Jupiter From Below

A Cassini view of Jupiter's southern hemisphere. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

A Cassini view of Jupiter’s southern hemisphere. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Instead of Saturn, this Cassini image shows us Jupiter from a completely different perspective.  Yes there is a view from the north too it’s linked below.

No polar vortex is evident from this image.

From ESA’s Space in Images:

This Cassini image shows Jupiter from an unusual perspective. If you were to float just beneath the giant planet and look directly up, you would be greeted with this striking sight: red, bronze and white bands encircling a hazy south pole. The multicoloured concentric layers are broken in places by prominent weather systems such as Jupiter’s famous Great Red Spot, visible towards the upper left, chaotic patches of cloud and pale white dots. Many of these lighter patches contain lightning-filled thunderstorms.

Jupiter has very dramatic weather – the planet’s axis is not as tilted (towards or away from the Sun) as much as Earth’s so it does not have significant seasonal changes, but it does have a thick and tumultuous atmosphere filled with raging storms and chaotic cloud systems.
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Philae at Perihelion Cliff

Philae's look at its landing area. Image Credit: Copyright: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

Philae’s look at its landing area. Image Credit: Copyright: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

It be could be the location of ESA’s Philae lander on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko has been narrowed down. The image above is from that location and we are looking at what has been named “Perihelion Cliff.”

The image was taken with the CIVA camera (Comet Infrared and Visible Analyser) on Philae.

To see a graphic showing the position of the Philae in the context of topographic modeling click here. (image credit as above via JPL)

Some of the first of the Rosetta results are being presented at the 2014 autumn meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) going on right now in San Fransisco.

Rosetta will be doing a very close approach of the comet in February when it will come within 6.4 km / 4 miles of the surface.  I’m not sure where that will occur related to the location of Philae.

Knowing the location of Philae is would be a big relief.  I have not heard or seen specifically the location is known for certain, but we are closer to knowing than we were.

From JPL:

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.

Goodbye Venus Express

Artists concept of Venus Express aerobraking. Credit: ESA

Artists concept of Venus Express aerobraking. Credit: ESA

Word comes from ESA the Venus Express mission has come to an end:

ESA’s Venus Express has ended its eight-year mission after far exceeding its planned life. The spacecraft exhausted its propellant during a series of thruster burns to raise its orbit following the low-altitude aerobraking earlier this year.

Since its arrival at Venus in 2006, Venus Express had been on an elliptical 24‑hour orbit, traveling 66 000 km above the south pole at its furthest point and to within 200 km over the north pole on its closest approach, conducting a detailed study of the planet and its atmosphere.

However, after eight years in orbit and with propellant for its propulsion system running low, Venus Express was tasked in mid-2014 with a daring aerobraking campaign, during which it dipped progressively lower into the atmosphere on its closest approaches to the planet.

Read the rest at ESA.

Moon Pairing

Cassini spies a pair of Saturn moons. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Cassini spies a pair of Saturn moons. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

A very nice Cassini image of the Saturn moons Rhea and Tethys. The orientation of the pair is such that we can see what looks like large matching craters on each moon.  I believe the crater on Rhea (the moon in front) is Tirawa.  The crater is 360 km / 220 mile wide and makes up the Tirawa impact basin. The crater on Tethys is even larger, a true giant considering it is has a diameter 400 km / 249 miles or about 40 percent of the moons diameter.

From the Cassini site:

Tethys appears to be peeking out from behind Rhea, watching the watcher.

Scientists believe that Tethys’ surprisingly high albedo is due to the water ice jets emerging from its neighbor, Enceladus. The fresh water ice becomes the E ring and can eventually arrive at Tethys, giving it a fresh surface layer of clean ice.

Lit terrain seen here is on the anti-Saturn side of Rhea. North on Rhea is up. The image was taken in red light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on April 20, 2012.

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JUICE Gets Approval

Artist's impression of the JUICE mission. Credit: ESA/AOES

Artist’s impression of the JUICE mission. Credit: ESA/AOES

ESA has given the JUICE mission the go ahead to move to the next stage of implementation.

JUICE is the JUpiter ICy moons Explorer and will (hopefully) launch in 2022. The spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter in 2030 to study the giant planet’s atmosphere and magnetosphere, the rings, and the larger moons.

