LADEE

A video about the upcoming launch of LADEE.

The launch date is scheduled for 6 September 2013 at 03:27 UTC (11:27 EDT) from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. This is the first lunar launch from that facility.

One of the interesting tests that isn’t mentioned in the video is to show, or attempt to show, two-way laser communication is possible beyond Earth.

I will have more about the launch and the mission later this week.

The LADEE site at NASA.

Video Source – Science@NASA

Titan’s Collar

titancollar

A ‘collar’ on Titan. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

I can remember watching these images come in.  I was watching on slow scan television “Live” via ham radio and I believe Goddard was the source of the transmission.  The transmissions were terribly exciting.  I even have the same scan converter.  Fun times.

From NASA:

Titan’s polar collar — previously seen by Voyager 2 and the Hubble Space Telescope — has now been observed by the Cassini spacecraft, seen here in ultraviolet light. The collar is believed to be seasonal in nature. Researchers are still studying its cause and evolution.
This view looks toward the Saturn-facing hemisphere of Titan. North on Titan is up and rotated 32 degrees to the right. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on April 13, 2013 using a spectral filter sensitive to wavelengths of ultraviolet light centered at 338 nanometers.
The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers) from Titan and at a Sun-Titan-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 4 degrees. Image scale is 7 miles (11 kilometers) per pixel.

Here is Titan from 2.3 million km (1.4 million miles) by the Voyager 2 spacecraft on 23 August 1981. Image: NASA

Solar Eclipse

The moon Phobos passes in front of the Sun.  Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems/Texas A&M Univ.

The moon Phobos passes in front of the Sun. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems/Texas A&M Univ.

The rover Curiosity gets a look at an an annular eclipse on Mars as Phobos passes in front of the Sun. Phobos is the larger of the two Martian moons.

In case you are wondering:

The next solar eclipse for us here on Earth will be on 03 November 2013. The very eastern part of the US might see it just after daylight, if you are on a ship in the Atlantic you should be able to catch it as well as southern Europe (Spain mostly) and much of central Africa. More about that when the event gets closer.

From JPL/NASA:

This set of three images shows views three seconds apart as the larger of Mars’ two moons, Phobos, passed directly in front of the sun as seen by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity. Curiosity photographed this annular, or ring, eclipse with the telephoto-lens camera of the rover’s Mast Camera pair (right Mastcam) on Aug. 17, 2013, the 369th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s work on Mars.

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Stellar Nurseries

Part of Herschels view of Orion.  Credit: ESA

Part of Herschel’s view of Orion. Credit: ESA

Wow, just wow and what you see here is only part of the image (see below).

This Herschel image is the region just below the three stars that make up the belt of Orion, specifically in the sword. ESA’s image description explains it all pretty nicely.

I want to add that if you have a telescope and even a pair of binoculars (binoculars are a wonderful way to view the night sky BTW) spend some time looking at each of principle stars of the Orion. This constellation has much to offer, from the Great Orion Nebula (M42) and the stellar nurseries to the hot stars to aging Betelgeuse.

This new view of the Orion A star-formation cloud from ESA’s Herschel space observatory shows the turbulent region of space that hugs the famous Orion Nebula.

The nebula lies about 1500 light years from Earth within the ‘sword of Orion’ – below the three main stars that form the belt of the Orion constellation.

In this view, the nebula corresponds to the brightest region in the centre of the image, where it is lit up by the Trapezium group of stars at its heart.

Read the rest of Embracing Orion at ESA and see the while image.

WISE To Rejoin the Hunt

wiseasteroid

WISE spots asteroid 1998 KN3 (bright yellow spot on left) go by near the Orion nebula. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The WISE spacecraft is being reactivated to continue the hunt for asteroids. WISE was launched in December 2009 and was very successful, discovering more than 33,000 new  asteroids and comets. One of the many interesting discoveries included the brown dwarf star system just 6.5 light years away.

The primary mission ended in October 2010 when the coolant ran out. A new mission called spacecraft began using two (out of four total) that do not require cryogen for cooling. The NEOWISE mission was scheduled to run a month and ended up being extended three months because it worked so well. After the NEOWISE mission the spacecraft was put into hibernation.

It will be nice to have WISE back in the hunt.

About the image from NASA:

This image shows the potentially hazardous near-Earth object 1998 KN3 as it zips past a cloud of dense gas and dust near the Orion nebula. NEOWISE, the asteroid-hunting portion of the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, mission, snapped infrared pictures of the asteroid, seen as the yellow-green dot at upper left. Because asteroids are warmed by the sun to roughly room temperature, they glow brightly at the infrared wavelengths used by WISE.

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Ciao Italia!

The European heartland from Proba-2.  Click for larger.  Image: ESA

The European heartland from Proba-2. Click for larger. Image: ESA

A view of central and northern Italy, the Alps and a good bit of Europe from Proba-2′s X-cam.

