NuStar Looks at Was 49

This is pretty amazing.  For scale the distance mentioned in the press release below of 26,000 light years  approximates the distance from out solar system to the center of our Milky Way.  See here.

A long way for solar system sure, but a galaxy?  Even a small one?  Amazing.

The press release:

A supermassive black hole inside a tiny galaxy is challenging scientists’ ideas about what happens when two galaxies become one.

Was 49 is the name of a system consisting of a large disk galaxy, referred to as Was 49a, merging with a much smaller “dwarf” galaxy called Was 49b. The dwarf galaxy rotates within the larger galaxy’s disk, about 26,000 light-years from its center. Thanks to NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) mission, scientists have discovered that the dwarf galaxy is so luminous in high-energy X-rays, it must host a supermassive black hole much larger and more powerful than expected.

“This is a completely unique system and runs contrary to what we understand of galaxy mergers,” said Nathan Secrest, lead author of the study and postdoctoral fellow at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington.

Data from NuSTAR and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey suggest that the mass of the dwarf galaxy’s black hole is huge, compared to similarly sized galaxies, at more than 2 percent of the galaxy’s own mass.

“We didn’t think that dwarf galaxies hosted supermassive black holes this big,” Secrest said. “This black hole could be hundreds of times more massive than what we would expect for a galaxy of this size, depending on how the galaxy evolved in relation to other galaxies.”

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Today is Perijove 5

Perijove 5 is today at 08:53 UTC / 04:53 ET.  That is when the Juno spacecraft will make a close approach to the planet Jupiter on this orbit if you didn’t know.  If you have been following the mission you know the orbital period was going to be much shorter but was changed after a engine control valve did not react as expected.

The current plan is no change to the shorter orbit.  Good idea, the science data is apparently just as good, so why risk a problem.

JunoCam targets this time around are:

Double SEB
Trevmation’s Dark Spot
The Big Red Stripe
String of Pearls + Between the Pearls + An Interesting Band Point
STB Spectre + The White Solid
Covenant 151016 as part of the polar timelapse sequence

You can get a preview of these on the Juno site.

Personally I’m all in for The Big Red Stripe!

The image above is from the JunoCam site observed by Ceres-00.  See it here.

Model Rocket Launches

I saw these and just had to share, there’s three!

First up we have a 1/10 scale model of a Saturn V by Steve Eves.  This model is  11 meters / 36 ft tall and weighs in at 747 kg / 1648 lbs.

Read the details about the Saturn V and the trip here.

Hat tip to Bill Nillson

Next up is the UHS RC Space Shuttle Model video from mgas 1237. Not only do they launch it,  they land the Shuttle.  Nice job.

and last but certainly not least  comes the “what not to do” category: Project 463. The rocket is 13 meters / 42 ft tall and weighs 590 kg / 1300 lbs. The video from Matthew Travis. The incident occurred at the FireBALLS 5 amateur and experimental rocketry gathering of “large and dangerous” rockets in Nevada.

I’m sure this was heart-breaking for all involved, especially Chuck Sackett the owner, but it reminds me of an incident in my childhood with my brother and a model airplane. I’m sorry, it was hilarious, I actually fell on the ground laughing, is expression was priceless.

Build a TDRS Satellite

Here’s a good project for the younger set.

The Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) project is dedicated to providing science, technology, engineering, art and math curricula and activities to teachers and students worldwide. In this video, learn how to build your own paper TDRS.

New Zealand Quake of 2016

Our Earth observing satellites are constantly returning data of all types to us. The ARIA project, a wonderful collaboration shows us changes in surface displacements along two axis and it is quite amazing. Mother Earth is powerful!

The press release was timely because I was “told” just the other day the solar wind was causing the “increased” earthquake activity recently. I was helpless, all I could do is give the person a blank stare – lol. I don’t think I got to the drooling stage before the person explained they did hear it on the internet so it had to be true.

No it isn’t true about the solar wind and earthquake relationship – sorry. My blank stare was returned with the same when I explained I am open-minded about such things and please point me to the corroborating data and papers to support the conclusion. So take all those claims with a grain of salt.

Do check out the (really good) press release:
NASA and its partners are contributing important observations and expertise to the ongoing response to the Nov. 14, 2016, magnitude 7.8 Kaikoura earthquake in New Zealand. This shallow earthquake was so complex and unusual, it is likely to change how scientists think about earthquake hazards in plate boundary zones around the world.

Scientists with the Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis project (ARIA), a collaboration between NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and Caltech in Pasadena, analyzed interferometric synthetic aperture radar images from the PALSAR-2 instrument on the ALOS-2 satellite operated by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to calculate maps of the deformation of Earth’s surface caused by the quake. Two maps show motion of the surface in two different directions. Each false-color map shows the amount of permanent surface movement caused almost entirely by the earthquake, as viewed by the satellite, during a 28-day interval between two ALOS-2 wide-swath images acquired on Oct. 18 and Nov. 15, 2016.

In these two new maps made from the wide-swath images, the colors of the surface displacements are proportional to the surface motion. The wide-swath images cover the entire 106-mile (170-kilometer) length of the complex set of earthquake ruptures. The arrows show the direction of the radar motion measurement.