The moons to be studied are likely: Ganymede, Callisto, Europa, and Io. Io is a volcanic wonder and the other three might have internal liquid oceans and therefore could contain habitat for life.

From the ESA press release:

The scientific goals of the mission are enabled by its instrument suite. This includes cameras, spectrometers, a radar, an altimeter, radio science experiments and sensors used to monitor the plasma environment in the Jovian system. In February 2013, the SPC approved the payload that will be developed by scientific teams from 16 European countries, the USA and Japan, through corresponding national funding.
At the November 2014 meeting of the SPC, the multilateral agreement for JUICE was also approved. This agreement provides the legal framework for provision of payload equipment and ongoing mission support between funding agencies. The parties to the agreement are the European Space Agency and the funding agencies of the European countries leading the instrument developments in the JUICE mission: the Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (Italy); the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (France); the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V. (Germany); the Swedish National Space Board, and the United Kingdom Space Agency. Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Greece, Poland, and Switzerland participate via the PRODEX programme.

I have to say I am very pleased to hear of the approval. The would leave just Uranus and Neptune with no spacecraft visits since Voyager. Who knows, Neptune Express anybody?

See the Geminid Meteor Shower

I was hoping to catch this shower. The expected rate is 80 per hour so this should be fun to watch.  Do check it out if you can.

Not likely to be any viewing for me thanks to clouds.   At least it isn’t supposed to snow; the 38 cm that has fallen since Wednesday is plenty.


Venus Atmosphere Has Holes

ESA’s Venus Express as opened a mystery. What are those holes in the night side of Venus?

Video source

BTW: We have been hit with a pretty sizable winter storm with up to 50 cm of wet snow in the area (30 cm right here) and almost all of it still clinging to trees. What will happen when the wind comes up is unknown. I can make power, hope the internet stays up!

Warm Gas Halting Star Formation

Galactic interactions shutting down star formation. Image Credit: NASA/CFHT/NRAO/JPL-Caltech/Duc/Cuillandre

Galactic interactions shutting down star formation. Image Credit: NASA/CFHT/NRAO/JPL-Caltech/Duc/Cuillandre

I wouldn’t have thought warm gas would be like putting water on a fire:


A new feature in the evolution of galaxies has been captured in this image of galactic interactions. The two galaxies seen here — NGC 3226 at the top, NGC 3227 at the bottom — are awash in the remains of a departed third galaxy, cannibalized by the gravity of the surviving galaxies. The surge of warm gas flowing into NGC 3226, seen as a blue filament, appears to be shutting down this galaxy’s star formation, disrupting the cool gas needed to make fresh stars.
The findings come courtesy of the European Space Agency’s Herschel space observatory, in which NASA played a key role, and NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes.

Adding material to galaxies often rejuvenates them, triggering new rounds of star birth as gas and dust gel together. Yet data from the three telescopes all indicate that NGC 3226 has a very low rate of star formation.
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Martian Lakebed?

Sedimentary signs of a Martian Lake bed viewed by the Mars Science Rover, Curiosity. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Sedimentary signs of a Martian Lake bed viewed by the Mars Science Rover, Curiosity. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NOW I am a believer. Ok, so I was before, but this is so cool!

The only problem now is just a zillion more new and old questions, for example: How much, when, where did it go, how long was it there where did it go etc.

And the big one of course: was there life associated with the water and all the rest.

Here is the caption from NASA for the image:

This evenly layered rock photographed by the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover shows a pattern typical of a lake-floor sedimentary deposit not far from where flowing water entered a lake.
The scene combines multiple frames taken with Mastcam’s right-eye camera on Aug. 7, 2014, during the 712th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s work on Mars. It shows an outcrop at the edge of “Hidden Valley,” seen from the valley floor. This view spans about 5 feet (1.5 meters) across in the foreground. The color has been approximately white-balanced to resemble how the scene would appear under daytime lighting conditions on Earth. Figure A is a version with a superimposed scale bar of 50 centimeters (about 20 inches).
This is an example of a thick-laminated, evenly-stratified rock type that forms stratigraphically beneath cross-bedded sandstones regarded as ancient river deposits. These rocks are interpreted to record sedimentation in a lake, as part of or in front of a delta, where plumes of river sediment settled out of the water column and onto the lake floor.