilot, remained with the CSM in lunar orbit while Conrad and Bean descended in the LM to explore the surface of the moon.

Image Credit: NASA