A View of Home

How about a view of US from Mercury?  Image: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

How about a view of US from Mercury? Image: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

This image is the Earth and Moon as seen from the planet Mercury! The MESSENGER spacecraft took a series of images of the Earth – Moon system on 08 Oct and if you click the image you will see another image beside this one showing the moon during the lunar eclipse!

A bit anticlimactic? You need to watch the animation. Pretty amazing!

From NASA:

MESSENGER was 107 million kilometers (66 million miles) from the Earth at the time of the lunar eclipse. The Earth is about 5 pixels across and the Moon is just over 1 pixel across in the field of view of the NAC, with about 40 pixels distance between them. The images are zoomed by a factor of two and the Moon’s brightness has been increased by a factor of about 25 to show its disappearance more clearly.

Date acquired: October 8, 2014
Instrument: Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)

Einstein Ring

An Einstein ring and galactic collision. CREDIT: W. M. KECK OBSERVATORY/NASA/ESA/ESO

An Einstein ring and galactic collision. CREDIT: W. M. KECK OBSERVATORY/NASA/ESA/ESO

This collaborative image from the Keck II telescope with its wonderful adaptive optics and Hubble show an almost complete Einstein Ring around a galaxy much like our own Milky Way. The ring is “the smeared out image of a star forming galaxy merger far beyond”.

From the Keck website:

MAUNA KEA, HAWAII — An international team of astronomers has obtained the best view yet of a collision that took place between two galaxies when the universe was only half its current age using the W. M. Keck Observatory and many other telescopes on the ground and in space.

To make this observation, the team also enlisted the help of a gravitational lens, a galaxy-size magnifying glass, to reveal otherwise invisible detail. These new studies of galaxy HATLAS J142935.3-002836 have shown that this complex and distant object looks surprisingly like the comparatively nearby pair of colliding galaxies collectively known as the Antennae.

Read the rest at the Keck site.

Comet Encounter with Mars

In just a few days Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring will make a close approach to the planet Mars.

Mark you calendars  19 October 2014 at 18:51 UTC.

The comet will come as close as 140,000 km /87,000 miles, that is only about a third of the distance to the moon. Can you just imagine what that would look like?

Video

Boulder Cheops

A close-up of Boulder Cheops on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by Rosetta.  Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

A close-up of Boulder Cheops on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by Rosetta. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Wow another amazing image from ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft. Rosetta will be getting images from only 10 km very shortly even maybe by the end of day! Lowering the orbit is key in a very important phase of this amazing mission: in just over a month the Philae lander will be landing on comet 67P/G-C.

From ESA’s Space in Images:

This image of the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on 19 September 2014, from a distance of 28.5 km.

The image features a large boulder casting a long shadow on the surface of the comet. The boulder has a maximum dimension of about 45 metres and is the largest structure within a group of boulders located on the lower side of the comet’s larger lobe. This cluster of boulders reminded scientists of the famous pyramids at Giza near Cairo in Egypt, and thus it has been named Cheops for the largest of those pyramids, the Great Pyramid, which was built as a tomb for the pharaoh Cheops (also known as Kheops or Khufu) around 2550 BC.

Rosetta blog

Pulsar found in M82

NuSTAR finds a pulsar in M82. Credit NASA/JPL-Caltech/SAO/NOAO

NuSTAR finds a pulsar in M82. Credit NASA/JPL-Caltech/SAO/NOAO

First a brief reminder of the NuSTAR mission:

NuSTAR was launched on June 13, 2012 from above the Kwajalein Atoll region. The launch vehicle was built by Orbital Sciences Corporation, a Pegasus XL rocket. The platform was the “Stargazer” L-1011 aircraft, the rocket was released and dropped for five seconds before the three-stage rocket motor ignited and put the spacecraft into a 650 km by 610 km orbit and deploying the first orbiting telescopes to focus light in the high energy X-ray (3 – 79 keV) region of the electromagnetic spectrum.

It has been two years and now We are getting some nice data including finding a pulsar in the galaxy M82.

