Mini-jet in Saturn’s Ring

Mini-jet in Saturn F ring, click for a zoomed in version.  Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Mini-jet in Saturn F ring, click for a zoomed in version. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Here’s a Cassini image of a “mini-jet” in the F ring of Saturn. The mini-jets are thought to be caused by low-speed collisions of material in the F ring and this causes dusty material from the ring.

The mini-jets are sometimes called exotic trails (actually what I’ve always called them), to learn more about them have a look here.

This image is from the “dark side” of the rings, that is below the ring plane by about 48 degrees from a distance of about 1.4 million km (841,000 miles) on June 20, 2013.

Here’s a link to the original image at the Cassini page at JPL.

See the newly launched Cygnus Spacecraft in flight:

Do you want to see the Cygnus spacecraft in flight? You can go to Heaven’s Above PLUS(!) you can see if you will be able to observe the Juno spacecraft flyby of Earth on its way to Jupiter and of course the ISS sightings and other spacecraft.

For those who downloaded Stellarium from a few posts back you can set that up for the appropriate time and really narrow down where to look. I’ve been doing that lately with the morning passes of the ISS and it works very well.

BTW: You will need to configure Heaven’s Above. It’s easy and safe, I’ve been registered for nearly 10 years and NEVER got any unwanted email, hmmm, to be honest no email at all. So don’t worry about such things.

European Researchers’ Night

The anisotropies of the Cosmic microwave background (CMB) as observed by Planck. The CMB is a snapshot of the oldest light in our Universe, imprinted on the sky when the Universe was just 380 000 years old. It shows tiny temperature fluctuations that correspond to regions of slightly different densities, representing the seeds of all future structure: the stars and galaxies of today.  Caption and image: ESA and the Planck Collaboration

The anisotropies of the Cosmic microwave background (CMB) as observed by Planck. The CMB is a snapshot of the oldest light in our Universe, imprinted on the sky when the Universe was just 380 000 years old. It shows tiny temperature fluctuations that correspond to regions of slightly different densities, representing the seeds of all future structure: the stars and galaxies of today. Caption and image: ESA and the Planck Collaboration

This sounds pretty interesting and I’m going to check it out. Mark you calendars for September 27th and if you can’t make it in person there will be a webcast linked below.

Yes this is plenty early, however the 27th is on a Friday so early notice is a good idea. I’ll put up a reminder a couple days before. Hope you can make it.

The press release:

18 September 2013 CERN, ESA, ESO and UNESCO in partnership with the Italian Institute of Astrophysics invite the public to Origins 2013, an exceptional event taking place simultaneously in Geneva, Paris and Bologna on European Researchers’ Night, 27 September.

People around the world are invited to follow the event live through a webcast to celebrate the achievements of particle physics and astrophysics. Together, these research areas address fundamental questions linked to our origins, from the origin of matter to the origin of the Universe itself.

Major scientific breakthroughs have been made in these fields in just the last year. CERN’s Large Hadron Collider discovered a Higgs boson – one of the most fundamental particles of our Universe, predicted only by theory until now – while ESA’s Planck space telescope produced the most precise picture of the cosmic microwave background, the relic radiation from the Big Bang.

Meanwhile, the ground-based Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) was inaugurated in Chile and is already providing unprecedented views of the cosmos.

Origins 2013 will showcase these fascinating scientific endeavours and more, highlighting the strong link between the subatomic world accessed only by particle physics to the unimaginably large Universe studied by astrophysicists.

The rest of the press release.

Launch Day for Orbital

Mission:  Orbital Sciences Corp Cygnus Cargo ISS Resupply Demonstration Flight

Rocket: Orbital’s Antares

Current Status: Launched YouTube replay below

Launch Date: Wednesday, 18 Sept. 2013 14:50 UTC / 10:50 EDT

Odds of Launch: Unknown numerics but the forecast looks great.

NOAA’s Forecast:

Wednesday: Partly sunny, with a high near 70. Northeast wind 8 to 10 mph. (about 7 to 9 knots)

The Antares rocket is designed to provide low-cost and reliable access to space via a two-stage vehicle having an option for a third stage depending on mission. In the current configuration Antares can provide low-Earth orbit capability for payloads in excess of 5,000 kg. Orbital’s Antares is building on a successful family of smaller launch vehicles including the Pegasus, Taurus and Minotaur launch vehicles.