Proba-2 is of course one of those wonderful mini-satellites. The X-cam is as ESA describes it appropriately, the size of an espresso cup and is but one of 17 experimental technologies packed into the little satellite barely a cubic meter in size, if that.

The future is bright for the small imagers too. The Swiss manufacturer of this one, Micro-Cameras & Space Exploration, also has one on the Rosetta lander which will (if all goes well) will take close views of the surface of a comet in 2014. The company also has cameras on the ESA Sentinel-1 Earth observation mission to launch later this year.

Check out the ESA site for more details and a larger version of the image.

The Spitzer Space Telescope is 10-years old!

The IRIS Nebula as seen by the Spitzer Space Telescope and the WISE spacecraft.  Click for larger. Image:  NASA/JPL-Caltech

The IRIS Nebula as seen by the Spitzer Space Telescope and the WISE spacecraft. Click for larger. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This image from 24 May 2013 is one of the many taken by the now 10-year old Spitzer Space Telescope. Spitzer supplied the infrared data and the rest came from the WISE spacecraft (the parts Spitzer could not see).

The image is of the Iris Nebula located about 1,300 light-years (~398.8 parsecs) away in the constellation Cephus. The Iris Nebula is also known as NGC 7023.

Spitzer with its infrared vision was launched on August 25, 2003, the last of the so-called Great Observaties missions by NASA. The other three being: Hubble – visible light, Chandra X-Ray Observatory – x-ray, and the Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory – Gamma-Ray.

Image source

ISON and the Mars Flyby

A nice informative video from Science@NASA talking about the upcoming flyby of Mars from Comet ISON. One of the better ones out there so far.

I wonder that the HiRISE camera on the MRO will be able to see, nothing mentioned on the MRO site so far concerning very recent viewing.

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Cosmic Illusion

Hubble's cosmic illusion.  Click for larger.  Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Luca Limatola

Hubble’s cosmic illusion. Click for larger. Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Luca Limatola

It’s not the collision it looks like. The cloud of stars is an irregular galaxy PGC 16389 From what I can tell it is located at RA: 04 h56m 58.7s and Dec: -42d 48m 14s, the magnitude is 14.4 and it’s about 1.3 arc minutes across. The galaxy has a radial velocity of 657 km/sec (derived from a redshift 0.002192z), an accurate (as accurate as cosmic get in the first place) doesn’t seem to be available.

This Hubbble picture is a classic, the number of galaxies in the background is amazing.

Here is the caption for image and you should visit the site though to see larger versions even desktop size.

At first glance, this Hubble picture appears to capture two space giants entangled in a fierce celestial battle, with two galaxies entwined and merging to form one. But this shows just how easy it is to misinterpret the jumble of sparkling stars and get the wrong impression — as it’s all down to a trick of perspective.

By chance, these galaxies appear to be aligned from our point of view. In the foreground, the irregular dwarf galaxy PGC 16389 — seen here as a cloud of stars — covers its neighboring galaxy APMBGC 252+125-117, which appears edge-on as a streak. This wide-field image also captures many other more distant galaxies, including a quite prominent face-on spiral towards the right of the picture.

Earth Directed CME

The SOHO LASCO C2 instrument captured this image of the Earth-directed CME. SOHO's coronographs are able to take images of the solar corona by blocking the light coming directly from the Sun with an occulter disk. The location of the actual sun is shown with an image taken by SDO. Image and Captiont: ESA & NASA/SOHO, SDO

The SOHO LASCO C2 instrument captured this image of the Earth-directed CME. SOHO’s coronographs are able to take images of the solar corona by blocking the light coming directly from the Sun with an occulter disk. The location of the actual sun is shown with an image taken by SDO. Image and Captiont: ESA & NASA/SOHO, SDO

UPDATE:  The Sun has released a second CME; this one on 21 August and the current forecast is for minor geomagnetic storms levels (G1) from 21:00 UTC ON 24-August until about 06:00 UTC on 25-August.  If the forecast is correct expect an aurora so keep an eye to the sky if you can, especially at higher latitudes (towards the respective poles).

Maybe, I’ve been patiently waiting for the K-Index go up ever since this happened. Nothing much yet, there was a little blip and that’s about it. Listening to the WWV updates leads me to believe not much is going to happen either.

Looking at the bright side (no pun intended) the full moon would have probably washed out anything that wasn’t truly amazing. I am 45 deg North Latitude and points north of that or south of that Southern Latitude will have a much better chance of seeing an aurora so keep an eye out..

Still, I will keep an eye on the numbers and the sky, predictions have been wrong before!

From NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center::

On August 20, 2013 at 4:24 am EDT, the sun erupted with an Earth-directed coronal mass ejection or CME, a solar phenomenon which can send billions of tons of particles into space that can reach Earth one to three days later. These particles cannot travel through the atmosphere to harm humans on Earth, but they can affect electronic systems in satellites and on the ground.

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