Monthly Archives: January 2014

Opposition Surge

Opposition surge at Saturn August 2013. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

The bright spot you can see on the rings of Saturn is called an “opposition surge” was taken in August 2013 and just released.

The opposition surge happens when the Sun-Ring-Cassini angle gets to zero degrees. The image here was taken through a polarized filter on the camera. The filter acts to allow only light polarized in one direction pass this reduces the scattering of light. This is very similar to the polarized lenses we have on our sunglasses.

Using the polarized filter and the size and magnitude of the spot scientists can learn about the properties of the particles making up the rings.

A nice explanation was given on an opposition surge image in the A-ring from August of 2006 – seven years before this one was taken almost to the day.

The image above was taken from a distance of 1.1 million km / 712,000 miles. The actual Sun-rings-Cassini phase angle here was seven degrees, this could account for the spot maybe not as clearly defined as the 2006 image.

Magnetic Loops

Towering coils on the Sun. Credit: Solar Dynamics Observatory/NASA.

The Solar Dynamic Observatory gives us this view of loops of magnetic field lines from a few days ago.

There are videos available at the site (link below) all of which show about 36 hours of activity.  Of the choices I liked this one the best on this computer.

Also  a reminder (as if you really need one) Rosetta is scheduled to hear the alarm clock go off at 10:00 UTC tomorrow morning. Let’s hope the spacecraft wakes rested and ready to go.

The SDO caption:

A large active region sported tall coils of magnetic field lines that stretched many times the size of Earth above the Sun (Jan. 14-15, 2014). When viewed in extreme ultraviolet light, the field lines are revealed due to particles spinning along them. Some of the lines reach out and connect with another active region that has just rotated out of view. The close-up also shows darker, and therefore cooler plasma, just above the surface being tugged back and forth by magnetic forces.

Credit: Solar Dynamics Observatory/NASA.

Juno update

Juno’s position on 18 Jan 2013. from the Solar System Simulator (linked below)

Since I’ve been looking at a couple updates from long duration missions this week (including the Rosetta Wake up now just hours away!!) I was wondering about what was going on with Juno.

The image depicts Juno’s position today, which by the way you can look at anytime along with a variety of other spacecraft to include Rosetta and the Voyagers, even moons at the NASA/JPL Solar System Simulator.

So, there’s not much to tell. I know, that sounds funny, the fact of the matter is this is good, it means all is well. Additional parts of the solar panel arrays were enabled by the Juno Operations team according to schedule on 07 January. The extra power will be necessary as the spacecraft jets further from the Sun. The last of the panels will be enabled in September.

NASA has a 10 January update of the journey so far:

Distance from Earth: 125 million km / 78 million miles

Radio distance (one way): about 7 minutes

Relative to Sun (about): 28 km/sec or 17 miles/sec
Relative to Earth (about): 26 km/sec or 16 miles/sec

Odometer: 1.87 billion km / 1.16 billion miles. This is also 12.5 AU (6.25 round trips to the Sun)

New Horizons Update

We have an update from the New Horizons mission, more of a time line of what will be happening. Not many updates come our way and for good reason (I am not in any way complaining mind you), we are in a waiting phase. Consider the spacecraft is moving at almost 1 million miles a day and LORRI (LOng Range Reconnaissance Imager) will only see Pluto and the largest of the five known moons, Charron, as mere “fat” pixels a whole year from now and the spacecraft has been traveling nearly eight years already.

By the time of close approach in July 2015, LORRI would be able to see buildings if it was looking at Earth at the same distance.  That’s the plan right now.

The video below is from Science@NASA and is followed by the press release. You can see the video at the YouTube site for Science@NASA.

One of the fastest spacecraft ever built — NASA’s New Horizons — is hurtling through the void at nearly one million miles per day. Launched in 2006, it has been in flight longer than some missions last, and it is nearing its destination: Pluto.

“The encounter begins next January,” says Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute and the mission’s principal investigator. “We’re less than a year away.”
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Look at Curiosity

A close-up of the Curiosity rover. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Here’s a update to the image of Curiosity’s tracks, it’s the Curiosity rover itself, just a great photo by HiRISE imager aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

For scale the tracks are about 3 meters (10 ft) apart.

This image is part of a larger image which you can see and read the full caption at NASA. I am using one of the available sizes for a desktop too it’s excellent.


ESA’s New Suit

ESA's new skinsuit could prevent injury.  Credit: ESA
ESA’s new skinsuit could prevent injury. Credit: ESA

Astronauts go through physical changes in response to weightlessness, I knew about the spine “decompressing”. What I didn’t realize is according to ESA astronauts has four times the chance of a slipped disk after a mission. What is in store for astronauts during longer missions when they do occur.

So when I was looking at this I was thinking there is not that much different than I see some people wearing at the gym. The difference is (and most likely not the only one) is the way the body suit works by squeezing the body from the shoulders down and not just squeezing.

Students from Kings College London, were subjects for a functional evaluation study I’m not sure if that is one of them in the image above or not. Making it look like fun though.

From ESA

The Space Medicine Office of ESA’s European Astronaut Centre is managing a project that could help astronauts overcome back problems in space, simply by wearing a high-tech tight-fitting ‘skinsuit’.

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Curious Tracks on Mars

Rover tracks as seen by the HiRise camera on the MRO. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona
Rover tracks as seen by the HiRise camera on the MRO. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

From the MSL website:

Two parallel tracks left by the wheels of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover cross rugged ground in this portion of a Dec. 11, 2013, observation by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The rover itself does not appear in this part of the HiRISE observation.

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