All posts by Tom

Martian Ice

marsscallops

The original caption from NASA:
This vertically exaggerated view shows scalloped depressions in Mars’ Utopia Planitia region, one of the area’s distinctive textures that prompted researchers to check for underground ice, using ground-penetrating radar aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

More than 600 overhead passes with the spacecraft’s Shallow Radar (SHARAD) instrument provided data for determining that about as much water as the volume of Lake Superior lies in a thick layer beneath a portion of Utopia Planitia.

These scalloped depressions on the surface are typically about 100 to 200 yards or meters wide. The foreground of this view covers ground about one mile (1.8 kilometers) across. The perspective view is based on a three-dimensional terrain model derived from a stereo pair of observations by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. One was taken on Dec. 25, 2006, the other on Feb. 2, 2007.

The vertical dimension is exaggerated fivefold in proportion to the horizontal dimensions, to make texture more apparent in what is a rather flat plain.

Similar scalloped depressions are found in portions of the Canadian Arctic, where they are indicative of ground ice.

marsicemap

Diagonal striping on this map of a portion of the Utopia Planitia region on Mars indicates the area where a large subsurface deposit rich in water ice was assessed using the Shallow Radar (SHARAD) instrument on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The scale bar at lower right indicates 140 kilometers (76 miles). The violet vertical bars show depth to the bottom of the ice-rich deposit, as estimated from SHARAD passes overhead. Darkest violet indicates a depth of about 550 feet (about 170 meters). Palest violet indicates a depth of about 33 feet (10 meters). The value of 2.8 plus-or-minus 0.8 in the upper right corner denotes the dielectric constant, a property related to radar reflectivity. The value of 14,300 cubic kilometers is an estimate of the volume of water in the deposit. — NASA

Images: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Rome/ASI/PSI/Univ. of Arizona

Prometheus

saturnfring

Nice look at Prometheus from Cassini.

From Cassini/NASA:
Surface features are visible on Saturn’s moon Prometheus in this view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Most of Cassini’s images of Prometheus are too distant to resolve individual craters, making views like this a rare treat.

Saturn’s narrow F ring, which makes a diagonal line beginning at top center, appears bright and bold in some Cassini views, but not here. Since the sun is nearly behind Cassini in this image, most of the light hitting the F ring is being scattered away from the camera, making it appear dim. Light-scattering behavior like this is typical of rings comprised of small particles, such as the F ring.

This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from about 14 degrees below the ring plane. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Sept. 24, 2016..

The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 226,000 miles (364,000 kilometers) from Prometheus and at a sun-Prometheus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 51 degrees. Image scale is 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) per pixel.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Orbital’s Cygnus Spacecraft Leaves ISS

cygusoniss

The Orbital Cygnus spacecraft departed the International Space Station yesterday morning when it was released from the  Candadarm2 robotic arm by Shane Kimbrough of NASA and Thomas Pesquet of ESA.

In the normal course of events the Cygnus would deorbit until it interfaced with and burned up in the atmosphere.  Not this time around though, Cygnus has a couple of other missions to accomplish before its particular re-entry.

Shortly after departure from the ISS and when the craft is at a safe distance away, mission controllers will set nine sample swatches from different materials used in space on fire in the second of three fire safety experiments.  The experiment called (in this case) Saffire-2 has already occurred and we might get a look as data, including images have been returned.  The first Saffire experiment took place this past October and a third experiment is scheduled.

Cygnus  will release four LEMUR CubeSats from an external deployer on Friday, Nov. 25, sending them to join a remote sensing satellite constellation that provides global ship tracking and weather monitoring.

Image: NASA

Ceres in Color

ceresincolor

Great look at Ceres, click the image to see a larger version.

This view of Ceres, produced by the German Aerospace Center in Berlin, combines images taken during Dawn’s first science orbit in 2015 using the framing camera’s red, green and blue spectral filters. The color was calculated using a reflectance spectrum, which is based on the way that Ceres reflects different wavelengths of light and the solar wavelengths that illuminate Ceres. — NASA

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Greetings From Tiangong-2

Greetings from one space station to another.   Very nice.

This video was recorded inside the Chinese space station Tiangong-2 by astronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong. The Chinese astronauts returned to Earth after spending a month in orbit. A few hours before leaving the Chinese space station Tiangong-2, ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet was launched aboard a Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station.

Depending on your location you could see both Chinese satellites (Tiangong 1 and 2) and the International Space Station. The places I look for such information are below:

  1. Heavens Above
  2. Spaceweather.com or,
  3. N2YO

Video from ESA

Gaia’s Milky Way

gaia
Having examined and precisely measured the positions and brightness of over a BILLION stars, Gaia could well be the greatest mission nobody talks about.

Image: ESA

From ESA:

ESA’s Gaia is surveying stars in our Galaxy and local galactic neighbourhood in order to build the most precise 3D map of the Milky Way and answer questions about its structure, origin and evolution.

Launched in 2013, Gaia has already generated its first catalogue of more than a billion stars  – the largest all-sky survey of celestial objects to date.

To achieve its scientific aims, it points with ultra-high precision, and to enable the control team to monitor spacecraft performance, Gaia regularly reports to the ground information about its current attitude and the stars that have been observed.

These engineering data have been accumulated over 18 months and combined to create a ‘map’ of the observed star densities, from which a beautiful and ghostly virtual image of our magnificent Milky Way galaxy can be discerned, showing the attendant globular clusters and Magellanic clouds.

Where there are more stars, as in the Galactic centre, the map is brighter; where there are fewer, the map is darker. The map includes brightness data corresponding to several million stars.

More information on Gaia mission operations

Launch Coverage

Coverage of the Soyuz launch to the ISS with Astronauts Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency), Oleg Novitskiy of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, and Peggy Whitson of NASA heading to the International Space Station.