From NuSTAR:

High-energy X-rays streaming from a rare and mighty pulsar (magenta), the brightest found to date, can be seen in this new image combining multi-wavelength data from three telescopes. The bulk of a galaxy called Messier 82 (M82), or the “Cigar galaxy,” is seen in visible-light data captured by the National Optical Astronomy Observatory’s 2.1-meter telescope at Kitt Peak in Arizona. Starlight is white, and lanes of dust appear brown. Low-energy X-ray data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory are colored blue, and higher-energy X-ray data from NuSTAR are pink.

The magenta object is what’s known as an ultraluminous X-ray source, or ULX — a source of blazing X-rays. Previously, all ULXs were suspected to be massive black holes up to a few hundred times the mass of the sun. But NuSTAR spotted a pulsing of X-rays from this ULX (called M82 X-2) – a telltale sign of a pulsar, not a black hole. A pulsar is a type a neutron star — a stellar core left over from a supernova explosion — that sends out rotating beams of high-energy radiation. Scientists were surprised to find the pulsar at the root of the ULX because it shines with a luminosity that is more typical of heftier black holes.

NuSTAR data covers the X-ray energy range of 10 to 40 kiloelectron volts (keV), and Chandra covers the range .1 to 10 keV.

More about the very cool NuSTAR launch.

Gravity Gradients

Gravity Gradients Frame Oceanus Procellarum.   Image Credit:  NASA/Colorado School of Mines/MIT/GSFC/Scientific Visualization Studio

Gravity Gradients Frame Oceanus Procellarum. Image Credit: NASA/Colorado School of Mines/MIT/GSFC/Scientific Visualization Studio

Another bit of information from the flight of Ebb and Flow the twin spacecraft of the GRAIL mission. Essentially a topographical map blended with a gravity map to show gravitational anomalies thanks to the combined input from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Grail.

Best to let NASA explain:

Topography of Earth’s moon generated from data collected by the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, aboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, with the gravity anomalies bordering the Procellarum region superimposed in blue. The border structures are shown using gravity gradients calculated with data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission. These gravity anomalies are interpreted as ancient lava-flooded rift zones buried beneath the volcanic plains (or maria) on the nearside of the Moon.

Continue reading

The Polar Hexagon

A close look at Saturn's north polar vortex. Click for larger. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

A close look at Saturn’s north polar vortex. Click for larger. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Another very nice look at the north polar hexagon of Saturn from the Cassini spacecraft. This view is from 973,000 km/605,000 miles from about 33 degrees above the ring plane on 24 July 2013.

What causes the hexagon is not fully understood, the thinking is a “meandering” polar jet stream. Apparently wind speed is less important than the gradient of the winds flowing around the area in the formation of the hexagon which seem a little counter intuitive.

Another nice part of the photo is the detail in the atmosphere. Storms on Saturn are thought to occur when relatively warm atmospheric gas in the depths of the planet rise and cool, causing gaseous ammonia to form crystals and white clouds. This is analogous to thunderstorms here on Earth.

For more on the hexagon from NASA click here.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE TONIGHT – CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS!!

Space Walk Tomorrow

issgerst

ESA’s Alexander Gerst in the Quest airlock of the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA

The first spacewalk of Expedition 41 is scheduled for tomorrow at 12:10 UT / 08:10 ET.

Flight Engineer Alexander (ESA) and Reid Wiseman (NASA) will exit the International Space Station via the Quest airlock for a marathon 6.5 hour session outside the station for a couple of jobs.

The first job is to move a degraded pump module to the External Stowage Platform 2 something of a warm up for the second task the installation of the Mobile Transporter Relay Assembly.

The Mobile Transporter Relay Assembly provides backup power options to the Mobile Transporter railcar system. That’s the system than moves the Mobile Servicing System’s Canadarm2 and Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator to work sites along the station’s truss.

Robotic support for the spacewalk will be handled by Flight Engineer Barry Wilmore (NASA) in the cupola.

Wilmore too will get to have some extravehicular time too. On 15 October there will be another spacewalk with Wilmore and Wiseman going to the starboard truss to replace a voltage regulator (called a sequential shunt unit) that failed back in May.

Coverage should be available at the NASA TV link at the bottom of the banner above.