Filament 304

A filament on the Sun.  Image: NASA / SDO

A filament on the Sun. Image: NASA / SDO

Filaments are relatively cooler and denser regions in the chromosphere that have been stretched along magnetic field lines. The bright patches could be plages, hot spots in the chromosphere and possibly future sunspots.

Check out the movie on the SDO link below.

From the SDO website:

A dark, solar filament hovered above the Sun’s surface, extending across more than half the Sun (Feb. 7-10, 2015). If that filament were straightened out, it would be more than 533,000 miles long, longer than 67 Earths. These images were taken in a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet wavelength of light of material heated to about 60,000 degrees C. Filaments are cooler clouds of particles tethered above the Sun by powerful magnetic forces. Though this one has been fairly stable for many days, they are liable to break apart at any time. Credit: Solar Dynamics Observatory/NASA.

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Ranger 8

Launched on 17 February 1965, Ranger 8 reached the moon on 20 February when it impacted the surface. The spacecraft sent back some of the closest images of the lunar surface and helped select landing sites for the Apollo missions.

Ranger 8 impacted the surface at something a little less than 2.68 km/sec or 6,000 mph. I spent a bit of time looking for the possible impact site in LROC data, still looking too.

Video

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Rover’s Marathon

The remaining distance to complete a Martian marathon by the Opportunity. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

The remaining distance to complete a Martian marathon by the Opportunity. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

The Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity continues to set records. Picture it, the little rover begins its mission on Mars and at the start the idea of surviving the first Martian winter was hard to believe. Now 11 years later Opportunity has traveled almost a regulation marathon’s distance.

Incredible.

From NASA:

In February 2015, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is approaching a cumulative driving distance on Mars equal to the length of a marathon race. This map shows the rover’s position relative to where it could surpass that distance.

The map shows the rover’s location as of Feb. 10, 2015, in the context of where it has been since late December 2014 and the “Marathon Valley” science destination ahead. Opportunity is within about 220 yards (200 meters) of completing a marathon. The green band indicates where it could reach the official Olympic marathon-race distance of 26.219 miles (42.195 kilometers). The rover’s route might zigzag as the rover team chooses a path toward Marathon Valley, so there is uncertainty about where exactly it will pass marathon distance.

Read the rest at the MER website.

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Hydra and Nix Spotted

New Horizons spots Plutonian moons Nix and Hydra. Image credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.

New Horizons spots Plutonian moons Nix and Hydra. Image credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.

We now have our first look at the Pluto moon Hydra and Nix from New Horizons.

The two moon were only discovered in 2005 thanks to the Hubble Space Telescope and now we are getting a look at them from an inbound spacecraft.

Both moons are around 40 to 150 km (25 to 95 miles) in diameter.

Hydra is the outer moon and orbits Pluto every 38 days from a distance of 64,700 km / 40,200 miles.

Nix, the inner moon orbits every 25 days from 48,700 km / 30,260 miles.

Consider all of those numbers “rough” for now. It won’t be long and we will have accurate data!

The LORRI camera took these image from distances ranging from 201 million to 186 million km (125 million to 113 million miles) away and even in the feeble sunlight they are almost hidden in the glare of Pluto.

There are two more moons yet to be seen, they are smaller than Hydra and Nix. Their names are Styx and Kerberos, we will indeed see them in time.

I have little doubt these little moons are going to every bit as interesting as Pluto.

The images here are a sample of seven frames taken and put into an animation you can see along with much more detail at the New Horizons site.

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Ceres in Focus

Details are coming into focus for Dawn.  Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Details are coming into focus for Dawn. Image Credit: NASA/JPL- Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Surface details are starting to pop out as Dawn gets closer to Ceres. This image is from 12 February 2015 from 83,000 km / 52,000 miles.

The two images were taken 10 hours apart. Click the image above for the larger version and for the two sides individually click SIDE A and SIDE B.

The Dawn website

Continue reading

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Mystery Plumes on Mars

Observations of a mysterious plume-like feature (marked with yellow arrow) at the limb of the Red Planet on 20 March 2012. The observation was made by astronomer W. Jaeschke. The image is shown with the north pole towards the bottom and the south pole to the top.  Credit: ESA

Observations of a mysterious plume-like feature (marked with yellow arrow) at the limb of the Red Planet on 20 March 2012. The observation was made by astronomer W. Jaeschke. The image is shown with the north pole towards the bottom and the south pole to the top. Credit: ESA

Plumes of unknown origin over Mars have been photographed. The plumes seen in in images taken March and April of 2012.  The images prompted a  review of Hubble images of Mars and sure enough an image was found from 17 May 1997.

These are not the clouds occasionally imaged at about 100 km in the atmosphere, this phenomenon is seen at 250 km.

“At about 250 km, the division between the atmosphere and outer space is very thin, so the reported plumes are extremely unexpected,” says Agustin Sanchez-Lavega of the Universidad del País Vasco in Spain, lead author of the paper reporting the results in the journal Nature.

Read the details at ESA space science and if you live in or near Grover’s Mill NJ, I’d keep an eye on the sky.

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Martian Landscape

The view from Curiosity of the Martian surface on Sol 896.  Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The view from Curiosity of the Martian surface on Sol 896. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity took this image of the Martian landscape a couple of days agon on 12 February 2015.

Currently Curiosity is examining sites inside Gale Crater, recently drilling into a rock at a place called Mojave 2. The drilling technique is changing to suit the fragile rock, using a less heavy handed approach to drilling is paying off.

Click here to read the preliminary results of the sampling.

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Vega Launch Replay

ESA launched the Vega VV04 with the ESA’s Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle or IXV on 11 February. The IXV was launched at 13:40 GMT from Kourou, French Guiana in what appeared to be about the smoothest take off I’ve ever seen.

Once the Vega reached 340 km / 211 miles the IXV separated and continued up to 412 km / 256 miles. From the maximum altitude the IXV coasted back to Earth just as planned, the 500 + sensors on board the IXV captured data all the way.

As the IXV neared the surface parachutes deployed to slow the spacecraft to a safe splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

Congratulations ESA, this is a big step!

About the IXV

Video source

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