Perhaps someday Pandora will accumulate enough matter to become spherical  – see the press release from the Cassini site to explain.

Won’t be anytime soon, it has a ways to go.

Although Mimas and Pandora, shown here, both orbit Saturn, they are very different moons. Pandora, “small” by moon standards (50 miles or 81 kilometers across) is elongated and irregular in shape. Mimas (246 miles or 396 kilometers across), a “medium-sized” moon, formed into a sphere due to self-gravity imposed by its higher mass.

The shapes of moons can teach us much about their history. For example, one explanation for Pandora’s elongated shape and low density is that it may have formed by gathering ring particles onto a dense core.

This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from 0.26 degrees below the ring plane. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on July 26, 2015.

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 485,000 miles (781,000 kilometers) from Pandora. Image scale is 3 miles (5 kilometers) per pixel. Mimas is 904,000 miles (1.4 million kilometers) from the spacecraft in this image. The scale on Mimas is 5.4 miles (8.4 kilometers) per pixel.

Image and press release: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

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Water Ice on Pluto


~ click the image ~

Regions with exposed water ice are highlighted in blue in this composite image from New Horizons’ Ralph instrument, combining visible imagery from the Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) with infrared spectroscopy from the Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA). The strongest signatures of water ice occur along Virgil Fossa, just west of Elliot crater on the left side of the inset image, and also in Viking Terra near the top of the frame. A major outcrop also occurs in Baré Montes towards the right of the image, along with numerous much smaller outcrops, mostly associated with impact craters and valleys between mountains. The scene is approximately 280 miles (450 kilometers) across. Note that all surface feature names are informal. – New Horizons press release

Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

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Cube Sats Launch

Four NASA-sponsored CubeSats and a NASA-funded CubeSat, were among thirteen small spacecraft launched from Southern California’s Vandenburg Air Force Base on Oct. 8.

The NASA-funded device will test how accurately a CubeSat can be pointed during high speed data transfer by laser. The NASA-sponsored CubeSats will test new control and communications systems, Earth observations, amateur radio communications and an X-Band radio science transponder.


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The Blue Ring


Yesterday’s viewing of Venus in the daylight was FANTASTIC!!  I was able to see it easily with just my eyes.  It will be too cloudy for me but if you can see the Moon, try looking  the the west of it.  Try extending your arm and look about a thumbs width away. I don’t know if it will be visible at all, worth a try though.  A finders chart is at yesterday’s post.

About the image:

Pluto’s haze layer shows its blue color in this picture taken by the New Horizons Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). The high-altitude haze is thought to be similar in nature to that seen at Saturn’s moon Titan. The source of both hazes likely involves sunlight-initiated chemical reactions of nitrogen and methane, leading to relatively small, soot-like particles (called tholins) that grow as they settle toward the surface. This image was generated by software that combines information from blue, red and near-infrared images to replicate the color a human eye would perceive as closely as possible.  – New Horizons

Image Credit:  NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

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A Group of Planets


A nice grouping of planets and the moon about an hour an half before sunrise tomorrow 09 Oct.

Also and it is going to be too cloudy for me but if you can see a crescent moon today look closely you might see Venus also.

Image: Universe Today

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Mysterious Ripples Found

AU Microscopii

Hubblesite – Though astronomers have discovered thousands of planets orbiting other stars, very little is known about how they are born. The conventional wisdom is that planets coagulate inside a vast disk of gas and dust encircling newborn stars. But the details of the process are not well understood because it takes millions of years to happen as the disk undergoes numerous changes until it finally dissipates.

The young, nearby star AU Microscopii (AU Mic) is an ideal candidate to get a snapshot of planet birthing because the disk is tilted nearly edge on to our view from Earth. This very oblique perspective offers an opportunity to see structure in the disk that otherwise might go unnoticed. Astronomers are surprised to uncover fast-moving, wave-like features embedded in the disk that are unlike anything ever observed, or even predicted. Whatever they are, these ripples are moving at 22,000 miles per hour — fast enough to escape the star’s gravitational pull. This parade of blob-like features stretches farther from the star than Pluto is from our sun. They are so mysterious it’s not known if they are somehow associated with planet formation, or some unimagined, bizarre activity inside the disk.

Learn even more about AU Mic by joining the live Hubble Hangout discussion at 3:00 pm EDT on Thurs., Oct. 8 at

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Lunar Pox


Great title from ESA for this image of the Lunar north pole from the SMART-1 spacecraft.  It’s been a long time since I posted a SMART-1 image!

ESA’s description (included below) talks a lot about the lighting.  The pattern of the craters sort of looks like a spiral to me and that might be the lighting too.

Image: ESA/SPACE-X (Space Exploration Institute). Acknowledgments: J. Manuel Fonseca, M. Costa & A. Mora (UNINOVA); B. Grieger & M. Almeida (ESA)


ESA’s caption:The pockmarked landscape captured in this image from ESA’s SMART-1 mission is the surface of our Moon. Some of the many craters scattered across the lunar surface are clearly visible, records of the many impacts that have plagued it.

At the very centre of this image is the lunar north pole, captured in detail during ESA’s mission. The image shows the characteristic craters of the Moon, present in all shapes and sizes. The largest in view is Rozhdestvenskiy, sandwiched between Hermite to the northeast and Plaskett to the southwest.

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