The Cygnus spacecraft is designed by Orbital to be an advanced maneuvering cargo delivery craft to provide ISS resupply services under a NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Space Act Agreement. Orbital will use the Cygnus to perform eight missions to deliver around 20,000 kg of cargo to the ISS. Cygnus consists of a common service module and a pressurized cargo module. Orbital builds on a successful avionics systems from their LEOStar and GEOStar satellite product lines as well as propulsion and power systems from the GEOStar communications satellites.

Good Luck Orbital!

Saturn’s Rings

Cassini's look at Saturn and  an arc of the rings. Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Cassini’s look at Saturn and an arc of the rings. Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

It seems like its been a while since I put a Cassini image up and this one is very nice. The image was taken from a distance of 1.1 million km (657,000 miles) using the wide-angle camera in the near-infrared light.

It almost seem like the rings have a dish shape to them.

See the full image and caption at the JPL Photojournal page Arc Across the Heavens.

TOMORROW:

Tomorrow there is a scheduled launch of the Orbital Sciences Corp. Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft on a demonstration mission to the ISS.

The launch was delayed due to weather concerns holding up the roll-out and a technical communications issue Friday. A look at the expected weather conditions on Wednesday shows no concerns, nice and sunny with temperatures around 22 C (72 F).

Launch is set for 14:50 to 15:05 UTC / 10:50 to 11:05 EDT.

We will have more on the launch and a link to the live shot tomorrow morning. Hope you can make it!

Clusters in Abell 1689

Hubble looks deep into Abell 1689 to see globular clusters from 690 megaparsecs. NASA, ESA, J. Blakeslee (NRC Herzberg Astrophysics Program, Dominion Astrophysical Observatory), and K. Alamo-Martinez (National Autonomous University of Mexico)

Hubble looks deep into Abell 1689 to see globular clusters from 690 megaparsecs. NASA, ESA, J. Blakeslee (NRC Herzberg Astrophysics Program, Dominion Astrophysical Observatory), and K. Alamo-Martinez (National Autonomous University of Mexico)

Amazing to see globular clusters from 2.25 billion light-years, or 690 Mpcs. The other striking thing in this image aside from the clusters and the other galaxies are the gravitational lensing or Einstein rings.

Click here to see a larger non-annotated version of the image above.

The Introduction from Hubblesite Click here for the full story:

SEPTEMBER 12, 2013: Ten years ago, astronomer John Blakeslee spotted dots of light peppered throughout images of a giant cluster of galaxies, called Abell 1689. Each dot was not one star, but hundreds of thousands of stars crowded together in groupings called globular clusters. Blakeslee counted 500 such clusters, the brightest members of a teeming population of globular clusters.

Now, a new Hubble census of globular clusters in Abell 1689 reveals that an estimated 160,000 such groupings are huddled near the galaxy cluster’s core. The Hubble observations break the record for the farthest and the most globular clusters ever seen. Globular clusters are the homesteaders of galaxies, containing some of the oldest surviving stars in the universe. These stellar relics are important to study because they help reveal the story of galaxy formation in the early universe. By comparison, only 150 globular clusters orbit the Milky Way galaxy.

JAXA Launches Epsilon-1

After a delay of a couple of weeks the Japanese Space Agency, JAXA launches it’s first Epsilon Launch Vehicle, Epsilon-1 with the Spectroscopic Planet Observatory for Recognition of Interaction of Atmosphere (SPRINT-A).

The launch took place at 14:00 p.m. from the Uchinoura Space Center. So far everything is happening as planned and the solar paddles have been deployed and the spacecraft is reportedly in good condition.

As is the custom, the SPRINT-A has been renamed. The nickname is HISAKI.
Continue reading

Interstellar Voyager

Finally Voyager 1 has reached interstellar space. I waited a little just to be sure, but it’s true: Humankind has presence beyond the solar system. WOW!

As time goes on Voyager will study the material and winds from stars that exploded 5 or 10 million years ago, at least while Voyager lasts. How much longer will we be able to hear Voyager 1? It is expected the nuclear power supply will last until 2025 when the last of the science instruments will have to be shut down.

I personally am amazed we can still hear it even now. The power output of the transmitter is about 23 watts and it’s over 18,777,909,877 km (11,668,052,248 miles), that radio is exceedingly weak. When they say “radio dot” they are not kidding!

Source

Stellarium

stellariumSC

A screen grab of Stellarium on the Jupiter system. Click for larger.

