September Sky

NASA’s JPL gives us “What’s Up for September 2014″

One of the nice things about this time of year is the clearing skies. I mean really clear skies, cooler temperatures and stable “seeing” kind of clear. If you have a telescope you probably know exactly what I mean.

We have a few nice pairings of stars / planets / moon. These pairings are especially nice for casual viewing and interesting conversation with those friends who might not otherwise notice and I find they almost always will look.

I don’t always get the best view of the zodiacal light right here because of the hills to my east but I can see it. If I’m on the road at the right time I can drive to a good location and stop long enough to let my eyes acclimate some and sip my coffee or tea for a short time and appreciate the view. Yes, I know coffee / tea doesn’t help the process, but it does make it more enjoyable. :)

Source.

Neptune’s Clouds

Voyager's look at clouds on Neptune.  Credit: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory / NASA Planetary Photojournal

Voyager’s look at clouds on Neptune. Credit: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory / NASA Planetary Photojournal

The bit of an interlude in the ESA’s Comet watch blog is a good time to look at some of Voyager 2’s images of Neptune. This is one of my favorites. I don’t really know if there is more than coincidence that the New Horizon’s spacecraft crossed the Neptune orbit 29 years almost to the day after Voyager started its Neptune encounter.

There is a lot of comparisons being drawn between the New Horizon’s and Voyager missions. Hey I’m on board with it. If I had my way there would be a “Le Verrier” or “Galle” spacecraft, a Neptune analog of the Cassini spacecraft in orbit right now.

In case you were wondering what was going on with Rosetta, everything is fine. Mission managers are looking at images from as close as 50 km trying to select the best landing spot. New images will be posted shortly.

This image comes from NASA’s Solar System Exploration (and Planetary Photojournal) site:

This Voyager 2 high resolution color image, taken 2 hours before closest approach, provides obvious evidence of vertical relief in Neptune’s bright cloud streaks.

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Bonanza King Update

Curiostiy's HazCam testing Bonanza King. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity’s HazCam testing Bonanza King. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Last week I mentioned the Mars Science Laboratory – Curiosity was at an interesting rock and mission managers were evaluating it to see if it would be a good choice for a sample collection (see the post).

Before there is a sample collection Curiosity uses the mini-drill procedure to aide in evaluating the location. Part of using the percussive drill for making a starter hole, probably akin to a hammer drill many of us use now and then. During the starter hole step Bonanza King moved a little bit and the protective software on Curiosity sensed it and stopped the procedure.

Mission managers decided to move on towards the long term goal of reaching Mount Sharp. Maybe they will find something interesting along the way.

MSL mission pages

Philae Landing Sites

The five candidate landing sites for Philae. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

The five candidate landing sites for Philae. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

ESA’s Landing Site Selection Group met over the past weekend and identified five possible landing sites for Rosetta’s Philae lander on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Three of the sites are on the smaller lobe and two on the larger one.

The original ten candidate sites were all marked with a letter designation, A to J and the group was narrowed to five at the meeting (A, B, C, J, I). The letters are only for identification and do not denote any preference.

After a detailed review for physical hazards and even long term illumination are complete, a primary landing site will be selected on 14 September. A secondary site will also be selected at that time.

Personally (today and very subject to change) I like:

Site A
Site B
Site I
Site C
Site J

Cliffs on the Comet

Rosetta gets to 64 km from the comet. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM.

Rosetta gets to 64 km from the comet. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM.

Here is an image from Rosetta of comet 67P/G-C on 22 August. Rosetta has been in “pyramid” shaped orbits to observe and approach the comet to get the date needed to get even closer in time. Check out the Rosetta blog for a nice description.

The close points of the trianglular or pyramid orbit has gone from 79 km to orbits in the 50 km range. the image above from 54 km. In just a couple of weeks the orbits will be close the 30 km.

I particularly like this image. Aside from the already good and improving detail, it is a nice look down into the central area below the cliffs. What is that material at the base of the cliff? Why is it there? Did it come from the “cliffs” like a landslide?

Get a full-res version at ESA’s Comet Watch.

 

Supernova Shockwave

Supernova shockwave in Puppis A. Click for larger. Image credit: NASA/ESA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC/IAFE

Supernova shockwave in Puppis A. Click for larger. Image credit: NASA/ESA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC/IAFE

Nice!

Below is the caption released with the image, you can get a full-res version here:

The destructive results of a mighty supernova explosion reveal themselves in a delicate blend of infrared and X-ray light, as seen in this image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and Chandra X-Ray Observatory, and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton.

The bubbly cloud is an irregular shock wave, generated by a supernova that would have been witnessed on Earth 3,700 years ago. The remnant itself, called Puppis A, is around 7,000 light-years away, and the shock wave is about 10 light-years across.

The pastel hues in this image reveal that the infrared and X-ray structures trace each other closely. Warm dust particles are responsible for most of the infrared light wavelengths, assigned red and green colors in this view. Material heated by the supernova’s shock wave emits X-rays, which are colored blue. Regions where the infrared and X-ray emissions blend together take on brighter, more pastel tones.

The shock wave appears to light up as it slams into surrounding clouds of dust and gas that fill the interstellar space in this region.

From the infrared glow, astronomers have found a total quantity of dust in the region equal to about a quarter of the mass of our sun. Data collected from Spitzer’s infrared spectrograph reveal how the shock wave is breaking apart the fragile dust grains that fill the surrounding space.

Supernova explosions forge the heavy elements that can provide the raw material from which future generations of stars and planets will form. Studying how supernova remnants expand into the galaxy and interact with other material provides critical clues into our own origins.

Infrared data from Spitzer’s multiband imaging photometer (MIPS) at wavelengths of 24 and 70 microns are rendered in green and red. X-ray data from XMM-Newton spanning an energy range of 0.3 to 8 kiloelectron volts are shown in blue.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Spacecraft operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.