Category Archives: Cool Stuff

A Look Around Curiosity

Here’s a look around Curiosity, or the Mars Science Laboratory on Mars.  For two minutes you can look around the scene by using the arrows at the top left of the video or just “clicking and dragging” your way around.  Running out of time is no problem just replay the video (or whatever you would call this).

The scene is from a location called Murray Buttes and most of the features are labeled.  The rover is not visible in this MastCam product.

For scale The dark, flat-topped mesa seen to the left of the rover’s arm is about 50 feet (about 15 meters) high and, near the top, about 200 feet (about 60 meters) wide according to NASA.

I was looking at the panorama and thought how completely quiet it must be up there and what it would sound like to try and get an echo off the buttes. The echo time lag of course depends on the speed of sound on Mars. Looking around on the web quickly reveals the speed of sound on Mars is about 244.4 m/s or 801.3 ft/s compared to 340 m/sec or 1115 ft/sec on Earth. So the echo would take nearly 25 percent longer to return on Mars than on Earth.

Video

Speed of sound on Mars
Speed of sound on Earth

This Week At NASA

An especially good episode this week. Very interesting bit on the atmosphere of the Jupiter moon Io, the sulfur dioxide atmosphere freezes onto the moons surface during the period where Jupiter shades the moon and then is restored as the shading goes away.

Video

How About Black Holes?

chandrachoir

From Chandra and NuStar:
The blue dots in this field of galaxies, known as the COSMOS field, show galaxies that contain supermassive black holes emitting high-energy X-rays. The black holes were detected by NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Array, or NuSTAR, which spotted 32 such black holes in this field and has observed hundreds across the whole sky so far.

The other colored dots are galaxies that host black holes emitting lower-energy X-rays, and were spotted by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. Chandra data show X-rays with energies between 0.5 to 7 kiloelectron volts, while NuSTAR data show X-rays between 8 to 24 kiloelectron volts.

NuSTAR is a Small Explorer mission led by Caltech and managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. NuSTAR was developed in partnership with the Danish Technical University and the Italian Space Agency (ASI). The spacecraft was built by Orbital Sciences Corp., Dulles, Virginia. NuSTAR’s mission operations center is at UC Berkeley, and the official data archive is at NASA’s High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center. ASI provides the mission’s ground station and a mirror archive. JPL is managed by Caltech for NASA.

Image and caption: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Planet 9 Update

planetnineOBL

We have some updated information on the planet the “numbers” say exists.  Mainly it helps explain why the Sun has an obliquity of six degrees.

Obliquity?  What is obliquity?  Easy, think of it is  just a fancy word for “tilt”.  Earth has an obliquity of a bit more than 23 degrees, it is that tilt that gives us our seasons.

Hat tip to SpaceRef for this synopsis of a paper submitted for publication (by Elizabeth Bailey, Konstantin Batygin, Michael E. Brown):

The six-degree obliquity of the sun suggests that either an asymmetry was present in the solar system’s formation environment, or an external torque has misaligned the angular momentum vectors of the sun and the planets.

However, the exact origin of this obliquity remains an open question. Batygin & Brown (2016) have recently shown that the physical alignment of distant Kuiper Belt orbits can be explained by a 5-20 Earth-mass planet on a distant, eccentric, and inclined orbit, with an approximate perihelion distance of ~250 AU.

Using an analytic model for secular interactions between Planet Nine and the remaining giant planets, here we show that a planet with similar parameters can naturally generate the observed obliquity as well as the specific pole position of the sun’s spin axis, from a nearly aligned initial state.

Thus, Planet Nine offers a testable explanation for the otherwise mysterious spin-orbit misalignment of the solar system.

Elizabeth Bailey, Konstantin Batygin, Michael E. Brown
(Submitted on 14 Jul 2016 (this version), latest version 20 Jul 2016 (v2))

Image: artist concept by NASA via SpaceRef

Quasars Help Navigating to Mars

navigation

How is ESA going to navigate to Mars?  By using quasars of course.

Very cool!!! The inset is explained below BTW.

Image and caption below: Copyright Estrack / ESA/D. Pazos – Quasar P1514-24 inset image: Rami Rekola, Univerity of Turku, 2001

From ESA:

  • In order to precisely deliver the Schiaparelli landing demonstrator module to the martian surface and then insert ExoMars/TGO into orbit around the Red Planet, it’s necessary to pin down the spacecraft’s location to within just a few hundred metres at a distance of more than 150 million km.To achieve this amazing level of accuracy, ESA experts are making use of ‘quasars’ – the most luminous objects in the Universe – as ‘calibrators’ in a technique known as Delta-Differential One-Way Ranging, or delta-DOR.Until recently, quasars were only poorly understood. These objects can emit 1000 times the energy of our entire Milky Way galaxy from a volume that it not much bigger than our Solar System, making them fearfully powerful.
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WT1190F

WT1190F is a ‘real-world’ example of how NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office along with contributers around the world is keeping an eye on what is sharing our space.

Video by Science@NASA