In the left image, the blue and purple tones show the areas where the land around the Kaikoura peninsula in the Marlborough region of New Zealand’s South Island has moved toward the satellite by up to 13.2 feet (4 meters), both eastward and upward. In the right image, the blue and purple tones show the areas that moved to the north by up to 30 feet (9 meters) and green tones show the area that moved to the south. The sharp line of color change is across the Kekerengu Fault, which had the largest amount of motion in the earthquake. Field studies found maximum rupture at the surface was measured at 39 feet (12 meters) of horizontal displacement. Several other faults have sharp color changes due to smaller amounts of motion, with a total of at least 12 faults rupturing in this single large earthquake. Areas without color have snow, heavy vegetation or open water that prevents the radar measurements from being coherent between satellite images – a required condition to measure ground displacement. Scientists use these maps to build detailed models of the fault slip at depth and associated land movements to better understand the impact on future earthquake activity. The PALSAR-2 data were provided by JAXA through the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) and through scientific research projects. The background image is from Google Earth.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/JAXA/Google Earth

VSS Unity Glide Flight 03

As you probably know Richard Branson offered Stephen Hawking a seat aboard a Virgin Galactic flight to space. Hawking told “Good Morning Britian” he immediately said yes.

Hats off to Richard Branson. I think it would be excellent; there is no date set of course. The video above is from one of the latest tests by Virgin Galactic, from just a couple weeks ago and things from all outward appearances look quite good.

Hey, getting into space is one thing, getting back home is quite another ball of wax.

Let’s all hope things go well for Virgin Galactic and Hawking gets to go, I cannot think of a better passenger.

Moving a Boulder on a Comet

Take a look at these images of a boulder that moved on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as seen by the Rosetta spacecraft.  Fascinating stuff.  The boulder clearly moved.  But how?

Here’s ESA’s caption (via NASA):
A 100 foot-wide (30 meter), 28-million-pound (12.8-million-kilogram) boulder, was found to have moved 460 feet (140 meters) on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in the lead up to perihelion in August 2015, when the comet’s activity was at its highest. In both images, an arrow points to the boulder; in the right-hand image, the dotted circle outlines the original location of the boulder for reference.

The movement could have been triggered in one of two ways: either the material on which it was sitting eroded away, allowing it to roll downslope, or a sufficiently forceful outburst could have directly lifted it to the new location. Indeed, several outburst events were detected close to the original position of the boulder during perihelion.

The images were taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS camera on May 2, 2015 (left) and Feb. 7, 2016 (right), with resolutions of 7.5 feet (2.3 meters) per pixel and 2.6 feet (0.8 meters) per pixel, respectively.

Rosetta is a European Space Agency mission with contributions from its member states and NASA. Rosetta’s Philae lander is provided by a consortium led by the German Aerospace Center, Cologne; Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Gottingen; French National Space Agency, Paris; and the Italian Space Agency, Rome. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the U.S. participation in the Rosetta mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

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So first I’m siding with the erosion idea by way of off gassing or jets. It seems that a jet strong enough to directly lift a “12.8 million-kg” boulder would lift more material than just the boulder and if it did the boulder would likely show more of an impact mark as the soil looks sand-like. True the same forces could erase those marks but you’d think there would be some physical sign of such a powerful event. Still there are no “boulder-tracks” and again off-gassing might erase the tracks.

The other thing that isn’t explained is this: Is the 12.8 million-kg / 28 million-lb boulder a true 67P weight or is that what it would weigh here on Earth?  OR is this a measure of mass but not stated as such? This is a case where knowing the mass would be helpful. Like I said – fascinating stuff!

Image: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Saturn’s Fine ‘A’ Ring

It would be interesting to know how the different sized constituents of the ring are distributed. I would think they would grade out by size.

From Cassini:
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft zoomed in on Saturn’s A ring, revealing narrow, detailed structures that get even finer as the cameras’ resolution increases. Even at this level of detail, it is still not fine enough to resolve the individual particles that make up the ring.

High-resolution images like this help scientists map the fine structure of Saturn’s rings. Features less than a half a mile (one kilometer) in size are resolvable here. But the particles in the A ring typically range in size from several meters across down to centimeters, making them still far too small to see individually here.

This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 38 degrees above the ring plane. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Jan. 9, 2017.

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 70,000 miles (113,000 kilometers) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 11 degrees. Image scale is 2,300 feet (690 meters) per pixel.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Think Spring!

Spring is in the air and it just arrived in the Northern Hemisphere!  Yes, at 10:29 UTC / 06:29 EDT the Sun crossed the equator.  In reality the Sun’s rays fall directly on the equator in the journey north – see below (Thanks to timeanddate.com).

Naturally this means the Southern Hemisphere is heading into autumn and hopefully will slow down the tropical systems that have been going on.

Let me tell you Spring will be very welcome here after our recent snow storm of more than 76 cm / 30 inches.  Thankfully it was a very dry snow and settled quickly.

Here’s my poor car at one point:

 

 

 

 

The Dragon Departs

Here is a replay of the Space X Dragon cargo ship departing the International Space Station. The cargo ship was released at about 05:11 EDT / 09:11 UTC (if my time conversion is correct).

The Dragon will NOT burn up in the atmosphere as some ships do. The returning 5,400 + Lb / 2,450 + kg payload includes samples from a variety of scientific experiments.

The thrusters on Dragon will fire at around 10:00 EDT / 14:00 UTC commencing a deorbit burn which will send the ship into the Pacific Ocean 54 minutes later where it will be retrieved and returned by recovery teams.

As far as I know there will be no live coverage of the splashdown and recovery, however there could be video after the fact.