Stellarium 0.12.3 is a very nice planetarium program you can download for free. You will get a great rendition of the night sky in 3D. You can zoom easily so a representation of a naked eye, binocular or telescopic views are a snap. Click on an object and you get a wealth of information about the object. You know what I DON’T like about Stellarium 0.12.3? It will not run on my Mac with OS-X 10.5, if you too use that software don’t worry you can get an earlier version that will work just as well (see the link below and go to “other releases”). Works like a charm on my Windows laptop. BTW, I can control my telescope with it too so it’s pretty advanced. Here is the list of the recommended operating systems and set-ups:

  • Linux/Unix; Windows XP/Vista/7/8; 64-bit OS X 10.7.0 or greater
  • 3D graphics card which supports OpenGL 2.1 or greater
  • 1 GiB RAM or more
  • 1.5 GiB on disk

Nice thing is you don’t need a telescope either. You can load in “scripts” or create your own for tours of the sky or what ever you want. I’ve actually been using Stellarium for years and highly recommend it. Read more and download the program at Stellarium.org.

A couple of things you will want to do when you get your copy: Set your location, you can do this by pressing “F6″ or accessing a menu located in the lower left of the screen (you will see the placeholder for it). If you live in Paris you will be all set, that’s where it seems to be by default. Either use the provided list of locations or get your GPS coordinates from Google Earth or the like. You will also need your elevation in meters to be very accurate. When you are finished you can set that location as a default.

The other is the Time. Press “F5″ or use the menu (icon is the second one down, just below the location icon). Mine defaulted to the computer clock. That will get you going quickly. You can use the same menus to temporarily change your location and time if you want. I like to “visit” the Southern Hemisphere skies.

The user guide is located on a Wiki and you find it helpful for getting the most out of the program.

Comet ISON Has Company

Newly discovered Comet C/2013 R1 Lovejoy.  Credit: Michael Jaeger

Newly discovered Comet C/2013 R1 Lovejoy. Credit: Michael Jaeger

Well how about this? Comet ISON will have company in the sky in the form of another comet!

This new comet is the just discovered C/2013 R1 Lovejoy. The discovery was announced on September 9 after a couple of nights of observations (photographic) by discoverer Terry Lovejoy in Australia. This is Lovejoy’s fourth discovery, very good work.

Right now the comet is near the constellation of Orion but it is only a magnitude 14 to 14.5 so it’s going to take a fairly large backyard scope, better than about 200 mm or so. In fact Lovejoy found this one with a 200 mm (8-inch) scope and did that photographically. I think I’d need to use a CCD with my 250mm (10-inch) scope too. A magnitude 14 comet isn’t really like a mag 14 star, the light is more diffuse.

The best guess for eventual brightening for this particular Lovejoy comet is up to about a mag 8, so it could be a binocular target in the right location in November but a small scope would be better – time will tell.

I’ll keep you posted. Actually tomorrow I will point you to some free software where you can enter the comet data and keep an eye on where it is in the sky and a whole lot more.

The photo above was taken on 10 September by Michael Jaeger, no wonder it is so good, Jaeger is exceptionally adept at astrophotography. The streak you see to the right of the comet is a geostationary satellite.

Going and Coming

JAXA's HTV-4 entering the atmosphere on September 7th.  Credit: ISS and associated agencies.

JAXA’s HTV-4 entering the atmosphere on September 7th. Credit: ISS and associated agencies.

The International Space Station has a been a busy place. The Japanese HTV-4 was undocked on September 4th and it spiraled back towards Earth until on September 7th when this image was taken the ISS. The image shows the HTV-4 as it reentered the atmosphere and burned up ending its resupply mission.

In the mean time, preparations are underway bring Expedition 36 crew members home. Pavel Vinogradov, Chris Cassidy and Alexander Misurkin closed the hatch on the Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft at 20:19 UTC.

The three undocked from the Poisk mini-research module at 23:37 UTC and landed in Kazakhstan at 02:58 UTC (08:58 a.m. Kazakhastan time.

The next crew and soon to be Expedition 37 crew members: Oleg Kotov, Mike Hopkins and Sergey Ryazanskiy are getting ready for a ride to the ISS inside a Soyuz TMA-10M on 25 September 2013. They will be taking one of what I call fast track, from orbit to ISS in just four orbits and they are there.  Incidentally,  the three Expedition Crew members still on the ISS, Commander Yurchikhin and Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg and Luca Parmitano, were the first to  that that “fast track” route.